Tribute to Éric Vu-An

Éric Vu-An – courtesy Nice Ballet Méditerranée

It is with great sadness that we note the death, earlier this month, of Éric Vu- An, Artistic Director of Nice Méditerranée Ballet.

Éric Vu-An, of Vietnamese origin, was born in Paris in 1964, and at the age of 10, joined the Paris Opéra Ballet School. He became a member of the Paris Opéra corps de ballet in 1979, and was promoted to the rank of soloist in 1987.

During his career at the Palais Garnier, Éric Vu-An appeared in ballets such as Don Quixote, Romeo and Juliet, Swan Lake, The Rite of Spring, Boléro, Arépo, Le Jeune Homme et la Mort, A Midsummer Night’s Dream and The Afternoon of a Faun, working with choreographers like Rudolf Nureyev, George Balanchine, Roland Petit, William Forsythe and Maurice Béjart.

In 1995 he became Artistic Director of the Bordeaux Grand Theatre Ballet, followed by the position as guest professor at the Paris Opéra School of Dance. As Director of the Avignon Opera Ballet, he created works such as (Ivresse(s) de Dionysos, Faust’s Walpurgis Night and Coppélia. As Associate Master of Ballet for the Marseille National Ballet from 2005, he created Le Petit Prince, adapted Swan Lake (Act I) and performed with the company in works such as The Afternoon of a Faun, La Pavane du Maure and Swan Lake.

When Éric Vu-An took over the artistic direction of the Nice Opéra ballet in 2009, he aimed to raise the level of excellence, first renaming it the Nice Méditerranée Ballet. He successfully revisited great classics of dance, such as Cantate 51, Marco Polo, Don Quixote, Coppélia and Raymonda. He introduced to the repertoire new creations by talented choreographers – Lucinda Childs, Dwight Rhoden, Luciano Cannito and Julien Guérin – and returned to the stage himself in several ballets – Marco Polo, Cassandra, Le Rendez-vous, Don Quixote and Eden, for example. He also developed the Company’s presence both nationally and internationally, with numerous performances in France, Europe, Asia and America.

Éric Vu-An was recognised as an Officer of the National Order of Merit, Commander in the Order of Arts and Letters and Officer of the Legion of Honour.

The Paris Opéra says of Éric Vu-An that he will always be remembered for his “… immense talent and grace, his elegance, the power, precision and delicacy of his art, which have made him one of the most emblematic dancers of his generation”.

Information sourced from:

Nice Ballet Méditeranée

Paris Opéra Ballet

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San Francisco Opera brings back Handel’s comic opera ‘Partenope’

Scene from Handel’s ‘Partenope’

As part of its 2024 Summer Season, San Francisco Opera once more stages George Frideric Handel’s first comic opera, Partenope. Last seen on the stage of the War Memorial Opera House in 2014, this Olivier Award-winning production by Christopher Alden is co-produced by English National Opera and Opera Australia, and led by conductor Christopher Moulds.

Carlo Vistoli as Arsace and Julie Fuchs in the title role in Handel’s ‘Partenope’

Partenope stars French soprano Julie Fuchs, in her American debut, in the title role of Partenope – originally the first queen of Naples – who is in love with Arsace. Italian countertenor Carlo Vitolo makes his US stage debut as Arsace, one of Partenope’s four hopeful suitors. The other three are sung by countertenor Nicholas Tamagna as Armindo, tenor Alek Shrader as Emilio, the military general, and baritone Hadleigh Adams as Ormonte. Argentinian mezzo-soprano Daniela Mack takes the role of Rosmira, former betrothed of Arsace.

Handel wrote his three-act opera in 1730, to an anonymous libretto adapted from that of Silvio Stampiglia, Italian poet, librettist and founder member of the Accademia dell’Arcadia. It premiered at the King’s Theatre in London on February 24, 1730.

Daniela Mack as Rosmira and Carlo Vistoli as Arsace in Handel’s ‘Partenope’

In this production, the action has been brought forward from the mythical founding of Naples to a 1920s Parisian salon, where Partenope is the most eligible lady in town, with more suitors than she can manage, each of whom is keen to have her hand in marriage. Described by San Francisco Opera as “….. a witty and sexy staging of Handel’s romantic comedy”, the opera tells of the merry-go-round of deception and cross-dressing which follows, leading The Mercury News to write that Alden’s staging “…. turns the opera’s gender-bending plot into a nonstop parade of visual and vocal delights”.

Julie Fuchs sings the role of Partenope, the Parisian salon hostess whose gatherings are frequented by social elites and Surrealist artists. Described by Diapason as having “A voluptuous timbre and virtuosic coloratura”, Ms Fuchs has a repertoire which ranges from Baroque to contemporary music, with a special focus on Mozart and bel canto heroines. Her 2023-24 season began with a return to the Opéra National de Paris as Norina in Donizetti’s Don Pasquale, followed by her role debut as Gilda in Verdi’s Rigoletto at the Teatro Real in Madrid.

Julie Fuchs in the title role in Handel’s ‘Partenope’

Specialising in Baroque music, Carlo Vistoli is regarded as one of the leading Italian countertenors of his generation. He has won acclaim throughout Europe and Australia with what Parterre describes as his “rounded, resonant Italianate sound and elegant phrasing” in the works of Gluck, Cavalli, Mozart and especially Handel. After these performances with San Francisco Opera, he will perform in Giulio Cesare in Egitto at Wiener Staatsoper, where he will also appear with Les Musiciens du Prince Monaco.

Daniela Mack – who takes the role of Rosmira, the estranged lover of Arsace who appears in disguise to win him back – is a graduate of the Merola Opera Program and a former SF Opera Adler Fellow. She appeared in San Francisco Opera’s 2014 production of Partenope. Prior to that, Ms Mack was seen at the War Memorial Opera House as Frida Kahlo in the Company’s premiere of Gabriela Lena Frank and Nilo Cruz’s El último sueño de Frida y Diego. Earlier this year, she appeared in the Met Opera’s production of the John Adams Oratorio El Niño and in Handel’s Alcina at Teatro Maestranza in Seville.

Nicholas Tamagna as Armindo in Handel’s ‘Partenope’

Nicholas Tamagna, making his Company debut as Armindo, is a Baroque specialist and frequent interpreter of the Handelian repertoire, including appearances at the Handel Festivals in Halle an der Saale, Göttingen and at the Badisches Staatstheater in Karlsruhe. He has sung Narciso in Handel’s Agrippina at the Met Opera, has made number of international appearances and has sung roles in operas by Vivaldi, Hasse and Handel on tour in Greece, Russia, France, and Germany with the baroque specialist orchestra Armonia Atenea.
 
 Alek Schrader is Emilio, the military general and Prince of Cumae, who courts Partenope, and who is portrayed in this staging as an avatar of Surrealist photographer Man Ray. A graduate of San Francisco Opera’s Adler Fellowship Program, he sang the same role in San Francisco Opera’s 2014 production of Partenope, following which he was described by the San Francisco Chronicle as “a vocal dynamo”. He has sung the roles of Jago in Rossini’s Otello, Septimus in Handel’s Theodora and Dan White in Stewart Wallace’s Harvey Milk.

Julie Fuchs as Partenope and Alek Shrader as Emilio in Handel’s ‘Partenope’

Hadleigh Adams is another graduate of the Merola Opera Program and a former San Francisco Opera Adler Fellow, whose voice is described by Limelight Magazine as a “burnished baritone”. He has appeared in a wide repertoire with San Francisco Opera, including works by Britten, Offenbach, Poulenc, Puccini, Rossini and Verdi, and in the world premieres of Mark Adamo’s The Gospel of Mary Magdalene, Tobias Picker’s Dolores Claiborne and John Adams’ Antony and Cleopatra.
 
Christopher Moulds, an early music expert known for his interpretations of the operas of Monteverdi, Cavalli, Purcell, Handel and Mozart, leads the San Francisco Opera Orchestra in five performances of Partenope between June 15 and 28, with a livestream on June 23. Handel’s Partenope is sung in Italian with English supertitles. Further information and details of ticketing can be found on the San Francisco Opera website.

Information sourced from

San Francisco Opera program notes

Artists’ websites

All photos © Cory Weaver/San Francisco Opera

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Monte-Carlo Philharmonic ends season with Tchaikovsky and Bruckner

Photo courtesy Riviera Buzz © Larisa BirtaUnsplash

The Monte-Carlo Philharmonic Orchestra brings the 2023-24 season to an end with a concert featuring Tchaikovsky’s lovely Variations on a Rococo Theme Op 33 and the Symphony No 5 in B-flat minor by Anton Bruckner.

The concert is led by the Orchestra’s Artistic and Musical Director, Kazuki Yamada, who is also Chief Conductor and Artistic Advisor of the City of Birmingham Symphony Orchestra, Permanent Conductor of the Japan Philharmonic Orchestra, Principal Guest Conductor of the Yomiuri Nippon Symphony Orchestra and Guest Conductor of the Seiji Ozawa International Academy. The soloist is the Spanish cellist Pablo Ferrández whom the LA Times describes as having “Pop idol magnetism, superb technique and exhilarating musicality [which] reveal a sure star in the making”.

Recent highlights of Pablo Ferrández’s current season include his debut at David Geffen Hall in New York with the Orquesta del Teatro Real, as well as with orchestras such as the Boston Symphony, Cleveland Orchestra, San Francisco Symphony, Pittsburgh Symphony, Seattle Symphony, Tonhalle Orchestra and Orchestre Philharmonique de Liege. Return visits include those to the Rotterdam Philharmonic, London Philharmonic, Royal Liverpool Philharmonic, Dusseldorf Symphony and Orchestra National de France. Hailed by Le Figaro as a “new cello genius” and by El Pais as “A captivating performer”, Ferrández is also frequently invited to internationally renowned festivals such as Verbier, Salzburg, Dresden and the Dvorak Prague Festival.

Tchaikovsky’s Variations on a Rococo Theme Opus 33 was the closest Tchaikovsky ever came to writing a full cello concerto, and it was his first composition for cello and orchestra. Written between December 1876 and January 1877, the work was inspired by Mozart – whose music Tchaikovsky greatly admired – and dedicated to cellist Wilhelm Fitzenhage. It would appear that, having composed the Variations, Tchaikovsky submitted the work to the cellist for checking, and Fitzhagen made some significant changes to it. Even though Tchaikovsky wasn’t entirely happy with these amendments, he nevertheless orchestrated the piece from the piano arrangement by Fitzenhagen.

Pablo Ferrandez photo Igor Studio

This version premiered in November 1877 at a symphony concert in Moscow with Fitzhagen as soloist, given by the Russian Musical Society, conducted by Nikolai Rubinstein. Tchaikovsky was abroad at the time and missed the performance, but press comment was said to be very favourable. Tchaikovsky’s original version of the Variations was performed for the first time on 24th April 1941 in Moscow, played by Daniil Shafran, conducted by Aleksandr Melik-Pashayev.

Anton Bruckner’s Fifth Symphony is one of the grandest of his so-called ‘cathedrals in sound’ – as his symphonies were known. A monumental work, it is considered by many to be his symphonic masterpiece. He began composing the Fifth Symphony in 1875 and finished it the following year, although he did make a few minor changes over the following years. At the time of writing, he was in a state of despair, unable to settle in Vienna and missing his previous post in Linz. As with many of his works, it was greeted with indifference, and in 1893, the conductor Franz Schalk led a performance in Graz, but he apparently re-orchestrated the entire work, cut the Finale and added an extra brass band at the end.

The Monte-Carlo Philharmonic photo Sasha Gusov/OPMC

Fortunately Bruckner was too ill to attend this performance. In fact, Bruckner never heard his symphony performed by an orchestra – just a two-piano version by Josef Schalk and Franz Zottman – and it was not until 1935, 39 years after Bruckner’s death, that the original full orchestral score was performed – as written by Bruckner with only minor amendments – in Robert Haas’s definitive edition.

Kazuki Yamada leads the Monte-Carlo Philharmonic Orchestra in a performance of the Variations on a Rococo Theme Opus 33, by Tchaikovsky, and Bruckner’s Symphony No 5 in B-flat major, in the Auditorium Rainier III on Sunday June 16th, 2024 at 18h00. Further information and details of ticketing can be found on the Monte-Carlo Philharmonic website.


Information sourced from:
OPMC programme notes
Variations on a Rococo Theme
Bruckner Symphony No 5

This article first appeared in Riviera Buzz

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