Nice Opera stages updated version of Puccini’s ‘La bohème’

Photo courtesy Nice Opera

In this updated version of Puccini’s much-loved opera for Nice Opera, director Kristian Frédric has brought the setting of Puccini’s La bohème forward to the 1990s – a time at which the AIDS epidemic, as opposed to consumption, was shattering both lives and dreams. Titled Les flocons de neige des derniers souffles, and featuring some of the loveliest music in the repertoire, this production stars Cristina Pasaroiu as Mimí and Oreste Cosimo as Rodolfo, with Daniele Callegari leading the Orchestra and Chorus of Nice Opera.

Giacomo Puccini wrote La bohème in 1895 to a libretto by Luigi Illica and Guiseppe Giacosa, who based the story on Scènes de la vie de bohème, a work by French novelist and poet, Henri Murger. In this novel Murger portrayed a lifestyle which he knew intimately. He himself figured as Rodolfo in the book, and the other characters were all friends of his – students who were fun-loving, witty, always short of money, and with a healthy disregard for authority – until their lives were touched by tragedy. La bohème premiered at the Teatro Regio in Turin on February 1st, 1896, conducted by the young Arturo Toscanini. It was an immediate success and has since become one of the world’s most frequently performed operas.

The action, set in Bohemian Paris, centres around the love story of Rodolfo and Mimí. He knows that she is dying of AIDS and he tells Marcello that because he cannot afford to provide for her adequately, they must part. On hearing this, Mimí is devastated, and they decide to stay together until spring, but she dies before the warmer weather arrives.

The role of Mimí is sung by Romanian soprano Cristina Pasaroiu whose most recents projects include performances as Mimí at Deutsche Oper Berlin, in Puccini’s Il Trittico (Il Tabarro, Gianni Schicchi and Sour Angelica) and in Verdi’s Il Trovatore at the Staatstheater Wiesbaden, Violetta Valèry in Verdi’s La traviata at Aalto Theater Essen, and in the title role of Dvořák’s Rusalka at Grand Opera Avignon and at Opera de Bordeaux. Also a concert artist, Ms Pasaroiu’s appearances include a tour across Europe and the Middle East with Andrea Bocelli, and she has also performed at centres such as the Concertgebouw Amsterdam, at the Vienna Musikverein, Teatro Regio Parma, Alte Oper Frankfurt and the Konzerthaus Berlin.

Last seen in Nice as Edgardo in Donizetti’s Lucia di Lammermoor, Italian tenor Oreste Cosimo includes in highlights of his career appearances in the title role in Offenbach’s Les Contes d’Hoffmann at Deutsche Oper Berlin, Alfredo in La traviata in Tel Aviv, Edgardo at Deutsche Oper am Rhein Duesseldorf, and as Don Ottavio in Mozart’s Don Giovanni at Filarmonico di Verona. He has also performed in Puccini’s Messa di Gloria, Rossini’s Stabat Mater and Petite Messe Solennelle, Verdi’s Requiem, Dvořák’s Stabat Mater and Mozart’s Requiem. Mr Cosimo has future engagements such as Rodolfo at the Festival Pucciano in Viareggio and for Israeli Opera in Tel Aviv, as Edgardo in Osnabrück and Tel Aviv, and Cassio in Verdi’s Otello and Il Duca di Mantova in Verdi’s Rigoletto, both for Israeli Opera.

Romanian baritone Serban Vasile takes the role of Marcello. Among the many awards and prizes he has won is the BBC Cardiff Singer of the Year in 2011, and in the current season he has appeared in Bach’s St John Passion in Bucharest, as Il Conte di Luna in Verdi’s Il trovatore with Opera Bergen, as Sharpless in Puccini’s Madam Butterfly with Opera Nationala Romana Timisoara and Escamillo in Bizet’s Carmen at the Festival Mediterranean in Malta.

Schaunard is sung by Italian baritone Jaime Pialli, and Italian bass Andrea Comelli is Colline. Mr Comelli has most recently appeared as Il dottor Grenville in La traviata at Teatro Massimo di Palermo and in Tokyo, and as Timur in Puccini’s Turandot at Fondazione Petruzzelli in Bari.

Musetta – a former lover of Marcello – is sung by French/Armenian soprano Melody Louledjian. She has more than thirty roles in her repertoire, including those of Violetta in La traviata, the title role in Lucia di Lammermoor and Norina in Donizetti’s Don Pasquale. Equally comfortable with both the classical and contemporary repertoire, she also performs regularly in recital and concert, a notable example being the Chorégies d’Orange.

Also in the cast are Richard Rittelmann as Benoît, Eric Ferri as Alcindoro and Gilles San Juan as Parpignol.

Decor and costumes for this production are by Philippe Miesch, and lighting is by Yannick Anché.

Daniele Callegari leads the Nice Philharmonic Orchestra, Chorus and Children’s Choir in four performances of Kristian Frédric’s production of Les flocons de neige des derniers souffles – La bohème – at Nice Opera from May 31st to June 6th. Tickets may be reserved online or by telephone on 04 92 17 40 79.

Information sourced from:

Nice Opera programme notes

Encyclopaedia Britannica

Artists’ websites:

Cristina Pasaroiu

Oreste Cosimo

Kristian Frédric

Serban Vasile

Andrea Comelli

Melody Louledjian

This article first appeared in Riviera Buzz

ArtsPreview home page

Met Opera’s new production of Mozart’s ‘Don Giovanni’ ‘Live in HD’

A scene from Mozart’s ‘Don Giovanni’ with Ana María Martínez as Donna Elvira, Federica Lombardi as Donna Anna, Peter Mattei as Don Giovanni, Ben Bliss as Don Ottavio, and Ying Fang as Zerlina. Photo: Karen Almond / Met Opera

The Metropolitan Opera’s latest Live in HD transmission stars the baritone regarded as one of the most acclaimed Don Giovannis of our time – Peter Mattei. This new production of Mozart’s Don Giovanni, is by Tony Award-winning director Ivo van Hove in his debut with the Met, and features soprano Federica Lombardi as Giovanni’s potential conquest Donna Anna.

Also in the cast are soprano Ana María Martínez as Donna Elvira who has been betrayed by Giovanni, and soprano Ying Fang as Zerlina, the young bride whom Giovanni tries to seduce. Tenor Ben Bliss is Don Ottavio, Donna Anna’s fiancé, and Adam Plachetka takes the role of Giovanni’s servant Leporello, Alfred Walker sings Masetto, Zerlina’s intended husband, and Alexander Tsymbalyuk is Donna Anna’s father,the Commendatore, bass-baritones all three.

This production – hailed by the Financial Times as “Magnificent”, and “… a resounding musical success” by the Observer – is led by Nathalie Stutzman, making her debut in the Live in HD series. Music Director of the Atlanta Symphony Orchestra as of this season, and only the second woman in history to lead a major American orchestra, Maestra Stutzman has also been the Principal Guest Conductor of The Philadelphia Orchestra since 2021 and Chief Conductor of Norway’s Kristiansand Symphony Orchestra since 2018.

Alexander Tsymbalyuk (on floor) as the Commendatore, Federica Lombardi as Donna Anna, and Ben Bliss as Don Ottavio in Mozart’s ‘Don Giovanni. Photo: Karen Almond / Met Opera

Don Giovanni, commissioned right after Mozart’s highly successful trip to Prague in 1787, is a two-act dramma giocoso – a particular type of comic opera, described by Daniel Heartz in The Musical Times as “A frolic with serious elements” – and is based on the fictional character, Don Juan, created by Spanish dramatist Tirso de Molina. Da Ponte based his libretto on Giovanni Bertati’s version for a former opera Don Giovanni Tenorio. The opera premiered in Prague at the Estates Theatre on October 29th in 1787. It was somewhat misunderstood at first, but ultimately it came to be regarded as one of the greatest of all operas.

Federica Lombardi as Donna Anna, Ben Bliss as Don Ottavio, Ana María Martínez as Donna Elvira, and Peter Mattei in the title role of Mozart’s ‘Don Giovanni’. Photo: Karen Almond / Met Opera

It tells of Don Giovanni, a serial seducer with a huge ego, who cannot resist the charms of any woman, casting each lover aside without an ounce of remorse. He isn’t shy of murderous intent either – he kills the Commendatore who confronts him as Giovanni tries to seduce his daughter. Ultimately Giovanni meets his match in a graveyard in which a huge statue of the Commendatore stands. The statue urges him to repent of his ways, but Don Giovanni, unwilling to amend his lifestyle, succumbs to the fate which the Commendatore has predicted for him, and is consumed by the flames that have sprung up around him, as a chorus of demons condemns him to eternal damnation.

Peter Mattei as Don Giovanni and Federica Lombardi as Donna Anna in Mozart’s ‘Don Giovanni’. Photo: Karen Almond / Met Opera

Federica Lombardi specializes in the interpretation of leading soprano roles in operatic works by Mozart. A regular guest at opera houses such as the Met, Teatro alla Scala in Milan, the Wiener Staatsoper, the Royal Opera House Covent Garden and the Deutsche Staatsoper Berlin, her future engagements include performances as the Contessa in Mozart’s Le Nozze di Figaro at Chicago Lyric Opera, Mimi in Puccini’s La Bohème, Elettra in Mozart’s Idomeneo in Geneva, and the title role in Donizetti’s Anna Bolena at the Deutsche Oper Berlin.

Peter Mattei in the title role of Mozart’s ‘Don Giovanni’. Photo: Karen Almond / Met Opera

Described by Opera News as “The incomparable Peter Mattei”, the Swedish baritone was named Vocalist of the Year by Musical America Awards in 2020. In addition to his appearance in Don Giovanni this season, he has also appeared for the Met as Rodrigo in Verdi’s Don Carlo, as well as performing in recital in several major concert houses in Europe, with pianist David Fray. Highlights of last season include appearances as the Count in Le Nozze di Figaro at Opéra National de Paris and also at Semperoper Dresden, the title role in Berg’s Wozzeck at Valencia’s Palau de les Arts, and in the live broadcast opera concert at the 2022 Verbier Festival in the title role of Don Giovanni.

A scene from Mozart’s ‘Don Giovanni’ with Ana María Martínez as Donna Elvira, Federica Lombardi as Donna Anna, Peter Mattei (kneeling) as Don Giovanni, Ben Bliss as Don Ottavio, Alfred Walker as Masetto, and Ying Fang as Zerlina. Photo: Karen Almond / Met Opera

Van Hove’s production – which has been set in an abstract architectural landscape – has set and lighting design by Jan Versweyveld, costume design by An D’Huys, and projection design by Christopher Ash, all making their Live in HD debuts, and choreography by Sara Erde. The Live in HD presentation for cinemas is directed by Gary Halvorson, and the transmission is hosted by soprano Erin Morley who will star as Pamina in Simon McBurney’s forthcoming new production of Mozart’s Die Zauberflöte for the Met, which will be transmitted live to cinemas on June 3.

This live production of Don Giovanni can be seen at cinemas worldwide on Saturday, May 20, at 12.55 pm (Eastern Time). To find your nearest theater, follow this link.

For select audiences who do not live near a participating cinema, Don Giovanni will also be available on The Met: Live at Home platform, which offers a livestream and on-demand viewing for seven days following the performance.

For more information about Don Giovanni, please visit the Metropolitan Opera website.

Information sourced from:
Met Opera program notes
Galaxy Music Notes
Peter Mattei
Federica Lombardi
Nathalie Stutzman

ArtsPreview home page

Monte-Carlo Philharmonic plays Elgar and Dvořák

The Monte-Carlo Philharmonic Orchestra with Artistic & Music Director Kazuki Yamada
© Sasha Gusov

This week, Cornelius Meister leads the the Monte-Carlo Philharmonic Orchestra, in the Violin Concerto by Sir Edward Elgar – with Frank Peter Zimmerman as soloist – and Dvořák’s Symphony No 6, in a concert titled Pride and Dignity.

Meister, of whom the Financial Times says: “… proved himself a master of conducting not just the players but the audience too”, has been Music Director of the Staatsoper und Staatsorchester Stuttgart since 2018. Recipient of numerous awards – including the OPUS Klassik in the category ‘Conductor of the Year’ and the Diapason d’or – he performs symphonies by Beethoven, Schumann, Brahms, Bruckner, Tchaikovsky, Mahler and Sibelius, and also rarely heard works and world premieres.

Cornelius Meister © Matthias Baus

Orchestras which he has led include the Concertgebouworkest, City of Birmingham Symphony Orchestra, BBC Philharmonic, National Symphony Orchestra in Washington, Orchestre de l’Opéra National de Paris, Ensemble Intercontemporain, Orchestra dell’Accademia Nazionale di Santa Cecilia in Rome, Deutsches Symphonie-Orchester Berlin, and he has appeared at the Mostly Mozart Festival Orchestra in New York. As an opera conductor, he conducts productions at the Vienna State Opera, the Metropolitan Opera New York and the Opéra National de Paris.

Violinist Frank Peter Zimmermann has been performing with the world’s major orchestras for well over three decades, collaborating with renowned conductors, and appearing in concert venues and music festivals in Europe, the United States, Asia, South America and Australia. Highlights of his current season include engagements with the Münchner Philharmoniker, Gewandhausorchester Leipzig, Wiener Symphoniker, Orchestre National de France, Tonhalle-Orchester Zürich, and Orchestra Sinfonica Nazionale della RAI.

Frank Peter Zimmerman © Harald Hofmann

In 2010 he formed the Trio Zimmermann with viola player Antoine Tamestit and cellist Christian Poltéra which performed in all major music centres and festivals in Europe. As well as being a prolific recording artist, Mr Zimmermann has given four world premieres: Magnus Lindberg’s Violin Concerto No 2 with the London Philharmonic Orchestra under Jaap van Zweden, the violin concerto en sourdine by Matthias Pintscher with the Berliner Philharmoniker led by Peter Eötvös, the violin concerto The Lost Art of Letter Writing by Brett Dean, with the Royal Concertgebouw Orchestra, conducted by the composer, and the Violin Concerto No 3 Juggler in Paradise by Augusta Read Thomas with the Orchestre Philharmonique de Radio France, led by Andrey Boreyko.

The Royal Philharmonic Society commissioned a Violin Concerto from Edward Elgar in 1909 – a time when he was at the height of his composing life. The Concerto received its premiere at the Philharmonic Society Concert given in London’s Queen’s Hall on 10th November, 1910, with Elgar himself conducting. The soloist was renowned violinist Fritz Kreisler, to whom the Concerto was dedicated and of whom Elgar was a great admirer.

Elgar, however, loved including a mystery in some of his works – as in his Variations on an Original Theme, subtitled the Enigma Variations – and the Violin Concerto B minor, op 61 was no exception. Included in the manuscript were the Spanish words “Aqui está encerrada el alma de …..” “Herein is enshrined the soul of …..” (a quotation from the novel Gil Blas by Alain-René Lesage), and to this day the conundrum does not appear to have been completely solved. There are three theories as to the name of the person involved. Alice Stuart-Wortley was one (whom Elgar nicknamed “Windflower”), and who shared a name with his wife, Alice. Helen Weaver, a young violinist who was his first love, was another suggestion, but even though they were engaged, she broke up with him after the death of her mother, and emigrated to New Zealand. The third possibility is that the soul enshrined in this lovely work is that of its composer – Elgar himself.

Sir Edward Elgar – courtesy Wikimedia Commons

Antonín Dvořák’s Symphony No 6 in D major, Op. 60, B. 112, was composed in 1880, and premiered on 25th March 1881. It was dedicated to Hans Richter, the conductor of the Vienna Philharmonic Orchestra, and the person who had commissioned the work. Richter appeared to be very enthusiastic about it, but the premiere which was planned for December 1880, was postponed so many times that Dvořák had the Symphony premiered in Prague, by the Czech Theatre Orchestra, under the direction of Adolf Čech. Richter eventually gave the work its London premiere in 1882, where it became very popular with the British public. Although the Symphony is said to have echoes of the symphonic tradition of Brahms (whom Dvořák admired), it not only drew attention to the composer himself, but also to Czech music.

Antonín Dvořák – courtesy Wikimedia Commons

Cornelius Meister leads the Monte-Carlo Philharmonic Orchestra in a performance of the Elgar Violin Concerto – with Frank Peter Zimmerman as soloist – and Dvořák’s Symphony No 6. The concert takes place in the Auditorium Rainier III in Monaco on Friday 12th May at 20h00.

Further information is available on the Monte-Carlo Philharmonic website, and reservations can be made online.

Information sourced from:

Monte-Carlo Philharmonic Orchestra programme notes

Cornelius Meister

Frank Peter Zimmerman

Elgar Violin Concerto – udiscovermusic and Elgar – his music

A version of this article also appeared in Riviera Buzz

ArtsPreview home page

Greek National Opera marks Centennial Anniversary of Maria Callas

Maria Callas as Norma at the Ancient Theatre of Epidaurus in 1960 – Photo GNO Archive

This year marks the centennial of the birth of Maria Callas, regarded as the greatest soprano of the 20th century. For the rest of this year, and into January 2024, Greek National Opera are celebrating with a series of events paying homage to Callas, as part of the 2023 UNESCO Maria Callas Anniversary, presented by the Hellenic Ministry of Culture and Sports.

These celebratory events, curated by the GNO Artistic Director Giorgos Koumendakis, start with the early years of Maria Callas’ career in Greece, where she made her debut with the Company in 1940, within months of its founding as a branch of the National Theatre of Greece. Using her birth name Maria Kalogeropoulou, and still a student at the Athens Conservatoire, the young soprano gained valuable experience performing major roles at Greek National Opera until 1945.

“Maria Callas, says Koumendakis, “is an artist that shaped the very history of the Greek National Opera.” In 1947 she made her first appearance in Verona, and rapidly gained international recognition. Returning to Greece in 1957, she gave a recital at the Odeon of Herodes Atticus, and also appeared in the first-ever opera performances at the Ancient Theatre of Epidaurus – where dramas have been staged since the 2nd century BC. Callas appeared in Bellini’s Norma in 1960 and Cherubini’s Medea in 1961, notably donating her fees from both productions to create a scholarship supporting young opera artists in her name.

The Ancient Theatre of Epidaurus, a remnant from Ancient Greece, is regarded as the most well-preserved specimen of an Ancient Greek Theater –
Photo Julien Seguinot, Lille, France, via Wikimedia Commons

The events planned by GNO to celebrate Maria Callas’ centennial include the European premiere of David McVicar’s staging of Medea, currently running at the Stavros Niarchos Hall, in a major international co-production with The Metropolitan Opera, Lyric Opera of Chicago and Canadian Opera Company.

Unboxing Callas: From Callas to Medea – An Installation in Three Acts – takes place in the foyer of the Greek National Opera until 9th June. This features major exhibitions of rare photographs, documents, costumes and other personal items showcasing her life and work, including a striking, high-relief profile of Maria Callas, through which the story of Medea unfolds in a sculptural form.

An Opera Gala will be held at the Odeon of Herodes Atticus in September, where Callas’ legacy in Greece is deeply rooted, featuring leading sopranos performing a Maria Callas repertoire, with the GNO Orchestra. In 1944, before she left Athens for New York, she played Smaragda in The Masterbuilder by Manolis Kalomiris, and Leonora in Beethoven’s Fidelio. Thirteen years later, in 1957, Maria Meneghini-Callas returned to the same venue to give a legendary recital as part of the Athens Festival, showcasing her vocal range and virtuosity in arias from iconic operas such as Wagner’s Tristan und Isolde, Verdi’s La forza del destino, Donizetti’s Lucia di Lammermoor and Thomas’ Hamlet.

The second part of the Unboxing Callas arts program – from November this year until January 2024 – is An Archival Exploration of the Dimitris Pyromallis Collection, and showcases the private stories, memories, and archival effects of the legendary opera singer, chronicling her career. All content will be presented on large worktops, as if in a lab, where researchers and artists will be classifying, conserving, recording, cataloging and reinterpreting artifacts.

A documentary titled Mary, Mariana, Maria – The Unsung Greek Years of Callas – by Vasilis Louras will be screened on 2nd December, 2023 at the Stavros Niarchos Hall, exactly 100 years after the birth of Maria Callas. This new documentary explores the life of Maria Callas focusing on her early years of arts training and performances at the Greek National Opera, and her three later appearances in Greece. It explores the difficulties which Callas faced, but despite these challenges, and just a few months later, The Metropolitan Opera offered her a contract, which marked the beginning of her international career.

From December 2023 GNO TV will be screening a free video recital celebrating the formative years of Maria Kalogeropoulou’s career. With the title Maria Callas in Greece, 1937-1945 The Repertoire Never Heard… this video will feature the repertoire which Callas performed in Athens during these years. The works will be performed in the Greek language, in the exact translations that Callas herself sang, featuring established and emerging Greek opera singers, who will perform the repertoire in chronological order. This video is a unique tribute that captures the ‘Greek’ repertoire of Maria Callas, offering Greek and international audiences a complete overview of Callas’s repertoire during the eight years she spent in Athens. 

Maria Callas 100 – Illustration by Yannis Kouroudis

Also, from September to December 2023, an educational workshop is being organised between the GNO and the Technical University of Crete. Under the title Visualizing the Voice of Maria Callas this workshop builds upon the successful ‘Interactive 3D Model of the Main Stage and Backstage Areas of the Greek National Opera’ research project, aiming to further explore the relationship between architecture and music, space and sound, by experimenting with the visualisation of Maria Callas’ voice.

Information sourced from:
Greek National Theatre programme notes
Maria Callas
Ancient Theatre of Epidaurus

ArtsPreview home page