Greek National Opera Ballet presents new production of ‘Don Quixote’

Danill Simkin and Maia Makhateli in ‘Don Quixote’ © Haris Akriviadis

Ludwig Minkus’ Don Quixote is a lovely, light-hearted ballet – fun, colourful and entertaining, with a lively score and a wonderfully old-fashioned story in which all’s well that ends well – perfect for the run-up to the Festive Season.

This new production for Greek National Opera Ballet has been choreographed by Thiago Bordin, based on the original choreography of Marius Petipa. Currently dancing for the Staatsballet Karlsruhe, Bordin was previously a member of John Numeier’s Hamburg Ballet – rising from the corps de ballet to become a Principal Dancer, with Numeier creating roles specifically for him – and subsequently joining Nederlands Dans Theatre. He has been working as a choreographer – with a focus on classical ballet – alongside his dancing career, and recently premiered his own work, Zukunft braucht Herkunft, at Karlsruhe.

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.

Greek National Opera Ballet’s production of ‘Don Quixote’ © Valeria Isaeva

Regarded as one of the most choreographically challenging ballets in the repertoire, Don Quixote tells of a young Spanish couple, Kitri and Basilo, and how their lives intertwine with that of Don Quixote, Miguel de Cervantes’ chivalrous knight errant who dreams of slaying windmills, with his faithful servant, Sancho Panza, by his side. 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 colourful production and it ultimately ends in happiness for Kitri and Basilo.

Daniil Simkin and Maia Makhateli © Haris Akriviadis

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 travelled 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.

in the roles of Kitri and Basilio for the November performances are two dancers making their debut with Greek National Opera Ballet – Georgian-born Maia Makhateli, currently a Principal Dancer with Dutch National Ballet and international guest artist, and Russian-born Daniil Simkin who is presently a Principal with both American Ballet Theatre and Berlin State Ballet. In December, these roles will be danced by GNO Principal Dancer Eleana Andreoudi and internationally renowned Brazilian dancer Gustavo Carvalho.

The sets for Don Quixote are by Greek designer George Souglides in his first production for the GNO Ballet. He has staged both Bizet’s Carmen and Janáček’s Jenůfa for GNO, and designed sets for opera houses in Chicago, Rome, Lisbon and Valencia, and for companies such as the Royal Ballet and Scottish Ballet.

Greek National Opera Ballet’s ‘Don Quixote’ © Andreas Simopoulos

Also making her debut for GNO is Greek fashion designer Mary Katrantzou who has previously designed costumes for New York City Ballet and Opéra National de Paris, and who has exhibited at the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York and at Dallas Contemporary.

The Greek National Opera Orchestra is led by rising conductor Stathis Soulis, who has appeared with a number of symphony orchestras in Greece, led a production of Sweeney Todd at the Athens Concert Hall, and recently conducted the GNO premiere of Robert Wilson’s new production of Verdi’s Otello, which is now available to stream on GNO TV.

The Greek National Opera Ballet presents Don Quixote at the Stavros Niarchos Hall of the Greek National Opera for seven performances between 26th November and 31st December. More information is available on the Greek National Opera website. Tickets are available from the GNO Box Office and online.

Information sourced from:
Greek National Opera programme notes
Thiago Bordin
Don Quixote – Royal Ballet programme notes
Ludwig Minkus – Royal Ballet programme notes
The Petipa Society

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New production of Gluck’s ‘Orpheus and Eurydice’ for San Francisco Opera

Meigui Zhang and Jakub Józef Orliński (with dancers) in the title roles of Gluck’s ‘Orpheus and Eurydice’ © Matthew Washburn/San Francisco Opera

San Francisco Opera presents the original 1762 Viennese edition of Christoph Willibald Gluck’s Orpheus and Eurydice (Orfeo ed Eurydice) in a new staging by Matthew Ozawa. This production stars countertenor Jakub Józef Orliński as Orpheus, soprano Meigui Zhang as Eurydice and soprano Nicole Heaston as Amore. The conductor is Peter Whelan.

The classical Greek myth of Orpheus and Eurydice was set to music by Gluck in 1762, with a libretto by Italian poet and librettist Ranieri de’ Calzabigi. It tells of the journey to the Underworld by the musician Orpheus of Thrace who – enduring immeasurable grief following the death of his beloved Eurydice on the day of their wedding – vows to bring her back. In their pity for him, the gods allow Orpheus to travel to the land of the dead on one condition – that on the journey back to the land of the living, he neither looks back at Eurydice or explains why he is unable to do so.

Jakub Józef Orliński as Orpheus in Gluck’s ‘Orpheus and Eurydice’
© Cory Weaver/San Francisco Opera

Ozawa’s production portrays the journey of Orpheus as his passage through the various stages of grief, and what makes it unusual is that it focuses on two elements – his memories of Eurydice and the landscape of his mind. To depict the first, Ozawa views the relationship of the lovers in what he terms as “richly athletic dance” – in which they are portrayed by two dancers, with choreography by Rena Butler, in her house debut. To demonstrate the mind of Orpheus, Ozawa has collaborated with physicians from the University of California San Francisco to recreate the brain scans of individuals who have experienced trauma, a basis on which the set and project design, by Alexander V Nichols, has been created.

Jakub Józef Orliński as Orpheus with the San Francisco Opera Chorus in Gluck’s ‘Orpheus and Eurydice © Cory Weaver/San Francisco Opera

Polish countertenor Jakub Józef Orliński is described by The Times as “the toast of the countertenor world … with a flexibility and dramatic sense that bring individuality and multiple colours to everything he sings”. A noted break-dancer and internet sensation, he has won critical acclaim for his sold-out concerts and recitals throughout Europe and the United States, as well as for his recordings, and is the recipient of an Opus Klassik award for Solo Vocal Recording. According to the San Francisco Chronicle, “His singing ….. boasts a golden coloration that lends it a sumptuous fullness. It’s vivacious, tender and utterly ravishing.”

Meigui Zhang and Jakub Józef Orliński (with dancers) in the title roles of Gluck’s ‘Orpheus and Eurydice © Matthew Washburn/San Francisco Opera

Meigui Zhang made her Company debut in June 2022 as Dai Yu in Bright Sheng and David Henry Hwang’s Dream of the Red Chamber. Other recent highlights include appearances at the Metropolitan Opera as Thibault in Verdi’s Don Carlos and as Barbarina in Mozart’s Le nozze di Figaro. On the concert stage, Ms Zhang toured China, and whilst a participant in San Francisco Opera’s Merola Program she gave a highly acclaimed performance as Anne Trulove in Stravinsky’s The Rake’s Progress.

Act II of Gluck’s ‘Orpheus and Eurydice’
© Cory Weaver/San Francisco Opera

With her “… warm and supple soprano …” (Houston Chronicle), Nicole Heaston has appeared with companies such as the Metropolitan Opera, Houston Grand Opera, Dallas Opera, Washington National Opera, Los Angeles Opera, Semperoper Dresden, Düsseldorf’s Deutsche Oper am Rhein and at the Glyndebourne Festival. She recently appeared with San Francisco Opera as Countess Almaviva in Mozart’s The Marriage of Figaro, and as Despina in his Così fan tutte, and she began the current season as Claire Devon in Mazzoli/Vavrek’s The Listeners at Den Norkse Opera.

Jakub Józef Orliński as Orpheus and a dancer in Gluck’s ‘Orpheus and Eurydice’
© Cory Weaver/San Francisco Opera

Matthew Ozawa, stage director, artistic director and educator, is regarded as one of the foremost creative forces in the opera world today, and a master storyteller. The New York Times writes of his “strikingly spare productions” and Opera News describes them as “a vivid demonstration of what opera is all about”. In addition to San Francisco Opera, he has staged productions for companies such as Lyric Opera of Chicago, Santa Fe Opera, Houston Grand Opera, Opera Theatre of St. Louis, San Diego Opera, Carnegie Hall and The Kennedy Center.

Conductor, keyboardist and solo bassoonist, Peter Whelan makes his American debut in these performances of Orpheus and Eurydice. He is Artistic Director of the Irish Baroque Orchestra and founding Artistic Director of Ensemble Marsyas in Edinburgh, and has a particular interest in exploring and championing neglected music from the baroque era.

Costumes for this production are by Jessica Jahn, and lighting is by Yuki Nakase Link.

The finale of Gluck’s ‘Orpheus and Eurydice’
© Cory Weaver/San Francisco Opera

Peter Whelan leads the soloists and the San Francisco Opera Orchestra and Chorus (Chorus Director John Keene) in this production of Orpheus and Eurydice. Sung in Italian with English supertitles, it runs at the War Memorial Opera House until December 1. Further information and details of reservations are available on the San Francisco Opera website.

The performance of Orpheus and Eurydice on Sunday, November 20 will be livestreamed at 2.00 pm (PT). It will be available to watch on-demand for 48 hours from Monday, November 21 at 10.00 am (PT). For tickets – which are available now – or more information about livestreams of San Francisco Opera’s 2022 Fall Season, visit

Information sourced from:
San Francisco Opera program notes
English National Opera programme notes

Artists’ websites:

Matthew Ozawa

Jakub Józef Orliński

Meigui Zhang

Nicole Heaston

Peter Whelan

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Monte-Carlo Opera honours Raoul Gunsbourg with ‘The Damnation of Faust’

Poster courtesy Monte-Carlo Opera

This year marks the centenary of the death of Prince Albert I of Monaco, and appropriately, Monte-Carlo Opera pays tribute to one of its early directors, Raoul Gunsbourg, who was appointed to this role by Prince Albert I in 1892.

Gunsbourg staged the world premiere of Berlioz’s opera The Damnation of Faust at Monte-Carlo Opera on the 18th of February in 1893, which placed the Principality of Monaco at the heart of European culture. This new staging of the work takes place during the commemoration of Prince Albert’s reign, and in the month of the celebrations of Monaco’s National Day.

Opera director, impresario, composer and writer, Raoul Gunsbourg was the longest-serving director of Monte-Carlo Opera, where he served for nearly six decades. He was responsible for the production of a number of world premieres, such as Ravel’s L’Enfant et les sortilèges, Puccini’s La Rondine, Massenet’s Le Jongleur de Notre-Dame, Saint-Saëns’ Hélène and Fauré’s Pénélope, attracting singers of the calibre of Enrico Caruso, Féodor Chaliapine and Nelly Melba.

Courtesy Monte-Carlo Opera

Monte-Carlo Opera will present an exhibition to mark the centenary of the death of Albert I, which will be dedicated to Raoul Gunsbourg, from Monday 14th to Friday 27th November 2022, in the Salle Indigo of the Grimaldi Forum in Monaco.

Hector Berlioz wrote The Damnation of Faust in 1846, with a libretto by the writer Almire Gandonnière, after a translation of Goethe’s Faust by Gérard de Nerval. It tells of the young man, Faust, who becomes world weary and disenchanted with life, until he crosses paths with Mephistopheles. Mephistopheles offers to take Faust on a journey, promising him the restoration of his youth, knowledge and the fulfillment of all his wishes – in return for his soul. Faust accepts this offer, and along the way falls in love with the pure and innocent Marguerite, but ultimately, Mephistopheles demands his pay-back, and Faust is led into the depths of hell where he is surrounded by demons and damned spirits forever.

The world premiere of The Damnation of Faust took place at the Opéra-Comique in Paris, on 6th December, 1846, where it caused a scandal, due to its supernatural story. It nevertheless became one of the 19th century’s most popular, if sinful, productions.

In this Monte-Carlo Opera production, the role of Faust is taken by Samoan tenor Pene Pati, a graduate of San Francisco Opera’s Adler Programme, whom Opera-Online has described as “the most exceptional tenor discovery of the last decade”. The San Francisco Chronicle writes: “With a lustrous mid-range and glorious top notes, Pati sings in a gleaming, sensuous stream of sound”. He was most recently seen as Il Duca di Mantova in Verdi’s Rigoletto at Opera de Rouen Haute Normandie.

French bass Nicolas Courjal is Mephistopheles. He has sung widely in France, as well as internationally, in roles such as Filippo in Verdi’s Don Carlo and Fiesco in his Simone Boccanegro, King Mark in Wagner’s Tristan und Isolde, Gremin in Tchaikovsky’s Eugene Onegin, Pimen in Mussorgsky’s Boris Godunov and Basilio in Rossini’s Il Barbiere di Siviglia.

The role of Marguerite is sung by mezzo-soprano Aude Extrémo who – according to Opera-Online – “…. confirms her position as the most exhilarating French mezzo of her generation”. Ms Extrémo has recently appeared in concert at the Conservatoire de Marseille and the Conservatoire d’Aix-en-Provence in performances of songs by Mahler and Shostakovich, and will go on to sing the role of Brangäne in Wagner’s Tristan und Isolde at Opera National de Lorraine and at Opera de Caen, as well as Erda in Wagner’s Das Rheingold.

Staging of The Damnation of Faust is by Jean-Louis Grinda, choreography by Eugénie Andrin, decor by Rudy Sabounghi, costumes by Jorge Jars, lighting by Laurent Castaingt and video by Gabriel Grinda.

Kazuki Yamada leads the Monte-Carlo Philharmonic Orchestra and Chorus (Chorus Director Stefano Visconti), and the students of the Rainier III Academy of Music in Berlioz’s The Damnation of Faust on 13th, 16th and 19th November. Performances will take place in the Salle des Princes at the Grimaldi Forum and tickets may be booked online.

More information is available on the Monte-Carlo Opera website.

Information sourced from:
Monte-Carlo Opera programme notes
Raoul Gunsbourg
Metropolitan Opera programme notes
Artists’ websites:
Pene Pati
Nicolas Courjal
Aude Extrémo
See also:
Monaco National Day
Grimaldi Forum

This article first appeared in Riviera Buzz

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Czech Philharmonic celebrates Velvet Revolution with Rattle & Kožená

Sir Simon Rattle and Magdalena Kožená with the Czech Philharmonic

The Czech Philharmonic (Music Director Semyon Bychkov) celebrates the anniversary of The Velvet Revolution this year with a series of concerts led by Sir Simon Rattle. The guest artist is Czech mezzo-soprano Magdalena Kožená, and the programme features Ravel’s Five Greek Folk Songs, Béla Bartók’s Five Hungarian Folk Songs and Gustav Mahler’s Symphony No 9.

The 1989 Velvet Revolution which took place in November and December in what was then Czechoslovakia, was a non-violent nationwide protest movement which ended more than 40 years of communist rule in the country. The Velvet Revolution Concerts by the Czech Philharmonic take place to celebrate this revolution each year.

Sir Simon Rattle conducts the Czech Philharmonic

Sir Simon Rattle, recipient of numerous international awards for his recordings, and with longstanding relationships with the world’s leading orchestras and opera houses, is currently Music Director of the London Symphony Orchestra. He is also Founding Patron of the Birmingham Contemporary Music Group and has been a Principal Artist of the Orchestra of the Age of Enlightenment since the early 1990s. Having served as Principal Guest Conductor of the Rotterdam and Los Angeles philharmonic orchestras, and Principal Conductor and Artistic Advisor of the City of Birmingham Symphony Orchestra, he became Music Director of the CBSO before taking up the role of Chief Conductor and Artistic Director of the Berlin Philharmonic Orchestra. As of the 2023/2024 season, Maestro Rattle will become Conductor Emeritus of the LSO, as he becomes Chief Conductor of the Symphonieorchester des Bayerischen Rundfunks in Munich.

The 2022-23 season sees Maestro Rattle leading both of these orchestras, as well as the Staatskapelle Berlin and the Berlin Philharmonic Orchestra, before returning to the Deutsche Staatsoper Berlin to revive Mozart’s Idomeneo. Next summer, he will appear at the Aix en Provence Festival with the LSO, where they will perform Alban Berg’s Wozzeck. They will also tour Japan and South Korea, and later in the season embark on a tour to Australia.

Mezzo-soprano Magdalena Kožená

Award-winning mezzo-soprano Magdalena Kožená – who, according to the Irish Times “…. is one of those performers who makes singing seem like an entirely natural activity” – has worked with the some of the world’s leading conductors, as well as with distinguished recital partners. Most recently she has appeared with the Venice Baroque Orchestra in a concert tour of South America, and in other engagements this season Ms Kožená revives the role of Varvara in Janacek’s Káťa Kabanová in concert with the London Symphony Orchestra, and she returns to Mozartwoche Salzburg in a semi-staged performance of Don Giovanni.

On the opera stage, Magdalena returns to the Deutsche Staatsoper Berlin as Idamante in Mozart’s Idomeneo, and makes her operatic debut at Gran Teatro del Liceu as Ottavia in Monteverdi’s Poppea. She also makes her much anticipated role debut in Handel’s Alcina with Les Musiciens du Louvre in a tour to Paris, Hamburg, Madrid, Barcelona and Valencia.

Magdalena Kožená with members of the Czech Philharmonic

This Czech Philharmonic programme opens with Five Greek Folk Songs by the French composer, Maurice Ravel. These were taken from eight songs for voice and piano which he composed between 1904 and 1906 for his friend, the Greco-French music critic Michel-Dimitri Calvorcoressi who had translated the texts from the island of Chios into French, and wanted them to illustrate a lecture. Ravel selected five of these songs for publication as a cycle with piano accompaniment, and didn’t get round to orchestrating them until 1930. By this time, he was in poor health and completed only two of the orchestrations. The other three were orchestrated by his pupil, Manuel Rosenthal, and the songs with orchestral accompaniment appeared in print in 1935, two years before Ravel’s death.

The Five Greek Folk Songs are followed by Béla Bartók’s Five Hungarian Folk Songs. Bartók spent much of his career collecting and arranging folk songs – not only did he want preserve them, but they also provided inspiration for his own compositions. In 1905 he went travelling in Hungary with his colleague Zoltán Kodály, acquiring a number of songs, and gradually spreading his net wider to include Slovak and Romanian songs, as well as music from Arabia, Turkey and Ukraine. He ultimately became a world authority on the subject, and delivered lectures on the influence of folk music on modern composition as well. In the early 1930s he selected five Hungarian songs from his collection, and on commission from the Budapest Philharmonic, orchestrated them for the celebration in 1933 of the 80th anniversary of the orchestra’s founding.

Sir Simon Rattle with members of the Czech Philharmonic

The final work in this series of concerts is Gustav Mahler’s Symphony No 9 in D major, his last complete work. Although he was by this time based in New York, having become chief conductor of the Metropolitan Opera and also of the New York Philharmonic, he really only felt at home in Austria. He rented an isolated house near the Tyrolean village of Toblach, and started work on his Ninth Symphony during the summer months of 1909, completing the score by April 1910. Mahler didn’t live to see the premiere of this work, which took place on 26th June, 1912, the year after his death. The Vienna Philharmonic was led by Bruno Walter in the Great Hall of Vienna’s Musikverein. The Prague premiere was given on 6th November, 1918, by the Czech Philharmonic, conducted by Otakar Ostrčil, who was a devoted interpreter of Mahler’s legacy.

Sir Simon Rattle is charmingly complementary about the Czech Philharmonic. “It isn’t often that I fall in love with an orchestra, ……” he says. “But when I conducted the Czech Philharmonic for the first time, the kind of music I would like to hear the orchestra play occurred to me immediately. It has been able to preserve its own typical sound, which is perfectly suited to Mahler.”

Maestro Rattle leads the Czech Philharmonic and guest artist Magdalena Kožená in a series of programmes celebrating the anniversary of The Velvet Revolution from 16th to 25th November, in the Dvořák Hall, Rudolfinum in Prague. More information can be found on the Czech Philharmonic website.

All photograpy © Petra Hajska

Information sourced from:
Czech Philharmonic programme notes
Sir Simon Rattle
Magdalena Kožená

Five Greek Folk Songs

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MTT makes return visit to San Francisco Symphony

Michael Tilson Thomas (c) Vahan Stepanyan

Michael Tilson Thomas, Conductor Laureate of the San Francisco Symphony, returns to Davies Symphony Hall this month to lead the orchestra in two programs. The first features the United States premiere of Danny Elfman’s Cello Concerto with guest artist Gautier Capuçon, and the following week MTT leads an all-Brahms program with guest pianist Emanuel Ax.

Danny Elfman’s Cello Concerto was co-commissioned by the Wiener Konzerthaus, Wiener Symphoniker, Orchestre Philharmonique de Radio France and the San Francisco Symphony. The world premiere took place in the Vienna Konzerthaus on March 18 and 20 this year, with Capuçon – for whom the concerto was written – as soloist, and David Robertson leading the Vienna Symphony Orchestra. Capuçon also appeared at the French premiere on May 20 this year with the Orchestre Philharmonique de Radio France, led by Mikko Franck.

Gautier Capuçon (c) Anoush Abrar

Elfman has has collaborated with some of the best-known film directors, including Tim Burton, Peter Jackson, Ang Lee and David O’Russell, and has scored over 100 films – including the soundtrack for Milk, Good Will Hunting, Men in Black, Spiderman and Sommersby . He has also done the scores for television series such as The Simpsons and Desperate Housewives. This year, he’s celebrated the world premiere of a new Percussion Concerto which he wrote for British percussionist Colin Currie, which was premiered by the London Philharmonic Orchestra, led by Ludwig Wicki, at the Royal Festival Hall. He also wrote another new work, Wunderkammer, which was commissioned and performed by The National Youth Orchestra of Great Britain – an ensemble of over 150 teenage musicians led by Andrew Gourlay.

Multiple award-winning cellist Gautier Capuçon is committed to exploring and expanding the cello repertoire, performing a wide range of works each season and regularly premiering new commissions. “The lightness of his touch and the consistent clarity of his bow strokes are quite admirable in themselves,” writes Gramophone magazine, “but when combined with an uncanny sweetness of tone in the higher registers they are breathtaking”. Frequently appearing with many of the world’s finest orchestras, conductors and instrumentalists, Capuçon is both founder and leader of the ‘Classe d’Excellence de Violoncelle’ at the Fondation Louis Vuitton in Paris and a passionate ambassador for the Orchestre à l’École Association, which takes classical music to more than 40,000 thousand school children across France.

This San Francisco Symphony concert opens with Igor Stravinsky’s Symphonies of Wind Instruments. Dedicated to Claude Debussy, the work was written in 1920 and began as a memorial tribute to Debussy – who had died two years previously. It initially took the form of a piano chorale, but Stravinsky later turned it into a longer instrumental piece, for which the chorale provided the ending. The work is not a symphony in the normal sense of the word, but – according to Jonathan Cross, Lecturer in Music at the University of Oxford and Tutor of Christ Church – is used in the plural to signify a ‘sounding together’.

Tchaikovsky’s gorgeous Serenade for Strings brings this concert to a close. It’s an elegant and romantic piece, written in September and October of 1880, which the composer says he “…wrote from inner compulsion. This is a piece from the heart and so, I venture to say, it does not lack artistic worth”. Indeed it does not, and so melodious is it that choreographer George Balanchine set a ballet to the work – which he called simply Serenade.

Michael Tilson Thomas leads the San Francisco Symphony – with guest artist Gautier Capuçon – in a program of works by Stravinsky, Danny Elfman and Tchaikovsky. The concerts take place at Davies Symphony Hall from November 11 to 13. Tickets  can be purchased and more information is available on the San Francisco Symphony website .

The second program in which Michael Tilson Thomas leads the San Francisco Symphony features Brahms’ Serenade No 1, and his First Piano Concerto played by Emanuel Ax.

Emanuel Ax (c) Nigel Parry

Multi award-winning pianist, Emanuel Ax, makes a welcome return to Davies Symphony Hall this month. Highlights of his very full 2022-23 season include a tour with Itzhak Perlman “and Friends”, and he will continue his touring and recording project, Beethoven For 3, with Leonidas Kavakos and Yo-Yo Ma, on the west coast of the United States. Mr Ax will also appear in recital and with orchestras right across the US, as well as on tour in Europe, a tour which includes performances in Germany, the United Kingdom, Switzerland and France.

Brahms’ First Piano Concerto was completed in early 1858, the composer including some material that dates back to 1854. The work actually started out as a symphony, then became a sonata for two pianos, before Brahms finally decided on a piano concerto, although he continued to revise passages until he was satisfied that he had got it right. Brahms played a reading rehearsal, with Joseph Joachim leading the Hanover Court Orchestra, on March 30, 1858, and the world premiere took place on January 22, 1859, with Joachim again leading the Hanover Court Orchestra.

The San Francisco Symphony with Michael Tilson Thomas conducting in rehearsal on Tuesday afternoon, June 28, 2016.

This program opens with Brahms’ Serenade No 1, a work known for its unusually symphonic quality. Initially, the work was scored for nine wind and string players, but friends – including pianist Clara Schumann and violinist Joseph Joachim – persuaded him to revise it for a larger ensemble. Joachim conducted the original version in Hamburg in 1859, and also led the first performance of the final version, which had its world premiere in Hanover on March 3, 1860.

Michael Tilson Thomas leads the San Francisco Symphony – with guest artist Emanuel Ax – in a program of music by Johannes Brahms at Davies Symphony Hall from November 17 to 19. More information is available and tickets  can be purchased on the San Francisco Symphony website .

Information sourced from:

San Francisco Symphony program notes
Danny Elfman
Gautier Capuçon
Stravinsky Symphonies of Wind Instruments
Tchaikovsky – Serenade for Strings
Emanuel Ax
Brahms Piano Concerto No 1
Brahms Serenade No 1

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Metropolitan Opera screens Verdi’s ‘La traviata – Live in HD’

The prelude of Verdi’s ‘La traviata’ Photo: Jonathan Tichler / Met Opera

Cinema audiences worldwide have an opportunity this Saturday to watch the Metropolitan Opera’s performance of Verdi’s beloved tragedy, La traviata – live from the stage of Lincoln Center in New York.

Nadine Sierra as Violetta in Verdi’s ‘La traviata’ Photo: Marty Sohl / Met Opera

This production, by Michael Mayer, takes the form of a series of flashbacks as Violetta, in her dying moments, relives her love affair with Alfredo. It stars soprano Nadine Sierra as the ‘fallen woman’ of the title, who forgoes her relationship with her lover at the request of his father. Ms Sierra, making her Met role debut as Violetta, will reprise this role at Maggio Musicale Fiorentino, and during this season will also appear as Gilda in Verdi’s Rigoletto at Teatro di San Carlo and at the Staatsoper Berlin, in the title role of Manon at Gran Teatre del Liceu and will also make role debuts as Amina in Bellini’s La sonnambula and as Liù in Puccini’s Turandot at Teatro Real.

Nadine Sierra as Violetta and Stephen Costello as Alfredo in Verdi’s ‘La traviata’
Photo: Marty Sohl / Met Opera

Tenor Stephen Costello – described by Opera News as a “first class talent” – is Violetta’s lover, Alfredo, who is devastated to discover that his father has persuaded Violetta to give him up. Mr Costello will follow his performance at the Met with appearances at the Bayerische Staatsoper in Verdi’s Don Carlo, in Puccini’s La bohème and in Verdi’s Rigoletto at the Met, in Donizetti’s Roberto Devereux at the Opernhaus Zurich and in La bohème at the New National Theatre in Japan.

Luca Salsi as Germont and Nadine Sierra as Violetta in Verdi’s ‘La Traviata’
Photo: Marty Sohl / Met Opera

Acclaimed baritone Luca Salsi who has sung every major Verdi baritone in some of the greatest opera houses of the world, takes the role of Count Germont, Alfredo’s disapproving father, who cannot stand the shame of his son’s relationship with a courtesan and sets about destroying their relationship. It’s only as he watches the suffering of his son, as Violetta is dying, that he accepts the consequences of his actions.

Act II, Scene 2 of Verdi’s ‘La traviata’ Photo: Jonathan Tichler / Met Opera

Verdi’s three-act opera, La traviata, with an Italian libretto by Francesco Maria Piave, is based on the 1852 play La Dame aux camélias by Alexandre Dumas fils, which in turn was based on Dumas’ 1848 novel of the same name. Inspiration for the novel came from an actual ‘lady of pleasure’ whom Dumas had known and adored. The opera, which premiered at La Fenice in Venice on March 6th, 1853, became one of Verdi’s most frequently performed during his lifetime – and continues to be so today.

Luca Salsi as Germont and Stephen Costello as Alfredo in Verdi’s ‘La traviata’
Photo: Marty Sohl / Met Opera

Leading the performance is Daniele Callegari, Principal Conductor of the Nice Philharmonic Orchestra, who has conducted some of the world’s major opera companies and orchestras in some of the most prestigious opera houses and concert halls around the globe.

Eve Gigliotti as Annina, Paul Corona as Dr Grenvil, Nadine Sierra as Violetta, Stephen Costello as Alfredo, Luca Salsi (backgound) as Germont, and Allegra Herman as Germont’s daughter in Verdi’s ‘La traviata’ Photo: Marty Sohl / Met Opera

Maestro Callegari leads the soloists and the Metropolitan Opera Orchestra and Chorus in a live broadcast of Verdi’s La traviata on Saturday, November 5 at 12.55 pm (ET). The broadcast is hosted by soprano Renée Fleming.

Find your nearest cinema online, and for audiences who do not live near a participating cinema, La traviata will also be available on the newly launched The Met: Live at Home platform, which offers the live performance stream or view-on-demand capability for seven days following the performance. 

Information sourced from Metropolitan Opera program notes

Artists’ websites:

Nadine Sierra

Stephen Costello

Luca Salsi

Daniele Callegari

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Nice Opera opens new season with Bellini’s ‘La Sonnambula’

Photo courtesy Nice Opera

Nice Opera opens the 2022-23 opera season with Vincenzo Bellini’s La Sonnambula. Directed by one of today’s leading tenors, Rolando Villazón, and Jean-Michel Criqui, this new staging of La Sonnambula is a co-production between the Théâtre des Champs-Elysées in Paris, Semperoper Dresden, Opéra Nice Côte d’Azur and New York’s Metropolitan Opera.

This production by Nice Opera stars Spanish soprano Sara Blanch as Amina, the sleepwalker of the title. Ms Blanch has performed in many of Europe’s major opera houses, such as Gran Teatro del Liceu in Barcelona, Madrid’s Teatro Real, the Teatro Regio in Turin, as well as in festivals such as the Festival de Salzburg, the Donizetti Opera Festival in Bergamo and Musiques en Fête at the Théâtre Antique d’Orange in France.

As Elvino – whom Amina is to marry – is Uruguayan tenor Edgardo Rocha, highly regarded for his repertoire in bel canto of which he is considered to be an important exponent.

Romanian bass Adrian Sâmpetrean is Rodolfo, in whose room Amina is found to be sleeping. He has appeared with numerous opera companies, including Opéra de Monte Carlo, the Bavarian State Opera Munich, the Bolshoi Theatre, Teatro alla Scala, Opéra de Paris and Lyric Opera of Chicago.

Also in the cast are Italian soprano and bel canto specialist Cristina Giannelli as Lisa, who was once engaged to Elvino, French baritone Timothée Varon as Alessio, who is in love with Lisa, and Italian mezzo-soprano Annunziata Vestri as Teresa, who brought up Amina when she was orphaned.

Bellini’s La Sonnambula was inspired by an 1819 vaudeville show by French playwrights Eugène Scribe and Casimir Delavigne, which was adapted into a ballet, choreographed for the Paris Opera by Jean-Pierre Aumer, with the title La somnambule, ou L’arrivée d’un nouveau seigneur (The Sleepwalker, or The Arrival of a New Lord). It premiered at the Teatro Carcano de Milan on 6th March, 1831.

La Sonnambula is a two-act opera semiseria in the bel canto tradition – semiseria being an Italian genre of opera, popular in the early and middle 19th century, which contains elements of comedy but also of pathos, sometimes with a pastoral setting. With a libretto by Felice Romani, La Sonnambula was created under a degree of pressure in terms of time. Bellini had had to cancel the planned scoring of Romani’s libretto for Ernani in November 1830 (for reasons of censorship), Romani was a busy author – working simultaneously for Donizetti and Rossini – and Bellini had less than two months until the planned premiere of La Sonnambula in February 1831.

The opera tells of Amina who sleepwalks the night before her wedding, and is found in Rodolfo’s bed. Lisa had earlier paid Rodolfo a visit, having discovered that he is a former local count, and on Amina’s arrival, hides in a cupboard, but drops her handkerchief in the room. Elvino is consumed with jealousy when he finds out that Amina has been asleep in Rodolfo’s bed, and – despite her protestations of innocence, supported by Rodolfo – he calls off the wedding, and prepares to marry Lisa instead. Teresa, having picked up Lisa’s handkerchief in Rodolfo’s room, triumphantly shows it to Elvino who realises that Lisa has lied to him. Amina is found once more walking in her sleep, and Elvino, realising she is innocent, slips his ring onto her finger, making her dreams come true.

Rolando Villazón – described by The Times as “the most charming of today’s divos”, and by Süddeutsche Zeitung as having “a wonderfully virile voice…grandezza, elegance and power” – is a highly versatile artist. In addition to his on-stage career, he is equally successful as a stage manager, a novelist and also a TV personality.

Jean-Michel Criqui is a revival director who most recently collaborated with Robert Carsens on a production of Carmen at Dutch National Opera. He has also recently worked with Mariame Clément on Rossini’s Il Barbiere di Siviglia, on Verdi’s Don Carlo at the Aalto-Theater Essen and on Bellini’s Norma at Barcelona’s Gran Teatre del Liceu.

The Nice Opera Orchestra and Chorus are led by the internationally acclaimed Italian conductor, Giuliano Carella. Maestro Carella’s wide repertoire ranges from the Classical composer Giovanni Paisiello to the contemporary work of Lorenzo Ferrero, and includes the most important works in the Italian, and several in the French, operatic repertoires. Also a symphonic conductor, Maestro Carella has appeared in many of the major opera houses of the world, and has been President of
I Soloisti Veneti since 1990.

La Sonnambula runs at Opéra Nice Côte d’Azur from 4th to 8th November. Tickets may be reserved online.

Information sourced from:
Opera Nice programme notes
Metropolitan Opera programme notes
Artists’ websites:
Rolando Villazón
Jean-Michel Criqui
Sara Blanch
Edgardo Rocha
Adrian Sâmpetrean

This article first appeared in Riviera Buzz

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