Metropolitan Opera presents original French version of Verdi’s ‘Don Carlos’

Matthew Polenzani in the title role of Verdi’s ‘Don Carlos’ © Zenith Richards / Met Opera

For the first time ever, the Metropolitan Opera presents the original French-language version of Guiseppe Verdi’s Don Carlos. Set in the time of the Spanish Inquisition, this story of passion and betrayal, of conflict between father and son, of political intrigue, heartbreak and devotion, stars tenor Matthew Polenzani in the title role and soprano Sonya Yoncheva as Élisabeth de Valois.

Mezzo-soprano Jamie Barton is Eboli, bass-baritone Eric Owens takes the role of Philippe II, bass-baritone John Relyea is the Grand Inquisitor and baritone Etienne Dupuis is Rodrigue. Staging is by Sir David McVicar, and Music Director Yannick Nézet-Séguin leads the Metropolitan Opera Orchestra and Chorus.

Verdi started writing his five-act opera in 1867, with 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 in Paris, and premiered at Salle Le Peletier on March 11th, 1867. Don Carlos – as it is known in the French version – was then translated into Italian as Don Carlo, in the first of a number of revisions set to both French and Italian librettos.

Sonya Yoncheva as Élisabeth de Valois in the Met Opera production of ‘Don Carlos’
© Ken Howard/Met Opera

Although the work – set in France and Spain between 1567 to 1568 – features actual historical figures, the plot is largely fictional. Don Carlos is the son of King Philip II of Spain, and is therefore heir to the Spanish throne. Carlos is in love with Élisabeth de Valois , but his hopes of marrying her are thwarted by his father, who – as part of a peace treaty signed with France – takes Élisabeth as his own wife. Undaunted, Carlos 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.

Sonya Yoncheva & Matthew Polenzani in Verdi’s ‘Don Carlos’ © Ken Howard / Met Opera

Making his Met role debut in this production of Don Carlos is American tenor Matthew Polenzani, of whom Opera News writes: “Few singers today command the sheer beauty of timbre and dynamic control of Matthew Polenzani …. ”. This season Mr Polenzani appeared at the Met in the September 11 Memorial concert of the Verdi Requiem, returning to Opera National de Paris as Nemorino in L’Elisir d’amore, and back to the Met to reprise the role of Tamino in The Magic Flute. Following this appearance as Don Carlos, Mr Polenzani makes his Canadian Opera Company debut as Alfredo in La Traviata, before heading to Budapest for Don Carlo, and finishing the season with a role debut as Cavaradossi in Tosca, at the Savonlinna Opera Festival in Finland.

Sonya Yoncheva as Élisabeth & Matthew Polenzani in the title role of ‘Don Carlos’
© Ken Howard/Met Opera

Bulgarian soprano Sonya Yoncheva – whom the New York Times describes as “a dream of a diva” – makes her Met role debut as Élisabeth de Valois. She has devoted many of her performances this season to a series of concerts and recitals, including appearances at the Met, the Tchaikovsky Concert Hall in Moscow, Teatro alla Scala in Milan and Palau de la Música in Barcelona. She has also appeared as Mimì in La bohème at the Staatsoper Unter den Linden in Berlin and in the title role of Tosca at Opernhaus Zürich. Forthcoming appearances include her debut in the title role of Anna Bolena at the Théâtre des Champs-Élysées in Paris and the title role in Tchaikovsky’s Iolanta at the Easter Festival in Baden-Baden.

Jamie Barton & Etienne Dupuis in Verdi’s ‘Don Carlos’ © Ken Howard/Met Opera

Jamie Barton – a 2022 GRAMMY® nominee for her album Unexpected Shadows – is described by Opera Magazine as having “A once-in-a-generation voice …”. Already this season she has appeared with the San Francisco Symphony and San Francisco Opera, in the title role in Carmen for Chicago Opera Theatre and a series of recitals with pianist Jake Heggie. Following her appearance in Don Carlos, Ms Barton undertakes a further series of recitals with Mr Heggie, before her portrayal of Brangäne in Tristan und Isolde for Santa Fe Opera.

Highlights of Eric Owens’ career at the Met include the roles of Alberich in the Ring cycle, Orest in Elektra, Vodnik in Rusalka and the Voice of Neptune in Idomeneo. Following a performance as Stephen Kumalo in Weill’s Lost in the Stars, the New York Times wrote that “The towering bass-baritone Eric Owens … was magnificent in Lost in the Stars”, and that he “… triumphed in the lead role of Stephen Kumalo”.

Eric Owens & Etienne Dupuis in the Met Opera production of ‘Don Carlos’
© Ken Howard/Met Opera

This new staging of Don Carlos marks the 11th Met production by David McVicar, one of the most prolific and popular directors in recent Met history. Apart from his successes at the Met, he has also staged performances for opera companies such as La Scala Milan, Teatro Real Madrid, Opera Australia, Aix-en-Provence Festival, Vienna State Opera, English National Opera, Glyndebourne Festival, Théâtre des Champs-Elysées, Mariinsky Theatre, Liceu in Barcelona, La Monnaie in Brussels, Oper Frankfurt, Grand Théâtre de Genève and the Salzburg Festival.

Set design is by Charles Edwards, costume design by Brigitte Reiffenstuel, lighting by Adam Silverman, and Leah Hausman is the movement director.

Yannick Nézet-Séguin – said by the Montreal Gazette to have “The world at his fingertips” – is now into his third season as Music Director of the Met, where he he has led more than 100 performances of 13 operas. Forthcoming engagements in the current season include appearances with the Met in performances of Tosca, with the Philadelphia Orchestra in Beethoven’s Missa Solemnis, a tour with the Rotterdam Philharmonic (of which he is honorary conductor) leading performances of Wagner’s Das Rheingold, a tour with the Symphonieorchester des Bayerischen Rundfunks and also with Montreal’s Orchestre Métropolitain (of which he is principal conductor).

Sonya Yoncheva & Etienne Dupuis in Verdi’s ‘Don Carlos’ © Ken Howard/Met Opera

The March 18th performance will be led by Swedish conductor Patrick Furrer on a return to the Met following his conducting debut with The Magic Flute in December 2021.

The Metropolitan Opera presents the original five-act French version of Verdi’s Don Carlos for eight performances between February 28th and March 26th.

The February 28th and March 18th performances will be broadcast live on Met Opera Radio on Sirius XM Channel 355 and streamed live on the Met’s website.

On Saturday, March 26th, live transmissions of Don Carlos will be presented in cinemas as part of The Met: Live in HD series, and over the Toll Brothers–Metropolitan Opera International Radio Network. To find your local cinema, visit this link.

For further information, and to reserve seats, visit the Metropolitan Opera website.

 Information sourced from:

Metropolitan Opera program notes
San Francisco Opera program notes

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San Francisco Ballet’s production of ‘Don Quixote’ is a delight

Mathilde Froustey in Tomasson/Possokhov’s Don Quixote // © Erik Tomasson

Joyful and lively, with dazzling choreography and a wonderfully melodic score by Ludwig Minkus, Don Quixote is a hugely enjoyable ballet, and this staging by San Francisco Ballet’s Artistic Director Helgi Tomasson and Choreographer-in-Residence, Yuri Possokhov, is a delight.

Videoclip from the 2019 production by SF Ballet

The origins of the ballet Don Quixote date back to Vienna in 1740, when the first presentation was staged by Austrian dancer and choreographer Franz Hilverding, but it wasn’t until 1869 that Marius Petipa was asked to create a new version of the ballet for the Imperial Bolshoi Theatre in Moscow, which he followed with a much grander production in St Petersburg in 1871. A revival of Petipa’s ballet was staged in Moscow in 1900 by Russian dancer and choreographer Alexander Gorsky, followed by a production in St Petersburg in 1902, and it’s this Petipa/Gorsky interpretation of Don Quixote which forms the basis of all modern productions. The World Premiere of this Tomasson/Possokhov staging by San Francisco Ballet took place on March 14th, 2003 at the War Memorial Opera House in San Francisco.

Julia Rowe and Isabella DeVivo in Tomasson/Possokhov’s Don Quixote // © Erik Tomasson

In this production, Tomasson and Possokhov pay homage to the traditional classical staging with their own interpretation of the tale of the young Spanish couple, Kitri and Basile, and how their lives intertwine with those of Don Quixote, Miguel de Cervantes’ chivalrous knight errant who dreams of slaying windmills, with his faithful servant, Sancho Panza. Unexpected adventures and misunderstandings are introduced by Kitri’s father who wants his beautiful daughter to marry a rich nobleman, bringing an air of pantomime to this colorful production which ultimately ends in happiness for Kitri and Basile.

Mathilde Froustey and Angelo Greco in Tomasson/Possokhov’s Don Quixote // © Erik Tomasson

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

Jim Sohm in Tomasson/Possokhov’s Don Quixote // © Erik Tomasson

Scenic and Costume Design for this production are by Martin Pakledinaz, lighting by James F Ingalls, and Company Music Director Martin West leads the San Francisco Ballet Orchestra.

San Francisco Ballet in Tomasson/Possokhov’s Don Quixote // © Erik Tomasson

San Francisco Ballet’s production of Don Quixote runs at the War Memorial Opera House for 9 performances between February 26th to March 6th. For further information and tickets, visit the San Francisco Ballet website.

Information sourced from:
San Francisco Ballet program notes
Don Quixote – Royal Ballet programme notes, The Petipa Society, Cambridge Scholars
Ludwig Minkus – Royal Ballet programme notes

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New staging of Massenet’s ‘Werther’ for Monte-Carlo Opera

Poster courtesy of Monte-Carlo Opera

This month, Monte-Carlo Opera presents a new staging of Jules Massenet’s Werther – a co-production with the Palau de Les Arts-Reina Sofia in Valencia – with Jean-François Borras in the title role, Stéphanie d’Oustrac as Charlotte and Jean-François Lapointe as Albert.

First presented by Monte-Carlo Opera as long ago as March 1897, and last performed in the Principality in March 2005, this lyric drama in four acts and five scenes has a French libretto by Édouard Blau, Paul Milliet and Georges Hartmann. It was 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 Jules Massenet Coproducción Palau de les Arts, Opéra Monte-Carlo

Werther was originally intended for production at the Opéra-Comique in Paris, but rejected by the director for being too melancholy. The Vienna Court Opera had, however, successfully staged Massenet’s Manon and on the strength of that, requested a follow-up from the composer. Thus it was that Werther was translated into German by Max Kalbeck, and it premiered to great acclaim in Vienna on 16th February, 1892. In Paris, where Manon had also been a success, the Opéra-Comique was persuaded to reconsider its decision on Werther in 1893, but its appeal was limited, and it was withdrawn from the repertoire. It wasn’t until 1903 that a successful revival was staged at the Opéra-Comique, and Werther ultimately became Massenet’s second most popular opera worldwide – after Manon – and one of the four most famous French operas of the 19th century.

Werther Jules Massenet Coproducción Palau de les Arts, Opéra Monte-Carlo

The opera tells of the rather introspective 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.

Werther Jules Massenet Coproducción Palau de les Arts, Opéra Monte-Carlo

In this production, tenor Jean-François Borras sings a role which he has also performed at the Metropolitan Opera in New York, with Greek National Opera as well as the Vienna State Opera. Other recent appearances include those of Don José in Bizet’s Carmen at Opéra de Paris and Oper Frankfurt, Nicias in Massenet’s Thais for Monte-Carlo Opera, and his debut performance as Lensky in Tchaikovsky’s Eugene Onegin at the Théâtre des Champs-Elysées in Paris and Opéra Nationale de Bordeaux.

Mezzo-soprano Stéphanie d’Oustrac – who is the great grand niece of composers Francis Poulenc and Jacques de La Presle – has performed in Russia, the United States, Spain, Germany, Switzerland, China and at the Glyndebourne festival – to which she is regularly invited – as well as in France. She is as comfortable singing tragic roles as those which are more light-hearted, and her most immediate forthcoming appearances are the title roles in Ambroise Thomas’ Mignon for Opéra Royal de Wallonie-Liège and Offenbach’s La Perichole for Opéra Comique in Paris.

Canadian baritone Jean-François Lapointe has appeared on the stages of opera houses in major European cities, in America and in Japan. Among his favourite roles is the title in Debussy’s Pelleas et Melisande – a role which he has sung in cities such as Toronto, Bonn, Cincinnati, Marseille and Toulouse, as well as at la Scala, the Opéra Royal de Wallonie-Liège, the Théâtre des Champs-Elysées and at the Concertgebouw in Amsterdam.

The cast also includes Marc Barrard as Le Bailli, Reinaldo Macias as Schmidt, a friend of Le Bailli, Philippe Ermelier as Johann, another friend of Le Bailli, and Jennifer Courcier as Charlotte’s sister Sophie.

Direction is by Jean-Louis Grinda, decor and costumes by Rudy Sabounghi, lighting by Laurent Castaingt and vidéo by Julien Lousier.

Hungarian conductor Henrik Nánási leads the Monte-Carlo Philharmonic Orchestra and the Chorus of Students of l’Académie de Musique Rainier III. Highlights of Maestro Nánási’s current season include performances of Janáček’s Jenůfa at the Royal Opera House Covent Garden, Mozart’s Così fan tutte at San Francisco Opera, Gounod’s Roméo et Juliette at Maggio Musicale Fiorentino, and Puccini’s Madama Butterfly at ABAO Bilbao Opera.

Massenet’s Werther runs at the Salle Garnier, Monte-Carlo Opera, from 20th to 26th February. More information is available on the Monte-Carlo Opera website where there’s a link for ticket reservations.

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

All images: Werther, Palau de les Arts 2017 ©Miguel Lorenzo y Mikel Ponce unless otherwise stated

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Terri Lyne Carrington in residence at SFJAZZ

Courtesy SFJAZZ

From Wednesday to Sunday this week, SFJAZZ hosts the residency of Terri Lyne Carrington – 2021 NEA Jazz Master, GRAMMY® Award-winning composer, drummer, activist and 2019 Doris Duke Award recipient – as she presents five fabulous nights of music.

Terri Lyne Carrington – current SFJAZZ Resident Artistic Director – previews her series of programs on Wednesday, February 16th, with a Listening Party. During this session, she’ll chat to fellow activist Angela Davis and SFJAZZ Director of Education Rebeca Mauleón, trace her history – highlighting the intersection between jazz, gender and social justice – and play recorded or live excerpts from her career. The conversation, which takes place in the Miner Auditorium, starts at 7.30 pm, and closes with questions from the audience, followed by a complimentary reception.

In the first session of her residency, Terri Lyne Carrington & Social Science on Thursday, February 17th, she is joined by her new group, comprising guitarist Matthew Stevens, keyboardist Aaron Parks, Morgan Guerin on bass, tenor saxophone and EWI, Kokayi on vocals and electronics (standing in for DJ Kassa Overall) and vocalist Debo Ray. They’ll perform numbers from Social Science’s GRAMMY®-nominated double album Waiting Game, released on the Motéma label in 2019. At the time, The Jazzman wrote: “With its hard hitting political and social commentary, genre fluid music, and its impressive list of guest performers Waiting Game has the feel of an ‘important’ record”, adding that it’s “…..a musical triumph in its own right”. Downbeat referred to it as “a recording that could be the best jazz album of the year”. This performance takes place in the Miner Auditorium at SFJAZZ at 7.30 pm.

The following evening’s concert, New Standards, on Friday, February 18th is being streamed as well performed live, and features an evening of jazz tunes all composed by women. Terri Lyne Carrington is joined by pianist Kris Davis, bassist Linda May Han Oh, trumpeter Ambrose Akinmusire, flutist Elena Pinderhughes and guitarist Matthew Stevens, to perform pieces from her recently published compilation of New Standards composed by women – artists such as Carla Bley, Cassandra Wilson, Marilyn Crispell, Lil Hardin Armstrong, Eliane Elias, Jaime Branch, Luciana Souza, Hiromi, Emily Remler and Anat Cohen. In challenging the inequity of most songs having been composed by men, Carrington aims to establish a new legacy for jazz – highlighting the contribution of women to the world of jazz. The performance takes place in the Miner Auditorium at 7.30 pm. Details about streaming can be found on the SFJAZZ website.

Having toured extensively with saxophonist and composer Wayne Shorter in her early years of performing, Terri Lyne Carrington regards him as a guiding light and an inspiration. “Wayne’s just one of the most amazing human beings I’ve ever been around,” she says. “He definitely changed my life.” Her multi-media performance on Saturday, February 19th, Musing Emanon: Wayne Shorter’s Orbits, is devoted to pieces from Shorter’s 2018 album Emanon, and features a virtual Shorter on video, reading from the novel he created with writer Monica Sly and artist Randy DuBurke. Performing with Carrington are flutist Nicole Mitchell, guitarist Brandon Ross and jazz pianist and composer David Virelles. The performance takes place at 7.30 pm in the Miner Auditorium.

The final performance of Terri Lyne Carrington’s residency at SFJAZZ – on Sunday, February 20th, is Genius, Grace and Fire: A Tribute to Geri Allen [ . In this concert Carrington honours the legacy of the late jazz pianist, composer and band leader, who “was one of the first people who made me feel like it wasn’t awkward or weird that women played jazz”, she says. The jazz masters joining Carrington in this performance are saxophonist Ravi Coltrane, pianist Jason Moran – both mentored by Allen – and bassist Dave Holland who played and recorded with her. Terri Lyne Carrington’s tribute to Geri Allen takes place in the Miner Auditorium at 7.00 pm.

Further details on all these performances can be found on the SFJAZZ website together with details on buying tickets and becoming a member.

Information sourced from:

SFJAZZ program notes
Artists’ websites

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World Premiere of Cathy Marston’s ‘Mrs Robinson’ opens San Francisco Ballet season

Sarah Van Patten and Joseph Walsh in Marston’s ‘Mrs Robinson’ // © San Francisco Ballet

San Francisco Ballet opened its 2022 season last evening with a triple bill featuring the World Premiere of Mrs Robinson – a new ballet by Cathy Marston – together with Helgi Tomasson’s Trio and George Balanchine’s Symphony in C.

Mrs Robinson is Cathy Marston’s re-imagination of the 1963 novel, The Graduate, by Charles Webb – which was turned into a film of the same name in 1967, starring Anne Bancroft and Dustin Hoffman. Marston, well known for her narrative ballets, revisits the story of the mature seductress who has an affair with a young graduate. It’s her second commission for the Company – the first having been Snowblind, premiered by San Francisco Ballet in 2018.

Sarah Van Patten and Joseph Walsh in Marston’s Mrs. Robinson // © San Francisco Ballet

Award-winning British choreographer Cathy Marston trained at the Royal Ballet School, and was an Associate Artist of the Royal Opera House from 2002 to 2007, before going on to direct the Bern Ballett in Switzerland from 2007 to 2013. With a passion for literature, she has a distinctive style of dance-drama, and a repertoire which includes ballets derived from works such as Bronte’s Jane Eyre, Nabokov’s Lolita, D H Lawrence’s Lady Chatterley’s Lover, as well as the historically-inspired The Cellist, Victoria and Witch-hunt. She has received commissions from prominent dance companies across Europe, in the United States, Canada, Cuba, Hong Kong and Australia.

To celebrate the occasion of the World Premiere, San Francisco Ballet have released a short film of a scene from Mrs Robinson, starring Principal Dancers Sarah Van Patten and Joseph Walsh. This film was shot at the Fairmont San Francisco in November 2020, prior to the intended premiere of the ballet which had to be postponed due to the pandemic.

Edward Kemp – who developed the scenario of Mrs Robinson with Cathy Marston – is currently Director of the Royal Academy of Dramatic Art, and has associations with some of the finest artistic companies in the United Kingdom. Early in his career he was Assistant Director at the Chichester Festival Theatre, then became the first Artistic Director of RADA, before taking on the role of Academy Director. Other institutions with which Edward Kemp is associated include the National Theatre, the Royal Shakespeare Company, the Guildhall and Central Drama Schools, Trinity College of Music, the Royal College of Art, the Royal Opera House and Glyndebourne Education Departments. He has also taught both theatre and creative writing on both sides of the Atlantic.

The score for Mrs Robinson has been written by British composer Terry Davies. From the role of music director and orchestrator at the National Theatre, which is where he started composing professionally, Terry Davies became an Olivier Award winning composer and BAFTA nominee, with a wide range of credits in film, theatre and TV, having also composed for a large number of productions at the Royal Shakespeare Company and the Regent’s Park Open Air Theatre. He has written two musicals – The Birds, commissioned by the Istanbul City Theatre, and Kes! The Musical for the Octagon Theatre, Bolton which was revived at York’s Theatre Royal. Terry Davies is an associate artist of Matthew Bourne’s company New Adventures, and has written five of Matthew’s dance scores.

The program opens with Trio by Helgi Tomasson, now in his 37th and final season as Artistic Director of San Francisco Ballet. This abstract work is set to Tchaikovsky’s String Sextet in D minor Op 70, known as Souvenir de Florence. Tchaikovsky wrote it in the summer of 1890 for the St Petersburg Chamber Music Society, and revised it between November 1891 and January 1892.

San Francisco Ballet in Tomasson’s Trio // © Erik Tomasson

According to biographer Anthony Holden, Florence was a place in which the composer had experienced “a climate of creativity”, and Trio reflects the spirit of the music, with an exuberant first movement, followed by an intimate adagio, then a joyful finale. Originally written in four movements, the Sextet is performed here in an arrangement for string orchestra in three parts, with the final two movements played as one. Trio is as sumptuous visually and choreographically as it is musically.

San Francisco Ballet in Balanchine’s Symphony in C // Choreography by George Balanchine © The Balanchine Trust; Photo © Erik Tomasson

The final work on the program is Symphony in C, a work originally entitled Le Palais de Cristal which George Balanchine wrote in 1947 for the Paris Opera Ballet where he was a guest ballet master. Symphony in C takes its name from the four-movement work which Georges Bizet wrote when he was 17, while studying at the Paris Conservatory as a pupil of Charles Gounod. The original manuscript was lost for years, and not published until after it was discovered in the Conservatory’s library in 1933. In 1948, Balanchine revived the ballet for the New York City Ballet, changing the title, set and costumes – the latter designed by Barbara Karinska – upon which those in this production are based.

San Francisco Ballet in Balanchine’s Symphony in C // Choreography by George Balanchine © The Balanchine Trust; Photo © Erik Tomasson

Symphony in C is a delight. It’s elegant and vibrant, choreographed as only Balanchine could, and set to a wonderfully melodic score.

Program 1 of San Francisco Ballet’s 2022 season runs at the War Memorial Opera House until February 12th. For reservations, visit the San Francisco Ballet website.

Information sourced from:
San Francisco Ballet program notes
Symphony in C – The George Balanchine Trust
Georges Bizet
Tchaikovsky – a biography by Anthony Holden
Artists’ websites

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