English National Opera presents Mozart’s ‘The Marriage of Figaro’

English National Opera’s production of ‘The Marriage of Figaro’ © Marc Brenner

Mozart’s much-loved opera buffa, The Marriage of Figaro, is the latest production in English National Opera’s current season. A co-production with Opera Wuppertal, it’s directed by Joe Hill-Gibbins and stars bass-baritone Božidar Smiljanić in the title role, with soprano Louise Alder as the servant Susanna, baritone Johnathan McCullough as the Count, and soprano Elizabeth Watts as the Countess. The performance is led by conductor Kevin John Edusei.

Amusing and entertaining, yet subtly philosophical, The Marriage of Figaro was Mozart’s response to an invitation by Count Orsini-Rosenberg, director of the Burgtheater in Vienna, to write a comic opera. The Italian libretto – based on a 1784 play by Pierre-Augustin Beaumarchais – was written by Lorenzo Da Ponte, and it was at the Burgtheater that the opera was premiered on May 1st, 1786.

The action takes place in the palace of the Count Almaviva, near Seville, and revolves around the actions of the Countess Rosina, who plots – with her servant Susanna – to ensure that her philandering husband gets his just deserts. Susanna – who is betrothed to the Count’s valet, Figaro – is one of the objects of the Count’s desire, which implicates Figaro as well, while the physician, Doctor Bartholo – who himself wanted to marry Rosina – also has a reason to seek revenge on the Count.

Bass-baritone Božidar Smiljanić is rapidly gaining recognition as an international a singer of quality – in both opera and recital. He made his debut at Glyndebourne Festival Opera in 2014 as Captain in Tchaikovsky’s Eugene Onegin, returning in the role of Masetto in Mozart’s Don Giovanni on the Glyndebourne Tour. Described by Bachtrack as “mesmerising” and “moving” in a CBSO presentation of Walton’s Belshazzar’s Feast last April, Mr Smiljanić has made his debut at several major companies in the United Kingdom – as Haly in Rossini’s L’italiana in Algeri at Garsington Opera, and Schaunard in Puccini’s La Bohème at Scottish Opera. As an ENO Harewood Artist, he’s also appeared as Schaunard, and as the Marquis in Verdi’s La Traviata.

Božidar Smiljanić in the title role of Figaro © Marc Brenner

Soprano Louise Alder makes her debut for English National Opera as Susanna in this production of The Marriage of Figaro. The Arts Desk describes her as “the brightest lyric soprano of the younger generation”, and Gramophone Magazine writes of her “voice of sparkling beauty”. Other highlights of Ms Alder’s 2019-20 season include her debut at The Royal Opera House as Zerlina in Don Giovanni, at San Francisco Opera in the title role in Handel’s Partenope, and returns to Bavarian State Opera as Marzelline in Beethoven’s Fidelio, and Glyndebourne Festival Opera as Anne Trulove in Stravinsky’s The Rake’s Progress.

In this production, baritone Johnathan McCullough makes his UK and West End debut in the role of Il Conte, following this with company and role debuts as Faber in Tippett’s The Knot Garden at the Bayerische Staatsoper. Mr McCullough took First Prize in the 2019 Gerda Lissner Foundation Song competition with Mahler’s Lieder eines fahrenden Gesellen, and will perform both Lieder and song in concert with Renée Fleming at the Weill Institute Song Studio at Carniegie Hall.

Colin Judson, Louise Alder & Johnathan McCullough © Marc Brenner

Soprano Elizabeth Watts has appeared with The Royal Opera, Welsh National Opera and Glyndebourne Touring Opera. Her roles include those of Donna Elvira in Don Giovanni, Marzelline in Fidelio, the Countess and Susanna in Le nozze di Figaro for The Royal Opera; Pamina in Mozart’s Die Zauberflöte for Welsh National Opera, Fiordiligi in Mozart’s Così fan tutte and Almirena in Handel’s Rinaldo for Glyndebourne Touring Opera.

Also in the cast are Nardus Williams (the Countess – 18th April), Hanna Hipp (Cherubino), Susan Bickley (Marcellina), Yvonne Howard (Marcellina – 14th, 16th and 18th April), Andrew Shore (Dr Bartolo), Rowan Pierce (Barbarina), Colin Judson (Don Basilio/Don Curzio) and Clive Bayley (Antonio).

Božidar Smiljanić (Figaro) & Susan Bickley (Marcellina) © Marc Brenner

British theatre and opera director, Joe Hill-Gibbins, makes his main stage debut in this production of The Marriage of Figaro. For his first professional production in 2002, he won the James Menzies-Kitchen Young Director Award, and between 2000 and 2013 he worked for the Royal Court Theatre and at the Young Vic Theatre. Productions at the Young Vic included A Midsummer Night’s Dream, Measure for Measure, The Changeling and The Glass Menagerie, where he became Deputy Artistic Director.  In 2014 he directed his first opera, Powder Her Face, for English National Opera, and in 2018 his first German language theatre production, Mary Page Marlowe, for Theater Basel.

Kevin John Edusei, Chief Conductor of the Münchner Symphoniker, makes his debut with ENO this evening. He was formerly Chief Conductor at Bern Opera House, where he led performances of Britten’s Peter Grimes, Richard Strauss’ Salome and Ariadne auf Naxos, Bartók’s Bluebeard’s Castle, Wagner’s Tannhäuser, Janáček’s Kátya Kábanová, Mozart’s da Ponte Operas and Die Entführung aus dem Serail. Performances this season include Die Zauberflöte and Don Giovanni at Volksoper Wien and Komische Oper Berlin, and his debut performance in Puccini’s Tosca at Hannover State Opera.

Božidar Smiljanić & Louise Alder (Susanna) © Marc Brenner

English National Opera presents Joe Hill-Gibbins’ production of The Marriage of Figaro at the London Coliseum from 14th March to 18th April. For further information and tickets visit the English National Opera website.

Information sourced from:

English National Opera

Božidar Smiljanić

Louise Alder

Johnathan McCullough

Elizabeth Watts

Joe Hill-Gibbins

Kevin John Edusei

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The SFJAZZ Collective releases a new album

Great news for jazz lovers – the SFJAZZ Collective’s new album will be released on 13th March! True to tradition, the album features the music of the artist (or artists) to whom the Collective pays tribute in a particular season, and during the group’s residency at SFJAZZ last October they celebrated the 50th anniversary of two hugely significant albums which were recorded within a couple of months of each other in 1969 – Miles Davis’ In A Silent Way and Stand! by Sly & the Family Stone.

This new album – which bears the title The SFJAZZ Collective Plays Miles Davis’ In A Silent Way / It’s About That Time and Sly & the Family Stone’s Stand! – was recorded live in the Miner Auditorium at SFJAZZ during those 2019 performances.

Founded by SFJAZZ in 2004, the Collective has a stated mission each year to perform new arrangements of works by a modern master, as well as a selection of newly-commissioned pieces by each of the group’s members. In this way, not only does the Collective honor one of the great names in jazz every year, but it also demonstrates the SFJAZZ commitment to maintaining the relevance of the art form and ensuring that it’s fully representative of what’s happening in jazz today.

The line-up currently features vocalist Martin Luther McCoy, David Sánchez on tenor saxophone, Etienne Charles on trumpet, guitarist Adam Rogers, vibraphonist Warren Wolf, pianist Edward Simon, Matt Brewer on bass and Obed Calvaire on drums. Previous members of the Collective have included names such as Bobby Hutcherson, Joshua Redman, Miguel Zenón, Eric Harland, Mark Turner, Matt Penman, Avishai Cohen, Sean Jones, Andre Hayward, Stefon Harris, Dave Douglas, Nicholas Payton, Joe Lovano, Josh Roseman, Renee Rosnes, Jeff Ballard, Robert Hurst, Brian Blade.

Over the years, jazz greats to have featured in the Collective’s annual tribute include John Coltrane, Ornette Coleman, Herbie Hancock, Thelonious Monk, Wayne Shorter, McCoy Tyner, Horace Silver, Stevie Wonder, Chick Corea, Joe Henderson, Michael Jackson, Miles Davis, and Antonio Carlos Jobim. During this time, the SFJAZZ Collective has created over 100 new arrangements and original compositions.

This new CD features selections from the Miles Davis and Sly & the Family Stone albums, and includes the Collective’s arrangements of In A Silent Way/It’s About That Time arranged by Edward Simon, Shhh/Peaceful arranged by Warren Wolf, You Can Make It If You Try arranged by Adam Rogers, Everyday People arranged by Martin Luther McCoy, Sing A Simple Song arranged by Etienne Charles, Stand arranged by Matt Brewer, Somebody’s Watching You arranged by Martin Luther McCoy and Warren Wolf, Sex Machine arranged by Warren Wolf, Don’t Call Me Nigger, Whitey arranged by Obed Calvaire, and I Want to Take You Higher arranged by David Sánchez.

Each numbered copy of this limited edition CD includes a booklet with extensive liner notes and photographs, as well as interviews with the group’s members about their arrangements.

The Apple Music release date of the album is March 13th, and the physical album will be released on March 13th as well. As of March 20th, it’ll be available on all platforms.

To order a copy of the album, visit the SFJAZZ website.

In addition to all this good news, the SFJAZZ Collective Spring 2020 Tour starts in St Louis, MO, just a day after the release – on March 14th – for details on the tour, follow this link.

Information sourced from:

SFJAZZ Collective

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