Radvanovsky and Beczala in ‘Met Stars Live in Concert’ from Stadthalle Wuppertal

The first 2021 performance of the Met Stars Live in Concert series features soprano Sondra Radvanovsky and tenor Piotr Beczala, in the glorious setting of the Stadthalle Wuppertal, in Germany. They’ll be performing a selection of arias and duets from operas by Verdi, Dvořák, Giordano, Mascagni and Bernstein, accompanied by pianist Vincenzo Scalera.

American-Canadian soprano Sondra Radvanovsky is regarded as one of the foremost Verdi sopranos of her time, and one of the premiere interpreters of bel canto. Following a performance of Donizetti’s Andrea Chénier at the Royal Opera House in 2019, The Guardian wrote: “Sondra Radvanovsky’s Maddalena is the absolute stand-out, a creamy-toned lyric soprano with enough dramatic spinto in the voice to thrill as well as caress”.

Ms Radvanovsky has an impressive range of roles in her portfolio – from works such as Dvořák’s Rusalka and Donizetti’s Lucrezia Borgia, to Alfano’s Cyrano de Bergerac and Puccini’s Manon Lescaut, and has appeared in some of the major opera houses of the world, including The Royal Opera House, Covent Garden, La Scala, Milan, the Vienna Staatsoper, the Lyric Opera in Chicago, and the War Memorial Opera House, San Francisco. Ms Radvanovsky also has the distinction of being one of the few singers of our time to have taken the roles of the ‘Three Donizetti Queens’ – the title roles in Anna Bolena and Maria Stuarda, and Elisabetta in Roberto Devereux – in the same season. A regular Metropolitan Opera guest performer, she has participated in the Met Live in HD series, streaming broadcasts of Verdi’s Il Trovatore and Bal masqué, and Roberto Devereux.

“Piotr Beczala has the kind of voice you want to hang medals on,” says Opera News, and – following a 2016 performance of Lucia di LammermoorThe Chicago Tribune wrote: “Not since Luciano Pavarotti have I heard this aria, Fra poco a me ricovero, better sung. The house went wild at the end, and no wonder. Beczala defines the meaning of bel canto — beautiful singing.” A frequent guest on the stages of the world’s leading opera houses, this Polish tenor wins high praise from audiences and critics alike, not only for the beauty of his voice, but also for his commitment to every role he takes.

Mr Beczala is a regular guest at the Metropolitan Opera, having performed in a new production of Tchaikovsky’s Eugene Onegin opposite Anna Netrebko, the Prince in Dvorak’s Rusalka, Edgardo in Donizetti’s Lucia di Lammermoor, and Rodolfo in Puccini’s La Bohème, as well as in the title roles of Gounod’s Roméo et Juliette and Faust. He has appeared with the Met on tour in Japan, and in 2012 made his role debut as Chevalier des Grieux in Laurent Pelly’s new production of Massenet’s Manon, with Anna Netrebko. This production was broadcast in cinemas worldwide as part of the Met’s Live in HD series, and also released on DVD, as was his portrayal of the Duke in a new production of Verdi’s Rigoletto, with Diana Damrau, in January 2013, for which he received the 2014 ECHO Klassik Award Singer of the Year.

Main Hall, Stadthalle Wuppertal – © Lars Langemeier

This Saturday, Sondra Radvanovsky and Piotr Beczala appear live for the Metropolitan Opera in the magnificent Stadthalle Wuppertal. This elegant and very grand city hall was built in 1900 for the presentation of chamber concerts and the performing arts in general, and one of the conductors at the dazzling music festival to celebrate its opening was a young Richard Strauss. The Historische Stadthalle was renovated and rehabilitated between 1991 and 1995, and today boasts five different performance halls. French pianist Hélène Grimaud has described it as “an almost magical space for music”, and Sir Simon Rattle is of the opinion that “Accoustically, Wuppertal has one of the best concert halls in the world”.

This performance in the Metropolitan Opera’s Met Stars Live in Concert pay-per-view series can be viewed online on Saturday, 23rd January at 6.00 pm (GMT), 7.00 pm (CET) live from the Stadthalle Wuppertal. Tickets for each recital are $20 and can be purchased on the Met’s website.  Performances will be available for on-demand viewing for 14 days following the live event.

The next artist to be featured in this series is soprano Anna Netrebko on 6th February, followed by soprano Sonya Yoncheva at Schussenried Cloister in southwest Germany, on 27th February, and soprano Angel Blue at a date to be announced.

Information sourced from:

Metropolitan Opera programme notes

Artists’websites

Opéra de Paris (additional information on Ms Radvanovsky)

Stadthalle Wuppertal

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Monte-Carlo Opera stages new production of Massenet’s ‘Thaïs’

Photograph courtesy Monte-Carlo Opera

Monte-Carlo Opera’s first production of 2021 is a new staging of Jules Massenet’s relatively unknown opera Thaïs – last seen in the Principality in February 1950. Starring Latvian soprano Marina Rebeka in the title role, the opera features French baritone Ludovico Tézier as Athanaël, the monk who aims to convert Thaïs to Christianity, and French tenor Jean-François Borras as her lover, Nicias.

Jules Massenet (1842–1912) – one the leading French operatic composers of the Romantic era – is mainly remembered for the more than 30 operas which he wrote – works such as Manon, Le Cid, Esclarmonde, Werther, Cendrillon, Chérubin and Don Quichotte – but he also composed oratorios, ballets, orchestral works, incidental music, piano pieces and songs. Despite the score for Thaïs not being as well remembered as some of Massenet’s other works, the gorgeous Meditation for solo violin and orchestra is no doubt familiar to many lovers of classical music. It’s officially an intermezzo, but is frequently performed as a standalone piece.

The libretto for Thaïs, by Louis Gallet, was inspired by an 1890 novel by Anatole France, which was based on events in the life of Saint Thaïs of Egypt, a legendary convert to Christianity. Set in 4th century Egypt, the opera premiered at the Académie nationale de musique in Paris, on 16th March, 1894.

Soprano Marina Rebeka © Dario Acosta

The opera opens in a Canobite settlement in the Thebaid desert, to which Athanaël has just returned from a visit to Alexandria. He is concerned at the amount of the sin in the city, and the worship by its inhabitants of the actress and courtesan, Thaïs, whose performances and dubious morals are having a detrimental effect on them. Athanaël sees it as his mission to convert her to Christianity, and returns to Alexandria to save her soul.

Although Thaïs rejects Athanaël’s demands to change her life, and even though his old friend Nicias is her lover, she ultimately accepts Athanaël’s declaration that his way will deliver her eternity. He takes her to the convent of Mother Albine, but is distraught at the thought of not seeing her again. He decides to take her away from the convent and her religious life, where the nuns have already declared her a saint, but he arrives too late and she dies in a vision of angels.

Marina Rebeka is described by Das Opernglas as “…. one of the great masters in her field”. Considered one of the world’s best interpreters of Violetta in Verdi’s La Traviata, and one of the greatest Rossini and Mozart singers today, Ms Rebeka has been a regular guest at concert halls and opera houses such as the Metropolitan Opera and Carnegie Hall in New York, Teatro alla Scala, Milan, the Royal Opera House Covent Garden, Amsterdam’s Royal Concertgebouw, the Bavarian State Opera in Munich, the Vienna State Opera and Zurich Opera House. Her repertoire ranges from the Baroque to bel canto and includes the works of composers as diverse as Tchaikovsky and Stravinsky.  

Ludovic Tézier has performed in some of the major opera houses of the world – the Metropolitan Opera, the Vienna Staatsoper, the Paris Opera, Milan’s La Scala, the Liceu in Barcelona, the Capitole in Toulouse, London’s Royal Opera House Covent Garden, the Salzburg, Bregenz, and Glyndebourne Festivals, and the Chorégies d’Orange. Recent roles include Marc-Antoine in Massenet’s Cléopâtre, Don Carlo in Verdi’s La Forza del destino, Escamillo in Bizet’s Carmen, Marcello in Puccini’s La Bohème, Giorgio Germont in Verdi’s La Traviata and Scarpia in Puccini’s Tosca.

Jean-François Borras has performed widely in opera houses around the world, and is no stranger to the works of Massenet, having appeared in the role of Nicias at the Theatre Municipal de São Paulo, as the Chevalier des Grieux in Manon for the Vienna State Opera, also at the Palau de les Arts Reina in Sofía and at the Opéra-Bastille, and in the title role in Werther for the Metropolitan Opera, the Greek National Opera and the Vienna State Opera. Other roles include those of Alfredo Germont in Verdi’s La traviata in Monte Carlo and Tel Aviv, Roméo in Gounod’s Roméo et Juliette in Trieste, Genoa and Verona, and Rodolfo in Puccini’s La bohème for the Metropolitan Opera and in Verona, Trieste and Graz. In concert and recital, his engagements include appearances in Berlioz’s Roméo et Juliette with Les Siècles at the Paris Philharmonie, and in Verdi’s Requiem with the Minnesota Orchestra.

The cast also includes Philippe Kahn as Palémon, Cassandre Berthon as Crobyle, Valentine Lemercier as Myrtale, Marie Gautrot as Albine and Jennifer Courcier as La Charmeuse.

In this co-production with Hong Kong Opera, the Monte-Carlo Philharmonic Orchestra and Choir of the Monte-Carlo Opera (Choral Director Stephan Visconti) are led by Jean-Yves Ossonce whose recent engagements include Offenbach’s Les contes d’Hoffmann at Opera de Lausanne, Massenet’s Hérodiade at Opéra Théâtre de Saint-Étienne and Grand Théâtre Massenet, and Bizet’s Carmen at Shanghai Opera House.

Monte-Carlo Opera’s production of Massenet’s Thaïs takes place in the Salle Garnier, Opéra de Monte-Carlo, from 22nd to 28th January. Tickets may be reserved online.

This article first appeared in Riviera Buzz

Information sourced from:

Monte-Carlo Opera programme notes

Artists’ websites

ArtsPreview home page

Amsterdam’s Royal Concertgebouw Orchestra streams concerts online

Myung-whun Chung © Riccardo Musacchio

This Friday evening, Amsterdam’s Royal Concertgebouw Orchestra presents the first of three online concerts, in which Myung-whun Chung leads the Orchestra in a program featuring the Violin Concerto by Sibelius – with principal violinist Liviu Prunaru as soloist – and the Brahms Symphony No 4.

Myung-whun Chung has held the position of Principal Guest Conductor of Staatskapelle Dresden since the beginning of the 2012/13 season, the first conductor to have done so in the history of the orchestra. He is also Honorary Conductor Laureate of The Tokyo Philharmonic Orchestra and Music Director of the Seoul Philharmonic Orchestra.

He was formerly Music Director of the Saarbrücken Radio Symphony Orchestra, Principal Guest Conductor of the Teatro Comunale di Firenze, Music Director of the Opéra de Paris-Bastille, Music Director of the Orchestre Philharmonique de Radio France, and Principal Conductor of the Orchestra dell’Accademia Nazionale di Santa Cecilia in Rome. Maestro Chung regularly appears at Teatro La Fenice, and recently at the Wiener Staatsoper as well.

Romanian violinist Liviu Prunaru was the 1999 winner of the Juilliard Mendelssohn Competition, which led to his New York solo debut at Lincoln Center with the Juilliard Symphony. He was appointed principal violinist of the Royal Concertgebouw Orchestra in September 2006, and from 2010 to 2013 was also Artistic Director of the Menuhin Music Academy. He has given recitals throughout the world, and also appeared with the Royal Philharmonic and London Symphony orchestras.

In this performance, Liviu Prunaru plays the original version of the Sibelius Violin Concerto. Written in 1903, the concerto was first performed in 1904, but since it was poorly received, Sibelius withdrew it and released a revised version in 1905. It was in 2015, to mark the composer’s 150th birthday, that the composer’s heirs and publisher decided to release the early version of the work – generally regarded as more dramatic than the revised version – newly edited from the manuscript in the Helsinki University Library and published by Robert Lienau Musikverlag.

Myung-Whun Chung © Jean-Francois Leclercq

The concert closes with Brahms Symphony No 4 – a work that almost didn’t survive beyond its pre-premiere. Two of Brahms’ friends – who were treated to a preview in a setting for two pianos – were somewhat disparaging about the symphony, filling the composer with doubt. However, it was well received at the premiere in Meiningen in October 1885, with the composer conducting the Meiningen Court Orchestra, and following the symphony’s first performance in Vienna, Brahms was convinced that the work would survive – as indeed it has, and is well loved to this day.

Myung-whun Chung leads the Royal Concertgebouw Orchestra in the Sibelius Violin Concerto – soloist Liviu Prunaru – and the Brahms Symphony No 4 in an online performance from 8.00 pm CET on Friday, 22nd January. The concert is available to view on the Concertgebouw website or on its Facebook and YouTube channels, and will be available to watch for a week after the initial stream.

The concert on Friday, 29th January, has Mattias Pinscher on the podium, directing his Songs from solomon’s garden – with baritone Georg Nigl as soloist – and Ravel’s Ma mère l’Oye (Mother Goose Suite), and the concert on 5th February, features Trevor Pinnock directing Mozart’s Serenade No 10 Gran Partita.


Information sourced from:

Concertgebouw Orchestra programme notes

Artists’ websites

Sibelius Violin Concerto

Brahms Symphony No 4

ArtsPreview home page

SFJAZZ line-up for January’s ‘Fridays at Five’

SFJAZZ starts 2021 as it means to go on – with a fabulous line-up of stars in its weekly Fridays at Five series. Every Friday afternoon, from 5.00 to 6.00 pm (PT), SFJAZZ streams a performance from its vast library of concerts recorded live at the SFJAZZ Center in San Francisco.

This Friday features the world’s top-selling jazz instrumentalist, trumpeter Chris Botti. As skilled in the presentation of jazz as in pop, with several Gold, Platinum and Grammy Awards to his name, Chris Botti has appeared with stars such as Sting, Barbra Streisand, Tony Bennett, Yo-Yo Ma, Michael Bublé, Paul Simon, Joni Mitchell, Joshua Bell, Aerosmith’s Steven Tyler and even Frank Sinatra.

On his most recent album Impressions – for which he was awarded a Grammy for Best Pop Instrumental Album – he is joined by Andrea Bocelli, Vince Gill, Herbie Hancock, Mark Knopfler and David Foster. Botti has performed with many of the finest symphonies and in some of the world’s most prestigious venues, including Carnegie Hall, San Francisco’s Davies Symphony Hall, the Hollywood Bowl, the Sydney Opera House and Italy’s Teatro Real di San Carlo.

This Fridays at Five performance – to be streamed on January 8th – was recorded during Chris Botti’s sold-out run at SFJAZZ a year ago, in which he appeared with his nine-piece band, featuring saxophonist Andy Snitzer, violin virtuoso Anastasiia Mazurok, and vocalist Sy Smith.

Alto saxophonist Kenny Garrett is regarded as one of the foremost of his generation. A versatile artist – he is equally happy playing classic blues, R&B, classic jazz and fusion – Garrett is also a bandleader and composer. He has performed with names such as the Duke Ellington Orchestra, Freddy Hubbard, Woody Shaw, Art Blakey and the Jazz Messengers and Miles Davis, and was a member of the all-star Five Peace Band which featured Chick Corea, John McLaughlin, Christian McBride and Vinnie Colaiuta, an ensemble which won the Grammy for Best Jazz Instrumental Album in January 2010.

In this performance by the Kenny Garrett Quintet – recorded at SFJAZZ in June 2019 – Garrett is joined by pianist Vernell Brown, bassist Corcoran Holt, drummer Samuel Laviso, and percussionist Rudy Bird. The concert streams in the SFJAZZ Fridays at Five session on January 15th.

The Fridays at Five session on January 22nd streams a concert by multi award-winning vocalist Catherine Russell. Featuring music from her latest album, Alone Together, the concert was recorded live at SFJAZZ in September 2019. This album – her seventh, released in March of that year, and exploring the music of the Swing Era – held the #1 position on the JazzWeek 2019 Year End chart for national airplay and won Catherine Russell her second Grammy® Nomination for Best Jazz Vocal Album.

Her first Grammy nomination was for her 6th solo album, Harlem On My Mind – released in 2016 and featuring songs from the Great African American Songbook – which was nominated for Best Jazz Vocal Album. In 2012 Catherine Russell received a Grammy Award as the featured artist on the soundtrack album for the HBO-TV series, Boardwalk Empire

Catherine Russell has been a hit at major Jazz Festivals including Monterey, Newport, North Sea, JazzAscona, Montreal, Bern, Rochester International, Panama, Tanglewood, and also at sold out venues like The Kennedy Center in Washington, DC, Jazz at Lincoln Center, Carnegie Hall, SFJAZZ and Pasadena Pops in Los Angeles. She has recorded, and shared the stage with, artists including David Bowie, Steely Dan, Michael Feinstein, Paul Simon and Rosanne Cash.

When an artist described by the New York Times as “One of the greatest musicians in jazz” – Gonzalo Rubalcaba – teams up with “An incomparable performer” – Pedrito Martinez (the NYT again), the result is bound to be something really special, and this duo are the stars of the SFJAZZ Fridays at Five session on January 29th. In a concert recorded at SFJAZZ in September 2017, Rubalcaba and Martinez take their audience right to the heart of the heady beat of Cuban rhythm.

Rubalcaba – regarded as the most celebrated Cuban pianist of his generation – was described by Sir Simon Rattle as “the most gifted pianist on the planet”, and was said by Dizzy Gillespie to be “…the greatest pianist I’ve heard in the last 10 years”. Fellow countryman, drummer and percussionist, Pedrito Martinez, has played an important part in the inclusion of Afro-Cuban rhythms into American music since settling in New York City in 1998. He has recorded or performed with Paul Simon, Paquito D’Rivera, Chucho Valdez, Bruce Springsteen, Eddie Palmieri, Dave Matthews, Jackson Browne, Elton John, Sting and Wynton Marsalis who said of him: “Pedrito is a genius…working with him has been a revelation to me.” Martinez has also contributed to well over 100 albums.

For just $5 a month (or $60 annually) you can participate in the SFJAZZ Fridays at Five sessions, or gift a digital membership and enjoy the online concerts with your friends. Proceeds from these digital sessions will help the SFJAZZ team prepare to reopen the SFJAZZ Center and enable them to continue to provide the caliber of performance for which the Center is famed.

Fridays at Five is streamed on the SFJAZZ website every Friday at 5.00 pm (PT).

Information sourced from:

SF JAZZ program notes

Artists’ websites

ArtsPreview home page

Salonen awarded Honorary Knighthood in New Year’s Honours List

Conductor and composer Esa-Pekka Salonen
© Minna Hatinen – courtesy San Francisco Symphony

Esa-Pekka Salonen, Music Director of the San Francisco Symphony, has been awarded an Honorary Knighthood by Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II in the New Year’s Honours List. He receives the honour for his services to music, and to relations between the United Kingdom and his home country, Finland.

Maestro Salonen’s links with Britain date back to his first invitation to conduct London’s Philharmonia Orchestra in 1983. The conductor and composer became Principal Guest Conductor of the Philharmonia in 1985, a position he held until 1994, subsequently becoming the orchestra’s Principal Conductor in 2008, which he is due to relinquish in June 2021 to become Artistic Advisor and Conductor Emeritus. The Philharmonia celebrates the 76th anniversary of its founding this year.

Salonen possesses a unique vision for both the present and future of the contemporary symphony orchestra. During his tenure as Principal Conductor of the Philharmonia, the Orchestra has become well known for its technological advances in Virtual Reality, enabling audiences around the world to ‘step inside’ the Orchestra through audio and video projections. Salonen was also the driving force behind the iPad app, The Orchestra, which gives the user unprecedented access to the internal workings of eight symphonic works. 

Prior to taking up his current position with the San Francisco Symphony, Maestro Salonen was Music Director of the Los Angeles Philharmonic, of which he is now Conductor Laureate – a position he also holds with the Swedish Radio Symphony Orchestra. He is Artist in Association at the Finnish National Opera and Ballet, is a member of the faculty of the Colburn School in Los Angeles, and was a co-founder of the annual Baltic Sea Festival, where he served as Artistic Director from 2003 to 2018.

Esa-Pekka Salonen joins a small but distinguished group of Finns who have received British honorary knighthoods. These include former Presidents Martti Ahtisaari and Urho Kekkonen; Harri Holkeri, Prime Minister of Finland and President of the UN General Assembly; former President and Marshal of Finland C G E Mannerheim; and former Prime Minister, President and the Governor of the Bank of Finland, Risto Ryti.

Maestro Salonen says of his Honorary Knighthood: “This is a true personal honour, but more than that, it is meaningful to have artists honoured at a national – at a historical – level. It shows an appreciation of art-making as a necessary part of society. A recognition that culture is who we are, not just what we do. I am grateful for my time in London and throughout the UK with the Philharmonia Orchestra. I share this with them.”

Information sourced from:

San Francisco Symphony

Philharmonia Orchestra

Esa-Pekka Salonen website

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