MEMETERIA by Thomas May

Music & the Arts

San Francisco Opera Announces 2020-21 Season

fidelio

Season 98 at San Francisco Opera has been announced.

The lineup includes: Fidelio, Rigoletto, Così fan tutte, The Handmaid’s Tale by Poul Ruders, La bohème, The Barber of Seville, and Alexander Zemlinsky’s Der Zwerg (“The Dwarf”). Lianna Haroutounian and Iréne Theorin will also appear in a concert titled A Celebration of Verdi and Wagner.

Immediately of note is the shift of the customary summer season to April and May (a consequence of renovations that will be taking place in the War Memorial Opera House). And there are now concerts for the traditional season opening as well as the third summer (now spring) season opera.

This season will be the first under new music director, Eun Sun Kim. But there are too many safe and predictable choices. I’m especially glad to see the Ruders (I reviewed the North American premiere of The Handmaid’s Tale at Minnesota Opera 17 years ago) and the gorgeous, heartbreaking, neglected Zemlinsky (which I reviewed just last year in Berlin)–though not sure how that will work as the sole offering.

Here’s the press release.

Complete 2020-21 Season listing:

FALL 2020

OPENING NIGHT CELEBRATION CONCERT with soprano Albina Shagimuratova and tenor Pene Pati; Eun Sun Kim conducts the San Francisco Opera Orchestra September 11, 2020 (8 pm)

FIDELIO by Ludwig van Beethoven NEW SAN FRANCISCO OPERA PRODUCTION September 12 (7:30 pm), 15 (7:30 pm), 18 (7:30 pm), 23 (7:30 pm), 27 (2 pm), October 1 (7:30 pm), 2020

RIGOLETTO by Giuseppe Verdi September 13 (2 pm), 16 (7:30 pm), 19 (7:30 pm), 22 (7:30 pm), 26 (7:30 pm), October 2 (7:30 pm), 4 (2 pm), 2020

COSÌ FAN TUTTEby Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart NEW SAN FRANCISCO OPERA PRODUCTION October 6 (7:30 pm), 11 (2 pm), 14 (7:30 pm), 17 (7:30 pm), 23 (7:30 pm), 28 (7:30 pm), 2020

THE HANDMAID’S TALE by Poul Ruders WEST COAST PREMIERE October 29 (7:30 pm), November 1 (2 pm), 11 (7:30 pm), 14 (7:30 pm), 17 (7:30 pm), 20 (7:30 pm), 22 (2 pm), 2020

LA BOHÈME by Giacomo Puccini November 15 (2 pm), 18 (7:30 pm), 21 (7:30 pm), 24 (7:30 pm), 28 (7:30 pm), 29 (2 pm), December 2 (7:30 pm), 3 (7:30 pm), 4 (7:30 pm), 5 (7:30 pm), 6 (2 pm), 2020

SPRING 2021
THE BARBER OF SEVILLE (IL BARBIERE DI SIVIGLIA) by Gioachino Rossini
April 25 (2 pm), 28 (7:30 pm); May 1 (7:30 pm), 4 (7:30 pm), 7 (7:30 pm), 11 (7:30 pm), 14 (7:30 pm), 16 (2 pm), 2021

DER ZWERG by Alexander Zemlinsky COMPANY PREMIERE April 27 (7:30 pm), 30 (7:30 pm), May 5 (7:30 pm), 9 (2 pm), 15 (7:30 pm), 2021

LIANNA HAROUTOUNIAN & IRÉNE THEORIN IN CONCERT May 2 (2 pm), 6 (7:30 pm), 8 (7:30 pm), 2021
Henrik Nánási, conductor

Filed under: music news, San Francisco Opera

DSO’s New Music Director: Jader Bignamini

Congratulations to Jader Bignamini, who has been named the Detroit Symphony Orchestra’s 13th music director. The young Italian conductor’s six-year contract begins this fall. He will fully take over in the 2021-22 season.

From Brian McCollum’s report for the Detroit Free Press:

DSO officials point to Bignamini’s musical knowledge, collaborative flair and dexterous leadership as traits that won them over. Most important, said Parsons, he has “the full support of our musicians,” four of whom sat on the search committee that ultimately zeroed in on the Italian.

For the New York Times, Michael Cooper observes:

Choosing a conductor who has been best known for opera — when he jumped in for Mr. Slatkin in 2018, it was for concert performances of Puccini’s “Turandot” — and who is not yet well known in the United States is something of a risk for this orchestra. The Detroit Symphony started the last decade with a painful strike and has been working to rebuild itself ever since, alongside its struggling city — in part by stressing accessibility and streaming concerts for free online.

Filed under: conductors, music news

Wozzeck: Live in HD from the Met

The Metropolitan Opera’s new production of Alban Berg’s Wozzeck, directed by William Kentridge, will be broadcast this afternoon.

Filed under: Alban Berg, Metropolitan Opera, music news

RIP Peter Schreier (1935-2019)

Tenor and conductor Peter Schreier died on Christmas Day in his beloved Dresden — whose Kreuzchor boys’ choir he had joined at the age of ten, when the city lay in ruins.

Deutsche Welle observes: “As GDR ‘export star’ he enjoyed rare travel privileges in the tightly-controlled GDR but reputedly without ever becoming a member of the communist SED party — a necessity for most East Germans who hoped to travel.”

“A day without music is a wasted day,” remarked Schreier, who retired from the stage in 2000 and from concert performances in 2005.

And from the Neue Zürcher Zeitung:

It was especially in the area of the German art song, along with Bach’s oratorios, that Schreier shone at his best. His sensitivity as a performer allowed him to take care to steer clear of manneristic gestures in Schubert’s song cycles as well as in the Hugo Wolf lieder that need to be performed with maximal attention to illuminating the text. Instead, he ensured that musical expressiveness was integrated into the larger whole…

Filed under: music news

Das Beethoven-Jahr: Es Geht Los

And so it begins. Bonn opens the anniversary year with a collage by Paul Griffiths.

And here’s a slew of Beethoven-related stories from Deutschlandfunk — including such matters as the transformation of the “Ode to Joy” into Europe’s hymn and Liszt’s piano transcriptions of the symphonies.

Filed under: anniversary, Beethoven, music news

Aya Yoshida Wins the Zemlinsky Prize

The 27-year-old Japanese composer Aya Yoshida has won the 2019 Zemlinsky Prize for Composition, which has been presented to young composers from around the world since 1990 by the University of Cincinnati’s College-Conservatory of Music (CCM).

Along with a cash award of $30,000, Yoshida will receive a major new orchestral commission for dance, to be given its world premiere by CCM’s Philharmonia Orchestra and Ballet in December 2020, which will also record the piece.

Aya Yoshida, a native of Kobe who is based in Amsterdam, was chosen for Double Face, a ten-minute orchestral piece. The Danish National Symphony Orchestra premiered the work in 2016.

From the press release:

The title [“Double Face”] is open to interpretation, but like
many of Yoshida’s pieces (e.g. “Polka dots,” “Tone on Tone Check,” “Pointed toe”), this work also has a fashion resonance. “Double face,” meaning reverse clothing, is a term commonly used in the rag-trade.

Second prize of $20,000 went to Tomasz Skweres, 34, a Polish composer living in Vienna, for his piece “über das farbige Licht der Doppelsterne…” Third prize of $10,000 was awarded to 24-year-old Joel Jäventausta, a Finnish composer based in London, for his piece “Cantus.”
More than 200 compositions were submitted for consideration before five finalists were shortlisted in September by an international panel of leading composers: Colin Matthews (London), Missy Mazzoli (New York/Chicago), Iris Ter Schiphorst (Vienna), and Carl Vine (Sydney). The shortlisted works were then submitted anonymously to a final judging panel, which included the Dean of CCM, Stanley E. Romanstein, and CCM Philharmonia Conductor, Mark Gibson.

Missy Mazzoli said Yoshida’s winning entry “showed true originality, combined with skillful orchestration and a well-balanced approach to form…This daring work really communicated a mini-world of fantastic orchestral colors.” Carl Vine praised it “as redolent with intriguing musical gestures and textures.” Colin Matthews said, “Aya Yoshida’s piece came out on top from a very impressive line-up” and noted “it was good to see the unanimity of choice between a panel of composers all with very different stylistic personalities.”

Expressing her gratitude, Aya Yoshida said: “After my opera in 2017, I have been somehow dreaming of composing for ballet in my 20s or 30s, so I am thankful, humble, surprised and really happy to have the opportunity. Music is a collection of movements; the texture of the sound itself and also the physical gestures of the musicians. I am looking forward to exploring the connections between ballet and music in my new piece for CCM Philharmonia Orchestra.”

Filed under: competitions, music news

San Francisco Opera Announces New Music Director

The big news from San Francisco Opera this afternoon: Eun Sun Kim, a native of South Korea, has been chosen as the fourth music director in the company’s history, effective August 21, 2021.

Of Maestro Kim’s SFO debut this past June conducting Dvořák’s Rusalka I wrote: “Holding it all together was the outstanding musical direction of Eun Sun Kim, who was at home not only with the score’s Wagnerian resonances but with Dvořák’s folk-inflected rhythmic energy, too. The orchestra’s vibrant responsiveness made Kim’s debut here a spectacular one for a company currently in search of a music director.”

Kim made the following statement:

From my very first moments at San Francisco Opera, I felt this was home. There was an unusual feeling of open collaboration across so many facets of the Company—a real sense of professional alchemy. I’m deeply honored to be joining the San Francisco Opera family, and helping to carry this incredible lineage forward.

From the press release:

Effective immediately, Ms. Kim is Music Director Designate, in which role she will participate in the planning of future seasons and in orchestral auditions. She will conduct the Company’s new production of Beethoven’s “Fidelio” that will be a part of the opening weekend of the 2020–21 Season. Complete information about San Francisco Opera’s 2020–21 Season will be announced in January.

As music director, she will conduct up to four productions in each season of her initial five-year contract, in addition to conducting concerts, working with San Francisco Opera’s resident artist Adler Fellows and participating in the executive leadership of the organization…

Born in South Korea, 39-year-old Eun Sun Kim conducts frequently at major opera houses across Europe and is increasingly recognized in North America as an insightful interpreter of the operatic and symphonic repertoire. She made her U.S. debut in September 2017, leading a production of La Traviata with Houston Grand Opera, and she was subsequently named the company’s first principal guest conductor in 25 years. Last month, she made her Washington National Opera debut conducting The Magic Flute, and upcoming U.S. company debuts include productions at the Metropolitan Opera, Lyric Opera of Chicago and LA Opera. She returns to Houston Grand Opera in April for a production of Salome. In the concert hall, she has conducted the Cincinnati Symphony, Los Angeles Philharmonic and Milwaukee Symphony, and future performances include subscription concerts with the New York Philharmonic and Oregon, San Diego and Seattle symphonies.

Ms. Kim began her career in Europe, where she assisted Jesús López-Cobos at Madrid’s Teatro Real and Kirill Petrenko at Opéra National de Lyon, before making her own professional debut in 2012 conducting La Bohème at Frankfurt Opera.

Another important mentor to Ms. Kim was Daniel Barenboim, whom she met while working in Europe early in her career. After hearing Ms. Kim in rehearsals, Mr. Barenboim invited her to make her debut in 2015 at the Berlin State Opera, where he is General Music Director.

Among Ms. Kim’s future European engagements is her debut at the Vienna State Opera. She has previously conducted at companies including English National Opera, Opéra de Marseille, Opernhaus Zürich, Royal Danish Opera, Royal Swedish Opera and Teatro Real. She has been particularly active in Germany, where she maintains a close relationship not only with the Berlin State Opera, but also Frankfurt Opera. She has also appeared at the Bavarian State Opera, Cologne Opera, Semperoper Dresden and Stuttgart State Opera. Her international concert engagements have included performances with Beethoven Orchester Bonn, Calgary Philharmonic, Malmö Symphony, Orchestre de Paris, Symphonieorchester des Bayerischen Rundfunks and Stuttgart Philharmonic, among others.

Ms. Kim studied composition and conducting in her hometown of Seoul, South Korea, before continuing her studies at the Staatliche Hochschule für Musik und Darstellende Kunst Stuttgart (State University of Music and Performing Arts Stuttgart), where she graduated with distinction. Directly after graduation, she was awarded the First Prize in the International Jesús López-Cobos Opera Conducting Competition at the Teatro Real.

Filed under: conductors, music news, San Francisco Opera

Lei Liang Wins the 2020 Grawemeyer Award


Just announced:
The Chinese-American composer Lei Liang has won the 2020 University of Louisville Grawemeyer Award for Music Composition. He was chosen on the basis of his orchestral work A Thousand Mountains, a Million Streams, commissioned and premiered by the Boston Modern Orchestra Project under Gil Rose. The new work addresses the issue of climate change and what humans can do to change the outcome.

From the Grawemeyer announcement:

“The world we live in today is dangerous,” Liang said. “Our very existence is threatened by global warming, which is causing violent disruptions to the living things on our planet and being made worse by human irresponsibility.”

The half-hour piece takes listeners on a journey through a virtual landscape that first sings and dances but later jolts and collapses into fragments. Near the end, the sound of rain emerges and resurrects nature.

“When creating the work, I wanted to convey the importance of preserving our landscapes, both physically and spiritually, to sustain a place where we and our children can belong,” he said.

Liang, 47, is a music professor at University of California, San Diego, and research-artist-in-residence at Qualcomm Institute, the UC San Diego division of the California Institute for Telecommunications and Information Technology. He has composed more than 100 works, including pieces addressing other contemporary social issues such as human trafficking and gun violence.

“Xiaoxiang,” his concerto for saxophone and orchestra, was named a finalist for the Pulitzer Prize in Music in 2015.

“Liang’s piece, which explores a huge range of emotions and ends with both hope and ambiguity, has a forceful, convincing arc and wonderful orchestral colors,” said Marc Satterwhite, music award director. “Like some of our other winners, he challenges people inside and outside the field of music to ponder important things, even when it’s uncomfortable to do so.”

Schott Music, a company founded in 1770 in Germany now with offices worldwide, publishes all of Liang’s compositions. BMOP/sound record label released a recording of his Grawemeyer-winning piece in 2018.

Filed under: awards, music news

RIP Mariss Jansons (1943-2019)

The great Latvian conductor Mariss Jansons has died at his home in St. Petersburg. He was only 76. From his orchestra, the Bavarian Radio Symphony:
“The news of the death of our chief conductor Mariss Jansons has filled us with deep dismay and sorrow. With his death, the music world loses one of its greatest artists. We consider ourselves very fortunate to have shared many unforgettable concerts with him over the past 17 years and treasure our close personal and artistic collaboration. The unrelenting demands he made on himself and his musicians, the treatment of his colleagues that was unfailingly full of respect, and the great dedication to music he demonstrated will forever be remembered. Mariss Jansons will occupy a place of honor in the history of our orchestra, and we will honor his memory and keep it alive.” (Orchestra Board of the BRSO)
“The news of Mariss Janson’s death fills me and indeed all those who got to know him with unfathomable sadness. As an individual and a musician alike, he made the lives of so many people richer. I will always be grateful to him for this.” (Nikolaus Pont, Manager BRSO)

Filed under: conductors, music news

Farewell to the Harry Partch Instrumentarium

It was only in 2014 that the fabulous collection of Harry Partch Instruments found a new home at the University of Washington’s School of Music. While being kept there, the collection has been brought out for numerous performances — including an event I got to cover last year under the collection’s caretaker, Charles Corey.

Seattle-based cellist Peter Tracey writes about the value of having these instruments available to anyone curious about them: “I learned from a friend who played in the Partch ensemble that it was open to just about anybody: all you had to do was ask. Soon after, I did, and that decision has shaped my life as a musician ever since.”

Tracey also tells the story of how Corey came to be given responsibility for overseeing the collection and how they ended up at UW in Seattle. Sadly, he reports that UW “has decided not to renew the Partch instruments’ residency here in Seattle, and the collection will likely be moving on to a new home in the coming year.”

I haven’t heard yet of any definite plans for the next stage on the journey of the Partch instruments. Later in the month, on November 19, 21, and 22, there will be three more chances to encounter them one more time in Seattle in a trio of programs at Meany Hall’s Studio Theater.

The performance on November 21 will present an all-Partch program consisting of Barstow, selections from Eleven Intrusions, San Francisco, Dark Brother, Castor & Pollux, The Potion Scene (from Romeo and Juliet), and And on the Seventh Day Petals Fell in Petaluma.

Filed under: Harry Partch, music news

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