Met Opera streams New Year’s Eve Gala online

As part of the Met Stars Live in Concert series, The Metropolitan Opera celebrates New Year’s Eve with a concert from the neo-Baroque Parktheater in Augsburg, Germany. This dazzling performance features sopranos Angel Blue and Pretty Yende, and tenors Javier Camarena and Matthew Polenzani, performing arias, duets and ensembles from operas such as Donizetti’s La fille du régiment, Puccini’s La bohème, Rossini’s Il barbiere di Siviglia, Verdi’s Rigoletto, and Lehár’s The Merry Widow, as well as a selection of Neapolitan songs.

Angel Blue, originally from California made her Met Opera debut in the Company’s Summer Recital Series in New York’s Central Park. Described by the Observer as a “bewitching soprano”, she is a protégée of Plácido Domingo, a regular BBC Proms presenter, and as far as performances are concerned, equally at home in the concert hall or opera house. This past season has seen Angel Blue appear as Violetta in Verdi’s La Traviata at both the Royal Opera House, Covent Garden, and Teatro Alla Scala in Milan, as Mimi in Puccini’s La bohème for Canadian Opera Company and Staatsoper in Berlin, in the title role of Puccini’s Tosca at the Festival d’Aix en Provence and as Bess in Gershwin’s Porgy and Bess for the Met.

South African soprano Pretty Yende – “Possessed of diamanté tone and a megawatt smile” (The Telegraph) and “A voice that can reach the stars” (The Washington Post) – made her professional operatic debut at the Latvian National Theatre in Riga as Micaela in Carmen. Since then, she has appeared on the stages of nearly all of the major theatres of the world, including the Royal Opera House, Covent Garden, Opéra National de Paris, Metropolitan Opera, Teatro alla Scala in Milan, Deutsche Oper Berlin, Opernhaus Zürich and Gran Teatre del Liceu in Barcelona. In concert, Ms Yende has a repertoire which includes Mozart ‘s Requiem and Missa Solemnis, Brahms’s Ein Deutsches Requiem, Vivaldi’s Magnificant, Faure’s Requiem, Beethoven’s Mass in C and 9th Symphony, as well as Richard Strauss’s Four Last Songs.

Mexican tenor Javier Camarena is regarded as the foremost Mozart and bel canto specialist of his generation. Last season, as Ernesto in Donizetti’s Don Pasquale, he became only the second singer in Metropolitan Opera history to perform encores in multiple productions at the house. This followed his 2014 triumph, when he became only the third singer in 70 years to give an encore on the New York stage – the first two stars having been Luciano Pavarotti and Juan Diego Flórez. Camarena stopped the house in consecutive performances of Prince Ramiro’s aria Si ritrovarla io guiro in Rossini’s La Cenerentola, and repeated this achievement in La fille du régiment at Madrid’s Teatro Real – only the second time that a singer had given an encore there since its reopening. His appearance in this work at the Royal Opera House was also highly praised, with the Express writing that Camarena had “confirmed his reputation as opera’s new superstar with a scintillating performance”.

“Few singers today,” writes Opera News, “command the sheer beauty of timbre and dynamic control of Matthew Polenzani” referring also to his “almost impossibly beautiful pianissimo”. This American tenor has, to date, starred in more than 300 performances at The Met, among them a previous New Year’s Eve Gala in which he sang Act I of La bohème opposite soprano Anna Netrebko. Other performances include appearances in Donizetti’s L’Elisir d’Amore, Maria Stuarda and Roberto Devereux (featured on PBS’ Great Performances at the Met), Bizet’s Les Pêcheurs de Perles, Verdi’s La Traviata and Rigoletto, Strauss’s Der Rosenkavalier, Mozart’s Die Zauberflöte, Don Giovanni and Così fan tutte, Offenbach’s Les Contes d’Hoffmann and Gounod’s Roméo et Juliette. In 2021, Mr Polenzani is scheduled to appear in La bohème at Teatro Massimo in Palermo, Die Zauberflöte for Palm Beach Opera and Massenet’s Werther at Staatsoper Stuttgart.

The Parktheater, Augsburg

This illustrious line-up of Metropolitan Opera stars appears live in concert from the Parktheater in Augsburg, Germany, on Thursday evening. This beautiful, ornate edifice was commissioned by Hofrat Friedrich Hessing, an organ builder and pioneer in the field of orthopaedic technology, and designed by German architect Jean Keller. Built in 1886, it combined the functions of a theatre, society house and winter garden in one hall, and is the showpiece of the Kurhaus Augsburg-Göggingen – a health resort which by 1899 had become the largest orthopaedic specialist clinic in Europe. The Parktheater, with its cast-iron railings and stained glass windows, is set in beautiful gardens and parkland, and is the only preserved multifunctional theatre of the European Renaissance era.

Christine Goerke © Arielle Doneson

The evening’s host will be Christine Goerke in New York City, linked to the Parktheater by satellite, and Gary Halvorson, the Met’s award-winning director of the company’s Live in HD cinema transmissions, will direct.

The Met Stars Live in Concert: New Year’s Eve Gala is a pay per view performance, part of the Met’s fundraising campaign to support the company and protect its future. The concert takes place on 31st December at 9.00 pm GMT, and will be available on demand for 14 days. Tickets, priced at $20, are now on sale on the Met’s website

The program can be viewed on a computer, mobile device, or home entertainment system (via Chromecast or AirPlay).

Information sourced from:

Metropolitan Opera programme notes
Parktheater, Augsburg

Photograph of Parktheater: By Zairon – Own work, CC BY-SA 4.0

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Ballet Nice Méditerranée stages ‘Don Quichotte’ for Christmas

Ballet Nice Méditerranée’s production of ‘Don Quichotte’ © Dominique Jaussein

Joyful, lively and festive, with dazzling choreography and a wonderfully melodic score by Ludwig Minkus, Éric Vu-An’s production of Don Quichotte (Don Quixote) for Ballet Nice Méditerranée provides a spectacular opportunity to escape for a while from what has been a difficult year for everyone. Although the scheduled performances of the ballet at Nice Opera have had to be cancelled, it will be screened on Azur TV on Christmas Eve, and available to view worldwide on the Company’s YouTube channel for the following three months.

Although the origins of the ballet Don Quixote date back to Vienna in 1740, when the first presentation was staged by Austrian dancer and choreographer Franz Hilverding, it wasn’t until 1869 that Marius Petipa was asked to create a new version of the ballet for the Imperial Bolshoi Theatre in Moscow, which he followed with a much grander production in St Petersburg in 1871. A revival of Petipa’s ballet was staged in Moscow in 1900 by Russian dancer and choreographer Alexander Gorsky, followed by a production in St Petersburg in 1902, and it’s this Petipa/Gorsky interpretation of Don Quixote which forms the basis of all modern productions.

In his staging for Ballet Nice, Artistic Director Éric Vu-An pays homage to this traditional classical staging with his own interpretation of the tale of the delightful young Spanish couple, Kitri and Basile, intertwining their story with that of Don Quixote, Miguel de Cervantes’ chivalrous knight errant who dreams of slaying windmills. Unexpected adventures and misunderstandings are introduced by Kitri’s father who wants his beautiful daughter to marry a rich nobleman, bringing an air of pantomime to this colourful production which ultimately ends in happiness for Kitri and Basile.

Czech composer and violinist Ludwig Minkus wrote several very popular ballet scores, the best known of which are Don Quixote and La Bayadère. Austrian by birth, Minkus’ first involvement in composing for ballet was assisting composer Édouard Deldevez in the score for Paquita in Paris in 1846. He later travelled to Russia and ultimately joined the newly created Moscow Conservatory as a professor of violin studies. Don Quixote – which he wrote for Marius Petipa’s 1869 production for the Bolshoi – was his first great success, leading to his appointment as official composer of ballet music to the Imperial Theatre in St Petersburg, where he and Petipa enjoyed a fruitful creative relationship.

In this enchanting production of Don Quichotte, the Nice Philharmonic Orchestra is led by Enrique Carreón Robledo, currently Guest Music Director of Ballet Nacional Sodre in Uruguay. Maestro Carreón Robledo was formerly General and Artistic Director of Opera San Antonia, and has led productions at the Orchestra de Théâtre du Capitol de Toulouse, Nice Opera, Tacoma Opera, Stuttgart Ballet, Deutsche Opera am Rhein, American Ballet Theatre, New York City Ballet and Scottish Ballet.

Ballet Nice Méditerranée’s Don Quichotte will be televised on Azur TV (channel 31 on TNT) at 18h00 (CET) on 24th December, with a simultaneous broadcast on the Opéra Nice Côte d’Azur YouTube channel where it will be available to view for three months.

Information sourced from:

Ballet Nice programme notes
Don QuixoteRoyal Ballet programme notes
Ludwig Minkus – Royal Ballet programme notes
The Petipa Society
Cambridge Scholars

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A Festive December for Les Ballets de Monte-Carlo

Les Ballets de Monte-Carlo in J-C Maillot’s ‘Cor Meu’ © Alice Blangero

This month, Les Ballets de Monte-Carlo celebrates the 60th birthday of Choreographer-Director Jean-Christophe Maillot with a festival of works by the Company’s Choreographer-Director.

All four Maillot programmes will initially be performed at the Grimaldi Forum in Monte-Carlo, but the first – a double bill comprising his Dov’è la Luna and Core Meu – which was going to be streamed online for world audiences from 15th December, will now be streamed as of 5th January 2021.

Dov’è la Luna is a solemn yet fascinating piece. Simple and stark in presentation, almost athletic in execution, it’s a neo-classical work in which the seven dancers – pushed to their ultimate limits – move between light and shadow, exploring the space between life and death. “This ballet has neither beginning nor end. It is in transit,” says Jean-Christophe Maillot. “In some mythologies, the moon is this place of passage, between life and death – between death and life, that place where a second birth is being prepared.”

Decor and costumes are by internationally renowned designer Jérôme Kaplan who has designed sets and costumes for a number of productions for the Company since his first collaboration on L’Enfant et les Sortilèges in 1992.

Les Ballets de Monte-Carlo in J-C Maillot’s ‘Dov’è la luna’ © Alice Blangero

Lighting is by Dominique Drillot, who is also associated with an impressive line-up of international productions, and is a regular member of the Company’s creative team.

The music is by Alexander Scriabin, played by French pianist Hervé Billaut.

Dov’è la luna was created in 1994, and premiered at the Salle Garnier Opéra de Monte-Carlo on 25th December of that year.

In complete contrast, Maillot’s Core Meu is energetic, sparkling and highly charged. Inspired by Maurice Béjart, the ballet combines the traditional dancing of the Puglia region of Southern Italy with classical ballet, culminating in the dancers performing a frenzied Tarantella.

The compelling accompaniment is led by tambourine player and singer Antonio Castrignano – a central figure in the revival of the centuries-old musical culture of the Salento region of Italy (Apulia). In this production, Castrignagno and his Regional Apulian Orchestra perform onstage with the dancers.

Les Ballets de Monte-Carlo in J-C Maillot’s ‘Core Meu’ © Alice Blangero

Costumes are by the international designer Salvador Mateu Andujar who has created for film, fashion and the stage.

Lighting is by the Company’s Lighting Director Samuel Thery.

Core Meu premiered at the Grimaldi Forum Monaco on 25th April 2019.

This double bill by Les Ballets de Monte-Carlo takes place in the Salle des Princes at the Grimaldi Forum in Monaco on 11th,12th and 13th December, and will be streamed online for an international audience on the video platform on BMC Stream as of 15th December. BMC Stream is a new on-demand video platform offering both subscription membership and pay-per-view options with unique interactive multi-camera viewing.

For further information and tickets, visit the Ballets de Monte-Carlo website.

Information sourced from:

Les Ballets de Monte-Carlo programme notes

Artists’ websites

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Met Opera streams Bryn Terfel Live in Concert

Sir Bryn Terfel – courtesy Metropolitan Opera

The Metropolitan Opera‘s pay-per-view concerts – Met Stars Live in Concert – feature some of opera’s most illustrious artists, each filmed in an impressive location from around the world. The star of this week’s recital is Welsh bass-baritone Sir Bryn Terfel, performing live in Brecon Cathedral in his native Wales.

Sir Bryn will be joined by some special musical guests – harpist Hannah Stone, pianist Jeff Howard, the Welsh traditional folk group Calan, and two rising young Welsh singers, soprano Natalya Romaniw and tenor Trystan Llyr Griffiths – in a programme of festive music. Included in the recital are some firm favourites, such as Gruber’s Silent Night, Schubert’s Ave Maria, Jester Hairston’s Mary’s Boy Child, the exquisite O Holy Night by Adolphe Adam and the rousing O Come All Ye Faithful by John Francis Wade. There are also traditional Welsh songs like New Year’s Eve in Caernarfon and Ar Hyd y Nos.

A frequent guest at opera houses around the world, Sir Bryn has recently appeared in Sweeney Todd for Zürich Opera, Boris Godunov for Deutsche Oper Berlin and the Royal Opera House, Covent Garden, as Scarpia in Tosca at the Royal Opera House and Wiener Staatsoper, and as Holländer in Der fliegende Holländer for the Bayerische Staatsoper, Münich. Last autumn he was highly praised for his role debut in the title role of Don Pasquale at the Royal Opera House, and made his house debut at ABAO Bilbao Opera in the role of Holländer earlier this year.

Highlights of Bryn Terfel’s career include his appearances at the opening ceremony of the Wales Millennium Centre, Last Night of the Proms for the BBC, a Royal Variety Show and a Gala Concert with Andrea Bocelli in Central Park, New York. He has given recitals around the world, and for nine years, he hosted his own festival in Faenol, North Wales. He is a Grammy, Classical Brit and Gramophone Award winner, having recorded the operas of Mozart, Wagner and Strauss, as well as more than fifteen solo discs including Lieder, American musical theatre, Welsh songs and sacred repertory.

Bryn was made a Commander of the British Empire (CBE) for his services to Opera in 2003, was awarded the Queen’s Medal for Music in 2006 and received a knighthood for his services to music in 2017. He was the last recipient of the Shakespeare Prize by the Alfred Toepfer Foundation and in 2015 he was awarded The Freedom of the City of London.

Brecon Cathedral, Wales © David Merrett, Daventry, England

Brecon Cathedral was founded in 1093 as the Priory of St John the Evangelist by the Benedictine monks of Battle in Sussex. The original church had been given to the monks by Bernard Newmarch who established the nearby Brecon Castle following the Norman conquest of Wales. In 1537, the priory became the parish church of Brecon, remaining as such until 1923, when it became the Cathedral for the newly created Diocese of Swansea and Brecon. During its period as a parish church, the structure was restored under the 19th century English Gothic revival architect Sir George Gilbert Scot.

The Metropolitan Opera streams Bryn Terfel Live in Concert on Saturday, December 12th at 1.00 pm ET (6.00 pm GMT and 7.00 pm CET). For tickets and further information, visit the Metropolitan Opera website.

Information sourced from:

Metropolitan Opera programme notes
Bryn Terfel
Brecon Cathedral

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Royal Ballet streams Ashton’s ‘Enigma Variations’

Sir Edward Elgar’s Variations on an Original Theme – better known as the Enigma Variations – make up one of the composer’s best-loved works, each one inspired by the personalities of Elgar’s closest friends. In 1968, The Royal Ballet’s Sir Frederick Ashton had the foresight to realise that this theme would make a colourful and entertaining ballet – and the result is one of the most delightful works in the Company’s repertoire.

As the story goes, Elgar – going through a period of anxiety about his art – sat at the piano at his home in Worcestershire one October evening in 1898, improvising a tune which his wife found rather appealing. For fun, the composer then starting adapting it to create musical caricatures of some of his friends, and over the following few months, the full set of fourteen variations took shape, creating the work that is said to have secured Elgar’s reputation at both a national and international level.

The twelve friends are identified only by their initials, or a single name – as are Elgar and his wife Alice – to whom the first variation, C.A.E., is dedicated. This is followed by H.D.S.P. – Hew David Steuart-Powell, a pianist with whom Elgar played in chamber ensembles; R.B.T. – Richard Baxter Townshend, who played the part of an old man in an amateur theatre production; W.M.B. – William Meath Baker, a country squire; R.P.A. – Richard Arnold, son of the poet Matthew Arnold; Ysobel – Isabel Fitton, an amateur viola player from a local music family; and Troyte – Arthur Troyte Griffith, a Malvern architect with an apparently limited capability as a pianist.

The Eight Variation is entitled W.N. – referring to Winifred Norbury whom Elgar knew through her association with the Worchestershire Philharmonic Society; the Ninth is Nimrod, referring to A J Jaeger, a great friend who encouraged Elgar when he was struggling to establish a lasting reputation. This variation – probably the most familiar of all – is thought to relate to a discussion on Beethoven’s slow movements. Dorabella is a portrait of Dora Penney, a close friend and daughter of the Rector of Wolverhampton, and the Eleventh is entitled G.R.S. – George Sinclair, an organist at Hereford Cathedral – although this variation apparently portrays Sinclair’s dog paddling after falling into the River Wye.

B.G.N. refers to Basil Nevinson, an amateur cellist with whom Elgar and Hew Steuart-Powell played in a chamber music trio; and the Thirteenth Variation is represented simply by three stars – which are thought to refer to Lady Mary Lygon, a local noblewoman who sailed for Australia around the time of this composition, although there is speculation that they conceal the identity of a former fiancée of Elgar’s. The final variation is listed as E.D.U. – representing the composer himself, since Alice’s pet name for him was Edoo.

Sir Edward Elgar – courtesy Wikimedia Commons

The title of the work refers to two enigmas – the first being the identity of each of the friends represented – and the second refers to a musical theme which isn’t heard, but which Elgar hinted might have been a melody of which the theme is the counterpoint. He never explained further, and to this day nobody knows for sure which melody he had in mind.

This enchanting, essentially English work is one which dancers of The Royal Ballet love – portraying the varied characters of Elgar’s closest friends at an imaginary gathering at his home in the country. With Elgar’s hauntingly beautiful score, enhanced by the period Edwardian costumes designed by Julia Trevelyan Oman, it’s more than a ballet – it’s a piece of history, a portrayal of actual life.

The Royal Ballet streams Sir Frederick Ashton’s Enigma Variations online from 7.00 pm GMT on 4th December and on demand until 3rd January. For tickets and further details, visit The Royal Ballet website.

Information sourced from:
The Royal Ballet programme notes
Elgar – his music

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SFJAZZ opens December ‘Fridays at Five’ sessions with Pink Martini

Pink Martini’s China Forbes – © SFJAZZ

With the festive season on the horizon, SFJAZZ opens its December Fridays at Five online sessions with a holiday concert by Pink Martini, recorded at the JAZZ Center in San Francisco last December.

This performance, by the ensemble’s twelve musicians – fronted by dynamic vocalist China Forbes – features the mix of classical, jazz and pop music for which the group has become famous since its formation in 1994, as well as material from their most recent Heinz Records release Je dis oui! (I say yes!).

Performing songs in 25 languages, Pink Martini has appeared at events such as the Cannes Film Festival and the Grand Opening of the Walt Disney Concert Hall in Los Angeles, and with more than 70 orchestras around the world – including the Los Angeles Philharmonic at the Hollywood Bowl, the Boston Pops, the National Symphony at the Kennedy Center, the San Francisco Symphony, the Cleveland Orchestra, the Sydney Symphony at the Sydney Opera House, and the BBC Concert Orchestra at Royal Albert Hall in London – gathering a huge following along the way.

Pink Martini’s Holiday Concert can be viewed on the SF JAZZ Fridays at Five session on December 4th.

The following week features The Klezmatics – the American group which led a popular revival of the Eastern European Jewish music known as klezmer, and whose music is credited with helping to change the face of contemporary Yiddish culture. “The Klezmatics aren’t just the best band in the klezmer vanguard; on a good night, they can rank among the greatest bands on the planet” – says Time Out New York.

The Klezmatics made their SFJAZZ debut in this concert, recorded in December 2015, performing a selection of original compositions from their 2006 album, Happy Joyous Hanukkah, set to lyrics by the late Woody Guthrie. Having performed in over 20 countries, the ensemble has collaborated with violin virtuoso Itzhak Perlman and Pulitzer prize winner Tony Kushner, and released 11 albums, including the GRAMMY-winning Wonder Wheel and their most recent recording, Apikorsim.

The Klezmatics appear in the Fridays at Five session on December 11th.

Concerts by the Blind Boys of Alabama have become an annual tradition at SFJAZZ, and the performance filmed at the JAZZ Center in December 2018 can be viewed online in Fridays at Five on December 18th. This five-time GRAMMY-winning group – including one for Lifetime Achievement – performs numbers from their 2003 Christmas release Go Tell It on the Mountain, and from their 2014 album Talkin’ Christmas on which they collaborated with legendary blues musician Taj Mahal.

The ensemble was formed in the late 1930s, by a group of elementary students at the Alabama Institute for the Negro Blind, and although they were active during the Civil Rights movement, and sang at a benefits concert for Dr Martin Luther King Jr in the early 1960s, they saw their fan base dwindling in favor of gospel singers who were performing secular music. Undaunted, the Blind Boys of Alabama persevered, and their popularity was revived the 1980s as a result of their starring role in the Obie Award-winning musical The Gospel at Colonus. They were subsequently inducted into the Gospel Music Hall of Fame, and have performed at the White House for three different presidents.

The Blind Boys of Alabama appear in the Fridays at Five session on December 18th.

In a special Thursday transmission on December 24th, pianist Adam Shulman – with his bassist John Wiitala and drummer James Gallagher – celebrates the music of legendary Bay Area pianist Vince Guaraldi, with a performance of Guaraldi’s classic soundtrack to A Charlie Brown Christmas. Now an SFJAZZ holiday tradition, this concert was recorded at the JAZZ Center in December 2019.

Adam Shulman – also a bandleader and composer – has been a key figure on the San Francisco jazz scene since moving to the city in 2002. Artists with whom he’s worked include Marcus Shelby, Stefon Harris, Miguel Zenón, Paula West, Larry Coryell, and Bobby Hutcherson, as well as the Glenn Miller Orchestra.

Vince Guaraldi scored a series of very successful animated television specials, including A Charlie Brown Christmas which was voted into the GRAMMY Hall of Fame and added to the Library of Congress’ National Recording Registry’s list of “culturally, historically, or aesthetically important” American recordings.

Adam Shulman Plays Vince Guaraldi’s A Charlie Brown Christmas in a special screening on Thursday, December 24th at 5.00 pm (PT).

To watch the Fridays at Five sessions, become a digital member of SFJAZZ for just $5 a month (or $60 for a year). Proceeds will help the SFJAZZ team prepare to reopen the SFJAZZ Center, and keep you in touch with the live performances and educational programming that you love. Performances take place each Friday between 5.00 and 6.00 pm PT (8.00 pm ET, and 01h00 and 02h00 in London and Paris respectively). See the SFJAZZ website for details.

Information sourced from:


Artists’ websites

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