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Gerstein plays Schumann with Bychkov & Czech Philharmonic

Kirill Gerstein Pianist 2018 Photo: Marco Borggreve

This week, Semyon Bychkov leads the Czech Philharmonic in another programme streamed live from the Rudolfinum in Prague. This concert features Schumann’s Piano Concerto in A minor, with soloist Kirill Gerstein, and Tchaikovsky’s Symphony No 2 – known as the ‘Little Russian’.

The heritage of multi award-winning pianist Kirill Gerstein embraces Russian, American and Central European traditions, and his similarly international career includes appearances in solo and concert engagements across Europe and the United States, as well as in China and Australia. His wide-ranging repertoire features compositions from Bach through to the contemporary composer Thomas Adès with whom Gerstein has collaborated for the past decade. Adès wrote a Concerto for Piano and Orchestra for Gerstein – premièred by the Boston Symphony Orchestra – a concerto which Gerstein will also première this season in Vienna, Seoul, Hamburg and Chicago.

Gerstein has worked with Semyon Bychkov since 2007, and it was with Bychkov that he made his debut appearances with the Berlin and Vienna philharmonic orchestras, and with the Royal Concertgebouw Orchestra. As part of Bychkov’s Tchaikovsky Project – a box-set of all of the composer’s symphonies, the three piano concertos, the Romeo & Juliet Fantasy Overture, Serenade for Strings and Francesca da Rimini – Gerstein recorded Tchaikovsky’s three piano concertos live in Prague with the Czech Philharmonic. He will join Bychkov again at the start of the 2021-22 season when they appear with the Royal Concertgebouw Orchestra, performing Shostakovich’s First Piano Concerto.

Robert Schumann made a few abortive attempts at writing a piano concerto between 1829 and 1839, but none of them was completed. In May 1841, however, he made a start on a one-movement, standalone piece – Concert Phantasie (as he spelled it) for Piano and Orchestra. This piece was performed on 13th August, 1841, in a private run-through, with Clara Schumann as soloist, and the Leipzig Gewandhaus Orchestra, conducted by Felix Mendelssohn. Schumann’s attempts to publish it were not, however, successful.

Semyon Bychkov Photo: Marco Borggreve All rights reserved

In the summer of 1845, he revisited the Concert Phantasie, and started revising it as the first movement of a full-scale concerto. By the end of the year, he’d completed the full three-movement work, and it premiered in Dresden on 4th December, 1845, with Clara Schumann again as soloist, under the baton of Ferdinand Hiller, to whom the work was dedicated. The Piano Concerto was not regarded as a virtuoso work, but what was interesting about it was the way in which the piano and orchestra interacted, rather than ‘taking turns’ as was standard at the time. Schumann’s Piano Concerto in A minor, Op 54, became one of the composer’s most popular pieces.

Tchaikovsky wrote and orchestrated his Second Symphony between June and November 1872, and it was performed for the first time, in Moscow, by the Russian Musical Society, conducted by Nikolay Rubinstein, in early 1873. Tchaikovsky loved the work and was very proud of it, and although it was extremely well received, he made minor alterations to the symphony soon after its first performance, and further and extensive revisions in December 1879 and January 1880. The work is popularly known as the ‘Little Russian’ Symphony, a name thought to have been given it by the critic Nikolay Kashkin because it features several folk-tunes from the Ukraine region, at that time known as ‘Little Russia’. The final version of the symphony was performed, to great acclaim, by the Russian Musical Society conducted by Eduard Nápravnik in St Petersburg in early 1881, as it was in Moscow at the end of that year, when the ensemble was led by Karl Zike.

Semyon Bychkov leads the Czech Philharmonic and soloist Kirill Gerstein in a programme featuring Schumann’s Piano Concerto in A minor Op 54 and Tchaikovsky’s Symphony No 2, in a live stream from Prague on Thursday, 29th April, at 8.15 pm (CEST). The concert will be transmitted on the Czech Philharmonic’s Facebook page, and on YouTube, and will be available on demand for 7 days. Further information can be found on the Czech Philharmonic website.

Information sourced from:

Czech Philharmonic programme notes

Kirill Gerstein

San Francisco Symphony programme notes – James M Keller

Tchaikovsky Symphony No 2

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SFJAZZ honors 2021 NEA Masters in online concert

Thursday, April 22nd is a big day in the world of jazz – it’s the day on which SFJAZZ collaborates with the National Endowment for the Arts to honor this year’s NEA Jazz Masters in an online celebratory concert.

This year’s honorees are Terri Lyne Carrington – three-time GRAMMY® award-winning drummer, composer, producer and educator; percussionist and educator Albert “Tootie” Heath; saxophonist, flautist and composer Henry Threadgill; and Phil Schaap – archivist, educator, historian and jazz radio host, recipient of the 2021 A B Spellman NEA Jazz Masters Fellowship for Jazz Advocacy.


This event – co-ordinated by Music Director, composer and saxophonist Miguel Zenón – will be co-hosted by 2017 NEA Jazz Master Dee Dee Bridgewater and actor Delroy Lindo, and features recorded performances and tributes from across the world, including venues such as Preservation Hall in New Orleans and The Village Vanguard in New York.

The concert also features performances by NEA Jazz Masters Wynton and Jason Marsalis (2011), and Dianne Reeves (2018), as well as by Obed Calvaire, Avishai Cohen, Roman Filiu, Vince Giordano, Christopher Hoffman, Joe Lovano, Pedrito Martinez, Linda May Han Oh, Dan Nimmer, Danilo Pérez, David Virelles, Lizz Wright and the SFJAZZ High School All Stars. 

NEA Jazz Masters Herbie Hancock (2004), Charles Lloyd (2015) and Wayne Shorter (1998) will provide video testimonials, as will Jon Faddis, Michelle Kinney, Jason Moran and James Mtume.

The 2021 NEA Jazz Masters Tribute concert takes place from 5.00 to 6.15 pm (PT) on Thursday, April 22nd, is free to view, and will be available on-demand following the broadcast.

Immediately following the concert, from 6.15 to 7.15 pm (PT), SFJAZZ Founder & Executive Artistic Director Randall Kline is featured in an online discussion with the honorees.

Both the concert and the online discussion can be viewed at sfjazz.org or arts.gov. An archive of the concert will also be available following the event at arts.gov.

Further information on the concert can be found on the SFJAZZ website.

Information sourced from SFJAZZ program notes

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New production of Mussorgsky’s ‘Boris Godunov’ for Monte-Carlo Opera

Modest Mussorgsky’s magnificent historical opera, Boris Godunov, opens this week at the Salle Garnier in Monaco. Starring Russian bass, Ildar Abdrazakov in the title role, this is a new production, in co-operation with Grand Avignon Opera, and the first staging by Monte-Carlo Opera of the original 1869 version of the work.

Mussorgsky (1839-1881) was not only the composer of Boris Godunov, but he also wrote the libretto which was based on Alexander Pushkin’s 1825 play, published in 1831. Puskhin took his inspiration from the Shakespeare play, Boris Godunov, but he was also heavily influenced by Nikolay Karamzin’s History of the Russian State.

The opera was completed in 1869, but it was rejected by the Directorate of the Imperial Theatres in St Petersburg, due – apparently – to its lack of lyricism and significant female characters. In 1872 Musorgsky revised his opera, including more formal arias, some additional characters and a new act, and it was premiered in 1874 at the Mariinsky Theatre, St Petersburg.

Fortunately, however, the Russian pianist and musicologist, Pavel Lamm, director of the State Music Publication Department in Moscow between 1918 and 1923, established a storehouse for scores which had been confiscated from nationalised music publishers in Russia. One of these scores was that which Mussorgsky originally wrote for Boris Godunov, and due to Lamm’s detailed research and editorial skills, we have access to a version of the opera which is much closer to Pushkin’s text than the revised one. This original 1869 version of Boris Godunov was premiered at the Mariinsky Theatre in St Petersburg on 16th February, 1928, and it’s this version which Monte-Carlo Opera is to stage.

Mussorgsky’s operatic depiction of the troubled life of the rise and fall of the 16th century Tsar, Boris Godunov, takes the form of seven tableaux. After the death of the tsar known as Ivan the Terrible, Boris Godunov becomes Regent, as Ivan’s surviving son Dmitry, the Tsarevitch, is still a child. When Dmitry dies in mysterious circumstances, Boris, at the behest of a group of politicians, reluctantly agrees to become Tsar, hoping that no one will discover the secret that troubles him – his role in the assassination of the rightful heir to the throne. Boris is considered to be a good ruler, until the young monk Grigory, who bears a remarkable resemblance to the deceased Tsarevitch, decides to impersonate Dmitry and seize the throne. With pressure mounting on him from all sides, Boris begins to lose his sanity, and naming his son Feyodor the heir to his throne, Boris bids a loving farewell to the boy and dies.

In the title role is Russian bass Ildar Abdrazakov whom The Independent describes as a “sensational bass…who has just about everything – imposing sound, beautiful legato, oodles of finesse”. Having made his debut at La Scala in 2001, he has become a frequent guest at some of the major opera houses in the world, including New York’s Metropolitan Opera, the Vienna State Opera and Bavarian State Opera in Munich. Also a concert artist, Mr Abdrazakov has performed at the BBC Proms in London, at Carnegie Hall in New York, as well as with leading international orchestras, including the Chicago Symphony and Vienna Philharmonic.

The monk Pimen is sung by Russian bass Alexeï Tikhomirov. Praised by Bachtrack for his “powerful vocal volume” and “impressive interpretation”, Mr Tikhomirov has this season sung the role of Pimen at the Bolshoi Theatre in Moscow, the title role in Rimsky-Korsakov’s The Tale of Tsar Saltan, The Inquisitor in Prokofiev’s The Fiery Angel at Theater an der Wien, and Prince Bolkonsky in his War and Peace at Grand Theatre de Geneve, Future engagements include a debut performance at Frankfurt Opera, and return appearances at New National Theatre Tokyo and Grand Theatre de Geneve. 

The role of the young pretender Grigory is taken by Russian tenor Oleg Balachov, who has appeared as Loge with the Mariinsky Opera in London in Das Rheingold, and in Prokofiev’s War and Peace in Monte-Carlo. Godunov’s son Feyodor is sung by Marina Iarskaïa.

Konstantin Chudovsky – Chief Conductor of Ural Opera in Ekaterinburg – leads the Monte-Carlo Philharmonic Orchestra, the Chorus of the Monte-Carlo Opera (director Stefano Visconti) and the Chorus of the Children of the Ranier III Academy of Music. Maestro Chudovsky has a wide ranging repertoire of the best known operas, and has appeared at National Opera of Chile, major French opera houses in centres such as Lyon, Reims and Limoges, Theater an der Wien, Bulgarian National Opera and Helikon Opera, Moscow.

Stage design is by Jean-Romain Vesperini, decor by Bruno de Lavenère, costumes by Alain Blanchot, lighting by Bertrand Couderc and video design by Etienne Guiol.

Monte-Carlo Opera’s production of Boris Godunov takes place at the Salle Garnier, Opéra de Monte-Carlo, on 22nd, 27th and 29th April and 2nd May. Further information and reservation details can be found on the Monte-Carlo Opera website.

Information sourced from:
Monte-Carlo Opera programme notes
The Royal Opera House programme notes
Oxford Music Online
Artists’ websites

All images of decor models © Bruno de Lavanère

This article first appeared in Riviera Buzz.

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Three contemporary works in San Francisco Ballet’s latest stream

San Francisco Ballet in Dawson’s ‘Anima Animus’ – © Erik Tomasson

San Francisco Ballet devotes the fifth program of its current digital season to a triple bill by three contemporary choreographers – Helgi Tomasson’s 7 for Eight, Cathy Marston’s Snowblind and David Dawson’s Anima Animus.

Helgi Tomasson’s 7 for Eight – which premiered at San Francisco’s War Memorial Opera House on February 26th, 2004 – is a series of solo and ensemble movements for eight dancers, set to seven movements taken from four of J S Bach’s keyboard concertos. These concertos – composed between 1729 and 1741 – were written for the harpsichord, but Tomasson – San Francisco Ballet’s Artistic Director and Principal Choreographer – opted to have them played on a piano, with the exception of the Concerto in C minor for Four Harpsichords – arranged in this instance for two harpsichords – for a male solo variation.

Yuan Yuan Tan and Tiit Helimets in Tomasson’s ‘7 For Eight’ – © Erik Tomasson

Clad in simple black costumes – designed by Sandra Woodall – the dancers perform against a plain black background, enhancing the pure classicism of this work. Recorded in January 2016 – the most recent occasion on which it was staged – the ballet features principal dancers Yuan Yuan Tan and Tiit Helimets, and former principal dancers Vanessa Zahorian, Gennadi Nedvigin and Taras Domitro. Lighting design is by David Finn.

The inspiration for Cathy Marston’s ballet Snowblind came from the 1911 novel Ethan Frome by Pulitzer Prize-winning author Edith Wharton. This American classic, set in a fictitious town in Massachusetts, tells of the fraught emotional tangle which develops between a struggling farmer, his demanding, unappreciative and hypochondriac wife, and a beautiful young girl who arrives to help the ailing wife – three people trapped in a situation restricted by the times in which they live.

San Francisco Ballet in Marston’s ‘Snowblind’ – © Erik Tomasson

Cathy Marston has a special gift for narrative ballet, as well as a passion for literature, and she successfully combines both in her interpretations of literary classics – Ibsen’s Ghosts, Charlotte Brontë’s Jane Eyre, Chekov’s Three Sisters, Nabokov’s Lolita and Witch-hunt – inspired by the true story of Anna Göldi, the ‘last witch of Europe’.

San Francisco Ballet in Marston’s ‘Snowblind’ – © Erik Tomasson

Snowblind – which premiered in April 2018 during San Francisco Ballet’s Unbound Festival and was recorded at the time – is a highly emotional ballet, set against the vicious snowstorms of mid-winter Massachusetts. Movingly performed by Ulrik Birkkjaer as Ethan Frome, Sarah Van Patten as his wife Zeena, and Mathilde Froustey in the role of the young girl Mattie, Snowblind is set to a score arranged by Philip Feeney, created from works by Amy Beach, Arthur Foote, Arvo Pärt and Feeney himself. Scenic and costume design are by Patrick Kinmonth, and lighting design is by James F Ingalls.

The final work in this presentation is Anima Animus, by award-winning choreographer David Dawson – his first commission for San Francisco Ballet. He was awarded the Prix Benois de la Danse for his ballet The Grey Area – premiered by Dutch National Ballet in 2002 – and in 2005 was honored as the first British choreographer to receive a Russian Golden Mask Award for Reverence, which he created for the Mariinsky Ballet.

Sofiane Sylve in Dawson’s ‘Anima Animus’ – © Erik Tomasson

Also premiered during the 2018 Unbound Festival, Anima Animus is, says Dawson, a reflection of the contrast between the male and female psyches – anima being Carl Jung’s term for the feminine part of a man’s personality, and animus being the reverse. The work is set to a violin concerto by the late Italian conductor, composer and pianist Ezio Bosso. Scenic design is by John Otto, costumes by Yumiko Takeshima, and lighting by James F Ingalls.
This recording, captured in April 2018, features former principal SF Ballet dancers Maria Kochetkova, Sofiane Sylve and Carlo Di Lanno, and current principal dancers Luke Ingham and Wei Wang, in a cast of ten.

This stream is available to view from 6.00 pm (Pacific) on April 22nd until May 12th. Further information on Program 05, and tickets to view this stream, are available on the San Francisco Ballet website.

Information sourced from:
San Francisco Ballet program notes
Artists’ websites

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San Francisco Opera streams Verdi’s historic drama ‘Don Carlo’

Scene from San Francisco Opera’s production of Verdi’s ‘Don Carlo’ –
© Cory Weaver/San Francisco Opera

San Francisco Opera continues its Opera is ON series of productions with an online performance of Verdi’s historic drama, Don Carlo. This story of passion and betrayal, of conflict between father and son, of political intrigue, heartbreak and devotion, is set against the grandeur of the 16th century Spanish court. It stars American tenor Michael Fabiano in the title role, with Puerto Rican soprano Ana María Martínez as his beloved, Princess Elisabetta.

Verdi’s five-act opera Don Carlos was completed in 1867, and set to a French-language libretto by Joseph Méry and Camille du Locle, based on Friedrich Schiller’s 1787 play Don Karlos, Infant von Spanien. The opera was commissioned and produced by the Théâtre Impérial de l’Opéra, Paris, and premiered at the Salle Le Peletier on 11 March 1867.

The opera was then translated into Italian as Don Carlo, in the first of a number of revisions set to both French and Italian librettos. This production by San Francisco Opera is Verdi’s 1886 Italian rewrite, known as the Modena version.

Michael Fabiano and Ana-María Martínez in Verdi’s ‘Don Carlo’ –
© Cory Weaver/San Francisco Opera

Although the work – set in France and Spain between 1567 to 1568 – features actual historical figures, the plot is largely fictional. Don Carlo is the son of King Philip II of Spain – sung by German bass René Pape – and is therefore heir to the Spanish throne. Carlo is in love with Princess Elisabetta, but his hopes of marrying her are thwarted by his father, who – as part of a peace treaty signed with France – takes Elisabetta as his own wife. Undaunted, Carlo comes up against the conspiracies and intrigues of the royal court, and even falls foul of the Spanish Inquisition, but ultimately he has to make a choice between loyalty and love.

Polish baritone Mariusz Kwiecień is Carlo’s close friend Rodrigo, Marquis of Posa, and Bulgarian mezzo-soprano Nadia Krasteva – in her Company debut – is Princess Eboli.

In a revival of his 1998 production for the Company, Emilio Sagi directs this production of Don Carlo, filmed at San Francisco’s War Memorial Opera House in 2016. Design is by Zack Brown, with lighting by Gary Marder, and direction for the screen is by Frank Zamacona.

The San Francisco Opera Orchestra and Chorus (Chorus Director Ian Robertson) are conducted by the Company’s former Music Director Nicola Luisotti.

San Francisco Opera’s Don Carlo is performed in Italian with English subtitles. It is available to view from 10.00 am (Pacific) on Saturday, April 17, until 11.59 pm on the following day. For further information and details on how to view Don Carlo, visit the San Francisco Opera website.

Information sourced from:

San Francisco Opera program notes

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Three works in Les Ballets de Monte-Carlo’s Spring Season

Scene from Maillot’s ‘Coppél-i.A. – © Alice Blangero

For its Spring Season, Les Ballets de Monte-Carlo presents three full-length narrative ballets by Choreographer/Director Jean-Christophe Maillot. Coppél-i.A., LAC and Le Songe share a similar theme – exploring human nature through the spectrum of ‘fantastic’ (in the literal sense) beings – an artificial woman, a flock of swans ruled by a monster, and a host of fairy-like characters.

We’re all familiar with the story of the ballet Coppélia – a work originally written by Romantic-era choreographer Arthur Saint-Léon – which is set against the relationship between the young lovers – Franz and Swanhilda – and Dr Coppélius, whose life’s ambition is to create a living girl from a doll. This re-imagination by Maillot – which premiered on 27th December 2019 – has the same set of characters, but the difference is in the title, Coppél-i.A., with its reference to artificial intelligence (intelligence artificielle), so that the being created by Dr Coppélius challenges what the two young lovers of the story believe they know about love, and what they know about each other.

Composer Bertrand Maillot (brother of the J-C Maillot) has created an original score for Coppél-i.A. Using Delibes’ original music as a basis, he has combined with it various sequences of his own, as well as carrying out “sonic manipulations” on the Delibes score.

The décor and costumes for this production are by Aimée Moreni, lighting is by Jean-Christophe Maillot and Samuel Thery, and dramaturgy is by Jean-Christophe Maillot and Geoffroy Staquet.

Performances of Les Ballets de Monte-Carlo’s Coppél-i.A take place in the Salles des Princes, Grimaldi Forum in Monaco on 16th, 17th and 18th April at 14h00.

Jean-Christophe Maillot’s interpretation of Swan Lake – entitled simply LAC – was written in collaboration with writer Jean Rouaud, and premiered on December 27th, 2011 at the Grimaldi Forum in Monaco. Although the ballet is set to Tchaikovsky’s glorious score, Maillot and Rouaud bring a dramatic new slant to this classic work. The transformation of Odette from swan to human being presents the Prince with the kind of nightmarish torments which leave him grappling with a series of contrasts, such as those between white and black, good and evil, innocence and eroticism – and wondering whether humanity is solely based on such imprecise variables.

Stage design for LAC is by Ernest Pignon-Ernest, costumes by Philippe Guillotel, dramaturgy by Jean Rouaud, additional music by Bertrand Maillot and lighting by J-C Maillot and Samuel Thery.

Performances of J-C Maillot’s LAC take place in the Salles des Princes, Grimaldi Forum in Monaco on 23rd, 24th, 25th and 26th April, at 14h00.

Le Songe (The Dream) is Jean-Christophe Maillot’s take on Shakespeare’s 1595 comedy A Midsummer Night’s Dream. The ballet, which premiered on 27th December 2005, was set to the incidental music which Mendelssohn wrote for the Shakespeare play. In this work, Maillot has taken the lines of thought and elements of all the ballets he’s created during his career, and concentrated them into three universes – that of the Athenians, the Fairies and the Artisans. In this world of unreality, we recognise the characters of A Midsummer Night’s Dream – the four young lovers and their fractious relationship, the battle of wills between Oberon and Titania – King and Queen of the fairies – and the bumbling hilarity of the Artisans – all of whom fall victim to the antics of the mischievous Puck. Truth, in this unreal world, is apparently not all it seems to be!

Scene from Maillot’s ‘Le Songe’ © Alice Blangero

Additional music to that of Mendelssohn is by Daniel Teruggi and Bertrand Maillot, stage design is by Ernest Pignon-Ernest assisted by Nicolas Normeau, costumes are by Philippe Guillotel, and lighting by Dominique Drillot.

Performances of Le Songe take place on 2nd, 3rd and 4th May, in the Salle des Princes, Grimaldi Forum, Monaco.

Further details, and information on reservations can be found on Les Ballets de Monte-Carlo’s website.

Les Ballets de Monte-Carlo now has an on-demand video platform – BMC Stream – initially created as a result of the COVID crisis, to enable audiences around the world to enjoy performances, classes, dancer profiles, interviews and documentary productions. This platform offers both subscription membership and pay-per-view options with unique interactive multi-camera viewing – see https://bmcstream.com/ for more details.

Information sourced from Les Ballets de Monte-Carlo programme notes and website

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Royal Ballet streams MacMillan and Ashton classics

The Royal Ballet is currently streaming two of the most beautiful abstract works created by British choreographers during the last century – Kenneth MacMillan’s Concerto and Frederick Ashton’s Symphonic Variations. These two works represent pure classical ballet at its absolute best – each defined by exquisite choreography and each set to a score not necessarily written for ballet, yet supremely appropriate.

Kenneth MacMillan choreographed Concerto in 1966 – one of the first works he created for Deutsche Opera Ballet as director of ballet at the Berlin Opera House. He set this work against a simple backdrop, complementing the bright, yet warm, shades of the costumes designed by Jürgen Rose.

For the score, MacMillan selected the Shostakovich Second Piano Concerto No 2 in F which the composer had written in 1957 for his son Maxim’s 19th birthday. It’s a work of contrasts – an almost languorous andante, preceded and followed by an allegro movement. MacMillan made the most of these contrasts, with a sparkling opening movement, followed by a lyrical pas de deux, and ending with an energetic finale. Technically and visually brilliant, it’s one of MacMillan’s most celebrated works.

This recording was filmed in 2019, with Royal Ballet Principals Yasmine Naghdi partnered by Ryoichi Hirano, and Royal Ballet First Soloists Anna Rose O’Sullivan, James Hay and Mayara Magri. Pavel Sorokin conducts the Orchestra of the Royal Opera House, Concert Master is Vasko Vassilev, and lighting design is by John B Read.

Concerto is available to stream on-demand until 25th April. Details can be found on the Royal Ballet website.

Symphonic Variations was the first ballet created by Frederick Ashton on his return from active service in the RAF during the Second World War, and it was one of the Company’s first works for the Main Stage of the Royal Opera House. The ballet – heralded as one of Ashton’s finest – was premiered on 24th April, 1946, and this online screening has been timed to coincide with the 75th anniversary of that occasion.

With elegant designs by Sophie Fedorovitch, this exquisite ballet was set to César Franck’s 1885 Variations symphoniques for piano and orchestra, and features just six dancers. On stage for the duration of the ballet, they perform a series of sextets, quartets, duets, and solos, illustrating the affinity between Ashton’s sublime choreography and the almost dreamlike quality of Franck’s work.

This performance, recorded at the Royal Opera House in 2017, features Marianela Nuñez, Yasmine Naghdi, Yuhui Choe, Vadim Muntagirov, James Hay and Tristan Dyer. Emmanuel Plasson conducts the Orchestra of the Royal Opera House, the pianist is Paul Stobart and Concert Master is Vasko Vassilev. Lighting is by John B Read.

Symphonic Variations is available to stream on-demand until 2 May 2021. Further details are available on the Royal Opera House website.

Information sourced from:
Royal Ballet programme notes
MacMillan’s Concerto

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Latest online productions from San Francisco Symphony

SF Symphony musicians Jacob Nissly and Scott Pingel, during filming of SoundBox: Lineage – Courtesy of San Francisco Symphony

Under the guidance of Music Director Esa-Pekka Salonen the San Francisco Symphony continues to contribute to the world of online productions with the latest SoundBox and CURRENTS programs on the SFSymphony+ platform.

Lineage is the title of the most recent program in the SoundBox series – billed as ‘Eclectic programming for adventurous listeners’ – and curated on this occasion by SF Symphony Collaborative Partner and classical singer, Julia Bullock. In this program, she brings together a diverse selection of musical material spanning 900 years, which – in her words – “…captures an audio and visual snapshot of how lineage can inform, influence, impact, and express itself in a musical context”.

Julia Bullock – Courtesy San Francisco Symphony

The program features works by Nina Simone, Weldon Irvine, Hildegard von Bingen, Walter Donaldson, Gus Kahn, JS Bach, George Walker, Coleridge-Taylor Perkinson, Aruán Ortiz, Elizabeth Ogonek, Francis Poulenc, Ricky Ian Gordon and Esperanza Spalding.

Julia has headlined productions and concerts at some of the world’s foremost arts institutions, was San Francisco Symphony’s Artist-in- Residence for the 2019-2020 season, Artist-in-Residence of London’s Guildhall School for the 2020-22 seasons, opera-programming host of new broadcast channel All Arts, founding core member of the American Modern Opera Company (AMOC), and 2018-19 Artist-in-Residence of New York’s Metropolitan Museum of Art. Most recently she has been named 2021 Artist of the Year by Musical America, which writes: “Smart, savvy, and with her velvety soprano shot through with steel, Julia Bullock is one of the most dramatically electrifying and vocally arresting singers on today’s operatic stages.”

Julia Bullock’s Lineage program is available to view on this segment of the SFSymphony+ website.

Running concurrently with SoundBox is the San Francisco Symphony series CURRENTS – ‘Exploring the intersections of musical cultures’. The latest program, entitled Thunder Song, has been curated by composer and pianist Jerod Impichchaachaaha’ Tate, who joins with musicians of the Symphony to celebrate the meeting of classical music and the art of American Indian storytelling.

Jerod Impichchaachaaha’ Tate conducts SF Symphony musicians, video still from
CURRENTS: Thunder Song – Courtesy San Francisco Symphony

Featured in this program are works by Tate himself, as well as Rochelle Chester and Louis W Ballard. “The music,” says conductor Edwin Outwater, “is quite virtuosic, dynamic and trance-like. It’s quite a trip for the listener.” According to the Washington Post, “Tate is rare as an American Indian composer of classical music. Rarer still is his ability to effectively infuse classical music with American Indian nationalism”.

Jerod Impichchaachaaha’ Tate

Jerod Impichchaachaaha’ Tate is a citizen of the Chickasaw Nation in Oklahoma, who uses symphonic music, ballet and opera to give voice to his native culture. Dedicated to the development of American Indian classical composition, he has had commissioned works performed by the San Francisco Symphony and Chorus, ensembles such as the National Symphony, Detroit Symphony, Minnesota, Buffalo Philharmonic, Winnipeg Symphony and South Dakota Symphony orchestras, as well as by Colorado Ballet, Dale Warland Singers, Santa Fe Desert Chorale and Santa Fe Chamber Music Festival.

Recent commissions include his bassoon concerto, Ghost of the White Deer, for Dallas Symphony Orchestra, his Chickasaw oratorio, Misha‘ Sipokni’ (The Old Ground), for Canterbury Voices and Oklahoma City Philharmonic, and Standing Bear: A Ponca Indian Cantata for Hildegard Center for the Arts. His music was also recently featured on the HBO series Westworld.

Jerod Impichchaachaaha’ Tate’s CURRENTS program is available to view on this segment of the SFSymphony+ website.

Previous SoundBox and CURRENTS streams are available to view on this segment of the SFSymphony+ website.

Information sourced from:

San Francisco Symphony program notes

Artists’ websites

New Music USA

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Met Opera productions online – ‘From Page to Stage’

René Pape, Jonas Kaufmann and Marina Poplavskaya in Gounod’s ‘Faust’
Taken during rehearsal at the Metropolitan Opera in New York City on November 25, 2011

The Metropolitan Opera continues its highly popular streams of Live in HD productions and classic telecasts, taking as its next theme From Page to Stage – a week of operas based on works by some of the world’s greatest authors. These include Gounod’s Faust, Verdi’s Rigoletto, Tchaikovsky’s Eugene Onegin, Zandonai’s Francesca da Rimini, The Nose by Shostakovich, Gounod’s Roméo et Juliette, and Verdi’s Luisa Miller.

Monday, April 5th, features Gounod’s Faust, loosely based on Part One of the Goethe play. Jonas Kaufmann stars in the title role, as the ageing philosopher who sells his soul to Mephistopheles – sung by René Pape – in return for youth and the love of the beautiful Marguerite (Marina Poplavskaya). This production, by Des McAnuff, was filmed in December 2011, and conducted by Yannick Nézet-Séguin.

Luciano Pavarotti as the Duke of Mantua in Verdi’s ‘Rigoletto’
© Paolo Heffernan – Courtesy Metropolitan Opera

Verdi based his Rigoletto on Victor Hugo’s 1832 play Le roi s’amuse, which tells of the desperate attempts by Rigoletto, the hunch-backed jester at the court of the Duke of Mantua, to protect his daughter from a disastrous relationship with the lecherous Duke, but who falls victim to his own scheming. From the Met Opera archives, this production was filmed in December 1981, and stars Louis Quilico in the title role, Luciano Pavarotti as the Duke, Christiane Eda-Pierre as Rigoletto’s daughter Gilda, Ara Berberian as Sparafucile and Isola Jones as Maddalena. In this recording, the Met Opera Orchestra and Chorus are led by the late James Levine, production is by John Dexter, and this performance can be seen on Tuesday, April 6th.

Anna Netrebko and Peter Mattei in Tchaikovsky’s ‘Eugene Onegin’ –
Courtesy Metropolitan Opera

Eugene Onegin is Tchaikovsky’s account of Alexander Pushkin’s romantic tragedy in which the young and rather naïve Tatiana (Anna Netrebko) falls in love with the dashing and handsome Onegin – sung by Peter Mattei. He spurns her love, only to regret his decision when she ultimately marries Prince Gremin (Štefan Kocán). Onegin – devastated by Tatiana’s decision not to betray her husband – flirts with Olga (Elena Maximova), wife of his friend Lenski (Alexey Dolgov), and is challenged to a fatal duel. This performance – from April 2017 – is conducted by Robin Ticciati, with production by Deborah Warner, and is available to watch on Wednesday, April 7th.

Renata Scotto and Plácido Domingo in Zandonai’s ‘Francesca da Rimini’
© Paolo Heffernan – Courtesy Metropolitan Opera

Another recording from the Met archives is the April 1984 production of Riccardo Zandonai’s Francesca da Rimini, the featured work on Thursday, April 8th. Based on the play by Gabriele D’Annunzio, it tells of Francesca – a historical contemporary of Dante Alighieri whom he portrayed as a character in his Divine Comedy – who is tricked into marrying the deformed Giancotto. During the deception she and Giancotto’s brother, Paolo, fall in love, but they are ultimately betrayed by another brother of Giancotto, who also desires Francesca, and when Giancotto discovers the truth, the lovers lose their lives. Renata Scotto sings the title role, Plácido Domingo is Paolo, and Giancotto is sung by Cornell MacNeil in this production by Piero Faggioni, conducted by the late James Levine.

A scene from Act II of Dmitri Shostakovich’s “The Nose” with Paulo Szot as Kovalyov
Photo: Ken Howard/Metropolitan Opera Taken during the rehearsal on March 2, 2010 at the Metropolitan Opera in New York City

The Nose – the first opera written by Dmitri Shostakovich – is the featured work on Friday, April 9th. A satirical work based on Nikolai Gogol’s 1836 story of the same name, it tells of a St Petersburg official, Kovalyov, whose nose mysteriously goes missing, develops a life of its own, and the lengths to which Kovalyov goes to try and recover it. Recorded in October 2013, it stars Andrey Popov as the Police Inspector, Paulo Szot as Kovalyov and Alexander Lewis as The Nose. Production is by William Kentridge, and Pavel Smelkov conducts.

A scene from Gounod’s “Roméo et Juliette,” with Anna Netrebko and Roberto Alagna in the title roles. Photo: Ken Howard/Metropolitan Opera

Shakespeare’s Romeo and Juliet has for hundreds of years inspired any number of creative representations of the tragic young couple from 14th century Verona, not least that of French composer Charles Gounod whose Roméo et Juliette is the featured opera on Friday, April 10th. This production by Guy Joosten – which was filmed in December 2007 – stars Anna Netrebko and Roberto Alagna in the title roles, with Nathan Gunn as Mercutio and Robert Lloyd as Friar Laurence. The conductor is Plácido Domingo.

Met Opera’s production of Luisa Miller with Betrand de Billy conducting, Sonya Yoncheva as Luisa, Piotr Beczala as Rodolfo and Plácido Domingo as Miller, 3/26/18. Photo by Chris Lee

Verdi’s Luisa Miller – based on the play Kabale und Liebe by Friedrich von Schiller – tells of a young village girl, Luisa, who is in love with a man she knows as Carlo, but who is in fact the debonair nobleman Rodolfo, son of Count Walter. Her father has another prospective husband in mind for her, just as Walter has a different potential bride lined up for Rodolfo. The Count and his scheming steward, Wurm, are determined to prevent the two young lovers from marrying, and treachery and intrigue abound, as Luisa is forced to make the agonizing choice between her father and the man she loves. This production, filmed in April, 2018, stars Sonya Yoncheva in the title role, with Piotr Beczała as Rodolfo, Plácido Domingo as Miller, Alexander Vinogradov as Count Walter and Dmitry Belosselskiy as Wurm. The conductor is Bertrand de Billy, production is by Elijah Moshinsky, and the date of transmission is Sunday, April 11th.

All Nightly Met Opera Streams begin at 7.30 pm ET and remain available via metopera.org for 23 hours. The performances are also accessible on all Met Opera on Demand apps.

Information sourced from Metropolitan Opera program notes

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