. Interchanging Idioms: May 2010

Sunday, May 30, 2010

The King's Singers announce new bass, 23 year-old Jonathan Howard

Grammy Award-winning vocal ensemble The King's Singers are delighted to announce the appointment of Jonathan Howard as the newest member of the group. Jonathan, who is 23 years old and a graduate of New College, Oxford, will replace current bass Stephen Connolly when he departs the group to take a position as Head of Vocal Studies at Cheltenham Ladies' College this September. The King's Singers' new album, Swimming Over London, which is Stephen Connolly's last complete album with the group, was released today.

Upon learning of his appointment, Jonathan said, "It is an absolute dream come true for me to have the opportunity to perform for a living with such wonderful colleagues and singers, particularly since almost every small-consort or close-harmony venture I have done in the past has been inspired by their work. I am thrilled to accept the post, and cannot wait to start as a full-time member in October. Even now, I'm still in shock that this is actually happening."
Stephen Connolly, departing member, said, "I am thrilled that we have managed to find such an energized and talented musician as Johnny. He will be a real asset to the group and brings with him a wonderful timbre of voice as well as a freshness that will help propel The King's Singers well into the future. I can't wait to hear him in concert!"
In addition to his work as a singer, Jonathan also plays violin, viola and piano, has performed in various opera and dramatic productions, and appeared as one of the "Clever" guests on the BBC3 television series "Clever v. Stupid" in the summer of 2009. An accomplished sportsman with several awards and medals to his name, Jonathan's passion for classical music began at his school, Christ's Hospital in Horsham, West Sussex. He was the recipient of a choral scholarship to New College, where he participated in numerous tours and recordings with the renowned New College Choir.
Jonathan's first concert with The King's Singers will be in Aix-les-Bains, France on October 1. The King's Singers will give over 120 live concerts in the upcoming season, including tours to France, Germany, Estonia, Sweden, Italy, Bermuda, the United States, Canada, Spain, Bulgaria, Austria and The Netherlands in addition to concerts in their native United Kingdom. Their vast repertoire spans over 1000 pieces, ranging from arrangements of Michael Bublé to Pachelbel's Vespers.
Featuring a diverse array of songs, Swimming Over London--which releases in the States today--captures jazz classics, current hits, and more, all arranged, performed, and recorded with the meticulous attention to detail and artistry that has established The King's Singers as one of the finest vocal ensembles throughout their history. The new release includes five original songs, arranged by some of the foremost composers and arrangers in contemporary a cappella music.

Thursday, May 27, 2010

Minnesota Orchestra Introduces Music on Demand with Free Symphonic Downloads

Led by Music Director Osmo Vänskä, Stravinsky’s Petrushka will be available for free download beginning Friday, May 28, and Bruckner’s Symphony No. 7 will be available June 4

The Minnesota Orchestra will conclude its 107th concert season by offering its first-ever free symphonic downloads. As part of the organization’s new Minnesota Orchestra Music on Demand project, concert performances of Stravinsky’s Petrushka and Bruckner’s Symphony No. 7 will be available for free download exclusively at minnesotaorchestra.org/musicondemand, on May 28 and June 4, respectively. Next fall, the free downloads will be followed by five additional major works which will be offered as paid downloads—with the first movement available for free. All download material will be drawn from live Minnesota Orchestra performances led by Music Director Osmo Vänskä, and recorded and produced for distribution by Minnesota Public Radio.

“The Minnesota Orchestra enjoys a distinguished recording and broadcasting history that goes back to the early 1920s,” says President and CEO Michael Henson. “Our Music on Demand project takes advantage of the latest music distribution tools to share Minnesota Orchestra performances, and we are especially pleased to launch the program with two free downloads—available to anyone in the world who would like to hear the Minnesota Orchestra and Osmo Vänskä perform this music.”

The first of the free downloads, Stravinsky’s Petrushka, will be recorded live by MPR on May 27 and available for digital download on Friday, May 28. The second, Bruckner’s Symphony No. 7, will be recorded live on Thursday, June 3 and available for download on Friday, June 4. Both downloads will be available for free to any registered user at minnesotaorchestra.org/musicondemand through October 2010.

Beginning in November 2010, further downloads will become available, highlighting major works from the 2010-11 classical season. Each selection will be conducted by Osmo Vänskä, recorded live and available for download just days after each original Orchestra Hall performance. The repertoire will include Berlioz’ Symphonie fantastique (November), Mozart’s Symphony No. 41, Jupiter (January), Brahms’ Symphony No. 4 (February), Sibelius’ Symphony No. 5 (April), and Orff’s Carmina burana (June). Downloads of the first movement of each work will be free, with additional movements or parts available at standard download fees.

Tuesday, May 25, 2010

eighth blackbird presents world premiere of On a Wire – concerto by Pulitzer Prize-winning Jennifer Higdon –

with Atlantic Symphony June 3rd

eighth blackbird play like musicians possessed … They take wing, soaring on an upthrust of precision-tooled virtuosity.” — BBC Music

eighth blackbird spent the first weekend of May in New York City, presenting its “Meanwhile” program at the historic People’s Symphony Concert series and headlining a program of premieres at the innovative Look & Listen Festival; the New York Times’s Steve Smith commented: “Watching eighth blackbird in action … you envied a composer’s opportunity to challenge these versatile, expressive performers.” Latest in the long line of leading contemporary composers to do so is Pulitzer Prize-winning Jennifer Higdon, whose highly anticipated new Concerto for Sextet and Orchestra, On a Wire, was written expressly for the group. The new work forms the cornerstone of eighth blackbird’s summer schedule: after giving its world premiere and three subsequent performances at its debut with the Atlantic Symphony Orchestra (June 3-18), the sextet reprises Higdon’s concerto at California’s Cabrillo Festival (Aug 6). For its second appearance there, the group joins forces with the eminent and like-minded Kronos Quartet to present an evening of chamber music (Aug 8). Chamber music also takes center stage at Music10, Switzerland’s intensive new music festival, where eighth blackbird heads the faculty as ensemble-in-residence for the second year running (June 21 – July 2).

One of the most prolific and frequently performed American composers alive today, Jennifer Higdon (b. 1962) is having a momentous year; in February her Percussion Concerto was awarded the Grammy for Best Contemporary Classical Composition, and two months later she won a Pulitzer Prize for her Violin Concerto. As the New York Times observed, “Higdon’s vivid, attractive works have made her a hot commodity.” On a Wire marks the composer’s second commission for eighth blackbird: Higdon wrote Zaka for the group in 2003. strange imaginary animals, the album that won the sextet two Grammy Awards (including the one for Best Chamber Music Performance), features the premiere recording of Zaka, which numerous critics singled out for praise. The Detroit Free Press pronounced the piece “a woosh of exuberant virtuosity” and Audiophile Audition deemed it “one of the stars on this CD.” Giving the disc full marks for performance and sound, BBC Music’s Paul Riley admired Zaka’s “high-octane larks” and remarked: “eighth blackbird play like musicians possessed; excited by the new, determined that their CD audiences will be too, they take wing, soaring on an upthrust of precision-tooled virtuosity.” As the Sacramento Bee concluded, “It’s sophisticated writing and playing of the first order.”

Now eighth blackbird takes on the work Higdon created especially for its own unique talents. The sextet gives the world premiere of On a Wire at its debut with the Atlanta Symphony – one of six orchestras that, with the Cabrillo Festival, combined to commission it – for three performances on June 3, 5, and 6 conducted by Music Director Robert Spano. Longtime champions of Higdon’s music, it was Spano and the Atlanta Symphony who premiered and recorded her most popular orchestral work, blue cathedral. The composer is one of the leading lights of the Atlanta School of Composers, which evolved from Spano’s commitment to nurture, commission, and record contemporary music with the orchestra, and on June 18 eighth blackbird reunites with Spano and the ASO to perform On a Wire at the Atlanta School of Composers Concert at the League of American Orchestras’ 65th national conference.

Later in the summer the sextet reprises Higdon’s new concerto in the “surf mecca of Santa Cruz,” where “the Cabrillo Festival has made the contemporary repertoire sound urgent, indispensable, and even sexy” (Financial Times). eighth blackbird will give On a Wire’s west coast premiere at the opening-night concert on August 6, supported by the resident Festival Orchestra under Music Director Marin Alsop, both recent recipients of the top national award of the American Society of Composers, Authors, and Publishers. It is also at Cabrillo that eighth blackbird will first share the stage with the revered Kronos Quartet – fellow Grammy Award-winning new music trailblazers – when the two come together to present “In the Blue Room” on August 8. At this special event to benefit the festival, the two ensembles will split the bill, each performing the innovative, adventurous repertoire for which it is famed.

If Cabrillo showcases eighth blackbird’s performing chops, the sextet’s other summer festival engagement – at Music10, in Switzerland – is set to harness its coaching expertise. A summer program of the University of Cincinnati’s College Conservatory of Music, MusicX is held in Blonay, Switzerland at the prestigious Hindemith Foundation Music Center, from June 21 to July 2; flutist Tim Munro dubs it a “little musical utopia in Swiss paradise!” Returning to the intensive new music festival for its second consecutive year as ensemble-in-residence, eighth blackbird collaborates with principal composers Stephen Hartke, Martin Bresnick, and Joel Hoffman, pianist Lisa Moore, and a select group of young composers and instrumentalists. Each young composer, having been assigned a specific ensemble, will present a piece to be rehearsed, performed, and recorded at the festival. Each ensemble will feature one member of eighth blackbird alongside selected instrumentalists, and will, besides the new composition, prepare and perform music by the three principal composers. All the works will be performed in a series of concerts in and around Blonay – which is, as Munro marvels, “un-bloody-believably-spectacularly-idyllic”!

Brooklyn: Hot Percussion/Flute Duo perform CD Release concert on May 28th

Flute/percussionist duo Conor Nelson and Ayano Kataoka will close the inaugural season of Music at First on May 28th, 2010 at 7:30pm. This special concert is held in celebration of the release of the Duo’s CD “Breaking Training,” (New Focus Recordings). Music at First is a new music series held at First Presbyterian Church of Brooklyn through May, 2010. First Presbyterian Church is located in Brooklyn Heights at 124 Henry St. Directions are at www.fpcbrooklyn.org. There is a $10 suggested donation at the door with no advance reservations or ticket sales.

This series, curated by Wil Smith (composer who also serves as organist at First Presbyterian), occurs monthly, featuring one performer or ensemble per evening. Smith describes Music at First as “a diverse mix of New York City's best new music ensembles and performers, accessible to a wide audience of both community members and seasoned new music listeners.” Earlier performers in the series began included Threefifty Duo, a “critic’s choice” (Time Out NY) performance by pianist Kathleen Supové, and cellist/vocalist/composer Jody Redhage and her band Fire in July.

René Pape Makes Debut as Wotan at La Scala in New Production of Wagner’s Rheingold under Daniel Barenboim

Ring Fans and Opera Lovers Around the World Can Experience Pape’s Wotan Live from La Scala via HD Satellite Broadcast on May 26 – and New Yorkers Can Watch “Live” at Symphony Space, at 2pm

“A glorious role debut that will change the perception of this Wagner character for the next decades”– Die Welt (Germany)

While a general theatrical strike caused the cancellation of the original opening night and delayed René Pape’s long-awaited role debut as Wagner’s King of the Gods, Wotan, Pape remarked calmly during his strike-imposed relaxation in a Milan hotel room, “Whenever it happens, it happens. My Wotan is ready to enter the world.”

The strike concluded, Wagner’s Das Rheingold opened on May 16 at La Scala in a new co-production by Milan’s Teatro alla Scala and the Berlin State Opera, directed by Guy Cassiers with Daniel Barenboim conducting.

“From the first balsamic, beautiful bass-baritone note, Pape is the center of attention: René Pape is shown as an almost conventional Wotan with double-breasted suit and spear. His ring: Michael Jackson’s glove as evil itself. Pape is a sad God, who nevertheless has authority as his powerful and flexible, thoroughly healthy voice unfolds throughout the evening. “A wonderful role debut, which will change the perception of this Wagner character for decades to come. One looks forward to its (further) development.” – Die Welt “The cast of singers is formidable, beginning with the warm, and, at the same time, terrifying Wotan from René Pape.” – Corriere della Sera (Milan) “The audience directed its well-deserved ovations primarily to the solid and charismatic René Pape (Wotan).” – Il Giornale (Milan)

Thanks to HD satellite technology, Ring lovers and Pape fans in the United States and around the world will be able to experience this new production of Das Rheingold live from La Scala on May 26.

For those who cannot make the broadcast, René Pape has recorded Wotan’s aria from Das Rheingold, “Abendlich strahlt der Sonne Auge,” on his ECHO Klassik Award-winning Deutsche Grammophon release, Gods, Kings & Demons, which is available on CD and also as a download on iTunes and elsewhere.

In the fall, after making his Metropolitan Opera role debut as Boris Godunov, Pape will return to La Scala as Wotan in Die Walküre.

Live in HD from La Scala: Das Rheingold, May 26 at 2pm EST

New York area
Symphony Space
2537 Broadway
New York, NY 10025
(212) 864-5400

Washington, DC area
Worldgate 9
13025 Worldgate Dr
Herndon, VA 20170
(703) 318-9290

Boston area
Cape Ann Community Cinema
21 Main St
Gloucester, MA 01930
(978) 309-8448

Philadelphia area
Bryn Mawr Film Institute
824 W Lancaster Ave
Bryn Mawr, PA 19010
(610) 527-1319

Dallas-Fort Worth area
Harkins Southlake
1450 Plaza Pl
Southlake, TX 76092
(817) 310-0345

RAVE Ridgmar
2300 Green Oaks Rd
Fort Worth, TX 76116
(817) 566-0021

Los Angeles area
Laemmle’s Sunset 5
8000 Sunset Blvd
Los Angeles, CA 90046
(323) 848-3500

Laemmle’s Town Center 5
17200 Ventura Blvd
Encino, CA 91316
(818) 981-9811

Laemmle’s Playhouse 7
673 E Colorado Blvd
Pasadena, CA 91101
(626) 844-6500

San Francisco area
Vogue Theater
3290 Sacramento St
San Francisco, CA 94115
(415) 346-2288

Jarvis Conservatory
1711 Main St
Napa, CA 94559
(707) 255-5445

Camera 7 Cinemas
1875 S. Bascom Ave
Campbell, CA 95008
(408) 559-6900

Alan Gilbert’s First Season as Music Director of New York Philharmonic Is the New York Premiere of György Ligeti’s Opera Le Grand Macabre

It will be a landmark event when Alan Gilbert, still in his inaugural season as Music Director of the New York Philharmonic, leads the orchestra and a cast of dynamic singers in a staged, multi-media production of Le Grand Macabre, an opera by Hungarian composer György Ligeti that received its premiere in 1978 in Stockholm. Though one of the most frequently performed contemporary operas, Ligeti’s masterpiece – a darkly comic, surreal, and surprisingly moving work about the apparent end of the world – has, remarkably, never before been performed in its entirety in New York. The staged performances at Avery Fisher Hall (May 27 – 29, 2010, with an open rehearsal on May 26) will feature designs and direction by Doug Fitch, a genre-crossing artist who has collaborated with Gilbert on a number of projects including staged operas at Santa Fe Opera and Los Angeles Opera. Gilbert observes, “I think Doug’s plans for this opera are perfect for this piece, and this remarkable score will, I’m sure, be given a superb performance by the New York Philharmonic musicians and an extremely talented cast of singers. I think it’s going to be an absolutely compelling rendition of this landmark of 20th-century opera.”

Ligeti’s utterly original music has long been attractive to Gilbert, who first came into contact with it as a violinist in the composer’s Horn Trio. In March 2007, as a guest conductor of the New York Philharmonic, Gilbert led the orchestra in a performance of Ligeti’s Violin Concerto (with soloist Christian Tetzlaff) that the New York Times called “a knockout” – and it was later selected by the same critic as one of the best musical events of the year. In an interview published in the May issue of Opera News, Gilbert explains to writer William R. Braun the decision to perform this particular opera.

Monday, May 24, 2010

Premiere Destination for Classical Music Connoisseurs Launches Spring 2010

"The long-awaited US launch of Passionato.com, intended as the World Wide Web's 'premier destination for classical music connoisseurs,' has finally happened." Stereophile

May 25th, 2010 marks the launch of Passionato, a new destination for classical music connoisseurs on the web. Passionato’s aim is to replicate a “corner record store” experience with a reach far beyond the corner. Passionato offers classical music lovers the largest available collection of CD-quality DRM-free classical music downloads (Now at over 300,000 tracks with more added daily). With no subscription, no membership requirements and nothing to sign-up for, Passionato provides a wide-ranging collection of recording from major labels (including Deutsche Grammophon and Decca, as well as Virgin and EMI Classics) along with numerous independent labels (such as Naxos, Chandos, Telarc and BIS). "The site promises to be a goldmine," raves Stereophile, "music lovers will find thousands of hard-to-find and immensely desirable titles just a click away." Designed for classical music lovers, Passionato caters to the classical music enthusiast community by offering recordings in digital download form, free of digital rights management (DRM) software, transferable to any portable device and burnable to CD. Downloads will be offered both as high quality 320kbps DRM-free MP3 files and in the CD-quality lossless FLAC format. The Passionato store will also offer an unprecedented level of recording information made up of original editorial content as well as reviews, profiles and recording information provided by All Music Guide, Oxford University Press, Gramophone, BBC Music Magazine, the Penguin Guide and Fanfare. Of course, vitally important to making sure consumers find the artist and repertoire they are looking for from the vast number of recordings now available, Passionato offers the ability to search their extensive catalogue of recordings using multiple fields and intuitive search functionality. Though the site offers music in high quality 320-mbps MP3 format, the Passionato store is dedicated to offering customers the easiest and most effective way to experience lossless CD-quality FLAC files from the largest library of such files anywhere, in any genre of music. With unsurpassed sound quality, gapless play and backwards compatibility (a FLAC file can be used to create an MP3 of any quality for any player), FLAC is the most versatile music format available. Passionato is supporting FLAC because it has become the most widely supported lossless audio codec. Passionato also believes that audiophiles can depend on FLAC for archival-quality digital storage because it is the only open standards lossless format unencumbered by patents, and FLAC has been implemented in a wide spectrum of open source projects. Opened in a soft-launch phase in February of this year, Passionato has found that FLAC has indeed proven to be the most popular format on the site – representing over two-thirds of total sales. Passionato also offers a free player that can play MP3 and FLAC files. Created for Passionato by MediaMonkey, the Passionato Player can play files and arrange a library as well as sync up to devices like iPods and all mobile phones. All MP3 tracks purchased on the Passionato service can also be played and stored on popular music players such as iTunes (and iPod), Windows Media and Real Player. FLAC files can be played on a variety of players, including the Passionato Player, built by MediaMonkey. For Mac users, Passionato has asked MacWorld writer Kirk McElhearn to create a guide for downloading and converting FLAC files into the Apple Lossless format that can then be played on iTunes, and transferred to Apple’s music playing devices, like iPods, iPhones and iPads. “Passionato is a classical boutique founded and run by the very audience it aims to serve,” says Passionato founder James Glicker. “I wanted to have a place where I could access, search and organize CD-quality downloads of virtually any classical recording available – now about 40,000 and counting – in a way that provides complete information, a comprehensive catalog and intuitive search – basically everything the classical collector needs. I believe we have done just that. No other site can offer what Passionato can.“

Thursday, May 20, 2010

Simone Dinnerstein Shows Grace, Poise and Mastery of Bach's Goldberg Variations in Denver

Simone Dinnerstein presented Bach's Goldberg Variations in an understated performance at the Newman Center in Denver tonight. With no fanfare or extended dialog with the audience, Ms. Dinnerstein came out on stage and held the audience enwrapt for nearly an hour and a half, working her way meticulously through the 32 variations originally published in 1741. Her grace and fluidity throughout the program were ever present, but it was her mastery of shifts in style and interpretation that really held the audience captive.

The opening "Aria" is a slow pensive piece requiring a deep understanding of the nuances in the music, the long melodic lines only making sense if they are played with sense of the whole and not just note to note. Ms Dinnerstein provided the most delicate shades from one note to the next to perfectly capture the lines in all their beauty. Much later in the program, the dark anguish of "Variation 21, Canon at the Seventh," had the same luxuriance as to the opening "Aria." Throughout the hall the audience was emotionally locked with the performance, agonizing with Ms. Dinnerstein as the depth of the emotional despair unfolded.

But Bach in not just slow and pensive. His florid finger work is some of the most demanding of any ever written. Throughout the program we were treated to Ms Dinnerstein's skill in this regard as well. "Variation 5" is not only blisteringly fast, but requires the hands to occasionally cross over. "Variation 14" is more intense with "Variation 17" a step up from there with "Variation 26" perhaps showing Bach (and Ms Dinnerstein) is completely insane! Ms Dinnerstein didn't miss a note, a bit or even seem to break a sweat. At the end of "Variation 26" the audience gave a noticeable gasp and nearly applauded in awe of the performance.

This concert was to live performance what her 2007 album Goldberg Variations is to recorded media. The CD is an amazing feat on its own, but to watch Ms Dinnerstein duplicate the flawless performance live is breath-taking. She has recently released The Berlin Concert featuring Bach's French Suite No. 5, Lasser's Twelve Variations on a Chorale by J.S. Bach and Beethoven's Piano Sonata No. 32. I can only hope she brings that performance to Denver sometime soon.

Tuesday, May 18, 2010


Ceremony Held at Opening Night Concert of the Cincinnati May Festival Friday, May 14, 2010

Conductor James Conlon was inducted into the American Classical Music Hall of Fame on stage at the opening night concert of the Cincinnati May Festival on Friday, May 14, 2010. David Klingshirn, Founder of the American Classical Music Hall of Fame and member of the May Festival Board, and Trish Bryant, President of the Board of the Hall of Fame presented Mr. Conlon with a medal in recognition of his significant contribution to American classical music. Founded in 1996, the American Classical Music Hall of Fame is a national institution dedicated to honoring outstanding musicians, composers, conductors, educators, administrators and institutions. Mr. Conlon will join a notable roster of conductors previously inducted into the Hall of Fame including Leonard Bernstein, George Szell, Lorin Maazel, James Levine, Michael Tilson Thomas and Zubin Mehta, as well as cellist Yo-Yo Ma and violinist Itzhak Perlman, among others.

James Conlon is Music Director of Los Angeles Opera, the Ravinia Festival, summer home of the Chicago Symphony Orchestra, and the Cincinnati May Festival. He has cultivated a vast symphonic, operatic and choral repertoire, and developed relationships with the world's most prestigious symphony orchestras and opera houses through 35 years of conducting. Mr. Conlon has served as Principal Conductor of the Paris National Opera (1995-2004); General Music Director of the City of Cologne, Germany (1989-2002), where he was simultaneously Music Director of the Gürzenich Orchestra and the Cologne Opera; and Music Director of the Rotterdam Philharmonic (1983-1991).

Currently in his 31st year as Music Director of the Cincinnati May Festival, James Conlon has provided the artistic leadership for more May Festivals than any other Music Director in the Festival’s 137-year history, and holds a place among the longest-tenured Music Directors of any major classical music institution in the country. This year’s May Festival comprises four concerts spanning two consecutive weekends in Cincinnati ’s historic Music Hall. At the opening night concert Mr. Conlon conducted choruses by George Frederic Handel, Beethoven’s Fantasia for Piano, Chorus and Orchestra featuring Van Cliburn finalist Di Wu as pianist, and Mozart’s “Great” C Minor Mass. On Saturday, May 15, he led a landmark performance of Bach’s St. Matthew Passion last performed at the 1985 May Festival, and on Sunday evening he conducted an additional concert at the Cathedral Basilica of the Assumption in Covington , Kentucky . The upcoming second weekend of the Festival includes a concert celebrating Robert Porco’s two decades as May Festival Director of Choruses on May 21, and an all-Russian program including works by Mussorgsky, Rachmaninoff and Tchaikovsky led by Mr. Conlon on the final night, May 22.

Fidelity Investments® and the Boston Pops Announce Winners of the 2010 Fidelity Futurestage Music Competition

Boston Public School Students to Perform with the Boston Pops on May 26 at Symphony Hall

Fidelity Investments® and the Boston Pops today announced the winners of the second annual Fidelity FutureStage 2010 Music Competition, a city-wide competition for Boston and Cambridge Public High School student musicians to perform at the Boston Pops concert at Symphony Hall on Wednesday, May 26 at 8:00 pm. The competition is part of Fidelity FutureStage, a national arts education initiative created by Fidelity Investments in 2006 to support middle and high school students in public schools and communities.

The four winning musical acts, including soloists and small ensembles, represent musical styles that range from jazz to bluegrass to international. In anticipation of their big night on the Symphony Hall stage, the student musicians will work directly with professional coaches including Keith Lockhart and musicians of the Boston Pops, who will help them prepare for their performances on May 26.

Winners of the 2010 Fidelity FutureStage Music Competition:
    LaWanda Hector (Dorchester), an 18 year-old senior vocalist from Roland Hayes School of Music; T. Davis Dillon of Roland Hayes School of Music, mentor.
    Muhan Zhang (Boston), a 17 year-old senior from Boston Latin School playing the erhu (two stringed bowed instrument); Chi-Sun Chan of Greater Boston Chinese Cultural Association, mentor.
    Copley Place from Boston Latin School, featuring:
        Ian Haines (Jamaica Plain), a 15 year-old sophomore banjoist
        Christopher Nguyen (Roslindale), a 18 year-old senior playing the cello
        Annie Osborn (Charlestown), a 18 year-old senior violinist
        Sherry Wu (West Roxbury), a 17 year-old senior violinist
        Paul Pitts of Boston Latin School, mentor
    Charlie Brown Blues Band from Boston Arts Academy, featuring:
        Gregory Groover Jr. (Roxbury), a 16 year-old junior saxophonist
        Gustavo Hernandez (Roslindale), a 18 year-old senior percussionist
        Nicolas Perez (Boston), a 17 year-old junior pianist
        Max Ridley (Boston), a 16 year-old junior playing the double bass
        Matt Clauhs of Boston Arts Academy, mentor

“It's an absolute delight to work with these talented young performers from our public schools and to showcase them at one of this season's Boston Pops concerts,” said Boston Pops Conductor Keith Lockhart. “I imagine that nearly every musician who performs on the Symphony Hall stage remembers the great joy and satisfaction that came from exploring music in their student days. Whether these students go on to professional music careers or become regular concert goers, the opportunities provided by Fidelity FutureStage are sure to inspire a life-long love of music.”

Three of the student musicians who will perform this year are repeat winners of the competition, though as part of new ensembles. Gustavo Hernandez, a senior percussionist from Boston Arts Academy, made his Boston Pops debut last spring as part of the jazz ensemble “The Underground Trio.” He cites his 2009 performance onstage with the Boston Pops as his biggest accomplishment to date and is thrilled to return to the Symphony Hall stage. “This experience has taught me that I can achieve anything,” said Hernandez.

That sentiment matches with Fidelity’s goals for the FutureStage program. “Fidelity created the FutureStage program to provide more opportunities for students to participate in the arts and encourage them to explore and share their talents,” said Jennifer K. Brown, executive vice president at Fidelity. “The winners of the 2010 Fidelity FutureStage Music Competition represent some of the great talent in our local classrooms, and we look forward to their performances at Symphony Hall on May 26.”

The ten student musicians who make up the musical acts that will perform with the Boston Pops are part of the FutureStage Class of 2010, joining winning student musicians of Fidelity FutureStage Music Competitions also held this spring in Chicago and Houston. The competition winners in those two cities are now preparing for concerts with the Chicago Symphony Orchestra and the Houston Symphony, respectively. Fidelity FutureStage will host a similar competition in Los Angeles, this fall, where students will compete for the opportunity to perform with the Los Angeles Philharmonic. In the meantime, students from one of Fidelity FutureStage schools in Los Angeles, Renaissance Arts Academy, will perform at opening night of the Hollywood Bowl, an annual event that celebrates music education.

Saint Louis Symphony Youth Orchestra Performs at Riverside Church, June 8th - Part of First Trip to New York City

NYC trip (June 5-9, 2010) first in series of events to commemorate 40th anniversary of Youth Orchestra

The Saint Louis Symphony Youth Orchestra (YO) will perform at the historic Riverside Church on Tuesday, June 8, 2010, at 7 PM as part of its first trip to New York City . YO Music Director and SLSO Resident Conductor Ward Stare will conduct the performance, which will benefit the Riverside Food Pantry. The concert repertoire will include Mendelssohn’s Reformation Symphony and other works performed during the YO’s 2009-2010 season. This concert is the first in a series of events to commemorate the YO’s 40th anniversary season. The YO was founded in 1970 by SLSO Conductor Laureate Leonard Slaktin.

Sixty-four current members of the YO and three alumni will spend four days in Manhattan visiting several New York music landmarks. YO musicians will tour two of the city’s famed performing arts institutions: Lincoln Center and Carnegie Hall. The young musicians will also visit three of the country’s top music schools: The Juilliard School, Manhattan School of Music, and Mannes College .

“The Youth Orchestra trip to New York will give members a new and unique performing experience in a wonderful space, introduce them first hand to some of New York 's musical institutions, and offer them a tour experience based on the professional operations’ procedures of the Saint Louis Symphony Orchestra.” says YO Manager Peggy Neilson .

As part of the tour, YO members will also attend a New York Philharmonic concert on June 5. The following day, the string, woodwind, brass, and percussion sections will rehearse and be coached by members of the Philharmonic.

YO members and their families have been raising funds to cover tour costs. Anyone interested in making donations in support of the tour may contact Peggy Neilson at 314-286-4407 or peggyn@slso.org.

Saint Louis Symphony Youth Orchestra NYC Performance:
Tuesday, June 8, 2010 7 PM
The Riverside Church
490 Riverside Drive
New York, New York 10027

Suggested donation at the door: $20/$15

Brahms Academic Festival Overture
Mendelssohn Symphony No. 5 "Reformation"
Vaughan Williams Fantasia on a Theme by Thomas Tallis
Bernstein Candide Overture
Rimsky-Korsakov Russian Easter Festival Overture

LSO Discovery Celebrates 20 Years of Pioneering Music Education with Anniversary Concert June 28th

LSO Discovery, the London Symphony Orchestra’s pioneering music education and community programme, celebrates its 20th anniversary with a concert in the Barbican Hall and a Foyer Festival of music, on Monday 28 June.

A variety of performances will take place on the Barbican stage from 7.30pm on Monday 28 June showcasing the breadth and diversity of LSO Discovery. Groups performing alongside the London Symphony Orchestra include LSO String Experience participants, the LSO St Luke’s Community Choir, LSO On Track Next Generation Scheme members, the LSO St Luke’s Youth Choir and the Community Gamelan Group. Repertoire includes music from Oliver, Orff Carmina Burana and Stravinsky The Firebird as well as Hummel’s Trumpet Concerto performed by Philip Cobb, LSO Principal Trumpet, and recent graduate of the LSO Young Talent programme.

Before the main evening concert, from 5.30pm, there will be a Foyer Festival in the Foyer areas of the Barbican involving LSO Discovery groups, including the LSO St Luke’s Digital Technology Group, young performers from the LSO Instrumental Learning Programme and ensembles from across East London as part of LSO On Track.

LSO Discovery 20th Anniversary Memory Blog
In the run up to the concert on 28 June, LSO Discovery has created a memory blog. Here anyone can submit memories about their involvement in LSO Discovery projects and the impact that taking part has had on their lives. The blog will include a mixture of comments and memories by past participants, LSO players and animateurs, revealing the varied experiences people have had with Discovery. The blog goes some way to show the impact that LSO Discovery has had over the past 20 years, and celebrates the continued effects it has on the lives of thousands of people. This website will not only be accessible to anyone online, but will also be available for people to view in an exhibition about LSO Discovery taking place in the Barbican Centre’s Fountain Room on the 28 June. http://lsodiscoveryat20.wordpress.com

Monday, May 17, 2010

Conor and Ayano Duo perform CD Release concert in Brooklyn on May 28th

Conor Nelson and Ayano Kataoka Flute/Percussion Duo Close Inaugural Season with CD Release Concert

Flute/percussionist duo Conor Nelson and Ayano Kataoka will close the inaugural season of Music at First on May 28th, 2010 at 7:30pm. This special concert is held in celebration of the release of the Duo’s CD “Breaking Training,” (New Focus Recordings). Music at First is a new music series held at First Presbyterian Church of Brooklyn through May, 2010. First Presbyterian Church is located in Brooklyn Heights at 124 Henry St. Directions are at www.fpcbrooklyn.org. There is a $10 suggested donation at the door with no advance reservations or ticket sales. Contact musicatfirst@gmail.com for more info.

This series, curated by Wil Smith (composer who also serves as organist at First Presbyterian), occurs monthly, featuring one performer or ensemble per evening. Smith describes Music at First as “a diverse mix of New York City's best new music ensembles and performers, accessible to a wide audience of both community members and seasoned new music listeners.” Earlier performers in the series began included Threefifty Duo, a “critic’s choice” (Time Out NY) performance by pianist Kathleen Supové, and cellist/vocalist/composer Jody Redhage and her band Fire in July.

Percussionist and marimbist Ayano Kataoka is known for her brilliant and dynamic technique, as well as the unique elegance and artistry she brings to her performances. A versatile performer, she regularly presents music of diverse genres and mediums. Last season, together with cellist Yo-Yo Ma at the American Museum of Natural History, Ms. Kataoka gave a world premiere of Bruce Adolphe’s Self Comes to Mind for cello and two percussionists, based on a text by neuroscientist Antonio Damasio, and featuring interactive video images of brain scans triggered by the live music performance. She also performed Leon Kirchner’s Flutings for Paula with Paula Robison in honor of Mr. Kirchner’s 90th birthday concert at New York’s Miller Theater and at the Gardner Museum in Boston. Kataoka was the first percussionist to be chosen for The Chamber Music Society of Lincoln Center’s Chamber Music Society Two, a three-season residency program for emerging artists offering high-profile performance opportunities.

Praised for his "long-breathed phrases and luscious tone" by the Minneapolis Star Tribune, Canadian flutist Conor Nelson is established as a leading flutist of his generation. Since his New York recital debut at Carnegie Hall's Weill Recital Hall, he has appeared frequently as soloist and recitalist throughout the United States and abroad. Recent performances include engagements with the Minnesota Orchestra, the Toronto Symphony Orchestra, the National Repertory Orchestra, the Philharmonia of Yale, the Manhattan School of Music Philharmona, the Stony Brook Symphony, the Oshawa-Durham Symphony Orchestra, the Brevard Repertory Orchestra, the Festival Wind Orchestra, the Kitchener-Waterloo Chamber Orchestra and at the Banff Centre. The only wind player to win the Grand Prize at the WAMSO Young Artist Competition, he recently won first prize at the William C. Byrd Young Artist Competition. In addition, he has received top prizes at the New York Flute Club Young Artist Competition and the Haynes International Flute Competition.

The King's Singers release "Swimming Over London" on May 25th

Follow-up album to the Grammy Award-winning "Simple Gifts," featuring new works and arrangements of popular fan favorites from extensive touring

After the 2009 Grammy Award-winning Simple Gifts and a world premiere recording of Pachelbel Vespers in March 2010, internationally-acclaimed vocal group The King's Singers return to the studio to record Swimming Over London, available on the Signum label on May 25, 2010. Featuring a diverse array of songs, this latest release captures jazz classics, current hits, and more, all arranged, performed, and recorded with the meticulous attention to detail and artistry that has established The King's Singers as one of the finest vocal ensembles throughout their history.

There are sample tracks from the album on their website. The rich tones and sumptuous harmonies are in true form, a definite delight for the ears.

Swimming Over London includes five original songs, commissioned specifically for the disc and written by Mia Makaroff, composer and arranger for Finnish vocal ensemble Rajaton; Ysaye M. Barnwell of Sweet Honey in the Rock; Roger Treece, arranger and performer in Bobby McFerrin's Voicestra ensemble; Alexander L'Estrange, composer and arranger for the Swingle Singers; and Bob Chilcott, a former King's Singer. Chilcott, a respected composer of vocal music, wrote the title track for the album, an evocative tale of a woman stretching her way over London to the coast based on a poem by Charles Bennett. Roger Treece, renowned arranger for groups including Manhattan Transfer and New York Voices, composed an original song ("Keeper of the Seasons") and arranged two contrasting songs: Sarah McLachlan’s beautiful "Angel" and Pat Metheny’s "September 15th." This release also marks the final King's Singers recording to feature bass Stephen Connolly, who departs the group in September to serve as Head of Vocal Studies at Cheltenham Ladies' College in the UK. A new group member will be announced later this spring.

Praised by Gramophone for "enchanting the ear from first to last note," The King's Singers are one of the most artistically adventurous and highly sought-after vocal ensembles in the world. With a musicianship that reaches effortlessly between the classical field and the lighter end of the repertoire, The King's Singers infuse each performance and recording with impeccable vocal blend and intonation, flawless articulation and timing, and remarkable sensitivity. Described by The Times (UK) as a group that has "stayed in character over four decades, yet retuned itself to the times," The King's Singers have a discography of well over 100 recordings and a host of international awards.

Active as a performing ensemble as well, the 2009/10 season sees The King's Singers performing at London's Cadogan Hall, Manchester's Bridgewater Hall, the Royal Albert Hall, York, Oxford, and the Sage Gateshead in the UK. An extensive international tour includes performances throughout the USA, Europe, and Scandinavia, with additional concerts in Japan, China, Taiwan, and South Korea. While on tour in the USA, The King's Singers will make an album with renowned Concordia College Choir for release in summer 2011. The ensemble has an incredible record of television appearances and performances as well, ranging from the 2002 Winter Olympics to the Mormon Tabernacle Choir's 2007 Christmas Concert and a special 40th anniversary BBC Proms performance at the Royal Albert Hall.

Passionate about supporting new choral music, The King's Singers have commissioned over 200 works from a host of prominent contemporary composers, including Richard Rodney Bennett, Luciano Berio, György Ligeti, Gian Carlo Menotti, Krzysztof Penderecki, Ned Rorem, John Rutter, Toru Takemitsu, and John Tavener. This season, the group will premiere works by Ivan Moody, Gabriela Lena Frank, John McCabe, Bob Chilcott, and Eric Whitacre. In addition to their sold-out concerts worldwide, The King's Singers share their artistry through numerous workshops and master classes. With over two million pieces of sheet music sold worldwide through publisher Hal Leonard, The King's Singers' arrangements are performed by schools, college choirs, and amateur and professional ensembles all over the world.

Dither's Invisible Dog Extravaganza! debut album on Henceforth Records

Dither Electric Guitar Quartet, New York's rising force in contemporary guitar music, announces Dither's Invisible Dog Extravaganza! in celebration of the release of their debut album on Henceforth Records. On Saturday, June 12, Dither will be joined by an eclectic community of collaborators to perform music that spans minimalism, noise, free improvisation, Celtic music, psychedelic synth-pop and the avant garde. $6 will earn you admission to the gallery, curious musical offerings throughout the evening, inexpensive drinks provided by Brooklyn Brewery, and a special reduced album price!

Highlights will include Elliott Sharp performing selections from Octal for eight-string guitarbass, a solo bagpipe performance from progressive piper Matthew Welch, a collaboration between pianist Kathleen Supové and composer/guitarist Nick Didkovsky, and the Deprivation Orchestra of NY's rendition of Eric km Clark's "Deprivation Music #1" for a large ensemble of hearing-deprived musicians! Dither will perform selections from their album, as well as the the world premiere of Eve Beglarian's "The Garden of Cyrus", Fred Frith's "Stick Figures" performed by two players on six table-top guitars, and James Tenney's rarely heard "Septet" for six guitars and electric bass.

The Invisible Dog Art Center is a beautiful new space in downtown Brooklyn. This historic building was once a manufacturing plant for invisible dogs in the 70's, and is now converted into a spacious industrial gallery. The Invisible Dog is adjacent to the Bergen F/G line, and a short walk from the 2/3/4/5/A/C/R lines.

Henceforth Records is progressive label based in San Diego, CA. It's growing roster includes projects and performances from Joan Jeanrenaud, Carla Kihlstedt, Satoko Fujii, Andrea Parkins, Jessica Constable, Lisle Ellis, George Lewis, Pamela Z, and Susie Ibarra. Henceforth's mission is to be a conduit for candor -- to bring forth the work of some of today's most vital artists whose vision expands the definitions of contemporary classical, improvised, electronic and experimental music.

Dither, a New York based electric guitar quartet, is dedicated to an eclectic mix of experimental repertoire which spans composed music, improvisation, and electronic manipulation. Formed in 2007, the quartet has performed in the United States and abroad, presenting new commissions, original compositions, multimedia works, and large guitar ensemble pieces. With sounds ranging from clean pop textures to heavily processed noise, from tight rhythmic unity to cacophonous sound mass, all of Dither's music wholeheartedly embraces the beautiful, engulfing, and often gloriously loud sound of electric guitars. The quartet’s members are Taylor Levine, David Linaburg, Joshua Lopes, and James Moore.

The Deprivation Orchestra of NYC is a collective of New York musicians, dedicated to the deprivation music of composer Eric km Clark. In Clark's work with hearing deprivation, the performers wear earplugs and cup-headphones, which playback white noise at a high volume. This makes it nearly impossible for an individual player to effectively coordinate with the ensemble or to judge his or her own sound. As the performers play from identical parts at their own internal tempo, the music begins in unison, and slowly drifts away into hypnotizing hermetic canons and driving sections of oddly flowing chaos

Joyce DiDonato Continues Her Stellar “Rossini Season,” Taking on New Role in Geneva and Paris: Elena in La donna del lago

Mezzo-soprano Joyce DiDonato has had a dream of a season, earning plaudits in the world’s top culture capitals, including London, where the Times declared her voice to be “nothing less than 24-carat gold.” The singer’s season has revolved around her specialty repertoire of Rossini, in which no mezzo is more celebrated. Following her hit solo Rossini album for Virgin/EMI (Colbran, the Muse), DiDonato now stars on one of the season’s hottest new DVDs – the EMI Il barbiere di Siviglia that captures the famous 2009 Covent Garden production where she performed in pink cast and wheelchair after literally breaking a leg on stage. Now DiDonato is taking on a new Rossini role, that of Elena in La donna del lago, based on Sir Walter Scott’s poem “The Lady of the Lake”.

As Elena, DiDonato is following in the footsteps of such performers as Rossini muse Isabella Colbran, Kiri Te Kanawa, Frederica von Stade, and June Anderson. After debuting as Elena at Switzerland’s Grand Théatre de Genève (May 5-17), DiDonato reprises the role a few weeks later at the Opéra National de Paris, where she sings alongside star tenor Juan Diego Flórez (June 14-30). London’s Telegraph marveled over DiDonato’s singing of an aria from La donna del lago at the Wigmore Hall: “ ‘Tanti affetti’ was a knockout, with a heart-stopping cadenza to the dreamy cavatina and sparkling fireworks in the triumphant cabaletta that left the entire audience with a silly smile on its collective face.”

Few singers on the international scene are enjoying a love affair with critics and audiences quite like DiDonato’s. The exuberant, engaging Kansas native – dubbed today’s “most user-friendly diva” by Opera News – completed a recital tour of Europe earlier this year that left reviewers throwing superlatives like roses. After the singer’s performance of Italian romances at London’s Wigmore Hall, critic Hilary Finch wrote in the Times: “DiDonato’s sheer love of sharing what she was doing radiated warmth.” Finch went on to praise not only DiDonato’s stage charisma but her vocal prowess: “Not one note is less than perfectly pitched, not one weak spot is heard throughout the register; and DiDonato is in total control… . The voice responds to every nerve-ending in the music with nuances of color.”

DiDonato’s recital tour – presenting a program that included 17th-century arie antiche, early Beethoven songs, and Rossini favorites – took the singer from across Spain and the Canary Islands to London and Brussels. Reporting on the two Wigmore Hall recitals, Opera Today noted an episode that underscored the American’s “user-friendly” charm: “The first half closed with DiDonato’s signature Rossini – the ‘Willow Song’ from Otello…. DiDonato’s relaxed demeanor was revealed when, just as she drew breath, a mobile phone interrupted proceedings: ‘It’s Otello,’ she quipped, ‘Tell him it’s not true.’ Unfazed and undistracted, the purity and transcendence of her performance was spell-binding.”

After she reprises her Italian love songs program in Paris on June 16 with pianist David Zobel, DiDonato will travel to Italy to resume her signature Rosina in a production of Il barbiere di Siviglia at Milan’s storied Teatro alla Scala (July 9-23). La Scala’s revival of Jean-Pierre Ponnelle’s staging will see DiDonato singing alongside the cream of today’s Rossini singers, including Juan Diego Flórez and Alessandro Corbelli.

A new role in Salzburg: Adalgisa in Bellini’s Norma
On August 9 and 14, Joyce DiDonato tackles another new role in a concert performance of Bellini’s beloved Norma at the venerable Salzburg Festival. DiDonato is joined by soprano Edita Gruberova in the title role and tenor Marcello Giordani as Pollione. Friedrich Haider leads the Camerata Salzburg and the Concert Association of the Vienna State Opera Chorus.

World Premiere Performances of The Dream Lives On: A Portrait of the Kennedy Brothers will be Recorded Live (May 18th and 19th)

Recording to include Narration by Robert De Niro, Morgan Freeman, Ed Harris, and Cherry Jones in the Premiere Performance with Keith Lockhart and the Boston Pops

The Boston Pops Orchestra’s world premiere performances of The Dream Lives On: A Portrait of the Kennedy Brothers on May 18 and 19, with guest narrators Robert De Niro, Morgan Freeman, Ed Harris, and Cherry Jones, and the Tanglewood Festival Chorus, under the direction of Keith Lockhart, will be recorded live for release as a CD and download (details below). In addition, Boston’s WCVB-TV5 will feature a full-length performance of the new work as part of a Memorial Day television special, An American Salute: The Pops at 125, May 31, at 7:30 p.m. Written by composer Peter Boyer and lyricist Lynn Ahrens and commissioned by Keith Lockhart and the Boston Pops, The Dream Lives On pays tribute to the legacies of John, Robert, and Edward Kennedy. The centerpiece of the Boston Pops’ 125th anniversary season, May 4-June 20, this new multi-media work combines quotes from speeches by the Kennedy brothers with original text and video, accompanied by a dramatic orchestral and choral score.

In addition to an audio recording, the Boston Pops will also release a video exclusive featuring interviews with Peter Boyer, Lynn Ahrens, and Keith Lockhart, and excerpts from The Dream Lives On on . The recording, available on CD and as a download, will be available at the Symphony Shop, located in Symphony Hall, Boston MA, and online at . The recording will also be available for download at www.bostonpops.org/digital. Music will be sold in 320 kbps open MP3 formatting and an HD Stereo option sold in Apple or PC format. The recording will also be made available on iTunes, CDBaby, and Amazon.com.

WCVB-TV Channel 5 will record the world premiere performances for broadcast as part of a Memorial Day special on May 31, at 7:30 p.m. An American Salute: The Pops at 125 will be hosted by Chronicle’s Anthony Everett and will feature The Dream Lives On in its entirety, as well as a behind the scenes look at the birth of a major new orchestral work.

Commissioning of The Dream Lives On: A Portrait of the Kennedy Brothers was made possible by generous support provided by Paul and Catherine Braverman and Robert and Evelyn Doran.

TICKET INFORMATION Tickets for the 2010 Boston Pops season at Symphony Hall are priced from $20-$99. All performances start at 8 p.m. with the exception of the Sunday Family Concert at 3 p.m. on June 20. Tickets to the gala fund raiser, Presidents at Pops, on May 19, start at $500, with some options including tickets to an exclusive Boat Cruise and Esplanade Concert on July 3, as well an additional Pops 125 event to be announced soon. For further information, call 617-638-9466. Performance-only tickets for May 19 are priced from $75-$250 and can be purchased by calling 888-266-1200 or at www.bostonpops.org. Tickets may be purchased online at www.bostonpops.org or by phone through SymphonyCharge at 617-266-1200 or 888-266-1200, Monday through Saturday from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. (with a $5.50 handling fee for each ticket ordered online or by phone). Tickets may also be purchased in person at the Symphony Hall box office, open 10 a.m. to 6 p.m., Monday through Saturday, and on Sunday from 1 p.m. through the first concert intermission on concert dates. Most major credit cards and cash are accepted at the box office. For Group Sales of 25 or more, please call 617-638-9345 or 800-933-4255.

Saturday, May 15, 2010

2010 Bard SummerScape Festival: “Berg and His World” with First U.S. Staging of Franz Schreker’s Opera The Distant Sound

Reviving an important but neglected opera is one of the ways the Bard SummerScape festival paints a faithfully nuanced portrait of each past age, and this year’s exploration of “Berg and His World” is no exception. To enrich its evocation of Viennese modernism, Bard presents the first fully-staged U.S. production of The Distant Sound (Der ferne Klang, 1910), by Berg’s compatriot Franz Schreker, in its centenary year. Returning to oversee the landmark production is the visionary Thaddeus Strassberger, who also directed last season’s resounding success at Bard, Meyerbeer’s grand opera Les Huguenots. The opera’s four performances (July 30, August 1, 4, & 6) feature the festival’s resident American Symphony Orchestra under music director Leon Botstein, who gives a free Opera Talk before the August 1 performance. This summer, Bard also offsets the gravitas with an authentic taste of Vienna’s lighter side, offering nine performances of Oscar Straus’s charming operetta The Chocolate Soldier (1908), directed by Will Pomerantz and conducted by James Bagwell (August 5–15).

There is a tendency today to identify musical modernism primarily with the Second Viennese School, and particularly with Schoenberg. Yet consideration of the period’s operas suggests that the reality was more complicated. “To tell the story of Viennese modernism through its operas would necessitate redrawing the city’s artistic faultlines,” writes Christopher Hailey, editor of the forthcoming volume, Alban Berg and His World. Two of the genre’s leading lights were Franz Schreker and Alexander von Zemlinsky, both of whom, Hailey explains, “had a profound influence upon Alban Berg, who prepared the piano vocal score of Der ferne Klang. Wozzeck and Lulu are unthinkable without their example. Indeed, Zemlinsky, Schreker, and Berg represent an aesthetic and musical triumvirate at least as compelling as the more familiar constellation of Berg, Schoenberg, and Webern.”

From 1901–03, the young Schoenberg was based in Berlin, where, like fellow Viennese composer Oscar Straus, he conducted Germany’s first cabaret, known as the “Überbrettl” (or “super music hall”). Co-founded by playwright Frank Wedekind, whose two “Lulu” plays would form the basis of Berg’s seminal opera of that name, Überbrettl was intended to raise the standard of variety theater, and Schoenberg and Straus – like Zemlinsky – were among those who made musical contributions. Schoenberg’s expressionist masterpiece Pierrot lunaire (1912) reveals cabaret’s enduring influence on his work, and cabaret songs predominate in the oeuvre of operettist Oscar Straus, who wrote more than 500. The story of musical modernism, then, rather than tracing a linear path, must embrace the complex web of relationships and ideas that flourished within the burgeoning artistic community of the time. Bard’s Schreker and Straus revivals play a pivotal part in representing Berg’s world in all its heterogeneous richness.

This year’s opera presentation, Franz Schreker’s The Distant Sound, though familiar in Europe, has never yet – in the century since its composition – been fully staged in North America. Hailed early in his career as the most significant musical dramatist since Wagner, Schreker (1878–1934) studied composition with legendary pedagogue Robert Fuchs, whose students included Mahler, Zemlinsky, Korngold, and Sibelius. Schreker’s music came to be characterized by aesthetic plurality, blending elements of Romanticism, naturalism, expressionism, and Neue Sachlichkeit (“new objectivity”), perhaps reflecting his sense of being something of a mixture himself, as the offspring of a controversial marriage between a Catholic aristocrat and a Jew. According to Hailey, who is also founder and director of the Franz Schreker Foundation, “Der ferne Klang – the distant sound – is a fitting metaphor for Schreker’s own struggle to find his voice because it captures something essential about the nature of his search, the quality of his aural experience.”

It was Botstein who gave The Distant Sound its long-overdue U.S. premiere in concert form, during the American Symphony Orchestra’s 2006–07 season, prompting Musical America critic Peter G. Davis to write: “Botstein’s sympathy for the score was apparent everywhere. … The spirit and sweep of the music could scarcely have been more fully captured.” Anthony Tommasini called the work an “arresting masterpiece,” noting in his New York Times review, “Below its melodramatic surface the opera teems with sensuality. Mr. Botstein brought sure dramatic pacing and fiery commitment to his account of this thick and complex score.”

“The premise of Der ferne Klang is simply told,” Hailey explains. “A composer forsakes a woman’s love for a chimeric sound that is but the distant echo of her presence. It is a tidy plot for an opera, a love story of tragic deferral and a paradoxical meditation upon the vanities of ‘l’art pour l’art’.” Besides telling the story of the composer and the elusive ideal shimmering beyond his grasp, the opera addresses the plight of his loved one, a woman exploited by the society she lives in, who survives by retreating into her dreams. Like Wagner, Schreker wrote his own libretto, and his masterful melding of disparate dramatic devices and psychological and cultural forces, along with the beauty and brilliance of his score, makes The Distant Sound one of the most moving and groundbreaking works of 20th-century opera.

Thaddeus Strassberger, director of last season’s lavishly praised Huguenots presentation and winner of the 2005 European Opera Directing Prize, returns to direct, with set designs by Narelle Sissons, whose credits include Babes in Toyland at Lincoln Center (2008), and costume design by Mattie Ullrich, who created the costumes for SummerScape’s productions of The Sorcerer (2007) and Les Huguenots (2009). Tenor Mathias Schulz stars as Fritz, and soprano Yamina Maamar plays Grete, in which role the New York Times described her performance as a “triumph.” The Distant Sound’s four performances (July 30, August 1, 4, & 6) will be sung in Schreker’s original German with English supertitles, and conducted by music director Leon Botstein.

Opera and operetta at SummerScape 2010
Franz Schreker (1878–1934)
The Distant Sound (Der ferne Klang, 1910)
Libretto: Franz Schreker
American Symphony Orchestra
Conducted by Leon Botstein, music director
Directed by Thaddeus Strassberger
Grete: Yamina Maamar
Fritz: Mathias Schulz
Old Grauman: Peter Van Derick
Grauman’s wife: Susan Marie Pierson
Innkeeper: Matthew Burns
Actor: Jeff Mattsey
Dr. Vigelius: Marc Embree
The Count: Corey McKern
The Chevalier: Jud Perry
Sosnoff Theater
July 30 and August 6 at 7 pm
August 1 and 4 at 3 pm
Tickets: $25, $55, $75

Two New Installments of Artemis Quartet’s Beethoven String Quartet Cycle

On the heels of a highly successful tour of Europe and North America (including concerts in twelve U.S. cities) dedicated exclusively to the music of Beethoven, the Artemis Quartet is heard this month on two new all-Beethoven releases (details follow). For two successive seasons the group is performing and recording Beethoven on two continents, as part of a Beethoven marathon that will conclude in Spring 2011 with additional live performances and the release of a boxed set of the composer’s complete string quartets on the Virgin Classics label.

In 2005, the quartet’s debut release for the label comprised Beethoven’s Op. 59, No. 1 and Op. 95. A second release in 2008 brought together Op. 59, No. 2 and Op. 18, No. 4, and introduced the ensemble’s newest members, Gregor Sigl (violin) and Friedemann Weigle (viola). The new release features four additional Beethoven quartets: Op.131; Op.18, No. 2; Op.132; and Op. 59, No. 3. Originally released as two separate CDs on the Ars Musici label, these will now appear on a single two-CD set from Virgin Classics.

"The Artemis String Quartet makes chamber music spectacular: the quartet's playing is polished and precise but at the same time spontaneous, fresh and explosive as though the music is being improvised on the spot. Even the physical motions involved with the bowing are beautifully choreographed to reflect the mood of the music." - The Enquirer

Beethoven: String Quartets Op. 131; Op. 18, No. 2; Op. 132; and Op. 59, No. 3
Artemis Quartet
Two-CD set and downloads available May 4, 2010 from Virgin Classics

This fourth installment of the Artemis Quartet’s traversal of Beethoven’s complete string quartets features the sixth and final quartet from his Op. 18 set, as well as the Op. 130 quartet and “Grosse Fuge,” Op. 133. The enormous, knotty and enigmatic “Grosse Fuge” was Beethoven’s original finale for the Op. 130 quartet, but because of its extraordinary technical demands and supposedly inscrutable character, his publisher convinced him to write an alternative finale. The “Grosse Fuge” was later published separately as Beethoven’s Op. 133, and appears on Artemis’s recording as the finale of Op. 130.

Beethoven: String Quartets Op. 18, No. 6; Op. 130; and Op. 133 (“Grosse Fuge”)
Artemis Quartet
CD and downloads available May 4, 2010 from Virgin Classics

Gustavo Dudamel and the Simón Bolívar Youth Orchestra of Venezuela Release Rite or Spring

Gustavo Dudamel, certainly the most talked about and celebrated conductor of his generation, releases his fifth Deutsche Grammophon recording featuring the Simón Bolívar Youth Orchestra of Venezuela. His previous recording for the yellow label focused on works by Tchaikovsky, and for this high-octane new recording, Rite available June 1, Dudamel focuses on another Russian composer: Stravinsky.

The Simón Bolívar Youth Orchestra of Venezuela under the direction of Dudamel is known for its overwhelming sound, awe-inspiring precision and, above all else, infectious and wild energy. With the discipline of an orchestra twice its age, the SBYOV channels its energy and efforts into giving concerts that repeatedly bring audiences to their feet and have continuously excited critics around the world. Just such a combination of energy and technique is needed to perform Stravinsky’s revolutionary Le Sacre du Printemps (The Rite of Spring). Reveling in the orchestral colors and emphasizing the rhythmic pulse that propels the work forward, Dudamel and the SBYOV give a decidedly refreshing and impressive performance.

“All these dances have a youthful energy”, says Gustavo Dudamel. “Spring reflects a new beginning, something important to young people. I’ve known the Sacre since my first concert as a thirteen-year-old violinist in my hometown orchestra. Now it’s also an important piece for the SBYOV. We first played it in 2009 in London, Madrid, Lisbon and, of course, several times in Venezuela. This orchestra simply has these rhythms in their blood – they even make one passage sound like heavy metal.”

As a counterpart to the well-known Stravinsky work, Dudamel has programmed the lesser-known but no less exciting La noche de los Mayas (Night of the Maya) by the Mexican composer Silvestre Revueltas. Dudamel has helped to bring more Central and South American music to the attention of audiences around the world, and this recording continues on this mission. Fiesta, a previous DG recording featuring Dudamel and the SBYOV, was devoted to Latin American composers and the release remains the conductor’s best-selling recording to date demonstrating that Dudamel and his young orchestra are probably the most persuasive advocates for this music performing today.

Repost: Rupert Sanderson's Sandals, Slaves in the Details

Repost from Operachic... this was too good...

London-based shoe designer Rupert Sanderson had apprenticeships in Bologna before starting his own private label, first working with Italian greats like Sergio Rossi and Bruno Magli. And maybe it was in Italy where he had inspiration for theatrics, something like what we witnessed in the gold wedge sandals designed for David McVicar's Verdi Aida, now going onto its last performance at London's Royal Opera House.

Worn by Marianne Cornetti's Amneris, we've been told that the sandals (for whatever reason) were shelved after the first performance and have been replaced by normal footwear.

The sandals shared the spotlight with Micaela Carosi's Aida, Marcelo Alvarez's Radames, and Nicola Luisotti on the podium.

Saint Louis Symphony Updates Information Regarding the October 2nd 2010 Gala Feature Soprano Renée Fleming

Soprano Renée Fleming, one of the most beloved and celebrated vocalists of our time, will be the featured artist at this year’s Saint Louis Symphony Orchestra gala, “La Diva Renée.” The event will be held on Saturday, October 2, 2010 with Fleming headlining a performance by the SLSO conducted by Music Director David Robertson. Following the concert, gala attendees will be transported to the Wells Fargo Advisors Benjamin F. Edwards III Learning Center for cocktails, dinner, and dancing.

Dr. Virginia Weldon, former SLSO Board Chairman, is the gala chair. Kimberley Eberlein and Ann Sullins serve as co-chairs. The honorary chair for the gala is Mary Ann Lee.

Gala Schedule:
Powell Hall
6:00 pm Cocktails and Hors d’oeuvres
7:00 pm SLSO Concert with Renée Fleming

Wells Fargo Advisors Benjamin F. Edwards III Learning Center ( 2801 Market St. , Saint Louis , MO 63103 )
8:30 pm Cocktails
9:00 pm Dinner and Dancing

Gala ticket packages for “La Diva Renée” are now on sale starting at $750 for a combined ticket to the concert and seated dinner. Please contact Mary Balmer at 314-286-4446 to place an order. Individual concert-only tickets ($55-$150) are also on sale & will be sold through the box office at 314-534-1700 or visiting www.slso.org. For information about event sponsorship, please contact Kathryn Feldt, Director of Institutional Relations at 314-286-4183 or kathrynf@slso.org.

“The Fellowship of the Ring” with live accompaniment performed by the Saint Louis Symphony Orchestra & Chorus

The Saint Louis Symphony Orchestra and Chorus will provide live music for one of the greatest movie adventures, The Fellowship of the Ring, shown in Powell Hall. Tickets for all 2010-2011 SLSO Presents concerts may be purchased online at www.slso.org, or by phone at 314-534-1700, or in person at the Powell Hall Box Office, 718 N. Grand Blvd.

The music of the film trilogy The Lord of the Rings was composed by Howard Shore. The complete 10 hours of music are available on CD/DVD box set and have toured around the world with Howard Shore conducting. The music was composed in an emotional, operatic way, with numerous leitmotifs similar to Wagner's Ring trilogy.

The scores for The Fellowship of the Ring and The Return of the King won Academy Awards in 2002 and 2004. The latter film also won an Oscar statuette for Best Song, as well as the Golden Globes for Best Original Score - Motion Picture and Best Original Song. Shore's music for The Lord of the Rings has become the most successful composition of its composer's career.

Friday, May 14, 2010

Nicholas Kraemer Takes Colorado Symphony Back to the Palaces of Europe with Enchanging Evening of Baroque Music

Music of the Baroque period was either funded by the church or the nobility. In many respects listening to this music is like taking a time machine back to when stately parties and fancy dress was all in an evenings entertainment. With a knack for the nuances of baroque music, Nicholas Kraemer conducted the Colorado Symphony Orchestra through a delightful concert of some great music.

Opening with the Suite from The Fairy Queen by Henry Purcell, Maestro Kraemer allowed the intimate beauty of a chamber ensemble fill Boettcher Hall. Sweeping his hands to guide the orchestra, Kraemer brought to life the subtle shifts not necessarily notated in the music, adding depth and flow to the piece. There were sparkling solo violin moments with Concertmaster Yumi Hwang-Williams, and other times when the entire violin section flavored the music with rich swells of sound.

Corelli, the father of the Concerto, was next on the program with the Colorado Symphony performing his Concerto Grosso in F major. As Kraemer pointed out in his brief talk before the second half of the concert, Corelli's Concerto Grosso is filled with texture but not necessarily melody, technique but not sweeping storyline. It was wonderful listening to Ms Hwang-Williams and Principal Second Violinist Paul Primus play off each other. They matched styles so well it was impossible to tell from sound alone who was playing when.

The first half of the program finished with Bach's Suite No. 3 in D major. The small chamber ensemble was enhanced with timpani and trumpets which added a delightful color to the evening. William Hill, Principal Percussionist, did well to keep the timpani at just the right level, adding punch to moments in the music without ever being obtrusive. And yet, there were also times when he allowed the drums to ring out with all their glory.

The second movement is one of the most famous pieces of music of all time, re-written and known as Air on a G-string. However, played with the entire ensemble Nicholas Kraemer gave more punch and vitality to the normally lush, sweeping melody. This made a familiar work fresh and come alive as I've not heard before.

The final Gigue was a glorious movement for the trumpet section. It is unfair to only mention Justin Bartels on Principal Trumpet when the entire section did so well to adding their color to the music. However, it was the piccolo trumpet played by Mr Bartels that really cut through with the high notes, dominating when it needed to and yet blending perfect the rest of the time.

Nicholas Kraemer gave a brief talk to open the second half of the concert, describing the difference between the texture rich Corelli concerto and the tuneful Handel concerto. Handel's Concerto Grosso in B-flat major gave numerous instrumentalists a chance to shine. Again, Ms Hwang-Williams and Mr Primus demonstrated their virtuosity as part of soloist element in the concerto. Peter Cooper, Principal Oboest was featured in the Largo with a sumptuous oboe performance. The Cellists Silver Ainomae and Matthew Switzer with Bassoonist Chad Cognata were also featured in Handel's rich work.

Before the audience could quell their enthusiasm for Nicholas Kraemer, he started the final piece of the evening, Handel's Music for the Royal Fireworks. Majestic and rich, opulent yet nuanced, Kraemer plied the orchestra through this grand work which again features the amazing trumpet section and percussion, but also gives a chance for the horns to really shine. This is grand music written for a celebration at the end of a war, but also to accompany fireworks as requested by the King of England. Royal music with all the pomp and pageantry of the age. This was anything but just another stuffy concert of old, forgotten music. Nicholas Kraemer brings new life and vitality to Baroque music and with the talented Colorado Symphony Orchestra they create a rich musical experience.

The concert can be heard again on Saturday, May 15th at 7:30 and Sunday, May 16th at 2:30.

Thursday, May 13, 2010

Thomas Hampson Elected to the American Academy of Arts & Sciences

American Baritone Now in Zurich for Production of Tchaikovsky’s Eugene Onegin

Now celebrating its 230th anniversary, the American Academy of Arts and Sciences has elected baritone Thomas Hampson as one of its new members. A center for independent policy research, the Academy is among the nation's oldest and most prestigious honorary societies, and Hampson is one of 229 leaders in the arts, humanities, sciences, business, and public affairs to be awarded membership this year. The new 2010 members will be inducted at a ceremony on October 9, at the Academy's headquarters in Cambridge, Massachusetts.

"To be included amongst such prominent cultural and civic leaders for membership in the American Academy of Arts and Sciences fills me with enormous pride and gratitude," says Thomas Hampson. "The study and celebration of cultural and intellectual identity, whether in the US or abroad, has always been extremely important to me as a human being and as an artist. I share this honor in spirit with all the individuals who have helped shape and continue to shape our society, whether in the arts, business, public affairs or the various academic disciplines. Promoting cross-disciplinary intellectual dialogue has never been more important than today and is crucial for how we continue to develop this country and the world.”

Thomas Hampson is in excellent company: In the arts and humanities, other new members include theologian Harvey Cox, Jr.; Pulitzer Prize-winning historian Daniel Howe; Suzanne Farrell, former New York City Ballet principal dancer and founder of her own ballet company at the Kennedy Center; actors John Lithgow and Denzel Washington; director Francis Ford Coppola; and jazz saxophonist Sonny Rollins. The new members in the 2010 class include winners of the Nobel, Pulitzer, and Shaw Prizes; MacArthur and Guggenheim fellows; and Grammy, Tony, and Oscar Award winners. Since its founding in 1780 by John Adams, James Bowdoin, John Hancock, and other scholar-patriots, the Academy has elected intellectual leaders from each generation, including George Washington, Benjamin Franklin, Daniel Webster, Ralph Waldo Emerson, Albert Einstein and Winston Churchill. The current membership includes more than 250 Nobel laureates and more than 60 winners of the Pulitzer Prize.

New York City Ballet’s Presents New York Debut of Thomas Adès’s Concentric Paths in World Premiere of New Ballet by Wayne McGregor (May 14)

As part of New York City Ballet’s “Architecture of Dance – New Choreography and Music Festival”

On Thursday, April 29, New York City Ballet opened its 2010 spring season with the inaugural performance of the “Architecture of Dance – New Choreography and Music Festival.” The evening featured two world premieres beginning with Benjamin Millepied’s Why am I not where you are, choreographed to The Lost Dancer, a “splendid commissioned” work (Village Voice) by French composer Thierry Escaich. Alexei Ratmansky’s Namouna, A Grand Divertissement, was the second work on the program, choreographed to Édouard Lalo’s iconic score, Namouna. The premieres continue on May 14 when Thomas Adès’s “eloquent” (Los Angeles Times) violin concerto, Concentric Paths, receives its New York debut at the world premiere of a new ballet by Wayne McGregor.

Renowned as both composer and performer, Britain’s Thomas Adès works regularly with the world’s leading orchestras, opera companies, and festivals. In September 2005 he directed violinist Anthony Marwood and the Chamber Orchestra of Europe in premiere performances of Concentric Paths at the Berliner Festspiele and London’s BBC Proms. An EMI disc of the work, with the same forces, was issued in March. Now the New York City Ballet presents Concentric Paths with choreography by Adès’s compatriot Wayne McGregor, the resident choreographer of London’s Royal Ballet, and NYCB co-concertmaster Kurt Nikkanen as soloist. The new ballet will be McGregor’s first work for NYCB, and will also mark the first time that he has created an original piece for an American company.

To celebrate the company’s long tradition of commissioning new music, which dates back to George Balanchine’s collaborations with Stravinsky and Hindemith, four new scores were commissioned for “Architecture of Dance.” Those by Jay Greenberg and Bruno Moretti will receive world premieres in June, as Escaich’s did in April, and Esa-Pekka Salonen’s powerful Violin Concerto will have its New York premiere, with the composer conducting and the concerto’s dedicatee Leila Josefowicz as soloist, on June 22. All seven of the ballets in “Architecture of Dance” are world premieres, with new choreography by Melissa Barak, Mauro Bigonzetti, Peter Martins, and Christopher Wheeldon, as well as by Millepied, Ratmansky, and McGregor. Five of the ballets – including all four of those with new music – feature designs by preeminent architect Santiago Calatrava. Besides the festival, New York City Ballet’s 2010 spring season, which runs through June 27 at Lincoln Center’s David H. Koch Theater, pays tribute to the company’s extraordinary repertory, with 29 performances of ballets by founding choreographers Balanchine and Jerome Robbins.

“Architecture of Dance”: the seven world-premiere ballets

Commissioned score by Thierry Escaich; new ballet by Benjamin Millepied
Sat, May 22 at 2pm and 8pm
Wed, May 26 at 7:30pm
Thurs, May 27 at 8pm
Thurs, June 3 at 8pm

Score by Édouard Lalo; new ballet by Alexei Ratmansky
Wed, May 12 at 7:30pm

Score by Thomas Adès; new ballet by Wayne McGregor
World premiere: Friday, May 14 at 8pm
Sat, May 15 at 8pm
Tues, May 18 at 7:30pm
Thurs, May 20 at 8pm
Fri, May 21 at 8pm

Score by Alberto Ginastera; new ballet by Christopher Wheeldon
World premiere: Saturday, May 29 at 8pm
Tues, June 1 at 7:30pm
Fri, June 4 at 8pm
Sun, June 6 at 3pm
Fri, June 11 at 8pm

Commissioned score by Jay Greenberg; new ballet by Melissa Barak
World premiere: Saturday, June 5 at 8pm
Wed, June 9 at 7:30pm
Sun, June 13 at 3pm
Thurs, June 24 at 8pm

Commissioned score by Bruno Moretti; new ballet by Mauro Bigonzetti
World premiere: Thursday, June 10 at 8pm
Sat, June 12 at 2pm and 8pm
Fri, June 18 at 8pm
Sat, June 19 at 2pm

Commissioned score by Esa-Pekka Salonen; new ballet by Peter Martins
World premiere: Tuesday, June 22 at 7:30pm
Wed, June 23 at 7:30pm
Sat, June 26 at 2pm and 8pm

Deutsche Grammophon Released Gustavo Dudamel’s Live Recording of John Adams’ City Noir to Coincide with National Tour, Available May 11, 2010

On October 8, 2009, Gustavo Dudamel began his tenure as the Music Director of the Los Angeles Philharmonic with an Inaugural Concert in Walt Disney Concert Hall. Deutsche Grammophon was on-hand to record the evening and, to great success, has already released a digital-only recording of Mahler’s Symphony No. 1 and a DVD of the entire event. DG released the digital-only recording of John Adams’ City Noir on May 11, 2010. The work will be performed at select concerts on the Los Angeles Philharmonic’s US tour with Dudamel conducting.

Adams found a suggestion for City Noir in his reading of the “Dream” books by Kevin Starr, particularly the “Black Dahlia” chapter of Embattled Dreams, which covers the sensational journalism and film noir of the late 1940s and early ‘50s. “Those images and their surrounding aura whetted my appetite for an orchestral work that, while not necessarily referring to the soundtracks of those films, might nevertheless evoke a similar mood and feeling tone of the era,” writes Adams. As the season draws to a close, Dudamel takes the Philharmonic on an 8-city, 10-concert US tour, the orchestra’s first in almost a decade. In addition to performing City Noir and Mahler’s Symphony No. 1, they will offer performances of Bernstein’s Age of Anxiety with pianist Jean-Yves Thibaudet and Tchaikovsky’s Symphony No. 6. Click here for more information on the tour.

Maltese Tenor Joseph Calleja – “Among the Best Singers of Our Time” – Is Now Represented by 21C Media Group

Joseph Calleja, who appeared as Tebaldo on Deutsche Grammophon’s recent recording of Bellini’s I Capuleti e i Montecchi is rising star.

"Joseph Calleja as Tebaldo has a gorgeous voice, which is rich and sonorous, with a strength that provides punch while still maintaining tenderness. His “L’amo tano” perfectly sets him up as Romeo’s nemesis." - Interchanging Idioms

21C Media Group is delighted to announce that it now represents Joseph Calleja, handling his media and public relations. One of the most promising artists of his generation, the Maltese singer is already one of the tenors most sought after by leading opera houses on both sides of the Atlantic. His recent successes include runs at New York’s Metropolitan Opera, where he “brought the house down” in Donizetti’s L’elisir d’amore (Classical TV) and “gave his all, singing with ardor, stamina, and poignant vocal colorings and winning a rousing ovation” in the title role of Bartlett Sher’s new production of Offenbach’s Tales of Hoffmann (Anthony Tommasini, New York Times).

Calleja opens the Houston Grand Opera's 2010/11 season as Pinkerton in a new Michael Grandage production of Puccini's Madama Butterfly. He also returns to the Met in the coming season, reprising three of his signature roles: Rodolfo in La bohème, the Duke of Mantua in Rigoletto, and, opposite Natalie Dessay’s Lucia, Edgardo in Lucia di Lammermoor (winter 2010 – spring 2011).

Calleja’s upcoming international highlights include an appearance in the prestigious International Vocal Recital series at Toronto’s Roy Thomson Hall on May 28. The tenor is no stranger to Canadian audiences, having made his debut with the Canadian Opera Company as Rodolfo in La bohème a decade ago, when he was only 22 years old.

This summer, Calleja sings Gabriele Adorno in Verdi’s Simon Boccanegra opposite Plácido Domingo in the title role at London’s Royal Opera House, Covent Garden and at the BBC Proms. It was after a previous Covent Garden performance – as Alfredo in La traviata – that the Times of London declared: “The Maltese tenor’s beautifully rounded voice oozes old-school class – he’s shiveringly good,” while the New York Times agreed: “He is the real thing, a tenor who naturally combines plaintive sound with burnished intensity. He sings with heart and intelligence.”

“Triumphal Roar” Greets Dallas Opera Premiere of Jake Heggie’s Moby-Dick

Nation’s Critics Join Audiences in Extending Warm Welcome to New Winspear Opera House’s First World Premiere, and Production Is Called “A Game-Changer”

“Ben Heppner simply is Captain Ahab” – Dallas Morning News

The Washington Post captured the impact of The Dallas Opera’s premiere of Moby-Dick by composer Jake Heggie and librettist Gene Scheer on April 30:

“While new work is often seen by audiences as more a duty than a pleasure, the opening-night crowd in Dallas broke into spontaneous applause three times during the first half, and screamed and yelled its approval at the curtain calls. It was a wonderful and rare reminder that new opera truly can excite people if it’s done right.”

The nation’s top media outlets gathered in Dallas for the first world premiere to be held at The Dallas Opera’s new home, the Winspear Opera House, which will host Moby-Dick through May 16. The New York Times reported, “Mr. Heggie’s opera was an undeniable success: the end of its maiden voyage was greeted with a sustained, rousing ovation, with shredded programs fluttering down from the highest seating level. The strongest response was reserved for Mr. Heggie and Mr. Scheer, received at the end with a triumphal roar.”

The Associated Press confirmed that the opening night’s performance was “achingly beautiful, magnificently sung, and gorgeously staged…[:] the highlight of the first season at the sparkling new Winspear Opera House.”

Hometown critic Scott Cantrell, of the Dallas Morning News, led the universal praise of the tenor starring as Herman Melville’s iconic Captain Ahab: “Ben Heppner simply is Ahab. Hobbling heavily on his peg leg, he exudes both macho charisma and hints of schizophrenia. And he sings a role of Wagnerian heft with a beefy tenor of many colors and textures, and strikingly clear diction.” The Associated Press lauded the emotional force of Heppner’s performance: “His Ahab is every bit as tragic as Lohengrin, Tristan, Otello, and Ghermann, some of the roles that made him famous.”

The Wall Street Journal described the entire cast as “splendid,” while singling out Stephen Costello: “The excellent young lyric tenor singing Greenhorn got several fine showpieces, particularly his Act II musing on Ahab, ‘Human madness is a cunning and most feline thing.’”

Musical America applauded the production by Leonard Foglia, with its sets by Robert Brill, costumes by Jane Greenwood, lighting by Donald Holder, and projections by Elaine J. McCarthy: “Foglia’s production emerges as an operatic game-changer. Largely through the use of state-of-the art projections, Foglia renders the visceral power of whale hunts and other aspects of life at sea with a realism that would have been difficult to achieve via traditional stagecraft.”

With Moby-Dick, Heggie and Scheer distilled Melville’s vast book into a two-act, three-hour operatic event, brought to life with grand orchestration and a 40-voice men’s chorus. The San Francisco Chronicle wrote: “The powerfully and emotionally irresistible new work doesn’t shy away from the challenges presented by Melville’s landmark novel. Instead, it deftly sidesteps them, drawing from the source only those things needed for the drama and using Heggie’s lush, expressive music to carry the show.”

Of Heggie’s score, Cantrell wrote, “Heggie composes vocal lines that illumine words and emotions… . His orchestral and choral writing are fine-tuned to the drama and often beautiful. He achieves lushness with often complex harmonies and counterpoints.” The Associated Press noted the conducting of Patrick Summers, the Music Director of Houston Grand Opera who also premiered three previous Heggie operas: Dead Man Walking, The End of the Affair, and Three Decembers (Last Acts). The AP said that Summers conducted “with such insight into the ebbs and flows, it seemed he had been studying this score for far longer than it has existed.”

The Financial Times was at the Winspear, too, declaring, “The score boasts striking melodies, vivid atmospheric scenes… . Moby-Dick makes for an absorbing night at the opera.” And Musical America summed it up: “Heggie’s opera Dead Man Walking (2000) found many fans. Moby-Dick could have similar, or even greater, success.”