Friday, May 27, 2016
The are bringing back a well-worn production to fit a new star. Full details of La Scala’s new season, announced this morning, below: ALEXANDER PEREIRA: THE 2016/2017 SEASON The opening of the 2016/2017 Season with the first version of Madame Butterfly, in the wake of Turandot and La fanciulla del West, marks a vital step in the Puccini project that is so dear to Riccardo Chailly, who on 1 January 2017 will take up his appointment as Music Director, confirming the plan to bring back to Piermarini’s Theatre the works that had their first ever performances here. It is directed by Alvis Hermanis, who is familiar to La Scala fans for two magnificent and very different shows, Die Soldaten and I due Foscari, and the leading lady Maria José Siri is a new and extraordinarily talented voice alongside Bryan Hymel’s Pinkerton. The televising of the event marks 40 years of collaboration between La Scala and the RAI since their partnership in 1976 with Otello conducted by Carlos Kleiber. 2017 opens with three major Verdi productions. Don Carlo returns in the version in five acts that has not been performed at La Scala since the edition conducted by Claudio Abbado 40 years ago. Myung-Whun Chung, a noted authority on Verdi, will conduct a fine cast, of whom we have to mention at least Ferruccio Furlanetto, Krassimira Stoyanova and Francesco Meli. Directed most efficaciously by the great Peter Stein, it translates all the dryness of the signature dramaturgy. Zubin Mehta will conduct Falstaff in the staging by Damiano Michieletto set in Casa Verdi: a decidedly Milanese production with Ambrogio Maestri in the role he is by now synonymous with. La Traviata will be back in March with the lavish staging designed by Liliana Cavani in 1990, with an exceptional protagonist, Anna Netrebko, in the prime of her artistic and interpretative maturity. And it will be the first time conducting Verdi at La Scala for Nello Santi, repository and custodian of the most authentic traditions of Italian melodrama: in October he will also be conducting the revival of Nabucco in Daniele Abbado’s show. Die Meistersinger von Nürnberg by Wagner sets us off on a journey through the musical culture of German Romanticism, which pops up during the Season with two other titles: Hänsel und Gretel and Der Freischütz. Directed by Harry Kupfer, an artist who is woven into the tapestry of German theatre, with Daniele Gatti on the podium, who has already conducted two productions with this title to great acclaim. Michael Volle is simply the finest living interpreter of Sachs. While in 2016, with La cena delle beffe, we brought Verismo back to La Scala, our mission to re-appropriate the Italian repertoire continues now with bel canto. April will see the staging of Anna Bolena with a very young leading lady who comes from our Academy, Federica Lombardi, conducted by Bruno Campanella, who knows Italian melodrama of the early 1800s better than most. And in 1817 Rossini presented The thieving Magpie at La Scala: a masterpiece of the semiseria genre that returns with a great Rossini conductor, Riccardo Chailly, the debut at La Scala of the Oscar-winning director Gabriele Salvatores, and a perfect cast of actor-singers. One of the finest baritones of our time, Thomas Hampson, plays a Don Giovanni torn between vitality and disillusionment in the revival of the staging by Robert Carsen, conducted by Paavo Järvi, whose Mozart interpretation won me over in Vienna. The revival of Franco Zeffirelli’s historic Bohème, then, is the occasion of a La Scala debut for one of the soprano revelations of recent years, Sonya Yoncheva. On the podium will be Evelino Pidò, who comes from our orchestra, but despite his brilliant international career has conducted only a performance of Rigoletto at La Scala before now. The twentieth anniversary of the death of Giorgio Strehler will be marked by performing one of his most magical shows, Die Entführung aus dem Serail, conducted by the person who held him at his baptism in Salzburg in 1965: Zubin Mehta. Humperdinck’s Hänsel und Gretel is the Academy project this year: conductor Marc Albrecht and director Sven-Eric Bechtolf will work together for months with the young artists to create a performance that is up to La Scala standards in all respects. One of the most cherished programmes the Orchestra is engaged in is the formation of an ensemble playing historical instruments: the latest step on this path is Handel’s Tamerlano, which brings one of Italy’s finest directors, Davide Livermore, to La Scala for the first time, with extraordinary singers such as Plácido Domingo and Bejun Mehta. Another important date with directing is Der Freischütz, staged by Matthias Hartmann, the former director of the Burgtheater in Vienna, and conducted by Myung-Whun Chung. To conclude the Season, we are presenting the world premiere of the new opera by Salvatore Sciarrino, Ti vedo, ti sento, mi perdo, directed by Jürgen Flimm, who is bound to the Italian composer by a friendship that strengthens their artistic affinity. It is conducted by the young Maxime Pascal, founder of an orchestra dedicated to contemporary music in Paris. The Ballet Season, which is the first one for Director Mauro Bigonzetti, is the first step along a path of progression for the Corps de Ballet of La Scala. The titles increase from six to seven, in addition to the Ballet School show, and for the second year in a row, Opening Night brings another first, Coppélia by Bigonzetti with Roberto Bolle. The historical choreographies of Balanchine, Fokin, Tetley and MacMillan are bolstered by the innovation of Eugenio Scigliano, and for the first time a piece choreographed by artists from the Corps de Ballet, who are engaged in an unprecedented challenge. Also returning is Swan Lake by Alexei Ratmansky, an artistic reconstruction of the choreography of Petipa and Ivanov. There is a considerable element of pride in the quality of the music: the ballets will be conducted by maestros such as Zubin Mehta, Paavo Järvi, Michail Jurowski, Patrick Fournillier, Felix Korobov and David Coleman. The concert programme includes the greatest living conductors. Riccardo Chailly will be on the podium for two evenings of the Symphony Season, Verdi’s Requiem in October, and the concert to celebrate the 150th anniversary of the birth of Arturo Toscanini on 25 March 1867. The Symphony Season also sees the return of legends such as Christoph von Dohnányi (who also conducts the Christmas Concert), Georges Prêtre and Bernard Haitink; while for the Extraordinary Concerts, we will listen to Mariss Jansons with the Bayerischer Rundfunk. Finally, we are delighted to welcome Riccardo Muti back to La Scala. He returns with two concerts with the Chicago Symphony, to conduct once again in the Theatre that he was Musical Director of for 19 years. Completing the programme are singing recitals, including some of the most celebrated voices on the international scene. One of the projects dearest to my heart is the “Great Shows for Children” programme, which next year, too, will bring tens of thousands of kids and their parents to La Scala to discover operas of the great repertoire in shortened form and featuring the musicians of the Academy. Added to the revival of Cinderella for Children is Il ratto dal serraglio (The Abduction from the Seraglio) by Mozart, in Italian and coinciding with the complete edition in the Opera Season, and five concerts preceded by an introduction for children. See you in your Theatre. Alexander Pereira
“For 3½ years, Michael Heaston, 37, has been an artistic power behind the throne at the Washington National Opera, running the Domingo-Cafritz program and the American Opera Initiative … As of this month, he has started in an advisory capacity as executive director of the Metropolitan Opera’s Lindemann Young Artist Development Program, and will take over the position full time Aug. 29.”
Sonya Yoncheva in Faust, The Royal Opera © ROH/Bill Cooper, 2014 Following the announcement last week that Russian soprano Anna Netrebko has withdrawn from Norma , the role will now be sung by Bulgarian soprano Sonya Yoncheva . Director of Opera Kasper Holten expressed his gratitude to the Metropolitan Opera , New York: ‘A huge thank you to the Met for releasing the brilliant soprano Sonya Yoncheva from her scheduled performances there as Mimì in La bohème. They have announced today that Ailyn Pérez will sing Mimì for them in the autumn. We are delighted and appreciative that Sonya will be able to join our excellent cast and creative team for The Royal Opera’s new production of Norma. She has had much success at the Royal Opera House in recent Seasons and we look forward to welcoming her back in the autumn for Norma and as Antonia in Les Contes d’Hoffmann .’ Sonya Yoncheva made her Royal Opera debut in Plácido Domingo’s Operalia Winners’ concert in July 2012. She has subsequently sung Musetta in La bohème , Marguerite in Faust , Violetta Valéry in La traviata and Micaëla in Carmen for the Company. Her other recent engagements include Desdemona in Otello for the Metropolitan Opera, New York; the title role in Iolanta for Opéra National de Paris , and Mimì in La bohème and Violetta Valéry in La traviata for Berlin State Opera . The rest of the cast remains unchanged.
The conductor Anthony Barrese has spent ten years searching for an opera on Hamlet by Franco Faccio, with a libretto by Verdi’s Boito, staged at La Scala in 1871. He reconstructed version will be seen next month at Opera Delaaware, and then at this summer’s elite Bregenz Festival. We asked Tony Barrese to explain his obsession. You read his story here first: I first became aware of an opera based on Shakespeare’s Hamlet with a libretto by Arrigo Boito and score by Franco Faccio in 2002, during my first season as an Assistant Conductor at Sarasota Opera. The early history of the opera is very brief. It was premiered with some success in Genoa in 1865, and the composer gave it an extensive revision for La Scala. The 1871 La Scala production was a disaster; the tenor who sang Hamlet was ill and gave a poor performance. Faccio was so disturbed by this failure that he refused to have the piece performed again in his lifetime, and gave up composing altogether. Thus Amleto lapsed into obscurity for nearly a century and a half. Faccio, however, went on to an impressive career as a conductor, leading the Italian premiere of Aida, and the world premieres of La gioconda, Otello, and the revised Simon Boccanegra. He also became, in effect, the first music director of La Scala, or the first “maestro scaligero.” By the time I became interested in the opera, there was no usable musical source other than the printed libretto and a few piano vocal score excerpts. What started out as a curiosity (what did these legendary scenes in Shakespeare sound like to a 19th century Italian?) soon became an obsession. But contrary to standard practice, Ricordi had never made a complete piano vocal score, and so my only hope was that the Ricordi Archives in Milan had a copy of the composer’s autograph full score. Through the efforts of Maestro Victor DeRenzi at Sarasota Opera, dramaturg Cori Ellison (then with the New York City Opera), and the eminent Verdi and Rossini scholar Philip Gossett, I was able to contact Gabriele Dotto at Casa Ricordi who informed me that Ricordi did indeed possess the autograph manuscript. This was the summer of 2003, and Ricordi was in the process of moving its Archives from the outskirts of Milan to the beautiful Brera district. As luck would have it, they had a copy of the autograph on microfilm, and I immediately sent away for it. As soon as the microfilm arrived I had photocopies made on 11 x 17 paper, and before I knew it I was face-to-face with a 900+ page manuscript filled with faded staff lines, and a barely legible handwriting, which contained thousands of 19th century idiosyncrasies. I was on the music staff of Opera North in New Hampshire that summer, and in my spare time I began transcribing the manuscript. The first page was not so bad: Besides having the violins and violas at the top of the score, and the bassoons written under the trumpets, this page didn’t pose that many problems. But it wasn’t long before I ran into pages like this, where the lines were completely faded, and things were crossed out, and rearranged: All of this is standard fare for a musicologist, but as a conductor (with degrees in music composition) it became a fascinating exploration of new terrain. I did find that if I could uncover one note in a harmonic progression—since Faccio was still operating in the world of tonal harmony—the rest could be filled in very logically. It was only in places where the composer was experimenting with his version of “wagnerismo” that things got a little dicey. Today, libretti for both the 1865 Genova premiere and the 1871 La Scala remount are readily available online. Back in 2003, my wife had to go to the New York City Performing Arts Library and make a photocopy of a microfilm of the libretto. This proved to be extremely useful, as Faccio’s handwriting was completely foreign to me at the time. Note by note, week by week, month by month, I started stitching the piece back together. Besides being a brilliant piece of dramatic theater, Boito’s libretto is a distillation of all the greatest moments of Shakespeare. “To be or not to be” becomes “Essere o non essere;” “Get thee to a nunnery” is now “Fatti monachella!;” and “methinks the lady doth protest too much” is “È soverchio loquace la regina.” I would come to one of these iconic moments, write it out, then rush to the piano to figure out what it sounded like. The play within a play was now a riveting opera within an opera. The scene with the ghost and Hamlet’s mother became a scintillating gran scena e terzetto. With every passing scene, Shakespeare’s tragedy came to light in a musical language that was both familiar and new. After months of painstakingly putting the pieces together, I finally had my own handwritten full score of the piece, and began engraving it on a computer program. But in order for people to be able to look at it and assess it, I needed to make a piano vocal score of it. So I started again with the first page of the score, simultaneously checking my original work, and reducing it to a playable form for the piano. Right away I found dozens of errors from my first past draft in the first few pages. Things that were unclear on the first pass-through now were illuminated since I had a better understanding of Faccio’s writing style. Once the piano vocal score was completed I began shopping the piece around to anyone who cared to look at it. I spent the summer of 2004 in Milan and was able to view the autograph manuscript first-hand in the archives over a series of weeks, again checking for uncertainties, and hoping that the physical manuscript was easier to read than the microfilm (it was). During the winter of 2006 my friend Eugene Kohn and I organized a read through of the score for Plácido Domingo, who later wrote “I had the pleasure to attend a presentation of this work…and I remember well the strong impression made by both the quality of the mjusic and the performance.” In 2007 I led the American premiere of Ofelia’s “Marcia Funebre” with the Dallas Opera Orchestra. Years went by, and I would occasionally tinker with the piece, uncovering layers that had previously been confusing, eventually creating a set of orchestra parts, while in the meantime my conducting career began in earnest. When in 2010 I was made Artistic Director of Opera Southwest in Albuquerque, we experimented with some lesser-known operas like Rossini’s Otello, which proved to be a big hit with the audience and garnered us some national attention. Seeing that, artistically, the way forward for a regional company lay less in the tried and true standard repertoire, and more in unknown works, the board approved a production of Amleto for the fall of 2014. Opera Southwest formed a partnership with Baltimore Concert Opera through my friend Brendan Cooke, who had been with me at Opera North when I first started transcribing the work, and who had taken a keen interest in its development throughout the years. Now Brendan was Artistic Director at BCO, and General Director at Opera Delaware. In Baltimore, we did a week of musical rehearsals, culminating in two concert performances with piano. These evenings received positive reviews from the Washington Post, the Baltimore Sun, and parterre.com (Anne Midgette called the work a “missing link between Verdi and Verismo”). Immediately following the BCO performances, the cast and I all headed to Albuquerque and worked for the next month preparing Amleto for its first fully staged production since 1871. The Opera Southwest production was an enormous financial and artistic success for the company and was reviewed favorably by the Financial Times, the Corriere della Sera, American Record Guide, and the Santa Fe New Mexican. Opening night was broadcast live on KHFM Albuquerque. This May, I will lead a new production at Opera Delaware with an entirely new cast, directed by E. Loreen Meeker. In the summer of 2016 the work will be mounted by the Bregenz Festival with another new production, conducted by Paolo Carignani and directed by Olivier Tambosi. It has been an incredible experience to see this piece go from a small curiosity, to an all-encompassing obsession, to being staged by two opera companies in the same year, on different continents. I feel very strongly (however subjective my belief may be), that the piece deserves to be heard more. If it eventually ended up in the standard repertoire, or even on the periphery of the standard repertoire, it will have exceeded my most fantastical expectations. (c) Anthony Barrese/Slipped Disc
Plácido Domingo in I due Foscari © ROH/Catherine Ashmore, 2014 BBC Radio 3 has announced that four Royal Opera productions will be broadcast over the coming months. Lucia di Lammermoor – 14 May 2016 (6.30pm BST) Gaetano Donizetti The story In order to preserve the ailing Lammermoor fortune, Enrico wants his sister Lucia to marry advantageously. He is horrified to learn she has actually fallen in love with his sworn enemy, Edgardo. The music Donizetti ’s Lucia di Lammermoor is perhaps best-known for Lucia’s Act III 'mad scene ', but the Act II sextet 'Chi mi frena in tal momento' is almost as well-known. It was rapturously applauded at the opera’s premiere and went on to influence such composers as Verdi . It was also one of the first ever opera ensembles to be recorded. Tannhäuser – 21 May 2016 (6.30pm BST) Richard Wagner Christian Gerhaher as Wolfram von Eschinbach in Tannhäuser © ROH 2016. Photo by Clive Barda The story Musician Heinrich Tannhäuser leaves his home in the Wartburg to become the consort of the goddess Venus. Growing tired of her hedonistic realm, he decides to return to his old life and his beloved, Elisabeth. But if Elisabeth and his comrades learn where he has been, will they ever forgive him? The music Richard Wagner ’s Tannhäuser contains few arias, but the small number it has are all remarkable for their beauty. Best known perhaps is Wolfram’s Act III aria ‘O du, mein holder Abendstern’ , his hymn to the Evening Star. Oedipe – 4 June 2016 (7.00pm BST) LIVE George Enescu Oedipe, La Monnaie, Brussels, 2011 © Bernd Uhlig The story Oedipe’s parents plot his murder after they discover he is destined to murder his father and marry his mother. However, their plans go awry and he is raised as a prince of Corinth. Discovering the prophecy, he flees Corinth – only unwittingly to kill his true father and marry his mother. The music The score calls for haunting saxophone solos, grand orchestral passages, and extreme, chromatic harmonies. The icing on the cake comes at the end of the opera, which according to conductor Leo Hussain is 'one of the most beautiful, moving and thrilling arias that exists'. I Due Foscari – 11 June 2016 (6.30pm BST) Giuseppe Verdi The story Jacopo Foscari, son of the Doge of Venice, is convicted of murder and treason. His wife Lucrezia is sure of his innocence. But the Doge, trapped by the machinations of a corrupt city, is forced to make a terrible decision. The music In his sixth opera Verdi concentrates on the intense relationships between his leading characters, rather than grand dramatic effects. Highlights of the score include one of Verdi’s earliest great duets for soprano and baritone, where Lucrezia pleads with the Doge for her husband’s life in Act I, and the passionate finale that closes Act II. Listen live to BBC Radio 3 . Please note broadcast schedules are subject to change. The Royal Opera House and the BBC are partners .
Family and friends are reporting the death of Brian Asawa, a dazzling countertenor who in 2014 set up a management agency for opera singers. Brian was 49, or possibly 50. The report says he passed away today at 12:42 pm surrounded by his loving family. Three years after a 1991 debut in San Francisco, Brian became the first countertenor to win Placido Domingo’s Operalia competition. He went on to sing at the Met, Covent Garden, Paris, Brussels, Munich and other major houses. A friend said of him tonight: ‘Wonderful, wonderful talent. The most dedication you can imagine. Generous to a fault.’
Great opera singers