New production of Puccini’s ‘Madame Butterfly’ opens San Francisco Opera’s Summer Season

Karah Son as Cio-Cio-San in Puccini’s ‘Madame Butterfly’
Photo: Cory Weaver/San Francisco Opera

San Francisco Opera opens its 2023 Summer Season with one of the world’s best loved operas, Puccini’s Madame Butterfly, in a co-production with The Tokyo Nikikai Opera Foundation, Semperoper Dresden and the Royal Danish Opera.

This new staging by Japanese Director Amon Miyamoto stars Korean soprano Karah Son in her Company debut as Cio-Cio-San – the young Japanese girl who falls in love with an American naval officer, with devastating consequences. Tenor Michael Fabiano is Lt Pinkerton, the US Naval officer, mezzo-soprano Hyona Kim is Suzuki, Cio-Cio-San’s servant and confidant, and baritone Lucas Meachem is Sharpless the US Consul. Leading the production is San Francisco Opera’s Music Director Eun Sun Kim.

A scene from Puccini’s ‘Madame Butterfly’ Photo: Cory Weaver/San Francisco Opera

This production of Madame Butterfly, staged with associate director Miroku Shimada, presents the story from the perspective of Cio-Cio-San’s child with Pinkerton. Known as Dolore – or Trouble – he is now a grown man, having been raised as a biracial person in 1920s America, experiencing discrimination, and finding out what events led to his being there. The role of Trouble is taken John Charles Quimpo, born and raised in the Philippines, but now a Bay Area-based award-winning performer.

John Charles Quimbo as Adult Trouble and Michael Fabiano as Pinkerton in Puccini’s
‘Madame Butterfly’ Photo: Cory Weaver/San Francisco Opera

The original version of Giacomo Puccini’s tragic opera, Madame Butterfly, has a somewhat complicated, but fascinating, history. The Italian libretto, by Luigi Illica and Guiseppe Giacosa, was partly based on the short story, Madame Butterfly, written by John Luther Long in 1898. Long’s story evolved partly from some stories told to him by his sister, and partly from a French novel, Madame Chrysanthème, written by Pierre Loti in 1887. This novel was then dramatized as a one-act play – Madame Butterfly: A Tragedy of Japan – by American theatrical producer and playwright David Belasco in 1900, the year in which Puccini (1858-1924) attended a performance in London.

A scene from Puccini’s ‘Madame Butterfly’ Photo: Cory Weaver/San Francisco Opera

Madama Butterfly (as it’s known in Italian) premiered at La Scala in Milan on 17th February 1904, where it was most unenthusiastically received. Having undergone substantial revisions, the opera was performed in Brescia in May of the same year, on that occasion to great acclaim. Puccini, however, made further revisions to his work – there were five in total – the last version of which was performed in 1907. This became known as the ‘standard version’ and is the one most frequently performed today. It was premiered by Monte-Carlo Opera on 23rd March 1912.

Karah Son as Cio-Cio-San in Puccini’s Madame Butterfly’
Photo: Cory Weaver/San Francisco Opera

Karah Son has performed on stages across Europe, North America, Australia and in Korea. Following a recent appearance as Cio-Cio San in the Sydney Opera House, The Sydney Morning Herald wrote: “Her voice spans innocent playfulness, intimate intensity and unflinchingly thrilling moments, singing Un bel dì, vedremo with tonal purity and grace of line and without undue portent”. Ms Son recently appeared in Zandonai’s Francesca da Rimini at the Monte-Carlo Opera, in Madama Butterfly in Korea, Tampere, Leipzig, Warsaw, Berlin, Goteborg and Turin, and in Aida in Korea.  Future engagements include performances in Madama Butterfly in Leipzig, with Glyndebourne Festival Opera, in Warsaw, Stuttgart and Helsinki.

Michael Fabiano as Pinkerton and Karah Son as Cio-Cio-San in Puccini’s ‘Madame Butterfly’ Photo: Cory Weaver/San Francisco Opera

Michael Fabiano makes a welcome return to San Francisco Opera as Lieutenant B F Pinkerton. The “intensively expressive” (New York Times) tenor has performed many leading roles with the Company, including Rodolfo in Puccini’s La Bohème, Cavaradossi in his Tosca and the title role in Verdi’s Don Carlo. Following a performance of Tchaikovsky’s Eugene Onegin, the Independent wrote that “Michael Fabiano’s heartrending Lensky is out of this world”, his portrayal of Rodolfo in La bohème at Canadian Opera Company was described by La Scena Musicale as “simply sensational”, and Musical Toronto referred to him as “Fabulous …… A tenor that operatic dreams are made of”. Mr Fabiano will also sing at San Francisco Opera’s 100th Anniversary Concert on 16th June. San Francisco Opera Adler Fellow Moisés Salazar performs the role of Pinkerton in the July 1 performance.

Viva Young Maguire as Trouble, Karah Son as Cio-Cio-San, and Hyona Kim as Suzuki in Puccini’s ‘Madame Butterfly’ Photo: Cory Weaver/San Francisco Opera

Hyona Kim, who sings Suzuki in this production, has been described by the New York Times as a “vibrant mezzo soprano”. In 2018 she joined Dortmund Opera in Germany as a member of the ensemble, and made her much acclaimed house and role debut singing Amneris in Verdi’s Aïda. Other roles that she performed at the Dortmund Opera are Suzuki in Madama Butterfly and Tzippie in Oliver Knussen’s Wo die wilden Kerle wohnen (Where the wild things are). Future engagements include the title role in the German premiere production of Ernest Guiraud, Paul Dukas and Camille Saint-Saëns’ Frédégonde, the role of Ortrud in Wagner’s Lohengrin and Fidès in Meyerbeer’s Le prophète.

Lucas Meachem as Sharpless in Puccini’s ‘Madame Butterfly’ Photo: Cory Weaver/San Francisco Opera

Grammy-winning Lucas Meachem is, Sharpless. Opera News writes that “His baritone is an instrument of striking finish, smooth and solid throughout its range. He is a masterful musician”, while Opera Pulse refers to him as the “rock star of opera”. During the current 2022/23 season he has sung the title role in Mozart’s Don Giovanni at Ravinia Festival, has appeared as Escamillo in Carmen with Canadian Opera Company, as Marcello in La bohème with Opéra national de Paris, and Count Almaviva in Mozart’s Le Nozze di Figaro with Los Angeles Opera.

Kidon Choi as Prince Yamadori, Julius Ahn as Goro, and Karah Son as Cio-Cio-San in Puccini’s ‘Madame Butterfly’ Photo: Cory Weaver/San Francisco Opera

Tenor Julius Ahn is the marriage broker Goro, baritone Kidon Choi makes his Company debut as the wealthy Prince Yamadori and actor Evan Miles O’Hare is the elderly Pinkerton. The cast also includes current San Francisco Opera Adler Fellows Jongwon Han as the Bonze and Mikayla Sager as Kate Pinkerton, along with Andrew Pardini, Jere Torkelsen, Kevin Gino, Crystal Kim, Silvie Jensen and Whitney Steele.

This new staging of Madame Butterfly features the work of set designer Boris Kudlička, lighting designer Fabio Antoci and projection designer Bartek Macias. The costumes are designed by the late fashion icon Kenzō Takada, founder of the global brand and fashion house KENZO, and developed by associate costume designer Sonoko Takeda.

Eun Sun Kim leads the San Francisco Opera Orchestra, San Francisco Opera Chorus (Chorus Director John Keene) and the San Francisco Opera Dance Corps in eight performances of Madame Butterfly until July 1st at the War Memorial Opera House. Further details and booking guidance can be found on the San Francisco Opera website. The production is sung in Italian with English supertitles.

Audiences around the world will be delighted to hear that the performance on Friday, June 9, will be streamed live at 7.30 pm PT, and will be available to watch on demand for 48 hours beginning on Saturday, June 10 at 10.00 am PT.  For more information, visit

Information sourced from:
San Francisco Opera program notes
Encyclopaedia Britannica
Karah Son
Michael Fabiano
Hyona Kim
Lucas Meacham

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Nice Opera stages updated version of Puccini’s ‘La bohème’

Photo courtesy Nice Opera

In this updated version of Puccini’s much-loved opera for Nice Opera, director Kristian Frédric has brought the setting of Puccini’s La bohème forward to the 1990s – a time at which the AIDS epidemic, as opposed to consumption, was shattering both lives and dreams. Titled Les flocons de neige des derniers souffles, and featuring some of the loveliest music in the repertoire, this production stars Cristina Pasaroiu as Mimí and Oreste Cosimo as Rodolfo, with Daniele Callegari leading the Orchestra and Chorus of Nice Opera.

Giacomo Puccini wrote La bohème in 1895 to a libretto by Luigi Illica and Guiseppe Giacosa, who based the story on Scènes de la vie de bohème, a work by French novelist and poet, Henri Murger. In this novel Murger portrayed a lifestyle which he knew intimately. He himself figured as Rodolfo in the book, and the other characters were all friends of his – students who were fun-loving, witty, always short of money, and with a healthy disregard for authority – until their lives were touched by tragedy. La bohème premiered at the Teatro Regio in Turin on February 1st, 1896, conducted by the young Arturo Toscanini. It was an immediate success and has since become one of the world’s most frequently performed operas.

The action, set in Bohemian Paris, centres around the love story of Rodolfo and Mimí. He knows that she is dying of AIDS and he tells Marcello that because he cannot afford to provide for her adequately, they must part. On hearing this, Mimí is devastated, and they decide to stay together until spring, but she dies before the warmer weather arrives.

The role of Mimí is sung by Romanian soprano Cristina Pasaroiu whose most recents projects include performances as Mimí at Deutsche Oper Berlin, in Puccini’s Il Trittico (Il Tabarro, Gianni Schicchi and Sour Angelica) and in Verdi’s Il Trovatore at the Staatstheater Wiesbaden, Violetta Valèry in Verdi’s La traviata at Aalto Theater Essen, and in the title role of Dvořák’s Rusalka at Grand Opera Avignon and at Opera de Bordeaux. Also a concert artist, Ms Pasaroiu’s appearances include a tour across Europe and the Middle East with Andrea Bocelli, and she has also performed at centres such as the Concertgebouw Amsterdam, at the Vienna Musikverein, Teatro Regio Parma, Alte Oper Frankfurt and the Konzerthaus Berlin.

Last seen in Nice as Edgardo in Donizetti’s Lucia di Lammermoor, Italian tenor Oreste Cosimo includes in highlights of his career appearances in the title role in Offenbach’s Les Contes d’Hoffmann at Deutsche Oper Berlin, Alfredo in La traviata in Tel Aviv, Edgardo at Deutsche Oper am Rhein Duesseldorf, and as Don Ottavio in Mozart’s Don Giovanni at Filarmonico di Verona. He has also performed in Puccini’s Messa di Gloria, Rossini’s Stabat Mater and Petite Messe Solennelle, Verdi’s Requiem, Dvořák’s Stabat Mater and Mozart’s Requiem. Mr Cosimo has future engagements such as Rodolfo at the Festival Pucciano in Viareggio and for Israeli Opera in Tel Aviv, as Edgardo in Osnabrück and Tel Aviv, and Cassio in Verdi’s Otello and Il Duca di Mantova in Verdi’s Rigoletto, both for Israeli Opera.

Romanian baritone Serban Vasile takes the role of Marcello. Among the many awards and prizes he has won is the BBC Cardiff Singer of the Year in 2011, and in the current season he has appeared in Bach’s St John Passion in Bucharest, as Il Conte di Luna in Verdi’s Il trovatore with Opera Bergen, as Sharpless in Puccini’s Madam Butterfly with Opera Nationala Romana Timisoara and Escamillo in Bizet’s Carmen at the Festival Mediterranean in Malta.

Schaunard is sung by Italian baritone Jaime Pialli, and Italian bass Andrea Comelli is Colline. Mr Comelli has most recently appeared as Il dottor Grenville in La traviata at Teatro Massimo di Palermo and in Tokyo, and as Timur in Puccini’s Turandot at Fondazione Petruzzelli in Bari.

Musetta – a former lover of Marcello – is sung by French/Armenian soprano Melody Louledjian. She has more than thirty roles in her repertoire, including those of Violetta in La traviata, the title role in Lucia di Lammermoor and Norina in Donizetti’s Don Pasquale. Equally comfortable with both the classical and contemporary repertoire, she also performs regularly in recital and concert, a notable example being the Chorégies d’Orange.

Also in the cast are Richard Rittelmann as Benoît, Eric Ferri as Alcindoro and Gilles San Juan as Parpignol.

Decor and costumes for this production are by Philippe Miesch, and lighting is by Yannick Anché.

Daniele Callegari leads the Nice Philharmonic Orchestra, Chorus and Children’s Choir in four performances of Kristian Frédric’s production of Les flocons de neige des derniers souffles – La bohème – at Nice Opera from May 31st to June 6th. Tickets may be reserved online or by telephone on 04 92 17 40 79.

Information sourced from:

Nice Opera programme notes

Encyclopaedia Britannica

Artists’ websites:

Cristina Pasaroiu

Oreste Cosimo

Kristian Frédric

Serban Vasile

Andrea Comelli

Melody Louledjian

This article first appeared in Riviera Buzz

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Met Opera’s new production of Mozart’s ‘Don Giovanni’ ‘Live in HD’

A scene from Mozart’s ‘Don Giovanni’ with Ana María Martínez as Donna Elvira, Federica Lombardi as Donna Anna, Peter Mattei as Don Giovanni, Ben Bliss as Don Ottavio, and Ying Fang as Zerlina. Photo: Karen Almond / Met Opera

The Metropolitan Opera’s latest Live in HD transmission stars the baritone regarded as one of the most acclaimed Don Giovannis of our time – Peter Mattei. This new production of Mozart’s Don Giovanni, is by Tony Award-winning director Ivo van Hove in his debut with the Met, and features soprano Federica Lombardi as Giovanni’s potential conquest Donna Anna.

Also in the cast are soprano Ana María Martínez as Donna Elvira who has been betrayed by Giovanni, and soprano Ying Fang as Zerlina, the young bride whom Giovanni tries to seduce. Tenor Ben Bliss is Don Ottavio, Donna Anna’s fiancé, and Adam Plachetka takes the role of Giovanni’s servant Leporello, Alfred Walker sings Masetto, Zerlina’s intended husband, and Alexander Tsymbalyuk is Donna Anna’s father,the Commendatore, bass-baritones all three.

This production – hailed by the Financial Times as “Magnificent”, and “… a resounding musical success” by the Observer – is led by Nathalie Stutzman, making her debut in the Live in HD series. Music Director of the Atlanta Symphony Orchestra as of this season, and only the second woman in history to lead a major American orchestra, Maestra Stutzman has also been the Principal Guest Conductor of The Philadelphia Orchestra since 2021 and Chief Conductor of Norway’s Kristiansand Symphony Orchestra since 2018.

Alexander Tsymbalyuk (on floor) as the Commendatore, Federica Lombardi as Donna Anna, and Ben Bliss as Don Ottavio in Mozart’s ‘Don Giovanni. Photo: Karen Almond / Met Opera

Don Giovanni, commissioned right after Mozart’s highly successful trip to Prague in 1787, is a two-act dramma giocoso – a particular type of comic opera, described by Daniel Heartz in The Musical Times as “A frolic with serious elements” – and is based on the fictional character, Don Juan, created by Spanish dramatist Tirso de Molina. Da Ponte based his libretto on Giovanni Bertati’s version for a former opera Don Giovanni Tenorio. The opera premiered in Prague at the Estates Theatre on October 29th in 1787. It was somewhat misunderstood at first, but ultimately it came to be regarded as one of the greatest of all operas.

Federica Lombardi as Donna Anna, Ben Bliss as Don Ottavio, Ana María Martínez as Donna Elvira, and Peter Mattei in the title role of Mozart’s ‘Don Giovanni’. Photo: Karen Almond / Met Opera

It tells of Don Giovanni, a serial seducer with a huge ego, who cannot resist the charms of any woman, casting each lover aside without an ounce of remorse. He isn’t shy of murderous intent either – he kills the Commendatore who confronts him as Giovanni tries to seduce his daughter. Ultimately Giovanni meets his match in a graveyard in which a huge statue of the Commendatore stands. The statue urges him to repent of his ways, but Don Giovanni, unwilling to amend his lifestyle, succumbs to the fate which the Commendatore has predicted for him, and is consumed by the flames that have sprung up around him, as a chorus of demons condemns him to eternal damnation.

Peter Mattei as Don Giovanni and Federica Lombardi as Donna Anna in Mozart’s ‘Don Giovanni’. Photo: Karen Almond / Met Opera

Federica Lombardi specializes in the interpretation of leading soprano roles in operatic works by Mozart. A regular guest at opera houses such as the Met, Teatro alla Scala in Milan, the Wiener Staatsoper, the Royal Opera House Covent Garden and the Deutsche Staatsoper Berlin, her future engagements include performances as the Contessa in Mozart’s Le Nozze di Figaro at Chicago Lyric Opera, Mimi in Puccini’s La Bohème, Elettra in Mozart’s Idomeneo in Geneva, and the title role in Donizetti’s Anna Bolena at the Deutsche Oper Berlin.

Peter Mattei in the title role of Mozart’s ‘Don Giovanni’. Photo: Karen Almond / Met Opera

Described by Opera News as “The incomparable Peter Mattei”, the Swedish baritone was named Vocalist of the Year by Musical America Awards in 2020. In addition to his appearance in Don Giovanni this season, he has also appeared for the Met as Rodrigo in Verdi’s Don Carlo, as well as performing in recital in several major concert houses in Europe, with pianist David Fray. Highlights of last season include appearances as the Count in Le Nozze di Figaro at Opéra National de Paris and also at Semperoper Dresden, the title role in Berg’s Wozzeck at Valencia’s Palau de les Arts, and in the live broadcast opera concert at the 2022 Verbier Festival in the title role of Don Giovanni.

A scene from Mozart’s ‘Don Giovanni’ with Ana María Martínez as Donna Elvira, Federica Lombardi as Donna Anna, Peter Mattei (kneeling) as Don Giovanni, Ben Bliss as Don Ottavio, Alfred Walker as Masetto, and Ying Fang as Zerlina. Photo: Karen Almond / Met Opera

Van Hove’s production – which has been set in an abstract architectural landscape – has set and lighting design by Jan Versweyveld, costume design by An D’Huys, and projection design by Christopher Ash, all making their Live in HD debuts, and choreography by Sara Erde. The Live in HD presentation for cinemas is directed by Gary Halvorson, and the transmission is hosted by soprano Erin Morley who will star as Pamina in Simon McBurney’s forthcoming new production of Mozart’s Die Zauberflöte for the Met, which will be transmitted live to cinemas on June 3.

This live production of Don Giovanni can be seen at cinemas worldwide on Saturday, May 20, at 12.55 pm (Eastern Time). To find your nearest theater, follow this link.

For select audiences who do not live near a participating cinema, Don Giovanni will also be available on The Met: Live at Home platform, which offers a livestream and on-demand viewing for seven days following the performance.

For more information about Don Giovanni, please visit the Metropolitan Opera website.

Information sourced from:
Met Opera program notes
Galaxy Music Notes
Peter Mattei
Federica Lombardi
Nathalie Stutzman

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Monte-Carlo Philharmonic plays Elgar and Dvořák

The Monte-Carlo Philharmonic Orchestra with Artistic & Music Director Kazuki Yamada
© Sasha Gusov

This week, Cornelius Meister leads the the Monte-Carlo Philharmonic Orchestra, in the Violin Concerto by Sir Edward Elgar – with Frank Peter Zimmerman as soloist – and Dvořák’s Symphony No 6, in a concert titled Pride and Dignity.

Meister, of whom the Financial Times says: “… proved himself a master of conducting not just the players but the audience too”, has been Music Director of the Staatsoper und Staatsorchester Stuttgart since 2018. Recipient of numerous awards – including the OPUS Klassik in the category ‘Conductor of the Year’ and the Diapason d’or – he performs symphonies by Beethoven, Schumann, Brahms, Bruckner, Tchaikovsky, Mahler and Sibelius, and also rarely heard works and world premieres.

Cornelius Meister © Matthias Baus

Orchestras which he has led include the Concertgebouworkest, City of Birmingham Symphony Orchestra, BBC Philharmonic, National Symphony Orchestra in Washington, Orchestre de l’Opéra National de Paris, Ensemble Intercontemporain, Orchestra dell’Accademia Nazionale di Santa Cecilia in Rome, Deutsches Symphonie-Orchester Berlin, and he has appeared at the Mostly Mozart Festival Orchestra in New York. As an opera conductor, he conducts productions at the Vienna State Opera, the Metropolitan Opera New York and the Opéra National de Paris.

Violinist Frank Peter Zimmermann has been performing with the world’s major orchestras for well over three decades, collaborating with renowned conductors, and appearing in concert venues and music festivals in Europe, the United States, Asia, South America and Australia. Highlights of his current season include engagements with the Münchner Philharmoniker, Gewandhausorchester Leipzig, Wiener Symphoniker, Orchestre National de France, Tonhalle-Orchester Zürich, and Orchestra Sinfonica Nazionale della RAI.

Frank Peter Zimmerman © Harald Hofmann

In 2010 he formed the Trio Zimmermann with viola player Antoine Tamestit and cellist Christian Poltéra which performed in all major music centres and festivals in Europe. As well as being a prolific recording artist, Mr Zimmermann has given four world premieres: Magnus Lindberg’s Violin Concerto No 2 with the London Philharmonic Orchestra under Jaap van Zweden, the violin concerto en sourdine by Matthias Pintscher with the Berliner Philharmoniker led by Peter Eötvös, the violin concerto The Lost Art of Letter Writing by Brett Dean, with the Royal Concertgebouw Orchestra, conducted by the composer, and the Violin Concerto No 3 Juggler in Paradise by Augusta Read Thomas with the Orchestre Philharmonique de Radio France, led by Andrey Boreyko.

The Royal Philharmonic Society commissioned a Violin Concerto from Edward Elgar in 1909 – a time when he was at the height of his composing life. The Concerto received its premiere at the Philharmonic Society Concert given in London’s Queen’s Hall on 10th November, 1910, with Elgar himself conducting. The soloist was renowned violinist Fritz Kreisler, to whom the Concerto was dedicated and of whom Elgar was a great admirer.

Elgar, however, loved including a mystery in some of his works – as in his Variations on an Original Theme, subtitled the Enigma Variations – and the Violin Concerto B minor, op 61 was no exception. Included in the manuscript were the Spanish words “Aqui está encerrada el alma de …..” “Herein is enshrined the soul of …..” (a quotation from the novel Gil Blas by Alain-René Lesage), and to this day the conundrum does not appear to have been completely solved. There are three theories as to the name of the person involved. Alice Stuart-Wortley was one (whom Elgar nicknamed “Windflower”), and who shared a name with his wife, Alice. Helen Weaver, a young violinist who was his first love, was another suggestion, but even though they were engaged, she broke up with him after the death of her mother, and emigrated to New Zealand. The third possibility is that the soul enshrined in this lovely work is that of its composer – Elgar himself.

Sir Edward Elgar – courtesy Wikimedia Commons

Antonín Dvořák’s Symphony No 6 in D major, Op. 60, B. 112, was composed in 1880, and premiered on 25th March 1881. It was dedicated to Hans Richter, the conductor of the Vienna Philharmonic Orchestra, and the person who had commissioned the work. Richter appeared to be very enthusiastic about it, but the premiere which was planned for December 1880, was postponed so many times that Dvořák had the Symphony premiered in Prague, by the Czech Theatre Orchestra, under the direction of Adolf Čech. Richter eventually gave the work its London premiere in 1882, where it became very popular with the British public. Although the Symphony is said to have echoes of the symphonic tradition of Brahms (whom Dvořák admired), it not only drew attention to the composer himself, but also to Czech music.

Antonín Dvořák – courtesy Wikimedia Commons

Cornelius Meister leads the Monte-Carlo Philharmonic Orchestra in a performance of the Elgar Violin Concerto – with Frank Peter Zimmerman as soloist – and Dvořák’s Symphony No 6. The concert takes place in the Auditorium Rainier III in Monaco on Friday 12th May at 20h00.

Further information is available on the Monte-Carlo Philharmonic website, and reservations can be made online.

Information sourced from:

Monte-Carlo Philharmonic Orchestra programme notes

Cornelius Meister

Frank Peter Zimmerman

Elgar Violin Concerto – udiscovermusic and Elgar – his music

A version of this article also appeared in Riviera Buzz

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Greek National Opera marks Centennial Anniversary of Maria Callas

Maria Callas as Norma at the Ancient Theatre of Epidaurus in 1960 – Photo GNO Archive

This year marks the centennial of the birth of Maria Callas, regarded as the greatest soprano of the 20th century. For the rest of this year, and into January 2024, Greek National Opera are celebrating with a series of events paying homage to Callas, as part of the 2023 UNESCO Maria Callas Anniversary, presented by the Hellenic Ministry of Culture and Sports.

These celebratory events, curated by the GNO Artistic Director Giorgos Koumendakis, start with the early years of Maria Callas’ career in Greece, where she made her debut with the Company in 1940, within months of its founding as a branch of the National Theatre of Greece. Using her birth name Maria Kalogeropoulou, and still a student at the Athens Conservatoire, the young soprano gained valuable experience performing major roles at Greek National Opera until 1945.

“Maria Callas, says Koumendakis, “is an artist that shaped the very history of the Greek National Opera.” In 1947 she made her first appearance in Verona, and rapidly gained international recognition. Returning to Greece in 1957, she gave a recital at the Odeon of Herodes Atticus, and also appeared in the first-ever opera performances at the Ancient Theatre of Epidaurus – where dramas have been staged since the 2nd century BC. Callas appeared in Bellini’s Norma in 1960 and Cherubini’s Medea in 1961, notably donating her fees from both productions to create a scholarship supporting young opera artists in her name.

The Ancient Theatre of Epidaurus, a remnant from Ancient Greece, is regarded as the most well-preserved specimen of an Ancient Greek Theater –
Photo Julien Seguinot, Lille, France, via Wikimedia Commons

The events planned by GNO to celebrate Maria Callas’ centennial include the European premiere of David McVicar’s staging of Medea, currently running at the Stavros Niarchos Hall, in a major international co-production with The Metropolitan Opera, Lyric Opera of Chicago and Canadian Opera Company.

Unboxing Callas: From Callas to Medea – An Installation in Three Acts – takes place in the foyer of the Greek National Opera until 9th June. This features major exhibitions of rare photographs, documents, costumes and other personal items showcasing her life and work, including a striking, high-relief profile of Maria Callas, through which the story of Medea unfolds in a sculptural form.

An Opera Gala will be held at the Odeon of Herodes Atticus in September, where Callas’ legacy in Greece is deeply rooted, featuring leading sopranos performing a Maria Callas repertoire, with the GNO Orchestra. In 1944, before she left Athens for New York, she played Smaragda in The Masterbuilder by Manolis Kalomiris, and Leonora in Beethoven’s Fidelio. Thirteen years later, in 1957, Maria Meneghini-Callas returned to the same venue to give a legendary recital as part of the Athens Festival, showcasing her vocal range and virtuosity in arias from iconic operas such as Wagner’s Tristan und Isolde, Verdi’s La forza del destino, Donizetti’s Lucia di Lammermoor and Thomas’ Hamlet.

The second part of the Unboxing Callas arts program – from November this year until January 2024 – is An Archival Exploration of the Dimitris Pyromallis Collection, and showcases the private stories, memories, and archival effects of the legendary opera singer, chronicling her career. All content will be presented on large worktops, as if in a lab, where researchers and artists will be classifying, conserving, recording, cataloging and reinterpreting artifacts.

A documentary titled Mary, Mariana, Maria – The Unsung Greek Years of Callas – by Vasilis Louras will be screened on 2nd December, 2023 at the Stavros Niarchos Hall, exactly 100 years after the birth of Maria Callas. This new documentary explores the life of Maria Callas focusing on her early years of arts training and performances at the Greek National Opera, and her three later appearances in Greece. It explores the difficulties which Callas faced, but despite these challenges, and just a few months later, The Metropolitan Opera offered her a contract, which marked the beginning of her international career.

From December 2023 GNO TV will be screening a free video recital celebrating the formative years of Maria Kalogeropoulou’s career. With the title Maria Callas in Greece, 1937-1945 The Repertoire Never Heard… this video will feature the repertoire which Callas performed in Athens during these years. The works will be performed in the Greek language, in the exact translations that Callas herself sang, featuring established and emerging Greek opera singers, who will perform the repertoire in chronological order. This video is a unique tribute that captures the ‘Greek’ repertoire of Maria Callas, offering Greek and international audiences a complete overview of Callas’s repertoire during the eight years she spent in Athens. 

Maria Callas 100 – Illustration by Yannis Kouroudis

Also, from September to December 2023, an educational workshop is being organised between the GNO and the Technical University of Crete. Under the title Visualizing the Voice of Maria Callas this workshop builds upon the successful ‘Interactive 3D Model of the Main Stage and Backstage Areas of the Greek National Opera’ research project, aiming to further explore the relationship between architecture and music, space and sound, by experimenting with the visualisation of Maria Callas’ voice.

Information sourced from:
Greek National Theatre programme notes
Maria Callas
Ancient Theatre of Epidaurus

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San Francisco Opera honors the memory of the Warsaw Ghetto Uprising

Warsaw Ghetto Uprising Monument
Photo: Rafal Grunt
The monument is located in the area of the former ghetto, in the vicinity of the POLIN Museum of the History of Polish Jews. A copy of the monument was also erected at the Yad Vashem Institute in Jerusalem.

On April 28, San Francisco Opera and Taube Philanthropies stage a special concert called Rise Up And Resist: A Commemorative Concert on the 80th Anniversary of the Warsaw Ghetto Uprising. It is one of many being held around the world to honor the memory of the Uprising, its fighters and supporters.

Music had a special place in the hearts of the Jewish people, as they struggled to maintain some semblance of humanity in the face of Nazi barbarism, refreshing their spirits, providing emotional expression and sustaining communal solidarity.

This concert, presented by members of the San Francisco Opera Adler Fellows and the San Francisco Opera Orchestra, will feature music by Szymanowski – a piece performed at the last concert played by the Jewish Symphony Orchestra in the Warsaw Ghetto on April 12, 1942 – Chopin and Beethoven, as well as folk and religious music celebrating Jewish, Polish-Jewish and Polish cultural heritage.

As part of Hitler’s solution for ridding Europe of Jewish people, the Nazis in 1940 started establishing ghettos in various Polish cities to contain the Jews until they could be executed. The Warsaw Ghetto was set in the old Jewish quarter of the city, and by the summer of 1942, around 500,000 were living there, many without housing, and suffering from starvation and disease. At this time, the Nazis were sending more than 5,000 people a day to the death camp at Treblinka, and by April the following year, as the deportations continued, the Jewish Fighting Organisation – known as ŻOB – was determined to resist, and gradually took control of the Ghetto.

The deportations stopped, but the victory in the ghetto was short-lived, because on April 19, Himmler launched a special operation to clear it in honor of Hitler’s birthday on the 20th. April 19 was also the first day of Passover, and it was on this day that the uprising began. Although 2,000 SS men and German army troops moved in with tanks and rapid-fire artillery, around 1500 Jewish guerrillas opened fire with a motley array of weapons. By the third day, the Germans changed tactics and entered the ghetto in small roaming bands, as the resistance fighters were hiding in underground bunkers, tunnels and sewers. The Jews managed to hold them at bay for nearly a month, but they knew they were bound to lose. Nevertheless they bravely chose to die fighting and inflict as many casualties on the Germans as possible. The Germans shot 7,000 of the captured Jews, sent another 7,000 to Treblinka and the remainder to forced-labor camps. Ultimately, they razed the ghetto to the ground, and dynamited the Great Synagogue of Warsaw.

Despite the Germans plans to clear the Warsaw Ghetto in three days, the Uprising lasted from April 19 to May 16, 1943.

San Francisco Opera’s Rise Up And Resist: A Commemorative Concert on the 80th Anniversary of the Warsaw Ghetto Uprising takes place at 7.30 pm on Friday, April 28, at the Dianne and Tad Taube Atrium Theater, on the fourth floor of the Veterans Building, 401 Van Ness Avenue, San Francisco. Further information and booking details can be found on the San Francisco Opera website.

Information sourced from:

San Francisco Opera program notes

Encyclopaedia Britannica

Monuments of Remembrance

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San Francisco Ballet stages the ever popular ‘Romeo and Juliet’

Misa Kuranaga and Angelo Greco in Tomasson’s ‘Romeo & Juliet’ © Erik Tomasson

Shakespeare’s romantic tragedy about the doomed young lovers of Verona has been recreated in almost every theatrical form for hundreds of years, and this week San Francisco Ballet continues its 2023 season with Helgi Tomasson’s interpretation of Romeo and Juliet.

A passionate, dramatic and colorful work, Romeo and Juliet has long held an allure for choreographers and composers as well, and various interpretations of the ballet have emerged since its first appearance in the latter part of the18th century. Now one of the best loved full-length ballets in the repertoire, the versions which have proved the most enduring are those set to Sergei Prokofiev’s sumptuous score – acknowledged as one of his greatest masterpieces.

Max Cauthorn and Daniel Deivison-Oliveira in Tomasson’s ‘Romeo & Juliet’ © Erik Tomasson

Prokofiev composed Romeo and Juliet in 1935, on commission from Russian theatrical director, Sergei Radlov, for the Bolshoi Theatre. The libretto was created by Prokofiev, Radlov and Adrian Piotrovsky – a critic, theatre historian and playwright – with choreography by Leonid Lavrovsky. When Prokofiev delivered the score in 1936, it was deemed “undanceable” by the artistic direction of the Bolshoi, and the contract was canceled. Three years later, Prokofiev’s Romeo & Juliet was premiered in Brno, Czechoslovakia, with the assistance of Ivo Váňa Psota – a dancer, choreographer and director.

Misa Kuranaga and Angelo Greco in Tomasson’s ‘Romeo & Juliet’ © Erik Tomasson

It wasn’t until January 11th, 1940, that the ballet – having undergone significant revisions – was premiered in what was then known as Leningrad – now St Petersburg – by the Kirov Theatre – now the Mariinsky – with choreography by Lavrovsky, and Konstantin Sergeyev and Galina Ulanova in the leading roles.

Ludmila Bizalion and Sean Bennett in Tomasson’s ‘Romeo & Juliet’ © Erik Tomasson

Romeo and Juliet has everything it needs for success – busy street scenes danced with riotous abandon, thrilling (and incredibly realistic) sword fights, imperious parents and courtiers, Juliet’s loveable Nurse, an elegant ball scene, a passionate love story, brilliant dancing and a superb score.

The beautiful scenery and costume design for this production are by Jens-Jacob Worsaae, lighting design is by Thomas R Skelton and choreography for the fight scenes is by Martino Pistone in collaboration with Helgi Tomasson.

Joseph Walsh in Tomasson’s ‘Romeo & Juliet’ © Erik Tomasson

The production runs for 10 performances from April 21st to 30th at the War Memorial Opera House, with the San Francisco Ballet Orchestra under the leadership of Music Director Martin West. Further information and booking details can be found on the San Francisco Ballet website.

Information sourced from:
San Francisco Ballet program notes, St Petersburg

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Met Opera’s ‘Live in HD’ brings Strauss’s ‘Der Rosenkavalier’ to cinemas

Lise Davidsen as the Marschallin in Strauss’s ‘Der Rosenkavalier’
Photo: Ken Howard / Met Opera

Strauss’s grand Viennese comic opera Der Rosenkavalier comes to cinema screens in the latest Metropolitan Opera Live in HD production, in which audiences worldwide have an opportunity to watch a live transmission from the stage of Lincoln Center in New York. This co-production of the Metropolitan Opera, London’s Royal Opera House Covent Garden, Teatro Colón in Buenos Aires and Teatro Regio di Torino – which was first presented in 2017 – is directed by Robert Carsen, with conductor Simone Young leading the Metropolitan Opera Orchestra, cast and Chorus of the Metropolitan Opera.

Der Rosenkavalier stars soprano Lise Davidsen in her debut as the Marschallin, mezzo-soprano Samantha Hankey in the trouser role of her lover Octavian Count Rofrano, and soprano Erin Morley as Sophie von Faninal the young girl in love with Octavian. Bass Günther Groissböck once again appears as the churlish Baron Ochs, and Brian Mulligan is Sophie’s wealthy father, Herr von Faninal.

Samantha Hankey as Octavian, Lise Davidsen as the Marschallin, and Erin Morley as Sophie in Strauss’s ‘Der Rosenkavalier’ Photo: Ken Howard / Met Opera

Der Rosenkavalier (The Knight of the Rose) is a comic opera in three acts by German composer Richard Strauss, with a German libretto by Austrian dramatist Hugo von Hofmannsthal. Strauss had written his opera Elektra which was based on a play by Hofmannsthal, but Der Rosenkavalier was their first close collaboration. Hofmannsthal took several characters and elements of the plot from French composer Claude Terrasse’s operetta L’Ingénu libertin (1907) and French dramatist Molière’s Monsieur de Pourceaugnac (1669). Strauss set Der Rosenkavalier in 18th century Vienna, and although the waltz was unknown until the early 19th century, he nevertheless worked a number of waltzes into the score, and the Waltz Sequence from Der Rosenkavalier has become well known as a standalone concert piece. The opera, which has become Strauss’s most popular, premiered at the Dresden Royal Opera House on January 26, 1911.

Samantha Hankey as Octavian and Lise Davidsen as the Marschallin in Strauss’s
‘Der Rosenkavalier’ Photo: Ken Howard / Met Opera

Der Rosenkavalier tells of a mature woman, the Marschallin, who has a young lover, Octavian, but realises that, since she is ageing, she might have to give him up to enable him to marry a young girl. Her country cousin, Baron Ochs auf Lerchenau, boasts to the Marschallin about his amorous conquests and his upcoming marriage to Sophie von Faninal, the young daughter of a wealthy man. At the Marschallin’s suggestion, Octavian is selected to be the cavalier who presents Sophie with the traditional silver engagement rose, and the young couple are instantly attracted to each other.

Günther Groissböck as Baron Ochs and Lise Davidsen as the Marschallin in Strauss’s
‘Der Rosenkavalier’ Photo: Ken Howard / Met Opera

Fortunately for them, Ochs blots his copybook by accepting a dinner invitation from ‘Mariandel’ who is actually Octavian in disguise. The Marschallin arrives on the scene and Octavian owns up to the deception, whereupon Ochs flees in disgrace and the young lovers are free to pursue their dreams.

Lise Davidsen as the Marschallin in Strauss’s ‘Der Rosenkavalier’
Photo: Ken Howard / Met Opera

Leading international soprano Lise Davidsen, said by Peter Gelb, General Manager of the Met, to be “In a league of her own”, received wide praise for her appearances at the Met as Eva in Wagner’s Die Meistersinger von Nürnberg, the title role in Richard Strauss’ Ariadne auf Naxos, Chrysothemis in his Elektra, and the title role in Tchaikovsky’s Queen of Spades. Other highlights of her career include the roles of Sieglinde in Wagner’s Die Walküre at Deutsche Oper Berlin, the title role in Janáček’s Jenufa at the Concertgebouw in Amsterdam, Elisabeth in Wagner’s Tannhäuser at Bayerische Staatsoper, the Opernhaus Zurich, and the Bayreuth Festival, and the title role in Strauss’ Ariadne auf Naxos at Aix-en-Provence Festival, Wiener Staatsoper and Glyndebourne Festival.

A scene from Act II of Strauss’s ‘Der Rosenkavalier’ with Samantha Hankey as Octavian
Photo: Ken Howard / Met Opera

Mezzo-soprano Samantha Hankey makes her house role debut as Octavian. Praised for her “luscious” voice and “distinctive…vividly dramatic” performances by Opera News, she has made house and role debuts during last season at the Gran Teatre del Liceu Barcelona as Der Komponist in Ariadne auf Naxos, Dorabella in Mozart’s Così fan tutte at San Diego Opera, and Ruggiero in Glyndebourne Festival’s new production of Alcina. She made her role debut as Prince Charmant in Massenet’s Cendrillon at the Metropolitan Opera, and her house debut in the same role at the Opéra de Paris, before returning to Munich’s Bayerische Staatsoper as Cherubino in Mozart’s Le nozze di Figaro.

Erin Morley as Sophie and Samantha Hankey as Octavian in Strauss’s ‘Der Rosenkavalier’ Photo: Ken Howard / Met Opera

Coloratura soprano Erin Morley reprises her portrayal of Sophie in the Met’s 2017 production of Der Rosenkavalier. Her appearance as Morgana in Handel’s Alcina at Auditorio Nacional in Madrid was described by Scherzo as “dazzling”, and she has appeared in highly acclaimed performances on some of the world’s greatest opera stages such as Wiener Staatsoper, Bayerische Staatsoper, Opéra National de Paris, Glyndebourne Opera, Santa Fe Opera, Los Angeles Opera and the Metropolitan Opera, where she has now sung more than 100 performances and has been featured in five “Live in HD” broadcasts.

Günther Groissböck as Baron Ochs and Samantha Hankey as Octavian in Strauss’s
‘Der Rosenkavalier’ Photo: Ken Howard / Met Opera

Bass Günther Groissböck again takes the role of Baron Ochs, for which he won acclaim at the premiere of the production in 2017 and also on its first revival during the 2019–20 season. He is a regular guest at opera houses such as the Met, La Scala Milan, Opéra National de Paris, Bavarian State Opera Munich, Vienna State Opera, the Royal Opera House Covent Garden and the Bayreuth Festival. Roles include Gurnemanz in Wagner’s Parsifal, the title role in Mussorgsky’s Boris Godunov, Sarastro in Mozart’s The Magic Flute, Fasolt in Wagner’s Das Rheingold, Gremin in Tchaikovsky’s Eugene Onegin and the title role in Handel’s Oreste.

René Barbera as the Italian Singer in Strauss’s ‘Der Rosenkavalier’
Photo: Ken Howard / Met Opera

Also in the cast are tenor René Barbera as the Italian Singer, mezzo-soprano Katharine Goeldner as Annina, tenor Thomas Ebenstein as Valzacchi, and baritone Brian Mulligan as Faninal.

Robert Carsen’s elegant production has the action set in Vienna in 1911, the last years of the Habsburg Empire and the year in which it was premiered. The creative team also includes costume designer Brigette Reiffenstuel, set designer Paul Steinberg, lighting designers Carsen and Peter Van Praet, and choreographer Philippe Giraudeau. Gary Halvorson directs the Live in HD presentation for cinemas, and the broadcast is hosted by soprano Deborah Voigt.

Simone Young leads this performance of Richard Strauss’ Der Rosenkavalier on April 15th at 12h00 ET, which will be transmitted live to movie theaters around the globe as part of the Met’s Live in HD series. Further information on Der Rosenkavalier can be found on the Metropolitan Opera website. To find your nearest cinema visit this page of the Metropolitan Opera website.

For select audiences who do not live near a participating cinema, Der Rosenkavalier will also be available on the The Met: Live at Home platform, which offers a livestream or on-demand viewing for seven days following the performance. Details are available on the Metropolitan Opera website.

Information sourced from:

Metropolitan Opera program notes

Lise Davidsen

Samantha Hankey

Erin Morley

Günther Groissböck

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Opéra de Monte-Carlo presents Rossini’s ‘Il barbiere di Siviglia’

Poster courtesy Opéra de Monte-Carlo

A beautiful lady, two suitors and a town barber who misses nothing – what could possibly go wrong? Plenty, it seems, as Opéra de Monte-Carlo presents Gioachino Rossini’s hugely popular Il barbiere di Siviglia. This productionby Salzburg Festival, starring Monte-Carlo Opera Director Cecilia Bartoli, is staged by Rolando Villazón.

Il barbiere di Siviglia is a two-act melodrama buffo with an Italian libretto by Cesare Sterbini. It was based on Pierre Beaumarchais’s 1775 comedy Le Barbier de Séville, although the opera is closer in style to the traditional commedia dell’arte than to the French play from which it takes its inspiration. Il barbiere di Siviglia premiered on February 20, 1816, at the Teatro Argentina in Rome.

The story tells of the beautiful Rosina, the ward of Dr Bartolo, and the two suitors who desire her hand in marriage – Count Almaviva and Bartolo himself. Rosina has already fallen for the Count, following his serenade to her, and the town barber, Figaro – who knows everyone’s secrets and scandals – sees an opportunity to make some money from Almaviva by hatching a plan for the Count to gain access to Bartolo’s house. The twists and turns of the plot are enough to confuse anyone, but carried along by some of the most popular music in the operatic repertoire, this wonderfully entertaining and enjoyable opera reaches its denouement with Almaviva and Rosina celebrating their marriage, Bartolo’s acceptance of defeat (for which he’s rewarded with Rosina’s dowry), and Figaro pocketing, of course, a handsome payment from the Count.

Mezzo-soprano Cecilia Bartoli – who sings Rosina – is regarded as one of the world’s leading classical music artists. Over her 30-year career, her awards include Honorary doctorates, five Grammy Awards, more than a dozen ECHO Klassik and BRIT awards, the Polar Music Prize, the Léonie Sonning Music Prize and the Herbert von Karajan Music Prize. Ms Bartoli has appeared in major opera houses, concert venues and festivals throughout North America, Europe, the Far East and Australia, has made numerous successful recordings, and created spectacular stage events, films and multimedia events. She has served as artistic director of the Salzburg Whitsun Festival since 2012, and also founded her period-instrument orchestra Les Musicians du Prince-Monaco in 2016, with the patronage of HSH Prince Albert II and HRH Caroline the Princess of Hanover.

Highly versatile Mexican tenor Rolando Villazón is described by The Times as “the most charming of today’s divos” – and is said by Süddeutsche Zeitung to have “a wonderfully virile voice…grandezza, elegance and power”. Not only one of today’s most successful tenors, director Villazón is also a novelist, artistic director and radio and TV personality. He has appeared on the stages of the State Operas of Berlin, Munich and Vienna, La Scala in Milan, the Royal Opera House Covent Garden, the Metropolitan Opera, the Salzburg Festival, the Barbican Hall, the Philharmonic Accademia Santa Cecilia and Carnegie Hall. Rolando Villazón has directed for the Festspielhaus Baden-Baden, the Deutsche Oper Berlin, the Deutsche Oper am Rhein Düsseldorf, the Vienna Volksoper, the Semperoper in Dresden and the Théatre des Champs-Elysées. His most recent success was this production of Il barbiere di Siviglia at the 2022 Salzburg Festival, with a cast led by Cecilia Bartoli, which received both critical and public acclaim.

Uruguayan tenor Edgardo Rocha – who takes the role of Count Almaviva – is well known for his bel canto repertoire and regarded as one of its best exponents, with particular emphasis on roles in Rossini operas. These include performances as Jago and Rodrigo in Otello, Belfiore and Libenskof in ll Viaggio a Reims, Alberto in La Gazetta, the title role in Le Comte Ory, Giannetto in La Gazza ladra, Giacomo V in La Donna del Lago and Don Ramiro in the 2012 film La Cenerentola which was broadcast live by Mundovision. Mr Rocha has also appeared as Nazir in Bizet’s Les Pêcheurs des perles, Arturo in Bellini’s I Puritani, Leopold in Halevy’s La Juive, Ernesto in Peer’s Agnese and Riccardo Percy in Donizetti’s Anna Bolena. His appearances include performances at the Opernhaus Zürich, the Teatro des Champs-Élyseés, Teatro alla Scala, Opéra Royal de Wallonie in Liège, the Teatro Regio di Torino, Semperoper in Dresden, the Bolshoi Theatre, Opéra de Marseille, Opéra de Lausanne and the Salzburg Pfingstfestpiele.

The role of Bartolo is taken by baritone Alessandro Corbelli who has performed numerous roles in opera houses such as Teatro alla Scala in Milan, the Royal Opera House Covent Garden, the Opéra de Paris, Staatsoper de Vienne, the Metropolitan Opera and Glyndebourne. He has also appeared in Munich, Madrid, Barcelona, Rome, at the Salzburg Festival and the Rossini Festival in Pesaro. Most recently, Mr Corbelli has performed as Don Magnifico in La Cenerentola at the Opernhuis in Zurich and as the Marchese Don Giulio Antiquati in Donizetti’s L’ajo nell’imbarazzo in Bergamo. Following his appearance in Monte-Carlo, he will reprise the role of Don Bartolo in Il barbiere di Siviglia at the Salzburg Festival and at the Arena di Verona Opera Festival, and later this year will appear as Sulpice in Donizetti’s La Fille du régiment at Lyric Opera Chicago, the Metropolitan Opera, Wiener Staatsoper and the Royal Opera House.

Figaro, the barber who knows more about the town than anyone else, is sung by baritone Nicola Alaimo who has appeared in many of the world’s most prestigious opera houses and concert halls. These include the Metropolitan Opera, Teatro alla Scala, the Teatro Regio in Turin, La Monnaie, Amsterdam’s Concertgebouw, Rome Opera, the Royal Opera House Covent Garden, Teatro Real in Madrid and Berlin’s Deutsche Oper. Mr Alaimo’s recent roles include those of Dandini in La Cenerentola at the Opernhuis Zurich, the title role in Verdi’s Falstaff in Tokyo and Far Melitone in Verdi’s La forza del destino at Gran Teatre del Liceu in Barcelona and at the Opéra National de Paris. Future roles include those of Murena in Donizetti’s L’esule di Roma with Opera Rara in London, title role in Verdi’s Nabucco in Luxembourg, Teatro Maestranza in Seville and Geneva, he will reprise the role of Figaro in Il barbiere di Siviglia at the Arena di Verona Opera Festival and will sing Taddeo in Rossini’s L’italiana in Algeri.

Don Basilio, Rosina’s scheming music teacher, is sung by bass Ildar Abdrazakov, described by The Independent as a “sensational bass … who has just about everything – imposing sound, beautiful legato, oodles of finesse”. A regular guest of the world’s leading opera houses, such as the Metropolitan Opera, Teatro alla Scala, Paris National Opera, the Vienna State Opera and Munich’s Bavarian State Opera, Mr Abdrazakov has performed with almost every major opera company in the United States and Europe. He is also an active concert artist who has performed at London’s BBC Proms and at New York’s Carnegie Hall, as well as with leading international orchestras. Recent and current appearances include the title role in Mussorgsky’s Boris Godunov at the Bolshoi Theatre and at Teatro alla Scala, as Filippo II in Verdi’s Don Carlo at Bayerische Staatsoper in Munich and at the Bolshoi Theatre, and as Mephistopheles in La Damnation de Faust at Teatro di San Carlo in Naples.

Also in the cast are Rebeca Olvera as Berta, José Coca Loza as Fiorello and Arturo Brachetti as Arnoldo.

Gianluca Capuano, principal conductor of Les Musiciens du Prince – Monaco, leads the ensemble and the Chorus of Opéra de Monte-Carlo (director Stefano Visconti) in four performances of Rossini’s Il barbiere di Siviglia from 16th to 22nd April. Performances take place at the Opéra de Monte-Carlo.

Information sourced from:

Opéra de Monte-Carlo programme notes

Cecilia Bartoli

Rolando Villazón

Edgardo Rocha

Alessandro Corbelli

Nicola Alaimo

Ildar Abdrazakov

This article was first published in Riviera Buzz

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Slobodeniouk leads Beatrice Rana & the London Philharmonic Orchestra

The London Philharmonic Orchestra © Benjamin Ealovega

This week the London Philharmonic Orchestra presents two performances of a programme under the title Heroes and Heroines – one at the Royal Festival Hall in London, and the second at the Brighton Dome. The Orchestra is led by Dima Slobodeniouk, with Beatrice Rana as guest soloist, playing Mendelssohn’s Piano Concerto No 1. Also on the programme is Sibelius’ Second Symphony and Stride, a work by Tania Léon.

Dima Slobodeniouk, said by the New York Times to have given “one of the most auspicious New York Philharmonic debuts of recent years”, last year ended a 9-year tenure as Music Director of the Orquesta Sinfónica de Galicia. He was Principal Conductor of the Lahti Symphony Orchestra from 2016 to 2021, and Artistic Director of the Sibelius Festival. Maestro Slobodeniouk works with some of the world’s major orchestras, such as the Berliner Philharmoniker, London Symphony Orchestra, Gewandhausorchester Leipzig, Concertgebouworkest and the NHK Symphony Orchestra. Among the highlights of this current season are debuts with orchestras such as the BBC Symphony, Pittsburgh Symphony, Wiener Symphoniker and Danish National Symphony, with return visits to the Boston Symphony, Swedish Radio Symphony, Helsinki Philharmonic and Oslo Philharmonic orchestras, and the Orquesta Sinfónica de Galicia.

Multi award-winning pianist Beatrice Rana, whose playing – according to The Times – has ”a kind of Orphic seductiveness, a transcendent lightness of touch”, performs at some of the world’s most prestigious concert halls and festivals, including Vienna’s Konzerthaus and Musikverein, Berlin Philharmonie, Amsterdam’s Concertgebouw, New York’s Lincoln Center and Carnegie Hall, the Royal Albert and Royal Festival halls, Philharmonie de Paris, the Verbier Festival, Mostly Mozart Festival and Washington DC’s Kennedy Center. She has toured Europe with the London Symphony Orchestra and Gianandrea Noseda, with the Bayerische Rundfunk Symphony Orchestra and Yannick Nézet-Seguin, and Asia with the Orchestra dell’Academia di Santa Cecilia and Antonio Pappano. In 2017, Beatrice started her own chamber music festival Classiche Forme in her native town of Lecce, in Puglia, which has become one of Italy’s major summer events. She also became artistic director of the Orchestra Filarmonica di Benevento in 2020.

Fast-moving and wonderfully melodic in true Mendelssohn style, the Piano Concerto No 1 in G minor Op 25 was written in Munich, following the composer’s extensive tour of Europe, which began in 1829. The work, which is played without breaks between the three movements, was completed in 1831 and premiered by Mendelssohn – who was himself a virtuoso pianist and organist – on 17th October of that year. Shortly afterwards, a second performance was given in London, where the work was published. Mendelssohn played it many times during his short career, and it was always received warmly both by public and press.

Sibelius sketched out the concept of his Second Symphony while staying in the small town of Rapallo on the west coast of Italy, near Genoa. He originally intended it to be a symphonic poem – with thoughts of Dante’s Divine Comedy and the legend of Don Juan on his mind – but once home in May 1901, Sibelius used the material to write a symphony, completing it in the same year. It is regarded as one of his most popular works, and was no doubt influenced partly by the optimistic future longed for in Finland at the time, but also by the natural beauty of Rapallo, which gives it a lighter tone than many of his other works. As Osmo Vänskä, Finnish conductor and highly-acclaimed interpreter of Sibelius, explained: “The second symphony is connected with our nation’s fight for independence, but it is also about the struggle, crisis and turning-point in the life of an individual. This is what makes it so touching.” The symphony was premiered by the Helsinki Orchestral Society on 8th March, 1902, with the composer conducting.

The opening work of this concert is a piece called Stride by Tania Léon, the Cuban American composer who will become the Philharmonic’s Artist-in-Residence for two seasons as of September this year. Kennedy Center Honoree 2022, Pulitzer Prizewinner 2021 and founding member and music director of Arthur Mitchell’s Dance Theatre of Harlem in 1969, Tania Léon wrote Stride as part of the New York Philharmonic’s Project 19 to mark the centenary of American women being given the right to vote in 1920. Tania Léon focussed on pioneering feminist Susan B Anthony, who did not take ‘no’ for an answer, but kept pushing and moving forward, which is precisely what ‘stride’ means – something that is moving forward. Stride received its world premiere at David Geffen Hall, Lincoln Center, New York City on 13th February 2020.

Dima Slobodeniouk leads the London Philharmonic Orchestra and guest artist Beatrice Rana in works by Tania Léon, Felix Mendelssohn and Jean Sibelius on 31st March at London’s Royal Festival Hall, and on 1st April at the Brighton Dome. For further information and details on booking, please visit the London Philharmonic Orchestra website.

Information sourced from:

London Philharmonic programme notes

Dima Slobodeniouk

Beatrice Rana

Sibelius Symphony No 2

Tania Léon

Royal Festival Hall

Brighton Dome

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