Marc Albrecht makes US debut in San Francisco Opera’s ‘Arabella’ 

Act II of Strauss’ ‘Arabella’ with Ellie Dehn in the title role (center) Photo: Cory Weaver/San Francisco Opera

German conductor, Marc Albrecht, noted interpreter of Strauss operas, leads the San Francisco Opera Orchestra, Chorus and cast, in his debut performance in the United States this week, directing the Company’s new production of Richard Strauss’ romantic opera, Arabella.

This tale of love, mistaken identity and near-catastrophe, stars soprano Ellie Dehn in her role debut as Arabella, the beautiful girl whom it is hoped will marry well and save her family from poverty. Soprano Heidi Stober is her sister Zdenka, forced to take on the identity of a brother in order to help the family finances, and Swedish tenor Daniel Johansson – in his Company debut – is Matteo, the object of Zdenka’s desire. Baritone Brian Mulligan makes his role debut as Count Mandryka.

Chief Conductor of the Dutch National Opera in Amsterdam, the Netherlands Philharmonic Orchestra and the Netherlands Chamber Orchestra, Marc Albrecht is highly regarded as a conductor of the late Romantic German and Austrian repertoire, yet he also covers the entire spectrum from Mozart to contemporary music. Maestro Albrecht is a regular collaborator with Milan’s Teatro alla Scala and Deutsche Oper Berlin, and has led most of Strauss’ stage works in Dresden, where more than half of the Strauss operas were premiered. Albrecht’s engagements for this 2018/19 season include appearances at The Royal Opera House, Covent Garden, and the Hessische Staatstheater in Wiesbaden.

Ellie Dehn as Arabella and Brian Mulligan as Mandryka in Strauss’ ‘Arabella’ Photo: Cory Weaver/San Francisco Opera

Production of Arabella is by English stage director, Tim Albery, making his San Francisco Opera debut, who updates this Viennese love story from 1860 to the period just before World War I. Albery’s international work includes Berlioz’s Les Troyens and Wagner’s Tannhäuser for Lyric Opera of Chicago, Britten’s A Midsummer Night’s Dream and Lehár’s The Merry Widow for Metropolitan Opera, Verdi’s Don Carlo for Washington National Opera / Opera Philadelphia,  Verdi’s Simon Boccanegra and Strauss’s Ariadne auf Naxos for Bavarian State Opera, Berlioz’s Benvenuto Cellini for Netherlands Opera, and Catalani’s La Wally for the Bregenz Festival.

Arabella represents the final collaboration between Richard Strauss and librettist Hugo von Hofmannsthal, who together produced a number of operas between during the first part of the 20th century. The most successful of these were Elektra in 1909, Der Rosenkavalier in 1911 and Die Frau one Schatten in 1910. Towards the end of the 1920s, Strauss was keen to repeat the formula, urging von Hofmannsthal to collaborate with him on “a second Rosenkavalier”, and although a degree of tension had existed between the two artists for a number of years prior to this, von Hofmannsthal nevertheless complied with Strauss’s request and started work on a libretto for Arabella in 1929.

Heidi Stober as Zdenka and Ellie Dehn in the title role of Strauss’ ‘Arabella’ Photo: Cory Weaver/San Francisco Opera

By July, the first act had been completed, and the following two had been provisionally set, but the librettist died suddenly that month, and Strauss was so deeply affected by the loss of his friend and collaborator, that he put the work aside, and didn’t return to it until 1932, leaving the second and third acts as von Hofmannsthal had left them. Arabella premiered at Semperoper in Dresden in 1933.

The story of Arabella revolves around the need of the heroine’s family for her to marry a wealthy man. Nevertheless, she longs for true love, convinced that she’ll know when the right man comes along. Arabella’s father invites his old friend Count Mandryka to visit Vienna, in the hope that a match can be made with Arabella. To the father’s surprise, however, the man who arrives is the old Count’s nephew, who has inherited his uncle’s wealth and title following his death. Arabella does indeed fall for the young Count, as he does for her, but a case of mistaken identity – involving a plot by Zdenka to gain the attentions of the young officer Matteo – almost destroys Arabella’s chances. For a time it appears as though her hopes of love will be dashed, but finally her sister confesses, and amidst her apologies and explanations, the mystery is finally unraveled.

Korean soprano Hye Jung Lee, in a role debut, is the Fiakermilli, Count Waldner is sung by baritone Richard Paul Fink, and mezzo-soprano Michaela Martens is Adelaide. Tenor Scott Quinn takes the role of Count Elemer, Andrew Manea is Count Dominik, Christian Pursell is Count Lamoral (both are current Adler Fellows) and mezzo-soprano Jill Grove is the Fortune-Teller.

Act II of Strauss’ ‘Arabella’ Photo: Cory Weaver/San Francisco Opera

Sets and costumes are by production designer Tobias Hoheisel and the lighting designer is David Finn.

Marc Albrecht leads the San Francisco Opera Orchestra, Chorus (director Ian Robertson) and cast in this co-production with Santa Fe Opera, Minnesota Opera and Canadian Opera Company.

Arabella – sung in German with English supertitles – runs from October 16th to November 3rd at the War Memorial Opera House. For more information and tickets, visit the San Francisco Opera website.

 

Information sourced from:

San Francisco Opera program notes

Operaline

Artists’ websites:

Marc Albrecht

Tim Albery

ArtsPreview home page

Honeck leads San Francisco Symphony and Truls Mørk

Austrian conductor Manfred Honeck – Photo: Felix Broede

Returning from a highly successful East Coast tour, the San Francisco Symphony resumes its Davies Symphony Hall schedule this week under the baton of Austrian conductor Manfred Honeck. Maestro Honeck will conduct a two-work program of music by Prokofiev and Dvořák – Prokofiev’s Sinfonia concertante, and the Symphony No 8 by Antonin Dvořák. The guest soloist is virtuoso Norwegian cellist Truls Mørk.

Manfred Honeck – of whom the New York Classical Review wrote: “…. when he conducts, he seems to cherish every note of the score, and communicates his deep understanding of the music to the audience” – was last seen leading the San Francisco Symphony in May, 2017, his first appearance with the orchestra. He has held the position of Music Director of the Pittsburgh Symphony Orchestra since the 2008/2009 season, and has led the Pittsburgh Symphony on a number of tours of European capitals, as well as appearing at Carnegie Hall and Lincoln Center in New York.

Maestro Honeck and the orchestra have performed at some of the world’s leading festivals, including the BBC Proms, Musikfest Berlin, the Lucerne Festival, Rheingau Musik Festival, Beethovenfest Bonn and Grafenegg Festival, and also have a close relationship with the Musikverein in Vienna. Among the impressive number of recordings that conductor and orchestra have made together was their interpretation of the Shostakovich Symphony No 5 which won the 2018 Grammy Award for ‘Best Orchestral Performance’.

Norwegian cello virtuoso Truls Mørk – Photo: Johs Boe

Following his highly acclaimed performance of the Esa-Pekka Salonen Cello Concerto at this year’s Baltic Sea Festival, cellist Truls Mørk – who has Gramophone, Grammy, Midem and ECHO Klassik awards to his credit – has an exciting season lined up after this week’s debut performance in San Francisco. He will again perform the Salonen Concerto – led by the composer – with the Philharmonia Orchestra in London, and on tour in the United States at venues which include the Lincoln Center in New York, and at CAL Performances in Berkeley.

Other engagements include appearances with the Gewandhausorchester Leipzig, Boston Symphony Orchestra, Orchestre de Paris, Bayerisches Staatsoper, NDR Elbphilharmonie Orchester, Orchestre symphonique de Montréal and Tonhalle-Orchester Zürich. Mørk will also continue his recital program with Uzbekistani pianist Behzod Abduraimov in the US and Europe – a partnership described by The Washington Classical Review as “an exquisite team”, adding: “Sometimes two musicians form a partnership that is even greater than the sum of its parts”.

Truls Mørk – Photo: Johs Boe

The Prokofiev Sinfonia concertante which Truls Mørk will perform this week, is a reworking of the Cello Concerto in E minor, Op 58 which Prokofiev wrote between 1933 – 1938. Having heard Mstislav Rostropovic play the work in 1947, the composer realized how dissatisfied he was with it, and – although it took nearly three years to complete – the revision was completed. It’s largely regarded as an improvement on the original work, although it’s also considered to be one of the most difficult in the entire cello concerto repertoire.

The final work in the program is the Dvořák Symphony No 8. The composer wrote most of the work while at his summer residence in Vysoka – about 50 km southwest of the city of Prague – to which he returned to enjoy the peace and quiet which it afforded him – and most particularly the close contact with nature which he always loved. His joy at being in this rural environment is reflected in his Symphony No 8, as is his love of Czech and Slavonic folk music, all of which produced a work with some lovely lyrical passages. It was premiered at Prague’s Rudolfinum on February 2nd, 1890, with Dvořák conducting, as he did at the Symphony’s first performance in London, on April 24th that same year in a concert hosted by the Philharmonic Society in St James’ Hall. It was enthusiastically received at both performances.

Manfred Honeck – Photo: Felix Broede

Manfred Honeck leads the San Francisco Symphony in works by Prokofiev and Dvořák, with guest artist Truly Mørk, at Davies Symphony Hall from October 11th to 13th. For tickets and further information, visit the San Francisco Symphony website.

Information sourced from:

San Francisco Symphony program notes

Artists’ websites:

Manfred Honeck

Truls Mørk

Prokofiev Symphony concertanteAllMusic

Dvořák Symphony No 8

Vysoka

ArtsPreview home page

New Production of Puccini’s ‘Tosca’ for San Francisco Opera

Scene from Act I of Puccini’s ‘Tosca’ – Photo: Cory Weaver/San Francisco Opera

Opening at the War Memorial Opera House this week, San Francisco Opera’s new production of Tosca stars Italian soprano Carmen Giannattasio in the title role, with tenor Brian Jagde as Cavaradossi, and baritone Scott Hendricks as Baron Scarpia.

British conductor Leo Hussain – formerly music director of Opéra de Rouen and Salzburg Landestheater – makes his first appearance for San Francisco Opera, and staging is by American director Shawna Lucey who was responsible for last season’s highly successful production of Verdi’s La Traviata. Sets and costumes are by Robin Innes Hopkins, who has previously worked with the Company on Janáček’s The Cunning Little Vixen in 2004, Rossini’s L’Italiana in Algeri in 2005 and Wagner’s Lohengrin in 2012. Lighting is by Michael James Clark, and the fight director is Dave Maier.

Giacomo Puccini’s Tosca – written in 1899 – was based on Victorien Sardou’s 1887 play, La Tosca, which featured the actress Sarah Bernhard in the title role.  Set to a libretto by Luigi Illica and Guiseppe Giacosa, this historical melodrama of love, lust, treachery and corruption takes place in 1800, when control of Rome by the Kingdom of Naples was threatened by Napoleon’s invasion of Italy. It recounts the story of artist Mario Cavaradossi and the woman he loves, singer Floria Tosca, as they try to evade the corruption which was rife in the city of Rome at that time. Tosca premiered at the Teatro Costanzi in Rome on January 14th, 1900.

Carmen Giannattasio as Tosca and Brian Jagde as Cavaradossi in Puccini’s ‘Tosca’ Photo: Cory Weaver/San Francisco Opera

Carmen Giannattasio is regarded as one of the finest exponents of bel canto opera today, with a repertoire which includes works by Verdi, Puccini, Leoncavallo, Bellini, Rossini and Donizetti. She makes her San Francisco Opera role and house debuts in this production – her first US performance since appearing at the Metropolitan Opera in La Traviata in 2017 – a performance described by Opera Wire as “sensational”.

Ms Giannattasio won first prize at the 2002 Plácido Domingo Operalia Competition, and having initially appeared in most of the major opera houses across Europe, she has since appeared in some of the great companies in other cities of the world – The Royal Opera House, Covent Garden, the Bolshoi Theatre Opera, and the Metropolitan Opera. Performances scheduled for this season include the title roles in Maria Stuarda at the Théâtre Champs-Elysées, and Norma at Bayerische Staatsoper in Munich, and she will also be appearing in Don Carlo at Opera de Las Palmas, Giovanna D’Arco at Teatro Real de Madrid and in Ermione at Teatro di San Carlo in Naples.

Brian Jagde as Cavaradossi and Hadleigh Adams as Angelotti in Puccini’s ‘Tosca’ Photo: Cory Weaver/San Francisco Opera

Brian Jagde, Merola Opera Program alumnus and San Francisco Opera Adler Fellow, is now regarded as one of the leading tenors of his generation, having appeared to great acclaim at London’s Royal Opera House, Deutsche Oper Berlin, Munich’s Bavarian State Opera, Moscow’s Bolshoi Theatre and the Arena di Verona. According to a review in of Das Wunder der Heliane at Deutsche Oper Berlin, which appeared in NDR.de, Brian Jagde “projected his golden, flowing, and warm voice over the massive orchestra. It was very understandable why Heliane falls for his charisma”.  This year alone has seen Brian Jagde appear as Cavarodossi in the Teatro di San Carlo production of Tosca, as Don Jose in a new staging of Carmen at the Arena di Verona, as well as his Russian debut in the same role in the Bolshoi’s production of Carmen.

Carmen Giannattasio as Tosca and Scott Hendricks as Scarpia in Puccini’s ‘Tosca’ Photo: Cory Weaver/San Francisco Opera

Scarpia, the corrupt chief of police in Tosca, is sung by American baritone Scott Hendricks, who has received acclaim for his portrayal of this role in appearances at The Royal Opera House, Covent Garden, the Opéra National de Paris, the Bregenz Festival and Munich’s Bavarian State Opera. Future engagements this season include the role of Barnaba in Ponchielli’s La Gioconda, and Victor Frankenstein in the world premiere of Mark Grey’s Frankenstein (both for La Monnaie), and the murderer in the world premiere of Moritz Eggert’s M – Eine Stadt sucht einen Mörder for Komische Oper Berlin.

Also in the cast of Tosca are bass-baritone Dale Travis in the role of the Sacristan, tenor Joel Sorensen is Spoletta, baritone Hadleigh Adams sings Angelotti, baritone Andrew Manea is Sciarrone and bass-baritone Christian Pursell is the Jailer.

Carmen Giannattasio in the title role of Puccini’s ‘Tosca’ Photo: Cory Weaver/San Francisco Opera

Tosca has a special place in the history of San Francisco Opera. It featured in the Company’s inaugural season at the Civic Auditorium in 1923, and it opened the first season in San Francisco Opera’s new home, the War Memorial Opera House, on October 15th, 1932.

Leo Hussain leads the San Francisco Opera Orchestra, Chorus (Director Ian Robertson) and cast in Puccini’s Tosca at the War Memorial Opera House. Sung in Italian with English supertitles, Tosca runs for eight more performances until October 30th. For further information and tickets, visit the San Francisco Opera website.

 

Information sourced from:

San Francisco Opera program notes

Opera Wire

Artists’ websites:

Brian Jagde

Scott Hendricks