San Francisco Symphony plays Elgar and Tchaikovsky

Christian Tetzlaff plays the Elgar Violin Concerto © Giorgia Bertazzi

This week, Australian conductor Simone Young returns to Davies Symphony Hall, leading the San Francisco Symphony in a program of works by Sir Edward Elgar – his Violin Concerto – and Tchaikovsky’s Symphony No 5. The guest artist is German violinist Christian Tetzlaff.

Having most recently held the role of Principal Guest Conductor of the Orchestre de Chambre de Lausanne, Simone Young takes up the role of Chief Conductor of the Sydney Symphony Orchestra this season. Maestra Young is as much at home with symphonic performances as she is with opera, and highlights of this symphonic season include a return to the Orchestre de Chambre de Lausanne, as well as appearances with the Royal Philharmonic Orchestra, the New York Philharmonic, the Los Angeles Philharmonic, the Washington National Symphony Orchestra and the Oslo Philharmonic Orchestra. Operas which she will lead include productions of Richard Strauss’s Der Rosenkavalier at the Berlin State Opera, Britten’s Peter Grimes and Hans Werner Henze’s Das verratene Meer at the Vienna State Opera, Strauss’s Salome at Zürich Opera and Wagner’s Parsifal at Opéra national de Paris. Simone Young was named Global Icon at the 2021 Avance Awards, celebrating the work of Australians making an extraordinary impact on the global stage.

Christian Tetzlaff © Giorgia Bertazzi

Christian Tetzlaff – regarded as one of the most exciting musicians on the classical music scene – has a wide-ranging repertoire which includes music from the Classical and Romantic eras, as well as contemporary works. Artist-in-Residence at London’s Wigmore Hall this season, Mr Tetzlaff will also fulfill engagements across Europe and in the United States, a tour with Konzerthausorchester Berlin, and performances with the Deutsches Symphonie-Orchester Berlin, Orchestre Philharmonique de Radio France and Bergen Philharmonic Orchestra. Following a recital featuring Christian Tetzlaff and Leif Ove Andsnes, The Scotsman wrote: “Some of the world’s greatest performers are simply in a class of their own. Unquestionably part of this elite are violinist Christian Tetzlaff and pianist Leif Ove Andsnes”.

Sir Edward Elgar via Wikimedia Commons

In this week’s performances, Christian Tetzlaff plays the Elgar Violin Concerto, a work commissioned by the Royal Philharmonic Society in 1909, when the composer was at the peak of his composing life. One of the longest violin concertos – and regarded as the most emotionally complex to have been composed at that time – Elgar inserted a mystery into the dedication, as he had done with his 1899 Enigma Variations. He wrote: “Herein is enshrined the soul of …..” – and to this day, nobody knows for certain to whom those five dots refer. They could stand for Alice – the name of his wife as well as that of a good friend – they could refer to Helen (Weaver) to whom Elgar had been engaged before she emigrated to New Zealand, or they could even refer to Elgar himself. Whoever’s soul was enshrined in the concerto, it is considered to be a deeply personal work – Elgar admitted that it was highly emotional, but he loved it – and far removed from the grandeur of his Pomp and Circumstance Marches or his First Symphony. It was premiered in 1910 by violinist Fritz Kreisler, with the composer conducting the London Symphony Orchestra.

Pyotr Ilyich Tchaikovsky by Kieff – via Wikimedia Commons

Tchaikovsky’s sumptuous Fifth Symphony is described by biographer Anthony Holden as “…. his most mature masterpiece to date”, although proving, he says, that Tchaikovsky was “obsessed with the concept of Fate”, the theme of which seems to be carried throughout the work. This symphony didn’t initially come easily to Tchaikovsky – indeed he procrastinated about starting it – but finally he wrote it between May and the end of August in 1888. He referred to the work as “draining”, saying at one stage that “inspiration seems to have deserted me completely”. In a letter to his patron Nadezhda von Meck, he wrote: “With each day that passes I am increasingly certain that my last symphony is not a successful work …”.

By the time of the first orchestral performance of the symphony, however, Tchaikovsky was cautiously more optimistic about it. The performance took place in Saint Petersburg in November 1888 at a concert of the Saint Petersburg Philharmonic Society, and conducted by the composer, with a repeat performance the following week – both enthusiastically received by the audiences, even if the critics weren’t of the same opinion. The Moscow premiere the following month was also extremely well received, and by the time that a successful performance took place in Hamburg in March 1889, Tchaikovsky was ready to admit that “The Fifth Symphony was again performed magnificently, and I have started to love it again; my earlier judgement was undeservedly harsh…”. Today it retains its place in the classical repertoire as one of his best loved works.

Simone Young leads the San Francisco Symphony in Elgar’s Violin Concerto – soloist Christian Tetzlaff – and Tchaikovsky’s Symphony No 5, at Davies Symphony Hall from December 2nd to 4th. For further information, and for tickets, visit the San Francisco Symphony website.

In another piece of news, the San Francisco Symphony has announced it’s received nominations for two 2022 Grammy Awards.

The recording in contention for Best Classical Compendium is that of Alban Berg’s Violin Concerto, Seven Early Songs and Three Pieces for Orchestra – recorded at Davies Symphony Hall in March and November 2018, and January 2015 respectively. The performances were conducted by Michael Tilson Thomas with violinist Gil Shaham and soprano Susanna Phillips.

The second Grammy Nomination, for Best Orchestral Performance, is the world premiere performance of Nico Muhly’s Throughline, a work commissioned by the San Francisco Symphony, and streamed as part of a digital concert Throughline: San Francisco Symphony – From Hall to Home which was recorded between September 22nd to 25th, 2020 at Davies Symphony Hall.

These performances have all been released on SFS Media, the Symphony’s in-house recording label.

Information sourced from:

San Francisco Symphony program notes

Elgar Violin Concerto

Tchaikovsky – a biography by Anthony Holden

Tchaikovsky Symphony No 5

ArtsPreview home page

Rotterdam Philharmonic announces online concert season

The Rotterdam Philharmonic Orchestra brings a spectacular series of concerts to an online audience this season. Following the success of its live-streamed concerts earlier in the year, the Orchestra has just launched a new series of ten performances, starring some of the world’s finest soloists and conductors and all performed at the De Doelen concert hall in Rotterdam.

Every two weeks, as of 20th November, the Rotterdam Philharmonic presents a different concert on its streaming platform PULSE – Rotterdam Philharmonic Online – performances which will be available from their release date through 31 October 2022.

Three concerts which were pre-recorded at De Doelen are now available. The first features Andrés Orozco-Estrada, Music Director of both the Vienna and Houston symphony orchestras, Principal Conductor of the Filarmónica Joven de Colombia and the Orquesta Sinfónica Freixenet de la Escuela Superior de Música Reina Sofía. Known for his success in conducting both concert and opera, Maestro Orozco-Estrada leads the Rotterdam Philharmonic in a performance of the Mendelssohn Violin Concerto with soloist Leonidas Kavakos, Carnegie Hall Perspectives Artist for the 2021/22 season. Described by Bachtrack as an “…. étoile of the first order”, Kavakos is – according to the Guardian – “…. superbly articulate and incisive, yet rapturously lyrical” – regarded the world over as an artist of rare quality. The programme also features the Beethoven Symphony No 4.

Also available on-demand now is a recital featuring baritone Matthias Georne and pianist Lahav Shani performing songs by Mahler, Schubert and Shostakovich. Georne is one of the most versatile international vocalists, as comfortable in recital, opera as he is in the recording studio. Peter van der Lint, a jury member for the Edison Klassiek award (the Netherlands equivalent of the Grammy), is quoted as saying: “Matthias Georne’s vocal cords will turn everything they touch into pure gold”.

Lahav Shani is presently Chief Conductor of the Rotterdam Philharmonic Orchestra and Music Director of the Israel Philharmonic Orchestra, as well as a pianist of note. Next month, he leads the Rotterdam Philharmonic in a five-city tour of Germany, taking in a performance at the Wiener Konzerthaus as well, before leading Dutch National Opera in performances of Richard Strauss’ Salome. The Berliner Morgenpost writes: “It scarcely seems possible to have a greater beauty of sound and joy in performance than that offered by Lahav Shani.”

The third programme available now is entitled Bach Meets Schoenberg in which François-Xavier Roth leads the Orchestra in a programme featuring Schoenberg’s Chamber Symphony No 2 and Bach’s Orchestral Suite No 1. According to The Times, “If he hasn’t already got the nickname Special FX, then Roth should adopt it … empathetic musicality and flair for colour, sometimes conjuring up such startling touches that the players look stunned”. With a repertoire which ranges from the Baroque to Romantic and also Contemporary music, Maestro Roth is Principal Guest Conductor of the London Symphony Orchestra and has directed the Gürzenich Orchestra and Opera in Cologne since 2015.

Still to come in this online programme stream is a concert, on 3rd December, led by Lahav Shani and featuring brilliant pianist Yuja Wang. The sheer genius of Ms Wang’s performance, and her captivating personality grant her star status wherever she appears. The Financial Times writes: “Her combination of technical ease, colouristic range and sheer power has always been remarkable … but these days there is an ever-greater depth to her musicianship, drawing you into the world of each composer with compelling immediacy”. In this concert with the Rotterdam Philharmonic, to be recorded at De Doelen on 3rd December, Yuja Wang plays Rachmaninoff’s Piano Concerto No 2 – surely one of the most popular works in the piano repertoire. Also on the programme is the wonderfully melodic Berlioz Symphonie Fantastique.

In the pipeline are Handel’s Messiah, the New Year’s Concert – Musical Meets Opera – an evening of chamber music by Brahms – Jukka-Pekka Saraste conducting Sibelius’ Kullervo Symphony, Marta Argerich plays Ravel’s Piano Concerto in G, and Lahav Shani conducts Mahler’s Symphony No 1. There’ll be more on these concerts at a later date.

These concerts have been recorded in – or previously streamed live from – De Doelen, the concert hall and international congress centre in Rotterdam. De Doelen is a listed monument, with a history which dates back to the 17th century, during which an orchestra of local musicians gave public concerts. The current De Doelen building was opened in 1966, since when new conference facilities have been built on the roof and the old inner courtyard. Today, the building is a listed monument, and considered to be a major symbol of Dutch reconstruction.

Prices to view these online concerts by the Rotterdam Philharmonic Orchestra vary – from pay what you want to € 10 per performance. A ticket for the series of 10 concerts is also available for € 50, which means a saving of € 7,50. For more information visit the PULSE – Rotterdam Philharmonic website.

Information sourced from:

Rotterdam Philharmonic Orchestra programme notes

De Doelen concert venue and convention centre in Rotterdam

San Francisco Opera presents ‘Così fan tutte’ onstage and online

Nicole Cabell as Fiordligi and Irene Roberts as Dorabella in San Francisco Opera’s production of ‘Così fan tutte’ © Cory Weaver/San Francisco Opera

San Francisco Opera brings Mozart’s 1790 comedy Così fan tutte to the stage of the War Memorial Opera House in San Francisco, as well as to audiences at home. This new production, by director Michael Cavanagh, is led by Hungarian conductor Henrik Nánási and features soprano Nicole Cabell as Fiordiligi, mezzo-soprano Irene Roberts as Dorabella, tenor Ben Bliss as Ferrando, and baritone John Brancy as Guglielmo. Bass Ferruccio Furlanetto is Don Alfonso and soprano Nicole Heaston is Despina.

Scene from San Francisco Opera’s production of ‘Così fan tutte’
© Cory Weaver/San Francisco Opera

Così fan tutte, which premiered on 26th January, 1790 at the Burgtheater in Vienna, has a libretto by the Italian poet Lorenzo Da Ponte, and is the second of three Mozart operas for which Da Ponte was commissioned – the other two being The Marriage of Figaro (Le Nozze di Figaro) and Don Giovanni. These operas weren’t planned as a trilogy at all, but Michael Cavanagh devised a way of linking them, in a project started in 2019, by setting each one in the same American house, over three different eras. Figaro – staged by San Francisco Opera last season – took place in colonial times when the manor house was newly built, Così fan tutte has been brought forward to the 1930s, at which time the house has become a Country Club, and Don Giovanni – to be staged next summer – is set in the distant future, by which time the occupants of the ruined house face an uncertain future.

Così fan tutte – which loosely translates as “Women are like that” – tells of two friends, Guglielmo and Ferrando, who are about to depart on active service. They are so convinced that their respective fiancées, Fiordiligi and Dorabella, will be faithful during their absence, that they accept a bet to this effect offered by Don Alfonso – aided by the fiancées’ feisty maid, Despina. Disguising themselves as strangers, the two soldiers make a play for each other’s beloved, with surprising results – both humorous and poignant.

Nicole Cabell as Fiordiligi and John Brancy as Guglielmo in Mozart’s ‘Così fan tutte’
© Cory Weaver/San Francisco Opera

Nicole Cabell – described by the Financial Times as a ‘…. velvet-voiced soprano …” – makes her role debut as Fiordiligi in this production. She has previously sung Giulietta in Bellini’s I Capuleti e i Montecchi and Violetta in Verdi’s La Traviata for San Francisco Opera, and recent roles include debuts as Bess in Gershwin’s Porgy and Bess at English National Opera, the tile role in Handel’s Alcina at Grand Théâtre de Genève, and Flavia in Cavalli’s Eliogabalo at Dutch National Opera.

Ben Bliss as Ferrando and Irene Roberts as Dorabella in Mozart’s ‘Così fan tutte’
© Cory Weaver/San Francisco Opera

Irene Roberts, the “… vocally plush and lovely mezzo …” according to the New York Times, is presently a resident artist at Deutsche Oper Berlin. She has previously appeared for San Francisco Opera as Bao Chai in Bright Sheng’s Dream of the Red Chamber, in the title role in Bizet’s Carmen and as Giulietta in Offenbach’s Les Contes d’Hoffmann. Forthcoming engagements at Deutsche Oper Berlin include the roles of Carmen, Bersi in Andrea Chénier and Suzuki in Madama Butterfly.

Irene Roberts as Dorabella, Nicole Heaston as Despina and Nicole Cabell in Mozart’s ‘Così fan tutte’ © Cory Weaver/San Francisco Opera

Ben Bliss, the “splendid lyric tenor” says the New York Times, makes his Company debut as Ferrando, a role which he has also performed at the Metropolitan Opera, Seattle Opera and Oper Frankfurt. Recent highlights include appearances as Belmonte in Mozart’s Die Entführung aus dem Serail also at the Metropolitan Opera – prompting The Opera Critic to describe him as, “marvelous” and a “true Mozart tenor”.

Baritone John Brancy who takes the role of Guglielmo, made his debut with San Francisco Opera as Donald Britten’s Billy Budd in 2019, the year in which he was heard on the Grammy-winning recording of Tobias Picker’s Fantastic Mr Fox, and described by David Reynolds in the American Record Guide 2019 as having “… one of the most beautiful lyric baritones I’ve heard in a while“. He has also appeared in concert with orchestras such as the San Francisco and Boston symphonies.

Ferruccio Furlanetto as Don Alfonso and Nicole Heaston as Despina in Mozart’s ‘Così fan tutte’
© Cory Weaver/San Francisco Opera

Italian bass Ferruccio Furlanetto first appeared with San Francisco Opera in 1979 in Ponchielli’s La Gioconda and return performances include the title role in Verdi’s Attila and Philip II in his Don Carlo. He has also appeared at the Royal Opera House, the Metropolitan Opera, the Vienna State Opera and Los Angeles Opera. Opera News writes that he “…. combines the dramatic range and mutability of a true character actor with a uniquely ravishing vocal endowment”.

Soprano Nicole Heaston, made her Company debut as the Countess in The Marriage of Figaro in 2019. An acclaimed interpreter of Mozart, Ms Heaston has a voice described by as “…. full of nuance passion and beauty bel canto singing at its best ….”.

Michael Cavanagh has been appointed Artistic Director of the Royal Swedish Opera for the next five years, having directed over 150 opera productions at 30 companies around the world, and written librettos for seven chamber operas. He will be staging the final part of the Mozart-Da Ponte project for San Francisco Opera next summer.

Scene from San Francisco Opera’s production of ‘Così fan tutte’
© Cory Weaver/San Francisco Opera

Other members of the creative team include set designer Erhard Rom, costume designer Constance Hoffman and lighting designer Jane Cox.

Conductor Henrik Nánási most recently appeared for San Francisco Opera in 2019, leading the Company’s production of The Marriage of Figaro. He was General Music Director of the Komische Oper Berlin from 2012 to 2017, during which time the Company was named “Opera House of the Year 2013” by Opera World Magazine and “Opera Company of the Year 2015” at the Opera Awards. Highlights of Maestro Nánási’s 2021/22 season include appearances at the Royal Opera House, Opéra de Monte-Carlo and Maggio Musicale Fiorentino.

The Chorus of San Francisco Opera is prepared by Ian Robertson in the last stage production of his 35-season career as the Company’s chorus director, before retiring at the end of the year.
Così fan tutte, sung in Italian with English supertitles, will be performed at the War Memorial Opera House between November 21st and December 3rd. The first three performances – on November 21st, 23rd and 27th – will be livestreamed. These performances will be live only – on-demand is not available. Further information, and tickets for both livestreams and on-stage performances, can be found on the San Francisco Opera website.

Information sourced from:

San Francisco Opera program notes

Artists’ websites

ArtsPreview home page

Hrůša leads Czech Philharmonic in concert marking anniversary of Velvet Revolution

Czech pianist Lukáš Vondráček – © Irene Kim

The 1989 Velvet Revolution – in what was then Czechoslavakia – marked the non-violent nationwide protest movement in November and December of that year, which ended more than 40 years of communist rule in the country. To commemorate this event, the Czech Philharmonic under Principal Conductor Jakub Hrůša, performs Rachmaninoff’s Piano Concerto No 2, with Czech pianist Lukáš Vondráček stepping in as soloist for Yuja Wang who was scheduled to appear, but has had to withdraw due to illness. Also on the programme are Leoš Janáček’s Suite for Orchestra and Witold Lutoslawski’s Concerto for Orchestra.

Jakub Hrůša – © Herzau

Also Chief Conductor of the Bamberg Symphony and Principal Guest Conductor of the Orchestra dell’Accademia Nazionale di Santa Cecilia in Rome, Jakub Hrůša is a frequent guest of many of the world’s finest orchestras – such as the Berlin and New York philharmonics, the Chicago Symphony and the Royal Concertgebouw, Leipzig Gewandhaus, Mahler Chamber and Cleveland orchestras. Maestro Hrůša has recently made successful debuts with the Vienna Philharmonic, Bavarian Radio Symphony, Orchestre de Paris, and NHK Symphony. He also regularly appears with the Glyndebourne Festival, and has led performances of Carmen at the Royal Opera House, Covent Garden, The Makropulos Case at the Vienna State and Zurich operas, and Rusalka at the Opéra National de Paris.

Czech pianist Lukáš Vondráček, described by The Straits Times as “…. the master of perfectly voiced textures”, has appeared in concert across the world with orchestras such as the Tasmanian, Sydney and Tokyo Metropolitan symphony orchestras, the Frankfurt Symphony Radio Orchestra, the Philharmonia Orchestra, and the Oslo and Netherlands philharmonic orchestras. Having recently made his debut with the Chicago, Pittsburgh and London symphony orchestras, he will this season add the Los Angeles Philharmonic to this list.

Also a keen recitalist, Mr Vondráček has performed at Leipzig’s Gewandhaus, the Wiener Konzerthaus and the Concertgebouw in Amsterdam and will this season perform at the Rudolf Firkusny Piano Festival at Prague’s Rudolfinum and the Kissinger Summer Festival. He also continues his residency with the Janáček Philharmonic and his recording cycle of all Rachmaninoff piano concertos with the Prague Symphony Orchestra.

Sergei Rachmaninoff’s Piano Concerto No 2 in C minor, Op 18, is surely one of the most popular works in the piano repertoire, but fiendishly difficult to play, and tackled only by the most skilful pianists. The work had a highly successful premiere in Moscow on 9th November, 1901, with the composer himself as soloist. This was a particularly important event, since it was the first work which Rachmaninoff had composed following the disastrous premiere of his First Symphony in 1897, and a period of deep depression for the composer. The work is dedicated to Russian neurologist and musician Dr Nicolai Dahl who enabled Rachmaninoff to begin composing once more.

Leoš Janáček’s Suite for Orchestra, Op 3, was composed in the year 1891, but wasn’t premiered until 23rd September, 1928, after the composer’s death. That performance was given by the combined Prague and Brno radio orchestras towards the culmination of the Exhibition of Contemporary Culture, which was held to mark first successful decade of the existence of Czechoslavakia as an independent state. The delightful Orchestral Suite is referred to as belonging to the group of folkloristic works which Janáček wrote – a theme particularly evident in the adagio, in which a characteristically Moravian melody can be heard, one which the composer is said to have used in a number of other compositions.

The Concerto for Orchestra by Polish composer Witold Lutoslawski is another work which has drawn inspiration from folk melodies – in this case from Polish folklore. In 1950, Lutoslawksi was commissioned by conductor Witold Rowicki to compose a piece based on folk material for the Warsaw National Philharmonic which Rowicki had founded that same year. What started out as simply a piece of music, ended up four years later as a full three-movement composition, described by Gramophone magazine as “…. an exuberantly inventive” showpiece, and “.… sheerly enjoyable” orchestral showpiece. It premiered in November 1954 in a performance led by Witold Rowicki.

The Czech Philharmonic with Music Director Semyon Bychkov © Petra Hajska

Jakub Hrůša leads the Czech Philharmonic in a programme of works by Rachmaninoff – with guest artist Lukáš Vondráček – Janáček and Lutoslawski, in the Dvořák Hall at the Prague Rudolfinum, on 17th and 18th November. Tickets may be booked online.

Information sourced from:

Czech Philharmonic programme notes

Velvet Revolution

Janáček’s Suite for Orchestra

Lutoslawski Concerto for Orchestra

Artists’ websites

ArtsPreview home page

New opera season opens on the Côte d’Azur

Monte-Carlo Opera stages the Opéra Grand Avignon production of ‘Madame Butterfly’

Both Nice and Monte-Carlo opera companies open their 2021-22 season this month – with two very different works. Nice Opera stages its magnificent production of Philip Glass’ Akhnaten and Monte-Carlo Opera presents Puccini’s heartbreaking yet utterly beautiful Madame Butterfly.

Last November we previewed Akhnaten which was due to be the first production staged after the closure of all theatres during the pandemic, but the opera was unable to be performed to a live audience due to a change in regulations, and Nice Opera was forced to stream this production online. The live production is now running at Nice Opera until 16th November. Tickets may be reserved on this link.

Read the preview on this link.

Giacomo Puccini’s tragic opera, Madame Butterfly, tells of Ciò-ciò San, the young Japanese girl who falls in love with an American naval officer, F B Pinkerton – with devastating consequences. One of the world’s best-loved operas, it has a somewhat complicated, but fascinating, history. The Italian libretto, by Luigi Illica and Guiseppe Giacosa, was partly based on the short story, Madame Butterfly, written by John Luther Long in 1898. Long’s story evolved partly from some stories told to him by his sister, and partly from a French novel, Madame Chrysanthème, written by Pierre Loti in 1887. This novel was then dramatized as a one-act play – Madame Butterfly: A Tragedy of Japan – by American theatrical producer and playwright David Belasco in 1900, the year in which Puccini attended a performance in London.

From the Opéra Grand Avignon production of ‘Madame Butterfly’

Madama Butterfly (as it’s known in Italian) premiered at La Scala in Milan on 17th February 1904, where it was most unenthusiastically received. Having undergone substantial revisions, the opera was performed in Brescia in May of the same year, on that occasion to great acclaim. Puccini, however, made further revisions to his work – there were five in total – the last version of which was performed in 1907. This became known as the ‘standard version’ and is the one most frequently performed today. It was premiered by Monte-Carlo Opera on 23rd March 1912, and was last staged by the Company on 30th March 2004.

The title role in this staging of the Opéra Grand Avignon production is sung by Polish soprano Aleksandra Kurzak, “a powerful and versatile singer”, says The Classic Review, with what New York Classical Review describes as an “exceptionally full, creamy tone, vocal agility, and sensitive expression”. Having started singing as a member of the ensemble of the Hamburg State Opera, Ms Kurzak was launched on the international stage with performances for some of the finest opera companies in the world, such as the Metropolitan Opera, The Royal Opera House, Covent Garden, Teatra alla Scala, Milan, the Berlin Staatsoper, Vienna State Opera, Los Angeles Opera and San Francisco Opera.

From the Opéra Grand Avignon production of ‘Madame Butterfly’

Suzuki, Ciỏ-ciỏ San’s servant, is sung by Italian mezzo-soprano Annalisa Stroppa, described by The Opera as “One of the best singers in circulation today”. Ms Stroppa has sung the role of Suzuki at Opéra Nationale in Paris, Teatro alla Scala, Milan, Bayerische Staatsoper in Munich prior to 2021, and this year she will have added to this list the San Carlo Theater in Naples. Other appearances this year included those at the Teatro Real in Madrid, the Savonlinna Opera Festival and the Teatro del Maggio Musicale Fiorentino in Florence.

The Argentine lirico-spinto tenor Marcelo Puente takes the role of F B Pinkerton, one which he has previously sung at the Royal Opera House, Covent Garden, Hamburg State Opera, Théâtre Royal de la Monnaie in Brussels, Opera Leipzig and Gothenburg Opera. Other appearances include those at the Canadian Opera Company, Deutsche Oper am Rhein in Düsseldorf, and the Michigan Opera Theater, and he has appeared in a concert performance of Carmen with the NHK Orchestra in Tokyo. This season sees Mr Puente appearing at Vancouver Opera, Opera National du Rhin in Strasbourg/Mulhouse, Opera Australia and Semperoper Dresden.

The role of the consul Sharpless is sung by baritone Massimo Cavalletti. Musica describes him as having “… a handsome presence, a robust buffo baritone voice and the right vivacity as an actor”, and the New York Times writes of him as “The mellow-voiced, appealing baritone Massimo Cavalletti”. Upcoming performances by Mr Cavalletti include those at Teatro Municipale Giuseppe Verdi di Salerno, Maggio Musicale Fiorentino and Opernhaus Zurich.

Also in the cast are Philippe Do as Goro – who, according to Opera, has “… the beauty of a lyric tenor voice with refined mezza-voce, and the purity of the style”, and Fabrizio Beggi as L’Oncle Bonzo and is described by as “… a bass with a rare, bright and beautiful color”.

From the Opéra Grand Avignon production of ‘Madame Butterfly’

The conductor for this production of Madame Butterfly is by Giampaolo Bisanti, General Music Director of the Teatro Petruzzelli in Bari for the 2018-20 seasons. Maestro Bisanti has led a number of productions of Madame Butterfly on stages across Italy, including La Fènice, Venice, and has also appeared in some of the world’s finest opera houses such as Semperoper Dresden, the Royal Opera House, Covent Garden, the Gran Teatre del Liceu, Barcelona, the Vienna State Opera, the Opéra National de Paris, San Francisco Opera and Teatro alla Scala, Milan.

Staging for this production is by Mireille Larroche, decor by Guy-Claude François, costumes by Danièle Barraud and lighting by Laurent Castaingt.

Maestro Bisanti leads the Monte-Carlo Philharmonic Orchestra, the Chorus of Monte-Carlo Opera (director Stefano Visconti) and guest artists, in Puccini’s Madame Butterfly at the Salle Garnier, Monte-Carlo Opera on 16th, 18th and 21st November. Tickets may be purchased online.

Information sourced from:
Monte-Carlo Opera programme notes
Encyclopaedia Britannica
Artists’ websites

A version of this article first appeared in Riviera Buzz

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Sadler’s Wells streams ‘Curated by Carlos’

‘Chacona’ by Montero Choreography – Goyo Montero,  Music – J.S. Bach, Birmingham Royal Ballet at Sadlers Wells, 2021, Credit: Johan Persson

Sadler’s Wells Digital Stage has a new Video on Demand platform, which launches this week with Birmingham Royal Ballet’s triple bill Curated by Carlos. Audiences around the world will be able to watch this programme of works online at a time of their choosing, between 11th and 18th November.

The programme features the world premiere at Sadler’s Wells Theatre of a new pas de deux created for international stars, Birmingham Royal Ballet Director Carlos Acosta and guest artist Alessandra Ferri, by Spanish choreographer Goyo Montero. Among the companies for whom Goyo Montero has created works are The Royal Ballet, Les Ballets de Monte-Carlo, Spain’s Compañia Nacional de Danza, Acosta Danza, Deutsche Oper Berlin and Ballet Nacional de Cuba. The pas de deux will precede a performance of Montero’s Chacona – an ensemble piece for 16 dancers set to the music of J S Bach, played on stage by violin, guitar and piano. Dan Ormerod directs this production, filmed at Sadler’s Wells.

‘Chacona’ by Montero Choreography – Goyo Montero, Music –  J.S. Bach, Costumes – Verena Hemmerlein , Goyo Montero, Lighting – Nicolás Fischtel. Goyo Montero, Birmingham Royal Ballet, 2021, performing at Birmingham Repertory Theatre as part of the Curated by Carlos triple bill , Credit: Johan Persson/

Imminent – created by Brazilian/British choreographer Daniela Cardim – was commissioned by Birmingham Royal Ballet. Other companies for whom Ms Cardim has created works include Dutch National  Ballet, New English Ballet Theatre, Theatro Municipal do Rio de Janeiro, São Paulo Companhia de Dança, English National Ballet School, School of American Ballet, and The Royal Ballet School Summer Intensive. Imminent focuses on the human instinct, urging us to listen to that still, small voice inside telling us that we need to change direction, that we need to embrace our fears and hopes to take an unknown path. The music has been written by composer Paul Englishby, a 2020 Tony Award nominee.

‘Imminent’ by Cardim Choreography – Daniela Cardim,music – Paul Englishby., Designs – April Dalton, Lighting -Peter Teigen, Birmingham Royal Ballet, 2021, performing at Birmingham Repertory Theatre as part of the Curated by Carlos triple bill , Credit: Johan Persson/

City of a Thousand Trades was commissioned by Carlos Acosta in tribute to the city of Birmingham, celebrating its diverse heritage and cultures.  It was choreographed by Havana-born dancer and choreographer Miguel Altunaga – a former principal dancer with the Cuban National Contemporary Dance Company and member of contemporary dance company Rambert – with dramaturgy and co-direction by Madeleine Kludje, associate director of Birmingham Repertory Theatre. The music – inspired by the city’s soundscape – is by Belgian pianist and composer Mathias Coppens, whose commissions for the Belgian Spiegel String Quartet and the Desguin String Quartet are scheduled for performance during this 2021-22 season.

‘City of a Thousand Trades’ by Altunaga Choreography – Miguel Altunaga, co-Director Madeleine Kludje, Hanna Park for @ainsliewear, 2021, music by Mathias Coppens,•DesignsGiulia Scrimieri , Lighting – Michael Lee-Wooley Birmingham Royal Ballet, 2021, performing at Birmingham Repertory Theatre as part of the Curated by Carlos triple bill , Credit: Johan Persson/

Both Imminent and City of a Thousand Trades were filmed at Birmingham Repertory Theatre in June 2021, with direction by Ross MacGibbon. The dancers are accompanied by Birmingham Royal Ballet’s resident orchestra, the Royal Ballet Sinfonia, which also plays for companies such as The Royal Ballet, Paris Opéra Ballet, New York City Ballet, Australian Ballet, Les Grands Ballets Canadiens, the Kirov, Norwegian Ballet, Atlanta Ballet, San Francisco Ballet and La Scala Ballet.

Philip Ellis, a Birmingham Royal Ballet conductor, leads the Sinfonia for Imminent, and Paul Murphy, Principal Conductor of the Birmingham Royal Ballet, for City of a Thousand Trades.

Curated by Carlos will be available to rent on Sadler’s Wells Digital Stage  between 12:00pm GMT (noon) on Thursday 11 November 2021 and 12:00pm GMT (noon) on Thursday 18 November 2021.  Each rental will be available for 48 hours, and an Audio Described version of the film will also be available.  

Information sourced from:

Sadler’s Wells and Birmingham Royal Ballet programme notes

Artists’ websites

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MTT returns to lead San Francisco Symphony

Michael Tilson Thomas conducts the San Francisco Symphony – courtesy San Francisco Symphony

Michael Tilson Thomas returns to Davies Symphony Hall this month, delighting Bay Area audiences as he fufills two engagements with the San Francisco Symphony. In the first concert, the Music Director Laureate leads the Symphony in a program of music by Mozart – his Three German Dances, K 605 – MTT’s own composition Notturno – with flutist Demarre McGill as soloist – and Schumann’s Symphony No 1.

Michael Tilson Thomas – © Brigitte Lacombe

Mozart wrote these Three German Dances in 1791 – the year in which he died – while holding the position of Kammermusicus (Imperial Chamber Composer) in Vienna. He wrote 13 dances in all, most of which were written whilst he was engaged to write music for the court dances and balls that were held in the Public Ballrooms of the Viennese Imperial Palace. Each of the Three German Dances to be performed in this concert differs from the others in that the instrumentation changes in each – apart from the violins which are heard in all three pieces. The first dance features small, light fanfares by the trumpets, the second highlights the role of the woodwinds, and in the third – which takes the title Sleigh Ride – sleigh bells are heard, followed by a trumpet solo.

Who better than to describe Michael Tilson Thomas’ Notturno than the composer himself!

This work features as soloist American flutist Demarre McGill, now principal flute of the Seattle Symphony. A former principal flute of the Dallas and San Diego symphonies, the Florida and Santa Fe Opera orchestras, McGill was also acting principal flute of the Metropolitan Opera and Pittsburgh Symphony orchestras. He is internationally recognised as a soloist, recitalist, chamber and orchestral musician, and has appeared with the Philadelphia Orchestra, the Seattle, Pittsburgh, Dallas, Grant Park, San Diego and Baltimore symphony orchestras and the Chicago Symphony. Also an educator, he has performed, coached and presented masters classes in South Africa, Korea, Japan, Quebec and the United States.

Demarre McGill – © Denver Rispel

Robert Schumann’s Symphony No 1 is probably the most frequently performed of the four that he wrote. Written in January 1841, it’s known as the Spring Symphony, the inspiration for which is thought to have come from the work of German poet Adolf Böttger, who frequently included the imagery of springtime in his writing. The symphony was written in the space of four days, orchestrated in February and premiered on March 31st, 1841 in Leipzig – a performance conducted by Schumann’s friend, Felix Mendelssohn.

This symphony is one of the four which Michael Tilson Thomas and the San Francisco Symphony recorded in 2017 on the in-house SFS Media label. This release of the four Schumann symphonies, recorded live at Davies Symphony Hall, was nominated for a 2019 Grammy® Award in the category Best Orchestral Performance.

Michael Tilson Thomas leads the San Francisco Symphony in works by Mozart, Tilson Thomas and Schumann, with soloist Demarre McGill, at Davies Symphony Hall on Friday and Saturday, November 12th and 13th at 7.30 pm, and Sunday, November 14th at 2.00 pm. Further information can be found on the San Francisco Symphony website where details for reservations can also be found.

Information sourced from:
San Francisco Symphony program notes
Three German Dances
Schumann – Spring Symphony

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‘Spartacus’ opens new Bolshoi in Cinema season

The Bolshoi Ballet, in association with Pathé Live, opens its 2021-22 cinema series with a magnificent performance of Spartacus live from the stage of the Bolshoi Theatre in Moscow on 7th November.

Set to Aram Khachaturian’s superb score, Spartacus stars Igor Tsvirko in the title role, with Anna Nikulina as his wife Phrygia. The cunning and treacherous Aegina is danced by Svetlana Zakharova, Artemy Belyakov is Crassus, Denis Savin takes the role of a Gladiator, and the production features the Corps of the Bolshoi Ballet.

Aram Khachaturian was regarded by UNESCO as one of the foremost composers of the 20th century, who achieved great success with his Piano Concerto in 1936, his Violin Concerto in 1940, and his ballet Gayane in 1942. His most significant composition, though, is considered to be Spartacus which he wrote in 1954, basing it on an original concept for the ballet by the well-known theatre critic Nikolai Volkov. Volkov drew his inspiration from a novel by Raffaelo Giovagnolli about a Roman slave revolt during the 1st century BC.

In Imperial Rome, ruled by Marcus Licinius Crassus, Spartacus – a Thracian warrior captured in battle – has been separated from his wife Phrygia by slave dealers. Spartacus, inspired by his love for Phrygia and his desire for freedom, incites his fellow slaves to revolt against their Roman oppressors, but the treacherous Aegina, seeking to conquer Crassus, thwarts the plans of Spartacus. The uprising is defeated by the legions of Crassus, and Spartacus is slain.

Spartacus was premiered by the Kirov Ballet in Leningrad (now St. Petersburg) in 1956, but the production, with choreography by Leonid Yakobson, wasn’t particularly successful. A second, more successful, staging was presented at the Bolshoi Theatre in Moscow in 1958 by the distinguished ballet-master Igor Moiseev, but it wasn’t until 1968 that a revised and definitive version was staged by the Bolshoi Ballet with libretto and choreography by the legendary dancer and choreographer Yuri Grigorovich who dominated the Russian ballet scene for over 30 years. Grigorovich became ballet master of the Kirov Ballet in 1962, and two years later was appointed chief choreographer and artistic director of the Bolshoi Ballet, a role he held until 1995. Grigorovich’s revision is the version that the Bolshoi performs in this cinema production.

Spartacus will be screened live in cinemas on Thursday, 7th November. To find your local cinema and screening times, follow this link. For information on the rest of the season’s performances, follow this link.

Information sourced from:

Bolshoi Ballet programme notes
Pathé Live
Encyclopaedia Britannica
Aram Khachaturian
Yuri Grigorovich

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