San Francisco Opera honors the memory of the Warsaw Ghetto Uprising

Warsaw Ghetto Uprising Monument
Photo: Rafal Grunt
The monument is located in the area of the former ghetto, in the vicinity of the POLIN Museum of the History of Polish Jews. A copy of the monument was also erected at the Yad Vashem Institute in Jerusalem.

On April 28, San Francisco Opera and Taube Philanthropies stage a special concert called Rise Up And Resist: A Commemorative Concert on the 80th Anniversary of the Warsaw Ghetto Uprising. It is one of many being held around the world to honor the memory of the Uprising, its fighters and supporters.

Music had a special place in the hearts of the Jewish people, as they struggled to maintain some semblance of humanity in the face of Nazi barbarism, refreshing their spirits, providing emotional expression and sustaining communal solidarity.

This concert, presented by members of the San Francisco Opera Adler Fellows and the San Francisco Opera Orchestra, will feature music by Szymanowski – a piece performed at the last concert played by the Jewish Symphony Orchestra in the Warsaw Ghetto on April 12, 1942 – Chopin and Beethoven, as well as folk and religious music celebrating Jewish, Polish-Jewish and Polish cultural heritage.

As part of Hitler’s solution for ridding Europe of Jewish people, the Nazis in 1940 started establishing ghettos in various Polish cities to contain the Jews until they could be executed. The Warsaw Ghetto was set in the old Jewish quarter of the city, and by the summer of 1942, around 500,000 were living there, many without housing, and suffering from starvation and disease. At this time, the Nazis were sending more than 5,000 people a day to the death camp at Treblinka, and by April the following year, as the deportations continued, the Jewish Fighting Organisation – known as ŻOB – was determined to resist, and gradually took control of the Ghetto.

The deportations stopped, but the victory in the ghetto was short-lived, because on April 19, Himmler launched a special operation to clear it in honor of Hitler’s birthday on the 20th. April 19 was also the first day of Passover, and it was on this day that the uprising began. Although 2,000 SS men and German army troops moved in with tanks and rapid-fire artillery, around 1500 Jewish guerrillas opened fire with a motley array of weapons. By the third day, the Germans changed tactics and entered the ghetto in small roaming bands, as the resistance fighters were hiding in underground bunkers, tunnels and sewers. The Jews managed to hold them at bay for nearly a month, but they knew they were bound to lose. Nevertheless they bravely chose to die fighting and inflict as many casualties on the Germans as possible. The Germans shot 7,000 of the captured Jews, sent another 7,000 to Treblinka and the remainder to forced-labor camps. Ultimately, they razed the ghetto to the ground, and dynamited the Great Synagogue of Warsaw.

Despite the Germans plans to clear the Warsaw Ghetto in three days, the Uprising lasted from April 19 to May 16, 1943.

San Francisco Opera’s Rise Up And Resist: A Commemorative Concert on the 80th Anniversary of the Warsaw Ghetto Uprising takes place at 7.30 pm on Friday, April 28, at the Dianne and Tad Taube Atrium Theater, on the fourth floor of the Veterans Building, 401 Van Ness Avenue, San Francisco. Further information and booking details can be found on the San Francisco Opera website.

Information sourced from:

San Francisco Opera program notes

Encyclopaedia Britannica

Monuments of Remembrance

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San Francisco Ballet stages the ever popular ‘Romeo and Juliet’

Misa Kuranaga and Angelo Greco in Tomasson’s ‘Romeo & Juliet’ © Erik Tomasson

Shakespeare’s romantic tragedy about the doomed young lovers of Verona has been recreated in almost every theatrical form for hundreds of years, and this week San Francisco Ballet continues its 2023 season with Helgi Tomasson’s interpretation of Romeo and Juliet.

A passionate, dramatic and colorful work, Romeo and Juliet has long held an allure for choreographers and composers as well, and various interpretations of the ballet have emerged since its first appearance in the latter part of the18th century. Now one of the best loved full-length ballets in the repertoire, the versions which have proved the most enduring are those set to Sergei Prokofiev’s sumptuous score – acknowledged as one of his greatest masterpieces.

Max Cauthorn and Daniel Deivison-Oliveira in Tomasson’s ‘Romeo & Juliet’ © Erik Tomasson

Prokofiev composed Romeo and Juliet in 1935, on commission from Russian theatrical director, Sergei Radlov, for the Bolshoi Theatre. The libretto was created by Prokofiev, Radlov and Adrian Piotrovsky – a critic, theatre historian and playwright – with choreography by Leonid Lavrovsky. When Prokofiev delivered the score in 1936, it was deemed “undanceable” by the artistic direction of the Bolshoi, and the contract was canceled. Three years later, Prokofiev’s Romeo & Juliet was premiered in Brno, Czechoslovakia, with the assistance of Ivo Váňa Psota – a dancer, choreographer and director.

Misa Kuranaga and Angelo Greco in Tomasson’s ‘Romeo & Juliet’ © Erik Tomasson

It wasn’t until January 11th, 1940, that the ballet – having undergone significant revisions – was premiered in what was then known as Leningrad – now St Petersburg – by the Kirov Theatre – now the Mariinsky – with choreography by Lavrovsky, and Konstantin Sergeyev and Galina Ulanova in the leading roles.

Ludmila Bizalion and Sean Bennett in Tomasson’s ‘Romeo & Juliet’ © Erik Tomasson

Romeo and Juliet has everything it needs for success – busy street scenes danced with riotous abandon, thrilling (and incredibly realistic) sword fights, imperious parents and courtiers, Juliet’s loveable Nurse, an elegant ball scene, a passionate love story, brilliant dancing and a superb score.

The beautiful scenery and costume design for this production are by Jens-Jacob Worsaae, lighting design is by Thomas R Skelton and choreography for the fight scenes is by Martino Pistone in collaboration with Helgi Tomasson.

Joseph Walsh in Tomasson’s ‘Romeo & Juliet’ © Erik Tomasson

The production runs for 10 performances from April 21st to 30th at the War Memorial Opera House, with the San Francisco Ballet Orchestra under the leadership of Music Director Martin West. Further information and booking details can be found on the San Francisco Ballet website.

Information sourced from:
San Francisco Ballet program notes, St Petersburg

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Met Opera’s ‘Live in HD’ brings Strauss’s ‘Der Rosenkavalier’ to cinemas

Lise Davidsen as the Marschallin in Strauss’s ‘Der Rosenkavalier’
Photo: Ken Howard / Met Opera

Strauss’s grand Viennese comic opera Der Rosenkavalier comes to cinema screens in the latest Metropolitan Opera Live in HD production, in which audiences worldwide have an opportunity to watch a live transmission from the stage of Lincoln Center in New York. This co-production of the Metropolitan Opera, London’s Royal Opera House Covent Garden, Teatro Colón in Buenos Aires and Teatro Regio di Torino – which was first presented in 2017 – is directed by Robert Carsen, with conductor Simone Young leading the Metropolitan Opera Orchestra, cast and Chorus of the Metropolitan Opera.

Der Rosenkavalier stars soprano Lise Davidsen in her debut as the Marschallin, mezzo-soprano Samantha Hankey in the trouser role of her lover Octavian Count Rofrano, and soprano Erin Morley as Sophie von Faninal the young girl in love with Octavian. Bass Günther Groissböck once again appears as the churlish Baron Ochs, and Brian Mulligan is Sophie’s wealthy father, Herr von Faninal.

Samantha Hankey as Octavian, Lise Davidsen as the Marschallin, and Erin Morley as Sophie in Strauss’s ‘Der Rosenkavalier’ Photo: Ken Howard / Met Opera

Der Rosenkavalier (The Knight of the Rose) is a comic opera in three acts by German composer Richard Strauss, with a German libretto by Austrian dramatist Hugo von Hofmannsthal. Strauss had written his opera Elektra which was based on a play by Hofmannsthal, but Der Rosenkavalier was their first close collaboration. Hofmannsthal took several characters and elements of the plot from French composer Claude Terrasse’s operetta L’Ingénu libertin (1907) and French dramatist Molière’s Monsieur de Pourceaugnac (1669). Strauss set Der Rosenkavalier in 18th century Vienna, and although the waltz was unknown until the early 19th century, he nevertheless worked a number of waltzes into the score, and the Waltz Sequence from Der Rosenkavalier has become well known as a standalone concert piece. The opera, which has become Strauss’s most popular, premiered at the Dresden Royal Opera House on January 26, 1911.

Samantha Hankey as Octavian and Lise Davidsen as the Marschallin in Strauss’s
‘Der Rosenkavalier’ Photo: Ken Howard / Met Opera

Der Rosenkavalier tells of a mature woman, the Marschallin, who has a young lover, Octavian, but realises that, since she is ageing, she might have to give him up to enable him to marry a young girl. Her country cousin, Baron Ochs auf Lerchenau, boasts to the Marschallin about his amorous conquests and his upcoming marriage to Sophie von Faninal, the young daughter of a wealthy man. At the Marschallin’s suggestion, Octavian is selected to be the cavalier who presents Sophie with the traditional silver engagement rose, and the young couple are instantly attracted to each other.

Günther Groissböck as Baron Ochs and Lise Davidsen as the Marschallin in Strauss’s
‘Der Rosenkavalier’ Photo: Ken Howard / Met Opera

Fortunately for them, Ochs blots his copybook by accepting a dinner invitation from ‘Mariandel’ who is actually Octavian in disguise. The Marschallin arrives on the scene and Octavian owns up to the deception, whereupon Ochs flees in disgrace and the young lovers are free to pursue their dreams.

Lise Davidsen as the Marschallin in Strauss’s ‘Der Rosenkavalier’
Photo: Ken Howard / Met Opera

Leading international soprano Lise Davidsen, said by Peter Gelb, General Manager of the Met, to be “In a league of her own”, received wide praise for her appearances at the Met as Eva in Wagner’s Die Meistersinger von Nürnberg, the title role in Richard Strauss’ Ariadne auf Naxos, Chrysothemis in his Elektra, and the title role in Tchaikovsky’s Queen of Spades. Other highlights of her career include the roles of Sieglinde in Wagner’s Die Walküre at Deutsche Oper Berlin, the title role in Janáček’s Jenufa at the Concertgebouw in Amsterdam, Elisabeth in Wagner’s Tannhäuser at Bayerische Staatsoper, the Opernhaus Zurich, and the Bayreuth Festival, and the title role in Strauss’ Ariadne auf Naxos at Aix-en-Provence Festival, Wiener Staatsoper and Glyndebourne Festival.

A scene from Act II of Strauss’s ‘Der Rosenkavalier’ with Samantha Hankey as Octavian
Photo: Ken Howard / Met Opera

Mezzo-soprano Samantha Hankey makes her house role debut as Octavian. Praised for her “luscious” voice and “distinctive…vividly dramatic” performances by Opera News, she has made house and role debuts during last season at the Gran Teatre del Liceu Barcelona as Der Komponist in Ariadne auf Naxos, Dorabella in Mozart’s Così fan tutte at San Diego Opera, and Ruggiero in Glyndebourne Festival’s new production of Alcina. She made her role debut as Prince Charmant in Massenet’s Cendrillon at the Metropolitan Opera, and her house debut in the same role at the Opéra de Paris, before returning to Munich’s Bayerische Staatsoper as Cherubino in Mozart’s Le nozze di Figaro.

Erin Morley as Sophie and Samantha Hankey as Octavian in Strauss’s ‘Der Rosenkavalier’ Photo: Ken Howard / Met Opera

Coloratura soprano Erin Morley reprises her portrayal of Sophie in the Met’s 2017 production of Der Rosenkavalier. Her appearance as Morgana in Handel’s Alcina at Auditorio Nacional in Madrid was described by Scherzo as “dazzling”, and she has appeared in highly acclaimed performances on some of the world’s greatest opera stages such as Wiener Staatsoper, Bayerische Staatsoper, Opéra National de Paris, Glyndebourne Opera, Santa Fe Opera, Los Angeles Opera and the Metropolitan Opera, where she has now sung more than 100 performances and has been featured in five “Live in HD” broadcasts.

Günther Groissböck as Baron Ochs and Samantha Hankey as Octavian in Strauss’s
‘Der Rosenkavalier’ Photo: Ken Howard / Met Opera

Bass Günther Groissböck again takes the role of Baron Ochs, for which he won acclaim at the premiere of the production in 2017 and also on its first revival during the 2019–20 season. He is a regular guest at opera houses such as the Met, La Scala Milan, Opéra National de Paris, Bavarian State Opera Munich, Vienna State Opera, the Royal Opera House Covent Garden and the Bayreuth Festival. Roles include Gurnemanz in Wagner’s Parsifal, the title role in Mussorgsky’s Boris Godunov, Sarastro in Mozart’s The Magic Flute, Fasolt in Wagner’s Das Rheingold, Gremin in Tchaikovsky’s Eugene Onegin and the title role in Handel’s Oreste.

René Barbera as the Italian Singer in Strauss’s ‘Der Rosenkavalier’
Photo: Ken Howard / Met Opera

Also in the cast are tenor René Barbera as the Italian Singer, mezzo-soprano Katharine Goeldner as Annina, tenor Thomas Ebenstein as Valzacchi, and baritone Brian Mulligan as Faninal.

Robert Carsen’s elegant production has the action set in Vienna in 1911, the last years of the Habsburg Empire and the year in which it was premiered. The creative team also includes costume designer Brigette Reiffenstuel, set designer Paul Steinberg, lighting designers Carsen and Peter Van Praet, and choreographer Philippe Giraudeau. Gary Halvorson directs the Live in HD presentation for cinemas, and the broadcast is hosted by soprano Deborah Voigt.

Simone Young leads this performance of Richard Strauss’ Der Rosenkavalier on April 15th at 12h00 ET, which will be transmitted live to movie theaters around the globe as part of the Met’s Live in HD series. Further information on Der Rosenkavalier can be found on the Metropolitan Opera website. To find your nearest cinema visit this page of the Metropolitan Opera website.

For select audiences who do not live near a participating cinema, Der Rosenkavalier will also be available on the The Met: Live at Home platform, which offers a livestream or on-demand viewing for seven days following the performance. Details are available on the Metropolitan Opera website.

Information sourced from:

Metropolitan Opera program notes

Lise Davidsen

Samantha Hankey

Erin Morley

Günther Groissböck

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Opéra de Monte-Carlo presents Rossini’s ‘Il barbiere di Siviglia’

Poster courtesy Opéra de Monte-Carlo

A beautiful lady, two suitors and a town barber who misses nothing – what could possibly go wrong? Plenty, it seems, as Opéra de Monte-Carlo presents Gioachino Rossini’s hugely popular Il barbiere di Siviglia. This productionby Salzburg Festival, starring Monte-Carlo Opera Director Cecilia Bartoli, is staged by Rolando Villazón.

Il barbiere di Siviglia is a two-act melodrama buffo with an Italian libretto by Cesare Sterbini. It was based on Pierre Beaumarchais’s 1775 comedy Le Barbier de Séville, although the opera is closer in style to the traditional commedia dell’arte than to the French play from which it takes its inspiration. Il barbiere di Siviglia premiered on February 20, 1816, at the Teatro Argentina in Rome.

The story tells of the beautiful Rosina, the ward of Dr Bartolo, and the two suitors who desire her hand in marriage – Count Almaviva and Bartolo himself. Rosina has already fallen for the Count, following his serenade to her, and the town barber, Figaro – who knows everyone’s secrets and scandals – sees an opportunity to make some money from Almaviva by hatching a plan for the Count to gain access to Bartolo’s house. The twists and turns of the plot are enough to confuse anyone, but carried along by some of the most popular music in the operatic repertoire, this wonderfully entertaining and enjoyable opera reaches its denouement with Almaviva and Rosina celebrating their marriage, Bartolo’s acceptance of defeat (for which he’s rewarded with Rosina’s dowry), and Figaro pocketing, of course, a handsome payment from the Count.

Mezzo-soprano Cecilia Bartoli – who sings Rosina – is regarded as one of the world’s leading classical music artists. Over her 30-year career, her awards include Honorary doctorates, five Grammy Awards, more than a dozen ECHO Klassik and BRIT awards, the Polar Music Prize, the Léonie Sonning Music Prize and the Herbert von Karajan Music Prize. Ms Bartoli 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.

Highly versatile Mexican tenor Rolando Villazón is described by The Times as “the most charming of today’s divos” – and is said by Süddeutsche Zeitung to have “a wonderfully virile voice…grandezza, elegance and power”. Not only one of today’s most successful tenors, director Villazón is also a novelist, artistic director and radio and TV personality. He has appeared on the stages of the State Operas of Berlin, Munich and Vienna, La Scala in Milan, the Royal Opera House Covent Garden, the Metropolitan Opera, the Salzburg Festival, the Barbican Hall, the Philharmonic Accademia Santa Cecilia and Carnegie Hall. Rolando Villazón has directed for the Festspielhaus Baden-Baden, the Deutsche Oper Berlin, the Deutsche Oper am Rhein Düsseldorf, the Vienna Volksoper, the Semperoper in Dresden and the Théatre des Champs-Elysées. His most recent success was this production of Il barbiere di Siviglia at the 2022 Salzburg Festival, with a cast led by Cecilia Bartoli, which received both critical and public acclaim.

Uruguayan tenor Edgardo Rocha – who takes the role of Count Almaviva – is well known for his bel canto repertoire and regarded as one of its best exponents, with particular emphasis on roles in Rossini operas. These include performances as Jago and Rodrigo in Otello, Belfiore and Libenskof in ll Viaggio a Reims, Alberto in La Gazetta, the title role in Le Comte Ory, Giannetto in La Gazza ladra, Giacomo V in La Donna del Lago and Don Ramiro in the 2012 film La Cenerentola which was broadcast live by Mundovision. Mr Rocha has also appeared as Nazir in Bizet’s Les Pêcheurs des perles, Arturo in Bellini’s I Puritani, Leopold in Halevy’s La Juive, Ernesto in Peer’s Agnese and Riccardo Percy in Donizetti’s Anna Bolena. His appearances include performances at the Opernhaus Zürich, the Teatro des Champs-Élyseés, Teatro alla Scala, Opéra Royal de Wallonie in Liège, the Teatro Regio di Torino, Semperoper in Dresden, the Bolshoi Theatre, Opéra de Marseille, Opéra de Lausanne and the Salzburg Pfingstfestpiele.

The role of Bartolo is taken by baritone Alessandro Corbelli who has performed numerous roles in opera houses such as Teatro alla Scala in Milan, the Royal Opera House Covent Garden, the Opéra de Paris, Staatsoper de Vienne, the Metropolitan Opera and Glyndebourne. He has also appeared in Munich, Madrid, Barcelona, Rome, at the Salzburg Festival and the Rossini Festival in Pesaro. Most recently, Mr Corbelli has performed as Don Magnifico in La Cenerentola at the Opernhuis in Zurich and as the Marchese Don Giulio Antiquati in Donizetti’s L’ajo nell’imbarazzo in Bergamo. Following his appearance in Monte-Carlo, he will reprise the role of Don Bartolo in Il barbiere di Siviglia at the Salzburg Festival and at the Arena di Verona Opera Festival, and later this year will appear as Sulpice in Donizetti’s La Fille du régiment at Lyric Opera Chicago, the Metropolitan Opera, Wiener Staatsoper and the Royal Opera House.

Figaro, the barber who knows more about the town than anyone else, is sung by baritone Nicola Alaimo who has appeared in many of the world’s most prestigious opera houses and concert halls. These include the Metropolitan Opera, Teatro alla Scala, the Teatro Regio in Turin, La Monnaie, Amsterdam’s Concertgebouw, Rome Opera, the Royal Opera House Covent Garden, Teatro Real in Madrid and Berlin’s Deutsche Oper. Mr Alaimo’s recent roles include those of Dandini in La Cenerentola at the Opernhuis Zurich, the title role in Verdi’s Falstaff in Tokyo and Far Melitone in Verdi’s La forza del destino at Gran Teatre del Liceu in Barcelona and at the Opéra National de Paris. Future roles include those of Murena in Donizetti’s L’esule di Roma with Opera Rara in London, title role in Verdi’s Nabucco in Luxembourg, Teatro Maestranza in Seville and Geneva, he will reprise the role of Figaro in Il barbiere di Siviglia at the Arena di Verona Opera Festival and will sing Taddeo in Rossini’s L’italiana in Algeri.

Don Basilio, Rosina’s scheming music teacher, is sung by bass Ildar Abdrazakov, described by The Independent as a “sensational bass … who has just about everything – imposing sound, beautiful legato, oodles of finesse”. A regular guest of the world’s leading opera houses, such as the Metropolitan Opera, Teatro alla Scala, Paris National Opera, the Vienna State Opera and Munich’s Bavarian State Opera, Mr Abdrazakov has performed with almost every major opera company in the United States and Europe. He is also an active concert artist who has performed at London’s BBC Proms and at New York’s Carnegie Hall, as well as with leading international orchestras. Recent and current appearances include the title role in Mussorgsky’s Boris Godunov at the Bolshoi Theatre and at Teatro alla Scala, as Filippo II in Verdi’s Don Carlo at Bayerische Staatsoper in Munich and at the Bolshoi Theatre, and as Mephistopheles in La Damnation de Faust at Teatro di San Carlo in Naples.

Also in the cast are Rebeca Olvera as Berta, José Coca Loza as Fiorello and Arturo Brachetti as Arnoldo.

Gianluca Capuano, principal conductor of Les Musiciens du Prince – Monaco, leads the ensemble and the Chorus of Opéra de Monte-Carlo (director Stefano Visconti) in four performances of Rossini’s Il barbiere di Siviglia from 16th to 22nd April. Performances take place at the Opéra de Monte-Carlo.

Information sourced from:

Opéra de Monte-Carlo programme notes

Cecilia Bartoli

Rolando Villazón

Edgardo Rocha

Alessandro Corbelli

Nicola Alaimo

Ildar Abdrazakov

This article was first published in Riviera Buzz

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