English National Opera brings back Bieito’s production of ‘Carmen’

Poster courtesy ENO

English National Opera brings back Calixto Bieito’s bold and gritty production of Bizet’s hugely popular opera Carmen – last staged by ENO in 2020. Directed by Jamie Manton, the opera stars mezzo-soprano Ginger Costa-Jackson as the fiery, passionate and seductive Carmen, and tenor Sean Panikkar as Don José, the army corporal who falls for her attractions.

Baritone Nmon Ford takes the role of Escamillo – the handsome toreador who is well aware of his appeal to women – and soprano Gemma Summerfield is Micaëla, the sweet peasant girl who is betrothed to Don José. The conductor of this co-production with Den Norske Opera and Ballet is Kerem Hasan.

In 1872, Georges Bizet was commissioned to write a new work by the Paris Opéra-Comique – an institution known historically for its light, moralistic, safe and predictable pieces – and although the aim of this commission was to try and raise the theatre from its somewhat dull reputation, the co-directors had no idea just how revolutionary Bizet’s opera would be.

Based on an 1845 novella by Prosper Mérimée, with a libretto in French by Henri Meilhac and Ludovic Halévy, Bizet’s Carmen broke new ground, focussing on the underclass – the so-called ‘common folk’, which included gypsies, smugglers and factory workers, women who smoked in public, who were involved in physical fights and who were sexually free. Consequently, when the opera premiered at the Opéra-Comique on 3rd March 1875, it was condemned by the critics as immoral and vulgar.

Bizet, who had taken a lot of care to familiarise himself with the music of Andalusia – the region in which the original story of Carmen was set – was devastated by this reception, and at the time of his death, three months after the premiere, he was certain that he’d written the greatest failure in the history of opera. He didn’t live to see how successful his Carmen would become – nor did he know of the prediction of Tchaikovsky no less, that within 10 years, it would become “the most popular opera in the world”.

Carmen usually calls to mind a vision of 19th century Seville, with Spanish señoritas, their flicking fans and swirling skirts. Catalan director Calixto Bieito, Artistic Director of Teatro Arriaga in Bilbao, has however set his opera in Ceuta, the autonomous Spanish city situated at the tip of North Africa, and has brought the setting forward to the post-Franco Spain of the 1970s. His Carmen, he says, is a survivor of a difficult life – earthy, melancholy and sensitive, living in a dangerous and violent society.

Ginger Costa-Jackson is regarded as one of the most exciting and versatile artists of her generation, regularly preforming on the stages of the world’s leading opera houses, including those of the Metropolitan Opera, San Francisco Opera, Opéra National de Paris, La Monnaie/De Munt, and the Gran Teatre del Liceu. Ms Costa-Jackson has most recently been seen as Carmen at Lyric Opera of Kansas City and as Preziosilla in Verdi’s La forza del destino at Amigos de la Ópera A Coruña. Broadway World writes of her portrayal of Carmen: “Her voice, sultry looks, and sensuous flamenco dancing are perfect for the role.” Following this run of Carmen, Ginger will appear as Charlotte in Massenet’s Werther at Grange Park Opera and as Bradamante in Händel’s Alcina at Seattle Opera.

Sean Panikkar’s voice, says Opera News, is “… unassailable – firm, sturdy and clear, and he employs it with maximum dramatic versatility”.  He followed his success as Dionysus in Henze’s The Bassarids at the 2018 Salzburg Festival with a critically acclaimed performance as Gandhi in Philip Glass’s Satyagraha for Los Angeles Opera. He was most recently seen as Leonard in Kevin Puts’ The Hours for both Metropolitan Opera and Müpa Budapest, and will be appearing later this season as Tambourmajor in Berg’s Wozzeck at Wiener Staatsoper, and as Laertes in Dean’s Hamlet for Bayerische Staatsoper in Munich.

Following a performance of Strauss’ Salome at Pittsburgh Opera, concerto.net wrote: “Nmon Ford …. is a Jochanaan of imposing stature with a superb stage presence, and furthermore he has a powerful and magnificent voice”. Grammy-winning Nmon Ford has performed the role of Crown in Gershwin’s Porgy and Bess for ENO, and most recently appeared as Escamillo for Opera Colorado and Calgary Opera. In another appearance this season he takes the role of Sharpless in Cincinnati Opera’s production of Puccini’s Madama Butterfly. In 2024, he will be performing the title role in his own composition, House of Orfeus – of which he is also the librettist – as a co-production with Lincoln Center and Opera Carolina.

Making her debut for ENO, Gemma Summerfield has been described by The Telegraph as “… a show-stopper – pure vocal champagne …”. Highlights of her career include the roles of Mimì in Puccini’s La bohème for Northern Ireland Opera, Nanetta in Verdi’s Falstaff for Scottish Opera, and Pamina in Mozart’s The Magic Flute at Glyndebourne and Scottish Opera. Recent appearances include the roles of Erste Dame in Mozart’s Die Zauberflöte for Staatsoper Hamburg, and Ms Summerfield is currently appearing as Fiordiligi in Mozart’s Così fan Tutte for Opéra Saint-Etienne and Opéra de Toulon. She is also scheduled to sing the role of Ulana in Paderewski’s Manru at Opéra National de Lorraine.

Also in the cast are Matthew Durkan ad Dancairo, Keel Watson as Zuniga and ENO Harewood Artists Benson Wilson, Alexandra Oomens and Innocent Masuku.

Jamie Manton makes a welcome return to ENO as stage director for this production, having directed the 2020 staging of Bieito’s Carmen for the Company. Last year he directed the production of Janacek’s The Cunning Little Vixen for ENO, which was nominated for an Olivier Award.

Kerem Hasan – chief conductor of the Tiroler Symphonieorchester Innsbruck since September 2019 – returns to ENO, having led the 2022 ENO production of Mozart’s Cosí fan tutte. In this production of Bizet’s Carmen, he leads the English National Opera Orchestra and Chorus at the London Coliseum from 1st to 24th February. Further information is available on the English National Opera website, where details of booking can also be found.

Information sourced from:

English National Opera programme notes

Ginger Costa Jackson

Sean Panikkar

Nmon Ford

Gemma Summerfield

Jamie Manton

Keren Hasam

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Beethoven’s ‘Fidelio’ opens 2023 for Nice Opera

Poster for Nice Opera’s production of Beethoven’s ‘Fidelio’ – courtesy Nice Opera

Nice Opera has selected Beethoven’s only opera, Fidelio, for its first production of 2023. With an underlying theme of love, fidelity, sacrifice and the liberation from oppression, Fidelio stars Angélique Boudeville as Leonore, Gregory Kunde as her husband Florestan, Thomas Ghazeli as Don Pizarro, Birger Radde as Don Fernando, and Albert Dohmen as Rocco.

The Nice Philharmonic Orchestra and Chorus are led by Slovenian conductor Marko Letonja, General Music Director of the Bremen Philharmonic and Conductor Laureate at theTasmanian Symphony Orchestra.

Beethoven was commissioned to write his only opera in 1804 by the Theater an der Wien. The story of Fidelio was based on a true incident of a woman disguised as a man who liberated her husband from a Jacobin prison. A judge named Jean-Nicolas Bouilly witnessed this event, and developed it into a story, entitled Leonoré, which was transferred to Spain. The theatre director and writer Joseph Sonnenleithner, translated the French libretto into German and Beethoven set about writing the score for the opera which was called Leonore. The premiere in Vienna on November 20th, 1805, was disrupted by the arrival in Vienna of Napoleon’s troops, and was an abject failure. The libretto was subject to a number of edits by Stephan von Breuning, and after the failure of the second version in 1806, Beethoven consigned the project to a drawer for eight years. The final version was subject to a fundamental revision, and with a libretto by Georg Friedrich Treitschke, Fidelio premiered at the Kärntnertortheater in Vienna on May 23rd, 1814.

Beethoven wrote four different overtures for the opera first known as Leonore. The first – with which he wasn’t satisfied – was never played during his lifetime, and was followed by a new overture for each of the three staged versions. The last overture written, in E major, is the one that has prevailed. The world premiere of Fidelio took place on 23rd May, 1814 at the Kärntnertortheater in Vienna.

The plot of Fidelio revolves around the unjust jailing of Spanish aristocrat, Florestan, by a political enemy, Don Pizzaro, the cruel governor of the State prison who would face a corruption scandal if the identity of his secret prisoner were to be revealed. It tells how Florestan’s wife Leonore devises a plan to rescue him from the death penalty. Taking the name Fidelio, she disguises herself as a man, and goes to work as a deputy gaoler at the prison where Florestan is being held. Don Pizzaro – concerned about a proposed inspection of the jail by the king’s minister, Don Fernando – orders the head jailer, Rocco, to kill Florestan, which Rocco refuses to do. When Don Pizzaro goes down to Florestan’s cell to kill him, Leonora reveals her true identity, threatens the tyrant, and Florestan’s life is saved by the arrival of Don Fernando.

French soprano Angélique Boudeville was nominated Singer of the Year at the Paris Opera in 2019. Roles in which she has appeared include Micaela in Bizet’s Carmen – which she will sing again at the Schaffhausen Festival – Leila in Bizet’s Les Pêcheurs de Perles at the Théâtre de Bienne in Switzerland, and Micaela again at the Tonhalle in Zurich. Later this season she will sing the title role in Puccini’s Tosca at the Grand Théâtre de Tours, and that of Leonora in Verdi’s Il Trovatore at Opéra de Saint-Etienne and Opéra de Marseille.

American tenor Gregory Kunde – who takes the role of Florestan – is mainly associated with the French and Italian repertoires. He recently appeared in Verdi’s La Forze del Destino at Teatro Regio de Parma, in Giordano’s Andrea Chénier at Teatro Communale de Bologna, in Tosca with Los Angeles Opera, and at Teatro Real in Madrid in recital with Carlos Alvarez in Voices of Teatro Real.

Don Pizarro is sung by Italian baritone Thomas Ghazeli who was a member of the cast of Teatro Lirico de Cagliari which recorded Respighi’s La Campana Sommersa in 2016. Mr Ghazeli also appeared in Strauss’s opera Salome broadcast on BBC 3 with the BBC Philharmonic in 2008. More recently, he sang the role of Dr Pangloss in a recording of Bernstein’s Candide in which David Stahl led the Deutsches Symphonie-Orchester Berlin with the Ernst Senff Choir.

German baritone Birger Radde takes the role of Don Fernando. Nominated as Singer of the Year in 2020 by magazine Opernwelt for his performance in the title role of Mozart’s Don Giovanni, Mr Radde made his debut as Don Fernando at Teatro Maggio Musicale in Florence during the 2021-22 season. He has also recently sung the title role in Alban Berg’s Wozzeck at Monte-Carlo Opera, and that of Wolfram von Eschenbach in Wagner’s Tannhäuser at the Heidenheim Opera Festival. Future engagements include a reprise of von Eschenbach at Teatro Modena and Teatro Reggio-Emilia, and his debut as Mandryka in Strauss’s Arabella at Staatstheater Wiesbaden.

Baritone Albert Dohmen has established himself as one of the leading Wotan singers of his generation, having sung this role in the complete Ring cycles in Trieste, Geneva, Catania, at the Deutsche Oper Berlin, the Vienna State Opera, at Nederlandse Opera Amsterdam and at the Metropolitan Opera, amongst others. Recent highlights also include his debut as Hans Sachs in Wagner’s Die Meistersinger von Nürnberg in Geneva and Barcelona, as Gurnemanz in Wagner’s Parsifal in Geneva, as the Commendatore in Mozart’s Don Giovanni at the Vienna State Opera and Daland in Wagner’s The Flying Duchman in Paris.

Director of this new co-production with the Opéra-Comique, the MxM collective and the Dijon Opera, is Cyril Teste, reprised by Céline Gaudier. Decor is by Valérie Grall, costumes are by Marie La Rocca, dramaturgist is Leila Adham, lighting is by Julien Boizard, video design is by Nicolas Dorémus and Mehdi Toutain-Lopez, camera operator is Nicolas Doremus and sound design is by Thibault Lamy.

Fidelio runs at Nice Opera from 20th to 26th January. More information and details of reservations can be found on the Nice Opera website.

Information sourced from:

Nice Opera programme notes
Angélique Boudeville 
Gregory Kunde
Birger Radde
Albert Dohmen
Marko Letonja 

This article first appeared in Riviera Buzz

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Cecilia Bartoli stars in Handel’s ‘Alcina’ at Monte-Carlo Opera

Cecilia Bartoli in the title role in Handel’s ‘Alcina’ © Monika Rittershaus/Monte-Carlo Opera

As of this year, Cecilia Bartoli takes over the role of director of Monte-Carlo Opera – the first woman to hold this position in the history of this opera house. Ms Bartoli also stars in Handel’s Alcina, the first production by Monte-Carlo Opera of this new year.

With direction by multi-award-winning Christof Loy, this co-production with Zurich Opera also features Philippe Jaroussky as the valiant knight Ruggiero, Sandrine Piau as Alcina’s sister Morgana, Varduhi Abrahamyan as Ruggiero’s fiancée Bradamante, Maxim Mironov as Oronte, the leader of Alcina’s army, and Péter Kálmán as Melisso, Bradamante’s guardian. Les Musiciens du Prince-Monaco are led by Gianluca Capuano, principal conductor of the ensemble since 2019.

Georg Friedrich Handel wrote this three-act work of magic, music and dance in 1735 for his new company which was based at the Theatre Royal, Covent Garden (now the Royal Opera House), collaborating with producer John Rich – renowned for his spectacular productions. The writer of the libretto is unknown, but the story is based on Riccardo Broschi’s 1728 opera L’Isola d’Alcina, inspired by characters and stories from Ludovico Ariosto’s Orlando furioso. Alcina premiered at Covent Garden on 16th April, 1735.

The original opera is set on a magical island belonging to Alcina – a beautiful but dangerous enchantress who seduces every man that lands there, and transforms them into rocks or wild animals when she has grown tired of them. In an interesting twist, however, director Christof Loy, whose previous production of Ariodante was seen on the Monegasque stage in 2019, has transformed Alcina’s magical kingdom into a theatre, so in this theatre within a theatre, Bartoli is both the character of Alcina and also the diva.

The story revolves around Bradamante’s arrival at Alcina’s empire to search for her husband, Ruggiero, who has fallen for Alcina’s charms. Bradamante has disguised herself as her twin brother ‘Ricciardo’ and as such attracts Alcina’s sister Morgana, who already has a relationship with Oronte. Ultimately, Ruggiero sees Alcina for what she is, reunites with his wife, and Morgana is reconciled to Oronte. In order to prove his heroism, Bradamante expects Ruggiero to destroy Alcina and her kingdom, and the realm of beauty, sensuality, illusion and poetry subsequently falls. But Alcina is a fairy, and fairies cannot die.

Mezzo-soprano Cecilia Bartoli has come to be regarded as one of the world’s leading classical music artists. Over her 30-year career, she has appeared in major opera houses, concert venues and festivals throughout North America, Europe, the Far East and Australia, has made numerous successful recordings, and created spectacular stage events, films and multimedia events. She has served as artistic director of the Salzburg Whitsun Festival since 2012, and also founded her period-instrument orchestra Les Musicians du Prince-Monaco in 2016, with the patronage of HSH Prince Albert II and HRH Caroline the Princess of Hanover.

Countertenor Philippe Jaroussky has explored a wide-ranging Baroque repertoire from Monteverdi to Handel and Vivaldi, having in recent years sung more music by Vivaldi than anyone else. Well-known period ensembles with whom he has worked include Les Arts florissant, Les Musiciens du Louvre and Europa Galante. In 2002 Mr Jaroussky founded Ensemble Artaserse, named after the Vinci opera Artaserse which he revived, and in which he participated, as one of five countertenors in the cast.

French soprano Sandrine Piau is well-known as an exponent of Baroque music, and has also performed a wide range of operatic roles. Among these are Cleopatra in Handel’s Giulio Cesare and Morgana at the Opéra de Paris, Dalinda in Handel’s Ariodante at the Salzburg Festival and in Amsterdam, Soeur Constance in Poulenc’s Dialogues des Carmelites at La Monnaie in Brussels and at the Théâtre des Champs-Élysées in Paris. In recital, one of Ms Piau’s most recent appearances was in Mozart’s Requiem at both the Wiener Festwochen and La Monnaie.

Scene from Handel’s ‘Alcina’ starring Cecilia Bartoli © Monika Rittershaus/Monte-Carlo Opera

Last season, Franco-Armenian mezzo-soprano Varduhi Abrahamyan returned to the Bayerische Staatsoper in Munich in the title role in Bizet’s Carmen, debuted at the Metropolitan Opera in both Verdi’s Rigoletto and Tchaikovsky’s Eugene Onegin, appeared in Verdi’s Don Carlo at the Marseille Opera and in the title role of Bellini’s Norma at Gran Theatre del Liceu in Barcelona. Her concert performances include appearances in Pergolesi’s Stabat Mater with Cecilia Bartoli in Martigny and Lugano. This season, Ms Abrahamyan debuts at the Royal Opera House, Covent Garden, in Alcina and at Naples’ Teatro di San Carlo in Wagner’s Die Walküre and Rossini’s Maometto II.

Russian-born Maxim Mironov is regarded as one of the best bel canto tenors today. He has appeared in many of the most prestigious opera houses in the United Kingdom and Europe, and in the USA he debuted at Los Angeles Opera in Rossini’s Il turco in Italia and sang the role of Ramiro in Rossini’s La Cenerentola with Washington National Opera. Known for his Rossini roles, he received high acclaim at the Rossini Opera Festival in Pesaro in 2018, and at La Scala, Milan, the following year.

Hungarian bass-baritone Péter Kálmán is highly regarded for his portrayals in the Italian ‘buffo’ tradition, as well as in dramatic roles in operas by Bartók, Richard Strauss and Wagner. He has appeared with some of the world’s finest conductors, and recent highlights in his career include performances as Don Magnifico in La Cenerentola at Seattle Opera, in Mozart’s Le Nozze di Figaro at Glyndebourne, Rossini’s Il barbiere di Siviglia at the Théâtre des Champs-Élysées in Paris, and in Norma in a cast anchored by Cecilia Bartoli in Paris, Baden-Baden and Monte-Carlo.

Handel’s Alcina is presented at the Monte-Carlo Opera from 20th to 26th January. Tickets may be reserved on this link and further information is available on the Monte-Carlo Opera website where detailed information on the cast and creatives is also to be found.

Information sourced from:

Monte-Carlo Opera programme notes

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Met Opera presents Giordano’s ‘Fedora’ ‘Live in HD’

Sonya Yoncheva as Fedora and Piotr Beczała as Loris Ipanoff in Giordano’s ‘Fedora’
© Ken Howard / Met Opera

This weekend’s Live in HD transmission from the Metropolitan Opera features Umberto Giordano’s Fedora, starring Sonya Yoncheva and Piotr Beczała. This new production by David McVicar was premiered by the Met on New Year’s Eve in a performance described by the Observer as “Opera at its most irresistible!” – and will now be available to cinema audiences around the world, and to select audiences at home.

Scene from Giordano’s ‘Fedora” © Ken Howard / Met Opera

Giordano, a composer from southern Italy, wrote Fedora in 1898, having also written Andrea Chénier and Madame Sans-Gêne. The libretto for Fedora was written by Italian journalist and political writer Antonio Colautti – also known for having written the libretto for Cilea’s Adriana Lecouvreur – basing Fedora on a play by Victorien Sardou, the dramatist who wrote a number of plays for Sarah Bernhardt, including one on which Madame Sans-Gêne was based.

Piotr Beczała as Loris Ipanoff and Sonya Yoncheva in the title role of Giordano’s ‘Fedora’
© Ken Howard / Met Opera

 This three-act opera takes place in the 1880s in three different European locales – Imperial St Petersburg, high-society Paris, and a villa in Switzerland. It tells of a 19th-century Russian princess, Fedora, who is devastated at the murder of her fiancé, Vladimiro, and determined to seek vengeance. The perpetrator is thought to be Count Loris Ipanoff, and she names him in a letter to Vladimiro’s father. Some months later, at a soirée in Fedora’s ballroom in Paris, her confidante Countess Olga, and the diplomat De Siriex, are astonished to learn that Fedora is accompanied by Ipanoff, who has been exiled to Paris, and is unaware of Fedora’s relationship to Vladimiro. Fedora had apparently planned to extract a confession from him, but she and Ipanoff find themselves falling in love. The letter containing Fedora’s assertion of Ipanoff’s role in the murder ultimately resurfaces, and she realizes the predicament in which she has placed herself.

Sonya Yoncheva as Fedora and Lucia Lucas as Gretch in Giordano’s ‘Fedora’
© Ken Howard / Met Opera

The title role is taken by soprano Sonya Yoncheva in whom, says the Financial Times, “…. the Met has a Fedora at the peak of her career, who sings glowingly, balances imperiousness with vulnerability, and looks regal in Brigitte Reiffenstuel’s lavish gowns”. Loris Ipanoff is sung by Piotr Beczała who – again according to the FT – “… is a superlative Loris”. Rosa Feola is Countess Olga, and the role of De Siriex is taken by Lucas Meachem.

Lucas Meachem as De Siriex, Rosa Feola as Olga, and Sonya Yoncheva (background) in the title role of Giordano’s ‘Fedora’ © Ken Howard / Met Opera

Conductor Marco Armiliato, having led more than 450 performances at the Met, is a great favorite with audiences. He leads the Metropolitan Opera Orchestra (and Chorus) which “ ….. delighted in some of Giordano’s most sumptuous writing” says the Observer.

Sonya Yoncheva as Fedora and Piotr Beczała as Loris Ipanoff in Giordano’s ‘Fedora’
© Ken Howard / Met Opera

This Live in HD presentation – which marks the 150th of this award-winning initiative – is directed by Gary Halvorson, and hosted by soprano Ailyn Pérez.

It takes place on January 14 at 12.55 pm ET. To find your nearest cinema, follow this link. For audiences who do not live near a participating cinema, Fedora will also be available on the The Met: Live at Home platform, which offers a live stream or on-demand viewing for seven days following the performance.

Information sourced from:

Metropolitan Opera program notes

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Ehnes plays Prokofiev with Elim Chan and SF Symphony

James Ehnes © Benjamin Ealovega

Violinist James Ehnes is the guest artist in this week’s San Francisco Symphony concert – the first of two this month featuring conductors making their debuts at Davies Symphony Hall. Elim Chan leads the Symphony and James Ehnes in Prokofiev’s Second Violin Concerto in a performance which also features the World Premiere of Elizabeth Ogonek’s Moondog and Tchaikovsky’s Symphony No 2.

Elim Chan © Willeke Machiels

Elim Chain is, according to the Sunday Times, “A rare example of a young conductor at once brilliant and not in the least showing off”.  In January last year, Ms Chan made a very successful debut with the Boston Symphony Orchestra, gaining the approval of the Boston Classical Review which wrote of a “marvel of control and understanding”. With a wide-ranging repertoire of symphonic works from the Classical period to contemporary music, Elim Chan has since 2019 been principal conductor of the Antwerp Symphony Orchestra, and since 2018 has been principal guest conductor of the Royal Scottish National Orchestra.

Elim Chan © Rahi Rezvani

During this current season she will be the subject of a three-part series of concerts by the Vienna Musikverein, during which her work will be profiled, and her debuts with the Vienna Symphony Orchestra and concerts with the ORF Radio Symphony Orchestra and the Deutsche Kammerphilharmonie of Bremen will be featured.

In a welcome return to Davies Symphony Hall, James Ehnes – described by The Times of London as “A violinist in a class of his own” – will play the Prokofiev Violin Concerto No 2. Ehnes is a favorite guest with some of the world’s most respected conductors and his virtuosity has ensured ongoing appearances with major orchestras such as the Boston, Chicago, London, NHK and Vienna symphony orchestras, the Los Angeles, New York, Munich and Czech philharmonics, and the Cleveland, Philadelphia, Philharmonia and DSO Berlin orchestras.

Among recent highlights are appearances with the Metropolitan Orchestra at Carnegie Hall, the Gewandhausorchester in Leipzig, the Frankfurt Radio Symphony, the London Symphony Orchestra and the Munich Philharmonic, as well as his debut with the London Philharmonic Orchestra at the Lincoln Center in spring 2019. James Ehnes’ recital program includes regular performances at the Wigmore Hall, Carnegie Hall, Symphony Center Chicago, Amsterdam Concertgebouw, and at festivals such as Ravinia, Montreux, Chaise-Dieu, the White Nights Festival in St Petersburg, Verbier Festival and the Festival de Pâques in Aix.

Sergei Prokofiev wrote his Second Violin Concerto in 1935, as he was preparing to re-settle in his Russia after about 18 years spent in Paris and the United States. In order to conform to Stalin’s ideal of what was known as ‘Soviet Realism’, Prokofiev needed to move away from the style in which he’d been accustomed to write whilst in the West, and this Concerto was regarded as representing the future direction for music in the USSR .

Prokofiev wrote the Concerto for French violinist Robert Soëtans, giving him exclusive rights to perform it for one year, but he wanted it to be different from its predecessor in terms of both music and style. “The variety of places in which that concerto was written,” he said, “is a reflection of the nomadic concert-tour existence I led at that time; the principal theme of the first movement was written in Paris, the first theme of the second movement in Voronezh, the orchestration I completed in Baku, while the first performance was given in Madrid in December 1935.”

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

Tchaikovsky’s Symphony No 2 is known as the Little-Russian Symphony – a name said to have been created by the critic Nikolay Kashkin because it included several folk tunes from the Ukraine region which was at that time known as Little Russia. Composed in 1872, the Symphony was performed for the first time in Moscow at the seventh concert of the Russian Musical Society – to which it was dedicated – on January 26 and February 7, 1873, conducted by Nikolay Rubinstein. Tchaikovsky made several revisions to the score until the reworked Second Symphony was performed on January 31/February 12, 1881 at the tenth Russian Musical Society concert in Saint Petersburg, conducted by Eduard Nápravník. On both occasions, the Symphony was extremely well received, and no wonder, since it’s a spirited, happy work, full of wonderful melodies.

This San Francisco Symphony concert opens with Elizabeth Ogonek’s Moondog – a San Francisco Symphony commission. This piece is the third part of a triptych in which all three pieces relate to the sky. A moondog, according to the composer, is “a kind of halo that happens around the moon because of the way the ice crystals in clouds refract light”. The first piece is called Cloudline, and the second Starling Variations, referring to starling murmurations. For Moondog, Ogonek says, she wanted to evoke a sense of nighttime and dreaminess.

Elim Chan leads the San Francisco Symphony in the World Premiere of Moondog by Elizabeth Ogonek, Prokofiev’s Violin Concerto No 2 with guest artist James Ehnes, and Tchaikovsky’s Symphony No 2, at Davies Symphony Hall on January 12, 13 and 14. For further information, visit the San Francisco Symphony website, where information on reservations can also be found.

Information sourced from:
San Francisco Symphony program notes
Elim Chan
James Ehnes
Prokofiev Violin Concerto No 2, and
Prokofiev Violin Concerto No 2

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