A mysteroius childlike woman, a murder by jealousy, an orphan: Debussy’s Pelléas et Méllisande, his only completed opera, is full of magical, cryptical and deeply symbolic moments. With this work Debussy added quite literally a new dimension to the 1893 stage play of the same name by Belgian playwriter and poet, Maurice Maeterlinck, who was to receive the Nobel Prize for Literature in 1911. Rodney Gilfry, a leading American opera baritone whos vocal excellence has been repeatedly extolled by many leading music critics, is Pelléas. Praised by the San Francisco Chronicle for his “rich, rolling baritone with a superb upper range,” as well as his “vivid stage presence,” Rodney Gilfry has established himself as a most compelling musician on the world’s operatic stages. By his side Isabel Rey, internationally recognised for her exquisite vocal technique and her sensitive acting skills, is Mélisande. Due to her crystal-clear soprano and the winterly stage setting the cold dream-world of the subconscious emerges to the audience. Because of the fabulous soloist and a distinguished cast this opera promises outstanding listening pleasure. Under Franz Welser-Möst’s fabulous conducting this production of the Zurich Opera House is setting musical standards. Welser- Möst is ecxeptionally talented and internationally known as one of the outstanding personalities in the field of classical music. In conjunction with the director Sven-Eric Bechtolf, he has developed into one of the leading teams in contemporary music theater.
La Traviata, Giuseppe Verdi very personal opera, was premiered in 1853 at the Teatro La Fenice in Venice. The first night was a fiasco, but after a few revisions the opera set out to conquer the world. La Traviata offers no scope for grandiose crowd scenes or historical pomp. In keeping with the intimate nature of the action, Verdi’s music reflects the inner feelings of the protagonists. The heroine, whose emotional state is determined by external circumstances, is in the centre of the story of emotional upheavals. Jürgen Flimm haunting staging stays close to Verdi’s intent. He focuses on the protagonists, showing their shakiness, emotions, despair, love, sacrifice and tragedy rather than concentrating on the abysses of the Parisian demi-monde. Eva Mei and Piotr Beczala are a perfectly matched couple. Her soft and flexible soprano and his lyrical tenor, marked by excellent diction, work very well together, joined by the “golden” voice of outstanding Thomas Hampson.
With its majestic themes soaring upwards like gothic pillars and its brilliant chorales and fanfares glowing like stained – glass windows, Anton Bruckner’s Symphony No. 8 is the most monumental of his orchestral works, a cathedral in sound that grows out of pianissimo murmurs. Coming after the triumphs celebrated by the composer’s Seventh Symphony and Te Deum, the Eight was considered by Bruckner as the artistic climax of his career. Cleveland‘s Severance Hall is the venue for this performance. This hall, an eclectic yet elegant mix of Art Deco, Art Nouveau, Classicism, Egyptian Revival and Modernism was inaugurated in 1931 and is still hailed today as one of the world‘s most beautiful concert halls. The Cleveland Orchestra, founded in 1918, began its ascent to the upper ranks of the world‘s ensembles after it moved to Severance Hall in 1931.
Bruckner‘s Seventh – The master‘s homage to Richard Wagner With the mighty build-ups and monumental fortissimi of Bruckner’s Seventh, Welser-Möst and his Clevelanders have their work cut out for them. And they do not disappoint. The most popular, and perhaps most easily accessible, of Bruckner‘s symphonies, the Seventh casts its spell on the audience with its clear-cut architecture and the wealth and fullness of its melodies. From the sweeping opening theme of the first movement to the victorious chords of the finale, the Cleveland Orchestra and its conductor deliver a magisterial reading of Bruckner‘s masterpiece. Cleveland‘s Severance Hall is the venue for this performance. This hall, an eclectic yet elegant mix of Art Deco, Art Nouveau, Classicism, Egyptian Revival and Modernism was inaugurated in 1931 and is still hailed today as one of the world‘s most beautiful concert halls. The Cleveland Orchestra, founded in 1918, began its ascent to the upper ranks of the world‘s ensembles after it moved to Severance Hall in 1931.
Seen by millions on TV worldwide, the yearly traditional Wiener Philharmoniker’s New Year's Concert from Vienna is one of the best-known classical events in the world. The New Year's Concert, presented in the glittering Musikverein, features a charming programme that offers perennial favourites alongside some intriguing Strauss premieres. The 2011 concert is conducted by Austrian-born Franz Welser-Möst - newly installed as the music director of the Vienna State Opera and a favourite with Viennese concertgoers.
The Zurich Opera House has recorded more productions for DVD than any other opera house in the world. During the last twelve years, conductor Franz Welser-Möst has conducted more than fifty premieres with the Zurich Opera. They perform regularly together in London, Paris, Tokyo and other major international cities. Welser-Möst has enjoyed a long and very fruitful relationship with the Zurich Opera. From 1995 - 2002, he was Chief Conductor of the House, was Principal Conductor from 2002 - 2005 and was then appointed General Musikdirektor. In June 2007, Welser-Möst was appointed General Musikdirektor designate of the Staatsoper, Vienna, a position he will assume in the 2010/11 season. Prior to that, he undertakes a new production of “The Ring" in Vienna, which started in the 2007/8 season. He is also Music Director of the Cleveland Orchestra. Welser-Möst has assembled over the years a close-knit ensemble which is frequently praised for both its vocal and acting abilities.
…The story is a historical fiction centering on the failed assassination plot against the Roman Emperor Titus Vespasiano (Tito) by his childhood best friend Sextus (Sesto) and Sesto’s ambitious girlfriend Vitellia (whose father was killed in the power struggle that put Tito on top)… and how Tito deals with this treason. There are some complications along the way as Tito keeps getting rejected by the women he proposes marriage to; first Berenice, and then Sesto’s sister Servilia (who wants to marry Sesto’s best-friend Annio instead), before finally settling on Vitellia (after she had already set in motion the assassination attempt)…
I will admit straightaway to being less than impressed with Sven-Eric Bechtolf´s production of Don Giovanni for the Zurich Opera. The setting is simply a 1930-50 upper-class nightclub, in which the characters enter and exit throughout the opera. Apart from being rather unaesthetic, it´s also plainly uninteresting. Yes, the characters do interact convincingly with one another, but somehow the entire affair never lifts off.
Of the singers, Simon Keenlyside and especially Piotr Beczala stood out.
Simon Keenlyside, by all means is a fine Don Giovanni, singing and acting far above average. That his slightly wooden-sounding baritone doensn´t entirely appeal to me, is probably less important in this context: He does indeed cut a convincing figure on stage…
Decidedly in the top handful of operettas, Die Lustige Witwe receives an exemplary performance in Zurich. The cast is having fun in this one. The main characters look the parts, there's not a weak voice among them and Franz Welser-Most conducts with zip and style. Costumes are excellent and the staging is convincing if a bit modest in the first two acts. Act 3 at Hanna's version of Maxim's in Paris, is pulled off with real panache - if you don't respond to the spine-tingling enthusiasm of the dances, check your heartbeat…By Bob Epstein
“…Fleming looks fabulous, knows and can deliver good German, and can sing this role at least as well as anyone on the planet at the moment. But it's a shame that all concerned did not wait for a genuinely new production to preserve. This run-through of an old staging… is fluent and energetic… but it is not an evening pregnant with dramatic insight. In the pit Welser-Möst is an efficient, unemotional guide to the score…” (Gramophone Magazine)