It is gratifying to see how many arts organisations are giving performances in support of the people of Ukraine, and Les Ballets de Monte-Carlo is no exception. This month, the Company dedicates the opening performance of Jean-Christophe Maillot’sŒil pour Œil to this inspirational cause.
Created in 2001, and originally premiered at the Grimaldi Forum in Monaco on 14th April of that year, Œil pour Œil (which translates as An Eye for an Eye) is based on a detective story by French editor, writer and translator of Italian literature into French, Jean-Marie Laclavetine. Written especially for Les Ballets de Monte-Carlo, Œil pour Œil is set in the dirty alleys synonymous with the detective novel, dealing with the issues commonly associated with crime fiction – revenge, corruption, the underworld, sex and predation.
It tells of three inseparable friends, Iris, Adam and Wolf – the two boys having been rescued from the slums by Iris. Unfortunately, they both fall in love with her, and the friendship is shattered when she chooses Adam. Wolf falls under the influence of the Octopus, an erotomaniac who reins over a bestiary of Chimeras and Dog-cops, and who monitors every corner of the city from surveillance screens. As time passes, Wolf is haunted by the memory of Iris and sets a trap for his rival to get rid of him. Before escaping with her, Wolf gives Iris a briefcase which he has stolen from the Octopus, and this sets in train a hunt for the two of them, which has tragic results.
Jean-Christophe Maillot has done both the choreography and staging of the ballet, and set it to music by three composers – the postmodernist Russian composer Alfred Schnittke, Arvo Pärt– the Estonian composer who created a unique musical language called tintinnabuli – and American jazz and classical pianist, composer and saxophonist Keith Jarrett. Costumes are by Jérôme Kaplan, with lighting by Dominque Drillot.
Œil pour Œil runs at the Salles des Prince, Grimaldi Forum Monaco, from 28th April to 1st May, with proceeds of the opening performance going to the Monaco Red Cross, to support the people of Ukraine. Tickets may be reserved at Monte-Carlo Ticket, and more information can be found on the Les Ballets de Monte-Carlo website.
Gustavo Dudamel, surely one of the most charismatic conductors of his time, leads the San Francisco Symphony this week in a program of music by Mozart and Mahler. The featured works are Mozart’s Symphony No 38 in D major, known as the Prague Symphony, and Mahler’s Symphony No 5.
Music and Artistic Director of the Los Angeles Philharmonic since the 2009-10 season, and now also Music Director of the Paris Opéra, Gustavo Dudamel is a product of the Venezuela El Sistema musical training program. In 2012 he created the Dudamel Foundation, which aims to provide access to music and the arts for young people.
Both a symphonic and operatic conductor, Maestro Dudamel has led more than 30 staged, semi-staged, and concertante productions across the major stages of the world. These include staged productions with Milan’s Teatro alla Scala, productions at the Berlin and Vienna State operas, the Metropolitan Opera and in Los Angeles, with a repertoire which ranges from Mozart’s Così fan tutte to Bizet’s Carmen, Verdi’s Otello and Wagner’s Tannhäuser. He is equally at home with contemporary music such as Bernstein’s West Side Story, and operas by composers like John Adams and Oliver Knussen. He has recently completed a two-week residency at the New York Philharmonic, celebrating the symphonies of Robert Schumann.
When Mozart arrived in Prague in January 1787, the city was buzzing with enthusiasm for his latest opera Le nozze di Figaro which had met with astounding success. The purpose of his visit was to finish rehearsals of Don Giovanni, the premiere of which was eagerly anticipated by the citizens of Prague, who by then regarded Mozart as their favorite composer. As a gesture of thanks for the adulation of the citizens of Prague, Mozart had a newly completed symphony to present to the city, his Symphony No 38 which, unsurprisingly, took the nickname of the Prague Symphony. It premiered there, at a hugely successful performance, on January 19th, 1787.
Gustav Mahler wrote his Symphony No 5 during the summers of 1901 and 1902, while holidaying in his cottage at Maiernigg on the shores of the Werther Lake in south-eastern Austria. This was a turbulent time for the composer who was experiencing health problems as well as disagreements with the Vienna Philharmonic where he was resident conductor. The Symphony – which turned out to be one of his most beloved works – reflects bursts of energy, the peace of the countryside, has a gorgeous slow movement (which Michael Tilson Thomas describes as “…. probably the closest he ever got to an undisguised outpouring of love and happiness”), and ends in jubilation and triumph. Mahler himself said of the work: “There is nothing romantic or mystical about it; it is simply an expression of incredible energy. It is a human being in the full light of day, in the prime of his life”. It premiered on October 18, 1904, with the composer conducting the Gürzenich Orchestra in Cologne, having conducted a read‑through with the Vienna Philharmonic earlier that year.
Gustavo Dudamel leads the San Francisco Symphony in a program of works by Mozart and Mahler at Davies Symphony Hall from April 21st to 24th. Further information and booking details can be found on the San Francisco Symphony website.
Michael Tilson Thomas featured the Origins and Legacy of Gustav Mahler in his Keeping Score series for PBS, and further details can be found on this page of the San Francisco Symphony website.
Eugene Onegin was Tchaikovsky’s fifth completed opera. It was written and orchestrated, by the composer, between May 1877 and January 1878, and underwent four further revisions between March 1879 and June-July 1891. The libretto – after Alexandr Pushkin’s 1837 novel in verse – was mainly devised by Tchaikovsky, assisted by Konstantin Shilovsky. The opera had its world premiere at the Maly Theatre in Moscow in 1879, performed by students from the Moscow Conservatory, directed by Ivan Samarin and conducted by Tchaikovsky’s close friend Nikolai Rubinstein.
Tchaikovsky’s opera is a classic portrayal of the drama, passion and insight into human nature which characterizes great Russian music and literature. When Lenski introduces his friend, the dashing and handsome Onegin, to the Larin household, the young and somewhat naïve Tatiana falls in love with him, but is rather coolly spurned. She ultimately marries Prince Gremin, and – having grown into an elegant, aristocratic woman – meets up with Onegin again at a ball in St Petersburg. Despite the strength of feeling that they discover between the two of them, she remains faithful to her husband, and when Onegin insults Lenski by flirting with Olga, Lenski challenges him to a duel – with tragic results.
Hightlights of Ailyn Pérez’s current season include performances of Puccini’s Tosca at San Francisco Opera, Donizetti’s L’elisir d’amore at Lyric Opera of Chicago, Alice Ford in Verdi’s Falstaff at Teatro del Maggio Musicale Fiorentino, Massenet’s Manon at Opéra nationale de Paris, Mozart’s Le Nozze di Figaro at Staatsoper in Hamburg and Puccini’s La bohème at Munich’s Bayerische Staatsoper. Pizzicato writes that Ms Pérez’s “….beautiful and generous voice, her commanding technique as well as the broadest possible spectrum of feelings allow her to make a captivating drama of every piece.”
A leading baritone at the Bolshoi Opera, Igor Golovatenko makes his Met Opera debut in the title role of Eugene Onegin. This year he has appeared as Andrey Shchelkalov from Musorgsky’s Boris Godunov at the Opera Apriori International Festival of Vocal Music, with the Berlin Philharmoniker as Robert, Duke of Burgundy, from Tchaikovsky’s Iolanta, and as Giorgio Germont in Verdi’s La Traviata at the Bolshoi Theatre. He will be appearing as Sir Riccardo Forth in Bellini’s I puritani at Wiener Staatsoper this season, and will return to the Bolshoi Theatre to perform Marcello in Puccini’s La bohème.
Recent house debuts for Varduhi Abrahamyan include performances in Lucrezia Borgia at the Donizetti Opera Festival in Bergamo, in Bizet’s Carmen at Teatro Regio di Torino, Bayerische Staatsoper and Opera de Oviedo, in Rossini’s L’Italiana in Algeri at Gran Teatre del Liceu and in Verdi’s Don Carlos at Opera Las Palmas. With her “deep, husky voice” (New York Times) Ms Abrahamyan has also appeared in Eugene Onegin at Canadian Opera, as Preziosilla in Verdi’s La forza del destino at Opéra di Parigi, in Semiramide at the Rossini Opera Festival, as well as in Rossini’s La donna del lago at Opéra de Marseille.
“Piotr Beczala,” says Opera News, “has the kind of voice you want to hang medals on. Its luminosity makes many of his fellow lyric tenors, past and present, sound by comparison like flickering candlewicks. Beczala’s clarity and cleanliness of tone are the essence of his appeal.” He has appeared in many of the world’s finest opera houses, and is a regular guest at the Salzburg Festival. Following his performance in Eugene Onegin, he goes on tour to Colombia, Brazil and Argentina to perform in recital with Camillo Radicke, and then to the Wiener Staatsoper where he appears in recital with Sarah Tysman.
Ain Anger – “One of the greatest Wagner basses of our time”, according to The Guardian – is a regular guest at Wiener Staatsoper where he has sung more than forty roles. He made his Bayreuth Festival debut as Fafner in Das Rheingold and Siegfried, and he has appeared as Hunding in new Ring Cycles at Bayerische Staatsoper, Wiener Staatsoper, Oper Frankfurt, Lyric Opera of Chicago and at the Royal Opera House, Covent Garden. Mr Anger debuted at San Francisco Opera as Pogner in Die Meistersinger von Nürnberg, and is a frequent guest of Deutsche Oper Berlin with whom he also appeared at the BBC Proms in Tannhäuser.
James Gaffigan is described by the New York Times as “one of the rising stars of his generation”. A conductor of both symphony orchestras and opera, he is in his inaugural season as Music Director of the Palau de les Arts Reina Sofía in Valencia, he is Principal Guest Conductor of the Trondheim Symphony Orchestra and Opera, and of the Netherlands Radio Philharmonic Orchestra. He is also Music Director of the Verbier Festival Junior Orchestra, and in the 2023-24 season takes up the position of Music Director of Komische Oper Berlin.
Along with all of the cultural institutions of the Principality of Monaco, the Monte-Carlo Philharmonic Orchestra dedicates its concert of 8th April to the people of Ukraine, with all proceeds going to to the Monegasque Red Cross.
Music Director Kazuki Yamada leads the Orchestra in a programme of works by Mendelssohn, Mozart and Schumann, with guest soloist Maria João Pires playing the Mozart Piano Concerto No 9.
The concert opens with Felix Mendelssohn’s Overture to A Midsummer Night’s Dream (Le Songe d’une Nuit d’été), Op 21 – not to be confused with Mendelssohn’s Incidental Music to a Midsummer Night’s Dream which was written 16 years later. The Overture was composed in 1826 when Mendelssohn was just 17, his inspiration coming from family readings of the Shakespeare play, as well as the translation by August Schlegel, one of the originators of the German Romantic movement and a notable translator of Shakespeare into German. Coincidentally, Schlegel was also a distant relative of the composer. The work was originally conceived as a piano duet, and the fully orchestrated version was premiered in Stettin in 1827.
Multi-award-winning Maria João Pires is regarded as one of the great pianists of the late 20th Century. The Daily Telegraph has written of her “….illuminating phrasing, animated line and golden touch”. Best known for her interpretations of the works of Beethoven, Mozart, Chopin and Schumann, Ms Pires has performed with some of the finest orchestras in the world, appearing regularly with the Berlin Philharmonic, the Boston Symphony Orchestra, Amsterdam’s Royal Concertgebouworkest, the London Philharmonic and the Orchestre de Paris. She has toured the United States with the Concertgebouworkest, appeared at prestigious venues such as the Royal Albert Hall, Carnegie Hall and the Kennedy Center, as well as at the Edinburgh Festival, and is equally acclaimed for her chamber music performances, having toured most of Europe and the Far East as a chamber artist.
Since the 1970s, Maria João Pires has devoted herself to reflecting the influence of art in life, the community and education. She created the Belgais Centre for the Study of the Arts in Portugal in 1999, and in 2012 initiated two complementary projects in Belgium – the Partitura Choirs for children from disadvantaged backgrounds, and the Partitura Workshops – interdisciplinary workshops for professional musicians and music lovers.
In this concert, Maria João Pires plays Mozart’s Piano Concerto No 9, K.271. Composed in 1777, with its size, significant technical demands and depth of expression, it is regarded as the composer’s first fully mature piano concerto. Known as the Jeunehomme concerto, it was thought to have been written for a Mlle Jeunehomme, about whom little is known, but it has also been suggested that it might have been written in honour of Madame Jenové, a skilled pianist who was also the daughter of French choreographer Jean Georges Noverre. What we do know however is that Mozart was the soloist at the premiere of the concerto on 4th October, 1777, and he subsequently performed the work when he visited Mannheim and Paris the following year.
There can be no doubt that Robert Schumann called his Symphony No 1, Opus 38, the Spring Symphony, for on the first page of the preserved manuscript, the words “Frühlings Symphonie” are written in Schumann’s own hand. The most cheerful and buoyant of his four symphonies, the First is also the most frequently played, and is thought to have been inspired by the poetry of the German writer, Adolf Böttger, whose imagery of springtime also influenced composers such as Edvard Grieg and Richard Wagner. Written in early 1841 in the space of four days, the Symphony No 1 was orchestrated in February of that year and premiered in Leipzig on 31st March by the Leipzig Gewandhaus Orchestra – a performance conducted by Schumann’s friend, Felix Mendelssohn.
Kazuki Yamada leads the Monte-Carlo Philharmonic Orchestra and guest artist Maria João Pires in a performance of works by Mendelssohn, Mozart and Schumann in the Auditorium Rainier III on 8th April at 20h00. The concert is dedicated to the people of Ukraine, with all proceeds going to the Monegasque Red Cross.
Seats may be reserved online, or at the ticket office in the Atrium of the Casino, Place du Casino de Monte-Carlo (open from 10h00 to 17h30 or an hour ahead of the concert).
Other arts organisations which have already held performances in aid of the people of Ukraine include
The Monte-Carlo Opera – March 25 – premiere of Wozzeck
The Monte-Carlo Spring Arts Festival – March 31 – Chapiteau de Fontvieille Concert – Radio France Philharmonic Orchestra
Forthcoming performances and events include:
The Princess Grace Theater – April 7 The lucubrations of a man suddenly struck by grace, a play by Edouard Baer
Les Ballets de Monte-Carlo – April 28 – Grimaldi Forum Premiere of the ballet Œil pour Œil
The Grimaldi Forum – June 10 My Land circus and dance show
The Monaco Philosophical Meetings are organising an evening of solidarity with the Ukrainian people and support for researchers and students who are victims of the war in Ukraine, on 28 March at the Maison de l’Océan (Paris).
The Monegasque national committee of ICOM (International Council of Museums) is a signatory of the declaration of the European committees in support of Ukraine, consequently The New National Museum of Monaco plans, within the framework of the actions initiated by ICOM and the Blue Shield, to participate in the sending of equipment to help protect cultural collections on site in Ukraine.
In the fifth program of the current season, San Francisco Balletpresents the World Premiere of Helgi Tomasson’sHarmony – his final creation for the Company as its Artistic Director and Principal Choreographer. Also featured in this celebration of in-house works – those created for San Francisco Ballet by Company members – is Tomasson’s The Fifth Season, and Magrittomania, a quirky piece by Choreographer in Residence, Yuri Possokhov.
In The Fifth Season, Tomasson uses Welsh contemporary composer Sir Karl Jenkins’ String Quartet No 2 to move his dancers through a contrasting range of moods and styles – such as a mesmerizing almost minimalist theme, a delightful tango, a Baroque-style air and an elegant waltz. The Fifth Season takes its name from the first movement of the quartet – and the adagio pas de deux is performed to the largo from Jenkins’ immensely popular Palladio.
Jenkins, who started out as jazz musician, has spread his talent over a number of musical categories – advertising, films, orchestras and festivals – and his String Quartet presented Tomasson with an opportunity for wider creative exploration – because of the diversity of the five movements. Tomasson selected Jenkins’ music on the basis that it’s both relevant to today, and also romantic. The fact that it isn’t often used for ballet gave Tomasson yet another reason to use this piece. Choreographed in 2006, the ballet is regarded as one of Tomasson’s best. Scenic and costume design are by Sandra Woodall, with lighting by Michael Mazzola.
Harmony, which had its World Premiere last evening, April 2nd, is described as a bouyant, joyful work, celebrating the Company’s return to the studios following the easing of shelter-in-place restrictions. A series of linked solos, duets and full cast gatherings onstage, the work is set to a keyboard suite by 18th century French Baroque composer and organist Jean-Philippe Rameau, his Pièces de clavecin. Opening with a darkened stage, the ballet has 12 dancers cautiously coming out from the shadows, along a diagonal ray of light, representing the emergence from the darkness of quarantine into the inspirational joy of harmony and peace that followed. Scenic and costume design are by Emma Kingsbury, with lighting by Jim French.
Magrittomania was commissioned for San Francisco Ballet’s Discovery Program in 2000. Inspired by the paintings of Belgian artist René Magritte, the ballet won an Isadora Duncan Dance Award for outstanding choreography the following year. This highly imaginative work which signified Yuri Possokhov’s choreographic debut for San Francisco Ballet, is not about Magritte, but reflects the surrealist world which influenced Magritte’s work – the green apples, the bowler hats, doves, the lovers wearing shrouds over their heads – bizarre but colourful and striking.
Possokhov has set his ballet to a score arranged by Yuri Krasavin from a selection of recognizable works by Beethoven – his Bagatelle known as Für Elise, extracts from concertos such as the First Piano Concerto and his EmperorConcerto, from his Symphony No 3 Eroicaand No 7, and piano sonatas Waldstein and Appassionata. Scenic and costume design are by Thyra Hartshorn with lighting by Kevin Connaughton.
San Francisco Ballet’s Program 5 runs at the War Memorial Opera House from April 2nd to 16th. The San Francisco Ballet Orchestra is conducted by Music Director Martin West. Further information and details on ticketing can be found on the San Francisco Ballet website.