SFSymphony+ highlights diversity in music

Video still from SF Symphony’s CURRENTS: Zimbabwean music and dance, curated by Chinyakare Ensemble

There’s a lot of activity on the SFSymphony+ streaming platform at present. Demonstrating yet again the wealth of creativity caused by the cancellation of live performances – happily restored again as of this week – the San Francisco Symphony continues to celebrate the diversity of music-making in three very different online series – CURRENTS which explores what happens when classical music meets different musical cultures, SoundBox which is described as “eclectic music for adventurous listeners”, and a Chamber Music series for those who prefer a more traditional approach to classical music.

The latest program in the CURRENTS series, Mavambo Engoma, Rooted in Music – which has just gone live – has been curated by the Chinyakare Ensemble and explores Zimbabwean music and dance in a program that celebrates music as the root of family, community and the world. The Chinyakare Ensemble is a family of musicians, dancers and teachers, whose aim is to preserve and share the traditional culture of their home country, Zimbabwe, and to use music and dance to promote community building and education.

This program, in which members of the Chinyakare Ensemble are joined by musicians of the San Francisco Symphony, presents a range of performances of the traditional dance, music and culture of Zimbabwe and Southern Africa. Colorful stories are portrayed, showing scenes from everyday life, providing a window on the beauty, excitement and spirit of traditional Zimbabwean dance and song.

CURRENTS: Mavambo eNgoma, Rooted in Music is available to view on the SFSymphony+ website.

San Francisco Symphony’s Yukiko Kurakata – courtesy San Francisco Symphony

Presently streaming on the SFSymphony+ Chamber Music series is Mozart’s Duo in G Major for Violin and Viola K423. Written in the summer of 1783, it was the first of two pieces which Mozart wrote, apparently as a favour for Michael Haydn – the younger brother of Joseph Haydn – who, due to health issues, was unable to complete the six pieces which he was writing on commission for the Archbishop Coloredo. This performance features San Francisco Symphony musicians Yukiko Kurakata (violin) and Matthew Young (viola), and can be viewed on the SFSymphony+ website.

On May 13th there’ll be a new program in the Chamber Music series, featuring the Duo for Violin and Cello, Opus 7 by Zoltán Kodály, performed by SF Symphony musicians Victor Romasevich, (violin) and Jill Rachuy Brindel (cello). This piece was written following one of Kodály’s folk-song hunting trips – undertaken with his friend Bela Bartók – who shared Kodály’s vision of incorporating Hungarian folk music into their respective styles of composing. This work will be available to view on the following link.

The most recent transmission in the Soundbox series, entitled Patterns, has been curated by SF Symphony Music Director Esa-Pekka Salonen. He conducts and presents a program which, using Minimalism as its theme, shows how music can be structured using patterns which build on one another.

The program opens with Steve Reich’s Clapping Music – a work written in 1972, which has no melody, harmony, instruments or voices, but relies completely on rhythm. It’s based on a version of the traditional African bell rhythm. This is followed by the World Premiere of a medieval-inspired piece entitled Saltat sobrius : Fantasy upon Sederunt príncipes composed by Salonen himself, and based on Pérotin’s four-voice chant setting, a gradual for St Stephen, composed around the year 1200.

Video still from Arvo Part piece (SoundBox: Patterns episode) featuring the Lines Ballet

Arvo Pärt’s Spiegel im Spiegel is the setting for a beautiful duet by two dancers – Adji Cissoko and Shuaib Elhassan – from Alonzo King’s LINES Ballet, choreographed by that master of contemporary dance, Alonzo King. The final work is Terry Riley’s In C – an unusual piece of Minimalism which consists of 53 short musical phrases, played by musicians who have complete control over which phrases they play, and the number of times that they play them.

Not only is Patterns a fascinating concept, but it’s visually gorgeous as well. It can be viewed on this link.

For further information and tickets for these programs, visit the SF Symphony+ website.

The good news now is that live concerts are returning to Davies Symphony Hall, and these will be previewed in future posts on ArtsPreview. See the Symphony’s website for more details.

Information sourced from:

San Francisco Symphony program notes

Zoltán Kodály Duo for Violin and Cello

Fantasy upon ‘Sederunt príncipes’

Terry Riley – In C

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Met Opera streams ‘Wagnerians Live in Concert’

‘Wagnerians Live in Concert’ – image courtesy Metropolitan Opera

Continuing its Met Stars Live in Concert series, the Metropolitan Opera features four luminaries of Wagnerian opera, streaming live from the grand Hessisches Staatsheater in Wiesbaden on Saturday, May 8th.

Starring in this performance are sopranos Christine Goerke and Elza van den Heever, tenor Andreas Schager and baritone Michael Volle, accompanied by pianist Craig Terry.

These powerful artists will present a program of arias and duets from Wagner operas such as Der Fliegende Holländer, Lohengrin, Parsifal, Das Rheingold, Tannhäuser and Die Walküre, as well as his Wesendonck Lieder. They will also perform a selection of songs by Richard Strauss, including Allerseelen and Cäcilie, and the final scene from Die Frau ohne Schatten.

The concert will be filmed with multiple cameras, linked by satellite to a control room in New York City, where the host will be American countertenor Anthony Roth Costanzo. Gary Halvorson, the award-winning director of the Met’s Live in HD cinema transmissions, directs. 

This Met Opera performance will take place in the grand foyer of The Hessisches Staatstheater in Wiesbaden, capital of the state of Hesse in Germany. Also known as the Staatstheater Wiesbaden or Theater Wiesbaden, it was designed by Ferdinand Fellner and Hermann Hellmer in the Baroque revival style, and was inaugurated in 1894. The resident orchestra is the Hessisches Staatsorchester, and the theatre, with its four stages, is host to operas, plays, ballets, musicals and concerts, and also the annual festival Internationale Maifestspiele Wiesbaden, established in 1896 after the Bayreuth Festival.

Großes Haus © Sven-Helge Czichy Am Warmen Damm Foto: Sven-Helge Czichy

The recital takes place on Saturday, May 8th at 1.00 pm (EST), 6.00 pm (BST) and 7.00 pm (CEST). Tickets at $20 can be purchased on the Metropolitan Opera website. The performance will be available for on demand viewing for 14 days following the live event, and can be viewed on computer, mobile device, or home entertainment system (via Chromecast or AirPlay). 

Information sourced from

Metropolitan Opera program notes

The Hessisches Staatstheater

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SFJAZZ ‘Fridays at Five’ celebrates the music of Miles Davis

‘Miles from India’ poster – courtesy SFJAZZ

Fridays at Five sessions during the month of May are all dedicated to a celebration of the music of Miles Davis – American trumpeter, bandleader and composer, who is regarded as one of the most influential and acclaimed figures of 20th century music and the history of jazz.

Miles from India is the title of the May 7th Fridays at Five transmission. It takes its name from the 2008 album which was the brainchild of the late jazz producer/arranger Bob Belden and Yusuf Gandhi – owner of the Times Square label – following the Indian instrumentation used on Davis’ 1972 album On the Corner. As a tribute to Bob Belden, an ensemble made up of Davis’ nephew and drummer Vince Wilburn, the late drumming icon Ndugu Chancler, bassist Daryl Jones, saxophonist Javon Jackson, khanjira virtuoso V Selvaganesh, and guitarist Rez Abbasi joined forces to present a selection of pieces from the Davis songbook. Ranging from Kind of Blue to Bitches Brew, these numbers were performed in concert at SFJAZZ in May 2018.

Robert Glasper appears in the May 14th tribute to Miles Davis. Under the title Everything’s Beautiful it features music from Glasper’s re-interpretation of Davis’ compositions of the same name, which originated in his score to Don Cheadle’s 2015 film Miles Ahead. Grammy-winning pianist, composer and exponent of acoustic jazz, hip-hop and contemporary R&B, Glasper has been described by Interview as “Intelligent, creative, and incredibly impassioned ….. the ideal flag-bearer for the new jazz era.” He appears with his ensemble – bassist Burniss Travis, drummer Justin Tyson and guitarist Mike Severson – who are joined by R&B star and Grammy-winner Bilal on vocals, in this Fridays at Five session filmed at SFJAZZ in May 2018.

This transmission is sponsored by Blue Note at Sea, which is working toward a revival sailing in 2023, hosted by Glasper and Marcus Miller, alongside dozens of the world’s best contemporary jazz musicians.

Flamenco Sketches is the title of the May 21st Fridays at Five session, and stars pianist Chano Domínguez whose speciality is jazz in the flamenco style. Domínguez hails from Cádiz – regarded as the birthplace of flamenco – and it’s there that he not only took his initial inspiration from artists such as Bill Evans, Miles Davis and Thelonious Monk, but where he also developed his particular skill in combining jazz with flamenco. Chano Domínguez’s tribute to Davis – in which he’s accompanied by bassist Alexis Cuadrado, drummer Henry Cole, flamenco singer Blas Córdoba and dancer Daniel Navarro – includes fresh arrangements of So What, All Blues, and Freddie the Freeloader, all of which can be heard on his 2012 Grammy-nominated album Flamenco Sketches, released on the Blue Note label. This performance was filmed at SFJAZZ in May 2018.

The Miles Electric Band features in the Fridays at Five session on May 28th. Fronted by former SFJAZZ Collective trumpeter Sean Jones, this multi-generational band specialized in the music Davis created from the late 1960s to the ‘80s on albums including Bitches Brew and You’re Under Arrest. The Miles Electric Band – filmed in June 2016 – is led by drummer Vincent Wilburn Jr – a nephew of Miles Davis – and features some of the musicians whom Davis selected as collaborators for his jazz-rock ensembles. These include guitarist DeWayne “Blackbird” McKnight, keyboardist Robert Irving III, bassist Darryl Jones and percussionist Munyungo Jackson who toured and recorded with Davis in the late 80s and 90s. Other artists making up the group are saxophonist Antoine Roney, keyboardist Greg Spero, percussionists Abbos Kosimov and Debashish Chaudhuri, and electronic musician Jeremy Ellis.

Fridays at Five is a weekly membership-based online concert series that enables jazz enthusiasts to continue to enjoy SFJAZZ performances, while providing support for the artists concerned, through exclusive hour-long broadcasts of SFJAZZ Center archival performances every Friday at 5.00 pm (PT). Conceived to create a unique shared experience, each event features multi-camera HD video and state-of-the-art audio, as well as real-time chats with artists, jazz fans, and SFJAZZ Members.

There’s good news for those who are in the UK, Europe and Africa – these Fridays at Five sessions are now also streaming on the day following transmission, at 10.00 am PT – which is 1.00 pm NYC, 6.00 pm London, 7.00 pm Paris and 7.00 pm Johannesburg . Please note that this rebroadcast does not include a real-time chat.

For further details on the SFJAZZ Fridays at Five streams, visit the SFJAZZ website. for further details.

Information sourced from:

SFJAZZ program notes

Artists’ websites

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San Francisco Ballet streams ‘Romeo and Juliet’

Maria Kochetkova and Davit Karapetyan in Tomasson’s ‘Romeo & Juliet’ – © Erik Tomasson

The next production in San Francisco Ballet’s 2021 Digital Season is Romeo and JulietHelgi Tomasson’s interpretation for ballet of Shakespeare’s romantic tragedy about the doomed young lovers of Verona.

The story of Romeo and Juliet has been recreated in almost every theatrical form for hundreds of years. Passionate, dramatic and colorful, it has long held an allure for choreographers, composers, playwrights and theatrical directors, 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 works 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.

Maria Kochetkova in Tomasson’s ‘Romeo & Juliet’ – © Erik Tomasson

Prokofiev composed Romeo and Juliet in 1935, on a 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, however, 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.

Pascal Molat and Luke Ingham in Tomasson’s ‘Romeo & Juliet’ – © Erik Tomasson

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

This filmed production of SF Ballet’s Romeo and Juliet – captured on stage at San Francisco’s War Memorial Opera House on May 5th and 7th, 2015 – marked the inauguration of the 2015 film series Lincoln Center at the Movies: Great American Dance, and was screened in cinemas across the United States.

Maria Kochetkova and Davit Karapetyan in Tomasson’s ‘Romeo & Juliet’ – © Erik Tomasson

The title roles are danced by former SF Ballet Principals Maria Kochetkova and Davit Karapetyan, with Pascal Molat (now on faculty at SF Ballet School) as Mercutio. Joseph Walsh is Benvolio, and Luke Ingham is Tybalt – both are current Principal Dancers with the Company.

The Italian Renaissance designs are by the late Jens-Jacob Worsaae, lighting is by Thomas R Skelton, and the dramatic sword-fighting scenes are choreographed by Martino Pistone and Helgi Tomasson. Music Director Martin West leads the San Francisco Ballet Orchestra.

Davit Karapetyan in Tomasson’s ‘Romeo & Juliet’ – © Erik Tomasson

Further information and details on tickets and packages may be found on the San Francisco Ballet website.

Information sourced from:

San Francisco Ballet program notes

San Francisco Symphony program notes

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Gerstein plays Schumann with Bychkov & Czech Philharmonic

Kirill Gerstein Pianist 2018 Photo: Marco Borggreve

This week, Semyon Bychkov leads the Czech Philharmonic in another programme streamed live from the Rudolfinum in Prague. This concert features Schumann’s Piano Concerto in A minor, with soloist Kirill Gerstein, and Tchaikovsky’s Symphony No 2 – known as the ‘Little Russian’.

The heritage of multi award-winning pianist Kirill Gerstein embraces Russian, American and Central European traditions, and his similarly international career includes appearances in solo and concert engagements across Europe and the United States, as well as in China and Australia. His wide-ranging repertoire features compositions from Bach through to the contemporary composer Thomas Adès with whom Gerstein has collaborated for the past decade. Adès wrote a Concerto for Piano and Orchestra for Gerstein – premièred by the Boston Symphony Orchestra – a concerto which Gerstein will also première this season in Vienna, Seoul, Hamburg and Chicago.

Gerstein has worked with Semyon Bychkov since 2007, and it was with Bychkov that he made his debut appearances with the Berlin and Vienna philharmonic orchestras, and with the Royal Concertgebouw Orchestra. As part of Bychkov’s Tchaikovsky Project – a box-set of all of the composer’s symphonies, the three piano concertos, the Romeo & Juliet Fantasy Overture, Serenade for Strings and Francesca da Rimini – Gerstein recorded Tchaikovsky’s three piano concertos live in Prague with the Czech Philharmonic. He will join Bychkov again at the start of the 2021-22 season when they appear with the Royal Concertgebouw Orchestra, performing Shostakovich’s First Piano Concerto.

Robert Schumann made a few abortive attempts at writing a piano concerto between 1829 and 1839, but none of them was completed. In May 1841, however, he made a start on a one-movement, standalone piece – Concert Phantasie (as he spelled it) for Piano and Orchestra. This piece was performed on 13th August, 1841, in a private run-through, with Clara Schumann as soloist, and the Leipzig Gewandhaus Orchestra, conducted by Felix Mendelssohn. Schumann’s attempts to publish it were not, however, successful.

Semyon Bychkov Photo: Marco Borggreve All rights reserved

In the summer of 1845, he revisited the Concert Phantasie, and started revising it as the first movement of a full-scale concerto. By the end of the year, he’d completed the full three-movement work, and it premiered in Dresden on 4th December, 1845, with Clara Schumann again as soloist, under the baton of Ferdinand Hiller, to whom the work was dedicated. The Piano Concerto was not regarded as a virtuoso work, but what was interesting about it was the way in which the piano and orchestra interacted, rather than ‘taking turns’ as was standard at the time. Schumann’s Piano Concerto in A minor, Op 54, became one of the composer’s most popular pieces.

Tchaikovsky wrote and orchestrated his Second Symphony between June and November 1872, and it was performed for the first time, in Moscow, by the Russian Musical Society, conducted by Nikolay Rubinstein, in early 1873. Tchaikovsky loved the work and was very proud of it, and although it was extremely well received, he made minor alterations to the symphony soon after its first performance, and further and extensive revisions in December 1879 and January 1880. The work is popularly known as the ‘Little Russian’ Symphony, a name thought to have been given it by the critic Nikolay Kashkin because it features several folk-tunes from the Ukraine region, at that time known as ‘Little Russia’. The final version of the symphony was performed, to great acclaim, by the Russian Musical Society conducted by Eduard Nápravnik in St Petersburg in early 1881, as it was in Moscow at the end of that year, when the ensemble was led by Karl Zike.

Semyon Bychkov leads the Czech Philharmonic and soloist Kirill Gerstein in a programme featuring Schumann’s Piano Concerto in A minor Op 54 and Tchaikovsky’s Symphony No 2, in a live stream from Prague on Thursday, 29th April, at 8.15 pm (CEST). The concert will be transmitted on the Czech Philharmonic’s Facebook page, and on YouTube, and will be available on demand for 7 days. Further information can be found on the Czech Philharmonic website.

Information sourced from:

Czech Philharmonic programme notes

Kirill Gerstein

San Francisco Symphony programme notes – James M Keller

Tchaikovsky Symphony No 2

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SFJAZZ honors 2021 NEA Masters in online concert

Thursday, April 22nd is a big day in the world of jazz – it’s the day on which SFJAZZ collaborates with the National Endowment for the Arts to honor this year’s NEA Jazz Masters in an online celebratory concert.

This year’s honorees are Terri Lyne Carrington – three-time GRAMMY® award-winning drummer, composer, producer and educator; percussionist and educator Albert “Tootie” Heath; saxophonist, flautist and composer Henry Threadgill; and Phil Schaap – archivist, educator, historian and jazz radio host, recipient of the 2021 A B Spellman NEA Jazz Masters Fellowship for Jazz Advocacy.

This event – co-ordinated by Music Director, composer and saxophonist Miguel Zenón – will be co-hosted by 2017 NEA Jazz Master Dee Dee Bridgewater and actor Delroy Lindo, and features recorded performances and tributes from across the world, including venues such as Preservation Hall in New Orleans and The Village Vanguard in New York.

The concert also features performances by NEA Jazz Masters Wynton and Jason Marsalis (2011), and Dianne Reeves (2018), as well as by Obed Calvaire, Avishai Cohen, Roman Filiu, Vince Giordano, Christopher Hoffman, Joe Lovano, Pedrito Martinez, Linda May Han Oh, Dan Nimmer, Danilo Pérez, David Virelles, Lizz Wright and the SFJAZZ High School All Stars. 

NEA Jazz Masters Herbie Hancock (2004), Charles Lloyd (2015) and Wayne Shorter (1998) will provide video testimonials, as will Jon Faddis, Michelle Kinney, Jason Moran and James Mtume.

The 2021 NEA Jazz Masters Tribute concert takes place from 5.00 to 6.15 pm (PT) on Thursday, April 22nd, is free to view, and will be available on-demand following the broadcast.

Immediately following the concert, from 6.15 to 7.15 pm (PT), SFJAZZ Founder & Executive Artistic Director Randall Kline is featured in an online discussion with the honorees.

Both the concert and the online discussion can be viewed at sfjazz.org or arts.gov. An archive of the concert will also be available following the event at arts.gov.

Further information on the concert can be found on the SFJAZZ website.

Information sourced from SFJAZZ program notes

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New production of Mussorgsky’s ‘Boris Godunov’ for Monte-Carlo Opera

Modest Mussorgsky’s magnificent historical opera, Boris Godunov, opens this week at the Salle Garnier in Monaco. Starring Russian bass, Ildar Abdrazakov in the title role, this is a new production, in co-operation with Grand Avignon Opera, and the first staging by Monte-Carlo Opera of the original 1869 version of the work.

Mussorgsky (1839-1881) was not only the composer of Boris Godunov, but he also wrote the libretto which was based on Alexander Pushkin’s 1825 play, published in 1831. Puskhin took his inspiration from the Shakespeare play, Boris Godunov, but he was also heavily influenced by Nikolay Karamzin’s History of the Russian State.

The opera was completed in 1869, but it was rejected by the Directorate of the Imperial Theatres in St Petersburg, due – apparently – to its lack of lyricism and significant female characters. In 1872 Musorgsky revised his opera, including more formal arias, some additional characters and a new act, and it was premiered in 1874 at the Mariinsky Theatre, St Petersburg.

Fortunately, however, the Russian pianist and musicologist, Pavel Lamm, director of the State Music Publication Department in Moscow between 1918 and 1923, established a storehouse for scores which had been confiscated from nationalised music publishers in Russia. One of these scores was that which Mussorgsky originally wrote for Boris Godunov, and due to Lamm’s detailed research and editorial skills, we have access to a version of the opera which is much closer to Pushkin’s text than the revised one. This original 1869 version of Boris Godunov was premiered at the Mariinsky Theatre in St Petersburg on 16th February, 1928, and it’s this version which Monte-Carlo Opera is to stage.

Mussorgsky’s operatic depiction of the troubled life of the rise and fall of the 16th century Tsar, Boris Godunov, takes the form of seven tableaux. After the death of the tsar known as Ivan the Terrible, Boris Godunov becomes Regent, as Ivan’s surviving son Dmitry, the Tsarevitch, is still a child. When Dmitry dies in mysterious circumstances, Boris, at the behest of a group of politicians, reluctantly agrees to become Tsar, hoping that no one will discover the secret that troubles him – his role in the assassination of the rightful heir to the throne. Boris is considered to be a good ruler, until the young monk Grigory, who bears a remarkable resemblance to the deceased Tsarevitch, decides to impersonate Dmitry and seize the throne. With pressure mounting on him from all sides, Boris begins to lose his sanity, and naming his son Feyodor the heir to his throne, Boris bids a loving farewell to the boy and dies.

In the title role is Russian bass Ildar Abdrazakov whom The Independent describes as a “sensational bass…who has just about everything – imposing sound, beautiful legato, oodles of finesse”. Having made his debut at La Scala in 2001, he has become a frequent guest at some of the major opera houses in the world, including New York’s Metropolitan Opera, the Vienna State Opera and Bavarian State Opera in Munich. Also a concert artist, Mr Abdrazakov has performed at the BBC Proms in London, at Carnegie Hall in New York, as well as with leading international orchestras, including the Chicago Symphony and Vienna Philharmonic.

The monk Pimen is sung by Russian bass Alexeï Tikhomirov. Praised by Bachtrack for his “powerful vocal volume” and “impressive interpretation”, Mr Tikhomirov has this season sung the role of Pimen at the Bolshoi Theatre in Moscow, the title role in Rimsky-Korsakov’s The Tale of Tsar Saltan, The Inquisitor in Prokofiev’s The Fiery Angel at Theater an der Wien, and Prince Bolkonsky in his War and Peace at Grand Theatre de Geneve, Future engagements include a debut performance at Frankfurt Opera, and return appearances at New National Theatre Tokyo and Grand Theatre de Geneve. 

The role of the young pretender Grigory is taken by Russian tenor Oleg Balachov, who has appeared as Loge with the Mariinsky Opera in London in Das Rheingold, and in Prokofiev’s War and Peace in Monte-Carlo. Godunov’s son Feyodor is sung by Marina Iarskaïa.

Konstantin Chudovsky – Chief Conductor of Ural Opera in Ekaterinburg – leads the Monte-Carlo Philharmonic Orchestra, the Chorus of the Monte-Carlo Opera (director Stefano Visconti) and the Chorus of the Children of the Ranier III Academy of Music. Maestro Chudovsky has a wide ranging repertoire of the best known operas, and has appeared at National Opera of Chile, major French opera houses in centres such as Lyon, Reims and Limoges, Theater an der Wien, Bulgarian National Opera and Helikon Opera, Moscow.

Stage design is by Jean-Romain Vesperini, decor by Bruno de Lavenère, costumes by Alain Blanchot, lighting by Bertrand Couderc and video design by Etienne Guiol.

Monte-Carlo Opera’s production of Boris Godunov takes place at the Salle Garnier, Opéra de Monte-Carlo, on 22nd, 27th and 29th April and 2nd May. Further information and reservation details can be found on the Monte-Carlo Opera website.

Information sourced from:
Monte-Carlo Opera programme notes
The Royal Opera House programme notes
Oxford Music Online
Artists’ websites

All images of decor models © Bruno de Lavanère

This article first appeared in Riviera Buzz.

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Three contemporary works in San Francisco Ballet’s latest stream

San Francisco Ballet in Dawson’s ‘Anima Animus’ – © Erik Tomasson

San Francisco Ballet devotes the fifth program of its current digital season to a triple bill by three contemporary choreographers – Helgi Tomasson’s 7 for Eight, Cathy Marston’s Snowblind and David Dawson’s Anima Animus.

Helgi Tomasson’s 7 for Eight – which premiered at San Francisco’s War Memorial Opera House on February 26th, 2004 – is a series of solo and ensemble movements for eight dancers, set to seven movements taken from four of J S Bach’s keyboard concertos. These concertos – composed between 1729 and 1741 – were written for the harpsichord, but Tomasson – San Francisco Ballet’s Artistic Director and Principal Choreographer – opted to have them played on a piano, with the exception of the Concerto in C minor for Four Harpsichords – arranged in this instance for two harpsichords – for a male solo variation.

Yuan Yuan Tan and Tiit Helimets in Tomasson’s ‘7 For Eight’ – © Erik Tomasson

Clad in simple black costumes – designed by Sandra Woodall – the dancers perform against a plain black background, enhancing the pure classicism of this work. Recorded in January 2016 – the most recent occasion on which it was staged – the ballet features principal dancers Yuan Yuan Tan and Tiit Helimets, and former principal dancers Vanessa Zahorian, Gennadi Nedvigin and Taras Domitro. Lighting design is by David Finn.

The inspiration for Cathy Marston’s ballet Snowblind came from the 1911 novel Ethan Frome by Pulitzer Prize-winning author Edith Wharton. This American classic, set in a fictitious town in Massachusetts, tells of the fraught emotional tangle which develops between a struggling farmer, his demanding, unappreciative and hypochondriac wife, and a beautiful young girl who arrives to help the ailing wife – three people trapped in a situation restricted by the times in which they live.

San Francisco Ballet in Marston’s ‘Snowblind’ – © Erik Tomasson

Cathy Marston has a special gift for narrative ballet, as well as a passion for literature, and she successfully combines both in her interpretations of literary classics – Ibsen’s Ghosts, Charlotte Brontë’s Jane Eyre, Chekov’s Three Sisters, Nabokov’s Lolita and Witch-hunt – inspired by the true story of Anna Göldi, the ‘last witch of Europe’.

San Francisco Ballet in Marston’s ‘Snowblind’ – © Erik Tomasson

Snowblind – which premiered in April 2018 during San Francisco Ballet’s Unbound Festival and was recorded at the time – is a highly emotional ballet, set against the vicious snowstorms of mid-winter Massachusetts. Movingly performed by Ulrik Birkkjaer as Ethan Frome, Sarah Van Patten as his wife Zeena, and Mathilde Froustey in the role of the young girl Mattie, Snowblind is set to a score arranged by Philip Feeney, created from works by Amy Beach, Arthur Foote, Arvo Pärt and Feeney himself. Scenic and costume design are by Patrick Kinmonth, and lighting design is by James F Ingalls.

The final work in this presentation is Anima Animus, by award-winning choreographer David Dawson – his first commission for San Francisco Ballet. He was awarded the Prix Benois de la Danse for his ballet The Grey Area – premiered by Dutch National Ballet in 2002 – and in 2005 was honored as the first British choreographer to receive a Russian Golden Mask Award for Reverence, which he created for the Mariinsky Ballet.

Sofiane Sylve in Dawson’s ‘Anima Animus’ – © Erik Tomasson

Also premiered during the 2018 Unbound Festival, Anima Animus is, says Dawson, a reflection of the contrast between the male and female psyches – anima being Carl Jung’s term for the feminine part of a man’s personality, and animus being the reverse. The work is set to a violin concerto by the late Italian conductor, composer and pianist Ezio Bosso. Scenic design is by John Otto, costumes by Yumiko Takeshima, and lighting by James F Ingalls.
This recording, captured in April 2018, features former principal SF Ballet dancers Maria Kochetkova, Sofiane Sylve and Carlo Di Lanno, and current principal dancers Luke Ingham and Wei Wang, in a cast of ten.

This stream is available to view from 6.00 pm (Pacific) on April 22nd until May 12th. Further information on Program 05, and tickets to view this stream, are available on the San Francisco Ballet website.

Information sourced from:
San Francisco Ballet program notes
Artists’ websites

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San Francisco Opera streams Verdi’s historic drama ‘Don Carlo’

Scene from San Francisco Opera’s production of Verdi’s ‘Don Carlo’ –
© Cory Weaver/San Francisco Opera

San Francisco Opera continues its Opera is ON series of productions with an online performance of Verdi’s historic drama, Don Carlo. This story of passion and betrayal, of conflict between father and son, of political intrigue, heartbreak and devotion, is set against the grandeur of the 16th century Spanish court. It stars American tenor Michael Fabiano in the title role, with Puerto Rican soprano Ana María Martínez as his beloved, Princess Elisabetta.

Verdi’s five-act opera Don Carlos was completed in 1867, and set to a French-language libretto by Joseph Méry and Camille du Locle, based on Friedrich Schiller’s 1787 play Don Karlos, Infant von Spanien. The opera was commissioned and produced by the Théâtre Impérial de l’Opéra, Paris, and premiered at the Salle Le Peletier on 11 March 1867.

The opera was then translated into Italian as Don Carlo, in the first of a number of revisions set to both French and Italian librettos. This production by San Francisco Opera is Verdi’s 1886 Italian rewrite, known as the Modena version.

Michael Fabiano and Ana-María Martínez in Verdi’s ‘Don Carlo’ –
© Cory Weaver/San Francisco Opera

Although the work – set in France and Spain between 1567 to 1568 – features actual historical figures, the plot is largely fictional. Don Carlo is the son of King Philip II of Spain – sung by German bass René Pape – and is therefore heir to the Spanish throne. Carlo is in love with Princess Elisabetta, but his hopes of marrying her are thwarted by his father, who – as part of a peace treaty signed with France – takes Elisabetta as his own wife. Undaunted, Carlo comes up against the conspiracies and intrigues of the royal court, and even falls foul of the Spanish Inquisition, but ultimately he has to make a choice between loyalty and love.

Polish baritone Mariusz Kwiecień is Carlo’s close friend Rodrigo, Marquis of Posa, and Bulgarian mezzo-soprano Nadia Krasteva – in her Company debut – is Princess Eboli.

In a revival of his 1998 production for the Company, Emilio Sagi directs this production of Don Carlo, filmed at San Francisco’s War Memorial Opera House in 2016. Design is by Zack Brown, with lighting by Gary Marder, and direction for the screen is by Frank Zamacona.

The San Francisco Opera Orchestra and Chorus (Chorus Director Ian Robertson) are conducted by the Company’s former Music Director Nicola Luisotti.

San Francisco Opera’s Don Carlo is performed in Italian with English subtitles. It is available to view from 10.00 am (Pacific) on Saturday, April 17, until 11.59 pm on the following day. For further information and details on how to view Don Carlo, visit the San Francisco Opera website.

Information sourced from:

San Francisco Opera program notes

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Three works in Les Ballets de Monte-Carlo’s Spring Season

Scene from Maillot’s ‘Coppél-i.A. – © Alice Blangero

For its Spring Season, Les Ballets de Monte-Carlo presents three full-length narrative ballets by Choreographer/Director Jean-Christophe Maillot. Coppél-i.A., LAC and Le Songe share a similar theme – exploring human nature through the spectrum of ‘fantastic’ (in the literal sense) beings – an artificial woman, a flock of swans ruled by a monster, and a host of fairy-like characters.

We’re all familiar with the story of the ballet Coppélia – a work originally written by Romantic-era choreographer Arthur Saint-Léon – which is set against the relationship between the young lovers – Franz and Swanhilda – and Dr Coppélius, whose life’s ambition is to create a living girl from a doll. This re-imagination by Maillot – which premiered on 27th December 2019 – has the same set of characters, but the difference is in the title, Coppél-i.A., with its reference to artificial intelligence (intelligence artificielle), so that the being created by Dr Coppélius challenges what the two young lovers of the story believe they know about love, and what they know about each other.

Composer Bertrand Maillot (brother of the J-C Maillot) has created an original score for Coppél-i.A. Using Delibes’ original music as a basis, he has combined with it various sequences of his own, as well as carrying out “sonic manipulations” on the Delibes score.

The décor and costumes for this production are by Aimée Moreni, lighting is by Jean-Christophe Maillot and Samuel Thery, and dramaturgy is by Jean-Christophe Maillot and Geoffroy Staquet.

Performances of Les Ballets de Monte-Carlo’s Coppél-i.A take place in the Salles des Princes, Grimaldi Forum in Monaco on 16th, 17th and 18th April at 14h00.

Jean-Christophe Maillot’s interpretation of Swan Lake – entitled simply LAC – was written in collaboration with writer Jean Rouaud, and premiered on December 27th, 2011 at the Grimaldi Forum in Monaco. Although the ballet is set to Tchaikovsky’s glorious score, Maillot and Rouaud bring a dramatic new slant to this classic work. The transformation of Odette from swan to human being presents the Prince with the kind of nightmarish torments which leave him grappling with a series of contrasts, such as those between white and black, good and evil, innocence and eroticism – and wondering whether humanity is solely based on such imprecise variables.

Stage design for LAC is by Ernest Pignon-Ernest, costumes by Philippe Guillotel, dramaturgy by Jean Rouaud, additional music by Bertrand Maillot and lighting by J-C Maillot and Samuel Thery.

Performances of J-C Maillot’s LAC take place in the Salles des Princes, Grimaldi Forum in Monaco on 23rd, 24th, 25th and 26th April, at 14h00.

Le Songe (The Dream) is Jean-Christophe Maillot’s take on Shakespeare’s 1595 comedy A Midsummer Night’s Dream. The ballet, which premiered on 27th December 2005, was set to the incidental music which Mendelssohn wrote for the Shakespeare play. In this work, Maillot has taken the lines of thought and elements of all the ballets he’s created during his career, and concentrated them into three universes – that of the Athenians, the Fairies and the Artisans. In this world of unreality, we recognise the characters of A Midsummer Night’s Dream – the four young lovers and their fractious relationship, the battle of wills between Oberon and Titania – King and Queen of the fairies – and the bumbling hilarity of the Artisans – all of whom fall victim to the antics of the mischievous Puck. Truth, in this unreal world, is apparently not all it seems to be!

Scene from Maillot’s ‘Le Songe’ © Alice Blangero

Additional music to that of Mendelssohn is by Daniel Teruggi and Bertrand Maillot, stage design is by Ernest Pignon-Ernest assisted by Nicolas Normeau, costumes are by Philippe Guillotel, and lighting by Dominique Drillot.

Performances of Le Songe take place on 2nd, 3rd and 4th May, in the Salle des Princes, Grimaldi Forum, Monaco.

Further details, and information on reservations can be found on Les Ballets de Monte-Carlo’s website.

Les Ballets de Monte-Carlo now has an on-demand video platform – BMC Stream – initially created as a result of the COVID crisis, to enable audiences around the world to enjoy performances, classes, dancer profiles, interviews and documentary productions. This platform offers both subscription membership and pay-per-view options with unique interactive multi-camera viewing – see https://bmcstream.com/ for more details.

Information sourced from Les Ballets de Monte-Carlo programme notes and website

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