Monte-Carlo Ballet closes the year with Maillot’s ‘Faust’

Scene from Maillot’s ‘Faust’ © Marie-Laure Briane

For the final production of the year, Jean-Christophe Maillot and Les Ballets de Monte-Carlo have selected a work which was first staged in Monaco in 2007 – Maillot’s interpretation of the story of Faust, he who sold his soul to the devil in return for eternal youth and a life of pleasure.

The Company’s Choreographer/Director first took an interest in the story of Faust following a production of Gounod’s opera on this subject at the Wiesbaden theatre in the spring of 2007. With a libretto in French by Jules Barbier and Michel Carré, this five-act opera was adapted from Carré’s Faust et Marguerite, a play loosely based on Part I of Johann Wolfgang von Goethe’s epic poem, Faust, which was in turn based on a German legend – and often considered Germany’s greatest contribution to world literature.
In Goethe’s poem, Faust makes a pact with Mephistopheles whereby he gives up his soul after his death in order to gain eternal youth, knowledge and power whilst still on earth. The opera premiered at the Lyric Theatre in Paris on the 19th of March, 1859.

Maillot dedicated his Faust to Maurice Béjart, who was fascinated by the character. J-C Maillot says that he “…. delved into the various different versions by Goethe, Marlowe and Barbier. I began by comparing them, and then eliminating the peculiarities of each of them so that in the end, I was left with the key, essential elements shared by all three”.

In the ballet, Mephistopheles, having secured Faust’s agreement to the pact, sets about enacting his plan. He arranges for the innocent Marguerite to become Faust’s mistress, she falls pregnant, but is then abandoned by Faust. Marguerite’s brother is furious with him, and because Marguerite has lost the baby, she is in prison awaiting execution, accused of having murdered the child. Faust enlists the help of the devil to free her, but Marguerite – initially happy at their reunion – suddenly pushes Faust away, and – like an angel -rises to the heavens.

The score is Liszt’s dramatic Faust Symphony, with additional music by Bertrand Maillot. Written in 1854, with various revisions over several decades, the Symphony has the traditional four movements, each of the first three named after Goethe’s characters – Faust, Gretchen and Mephistopheles. The work was dedicated to Hector Berlioz who was instrumental in helping Liszt with various aspects of composition and orchestration.

Scene from Maillot’s ‘Faust’ © Marie-Laure Briane

Stage Design for this production is by Rolf Sachs, costumes are by Philippe Guillotel, lighting is by Jean-Christophe Maillot with the assistance of Jean-Pascal Alouges, video is by Gilles Papain and dramaturgy assistance by Josu Zabala.

Jean-Christophe Maillot’s Faust – with the participation of the Monte-Carlo Philharmonic Orchestra and Monte-Carlo Opera – runs at the Salle des Princes, Grimaldi Forum in Monaco, from 27th to 31st December.

Information sourced from:
Les Ballets de Monte-Carlo programme notes
Faust Symphony

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Metropolitan Opera screens ‘The Hours’ ‘Live in HD’

Kelli O’Hara as Laura Brown, Renée Fleming as Clarissa Vaughan, and Joyce DiDonato as Virginia Woolf in Kevin Puts’s ‘The Hours’ Photo: Paola Kudacki / Met Opera

Cinema audiences worldwide will have an opportunity on Saturday to watch the Metropolitan Opera’s production of The Hours as part of The Met: Live in HD series.

With a score by Pulitzer Prize-winning composer Kevin Puts, The Hours stars soprano Renée Fleming, mezzo-soprano Joyce DiDonato and operatically-trained Broadway star Kelli O’Hara. Libretto is by playwright, lyricist and fiction writer Greg Pierce, and direction by Phelim McDermott who won acclaim for his recent Met Opera staging of Philip Glass’s Akhnaten. Met Opera Music Director Yannick Nézet-Séguin conducts.

The opera is based on the 1998 PEN/Faulkner Award and the Pulitzer Prize novel The Hours by author Michael Cunningham, inspired in turn by Virginia Woolf’s Mrs Dalloway, and adapted into an Oscar-winning film of the same name, starring Meryl Streep, Julianne Moore and Nicole Kidman.

It takes place on a single day in the lives of three women – Virginia Woolf (sung by Joyce DiDonato) in London in 1923, as she battles mental illness whilst writing her novel Mrs Dalloway; Los Angeles housewife Laura Brown (the role taken by Kelli O’Hara) in 1949, who longs to escape from her family; and New Yorker Clarissa Vaughan (Renée Fleming) in 1999, who is haunted by the past, but is planning a celebration of her closest friend who is dying of AIDS.

Kelli O’Hara as Laura Brown and Sylvia D’Eramo as Kitty in Kevin Puts’s ‘The Hours’
Photo: Evan Zimmerman / Met Opera

Ultimately, Clarissa, Laura and Virginia find themselves in a space that transcends time and place, where they can finally share their inner feelings. They are surprised to discover that, as they tried to muddle through their days, feeling completely alone, there were others who felt the same way, with similar feelings of loneliness and despair.

Variety calls the opera “a stunning triumph”, PBS Newshour refers to it as the “Opera event of the year”, The Times in London describes it as “Cinematic and beautiful” and according to the Financial Times, it’s “Compelling … DiDonato is gripping as Virginia Woolf … Broadway star O’Hara gives a striking performance as Laura Brown … Fleming gave an affecting, introspective account … Ravishing”.

Renée Fleming as Clarissa Vaughan and Kyle Ketelsen as Richard in Kevin Puts’s ‘The Hours’ Photo: Evan Zimmerman / Met Opera

The cast also features mezzo-soprano Denyce Graves as Sally, Clarissa’s partner; soprano Kathleen Kim as Barbara and Mrs Latch; soprano Sylvia D’Eramo as Kitty and Vanessa; countertenor John Holiday as the Man Under the Arch and the Hotel Clerk; bass- baritone Kyle Ketelsen as Richard, Clarissa’s best friend; treble Kai Edgar as the young Richard; tenor William Burden as Louis, Richard’s ex-boyfriend; tenor Sean Panikkar as Leonard Woolf, Virginia’s husband; and bass-baritone Brandon Cedel as Dan Brown, Laura’s husband.

Kelli O’Hara as Laura Brown, Renée Fleming as Clarissa Vaughan, and Joyce DiDonato as Virginia Woolf in Kevin Puts’s ‘The Hours’ Photo: Paola Kudacki / Met Opera

The creative team includes set and costume director Tom Pye, lighting designer Bruno Poet, projection designer Finn Ross, choreographer Annie-B Parson in her Met debut, and dramaturg Paul Cremo. The transmission is hosted by award-winning stage and screen star Christine Baranski.

Yannick Nézet-Séguin leads the Metropolitan Opera and Chorus, and guest artists in a Live in HD production of The Hours. Sung in English, it has Met titles in English, German and Spanish. The live cinema transmission begins at 12:55 pm ET on Saturday December 10th.

For more information about The Hours, please visit the Metropolitan Opera website, where details of your nearest cinema can also be found.

For audiences who do not live near a participating cinema, The Hours will also be available on the newly launched The Met: Live at Home platform (see Met Opera website), which offers the live performance stream or view-on-demand capability for seven days following the performance.

Information sourced from:
Metropolitan Opera program notes
Renée Fleming
Joyce DiDonato
Kelli O’Hara
Michael Cunningham
Greg Pierce
Phelim McDermott

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Monte-Carlo Opera stages Delibes’ ‘Lakmé’

Poster courtesy Monte-Carlo Opera

Monte-Carlo Opera presents Léo Delibes’ Lakmé – an opera set in a location both exotic and beautiful, with mysterious religious rituals, and the added intrigue of Western colonials living in a foreign country.

Lakmé was based on a book by French naval officer and novelist, Pierre Loti, who had travelled widely and written a number of novels with an exotic theme. The idea of composing an opera based on Rarahu ou le Mariage de Loti (telling of his romantic liaison with an exotic Tahitian girl) was suggested to Delibes by Edmond Godinet who was keen to write a libretto for two stars of the Opéra Comique. Delibes apparently loved the idea and the score was completed within a year, with a libretto by Godinet and Philippe Gille. A concert version of Lakmé premiered at the National Theatre of the Opéra Comique on 14th April 1883 – where it has been staged over 1,600 times since. The first production of the opera by Monte-Carlo Opera took place two years later, on 21st February, 1885.

The opera tells of a Brahmin girl, Lakmé who falls in love with a British officer, Gerald, whom she meets on a river bank where she and her servant Mallika had gone to gather flowers and to bathe. When Lakme’s father – a priest named Nilakantha – discovers that a British soldier has trespassed and defiled the Temple of Brahmin, he swears vengeance. In the bustling bazaar Nilakantha forces Lakmé to sing a distinctive aria, the Bell Song, to attract the attention of the British officer, and as he draws closer to her, he is stabbed by Nilakantha. Only slightly wounded, he is helped by Lakmé and Nilakantha’s servant, Hadji, to a secret hiding place deep in the forest. Gerald knows that he has been ordered to a new post, and realises that he must fulfill his duty and leave Lakmé behind. On hearing this, she tears a leaf from a poisonous tree and bites into it and as Nilakantha arrives on the scene she dies.

The title role is taken by French soprano Sabine Devieilhe whose 2022-23 operatic season will feature a reprise of Lakmé at the Théâtre des Champs-Elysées in Paris, her debut as Soeur Constance in Poulenc’s Dialogues des Carmelites at the Metropolitan Opera, in his Les Mamelles de Tirésias and Stravinsky’s Le Rossignol at the Théâtre des Champs Elysées in Paris. She will also make her house debut as Blanche in a new production of Dialoges des Carmelites at the Vienna State Opera. On the concert stage she will appear with the Berlin Philharmonic Orchestra and the Royal Concertgebouworkest, and in recital at the Philharmonie in Paris, at the Musikverein in Vienna and Graz, the Opernhaus in Zürich and London’s Wigmore Hall.

Fleur Barron, who sings Mallika, has been described by Seen and Heard International as having “…. incredible poise and expressive weight – not to mention a thrillingly dark and rich-veined mezzo and a striking stage presence”.  On the operatic stage this season, Fleur sings the title role in a staged version of Kaija Saariaho’s Adriana Mater with the San Francisco Symphony, the title role in Hasse’s Marc Antonio e Cleopatra with the NDR Radiophilharmonie, the title role in Purcell’s Dido and Aeneas with La Nuova Musica for a new Pentatone disc, Alto soloist in a staged production of Mozart’s Requiem at the Opéra National de Bordeaux, and Bersi in  for Monte-Carlo Opera.

The role of Gerald is taken by French tenor Cyrille Dubois. Highlights of his forthcoming season include a reprise of his role in Lakmé opposite Sabine Devieilhe at the Théâtre des Champs-Elysées in Paris, an evening of Arias & Duos by Offenbach with Patricia Petibon at the Grand Théâtre de Provence in Aix-en-Provence, a return to the Théâtre des Champs-Elysées for an evening of Mozart’s Opera Highlights, appearances in Stravinsky’s Le Rossignol and Poulenc’s Les Mamelles de Tirésias with Sabine Devieilhe, and in Charpentier’s Médée.

Belgian baritone, Lionel Lhote, who sings Nilakantha, has made frequent appearances at leading theatres and opera houses in Europe. Included in his latest performances are appearances in Verdi’s Don Carlos, Gounod’s Faust and Verdi’s Aida at the Opéra Royal de Wallonie in Liège, Berlioz’s L’enfance du Christ at Teatro alla Scala in Milan, in Benvenuto Cellini on tour with the Monteverdi Choir and Orchestre Révolutionnaire et Romantique, in Donizetti’s Don Pasquale at La Monnaie de Bruxelles, Gounod’s Faust and Massenet’s Manon at Monte-Carlo Opera, and his Werther at Opéra de Paris.

French conductor Laurent Campellone is known for his expertise in French opera of the Romantic era. He has appeared with ensembles such as the Orchestra of the Bolshoi Theatre in Moscow, the Deutsche Oper of Berlin, the Bavarian Radio Symphony Orchestra, the Radio-France Philharmonic Orchestra, the Brazil National Orchestra, the Dublin Philharmonic Orchestra, the Toulouse Capitole National Orchestra and the Nice Philharmonic Orchestra. He’s also a regular guest conductor at French festivals such as the Chaise-Dieu Festival and the Berlioz Festival.

Laurent Campellone leads the guest artists and the Monte-Carlo Philharmonic Orchestra and Chorus (Director Stefano Visconti) in performances of Delibes’ Lakmé at the Salle Yakov Kreizberg, Auditorium Rainier III on 9th and 11th December. Further information is available on the Monte-Carlo Opera website.

Information sourced from:

Opéra Comique


Artists’ websites:

Sabine Devieilhe

Fleur Barron

Cyrille Dubois

Lionel Lhote

Laurent Campellone

This article first appeared in Riviera Buzz

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Gerstein performs Dutch premiere of Adès’ Piano Concerto

Thomas Adès rehearsing the Orchestre de Paris at the Philharmonie in 2018
© Mathias Benguigui

This month, Thomas Adès leads the Concertgebouworkest in the Dutch premiere of his Piano Concerto. The soloist is internationally renowned pianist Kirill Gerstein who plays a special version of Liszt’s Totentanz as well. The concert also features the first Dutch performance of Veronika Krausas’ Caryatids, and Igor Stravinsky’s Symphony in Three Movements.

Thomas Adès, “One of the most accomplished and complete musicians of his generation” according to The New York Times, wrote his Piano Concerto for Kirill Gerstein on commission from the Boston Symphony Orchestra. Adès rose to international recognition in 1995 with his first opera Powder her Face, going on to win a Grawemeyer Award for his orchestral work Asyla in 1999, and many subsequent awards and honours since. His operas, The Tempest and The Exterminating Angel, his Violin Concerto and his string quartets have all received acclaim from both critics and audiences, with The Exterminating Angel having won World Premier of the Year in 2017.

The Concertgebouworkest © Simon von Boxtel

As a conductor, Adès first led the Concertgebouworkest in 1995, and has appeared with major orchestras such as the Los Angeles Philharmonic, San Francisco Symphony, the Czech Philharmonic and the symphony orchestras of Boston, London, Melbourne, Sydney, BBC and City of Birmingham. He has led performances of Stravinsky’s The Rake’s Progress at the opera houses of London and Zurich, and The Tempest in New York and Vienna, and served as artistic director of the Aldeburgh Festival from 1999 to 2008. Thomas Adès was also the first-ever artistic partner of the Boston Symphony Orchestra during the 2016-17 season.

The premiere performance of Adès’ Piano Concerto took place at Symphony Hall in Boston on 7th March, 2019, with Adès himself leading the Boston Symphony Orchestra and pianist Kirill Gerstein. This was followed by a Carnegie Hall concert two weeks later, and the European premiere was given by the Gewandhausorchester in Leipzig on April 25 and 26, 2019. Gerstein says that the Concerto calls for “piano playing on a grand scale”, describing it as “very virtuosic”. According to the Boston Classical Review, it recalls “…. Rachmaninoff’s much lusher concertos”, going on to say that “The effect is mesmerizing, and the Concerto for Piano and Orchestra stands as Adès’ greatest achievement to date”. The New York Times writes: “The craft is astounding, the orchestration ceaselessly brilliant. The voice is wholly his own”.

Kirill Gerstein © Marco Borggreve

Kirill Gerstein appears in both solo and concert engagements in Europe, the United States, East Asia and Australia, with a wide-ranging repertoire which spans composers from Bach to Adès. Highlights of this 2022-23 season include performances of Rachmaninov’s Second Piano Concerto with the London Philharmonic and the St Louis Symphony, and Schumann’s Piano Concerto with The Cleveland Orchestra, the City of Birmingham Symphony and the New York Philharmonic, the music of Berg with the Dresden Philharmonic and Rachmaninov’s Third Piano Concerto with the Tokyo Metropolitan Symphony.

In recital, Gerstein and violinist Christian Tetzlaff will present a new work written for them by Thomas Adès and commissioned by the Kronberg Academy and the Wigmore Hall. With violinist Tabea Zimmerman he will be touring Europe with music by Brahms, Hindemith, Clarke and Shostakovich, he will appear with Stefan Door with music by Brahms and Ligeti, and will also perform a solo recital as part of the Concertgebouw’s Great Pianists Series playing works by Stravinsky, Schubert and Liszt.

The concert opens with Caryatids by Veronika Krausas, of whom The Globe & Mail in Toronto writes: “…her works, whose organic, lyrical sense of storytelling are supported by a rigid formal elegance, give her audiences a sense that nature’s frozen objects are springing to life”. A caryatid is
an architectural column of a standing female figure, each of which in this work is represented by a chord, interspersed with what the composer describes as “… a series of Baroque-like dances, or my interpretation of a bourrée, a gigue, and a sarabande”. The work was commissioned by the Detroit Symphony Orchestra and premiered on May 8, 2021, at the Orchestra Hall Jader Bignamini, named after the Music Director of the Symphony.

Thomas Adés © Marco Borggreve

The final work is Igor Stravinsky’s Symphony in Three Movements – described on The Listeners’ Club as “…. a delirious celebration of rhythm”. It was written between 1942 and 1945 – the first work which Stravinsky completed after his emigration to America. The Symphony – which incorporates various concepts for failed film music projects – was inspired by television and documentary footage of the Second World War. “Each episode in the Symphony” said the composer, “is linked in my imagination with a specific cinematographic impression of the war”. The Symphony in Three Movements was commissioned by the New York Philharmonic, and premiered at Carnegie Hall on January 24, 1946, with the composer conducting.

Thomas Adès leads the Concertgebouworkest in his own Piano Concerto, with soloist Kirill Gerstein, and works by Veronika Krausas and Igor Stravinsky at Het Concertgebouw on 8th and 9th December. Further information is available on the Concertgebouworkest website, and tickets may be reserved online.

Information sourced from:
Concertgebouworkest programme notes
Thomas Adès
Kirill Gerstein
Thomas Adès Piano Concerto
Veronika Krausas
Stravinsky – Symphony in Three Movements

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