Monte-Carlo Opera presents Rossini’s ‘Il turco in Italia’

Love, infidelity and comedic drama are in the air in Gioachino Rossini’s Il turco in Italia, to be staged by Monte-Carlo Opera this month.

This drama buffo per musica, set to a libretto by Felice Romani, stars Monte-Carlo Opera’s director designate, Cecilia Bartoli as the flirtatious young Neapolitan, Fiorilla, with Adrian Sâmpetrean as Selim, the wealthy Turk of the opera’s title, to whom she is attracted. Fiorilla’s husband, Don Geronio is sung by Nicola Alaimo, Barry Banks takes the role of Don Narciso, the knight serving Fiorilla (who is also her lover), the gypsy Zaida is José Maria Lo Monaco, her friend Albazar is David Astorga, and Giovanni Romeo is the poet and author Prosdocimo.

Model of scene from Monte-Carlo Opera’s production of ‘Il turco in Italia’ –
courtesy Monte-Carlo Opera

The plot revolves around the activities that arise when Prosdocimo -who is writing a play – sees a gypsy camp near the harbour as a means of relieving his writer’s block. There he meets the gypsy Zaida, and learns that she is living in hiding, having fled the harem of Prince Selim, following accusations of infidelity by a rival. The Prince himself coincidentally disembarks from a visiting ship, returns the advances of Fiorilla, and Prosdocimo realises that the Turk is in fact the Prince with whom Zaida is still in love. He now has the perfect outline for his comedy.

Events then move fast. Geronio interrupts his wife’s assignation with Selim – with whom she plans to elope – Selim sees Zaida and recognises her as his former lover, jealousy erupts – and Prosdocimo is delighted with the ensuing cat-fight! Fiorilla, determined to force Selim to choose between her and Zaida, sees a forthcoming masked ball as their chance to elope, but Prosdocimo tells Gerionio of their plans, and Geronio, Zaida, Fiorilla, Selim and Narciso all turn up in the same costumes. The four young lovers all successfully make their escape, although not necessarily with the correct partners, and ultimately, as tends to happen with comedies, all is resolved – and Prosdocimo has his happy ending.

Cecilia Bartoli © Kristian Schuller

Since her debut in 1987, multi-award-winning mezzo-soprano Cecilia Bartoli has frequently appeared on the stages of the world’s leading opera houses, concert halls and festivals in Europe, the USA, Asia and Australia. Venues include the Metropolitan Opera New York, London’s Royal Opera House, Zurich’s Opera House, Amsterdam’s Concertgebouw, the Philharmonie de Paris, Vienna’s Musikverein, Elbphilharmonie Hamburg and the Berlin Philharmonic Hall. Also a highly successful recording artist, Ms Bartoli has served as artistic director of the Salzburg Whitsun Festival since 2012, a contract which was recently extended until 2026, and since 2016 she has worked with Les Musiciens du Prince – Monaco, an orchestra formed at her initiative and granted the generous patronage of the princely family of Monaco.

Romanian bass Adrian Sâmpetrean has previously sung the role of Selim at the Aix-en-Provence Festival. Since his debut at the Romanian National Opera Cluj-Napoca, he has appeared at many of the major opera houses in Europe, such as the Bavarian State Opera Munich, Teatro Comunale Bologna, Opéra de Monte Carlo, the Staatsoper Berlin, Opéra de Paris, Teatro alla Scala, Arena di Verona, Teatro La Fenice and Teatro dell’Opera di Roma. He has also sung at the Salzburg Festival, the Bolshoi Theatre Moscow and the Lyric Opera of Chicago. His future engagements include appearances at Opera Natională Bucureṣti, Palau de les Arts Reina Sofia, Teatro de San Carlo and De Nationale Opera Amsterdam.

José Maria Lo Monaco – courtesy Allegorica Artists Management

José Maria Lo Monaco, with what the Sydney Morning Herald describes as “… a full-bodied mezzo soprano voice, fiery in the top register and smouldering in lower”, is well known as an interpreter of the bel canto repertoire, having starred as Adalgisa in Bellini’s Norma at the Opéra Royal de Wallonie-Liège, as Giovanna Seymour in Donizetti’s Anna Bolena and Elisabetta in Maria Stuarda at the Bergamo Donizetti Festival. Among her career highlights are the roles of Dorabella in Mozart’s Così fan tutte at Teatro La Fenice, Cherubino in his Le Nozze di Figaro at both La Fenice and Beijing NCPA, Charlotte in Massenet’s Werther in Bologna and Giulietta in Offenbach’s Les Contes d’Hoffmann at the Naples Teatro San Carlo.

Nicola Alaimo – courtesy Monte-Carlo Opera

Baritone Nicola Alaimo is no stranger either to the role of Don Geronio, or to Monte-Carlo Opera. He sang Don Geronio in a concert performance at the closing performance of the 2015 Rossini Opera Festival, and in the same year appeared at Monte-Carlo Opera in the title role of Rossini’s Guillaume Tell – which he has also sung for Dutch National Opera, Théâtre des Champs-Elysées, La Coruña, and in a concert performance at La Monnaie in Brussels. Other highlights of his career include appearances at the Ravenna Festival, Royal Opera House Covent Garden, Teatro dell’Opera in Rome, the Metropolitan Opera, Opéra Bastille in Paris, Milan’s La Scala, the Teatro Real in Madrid the Opéra National de Paris, the Salzburg Festival and the Lyric Opera of Chicago.

Giovanni Romeo © DR

Giovanni Romeo’s portrayal of Dr Bartolo in Rossini’s Il Barbiere di Siviglia opened the door to his appearance in major opera houses in Italy – such as Teatro alla Scala – and abroad. He has also appeared on the stages of the Bolshoi Theatre in Moscow, Monte-Carlo Opera, Deutsche Oper Berlin, the NCPA in Beijing, ABAO in Bilbao, Royal Opera House Muscat and Spain’s Opera de Oviedo. He has participated in some of the most important international opera projects for young singers, such as “l’Ópera Estudio” in Tenerife, as well as in festivals such as the “Young Singer Project” in Salzburg, the Donizetti Festival in Bergamo and the “Vicenza Festival in lirica”.

Gianluco Capuano leads Les Musiciens du Prince-Monaco and the Chorus of the Monte-Carlo Opera (director Stefano Visconti) in Jean-Louis Grinda’s staging of Il turco in Italia. The opening Gala at the Salle Garnier takes place on 21st January, and further performances will take place on the 23rd, 25th and 27th January. For further information, visit the Monte-Carlo Opera website, and online tickets are available on this link.

Information sourced from:
Monte-Carlo Opera programme notes
Artists’ websites

This article first appeared in Riviera Buzz

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MTT leads San Francisco Symphony with Gautier Capuçon & Yuja Wang

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

There’s a meeting of good friends at Davies Symphony Hall this month as the San Francisco Symphony welcomes Music Director Laureate Michael Tilson Thomas back to the podium, together with two hugely popular guest artists – cellist Gautier Capuçon and pianist Yuja Wang.

In the first program, MTT leads the Symphony in performances of the Shostakovich Cello Concerto No 2, with guest artist Gautier Capuçon, and the Prokofiev Symphony No 5. The following week sees guest artist Yuja Wang join the Symphony for performances of the Piano Concerto No 1 by Franz Lizst in a program which includes Gustav Mahler’s First Symphony – Mahler being a composer much loved by Tilson Thomas.

Music Director Laureate of the San Francisco Symphony Michael Tilson Thomas
Photo: Brigitte Lacombe

Multiple award-winning cellist Gautier Capuçon regularly appears with many of the world’s finest orchestras, conductors and instrumentalists. Known for his profoundly expressive yet spirited artistry, he is also founder and leader of the Classe d’Excellence de Violoncelle at the Fondation Louis Vuitton in Paris – based in the Gehry-designed Auditorium in Paris. There Mr Capuçon coaches six specially selected and talented young cellists in a six-month series of public masterclasses and concert performances.

Cellist Gautier Capuçon Photo: Anoush Abrar

He is also an enthusiastic ambassador for the Orchestre à l’École Association, which brings classical music to more than 40,000 thousand schoolchildren across France. During the summer of 2020 he entranced families across the whole of France with his musical odyssey Un été en France, and created a new edition of this project last summer, performing concerts in a number of towns and cities, together with 27 young musicians and dancers, to showcase their talents.

Dmitri Shostakovich wrote his Second Cello Concerto in Crimea in spring 1966, during the final ten years of his life. By that stage he was well accustomed to the ritual of denunciation and rehabilitation to which he had been subjected during his composing years, and at the time, he was deemed to be officially back in favor. He was even honored with multiple State medals at the concert to mark his 60th birthday, the performance at which this Cello Concerto was premiered on September 25th of that year. Mstislav Rostropovich – for whom Shostakovich wrote both of his cello concertos – was the soloist, with the State Academic Symphony of the USSR, conducted by Yevgeny Svetlanov.

Sergey Prokofiev composed his Fifth Symphony during the summer of 1944, drawing on some material sketched the preceding decade. He was staying a special ‘House of Rest and Creativity’ for composers at a former aristocratic estate near the town of Ivanovo, northeast of Moscow. The USSR’s entry into the War appeared to have temporarily halted the campaign against those who were perceived to be enemies of the state within the USSR, and as he was seen as a valuable tool for propaganda, Prokofiev’s popularity was growing, to the extent that his forthcoming symphony was highly anticipated. The premiere took place in the Great Hall of the Moscow Conservatory on January 13th, 1945, and Prokofiev himself conducted the State Symphonic Orchestra of the USSR. Such was the Symphony’s international success, that it marked a high point in Prokofiev’s standing within Russia during his lifetime.

Michael Tilson Thomas leads the San Francisco Symphony and soloist Gautier Capuçon in a program of works by Shostakovich and Prokofiev from January 20th to 22nd. Further information is available on the San Francisco Symphony website and tickets may be reserved on this link.

Yuja Wang / Konzerthaus Wien © Julia Wesely

Yuja Wang is the guest artist in the second of MTT’s programs at Davies Symphony Hall. The sheer genius of her performances and her captivating personality have granted Yuja Wang star status wherever she appears. Named Musical America’s Artist of the Year in 2017, she has performed with many of the world’s major orchestras across North America and Europe, as well as in the United Kingdom, and in her home country, China, as well as in prestigious concert halls such as Het Concertgebouw, Carnegie Hall and The Barbican. The Financial Times writes: “Her combination of technical ease, colouristic range and sheer power has always been remarkable … but these days there is an ever-greater depth to her musicianship, drawing you into the world of each composer with compelling immediacy”.

Franz Liszt began composing his First Piano Concerto around 1830. Completed in 1834, it was never performed, and Liszt put it aside until 1839, at which time he rewrote it completely, converting it into a single-movement piece, although still retaining the principal theme. From the late 1840s to 1853 it was reworked into four movements – played without a break – and revised again from 1855 to 1856. Dedicated to pianist and composer Henry Litolff, the work was premiered on February 17th, 1855, at the Ducal Palace in Weimar. The Court Orchestra was conducted by Hector Berlioz, and Liszt himself was the soloist.

Gustav Mahler began to sketch his Symphony No 1 in D Major in 1885, initially using musical themes and ideas from his earlier compositions, but it was mainly written in Leipzig between January and March 1888. The work – which carried the title A Symphonic Poem in Two Sections – was premiered at the Vigadó Concert Hall in Budapest on November 20th, 1889, and conducted by the composer. Poorly received, the Symphony wasn’t performed again until 1893, at a concert at Hamburg’s Konzerthaus on October 27th that year, after Mahler had made major revisions to it. He continue to make revisions until the score was first published in 1899.

Michael Tilson Thomas has long loved the music of Mahler, and in 2001, he and the San Francisco Symphony launched The Mahler Project – 18 hours of his compositions, including all nine of his symphonies, and his works for voices, chorus and orchestra. Released by the Symphony’s own recording label, SFS Media™. Recordings in this highly acclaimed series received a combined 7 Grammy® Awards.

Mahler – Origins and Legacy was also the subject of one of MTT’s eight Keeping Score video presentations.

Michael Tilson Thomas leads the San Francisco Symphony and guest artist Yuja Wang in a program of works by Liszt and Mahler at Davies Symphony Hall from January 27th to 29th. More details are available on the San Francisco Symphony website, and tickets may be reserved on this link.

Information sourced from:

San Francisco program notes

Shostakovich Cello Concerto No 2

Prokofiev Symphony No 5

Liszt Piano Concerto No 1

Mahler Symphony No 1

Mahler Symphony No 1

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English National Ballet stages new version of ‘Raymonda’

English National Ballet in Tamara Rojo’s ‘Raymonda’ © Johan Persson

This week, English National Ballet stages a new version of Marius Petipa’s classic ballet, Raymonda – an interpretation created for the Company by Artistic Director, Tamara Rojo in her first production as director and choreographer.

Set to Alexander Glazunov’s original score, English National Ballet’s Raymonda is set against the background of the Crimean War and inspired by the achievements of Florence Nightingale and the courageous nurses and women who supported her.

Shiori Kase and English National Ballet dancers in Tamara Rojo’s ‘Raymonda’ © Johan Persson

Marius Petipa’s original ballet – one of the most successful of his illustrious career – was set in the 12th century, as the young countess Raymonda awaits the return of her fiancé Jean de Brienne from the Crusades. The Saracen knight, Abderakhman sets his sights on her and she is only saved from abduction by the timely return of de Brienne.

English National Ballet dancers in Tamara Rojo’s ‘Raymonda’ © Johan Persson

The World Première of Petipa’s Raymonda was presented on 7th January, 1898, at the Imperial Mariinsky Theatre in Saint Petersburg. Since then, a number of revivals have been staged in various formats – by names such as Alexander Gorsky, Anna Pavlova, Nicolas Zverev, George Balanchine and Alexandra Danilova, Rudolf Nureyev, Konstantin Sergeyev, Yuri Grigorovich and Sergei Vikharev – but this is the first time that a new version of the classic story of Raymonda has been created, and the first time that the ballet has been staged in full in the United Kingdom.

English National Ballet dancers in Tamara Rojo’s ‘Raymonda’ © Johan Persson

Rojo’s re-creation of the story is set in 1854, during the Crimean War. Raymonda, living a comfortable life in England, decides to run away to Crimea to become a nurse. Whilst there, she becomes engaged to a soldier, John, but in time she finds herself attracted to Abdur, leader of the Ottoman army. The inner turmoil which follows creates a dilemma for Raymonda – to whom will she give her heart?

Daniel McCormick in Tamara Rojo’s ‘Raymonda’ by English National Ballet © Johan Persson

The choreography for the ballet represents an interesting mix. Petipa’s original choreography was written in the Stepanov notation, and – with the help of Doug Fullington, a specialist in reading this notation – Tamara Rojo has managed to recreate some of Petipa’s variations as faithfully as possible. Some of the choreography will however be new, since ballet wasn’t as athletic for the male dancer in Petipa’s time as it has become. The choreography of the character dances has also been brought up to date, by Vadim Sirotin – known as a specialist in this field.

Emily Suzuki in Tamara Rojo’s ‘Raymonda’ by English National Ballet © Johan Persson

Members of the creative team include Lucinda Coxon (Dramaturg), Mark Henderson (Lighting Designer), Antony McDonald (Costume Designer), Renato Paroni de Castro (Choreographic Assistant) and Lars Payne (Score Editor). Music Director Gavin Sutherland has adapted the music and will conduct the English National Ballet Philharmonic.

This co-production between English National Ballet and Finnish National Opera and Ballet, with the Mayflower Theatre in Southampton as Production Partner, premieres at the London Coliseum on 18th January, running for seven performances until 23rd January, 2022. Performances will be staged at the Mayflower Theatre from 30th November to 2nd December, 2022.
Tickets for English National Ballet’s production of Raymonda can be booked at the London Coliseum or online via this link.

Information sourced from:
English National Ballet programme notes
The Petipa Society

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Honeck leads Czech Philharmonic in live-streamed New Year’s Gala Concert

Manfred Honeck leads the Czech Philharmonic in a New Year’s Gala Concert –
courtesy IMG Artists

The Czech Philharmonic will be streaming its New Year’s Gala Concert live from the Dvořák Hall of Prague’s Rudolfinum on Saturday evening. This performance of magical Viennese music is led by Manfred Honeck, and stars Kyrgyz soprano Katharina Konradi and French horn player Radek Baborák.

Viennese music has come to symbolise our New Year celebrations and the programme, appropriately, features some of the best – from composers like Johann Strauss II, Franz Lehár, Franz von Suppé, Richard Strauss and Josef Strauss. Included are the Waltz King’s Overture to Die Fledermaus and Wiener Blut, Lehár’s Vilja from The Merry Widow and the Gold and Silver Waltz, von Suppé’s Poet and Peasant Overture, Richard Strauss’s Moonlight Music from Capriccio, and Josef Strauss’s Dragonfly polka and mazurka.

The Czech Philharmonic with Music Director Semyon Bychkov © Petra Hajska

Maestro Honeck – regarded as one of the world’s leading conductors – has served as Music Director of the Pittsburgh Symphony Orchestra for over a decade, a partnership which has received several Grammy nominations as well as a 2018 Grammy Award in the Best Orchestral Performance category. A former Principal Guest Conductor of the Czech Philharmonic, Manfred Honeck has led some of the most prestigious of the world’s orchestras – the Berlin Philharmonic Orchestra, Bavarian Radio Symphony Orchestra, Gewandhausorchester Leipzig, Staatskapelle Dresden, London Symphony Orchestra, Orchestre de Paris, Accademia di Santa Cecilia Rome and the Vienna Philharmonic – and is a frequent guest conductor with the major American orchestras.

Soprano Katharina Konradi

Katharina Konradi has been a member of the Hamburg State Opera since 2018, and has also appeared with Semperoper in Dresden, at the Bayreuth Festival, and with the Bavarian State Opera in Munich. Known as a concert soloist, and particularly for her lied interpretation, Ms Konradi has appeared with the NDR Elbphilharmonie Orchestra, the Orchestre de Paris, the Tonhalle Orchestra Zurich, and the Bavarian Radio Symphony Orchestra. This year she performed at the traditional ZDF Advent Concert with the Staatskapelle Dresden, and has just completed the BBC New Generation Artists programme.

French horn player Radek Baborak – courtesy Nordic Artists Management

Radek Baborák has served as principal French horn for the Berlin, Munich and Czech philharmonics. Also a conductor, he founded the Czech Sinfonietta, is Chief Conductor and Artistic Director of the Prague Chamber Soloists, is Chief Guest Conductor of the Yamagata Symphony Orchestra, and this year became the Chief Conductor of the West-Bohemian Symphony Orchestra. His repertoire is wide, including music of the Baroque, Classical and Romantic eras, as well as composers of the 20th and 21st centuries.

Manfred Honeck leads the Czech Philharmonic in a New Year’s Gala Concert in the Dvořák Hall, in Prague’s Rudolfinum at 8.00 pm (CET) on Saturday, 1st January, 2022. For more information on the concert, visit the Czech Philharmonic website where there’s a link to book tickets online.

This concert will also be streamed live on Facebook.

Information sourced from:

Czech Philharmonic programme notes

Artists’ websites

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Met Opera presents Massenet’s ‘Cinderella’ Live in HD

Isabel Leonard in the title role of Massenet’s ‘Cinderella’ Photo: Karen Almond/Met Opera

On New Year’s Day, the Metropolitan Opera broadcasts another production in its Live in HD series in cinemas throughout the world. On this first Saturday of 2022, the Met features Jules Massenet’s interpretation of one of the world’s favourite fairly tales, Cinderella, in an abridged, English-language version, specially adapted for family audiences – “.… a delight”, according to the New York Times.

This production, directed by Laurent Pelly, has a libretto by Kelley Rourke, and stars mezzo-soprano Isabel Leonard in the title role, with mezzo-soprano Emily D’Angelo as Prince Charming, soprano Jessica Pratt as the Fairy Godmother, with mezzo-soprano Stephanie Blythe and bass-baritone Laurent Naouri as Cinderella’s feuding guardians, Madame de la Haltièr and Pandolfe. Emmanuel Villaume conducts, and the live cinema transmission is hosted by countertenor Anthony Roth Costanzo.

Jules Massenet (1842–1912) – one the leading French operatic composers of the Romantic era – is mainly remembered for the lyrical music which he wrote for more than 30 operas – works such as Manon, Le Cid, Esclarmonde, Werther, Chérubin, Don Quichotte and Cendrillon – and also for his oratorios, ballets, orchestral works, incidental music, piano pieces and songs. The libretto for the original French version of CinderellaCendrillon – was written by Henri Cain (1857–1937), a dramatist who based this work on the Cinderella story by French author Charles Perrault. Kelley Rourke, librettist for this Met Opera production, is also a translator and dramaturg, who has collaborated with companies such as English National Opera, Welsh National Opera, Scottish Opera, Washington National Opera, the Opera Theatre of Saint Louis and the Glimmerglass Festival.

A scene from Massenet’s ‘Cinderella’ Photo: Ken Howard / Met Opera

Laurent Pelly brings a good deal of theatrical experience to his operatic productions, having been Co-Director of Théâtre national de Toulouse Midi-Pyrénées between 2008 and 2018. Naturally drawn to the French and Italian repertoires, he has also explored the work of composers other nationalities – such as Janáček, Rimsky-Korsakov and Prokofiev – and future productions include works by Smetana, Tchaikovsky and Wager. Pelly does costume design for all his productions, and set design for some of them as well.

Isabel Leonard in the title role of Massenet’s ‘Cinderella’ Photo: Karen Almond / Met Opera

With her “lustrous voice” (Daily Gazette), Isabel Leonard – a two-time Grammy-winning artist and the 2013 winner of the Richard Tucker Foundation Award – is well known to Met Opera audiences. She has appeared in the title role in Nico Muhly’s Met-commissioned opera Marnie, and the role of Blanche in Poulenc’s Dialogues des Carmelites – both of which were screened Live in HD. Ms Leonard’s recent performances also include the title role in Rossini’s La Cenerentola at Wiener Staatsoper and that of Charlotte in Massenet’s Werther at the Royal Opera House, Covent Garden.

Jessica Pratt as the Fairy Godmother in Massenet’s ‘Cinderella’
Photo: Karen Almond / Met Opera

Jessica Pratt – described by the New York Times as a soprano of “gleaming sound …. and lyrical grace” – made her Met debut as the Queen of the Night in Mozart’s The Magic Flute in 2016. Her performances at festivals and in opera houses around the world include those in productions of Bellini’s I Puritani at Amigos de la Ópera de A Coruña and Teatro dell’Opera di Roma, Verdi’s La Traviata at Opera Las Palmas and Offenbach’s Les contes d’Hoffmann at ABAO in Bilbao.

Emily D’Angelo as Prince Charming and Isabel Leonard as Cinderella
Photo: Karen Almond / Met Opera

Emily D’Angelo, with “…. a voice hued like polished teak” says the New York Times, was named a 2020 Lincoln Center Emerging Artist, and is the first and only vocalist to have been presented with the Leonard Bernstein Award from the Schleswig Holstein Festival. Performances this season include house and role debuts as Ottavia in Monteverdi’s L’Incoronazione di Poppea at Zurich Opera, as Angelina in Rossini’s La Cenerentola at Semperoper Dresden, Siebel in Gounod’s Faust at Ópera national de Paris, and a role debut as Donna Elvira in Mozart’s Don Giovanni at Teatro alla Scala in Milan. 

Maya Lahyani as Dorothy, Stephanie Blythe as Madame de la Haltière and Jacqueline Echols as Naomie in Massenet’s ‘Cinderella’ Photo: Karen Almond / Met Opera

Stephanie Blythe has a wide repertoire, ranging from Handel to Wagner, and German lieder to contemporary and classic American song. She made her Met Opera debut in Wagner’s Parsifal in 1995, and has performed in many of the world’s leading opera houses, including Carnegie Hall, the Royal Opera House, Covent Garden, Ópera national de Paris, as well as at San Francisco, Chicago Lyric and Seattle operas. Ms Blythe was the 1999 winner of the Richard Tucker Award, the recipient of an Opera News Award in 2007, and was named Musical America’s Vocalist of the Year in 2009.

Laurent Naouri as Pandolfe, Jessica Pratt as the Fairy Godmother, Isabel Leonard as Cinderella, and Emily D’Angelo as Prince Charming in Massenet’s ‘Cinderella’
Photo: Karen Almond / Met Opera

Laurent Naouri made his debut with the Met Opera as Sharpless in a 2012 production of Puccini’s Madama Butterfly. With a repertoire of around 40 roles, notable engagements include those of the title role in Verdi’s Falstaff at the Met, the four villains in Les contes d’Hoffmann, Goulaud in Debussy’s Pelléas et Mélisande and Count Almaviva in Mozart’s Le nozze di Figaro in Aix-en-Provence and Tokyo, and Giorgio Germont in Verdi’s La Traviata at Santa Fe.

Maestro Villaume has been Music Director of The Dallas Opera since 2013, and Music Director and Chief Conductor of the Prague Philharmonic since 2015. He made his conducting debut at the Met in a 2004 production of Madama Butterfly, and has fulfilled engagements at some of the world’s major opera houses, and with leading symphony orchestras, in cities such as Lucerne, Copenhagen and Monte Carlo, at London’s Royal Albert Hall and the White Nights Festival at the Mariinsky Theatre in St Petersburg.

A scene from Massenet’s ‘Cinderella’ Photo: Jonathan Tichler / Met Opera

The first production of this adaptation of Cinderella took place in early December at Opera Santa Fe. The original full-length production of Cendrillon was produced in French, in association with the Royal Opera House, Covent Garden, London; Gran Teatre del Liceu, Barcelona; Théâtre Royal de la Monnaie, Brussels; and Opéra de Lille.

Emmanuel Villaume leads the soloists, and the Metropolitan Opera Orchestra and Chorus in an abridged, family-friendly performance of Massenet’s Cinderella, on Saturday January 1st 2022. The production will be broadcast live from the stage of the Metropolitan Opera House, Lincoln Center for the Performing Arts in New York City, to cinemas around the world. Find your local cinema screening on this link.

Further information on Cinderella can be found on the Metropolitan Opera website.

Information sourced from Metropolitan Opera program notes

Artists’ websites

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Royal Ballet streams The Dante Project

As part of the celebrations of the 700th anniversary of the death of Italian poet Dante Alighieri, The Royal Ballet streams its highly acclaimed production of Wayne McGregor’s The Dante Project as of Monday, 20th December.

With a score by contemporary composer-conductor Thomas Adès, The Dante Project – inspired by Dante’s The Divine Comedy and Vita Nuova – relates the story of a man’s journey through the afterlife – moving from the depths of Hell, to his ascent of the Mount of Purgatory and then to the heights of Paradise. It stars The Royal Ballet’s Edward Watson in his final principal role with the Company.

The Royal Ballet premiered Act I of this work, Inferno, at the Music Center of the Dorothy Chandler Pavilion in Los Angeles, on 12th July 2019, during the Company’s US tour, as part of a mixed programme celebrating the collaborative works of Thomas Adès and Wayne McGregor. A co-production with the Paris Opera Ballet, the full ballet premiered in London on 14th October 2021, at The Royal Opera House, Covent Garden. The score was co-commissioned by the Los Angeles Philharmonic – Music Director Gustavo Dudamel.

The Guardian describes The Dante Project as “bold, beautiful and utterly engaging”, and writes of it as “a towering achievement”. The London Magazine says that “The breadth of Adès’ new score is masterful and expansive”, and “the scale of Tacita Dean’s stage designs are monumental”. Lighting is by Lucy Carter and Simon Bennison, and the dramaturg is Uzma Hameed.

Edward Watson, trained at The Royal Ballet School, graduated into The Royal Ballet in 1994, and was promoted to Principal in 2005. His repertoire with The Royal Ballet includes major works by Frederick Ashton and Kenneth MacMillan, and previous roles created on him by Wayne McGregor include Symbiont(s), Qualia, Chroma, Infra, Limen, Carbon Life, Raven Girl, Tetractys, Woolf Works, Obsidian Tear and Multiverse. Among other roles which he created are Lewis Carroll/The White Rabbit in Christopher Wheeldon’s Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland, Leontes in The Winter’s Tale, and John Singer Sargent in Strapless. He has also appeared in works by a number of choreographers, including George Balanchine and Alexei Ratmansky.

Among the many awards which Edward Watson has received are the 2012 Olivier Award for Outstanding Achievement in Dance, the 2015 Benois de la danse and Critics’ Circle Awards in 2001 and 2008. He was awarded an MBE in 2015 and appointed a Répétiteur of The Royal Ballet in 2020, a role which he will continue to perform.

Music Director Koen Kessels leads the Orchestra of The Royal Opera House – Concert Master Sergey Levitin – and the London Symphony Chorus – director Simon Halsey.

A full cast list can be seen on this link.

The Royal Ballet’s production of The Dante Project – recorded live at the Royal Opera Houseon 26th October this year – will be available to watch from 7.30pm BST on 20th December 2021 to 19th January 2022, and bookings can be made via this link.

Information sourced from The Royal Ballet programme notes

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Gomyo plays Shostakovich with Bychkov & Czech Philharmonic

Karen Gomyo – courtesy Askonas Holt

Violinist Karen Gomyo plays the Shostakovich Violin Concerto No 1 with the Czech Philharmonic Orchestra, under Music Director and Chief Conductor Semyon Bychkov, in a programme which includes a new work by Bryce Dessner and Rachmaninoff’s Symphonic Dances.

Bryce Dessner © Anne Mie Dreves

The programme opens with the Czech premiere of Bryce Dessner’s orchestral composition Mari, which is dedicated to Maestro Bychkov, by whom the work was commissioned. Dessner, an American composer and guitarist who has a wide repertoire which ranges from rock to chamber, symphonic and film music, is described by NPR as “… a man who slips in and out of musical guises with disarming ease…” producing “…. gorgeous and full-hearted music”. He wrote Mari – named after the Basque goddess of the forests – during a stay on the Basque coast of France last year. The work had its world premiere in Zurich in June of this year, with Maestro Bychkov leading the Tonhalle Orchestra, and a performance with the BBC Symphony Orchestra in London is scheduled for the early part of 2022.

Karen Gomyo © Askonas Holt

Karen Gomyo, praised by the Chicago Tribune as “…. a first-rate artist of real musical command, vitality, brilliance and intensity”, makes her debut with the Czech Philharmonic in this performance of the Shostakovich Violin Concerto. An established artist in North America, she has appeared with orchestras in the United States and Canada, and more recently in Australasia, Singapore, Tokyo, and across Europe. Ms Gomyo’s premiere performances include Matthias Pintscher’s Concerto No 2 Mar’eh with the National Symphony Orchestra in Washington conducted by the composer, Pēteris Vasks’ Vox Amoris with the Lapland Chamber Orchestra led by John Storgårds, and Samuel Adams’ new Chamber Concerto with Esa-Pekka Salonen and the Chicago Symphony Orchestra – a work written for her and commissioned by the CSO’s ‘Music Now’ series for their 20th anniversary.

Semyon Bychkov – Music Director and Chief Conductor of the Czech Philharmonic
© Petr Kadlec

Dmitry Shostakovich wrote his extremely challenging First Violin Concerto in A minor, Op 77 (99) in the years 1947 to 1948 – a time during which the composer was undergoing the harshest criticism of the then Stalinist government, for creating works which were considered too modern. Dedicated to violinist David Oistrakh, the concerto was, in the words of the composer, “in its character essentially more of a symphony for solo violin and orchestra”. Oistrakh himself likened its performance to that of a great Shakespearean role, putting “…. a great emotional and intellectual strain on the performer ….”, adding that it “…. offers enormous opportunities not only to demonstrate the violinist’s virtuosity, but above all to express the deepest feelings, thoughts and moods.” Shostakovich kept the concerto under wraps until seven years after he wrote it, and after Stalin’s death, Oistrakh premiered the work on 29th October 1955, with the Leningrad Philharmonic, led by Yevgeny Mravinsky.

Semyon Bychkov & the Czech Philharmonic © Petra Hajska

The final work on the programme is Sergei Rachmaninoff’s Symphonic Dances, Op 45, written in 1940, by which time he was living in the United States. Although he never deviated from his Russian roots, nor lost his love for his home country and its traditions, he found himself unable to live with the regime established after Russia’s socialist revolution of 1917. Even though many of his compositions were written during the first half of the 20th century, he was greatly influenced by Tchaikovsky, and his works reflected the late Romantic style of the 19th century, as does this gorgeous set of Symphonic Dances, in which his love for Russia is evident, particularly in the first movement. This work – the last of his major compositions – was dedicated to conductor Eugene Ormandy who premiered it with the Philadelphia Orchestra on 3rd January, 1941.

Semyon Bychkov leads the Czech Philharmonic Orchestra in works by Bryce Dessner, Shostakovich – violin soloist Karen Gomyo – and Rachmaninoff in the Dvořák Hall, at the Rudolfinum in Prague from 15th to 17th December.
Tickets may be booked online via the Czech Philharmonic Orchestra website.

Information sourced from:
Czech Philharmonic Orchestra programme notes
Artists’ websites
Shostakovich Violin Concerto No 1

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SFJAZZ announces a new app

Courtesy SFJAZZ

SFJAZZ has a new app, which means that members can watch fabulous performances from the SFJAZZ Center from home, or from anywhere in the world.

Available on AppleiOS, Apple TV, Amazon Fire TV, Android, Android TV and Roku, and open to members of SFJAZZ, these fully immersive digital concerts are filmed on SFJAZZ’s signature multi-cam HD video and state-of-the-art audio – they’re the nearest thing to actually being there.

The app will give you access to the weekly online concert series Fridays Live at 7.30 am (Pacific Time), or the Saturday Encore which is transmitted the following Saturday morning at 11.00 am (Pacific Time). As Herbie Hancock says: ”It’s the place to be”!  You’ll also have access to SFJAZZ Singles each Wednesday – which features a ‘single’ standout song from a recent Fridays Live concert. It’s hoped that these will pique your interest sufficiently to persuade you to join up and watch.

Membership of SFJAZZ ($5 monthly or $50 annually) will also entitle you to watch On-Demand concerts at a time which suits you – at a 50% reduction of the normal cost – as well as select pay-per-view concerts broadcast live from the SFJAZZ Center. All subscriptions provide direct support for the artists and for SFJAZZ.

Upcoming Fridays Live concerts include Dorado Schmitt & Django Festival All-Stars, Adam Shulman with A Charlie Brown Christmas, and Merry Christmas From José James.

Performances that are currently available On-Demand include Chester Thompson’s Gravy Train, the Preservation Hall Jazz Band’s 60th Anniversary Tour, New Works Reflecting the Moment from the SFJAZZ Collective, Martin Luther McCoy’s 50th Anniversary Celebration, and The Sound of Cuba with Jésus Díaz. There’s also Gerald Clayton, Edward Simon, Tammy L Hall and Justin Kauflin with Monk’s Birthday Celebration, Rhythmic Connections with Zakir Hussain, Eric Harland, Abbas Kosimov and Mark de Clive-Lowe, and Omar Sosa’s Motherland Journey.

Visit the SFJAZZ website to see which performances are available.

To enjoy these online performances, all you need to do is search for SFJAZZ on whichever of the devices listed above that you have, download the app, sign up to membership, and enjoy! Should you experience any technical difficulties, you can email for help.

Information sourced from SFJAZZ program notes

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San Francisco Symphony plays Elgar and Tchaikovsky

Christian Tetzlaff plays the Elgar Violin Concerto © Giorgia Bertazzi

This week, Australian conductor Simone Young returns to Davies Symphony Hall, leading the San Francisco Symphony in a program of works by Sir Edward Elgar – his Violin Concerto – and Tchaikovsky’s Symphony No 5. The guest artist is German violinist Christian Tetzlaff.

Having most recently held the role of Principal Guest Conductor of the Orchestre de Chambre de Lausanne, Simone Young takes up the role of Chief Conductor of the Sydney Symphony Orchestra this season. Maestra Young is as much at home with symphonic performances as she is with opera, and highlights of this symphonic season include a return to the Orchestre de Chambre de Lausanne, as well as appearances with the Royal Philharmonic Orchestra, the New York Philharmonic, the Los Angeles Philharmonic, the Washington National Symphony Orchestra and the Oslo Philharmonic Orchestra. Operas which she will lead include productions of Richard Strauss’s Der Rosenkavalier at the Berlin State Opera, Britten’s Peter Grimes and Hans Werner Henze’s Das verratene Meer at the Vienna State Opera, Strauss’s Salome at Zürich Opera and Wagner’s Parsifal at Opéra national de Paris. Simone Young was named Global Icon at the 2021 Avance Awards, celebrating the work of Australians making an extraordinary impact on the global stage.

Christian Tetzlaff © Giorgia Bertazzi

Christian Tetzlaff – regarded as one of the most exciting musicians on the classical music scene – has a wide-ranging repertoire which includes music from the Classical and Romantic eras, as well as contemporary works. Artist-in-Residence at London’s Wigmore Hall this season, Mr Tetzlaff will also fulfill engagements across Europe and in the United States, a tour with Konzerthausorchester Berlin, and performances with the Deutsches Symphonie-Orchester Berlin, Orchestre Philharmonique de Radio France and Bergen Philharmonic Orchestra. Following a recital featuring Christian Tetzlaff and Leif Ove Andsnes, The Scotsman wrote: “Some of the world’s greatest performers are simply in a class of their own. Unquestionably part of this elite are violinist Christian Tetzlaff and pianist Leif Ove Andsnes”.

Sir Edward Elgar via Wikimedia Commons

In this week’s performances, Christian Tetzlaff plays the Elgar Violin Concerto, a work commissioned by the Royal Philharmonic Society in 1909, when the composer was at the peak of his composing life. One of the longest violin concertos – and regarded as the most emotionally complex to have been composed at that time – Elgar inserted a mystery into the dedication, as he had done with his 1899 Enigma Variations. He wrote: “Herein is enshrined the soul of …..” – and to this day, nobody knows for certain to whom those five dots refer. They could stand for Alice – the name of his wife as well as that of a good friend – they could refer to Helen (Weaver) to whom Elgar had been engaged before she emigrated to New Zealand, or they could even refer to Elgar himself. Whoever’s soul was enshrined in the concerto, it is considered to be a deeply personal work – Elgar admitted that it was highly emotional, but he loved it – and far removed from the grandeur of his Pomp and Circumstance Marches or his First Symphony. It was premiered in 1910 by violinist Fritz Kreisler, with the composer conducting the London Symphony Orchestra.

Pyotr Ilyich Tchaikovsky by Kieff – via Wikimedia Commons

Tchaikovsky’s sumptuous Fifth Symphony is described by biographer Anthony Holden as “…. his most mature masterpiece to date”, although proving, he says, that Tchaikovsky was “obsessed with the concept of Fate”, the theme of which seems to be carried throughout the work. This symphony didn’t initially come easily to Tchaikovsky – indeed he procrastinated about starting it – but finally he wrote it between May and the end of August in 1888. He referred to the work as “draining”, saying at one stage that “inspiration seems to have deserted me completely”. In a letter to his patron Nadezhda von Meck, he wrote: “With each day that passes I am increasingly certain that my last symphony is not a successful work …”.

By the time of the first orchestral performance of the symphony, however, Tchaikovsky was cautiously more optimistic about it. The performance took place in Saint Petersburg in November 1888 at a concert of the Saint Petersburg Philharmonic Society, and conducted by the composer, with a repeat performance the following week – both enthusiastically received by the audiences, even if the critics weren’t of the same opinion. The Moscow premiere the following month was also extremely well received, and by the time that a successful performance took place in Hamburg in March 1889, Tchaikovsky was ready to admit that “The Fifth Symphony was again performed magnificently, and I have started to love it again; my earlier judgement was undeservedly harsh…”. Today it retains its place in the classical repertoire as one of his best loved works.

Simone Young leads the San Francisco Symphony in Elgar’s Violin Concerto – soloist Christian Tetzlaff – and Tchaikovsky’s Symphony No 5, at Davies Symphony Hall from December 2nd to 4th. For further information, and for tickets, visit the San Francisco Symphony website.

In another piece of news, the San Francisco Symphony has announced it’s received nominations for two 2022 Grammy Awards.

The recording in contention for Best Classical Compendium is that of Alban Berg’s Violin Concerto, Seven Early Songs and Three Pieces for Orchestra – recorded at Davies Symphony Hall in March and November 2018, and January 2015 respectively. The performances were conducted by Michael Tilson Thomas with violinist Gil Shaham and soprano Susanna Phillips.

The second Grammy Nomination, for Best Orchestral Performance, is the world premiere performance of Nico Muhly’s Throughline, a work commissioned by the San Francisco Symphony, and streamed as part of a digital concert Throughline: San Francisco Symphony – From Hall to Home which was recorded between September 22nd to 25th, 2020 at Davies Symphony Hall.

These performances have all been released on SFS Media, the Symphony’s in-house recording label.

Information sourced from:

San Francisco Symphony program notes

Elgar Violin Concerto

Tchaikovsky – a biography by Anthony Holden

Tchaikovsky Symphony No 5

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Rotterdam Philharmonic announces online concert season

The Rotterdam Philharmonic Orchestra brings a spectacular series of concerts to an online audience this season. Following the success of its live-streamed concerts earlier in the year, the Orchestra has just launched a new series of ten performances, starring some of the world’s finest soloists and conductors and all performed at the De Doelen concert hall in Rotterdam.

Every two weeks, as of 20th November, the Rotterdam Philharmonic presents a different concert on its streaming platform PULSE – Rotterdam Philharmonic Online – performances which will be available from their release date through 31 October 2022.

Three concerts which were pre-recorded at De Doelen are now available. The first features Andrés Orozco-Estrada, Music Director of both the Vienna and Houston symphony orchestras, Principal Conductor of the Filarmónica Joven de Colombia and the Orquesta Sinfónica Freixenet de la Escuela Superior de Música Reina Sofía. Known for his success in conducting both concert and opera, Maestro Orozco-Estrada leads the Rotterdam Philharmonic in a performance of the Mendelssohn Violin Concerto with soloist Leonidas Kavakos, Carnegie Hall Perspectives Artist for the 2021/22 season. Described by Bachtrack as an “…. étoile of the first order”, Kavakos is – according to the Guardian – “…. superbly articulate and incisive, yet rapturously lyrical” – regarded the world over as an artist of rare quality. The programme also features the Beethoven Symphony No 4.

Also available on-demand now is a recital featuring baritone Matthias Georne and pianist Lahav Shani performing songs by Mahler, Schubert and Shostakovich. Georne is one of the most versatile international vocalists, as comfortable in recital, opera as he is in the recording studio. Peter van der Lint, a jury member for the Edison Klassiek award (the Netherlands equivalent of the Grammy), is quoted as saying: “Matthias Georne’s vocal cords will turn everything they touch into pure gold”.

Lahav Shani is presently Chief Conductor of the Rotterdam Philharmonic Orchestra and Music Director of the Israel Philharmonic Orchestra, as well as a pianist of note. Next month, he leads the Rotterdam Philharmonic in a five-city tour of Germany, taking in a performance at the Wiener Konzerthaus as well, before leading Dutch National Opera in performances of Richard Strauss’ Salome. The Berliner Morgenpost writes: “It scarcely seems possible to have a greater beauty of sound and joy in performance than that offered by Lahav Shani.”

The third programme available now is entitled Bach Meets Schoenberg in which François-Xavier Roth leads the Orchestra in a programme featuring Schoenberg’s Chamber Symphony No 2 and Bach’s Orchestral Suite No 1. According to The Times, “If he hasn’t already got the nickname Special FX, then Roth should adopt it … empathetic musicality and flair for colour, sometimes conjuring up such startling touches that the players look stunned”. With a repertoire which ranges from the Baroque to Romantic and also Contemporary music, Maestro Roth is Principal Guest Conductor of the London Symphony Orchestra and has directed the Gürzenich Orchestra and Opera in Cologne since 2015.

Still to come in this online programme stream is a concert, on 3rd December, led by Lahav Shani and featuring brilliant pianist Yuja Wang. The sheer genius of Ms Wang’s performance, and her captivating personality grant her star status wherever she appears. The Financial Times writes: “Her combination of technical ease, colouristic range and sheer power has always been remarkable … but these days there is an ever-greater depth to her musicianship, drawing you into the world of each composer with compelling immediacy”. In this concert with the Rotterdam Philharmonic, to be recorded at De Doelen on 3rd December, Yuja Wang plays Rachmaninoff’s Piano Concerto No 2 – surely one of the most popular works in the piano repertoire. Also on the programme is the wonderfully melodic Berlioz Symphonie Fantastique.

In the pipeline are Handel’s Messiah, the New Year’s Concert – Musical Meets Opera – an evening of chamber music by Brahms – Jukka-Pekka Saraste conducting Sibelius’ Kullervo Symphony, Marta Argerich plays Ravel’s Piano Concerto in G, and Lahav Shani conducts Mahler’s Symphony No 1. There’ll be more on these concerts at a later date.

These concerts have been recorded in – or previously streamed live from – De Doelen, the concert hall and international congress centre in Rotterdam. De Doelen is a listed monument, with a history which dates back to the 17th century, during which an orchestra of local musicians gave public concerts. The current De Doelen building was opened in 1966, since when new conference facilities have been built on the roof and the old inner courtyard. Today, the building is a listed monument, and considered to be a major symbol of Dutch reconstruction.

Prices to view these online concerts by the Rotterdam Philharmonic Orchestra vary – from pay what you want to € 10 per performance. A ticket for the series of 10 concerts is also available for € 50, which means a saving of € 7,50. For more information visit the PULSE – Rotterdam Philharmonic website.

Information sourced from:

Rotterdam Philharmonic Orchestra programme notes

De Doelen concert venue and convention centre in Rotterdam