Classical

Free Summer Concerts with the Landmarks Orchestra

Friday, July 1, 2011
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Join Classical New England hosts for free concerts presented by the Boston Landmarks Orchestra at the Hatch Shell on the Esplanade every Wednesday night at 7pm.

 

July 17
Rhapsody in Green, hosted by Ray Brown
This year's series launches with the annual green concert, celebrating our city, state and national parks and honoring the men and women who protect and preserve them.

July 24
A Family Guide to the Orchestra, hosted by Laura Carlo
The stirring first symphony of Brahms, Britten's guided tour, and the remarkable students of the Conservatory Lab Charter School's Dudamel Orchestra alongside the pros, as symphonic music casts its enduring spell on each generation.

July 31
Fiesta sinfónica: A Night in the Tropics, hosted by Cathy Fuller
Two worlds meet in music inspired by Latin-American song and dance spanning over 150 years. The Landmarks Orchestra joins a "pocket-sized salsa orchestra" featuring musicians from Boston's Latino community.

August 7
Collaboration with Boston Lyric Opera, hosted by James David Jacobs
This performance will feature exciting and popular excerpts from operas, including The Magic Flute and Rigoletto.

August 14
Guest Orchestra: Longwood Symphony, hosted by Ron Della Chiesa
Featuring a performance by the winner of the Foundation for Chinese Performing Arts Concerto Competition.

August 21
Kiss Me Kate, hosted by Alan McLellan
Boston Landmarks Orchestra and Commonwealth Shakespeare Company present "Kiss Me Kate." Cole Porter and William Shakespeare together live at the Hatch Shell, in a semi-staged production of Porter's theatrical masterpiece, featuring Boston's leading actors and a live symphony orchestra.

August 28
"I Have a Dream" 50th Anniversary Concert, hosted by Benjamin K. Roe
To honor one of the greatest speeches in American history, the orchestra presents Boston's musical tribute to the inspiration and ideals that lie at the heart of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.'s dream.

Christopher Wilkins will lead the Boston Landmarks Orchestra, One-City Choir, the New England Spiritual ensemble, and special guests in a concert of stirring words and inspirational music by Aaron Copland, Duke Ellington, Michael Tippett, and Lee Hoiby. The night also will feature the broadcast premiere of Cry, the Beloved Country, Kurt Weill’s moving musical adaptation of the groundbreaking novel about life in South Africa under apartheid.

For more information, visit the Landmarks Orchestra.

The Cliburn: 50 Years of Gold

Monday, September 24, 2012
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Van Cliburn and Haochen Zhang
Van Cliburn and Haochen Zhang, co-winner of the Gold Medal at the Thirteenth Van Cliburn International Piano Competition in 2009

Go behind the scenes at one of the most important - and intense - piano competitions in the music world.


Watch The Cliburn: 50 Years of Gold, Friday, Sept. 28, at 9pm on WGBH 2


Every four years, a group of the finest young pianists takes the stage at the Van Cliburn International Piano Competition in Fort Worth, Texas. In the midst of the drama, the beauty, the nerves and the excitement, they know one thing is true — what happens there can change their lives. They strive to feel the joy of victory and achieve their utmost goal: to become a performer on the world stage.

A young Van Cliburn performing
Seen through the eyes and memories of 15 gold medalists, The Cliburn: 50 Years of Gold follows the half-century-long history of one of the world's most prestigious music competitions, set against the backdrop of beautiful music. Walking onto the stage at the Van Cliburn International Piano Competition is a critical moment in the life of a young pianist. Gut-wrenching drama, strung-out nerves and the joy of victory are elements that make up this extraordinary film retrospective.

Producer and Director Peter Rosen tracked down the Cliburn Gold Medalists wherever they were performing around the world to weave their stories into the legend of Van Cliburn, the competition's namesake, who recalls his victory in 1958 in Moscow at the Tchaikovsky Competition at the height of the Cold War: “I had only a few months to prepare for the Tchaikovsky competition. But, in a way, my whole life had been leading up to it.”

Love for Sale, in Massenet's 'Manon'

Friday, April 6, 2012
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Host Lisa Simeone presents Manon from the Bastille Opera in Paris, Sunday night at 6:30pm on Classical New England.


A scene from Massenet's 'Manon' (Courtesy of Bastille Opera)
WHO'S WHO

Natalie Dessay (soprano) … Manon
Giuseppe Filianoti (tenor) ... Des Grieux
Franck Ferrari (baritone) …. Lescaut
Paul Gay (bass-baritone) .. Count Des Grieux
Luca Lombardo (tenor) ….. Guillot
André Heyboer (baritone) ... Bretigny
Olivia Doray (soprano) … Pousette
Carol Garcia (mezzo-soprano) …. Javotte
Alisa Kolosova (mezzo-soprano) … Rosette

Paris National Opera Orchestra and Chorus Evelino Pidò, conducto
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Generally, opera is considered a serious art form. By contrast, composer Jules Massenet has been described as a lightweight -- and at times, it's easy to hear why. Even his wildly popular Manon, an opera with a deadly serious story, has plenty of froth.

But it's not only in the supposedly lofty world of opera that we find astonishingly successful composers with lightweight reputations. For another, we can look closer to home, at a legendary figure of American musical theater: Cole Porter.

Porter was a true Broadway genius, a brilliant lyricist and a first-rate composer -- the creator of dozens of hit songs and shows. Was Porter a "lightweight"? Sure, plenty of his best-known songs sound that way: "You're the Top" and "It's De-Lovely" don't pack much emotional wallop. Yet Porter did have a serious side. His classic song "Love for Sale" conjures up the gritty, workaday side of prostitution. The subject matter and its sophisticated, even disturbing tone are hardly the work of a lightweight songwriter.

Getting back to opera, the two-sided nature we hear in Cole Porter's familiar songs and shows can also be found in Massenet's Manon, an opera which touches on the same dramatic territory as Porter's "Love for Sale."

As the opera open's, it's title character is an innocent 15-year-old -- a kid whose amorous "inclinations" have prompted her mom and dad to ship her off to a convent. At first, that seems a bit harsh. By the time the opera is over, we might wonder if her parents were prescient.

During her journey, Manon falls for a well-meaning young man of modest means, who adores her. Before long, though, it's clear that Manon has a taste for opulence as well as romance -- and that she's not above cavorting with rich men she doesn't love in exchange for a luxurious lifestyle. Despite the frothy spots, Massenet's opera doesn't pull any punches, and he gave it all the complex, emotionally powerful music it needs to drive home some pointedly unsavory realities.

On this edition of World of Opera, host Lisa Simeone presents Manon from the Bastille Opera in Paris, starring soprano Natalie Dessay as Manon and tenor Giuseppe Filianoti as Des Grieux, in a production led by conductor Evelino Pidò.

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It Must Have Been Fate: Verdi's 'La Forza del Destino'

Friday, March 23, 2012
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Host Lisa Simeone presents La Forza del Destino in a production by the Paris National Opera, Sunday night at 6:30pm on Classical New England.


A scene from Verdi's La Forza del Destino, from Paris National Opera
WHO'S WHO
Violeta Urmana (soprano) … Lenora
Marcelo Alvarez (tenor) … Alvaro
Vladimir Stoyanov (baritone) … Carlo
Mario Luperi (bass) … Calatrava
Nadia Krasteva (mezzo-soprano) … Preziosilla
Nicola Alaimo (baritone)... Melitone
Kwangchul Youn (bass)… Father Superior
Mario Luperi … Calatrava

Paris National Opera Orchestra and Chorus
Philippe Jordan, conductor
When puzzling events happen in life -- things that simply can't be explained, or at least can't be explained simply -- people often put them down to fate. It's as though ascribing our troubles to fate somehow relieves us of the need to understand them.

But what is fate, really? At best it's a difficult concept to grasp, much less explain in words. That may be why so many evocations of fate can be heard in music, a medium in which words are strictly optional.

The most iconic musical tribute to fate may or may not have been intentional: It's uncertain whether Beethoven actually considered the opening notes of his Fifth Symphony to be "fate knocking at the door," as they've often been described. But other examples are more obvious, and they come in a wide range of music: from Fatum," a portentous tone poem by Tchaikovsky, to the heavy metal tune "Fates Warning" by Iron Maiden.

Naturally, there are also plenty of operas that dwell on fate, though few do it so dramatically as Verdi's La Forza del Destino -- The Force of Destiny.

Verdi composed the opera to end an extended hiatus from music -- a three year span in which he wrote no new operas and actually told friends that he was no longer a composer. The commission that brought him back to the opera house came from the Imperial Theater in St. Petersburg. After considering a number of subjects for a new opera, Verdi chose a Spanish play called La fuerza del sino -- The Power of Fate. It was adapted by librettist Francesco Maria Piave, who also worked with Verdi on several other operas, including Macbeth and Rigoletto.

As for the story itself, it's surely appropriate for an operatic exploration of fate: Like so many real life events that are attributed to fate, the goings on in the opera are hard to explain in any other way. The result is a drama that can leave even diehard Verdi lovers shaking their heads. Its story can be as confounding as the music is compelling, with a plot in which a single, unfortunate happenstance drives characters to lifetimes of incomprehensible behavior. There's one character who travels the world, braving war and desolation, in an obsessive quest to murder his own sister.

Still, like fate itself, the power of Verdi's score for the opera is undeniable. The music transforms a thorny story line into one of the most compelling of all his operas.

On World of Opera, host Lisa Simeone presents La Forza del Destino in a production by the Paris National Opera. The stars are soprano Violeta Urmana as Leonora, tenor Marcelo Alvarez as her beloved Alvaro and baritone Vladimir Stoyanov as Carlo, who for a moment is Alvaro's ally, but soon becomes his most deadly enemy. The performance, from the Bastille Opera, is led by conductor Philippe Jordan.

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Simple Feelings, Powerful Drama: Puccini's 'La Boheme'

Friday, March 16, 2012
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Host Lisa Simeone presents Puccini's La Boheme in a production from the Maggio Musicale in Florence, Italy, Sunday night at 6:30pm on Classical New England.


"A scene from "Puccini's La Boheme"
(Courtesy of Maggio Musicale)
WHO'S WHO
Carmela Remigio (soprano) ... Mimi
Achiles Machado (tenor) … Rodolfo
Alessandra Antonucci (soprano)… Musetta
Stefano Antonucci (baritone) … Marcello
Simone Del Savio (baritone) ... Schaunard
Marco Vinco (bass) … Colline
Andrea Cortese (bass) ... Benoit/Alcindoro

Maggio Musicale Orchestra and Chorus
Carlo Montanaro, conductor
For a long time -- centuries, actually -- opera was dominated by larger-than-life characters: kings and queens, gods and goddesses, mythic figures with power over life and death. The challenge for composers and librettists was to give these legendary characters common feelings -- to put little sorrows in great souls -- so the ordinary humans who bought opera tickets could identify with the on stage dramas.

But as opera became a more and more popular form of entertainment, that changed. Composers turned to stories about simpler, more realistic characters, creating a whole new set of challenges in the process -- and nobody new that better than Giacomo Puccini.

Puccini once said that his success came from putting "great sorrows in little souls." His operas tell us that at some point in their lives, people everywhere, in all walks of life, endure the same trials: love and envy, loss and heartbreak. That's especially true in La Boheme, a story set among struggling artists in the Latin Quarter of Paris.

Boheme is a drama of everyday events and common people. The characters are familiar, maybe even routine. The same is true of many other Puccini operas, which is one reason the composer has always had his detractors. Certain critics have analyzed Puccini's music, and his stories, and concluded that his operas are too easily enjoyable -- and maybe not intellectual enough to justify Puccini's great success. And it would be easy to argue that composers such as Mozart, Verdi and Wagner all produced operas far more complex and innovative than Puccini's -- great operas that work on so many levels that they both invite analysis, and defy it. By comparison, some say, Puccini's dramas seem overly simple and straightforward.

But that conclusion itself may also be too simple. Regardless of his methods, Puccini mastered the unique and mystifying synthesis of music, drama and stagecraft that only opera can deliver, and with powerful results. His enduring, popular dramas are graced by appealing and believable characters whose feelings are portrayed so deeply and so vividly that, as we look on, their emotions soon become ours as well, and their heartbreaks seem as wrenching as our own.

On World of Opera, host Lisa Simeone presents Puccini's La Boheme in a production from the Maggio Musicale in Florence, Italy. The stars are soprano Carmela Remigio and tenor Achiles Machado as the lovers Mimi and Rodolfo, in a performance led by conductor Carlo Montanaro.


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From Russia with Love -- and Laughs: Glinka's 'Ruslan and Lyudmila'

Friday, March 2, 2012
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Host Lisa Simeone presents Glinka's Ruslan and Lyudmila from one of Russia's most historic musical venues, the Bolshoi Theatre in Moscow, Sunday night at 6:30pm on Classical New England.


A scene from Glinka's 'Ruslan and Lyudmila (Courtesy of the Bolshoi Theatre)
WHO'S WHO
Albina Shagimuratova (soprano) ……………… Lyudmila
Mikhail Petrenko (bass) ………………………….. Ruslan
Vladimir Ognovenko (bass) …………………….. Svetozar
Yuri Minenko (countertenor) ... Ratmir
Almas Shvilpa (bass) … Farlaf
Alexandrina Pendachanska (soprano)… Gorislava
Charles Workman (tenor) … Finn/Bayan
Elena Zaremba (mezzo-soprano)... Naina

Bolshoi Theatre Orchestra and Chorus
Vladimir Jurowski, conductor
What do you think of when someone mentions Russian opera? Most likely, it's something somber and dark, and with good reason. The most famous of Russian operas include Mussorgsky's grim historical epic Boris Godunov, along with Tchaikovsky's pair of bleak psychodramas The Queen of Spades and Eugene Onegin, operas with an epic quality of their own.

And those three popular dramas have something particular in common with plenty of other Russian operas. All three are based on works by Alexander Pushkin -- not most people's idea of leisurely reading. Yet there is one great Russian opera, also inspired by Pushkin, that occupies a far lighter region of the dramatic spectrum.

Mikhail Glinka is often credited as the founder of the Russian opera tradition. Ruslan and Lyudmila was Glinka's second opera, and also his last. It appeared in 1842, after six years in the making, and it is based on a Pushkin epic. But this one might well be called an epic frolic -- a lush yet lighthearted romp through a world of fantastic adventures and fairytale love. The story sweeps its way across the vast Russian landscape, depicting a furious conflict between good and evil. But when it all shakes out, this epic features far more fun than furor.

Glinka’s opera follows Pushkin's original fairly closely -- the whole plot is there, and then some. The opera may come up short of fully capturing the poem’s astonishing dramatic flow, but that would have been a tall order. Pushkin's epic is a real page turner, with disparate elements of the story tumbling over each other at a breakneck pace. The opera is more a series of related set pieces, and it probably didn’t help that the scenario was reportedly devised, by a buddy of Glinka’s, "in a quarter of an hour while he was drunk." Yet Glinka’s musical contribution is beautiful throughout, conjuring lively characters and vivid theatrical images, even when the action itself occasionally slows to a trot.

On World of Opera, host Lisa Simeone presents Ruslan and Lyudmila from one of Russia's most historic musical venues, the Bolshoi Theatre in Moscow. Soprano Albina Shagimuratova and bass Mikhail Petrenko star in the title roles, in a production led by conductor Vladimir Jurowski.



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