Opéra Nice Côte d’Azur stages a new version of Jules Massenet’s opera Werther in the first week of June.

This four-act lyric drama in five scenes, with a French libretto by Édouard Blau, Paul Milliet and Georges Hartmann, is adapted from the German novel The Sorrows of Young Werther by Johann Wolfgang von Goethe, a book based on both fact and on Goethe’s early life. Massenet composed the opera between 1885 and 1887, setting it in the small town of Wetzlar, north of Frankfurt, where Goethe had been living when he wrote the novel.

Werther was rejected by Léon Carvalho, director of the Opéra-Comique, because he thought it too depressing, and it was only after Massenet’s Manon was successfully staged in Vienna that the management of the Vienna Court Opera requested a follow-up from Massenet. Werther was translated into German by Max Kalbeck, and the opera premiered in Vienna on February 16, 1892.

Also in Paris, it was only the popularity of Manon that persuaded the Opéra-Comique to stage Werther at the theatre in 1893, but its success was limited, and it was withdrawn from the repertoire. The following year Werther was staged by the Metropolitan Opera in New York, and then in Chicago, New Orleans, Milan, and throughout the French provinces, with a single performance at Covent Garden as well. In 1903, a highly successful revival by Albert Carré was staged at the Opéra-Comique, and today, Werther is Massenet’s second most popular work worldwide – after Manon.

The opera tells of the rather dreary young poet Werther who is asked by Charlotte’s father to accompany her to a ball, as her fiancé Albert has been gone for several months. Werther falls in love with Charlotte, but she goes ahead with her marriage to Albert as she had promised her dying mother she would. Werther is inconsolable and Charlotte ultimately realises that she is in love with him too. When Werther borrows pistols from Albert – on the pretext of going hunting – Charlotte is overcome with worry and rushes off to find Werther, only to find him dying of gunshot wounds. They both declare their love for each other before he dies.

The title role in this Nice Opera production of Werther is sung by French tenor Thomas Bettinger – whose voice is described by Forum Opera as “warm, powerful and well conducted” – and who has previously sung the role at Marseilles Opera. Mr Bettinger has performed in most of the major opera houses across France, including the Opéra Garnier in Paris, in a wide range of roles such as Cavaradossi in Puccini’s Tosca, Lt Pinkerton in his Madame Butterfly, Chevalier des Grieux in Massenet’s Manon, Lenski in Tchaikovsky’s Eugene Onegin, Alfredo in Verdi’s La Traviata and Don José in Bizet’s Carmen. In the concert hall, Thomas Bettinger has sung the tenor part in Beethoven’s 9th Symphony at the Madeleine Church in Paris as well as in Bordeaux and Avignon, and in Haydn’s Creation at Avignon Opéra.

Anaïk Morel takes the role of Charlotte. Following successful appearances in Richard Strauss’ Ariadne auf Naxos in Hamburg and Toulouse, in Bizet’s Carmen at the Royal Opera House, Covent Garden, and Poulenc’s Dialogues des Carmélites in Toulouse, the French mezzo-soprano – whose voice is described by Classical Source as “agile and alluring” – will again perform in Hamburg – in the title role of Carmen and as Marguerite in Berlioz’s La Damnation de Faust. A passionate interpreter of French songs and Lieder, Anaïk Morel regularly appears in concert and recital, having performed at the Salzburg Festival, and with the ensembles such as Orchestre Symphonique de Montréal, Les Musiciens du Louvre, Les Siècles, the Brussels Philharmonic and Musique des Lumières.

Sophie is sung by French soprano Jeanne Gérard. Acclaimed
for her “powerful acting” and her “transcendent voice” (Revizor), she will be seen in the role of Pamina in Mozart’s Die Zauberflöte at the Grand Théâtre, Scène Nationale de Mâcon, in that of Dorinda in Thomas Adès’ The Tempest, and The Second Woman in Purcell’s Dido and Aeneas. As a concert performer, Ms Gérard has appeared at the Chorégies d’Orange, Verbier Music Festival, Concert Hommage à Beethoven at the Opéra National de Paris and the Aix-en-Provence Festival de Pâques.

French Baritone Jean-Luc Ballestra takes the role of Albert. Past appearances include those at Opéra de Paris, Opéra de Nice, Le Monnaie in Brussels, Liceu in Barcelona, Teatro Real in Madrid, and with the Glyndebourne Touring Opera. Apart from the role of Albert, his repertoire includes those of Masetto in Mozart’s Don Giovanni, Silvano in Verdi’s Un ballo in Maschera, Marcello in Puccini’s La Bohème, Lescaut in Puccini’s Manon Lescaut and Escamillo in Bizet’s Carmen. He made his American debut with the San Francisco Symphony in Ravel’s L’Heure Espagnole, and has also sung at the Salzburg, Vienna and Aix-en-Provence festivals.

Also in the cast are Ugo Rabec as Le Bailli, Thomas Morris as Schmidt, Laurent Deleuil as Johann, Victoria Dupuy as Kätchen and Philippe Zang as Brühlmann.

The Nice Philharmonic Orchestra and the Nice Opera Children’s Chorus (director Philippe Négrel) are led by Jacques Lacombe, Music and Artistic Director of the Orchestre symphonique de Mulhouse. He has also served as Principal Conductor of the Bonn Opera, Music Director of Orchestre symphonique de Trois-Rivières and of Orchestre de Lorraine in Metz. Maestro Lacombe is a former Music Director of the New Jersey Symphony Orchestra, and principal guest conductor of Orchestre Symphonique de Montréal.

Stage, production and costume design are by Sandra Pocceschi and Giacomo Strada, and lighting by Giacomo Gorini.

The Opéra Nice Côte d’Azur production of Massenet’s Werther takes place on 2nd, 4th and 6th June. For further information and tickets visit the Nice Opera website. Tickets may also be reserved by telephone on
04 92 17 40 79.

Information sourced from:

Nice Opera programme notes

Artists’ websites


Opera Scotland programme notes

Boston Lyric Opera programme notes

Metropolitan Opera programme notes

This article originally appeared in Riviera Buzz

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Met Opera highlights operas featured in ‘Aria Code’

Christine Goerke in the title role of Puccini’s ‘Turandot’ – Photo: Marty Sohl / Met Opera

The Nightly Met Opera Streams beginning Monday, May 31st, highlight the collaboration between the Metropolitan Opera and WQXR – New York’s Classical Radio Station. For the next week, the Met presents some of the productions from its Live in HD series of transmissions which featured during the podcast series Aria Code, broadcast on WQXR.


Puccini’s final opera, Turandot, is the first of these productions. It stars Christine Goerke as the icy Princess Turandot who is determined never to be possessed by a man, setting her suitors the task of answering three riddles at which none was successful until the arrival of Prince Calaf – sung by Yusif Eyvazov. Also in the cast are Eleonor Buratto and James Morris, and Franco Zeffirelli’s production – recorded on October 12th, 2019 – is conducted by Yannick Nézet-Séguin.

The production on Tuesday, June 1st is Saint-Saëns’ Samson et Dalila, which stars Elīna Garanča and Robert Alagna in the title roles. With a cast which includes Laurent Naouri, Elchin Azizov and Dmitry Belosselskiy, the opera retells the Biblical epic in which the heroic Samson falls victim to the seductive powers of Dalila, bringing fearful consequences for both. Filmed on October 20th, 2018, Samson et Dalila was produced by Darko Tresnjak, and the conductor was Sir Mark Elder.

Wednesday, June 2nd, features Bizet’s ever-popular Carmen, starring Aleksandra Kurzak as the defiant, seductive and bewitching Carmen, with Robert Alagna as Don Jose who – to his detriment – falls in love with her. Clémentine Margraine is Micaela and Alexander Vionogradov sings Escamillo. Louis Langrée conducted this performance, which was produced by Sir Richard Eyre, and filmed on February 2nd, 2019.

On Thursday, June 3rd, Pretty Yende stars in the title role of Donizetti’s La Fille du Régiment – the romantic comedy about the fearless young orphan, Marie, raised by a regiment of French soldiers. Stephanie Blythe is the Marquise of Berkenfield, and actress Kathleen Turner appears in a cameo role as the Duchess of Krakenthorp. Javier Camarena is Marie’s lover, Tonio, and Maurizio Muraro is Sgt Sulpice. The conductor is Enrique Mazzola, production is by Laurent Pelly, and this performance was filmed on March 2nd, 2019.

George and Ira Gershwin’s only opera, Porgy and Bess, is the featured work on Friday, June 4th. With its gorgeous score of memorable songs, the opera stars Eric Owens and Angel Blue in the title roles, Golda Schultz and Donovan Singletary as Clara and Jake, Latonia Moore as Serena, and Frederick Ballentine and Alfred Walker as Sportin’ Life and Crown. David Robertson conducts this performance and production is by James Robinson. The recording took place on February 1st, 2020.

The featured work on Saturday, June 5th is Verdi’s Macbeth. Based on the Shakespeare tragedy of the man who would stop at nothing – not even murder – to become king, Macbeth stars Anna Netrebko in what’s been described as a sensational portrayal of Lady Macbeth, with Željko Lučić in the title role. Joseph Calleja is Macduff, and René Pape is Banquo. Fabio Luisi conducts this performance from October 11, 2014, and production is by Adrian Noble.

On Sunday, June 6th, Anthony Roth Constanzo takes the title role in Philip Glass’s Akhnaten. Set in Ancient Egypt, this “creative depiction of history” (in the words of Roth Constanzo) is based on the accession to the throne of the pharaoh Amenhotep IV – thought to have been around 1352 BC – on his religious convictions and the consequences of his actions. Dísella Lárusdóttir is Queen Tye, J’Nai Bridges, in her Met debut, is Akhnaten’s wife Nefertiti, Aaron Blake is the High Priest of Amon, Will Liverman is Horemhab, Richard Bernstein is Aye and Zachary James is Amenhotep III. Production is by Phelim McDermott, and Karen Kamensek conducts this performance filmed on November 23rd, 2019, during the opera’s premiere season at the Met.

All Nightly Met Opera Streams begin at 7.30 pm (ET)/12.30 am UK time (BST) the following day, 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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Boston Pops Spring Celebration features classic Ella Fitzgerald concert

Ella Fitzgerald and Arthur Fiedler © Michael Peirce

The Boston Pops Orchestra is well into its Spring Celebration series of streamed concerts on BSO NOW!. Four of these programs have been newly recorded, but the series also features two concerts, conducted by the legendary Arthur Fiedler, from the Orchestra’s archives – and one of these is the fabulous Pops Classic, Exquisite Ella – a performance by “The First Lady of Song”, Ella Fitzgerald, filmed at a live performance in June 1976, and not seen for decades.

This treasure for Fitzgerald enthusiasts was recorded as part of the WGBH Evening at Pops series – one of the longest-running programs on PBS, showcasing the music of the Boston Pops from 1970 to 2004. Following a rousing Boston Pops selection from the Broadway musical Guys and Dolls, the Orchestra was joined by the Tommy Flanagan Trio – and Ella Fitzgerald stepped onto the stage at Symphony Hall to a standing ovation. From that moment on, the audience was hers, completely captivated by her honeyed tones as she mesmerized them with songs by luminaries such as Rogers and Hart, George and Ira Gershwin, Cole Porter, Duke Ellington and Antônio Carlos Jobim.

Ella Fitzgerald with Arthur Fiedler applauding © Michael Peirce

During her reign as the most popular female jazz singer in the United States for more than half a century, Ella Fitzgerald won 13 Grammy awards, selling over 40 million albums, with her extraordinary ability to make every song her own – whether sultry ballads or both sweet and feisty jazz numbers. With her amazing vocal range, her name became synonymous with the greatest in jazz – Duke Ellington, Count Basie, Nat King Cole, Frank Sinatra, Dizzy Gillespie, Benny Goodman. Ella Fitzgerald appeared in the top venues world-wide, drawing audiences from every nationality in all walks of life. She was widely adored.

Exquisite Ella is available to view online from 12.00 pm (ET) on Thursday, May 27th, until June 26th, on the Boston Symphony Orchestra website, where you can also find details on ticketing and packages.

The other five concerts in the series are:

The Boston Pops Celebrates Mother’s Day: Honoring Women
Newly Recorded for Spring 2021
Available until June 5th

Pops in Love
Pops Classic from the Archives
Available until June 12th

A Tribute to John Williams
Newly Recorded for Spring 2021
Available until June 19th

An Evening with Chris Thile and the Stars of Tomorrow
Newly Recorded for Spring 2021
Available June 3 – July 3

The Roots of Jazz: American Voices
Newly Recorded for Spring 2021
Available June 10th – July 10th

Details of all these concerts, and ticketing, are also available on the Boston Symphony Orchestra website.

Information sourced from:

Boston Symphony Orchestra program notes

Ella Fitzgerald website

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Met Opera presents Three Divas Live in Concert from Château de Versailles

Isabel Leonard, Alyn Pérez and Nadine Sierra – courtesy Metropolitan Opera

The latest program in the Metropolitan Opera’s Live in Concert series features Three Divas – sopranos Alyn Pérez and Nadine Sierra, and mezzo-soprano Isabel Leonard. It will be filmed in the gorgeous setting of France’s Opéra Royal du Chateau de Versailles.

These three stars from the impressive list of artists who have performed at the Met, will sing arias from operas such as Gounod’s Roméo et Juliette, Mozart’s Le Nozze di Figaro, Don Giovanni and Così fan tutte, Leoncavallo’s Pagliacci, Offenbach’s Les Contes d’Hoffmann, Bellini’s Norma, Strauss’s Der Rosenkavalier and Bizet’s Carmen – as well as a selection of songs.

Among the highlights of Alyn Pérez’s career are her performances at the Met – in Thaïs, as Mimi and Musetta in La Bohème and Juliette in Roméo et Juliette. Other highlights include her portrayal of Violetta in La traviata for Opernhaus Zürich, Hamburgische Staatsoper, Deutsche Staatsoper Berlin, Bayerische Staatsoper, San Francisco Opera, Teatro all Scala Milan, and the Royal Opera House Covent Garden, as well as debut performances as Mimì at the Bolshoi Theatre and as Alice Ford in the Glyndebourne production of Falstaff.

In concert, Ms Pérez – whose “lyric soprano is pure and honeyed in tone” and deployed “with elegance and tenderness” (Associated Press) – has appeared with Yannick Nézet-Séguin and Montreal’s Orchestre Métropolitain in Verdi’s Requiem, in Mozart’s Requiem with Antonio Pappano and the Accademia Santa Cecilia Orchestra in Rome, and in Mahler’s Symphony No 2 with Essen Philharmoniker. She has also sung in gala concerts at the Royal Opera House Covent Garden, and has made guest appearances at several gala concerts for the Metropolitan Opera.

Le Monde writes of Nadine Sierra: “Her voice with its pure, incisive and delicate timbre radiates tenderness in the middle register, while she floats her golden high register to the limits of audibility.” Ms Sierra’s most recent appearances have included Donna Anna in Don Giovanni at Chorégies d’Orange, Juliette at San Francisco Opera, and Susanna in The Marriage of Figaro at the Metropolitan Opera. She also sang this role at Staatsoper Berlin, where she appeared as Nanetta in Falstaff and Sophie in Der Rosenkavalier as well. Other appearances include Juliette at Opéra National de Bordeaux, a house debut at Opéra de Las Palmas as Musetta in La bohème, and she sang the title role in Lucia di Lammermoor at Gran Teatre del Liceu in Barcelona.

In recital, Nadine Sierra has recently appeared for the Metropolitan Opera and in concert at the Klangvokal Festival in Dortmund, and previous performances include those with Yannick Nézet-Séguin and the Philadelphia Orchestra, with Antonion Pappano and the Accademia Nazionale di Santa Cecilia, in Teatro La Fenice’s televised Capodanno celebration, the Richard Tucker Gala at Carnegie Hall, and concert debuts in Prague, Bordeaux, and Baden-Baden.

Multiple Grammy Award-winning Isabel Leonard has a repertoire which ranges from the music of Vivaldi to Mozart to Nico Muhly. Roles in which she has appeared include Rosina in Il barbiere di Siviglia, Angelina in La Cenerentola, Cherubino in Le nozze di Figaro, Dorabella in Così fan tutte, Charlotte in Werther, and the title roles in La Périchole and Der Rosenkavalier. In addition to the Metropolitan Opera, Ms Leonard has performed in many of the world’s major opera houses, including the Vienna State Opera, Paris Opera, Bavarian State Opera, Carnegie Hall, Teatro Comunale di Bologna, Lyric Opera of Chicago, San Francisco Opera, and Los Angeles Opera, and sung at the Salzburg, Glyndebourne and Aix-en-Provence festivals.

In frequent demand as a recitalist, Isabel Leonard – whose voice, according to Vulture, “is purest vicuña: warm, fine, and naturally colored” – has appeared with the Cleveland Orchestra, Chicago Symphony Orchestra, New York Philharmonic, Los Angeles Philharmonic, Boston Symphony Orchestra, Vienna Philharmonic and the San Francisco Symphony, among others.

Nadine Sierra as Susanna, Ailyn Pérez as the Countess, and Isabel Leonard as Cherubino in Mozart’s ‘Le Nozze di Figaro’ © Ken Howard/Metropolitan Opera

Accompanying the Met’s Three Divas is pianist Vlad Iftinca – who is also on the assistant conductor roster at the Metropolitan Opera – and guitarist Pablo Sáinz-Villegas – “the global ambassador of Spanish guitar”, according to Billboard magazine.

The glorious Opéra Royal du Chateau de Versailles is one of the greatest works of the architect Ange-Jacques Gabriel. Commissioned by Louis XV, it included a theatre hall, ballroom and a hall for feasts. The sculpted decoration was entrusted to Augustin Pajou and the paintings were commissioned from Louis-Jacques Durameau. The largest concert hall in Europe at that time, this elegant structure was also a great technical achievement and an impressive feat of decorative refinement.

Inaugurated on 16th May 1770 for the feast for the wedding of the Dauphin and the Archduchess Marie-Antoinette, it was used for royal weddings and to honour foreign sovereigns. The theatre was last used for a celebration of the French Court on 18th July 1784, when a ball was given in honour of the King of Sweden Gustave III. The Banquet of the Guards, five years later on 1st October 1789, was the last event held here during the Ancien Régime.  Today the Palace of Versailles is home to operas, concerts, gala evenings and ballets.

The Metropolitan Opera concert will be hosted by Christine Goerke in New York City, and Gary Halvorson, the award-winning director of the Met’s Live in HD cinema transmissions, directs.  The performance will be streamed live on the Metropolitan Opera website on Saturday, 22nd May, at 1.00 pm EST/6.00 pm BST/7.00 pm CEST, and will then be available on demand for 14 days. 

Tickets cost $20 and can be purchased on the Met’s website at metopera.org. The program can be viewed on your computer, mobile device, or home entertainment system (via Chromecast or AirPlay). 

Information sourced from:

Metropolitan Opera programme notes

Artists’ websites

Opéra Royal du Chateau de Versailles

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San Francisco Ballet closes Digital Season with ‘Swan Lake’

San Francisco Ballet in Tomasson’s ‘Swan Lake’ – © Erik Tomasson

San Francisco Ballet closes its 2021 Digital Season with Helgi Tomasson’s interpretation of one of the best loved ballets in the classical repertoire – Swan Lake.

Swan Lake’s introduction to the world, however, was somewhat inauspicious. Tchaikovsky was commissioned to write what turned out to be a magnificent score in 1875, by the director of the Moscow Imperial Theatre, Vladimir Begichev, who was eager to promote the artistry of Russia’s master composer. It’s also believed that Begichev crafted the story of Swan Lake, which was most likely to have been adapted from Russian and Germanic folk and fairy tales.

The original version of Swan Lake was choreographed by one Julius Reisinger, and it premiered unsuccessfully at the Bolshoi Theatre in Moscow on February 20, 1877, since Reisinger was unable to cope with Tchaikovsky’s symphonic-style score. It wasn’t until 1895, following a concert held at the Mariinsky Theatre in memory of Tchaikovsky, that Marius Petipa, director of the Mariinsky Ballet company, decided to stage a ballet using the composer’s debut score.

Yuan Yuan Tan and Tiit Helimets in Tomasson’s ‘Swan Lake’ – © Erik Tomasson

He and his assistant Lev Ivanov re-choreographed the ballet, and composer Riccardo Drigo, then chief conductor at the St Petersburg Imperial Theatre, was charged with revising the score – the version which most choreographers follow today. The premiere of this new interpretation of Swan Lake took place at the Mariinsky Theatre in St Petersburg on January 15, 1895 – and, as we know, the ballet’s popularity was sealed.

Tiit Helimets in Tomasson’s ‘Swan Lake’ – © Erik Tomasson

There are probably almost as many variations on the interpretation of Swan Lake as there are artistic directors and choreographers, since it’s sufficiently adaptable to accommodate a degree of re-interpretation without deviating significantly from its classical origins. Tomasson has placed it in a Georgian-style setting, retaining some of the Petipa and Ivanov choreography, and introducing some of his own, but never straying too far from the original. He introduced a Prologue to set the scene for the story that follows, and has changed the setting of Act I from the interior of an Imperial-style palace to a street scene outside the palace walls. The choreography for Act II, and the Black Swan pas de deux in Act III remain true to tradition.

Yuan Yuan Tan and Alexander Reneff-Olson in Tomasson’s ‘Swan Lake’ – © Erik Tomasson

Filmed in February 2016 at the War Memorial Opera House in San Francisco, this production stars Yuan Yuan Tam in the dual role of Odette/Odile and Tiit Helimets as Prince Siegfried. Alexander Reneff-Olson is Von Rothbart, and the Pas de Trois is danced by Dores André, Taras Domitro and Sasha De Sola.

Scenery and costume design are by Jonathan Fensom, lighting is by Jennifer Tipton and projection design by Sven Ortel.

San Francisco Ballet in Tomasson’s ‘Swan Lake’ – © Erik Tomasson

Music Director Martin West leads the San Francisco Ballet Orchestra in Tchaikovsky’s sumptuous score, with violinist Cordula Merks and cellist Eric Sung.

San Francisco Ballet’s production of Swan Lake is available to view from 6.00 pm (Pacific) on Thursday May 20th to June 9th. Full details of ticketing and packages is available on the San Francisco Ballet website.

Information sourced from:

San Francisco Ballet program notes

Ballet in Russia

The History Channel

The Mariinsky Theatre program notes

The Royal Opera House program notes

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English National Ballet celebrates a return to the stage

Emma Hawes and Isaac Hernandez in ‘Senseless Kindness’ by Yuri Possokhov –
part of ENB’s ‘Reunion’

English National Ballet celebrates the return of live performances next week with a programme of five works by contemporary choreographers – Sidi Larbi Cherkaoui, Russell Maliphant, Yuri Possokhov, Stina Quagebeur and Arielle Smith. These ballets were all created for ENB’s Digital Season late last year, but this will be their first live performance.

The programme opens with Cherkaoui’s Laid in Earth, set to Dido’s Lament from Purcell’s opera Dido and Aeneas, with the addition of new electronic music by Olga Wojciechowska, a long-time collaborator of Cherkaoui. This aria – performed by mezzo soprano Catherine Backhouse – is sung by Dido after Aeneas has abandoned her, and before she casts herself onto a funeral pyre.

Precious Adams in ‘Laid in Earth’ by Sidi Larbi Cherkaoui –
part of ENB’s ‘Reunion’

Cherkaoui’s work is a re-imagination of Dido’s Lament for dance, floating between the realms of the living and the dead. According to The Times, “Cherkaoui’s sensuous choreography has a slowly mesmeric rise and fall while Purcell’s Dido’s Lament seals the sombre tone”. Costume design is by Belgian fashion designer Dries Van Noten.

Fernanda Oliveira and Fabian Reimair in ‘Echoes’ by Russell Maliphant –
part of ENB’s ‘Reunion’

Integral to Russell Maliphant’s Echoes is his signature style which highlights the relationship between fluidity of movement, ethereal lighting and music. For this “haunting work of extraordinary sensuality” (The Stage), he has collaborated with Panagiotis Tomaras on video projections and lighting, with commissioned sound design by Dana Fouras, and costumes by Stevie Stewart. The Times refers to it as “Secretive and seductive”, and The Observer as “Propulsive and transfixing”.

Alison McWhinney and Isaac Hernandez in ‘Senseless Kindness’ by Yuri Possokhov –
part of ENB’s ‘Reunion’

This programme represents the first occasion on which Russian choreographer Yuri Possokhov has worked with a UK company. A former principal dancer with the Bolshoi, Royal Danish and San Francisco ballets, he is well established as a choreographer, and is now Choreographer in Residence at San Francisco Ballet. Possokhov has based his ballet Senseless Kindness on Vasily Grossman’s novel, Life and Fate. It’s a sweeping view of Soviet society during World War II, as seen through the eyes of a Russian family, and set to the music of Dmitri Shostakovich – his Piano Trio No 1. Costume design is by Federica Romano.

English National Ballet dancers in ‘Take Five Blues’ by Stina Quagebeur –
part of ‘Reunion’

For Take Five Blues, ENB Associate Choreographer Stina Quagebeur draws her inspiration from Nigel Kennedy’s Vivace – itself inspired by Bach’s Concerto for 2 Violins and Orchestra – and Paul Desmond’s jazz hit Take Five. In this high-spirited work, in which classical music meets jazz, eight dancers celebrate the joy of companionship, connecting with each other through the melodies and rhythms of the score. Described by iNews as “sleek and appealingly informal”, this jazzy piece – costumed by the choreographer – highlights the versatility of classical ballet and its ability to adapt to music of different genres.

The final work in the programme, Arielle Smith’s Jolly Folly, is just that – a fun and lively work that could have been lifted from an old Hollywood movie. Performed in the style of silent-era cinema, with costumes – designed by Smith – to match, it’s described by The Stage as “Dazzling and delightful”. The score includes music by Tchaikovsky, Strauss and Mozart – but in the hands of the Klazz Brothers, it’s given the twist of Cuban and Afro-Cuban jazz, as is their speciality.

The music for Laid in Earth and Senseless Kindness is performed live by musicians of English National Ballet Philharmonic, led by Music Director Gavin Sutherland.

English National Ballet presents Reunion at Sadler’s Wells in London from 17th to 30th May. For more information, and to book tickets, visit the ENB website.

Information sourced from:
English National Ballet programme notes
Artists’ websites
Klazz Brothers – AllMusic

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SFSymphony+ highlights diversity in music

Video still from SF Symphony’s CURRENTS: Zimbabwean music and dance, curated by Chinyakare Ensemble

There’s a lot of activity on the SFSymphony+ streaming platform at present. Demonstrating yet again the wealth of creativity caused by the cancellation of live performances – happily restored again as of this week – the San Francisco Symphony continues to celebrate the diversity of music-making in three very different online series – CURRENTS which explores what happens when classical music meets different musical cultures, SoundBox which is described as “eclectic music for adventurous listeners”, and a Chamber Music series for those who prefer a more traditional approach to classical music.

The latest program in the CURRENTS series, Mavambo Engoma, Rooted in Music – which has just gone live – has been curated by the Chinyakare Ensemble and explores Zimbabwean music and dance in a program that celebrates music as the root of family, community and the world. The Chinyakare Ensemble is a family of musicians, dancers and teachers, whose aim is to preserve and share the traditional culture of their home country, Zimbabwe, and to use music and dance to promote community building and education.

This program, in which members of the Chinyakare Ensemble are joined by musicians of the San Francisco Symphony, presents a range of performances of the traditional dance, music and culture of Zimbabwe and Southern Africa. Colorful stories are portrayed, showing scenes from everyday life, providing a window on the beauty, excitement and spirit of traditional Zimbabwean dance and song.

CURRENTS: Mavambo eNgoma, Rooted in Music is available to view on the SFSymphony+ website.

San Francisco Symphony’s Yukiko Kurakata – courtesy San Francisco Symphony

Presently streaming on the SFSymphony+ Chamber Music series is Mozart’s Duo in G Major for Violin and Viola K423. Written in the summer of 1783, it was the first of two pieces which Mozart wrote, apparently as a favour for Michael Haydn – the younger brother of Joseph Haydn – who, due to health issues, was unable to complete the six pieces which he was writing on commission for the Archbishop Coloredo. This performance features San Francisco Symphony musicians Yukiko Kurakata (violin) and Matthew Young (viola), and can be viewed on the SFSymphony+ website.

On May 13th there’ll be a new program in the Chamber Music series, featuring the Duo for Violin and Cello, Opus 7 by Zoltán Kodály, performed by SF Symphony musicians Victor Romasevich, (violin) and Jill Rachuy Brindel (cello). This piece was written following one of Kodály’s folk-song hunting trips – undertaken with his friend Bela Bartók – who shared Kodály’s vision of incorporating Hungarian folk music into their respective styles of composing. This work will be available to view on the following link.

The most recent transmission in the Soundbox series, entitled Patterns, has been curated by SF Symphony Music Director Esa-Pekka Salonen. He conducts and presents a program which, using Minimalism as its theme, shows how music can be structured using patterns which build on one another.

The program opens with Steve Reich’s Clapping Music – a work written in 1972, which has no melody, harmony, instruments or voices, but relies completely on rhythm. It’s based on a version of the traditional African bell rhythm. This is followed by the World Premiere of a medieval-inspired piece entitled Saltat sobrius : Fantasy upon Sederunt príncipes composed by Salonen himself, and based on Pérotin’s four-voice chant setting, a gradual for St Stephen, composed around the year 1200.

Video still from Arvo Part piece (SoundBox: Patterns episode) featuring the Lines Ballet

Arvo Pärt’s Spiegel im Spiegel is the setting for a beautiful duet by two dancers – Adji Cissoko and Shuaib Elhassan – from Alonzo King’s LINES Ballet, choreographed by that master of contemporary dance, Alonzo King. The final work is Terry Riley’s In C – an unusual piece of Minimalism which consists of 53 short musical phrases, played by musicians who have complete control over which phrases they play, and the number of times that they play them.

Not only is Patterns a fascinating concept, but it’s visually gorgeous as well. It can be viewed on this link.

For further information and tickets for these programs, visit the SF Symphony+ website.

The good news now is that live concerts are returning to Davies Symphony Hall, and these will be previewed in future posts on ArtsPreview. See the Symphony’s website for more details.

Information sourced from:

San Francisco Symphony program notes

Zoltán Kodály Duo for Violin and Cello

Fantasy upon ‘Sederunt príncipes’

Terry Riley – In C

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Met Opera streams ‘Wagnerians Live in Concert’

‘Wagnerians Live in Concert’ – image courtesy Metropolitan Opera

Continuing its Met Stars Live in Concert series, the Metropolitan Opera features four luminaries of Wagnerian opera, streaming live from the grand Hessisches Staatsheater in Wiesbaden on Saturday, May 8th.

Starring in this performance are sopranos Christine Goerke and Elza van den Heever, tenor Andreas Schager and baritone Michael Volle, accompanied by pianist Craig Terry.

These powerful artists will present a program of arias and duets from Wagner operas such as Der Fliegende Holländer, Lohengrin, Parsifal, Das Rheingold, Tannhäuser and Die Walküre, as well as his Wesendonck Lieder. They will also perform a selection of songs by Richard Strauss, including Allerseelen and Cäcilie, and the final scene from Die Frau ohne Schatten.

The concert will be filmed with multiple cameras, linked by satellite to a control room in New York City, where the host will be American countertenor Anthony Roth Costanzo. Gary Halvorson, the award-winning director of the Met’s Live in HD cinema transmissions, directs. 

This Met Opera performance will take place in the grand foyer of The Hessisches Staatstheater in Wiesbaden, capital of the state of Hesse in Germany. Also known as the Staatstheater Wiesbaden or Theater Wiesbaden, it was designed by Ferdinand Fellner and Hermann Hellmer in the Baroque revival style, and was inaugurated in 1894. The resident orchestra is the Hessisches Staatsorchester, and the theatre, with its four stages, is host to operas, plays, ballets, musicals and concerts, and also the annual festival Internationale Maifestspiele Wiesbaden, established in 1896 after the Bayreuth Festival.

Großes Haus © Sven-Helge Czichy Am Warmen Damm Foto: Sven-Helge Czichy

The recital takes place on Saturday, May 8th at 1.00 pm (EST), 6.00 pm (BST) and 7.00 pm (CEST). Tickets at $20 can be purchased on the Metropolitan Opera website. The performance will be available for on demand viewing for 14 days following the live event, and can be viewed on computer, mobile device, or home entertainment system (via Chromecast or AirPlay). 

Information sourced from

Metropolitan Opera program notes

The Hessisches Staatstheater

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SFJAZZ ‘Fridays at Five’ celebrates the music of Miles Davis

‘Miles from India’ poster – courtesy SFJAZZ

Fridays at Five sessions during the month of May are all dedicated to a celebration of the music of Miles Davis – American trumpeter, bandleader and composer, who is regarded as one of the most influential and acclaimed figures of 20th century music and the history of jazz.

Miles from India is the title of the May 7th Fridays at Five transmission. It takes its name from the 2008 album which was the brainchild of the late jazz producer/arranger Bob Belden and Yusuf Gandhi – owner of the Times Square label – following the Indian instrumentation used on Davis’ 1972 album On the Corner. As a tribute to Bob Belden, an ensemble made up of Davis’ nephew and drummer Vince Wilburn, the late drumming icon Ndugu Chancler, bassist Daryl Jones, saxophonist Javon Jackson, khanjira virtuoso V Selvaganesh, and guitarist Rez Abbasi joined forces to present a selection of pieces from the Davis songbook. Ranging from Kind of Blue to Bitches Brew, these numbers were performed in concert at SFJAZZ in May 2018.

Robert Glasper appears in the May 14th tribute to Miles Davis. Under the title Everything’s Beautiful it features music from Glasper’s re-interpretation of Davis’ compositions of the same name, which originated in his score to Don Cheadle’s 2015 film Miles Ahead. Grammy-winning pianist, composer and exponent of acoustic jazz, hip-hop and contemporary R&B, Glasper has been described by Interview as “Intelligent, creative, and incredibly impassioned ….. the ideal flag-bearer for the new jazz era.” He appears with his ensemble – bassist Burniss Travis, drummer Justin Tyson and guitarist Mike Severson – who are joined by R&B star and Grammy-winner Bilal on vocals, in this Fridays at Five session filmed at SFJAZZ in May 2018.

This transmission is sponsored by Blue Note at Sea, which is working toward a revival sailing in 2023, hosted by Glasper and Marcus Miller, alongside dozens of the world’s best contemporary jazz musicians.

Flamenco Sketches is the title of the May 21st Fridays at Five session, and stars pianist Chano Domínguez whose speciality is jazz in the flamenco style. Domínguez hails from Cádiz – regarded as the birthplace of flamenco – and it’s there that he not only took his initial inspiration from artists such as Bill Evans, Miles Davis and Thelonious Monk, but where he also developed his particular skill in combining jazz with flamenco. Chano Domínguez’s tribute to Davis – in which he’s accompanied by bassist Alexis Cuadrado, drummer Henry Cole, flamenco singer Blas Córdoba and dancer Daniel Navarro – includes fresh arrangements of So What, All Blues, and Freddie the Freeloader, all of which can be heard on his 2012 Grammy-nominated album Flamenco Sketches, released on the Blue Note label. This performance was filmed at SFJAZZ in May 2018.

The Miles Electric Band features in the Fridays at Five session on May 28th. Fronted by former SFJAZZ Collective trumpeter Sean Jones, this multi-generational band specialized in the music Davis created from the late 1960s to the ‘80s on albums including Bitches Brew and You’re Under Arrest. The Miles Electric Band – filmed in June 2016 – is led by drummer Vincent Wilburn Jr – a nephew of Miles Davis – and features some of the musicians whom Davis selected as collaborators for his jazz-rock ensembles. These include guitarist DeWayne “Blackbird” McKnight, keyboardist Robert Irving III, bassist Darryl Jones and percussionist Munyungo Jackson who toured and recorded with Davis in the late 80s and 90s. Other artists making up the group are saxophonist Antoine Roney, keyboardist Greg Spero, percussionists Abbos Kosimov and Debashish Chaudhuri, and electronic musician Jeremy Ellis.

Fridays at Five is a weekly membership-based online concert series that enables jazz enthusiasts to continue to enjoy SFJAZZ performances, while providing support for the artists concerned, through exclusive hour-long broadcasts of SFJAZZ Center archival performances every Friday at 5.00 pm (PT). Conceived to create a unique shared experience, each event features multi-camera HD video and state-of-the-art audio, as well as real-time chats with artists, jazz fans, and SFJAZZ Members.

There’s good news for those who are in the UK, Europe and Africa – these Fridays at Five sessions are now also streaming on the day following transmission, at 10.00 am PT – which is 1.00 pm NYC, 6.00 pm London, 7.00 pm Paris and 7.00 pm Johannesburg . Please note that this rebroadcast does not include a real-time chat.

For further details on the SFJAZZ Fridays at Five streams, visit the SFJAZZ website. for further details.

Information sourced from:

SFJAZZ program notes

Artists’ websites

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San Francisco Ballet streams ‘Romeo and Juliet’

Maria Kochetkova and Davit Karapetyan in Tomasson’s ‘Romeo & Juliet’ – © Erik Tomasson

The next production in San Francisco Ballet’s 2021 Digital Season is Romeo and JulietHelgi Tomasson’s interpretation for ballet of Shakespeare’s romantic tragedy about the doomed young lovers of Verona.

The story of Romeo and Juliet has been recreated in almost every theatrical form for hundreds of years. Passionate, dramatic and colorful, it has long held an allure for choreographers, composers, playwrights and theatrical directors, and various interpretations of the ballet have emerged since its first appearance in the latter part of the18th century. Now one of the best loved full-length works in the repertoire, the versions which have proved the most enduring are those set to Sergei Prokofiev’s sumptuous score – acknowledged as one of his greatest masterpieces.

Maria Kochetkova in Tomasson’s ‘Romeo & Juliet’ – © Erik Tomasson

Prokofiev composed Romeo and Juliet in 1935, on a commission from Russian theatrical director, Sergei Radlov, for the Bolshoi Theatre. The libretto was created by Prokofiev, Radlov and Adrian Piotrovsky – a critic, theatre historian and playwright – with choreography by Leonid Lavrovsky. When Prokofiev delivered the score, however, it was deemed “undanceable” by the artistic direction of the Bolshoi, and the contract was canceled. Three years later, Prokofiev’s Romeo & Juliet was premiered in Brno, Czechoslovakia, with the assistance of Ivo Váňa Psota – a dancer, choreographer and director.

Pascal Molat and Luke Ingham in Tomasson’s ‘Romeo & Juliet’ – © Erik Tomasson

It wasn’t until January 11th, 1940, that the ballet – having undergone significant revisions – was premiered in Leningrad by the Kirov Theatre, with choreography by Lavrovsky, and Konstantin Sergeyev and Galina Ulanova dancing the leading roles.

This filmed production of SF Ballet’s Romeo and Juliet – captured on stage at San Francisco’s War Memorial Opera House on May 5th and 7th, 2015 – marked the inauguration of the 2015 film series Lincoln Center at the Movies: Great American Dance, and was screened in cinemas across the United States.

Maria Kochetkova and Davit Karapetyan in Tomasson’s ‘Romeo & Juliet’ – © Erik Tomasson

The title roles are danced by former SF Ballet Principals Maria Kochetkova and Davit Karapetyan, with Pascal Molat (now on faculty at SF Ballet School) as Mercutio. Joseph Walsh is Benvolio, and Luke Ingham is Tybalt – both are current Principal Dancers with the Company.

The Italian Renaissance designs are by the late Jens-Jacob Worsaae, lighting is by Thomas R Skelton, and the dramatic sword-fighting scenes are choreographed by Martino Pistone and Helgi Tomasson. Music Director Martin West leads the San Francisco Ballet Orchestra.

Davit Karapetyan in Tomasson’s ‘Romeo & Juliet’ – © Erik Tomasson

Further information and details on tickets and packages may be found on the San Francisco Ballet website.

Information sourced from:

San Francisco Ballet program notes

San Francisco Symphony program notes

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