Metropolitan Opera’s ‘Così fan tutte’ – Live in HD


Isabel Leonard as Dorabella, Danielle de Niese as Despina, and Susanna Phillips as Fiordiligi in Mozart’s ‘Così fan tutte’ (Photo: Marty Sohl/Metropolitan Opera)

The Metropolitan Opera’s production of Mozart’s Così fan tutte which takes place in New York on Saturday, April 26, will be screened live in cinemas around the world – the latest presentation in the Company’s Live in HD series.

Music Director James Levine leads a charismatic cast, and the Metropolitan Opera Orchestra and Chorus, in the first Live in HD performance of Mozart’s comic masterpiece – libretto by Lorenzo Da Ponte. The production stars soprano Susanna Phillips and mezzo-soprano Isabel Leonard as the sisters Fiordiligi and Dorabella;  tenor Matthew Polenzani and baritone Rodion Pogossov as their fiancés, Ferrando and Guglielmo;  and soprano Danielle de Niese as their feisty maid Despina.  Maurizio Muraro is the cynical Don Alfonso, and the screen performance is hosted by American soprano, Renée Fleming.


Rodion Pogossov as Guglielmo and Matthew Polenzani as Ferrando in Mozart’s ‘Così fan tutte’ (Photo: Marty Sohl/Metropolitan Opera)

Set in Naples in the 18th century, the action in Così fan tutte – which translates loosely as ‘Women are like that’ – revolves around a plot by two young soldiers who disguise their identity in order to test the fidelity of their respective fiancées.

James Levine – Music Director since 1976 – has a long and unique history with the Metropolitan Opera, having led around 2500 performances of 85 different operas since his debut with a performance of Tosca in 1971.   These productions include the first-ever Met performances of Mozart’s Idomeneo and La Clemenza di Tito, Gershwin’s Porgy and Bess, Stravinsky’s Oedipus Rex, Verdi’s I Vespri Siciliani, I Lombardi and Stiffelio, Weill’s Rise and Fall of the City of Mahagonny, Schoenberg’s Erwartung and Moses und Aron, Berg’s Lulu, Rossini’s La Cenerentola and Berlioz’s Benvenuto Cellini – as well as the world premieres of John Corigliano’s The Ghosts of Versailles and John Harbison’s The Great Gatsby.

Now leading the orchestra from a motorized wheelchair  – following the paralysis which he suffered in 2011 – Maestro Levine has returned to the Met, his gradual recovery continuing with three performances of Così fan tutte, delighting the many who hardly dared hope to see him back on the podium.

Così fan tutte

A scene from the Metropolitan Opera’s ‘Così fan tutte’ (Photo: Marty Sohl/Metropolitan Opera)

This production of Così fan tutte – by American director, Lesley Koenig – has won high praise from The New York Times: “I don’t think I have ever heard a more vibrant, masterly and natural performance than this… glowing, crisp and buoyant account of Mozart’s…Così Fan Tutte. Lesley Koenig’s simple, sunny, and charmingly traditional production from 1996 [features a] winning cast [which] performed like a crack comedic theater troupe.”

Koenig has almost 20 years’ experience directing opera – in top houses and festivals around the world.  She has directed more than 30 productions for the Metropolitan Opera and holds three shared Emmy Awards from the Met for Outstanding Classical Program in the Performing Arts.

Così fan tutte

Susanna Phillips as Fiordiligi and Matthew Polenzani as Ferrando in Mozart’s ‘Così fan tutte’ (Photo: Marty Sohl/Metropolitan Opera)

For screening details of the Live in HD performance of the Metropolitan Opera’s Così fan tutte, follow this link for cinemas in the US, and this link  for international screenings. Check local theaters for dates and times.


Isabel Leonard as Dorabella and Rodion Pogossov as Guglielmo in Mozart’s ‘Così fan tutte’ (Photo: Marty Sohl/Metropolitan Opera)


Metropolitan Opera

James Levine

Renée Fleming

Susanna Phillips

Isabel Leonard

Matthew Polenzani

Rodion Pogossov

Danielle de Niese

Lesley Koenig


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Mariss Jansons to leave the Royal Concertgebouw Orchestra

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Mariss Jansons (Photo: Marco Borggreve)

Mariss Jansons, Chief Conductor of the Royal Concertgebouw Orchestra since 2004, has announced his departure after the conclusion of the 2014-15 season.

Much loved by the musicians and audiences alike, Maestro Jansons – only the sixth Chief Conductor in the history of the Concertgebouw – is credited with having been a tremendous inspiration to the Orchestra and to have led it in some superb performances.

Having made his debut with the Royal Concertgebouw in 1988, Maestro Jansons became Chief Conductor in 2004, and the Orchestra has enjoyed a particularly successful period under his leadership.  CDs and DVDs recorded under Maestro Jansons on the Orchestra’s own label, RCO Live, have received numerous international prizes, and in 2011 Mariss Jansons received the title ‘Conductor of the Year’ from the German magazine Opernwelt for the opera production of Eugene Onegin.

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The Royal Concertgebouw Orchestra (Photo: Simon Van Boxtel)

In 2008, the Royal Concertgebouw Orchestra was voted “the world’s greatest orchestra” by an international panel of music critics, a judgment confirmed by the international press during the recent world tour to celebrate the Orchestra’s Jubilee Year in 2013.  Maestro Jansons led the Concertgebouw in most of the concerts during this tour, including the Jubilee Concert and the Anniversary Concert, the orchestra’s first appearances in Russia since 1974 and its first ever appearances in Australia.

Mariss Jansons is acknowledged as one of the finest conductors to have emerged from the former Soviet Union in the last quarter of the 20th century. Born in Riga in 1943, while the city was under German occupation, he was the son of Arvid Jansons, the leading Latvian conductor to emerge under the Soviet system after the Baltic nation was retaken by the USSR in 1945.

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Maestro Jansons conducting the Royal Concertgebouw Orchestra (Photo: Anne Dokter)

Maestro Jansons has conducted some of the world’s finest orchestras and is the recipient of a number of prestigious honours. In 1995, King Harald V of Norway appointed Jansons Commander with Star of the Royal Norwegian Order of Merit for his services to Norway as music director of the Oslo Philharmonic – the highest honour ever given by that country to a person not of Norwegian descent. He was given honorary membership of Britain’s Royal Academy of Music in 1999, and Vienna’s Gesellschaft der Musikfreunde in 2001. In November 2013, on the 25th anniversary of his debut with the Royal Concertgebouw Orchestra, Mariss Jansons was decorated as a Knight in the Order of the Netherlands Lion.

The management of the Royal Concertgebouw Orchestra is currently in discussion with Maestro Jansons regarding the date of his last concert as Chief Conductor, as well as the dates of performances in subsequent seasons. The Orchestra, its management and Maestro Jansons himself have stated that they are parting on excellent terms, and with deep mutual respect.

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The Royal Concertgebouw, home of the Royal Concertgebouw Orchestra (Photo: Leander Lammertink)

Mariss Jansons

Royal Concertgebouw Orchestra


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‘Ethel Merman, Mother Teresa …. and Me’


One of the most interesting books to have come my way recently is a memoir by Tony Cointreau, entitled Ethel Merman, Mother Teresa … and Me – and if the title sounds extraordinary, the book is even more so. “How many people,” reads the blurb, “can count among their closest friends Ethel Merman (the Queen of Broadway) [and] Mother Teresa (beatified by the Vatican in October 2003) ….?”.

Tony Cointreau – and the name is likely to have rung a bell – is an heir of the French liqueur family from Angers in France, producer of the clear, orange-flavoured triple-sec which bears the family name, and in this autobiography, he recounts the story of his life which he describes as “My Improbable Journey from Chateaux in France to the Slums of Calcutta”.

Tony had a somewhat traumatic childhood. Conceived shortly before his mother was forced to flee the Nazi invasion of France with his elder brother and their nanny, he was born after their arrival in New York. His mother, however, was “emotionally remote”, his brother turned out to be a bully, the Swiss nanny was “cold and unprotective” and he had to endure the advances of a schoolteacher with paedophiliac tendencies. All these experiences left him with the belief that the only way to be loved is to be perfect, and it was this belief which led him to a life-long search for love and for a mother figure.


Jim Russo, Ethel Merman and Tony Cointreau

He found both in three women who were to become influential in his life – his “other mothers”, as he called them – Lee Lehman, “a remarkable woman” (the wife of Robert Lehman, chairman of Lehman Brothers), Ethel Merman and Mother Teresa. They were like mothers, he writes, “and the three of them helped to heal the parts of me that had been damaged as a child. Their humor, their support, and their compassion finally gave me the unconditional love I had been seeking my whole life”.


Tony reading to Mother Teresa

Cointreau admits that the differences between Ethel Merman and Mother Teresa – “the two most important women in my life” – appear to be huge, but there were also similarities. Most people probably don’t know that Merman – despite “her loud voice and brassy persona onstage” – was a very spiritual person, and for years did voluntary work at Roosevelt Hospital, comforting the patients – “something you might have expected from Mother Teresa”. And Mother Teresa, he writes, had a sense of humor which wasn’t too far removed from that of Ethel Merman”.


At Mother Teresa’s home for orphaned children in Calcutta

It’s a fascinating and touching story – written with great warmth and humour – which amply shows that what Tony Cointreau received from both of these “other mothers” he returned as generously as he had received. He and his partner, Jim Russo, were there for Ethel Merman during some of the darkest days of her life, and – following Tony’s successful international singing career – not only did he and Jim visit Mother Teresa’s home for orphaned children in Calcutta on two occasions, but he also spent 12 years caring for destitute men dying of AIDS at Gift of Love, Mother Teresa’s sanctuary in Greenwich Village in New York.


What becomes apparent in this memoir is his realisation that all that really matters in life is a willingness to share even a small part of yourself with others …. and that you don’t have to be perfect to find unconditional love.

For some highly entertaining, and – at times – moving insights into the relationship which Tony and Jim shared with Ethel Merman, watch this interview which was broadcast on Theater Talk.

Ethel Merman, Mother Teresa …. and Me – A Memoir by Tony Cointreau is published by Prospecta Press ISBN 978-1-935212-34-8
Tony Cointreau

Prospecta Press


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Geneva Ballet and Kylián Productions come to Monte-Carlo


Monaco Dance Forum welcomes Ballet du Grand Théâtre de Genève, and a film presentation by Jiří Kylián Productions to the Grimaldi Forum in Monte-Carlo this month.

The Geneva Ballet – a company of 22 classically trained dancers from around the world – is known for its neo-classical and contemporary style, and also for its adventurous repertoire and imaginative collaborations.  During its forthcoming season in Monaco, the Company will perform two powerful works – Ken Ossola’s Lux, and Glory by Andonis Foniadakis.

Ken Ossola started choreographing whilst dancing with the Nederlands Dans Theater, working with some of the world’s leading contemporary exponents of the art – from Jiří Kylián to William Forsythe.  Having subsequently launched his career as a freelance dancer-choreographer, he simultaneously took up the position of Ballet Master for Gothenburg Ballet, and became a rehearsal coach for Nederlands Dans Theater.  Now, alongside his flourishing choreographic career, he has become a specialist in the works of Jiři Kylián, recreating them for a number of dance companies throughout the world.


From Ken Ossola’s ‘Lux’

In Lux, set to Gabriel Fauré’s beautifully poignant Requiem, Ossola has his dancers weaving in and out of a shadowy landscape, using this intriguing effect to accentuate their movements – at times sharply defined, at others more fluid and lyrical.  Here’s a selection of scenes from Lux

Foniadakis’ Glory is, by contrast, a highly dramatic work, set to a collection of pieces by Handel arranged by Julien Tarride.  Here, the choreography is characterised by a compelling urgency, with the dancers thrown into a fast-moving display of virtuosity, for which Foniadakis is well known – as can be seen in this video clip.


Ballet du Grand Théâtre de Genève in Foniadakis’ ‘Glory’
© Gregory Batardon

Foniadakis studied at the State Dance School of Athens, and won the Maria Callas Scholarship to further his studies at the Rudra-Béjart School in Lausanne.  He joined the Béjart Ballet before moving to the Lyon Opéra Ballet, and subsequently the Saburo Teshi-gawara/Karas Co.  In 2003 he created his own company, Apotosoma, in Lyon, and in addition to creating and performing across Europe and in the US, he teaches seminars based on his personal dance technique, and has also been commissioned to choreograph for two operas – Rameau’s Les boreades for Opera National du Rhin, and Claudio Ambrosini’s Il canto de la pelle for GRAME Lyon.

The programme by Ballet du Grand Théâtre de Genève is followed by the European Premiere of Kylián Productions’ presentation of East Shadow, a work commissioned as part of the 2013 Aichi Trienniale in Nagoya, Japan, part of which was dedicated to the legacy of one of the greatest writers of the 20th century – Samuel Beckett.  Kylián was asked to create an original work for this festival on the theme of the Fukushia tsunami of 2011.  He delivered a film which was inspired by the somewhat disconcerting world of Samuel Beckett, set to the music of Schubert, and dedicated to the victims of the Fukushima disaster.


A scene from Kylián’s ‘East Shadow’


Sabine Kupferberg and Gary Chryst in ‘East Shadow’

In Kylián’s own words, “…. Two people, a man and a woman meet and decide to move into an apartment, which they would like to call their home…. soon, through some surreal, humorous and tragic circumstances, they realize that their happiness is only a wishful thinking – an utopia….finally they are washed away by an earthquake and a tsunami – only their hats are left behind – otherwise nothing, nothing at all. They were just ‘simple’ people….”.

The performers in East Shadow are dancer and choreograher Gary Chryst – regarded as one of the finest as one of the finest character dancers in American ballet – and former member of the Stuttgart Ballet and Nederlands Dans Theater, Sabine Kupferberg.

Multi-award-winning Kylián is arguably one of the most prolific of contemporary choreographers.  Having studied at the Prague Conservatory, he won a scholarship to study at the Royal Ballet, where John Cranko invited him to join the Stuttgart Ballet – the start of his choreographic career.  Kylián subsequently took up the position of Artistic Co-director of Nederlands Dans Theater, for which he has created 74 ballets, and was instrumental in setting up the unique three-dimensional structure of the Company.  He has created original works for the Stuttgart Ballet, the Paris Opéra Ballet, Swedish Television, Bayerisches Staatsballett München and the Tokyo Ballet, and his creations are in the repertoires of more than 100 companies and schools worldwide.

The Ballet du Grand Théâtre de Genève appears at the Grimaldi Forum in Monaco on 15 and 16 April, and Kylián’s East Shadow runs at the Salle Prince Pierre, Grimaldi Forum, on 17 and 18 April.


The Grimaldi Forum in Monte-Carlo
© Monaco Press Centre

Ballet du Grand Théâtre de Genève

Jiří Kylián

Ken Ossola

Andonis Foniadakis

Monaco Dance Forum

Grimaldi Forum

Aichi Trienniale

Gary Chryst 

Sabine Kupferberg  


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English National Ballet honours the centenary of the Great War


Akram Khan’s ‘Dust’ was partly inspired by the concept of the trench
Photo: ASH

English National Ballet commemorates the centenary of the start of World War I in a production entitled Lest We Forget, now in performance at the Barbican – and the critics have been fulsome in their praise – not only of the production, but of the decision by Artistic Director, Tamara Rojo, to stage it.

The Guardian describes it as “a compelling evening … that could well go down as a turning point in ENB’s history”, and The Evening Standard writes of “a brave and brilliant move from director Tamara Rojo”.  According to The Independent, the production is both “moving and ambitious”, “melancholic but thrillingly uplifting” says The Telegraph, and the advice from The Arts Desk is to “make this absolutely an evening to catch”.


Tamara Rojo and Esteban Berlanga in Liam Scarlett’s ‘No Man’s Land’
Photo: ASH

Marking English National Ballet’s first ever appearance at the Barbican Theatre, Lest We Forget features the work of three award-winning British choreographers – Akram Khan, Russell Maliphant and Liam Scarlett – and it also highlights the first occasion on which Khan and Maliphant have collaborated with a classical ballet company, creating works which reflect the immersion of the traditions of classical ballet into contemporary dance. Completing the programme is Firebird by ENB Associate Artist, George Williamson.

The works by Khan, Maliphant and Scarlett are also the first commissions for the Company by Tamara Rojo.  “I wanted an evening of British work,” she said, “and the Great War still has such resonance in British culture and society that the occasion of the centenary was an obvious inspiration.”


‘Dust’ acknowledges the role played in the War by women
Photo: ASH

Akram Khan’s Dust was inspired, he says, by two things – firstly by the concept of a trench, “….. of the young men and old men all going into trenches, and disappearing”, and also by the part played in the War by the women and what he describes as “the huge social shift” towards them which was created by WWI, a shift in their role which interested him.  “They knew they would be letting go of fathers, husbands, and sons; they might lose them,” he explained. “Yet they were making weapons that would kill others’ fathers, husbands, and sons. It didn’t matter which side you were on – they both felt loss and death. But in order for someone to live, someone else was putting their life on the line. That cyclical thing was what I wanted to explore.”


From Russell Maliphant’s ‘Second Breath’
Photo: ASH

In Second Breath, Russell Maliphant focuses on the men and the sacrifices they made.  ENB’s  20 dancers represent the highest number he’s ever worked with in any of his creations, and the challenge, he says, is having a reason to use them all.  “There is a sense that you need a lot of people, somehow, for the subject – even if you use just two, you know it’s a reference to thousands, millions.”


Their loss and their longing … Liam Scarlett’s ‘No Man’s Land’
Photo: ASH

No Man’s Land – by Royal Ballet Artist in Residence, Liam Scarlett – explores the relationship between the men who were going to war and the women they were leaving behind – their loss and their longing. “It’s paying respect to how much people went through” he says. “What I’m interested in really is that when the men went off, the women almost took over their roles …. the women were in factories making ammunition, packing explosive into ammunition to be shipped out to them, or making uniforms. In a curious way those objects were the only contact between them. It’s a very lonesome, powerful image. We triumphed and we came through, but it was an intensely sad period.”

Firebird is George Williamson’s first commissioned work for the Company.  It had its world premiere at the London Coliseum in March 2012, and earned him a nomination for the Benois de la Danse Award in 2013.


‘Firebird’ is Williamson’s first commissioned work for ENB
Photo: ASH

English National Ballet’s Lest We Forget is at the Barbican Theatre until Saturday, 12th April.  For more information on the Company and for tickets, please visit the English National Ballet website

Tamara Rojo

Akram Khan

Russell Maliphant

Liam Scarlett 

George Williamson

The Barbican


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