Trifonov plays Mason Bates with San Francisco Symphony

Daniil Trifonov © Dario Acosta

German conductor Ruth Reinhardt makes her debut with the San Francisco Symphony in a concert which stars Russian pianist Daniil Trifonov performing the West Coast Premiere of Mason Bates’ new Piano Concerto, co-commissioned by the San Francisco Symphony and the Philadelphia Orchestra. The program opens with Finnish composer Lotta Wennäkoski’s Om fotspår och ljus (Of Footprints and Light) – Helsinki Variations – and also features Dvořák’s Symphony No 5.

Ruth Reinhardt © Jessica Schaefer

In recent years, Ruth Reinhardt, described by the Cincinnati Business Courier as “…. clearly a rising star to watch”, served as assistant conductor of the Dallas Symphony, and was a Dudamel Fellow of the Los Angeles Philharmonic, a conducting fellow at the Seattle Symphony and the Tanglewood Music Center, as well as an associate conducting fellow of the Taki Concordia program. She made her debut with several American orchestras during the 2019-20 season – including the Los Angeles and St. Paul Chamber Orchestras, and her European debuts included, among others, the Orchestre national d’Île de France, Frankfurt Radio Symphony, DSO-Berlin and the MDR Leipzig Radio Symphony.

Daniil Trifonov – GRAMMY Award-winner of the Best Instrumental Solo Album of 2018, and Musical America’s 2019 Artist of the Year – is renowned as a concert pianist, as a chamber music and vocal collaborator, and also as a composer. Referred to by the LA Times as “….. an astonishing pianist”, he undertook a European tour earlier this season, during which he focussed on The Art of Fugue, as well as a US tour of works by Prokofiev, Szymanowski, Debussy and Brahms. Other orchestras with whom he has appeared this season include the Dallas Symphony, the Philharmonia Zurich and Rome’s Orchestra dell’Accademia Nazionale di Santa Cecilia. In addition, he performed all five of Beethoven’s Piano Concertos in various combinations with eight different orchestras – the New York Philharmonic, Cincinnati Symphony, New Jersey Symphony, Munich Philharmonic, Mariinsky Orchestra, Orchestre des Champs-Élysées, Budapest Festival Orchestra and Toronto Symphony.

Mr Trifonov gave the world premiere performances of Mason Bates’ new Piano Concerto – which was composed for him during the pandemic – with Yannick Nézet-Séguin and the Philadelphia Orchestra, before performing it with the New Jersey Symphony and the Israel Philharmonic. The London Times writes that he is “….. without question the most astounding young pianist of our age”.

Mason Bates – who has been championed by legendary conductors such as Michael Tilson Thomas and Riccardo Muti – has been named the second most-performed composer of his generation in a recent survey of American music, his symphonic music being the first to receive widespread acceptance for its unique integration of electronic sounds. Composer, DJ and curator, he was the first composer-in-residence at the Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts, and has written a Grammy-winning opera, The (R)evolution of Steve Jobs, with libretto by Mark Campbell, described by The Atlanta-Journal Constitution as “…. a magnificent, wondrous opera”.

Mason Bates

The 2021-22 season sees the premiere of Philharmonia Fantastique: The Making of the Orchestra, a concerto for orchestra and animated film commissioned by Chicago Symphony Orchestra, Dallas Symphony Orchestra, National Symphony Orchestra, Pittsburgh Symphony Orchestra, San Francisco Symphony and the American Youth Symphony. He has also written Hymn for the Future for cellist Yo-Yo Ma, Soundcheck in C Major for the opening of The Shell with the San Diego Symphony, and a new concert opener The Rhapsody of Steve Jobs, based on his hit opera. Mason Bates is currently at work on The Amazing Adventures of Kavalier & Clay for the Metropolitan Opera, with librettist Gene Scheer.

The composer of the opening work of this concert, Lotta Wennäkoski has had her works played by orchestras such as the Helsinki Philharmonic Orchestra and the Finnish RSO. The BBC commissioned her orchestral work Flounce, the premiere of which was held at the Last Night of the Proms on September 9th, 2017. The following year the Los Angeles Philharmonic Orchestra commissioned Wennäkoski’s chamber work Hele, the premiere of which took place in November 2018 in Walt Disney Hall. Om fotspår och ljus was commissioned by the Helsinki Philharmonic Orchestra, and premiered in September 2019. Wennäkoski, who has made a number of recordings, has recently finished her first big opera Regine, a commission from Savonlinna Opera Festival.

The final work in the program is Dvořák’s Symphony No 5 in F major Opus 76. Composed in June and July of 1875 – with a revision in 1887 – this cheerful work is regarded as representing a turning point in the composer’s style. It was the first of the series of works which would ultimately be recognized as Dvorak’s symphonic masterpieces. The premiere of Dvořák’s Fifth Symphony was given in Prague on March 25th, 1879, by the ‘Filharmonie’ Orchestra led by Adolf Cech.

The San Francisco Symphony with music director Michael Tilson Thomas, during rehearsal at Davies Symphony Hall on Wednesday morning, November 2, 2016.

Ruth Reinhardt leads the San Francisco Symphony, with guest soloist Daniil Trifonov, in works by Mason Bates, Lotta Wennäkoski and Antonín Dvořák at Davies Symphony Hall from June 2nd to 5th. For further information and tickets, visit the San Francisco Symphony website.

Information sourced from:

San Francisco Symphony program notes

Ruth Reinhardt

Daniil Trifonov

Mason Bates

Lotta Wennäkoski

Dvorak Symphony No 5

ArtsPreview home page

Royal Ballet presents ‘Swan Lake’ in cinemas

On 19th May, The Royal Ballet presents Tchaikovsky’s legendary Swan Lake live in cinemas around the United Kingdom, with an encore on Sunday 22nd May.

This revival – based on the original choreography by Marius Petipa and Lev Ivanov – is by the late Liam Scarlett, a former dancer with the company and Artist in Residence at the Royal Ballet, who created numerous works for the Royal Ballet, including Consolations and Liebestraum (nominated for a Critics’ Circle Award), Asphodel Meadows (nominated for a South Bank and an Olivier award, and winner of a Critics’ Circle National Dance Award), Sweet Violets, Jubilee pas de deux (in celebration of HM The Queen’s Diamond Jubilee), The Age of Anxiety, Summertime, Frankenstein (a co-production with San Francisco Ballet) and Symphonic Dances – created in 2017 and set to and named after Rachmaninov’s gorgeous 1940 score.

Design is by John Macfarlane who has been doing set and costume design for Royal Opera House productions since 1985. He has also worked for companies such as the Metropolitan, San Francisco, English National, Dutch National and Vienna State operas and La Monnaie in Brussels.

Scarlett works wonders with Tchaikovsky’s sumptuous score for Swan Lake, and this is as luxurious a presentation of the most popular ballet of our time as one could hope for.

Casting for this production of Swan Lake will be posted on this page of the Royal Opera House website.

To find a screening of Swan Lake at a cinema near you, visit this page of the Royal Ballet website.

Information sourced from Royal Ballet programme notes

Royal Opera House websites:

Liam Scarlett

John Macfarlane

ArtsPreview home page

Metropolitan Opera screens Puccini’s ‘Turandot’ live in cinemas

Scene from Act II of Puccini’s ‘Turandot’ © Marty Sohl/Metropolitan Opera

As part of its ongoing The Met: Live in HD series, the Metropolitan Opera streams Puccini’s grand opera Turandot in cinemas the world over this coming weekend.

This spectacular production, by Italian director, designer, and producer of opera, theatre, motion pictures and television, the late Franco Zeffirelli, is described by the Huffington Post as “…. one of the gems in the Met repertory”. It stars Ukranian soprano Liudmyla Monastyrska in the title role of Princess Turandot, South Korean tenor Yonghoon Lee takes the role of Caláf, Albanian soprano Ermonela Jaho is Liù, and Italian bass Ferruccio Furlanetto is Timur – the vanquished former King of Tartary and long-lost father of Caláf. 

The Metropolitan Orchestra and Chorus are led by Italian conductor Marco Armiliato, and American soprano Nadine Sierra hosts the live transmission. Ms Sierra is currently starring in the title role of the Met’s new production of Donizetti’s Lucia di Lammermoor, which will be the next Live in HD transmission, on Saturday, May 21st.

It was Renato Simoni – librettist, director and theatre critic – who suggested to Puccini that he write a lyric opera based on Friedrich Schiller’s version of the fairytale Turandotte, by the Venetian author Carlo Gozzi in 1762. Puccini was apparently most enthusiastic about the idea, and in 1919, Simoni and librettist Guiseppe Adami – who had already written libretti for Puccini’s La rondine and Il tabarro – started work on the text.

Poster for premiere of ‘Turandot’ April 25th, 1926
by Leopoldo Metlicovitz (1868 – 1944) – courtesy Wikimedia Commons

Work on the score for Turandot went slowly – it was five years before Puccini had written most of it – then, tragically, he died in 1924, before he could complete it, and without being able to enjoy the success of one of his most popular and most often performed works. The last duet and finale were written by Italian composer and pianist, Franco Alfano in 1926. Turandot was premiered at Teatro alla Scala in Milan on April 25 of that year, but – according to PBS – “The opening night performance omitted the Alfano finale, with Toscanini putting down his baton where Puccini had abandoned the score when he died. Reportedly, Toscanini turned to the audience and said, ‘Here the composer died’.”  

Set in Peking, this somewhat dark opera tells of the beautiful, but icy, Princess Turandot who is determined never to be possessed by a man. She sets her suitors the task of answering three riddles – which, until the arrival of Prince Caláf – none of them has successfully done, resulting in their execution. Distraught at the thought of having to marry Caláf, Princess Turandot willingly accepts his challenge of guessing his name before dawn, instructing her subjects not to sleep until his name has been discovered – hence the introduction of the most popular aria in the opera, Nessun dorma (none shall sleep). Thanks to the sacrifice of the slave girl, Liù – who was in love with Caláf, but suffers torture, and ultimately death, rather than reveal his name – Turandot weakens, and Caláf ultimately wins her hand.

Süddeutsche Zeitung wrote of Liudmyla Monastyrska: “…. this magnificent singer can express all feelings, all emotional levels through her vocal: peace, despair, death, restlessness, eroticism, fear of death, tenderness.” In previous seasons, she has starred in Live in HD transmissions of Verdi’s Aida and Nabucco, and she will follow this Met Opera performance with an appearance at the Arena di Verona in the title role of Aida, then as Donna Leonora in La forza del destino at the Verdi Festival in Parma. Ms Monastyrska will return to the Met in October to sing the title role in Puccini’s Tosca.

Yonghoon Lee has previously sung the role of Caláf at the Met, and earlier this year at Opera Australia in Sydney, where he also sang the title role in Verdi’s Otello. Following this performance in Turandot, Mr Lee will return to Sydney to sing Manrico in Verdi’s Il trovatore and return to the role of Caláf at the Fondazione Arena di Verona.

Ermonela Jaho sings Liù which she has recently sung in a concert performance at the Accademia Nazionale di Santa Cecilia. Other performances this year include the title role in Cilea’s Adriana Lecouvreur at the Teatro Communale di Bologna and in Oviedo, Spain, Cio-Cio-San in Puccini’s Madama Butterfly at the Staatsoper in Hamburg, and the title role in Massenet’s Thais at Theatre des Champs-Elysees in Paris. Following her 2017 performance in Madama Butterfly at the Royal Opera House, The Independent wrote: “Ermonela Jaho is the best Cio-Cio-San London has seen in years”

Marco Armiliato has led orchestras at many of the world’s leading opera houses. He is a frequent guest at the Metropolitan Opera, where he has conducted operas including La bohème, Macbeth, Turandot, Manon Lescaut and La fanciulla del West. In 2012 he set a record at the Met by conducting six operas in six days.

The Metropolitan Opera’s live cinema transmission of Turandot begins at 12:55 pm ET on 7th May. To find your local cinema and time of screening, visit this link.

Information sourced from:

Metropolitan Opera program notes
Liudmyla Monastyrska
Yonghoon Lee
Ermonela Jaho
Marco Armiliato

ArtsPreview home page