Met Opera launches new ‘Live in HD’ series with Cherubini’s ‘Medea’

Sondra Radvanovsky as Medea and Matthew Polenzani as Giasone in Cherubini’s ‘Medea’ Photo: Marty Sohl / Met Opera

The Metropolitan Opera opens its new season of Live in HD award-winning cinema simulcasts with a highly acclaimed production of Cherubini’s rarely-performed masterpiece, Medea

A company premiere, this production stars Sondra Radvanovsky in the title role, and according to the Observer, she is “… a revelation…“ bringing “… emotional intensity and depth” to the role. New York Magazine writes: “Medea is the Sondra Radvanovsky show”.

The role of Medea’s husband, Giasone (Jason the Argonaut), is taken by tenor Matthew Polenzani whom the New York Times describes as “… breezily arrogant as the fickle Giasone … “. The San Francisco Chronicle writes of his having “A wonderfully fresh and robust voice, with clarion top notes and a gift for sweet phrasing …”.

The role of Glauce, princess of Corinth who is set to marry Giasone, is sung by soprano Janai Brugger, bass Michele Pertusi is her father, Creonte King of Corinth, and soprano Ekaterina Gubanova is Neris, Medea’s confidante.

Sondra Radvanovsky as Medea and Matthew Polenzani as Giasone in Cherubini’s “Medea.” Photo: Marty Sohl / Met Opera

This “… eye-catching new production” (Wall Street Journal) is both directed and designed by David McVicar, and the Metropolitan Opera Orchestra and Chorus is led by Carlo Rizzi, one of the world’s leading operatic conductors, Artistic Director of Opera Rara and Conductor Laureate of Welsh National Opera.

Medea, the ancient Greek tragedy by Euripides was first produced in 431 BC. This Met Opera production, based on the Euripides tragedy and the myth of Jason and Medea, was composed by Luigi Cherubini in 1797 to a libretto by François-Benoît Hoffman. It tells of the mythical sorceress Medea who is forced by her father to leave Corinth because she has killed her brother. She returns to Corinth to seek revenge on the husband, Giasone, who has spurned her in favor of the princess Glauce. A devastating series of events follows as Medea poisons Glauce and, emerging from a nearby temple where she, Neris and her children have been sheltering, Medea murders the children in a desperate attempt of retribution against Giasone. In a final curse, she sets the temple on fire, with thunder and lightning filling the sky as the terrified local people flee the scene.

Costumes for Medea have been designed by Doey Lüthi, the Lighting Director is Paule Constable, S Katy Tucker is the Projection Designer and the Movement Director is Jo Meredith.

For more information about Medea, please visit the Metropolitan Opera website, where tickets for performances at the opera house can also be bought.

A scene from Cherubini’s ‘Medea’ with Sondra Radvanovsky in the title role, Michele Pertusi as Creonte, and Janai Brugger (in white dress) as Glauce. Photo: Marty Sohl / Met Opera

Medea is sung in Italian, with Met titles in English, German, Spanish and Italian. The live cinema transmission begins at 12:55PM ET on Saturday, October 22nd. To find your local theatre, visit this link. The transmission will be hosted by mezzo-soprano Joyce DiDonato.

Sondra Radvanovsky in the title role of Cherubini’s ‘Medea’ Photo: Marty Sohl / Met Opera

For those who do not have access to a participating cinema, the Met has created a streaming platform The Met: Live at Home, which allows audiences to watch the Met’s acclaimed series of simulcasts from any device in the comfort of their homes. The 2022–23 season of transmissions includes ten productions, including company premieres, new productions, and classic repertory favorites, all featuring opera’s finest stars. The Met: Live at Home is available only in select areas around the world where The Met: Live in HD is not available. The Met: Live at Home events are available to watch live and for a seven-day on-demand period following. Visit The Met: Live at Home website to check eligibility and to buy tickets.

Information sourced from:

Metropolitan Opera Program notes


Artists’ websites:

Sondra Radvanovsky

Matthew Polenzani

Carlo Rizzi

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City of Birmingham Symphony Orchestra opens San Francisco Symphony’s Great Performers series

City of Birmingham Symphony Orchestra (c) Upstream Photography

This month, the San Francisco Symphony presents the first in its 2022-23 Great Performers concerts, in which world-class artists and visiting orchestras appear at Davies Symphony Hall throughout the current season.

Included in this series of performers are pianists Leif Ove Andsnes, Jean-Yves Thibaudet and Daniil Trifonov; violinists Joshua Bell, Hilary Hahn and Itzhak Perlman; the City of Birmingham Symphony, led by Mirga Gražinytė-Tyla, and the Israel Philharmonic, under the direction of Lahav Shani. Pianist Igor Levit appears in recital as part of his artist residency at the Symphony, and Yuja Wang appears with the Symphony and Esa-Pekka Salonen in advance of the Orchestra’s European tour next March.

The first concert in this series takes place on October 16, when the City of Birmingham Symphony Orchestra, under Mirga Gražinytė-Tyla, makes its debut at Davies Symphony Hall. The program of mainly British music includes Britten’s Four Sea Interludes from his opera, Peter Grimes, Thomas Adès’ Exterminating Angel Symphony, Debussy’s La Mer and the Cello Concerto by Sir Edward Elgar.

Mirga Gražinytė-Tyla (c) Frans Jansen

Mirga Gražinytė-Tyla is for this season principal guest conductor at the City of Birmingham Symphony Orchestra, having held the role of Music Director there since 2016. She was a Dudamel Fellow with the LA Philharmonic during the 2012-13 season, then became Assistant Conductor and subsequently Associate Conductor of the orchestra. She was also the Music Director of the Salzburg Landestheater for two years.

Recent highlights of Maestra Gražinytė-Tyla’s career include a highly acclaimed performance of Britten’s War Requiem at the Salzburger Festspiele, her return to opera with a new production of Janáček’s The Cunning Little Vixen at the Bayerische Staatsoper, a number of European tours with the CBSO and performances with the London Symphony Orchestra, the NDR Elbphilharmonie, the Swedish Radio Orchestra, Filarmonica della Scala and the Los Angeles Philharmonic.

Cellist Sheku Kanneh-Mason (c) Jake Turney

The soloist in this performance of the Elgar Cello Concerto is the remarkably talented, internationally renowned, young British cellist, Sheku Kanneh-Mason MBE, winner of the 2016 BBC Young Musician competition, and the first cellist in history to reach the UK Top 10, which he achieved with his album, Elgar, in 2020. Kanneh-Mason has twice performed at the BAFTA awards ceremony, twice won recognition as the Best Classical Artist at the Global Awards (the second award as part of the Kanneh-Mason family) and has won the 2020 Royal Philharmonic Society’s Young Artists’ Award.

The Elgar Cello Concerto is probably among the composers best-known works. Written in 1919, in the aftermath of World War I, it was his last composition of any note. Elgar was horrified by the deprivation and suffering which resulted from the war, and he knew that life would never again be the same. He wrote little during the war years, but from August 1918, he composed four pieces, three chamber works and the Cello Concerto, which became a lament for a lifestyle which would never return. It was premiered by the London Symphony Orchestra on October 27, with the composer conducting, and although it was poorly received at the time, the concerto achieved international recognition some years later when British cellist Jacqueline du Pré recorded it in the 1960s. Since then – together with the Dvořák Cello Concerto – it has come to be regarded as one of the cornerstones of the solo cello repertoire.

The program opens with the Four Sea Interludes from Benjamin Britten’s opera Peter GrimesDawn, Sunday Morning, Moonlight and Storm – the different movements depicting the changing moods of the sea. Based on part of a poem, entitled The Borough, by Suffolk writer George Crabbe, the opera tells the tragic tale of a seafarer, Peter Grimes, who is misunderstood by the hypocritical local villagers, and ultimately lost at sea.

Thomas Adès’ Exterminating Angel Symphony is an orchestral rendering of music from his third opera of that name, based on the 1962 surrealist film El ángel exterminador by Luis Buñuel, which tells of a group of society friends relaxing after a post-opera dinner who find themselves – inexplicably – unable to leave because of a silent barrier at the edge of the room. The Symphony was written in 2020, premiered by the BSO with Mirga Gražinytė-Tyla at Symphony Hall in Birmingham on August 4, 2021, and was performed at the BBC Proms on August 5, 2021. It has four movements – Entrances, a March, a Berceuse and Waltzes.

Claude Debussy is often regarded as a “musical Impressionist” in that his music appeals so greatly to the senses. La Mer is not a literal portrayal of the ocean, but it reflects the sensations and emotions which the sea awakens in us. Debussy loved the sea. He was fascinated by it, and although this work was mainly written in landlocked Burgundy, it was completed at the English seaside town of Eastbourne, which Debussy apparently described to his publisher, Durand, as “a charming peaceful spot: the sea unfurls itself with an utterly British correctness”. There are three movements to the work, roughly translated as: From dawn to noon on the sea, Play of the Waves and Dialogue of the wind and the sea. La Mer – which was composed between 1903 and 1905 – was premiered on October 15, 1905, at the Concerts Lamoureux in Paris under conductor Camille Chevillard.

Mirga Gražinytė-Tyla leads the City of Birmingham Symphony Orchestra in works by Elgar, Britten, Adès and Debussy at Davies Symphony Hall on October 16. For further information and tickets, visit the San Francisco Symphony website or call the box office at 415-864-6000.

Information sourced from:

San Francisco Symphony program notes

Artists’ websites

Elgar Cello Concerto

Peter Grimes

Exterminating Angel Symphony

La Mer

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Plasson & Nice Philharmonic celebrate Franck bicentennial

Conductor Michel Plasson – courtesy Opéra Nice Côte d’Azur

This week, internationally renowned conductor Michel Plasson leads the Nice Philharmonic Orchestra in a special concert to mark the 200th anniversary of the birth of French composer, César Franck.

Maestro Plasson is one of the best known French conductors, highly regarded for his interpretations of operas such as those by Gounod and Massenet as well as for conducting works by Ravel, Rachmaninoff, Brahms, Wagner and Verdi. He was, until his recent retirement, music director of the Orchestre Capitole de Toulouse, and remains the Orchestra’s Honorary Conductor.

The concert opens with Ravel’s enchanting music for the Mother Goose Suite (Ma Mère l’Oye) which was initially written as a four-hand piano composition for two young friends of the composer. In 1911, Ravel transformed this work into an orchestral ballet score, with each of the seven movements depicting a character from the Mother Goose fairytales – The Dance of the Spinning Wheel (Danse du Rouet et Scene), a waltz, is followed by the Pavane of the Sleeping Beauty (Pavane de la Belle au bois dormant), the courtship between Beauty and the Beast, Tom Thumb (Petit Poucet), The Empress of the Pagodas and The Enchanted Garden (Le jardin féerique).

When war broke out in Ukraine earlier this year, Maestro Plasson invited twenty young Ukrainian musicians to join his International Academy of French Music, and included in this group were two soloists whom he selected to perform with the Nice Philharmonic in this concert – pianist Oleksandr Dzvinkovskyi and violinist Bohdan Luts.

Oleksandr Dzvinkovskyi – who will play the 2nd and 3rd movements of Ravel’s beautiful Concerto for Piano and Orchestra in G major – was a foreign exchange student in the Paderewski Festival Cultural Exchange Program held in California in 2016. In 2018 he was a participant in the International Competition for Young Pianists in Memory of Vladimir Horowitz. This biennial competition is held in Kyiv, to honour the memory of the legendary pianist who was born and educated there.

Bohdan Luts is the soloist in the 2nd and 3rd movements of the gorgeous Tchaikovsky Concerto for Violin and Orchestra in D major, Op 35. He studied in both Lviv and Kyiv, as well as at the International Menuhin Music Academy, won First Prize at the Lipizer International Violin Competition, Second Prize at the Il Piccolo Violino Magico International Competition for Young Violinists, the Grand Prize at the Lviv Virtuoso International Violin Competition and the Grand Prize at the Dolný Kubín International Violin Competition.

The Belgian-French Romantic composer and organist, César Franck, really only fulfilled his potential as a composer in the last 10 years of his life. Born in Liège in 1822, he studied at both the Liège and Paris conservatories, dutifully fulfilling his father’s wish for him to become a virtuoso performer, but in 1846, he rebelled and left the family home. During his time as organist at the Basilica of Saint Clotilde in Paris, he composed a handful of sacred choral works, a Mass and a set of Six Pièces for organ, but it wasn’t until 1871 that he was granted membership of the Société Nationale de Musique, confirming his status as a composer. He then started to compose works such as his Piano Quintet in F Minor, Variations symphoniques, Sonata in A Major for Violin and Piano and the String Quartet in D Major, which – together with several organ pieces – set him on course to become one of the most powerful French composers in the second half of the 19th century.

It was in 1877 that Franck started work on his superb Symphony in D minor, and even though it is based on German Romantic standards, it has only three movements instead of the customary four, and many of the themes in the work are heard in all three movements. The Symphony had its European premiere in Paris in 1889, which produced mixed reviews, nevertheless it became part of the international orchestral repertoire, and has remained there to this day. 

Michel Plasson leads the Nice Philharmonic Orchestra and guest artists Oleksandr Dzvinkovskyi and Bohdan Luts in works by Ravel, Tchaikovsky and César Franck, on 15th October at 6.00 pm. The concert takes place at the Opéra Nice Côte d’Azur and tickets may be obtained online.

Information sourced from:

Opéra Nice Côte d’Azur programme notes

Artists’ websites

Franck Symphony in D minor

This article first appeared in Riviera Buzz

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