Events & Tickets
RENÉE FLEMING, AMERICA’S VOICE
Adrienne Arsht Center
Incomparable soprano Renée Fleming joins MTT for an exclusive evening at the Adrienne Arsht Center. Witches, curses, princes and princesses are at the heart of the fairy tale that inspired Sergei Prokofiev's satirical opera, and its Suite captures all the action-packed adventure. Ms. Fleming will stun in George Gershwin's sultry "Summertime" from Porgy and Bess before revisiting MTT's own sweeping song cycle dedicated to the sweet and ironic poetry of Emily Dickinson. Maurice Ravel puts an exotic and evocative spin on the Arabian Nights classic in his song cycle, also featuring Ms. Fleming. Since its riot-inducing premiere over 100 years ago, Igor Stravinsky's The Rite of Spring has become one of classical music's greatest hits. Primal, raucous and awe-inspiring, don't miss what MTT calls "a burst of creative power that shook music to its foundations."
In memory of Shirley Martinelli, in honor of Trustees Seymour Ikenson and Marc Gidney
Ms. Fleming’s performance is sponsored in part by a gift from the Diane Star Heller Foundation in memory of Daniel Neal Heller.
Approx. Duration: 15 minutes
Suite from The Love for Three Oranges, Op. 33bis
(1919; revised 1924)
The Ridiculous Ones
The Magician Tchelio and Fata Morgana Play Cards
The Prince and Princess
"Summertime" from Porgy and Bess
Michael Tilson Thomas
Approx. Duration: 12 minutes
Selections from Poems of Emily Dickinson for Voice and Orchestra
The Earth Has Many Keys
Of God We Ask One Favor
Down Time's Quaint Stream
Approx. Duration: 19 minutes
The Enchanted Flute
The Indifferent One
Approx. Duration: 32 minutes
The Rite of Spring
(1911-13; 1947 version)
Part I: The Adoration of the Earth
Part II: The Sacrifice
Suite from The Love for Three Oranges, Op. 33bis
(1919; revised 1924)
Approximate duration: 15 minutes
Prokofiev, like so many other Russian artists and intellectuals, left his homeland in the aftermath of the Bolshevik Revolution of 1917. With World War I raging to the west, he traveled east through Siberia, Tokyo and Honolulu before entering the United States in San Francisco, where he was briefly suspected of being a spy. He struggled to restart his career in New York, but he did have some luck in Chicago, where he secured a commission with the Chicago Opera Association.
Prokofiev already had a libretto in mind when he began developing his new opera. Back in Russia, the director Vsevolod Meyerhold had given Prokofiev an adaptation of Carlo Gozzi’s 1761 play L’amore delle tre melarance, an example of the Italian tradition of Commedia dell’arte. Prokofiev composed the opera, known in English as The Love for Three Oranges, in 1919. The death of the opera company’s artistic director derailed the premiere, and it was not until 1921 that a new manager agreed to move forward with the expensive production (perhaps unwisely, since the company went bankrupt at the end of the season). Prokofiev meanwhile extracted an orchestral suite in 1919 and revised it in 1924.
The Love for Three Oranges unfolds as a play within a play. Before the true action begins, opposing camps—Comedians, Tragedians, Lyricists and Empty Heads—argue about the virtues of their preferred theatrical forms, a debate rendered in the Suite’s opening number, The Ridiculous Ones.
The inner story occurs in an imaginary kingdom, where a prince, sick from consuming too much tragedy, can only be cured by laughter. When he chuckles at the expense of a witch, she curses him with a “love for three oranges.”
In the opera’s second act, a playful March introduces the outdoor entertainment staged to try to make the prince laugh (thus a play within a play within a play).
The Scherzo, from the third act, closes the scene in which the prince treks through the desert, cloaked by a storm, on his way to find the oranges.
The three oranges turn out to conceal fairy princesses. Two die, but the prince saves the third and falls in love with her, as heard in the romantic strains of The Prince and Princess.
The thrilling perpetual motion themes of The Flight represent the escape of the witch and her evil conspirators, leaving the prince and princess free to enjoy their own happily ever after.
Michael Tilson Thomas
Selections from Poems of Emily Dickinson for Voice and Orchestra
Approximate duration: 12 minutes
Since studying composition with Ingolf Dahl at the University of Southern California, Michael Tilson Thomas has produced a small but powerful body of works, including From the Diary of Anne Frank and Showa/Shoah, a commemoration of the bombing at Hiroshima. He was inspired to compose Poems of Emily Dickinson after “a conversation over tea one day” with the soprano Renée Fleming, who was developing a Dickinson project at the time. In 2002 she joined Tilson Thomas for the debut of his of orchestral song cycle with the San Francisco Symphony.
“I deliberately selected shorter poems,” Tilson Thomas wrote in a program note, “and specifically short poems that had an acerbic or wry cast to them. … I wanted to focus on more of that aspect of her work, on its ironic quality, on its social criticism—and also on the sense of appreciation for just being alive, which is so much a part of her work.”
For each of the songs, Tilson Thomas imagined Dickinson situated in a scene from her life.In The Earth Has Many Keys, Dickinson is envisioned “outside, watching a sunset.” Tilson Thomas explained that this song “depicts nature, and so the sound-world is that of a tree being felled in the forest; you could consider that she is offering a larger commentary on what nature is.”
For his setting of the poem Of God We Ask One Favor, Tilson Thomas pictured Dickinson “in church, listening to a hymn,” an atmosphere evoked with humble chorale harmonies that imitate “music played by a small New England organ, wheezing and in such poor shape that some of the notes don’t sound.” The singer enters in an unrelated key, as if her mind has wandered away from the hymn and onto her own musings.
Approximate duration: 19 minutes
Ravel was a student at the Paris Conservatory, studying with Fauré, when he first wrote a work inspired by Scheherazade, the heroine of the One Thousand and One Nights from Arabian folklore. After that “fairy overture” from 1898—and after the conservatory expelled him for the second time—Ravel returned to the subject again in 1903, crafting the orchestral song cycle Shéhérazade.
Ravel’s fascination with Scheherazade stems in part from the 1888 symphonic suite on the same subject by Rimsky-Korsakov, Ravel’s greatest role model for orchestral splendor and sparkle. It was also a time that French artists were fascinated by all things “exotic” in general, especially after the 1889 World’s Fair that introduced Paris to Indonesian gamelan ensembles and other foreign sounds.
Within Ravel’s circle of friends, the self-styled “Hooligans,” the poet Tristan Klingsor (pen name of Léon Leclère) shared the same fascination with the Arabian Nights legend. He published a collection under the title Shéhérazade, and Ravel selected three poems as the basis of his song cycle.
The first song, Asia, is a paean to the entire continent, from Persia to India to China. Some of the musical material, like the opening melody from a solo oboe, channels an Asiatic sound, like the stereotype of the snake charmer with an oboe-like reed instrument.
Other gestures borrow from the toolkit of Debussy, including the harmonically disorienting whole-tone scale and the malleable pentatonic mode.
The text of the second song, The Enchanted Flute, sets up a languorous dialogue between the insomniac singer and the serenading flute, in which “each note steals away / From the flute toward my cheek / Like a mysterious kiss.”
The final song, The Indifferent One, laments a potential lover’s coy rejection.
The Rite of Spring
(1911-13; 1947 version)
Approximate duration: 32 minutes
Serge Diaghilev, the impresario behind the Ballets Russes (a company of top Russian dancers and choreographers), singlehandedly launched Igor Stravinsky onto the international stage. For the company’s 1910 Paris season, the composer originally tapped for The Firebird fell through, so on short notice Diaghilev took a chance on the 27-year-old Stravinsky, a late bloomer whose only credentials to that point were a few years of lessons with Nikolai Rimsky-Korsakov, a couple of short orchestral pieces and some orchestrations contributed to an earlier Diaghilev ballet.
After The Firebird made Stravinsky a household name, he began plotting ambitious new projects for the Ballets Russes. He thought of a ballet based on prehistoric pagan sacrifice, but shelved that idea temporarily to write the puppet-themed ballet Petrushka. He then returned to his pagan concept, working out the scenario with the artist Nikolai Roerich, who would provide the costume and set designs. The composition of The Rite of Spring stretched into 1912, and the orchestration was completed early in 1913, in time for the premiere in Paris on May 29.
The riot that ensued that night at the Theatre des Champs-Elysées is now legendary. Grumbling from the audience began as soon as they heard the opening bassoon melody in the uncharted top range of the instrument.
Somehow, conductor Pierre Monteux steered the orchestra through the entire score despite increasing clamor from the audience, while the choreographer, Vaslav Nijinsky, stood on a chair backstage shouting numbers at the dancers to help them negotiate the jarring, shifting rhythms. In truth, the audience might have been more disturbed by Nijinsky’s wild, ritualistic choreography than the unfamiliar musical language, considering that the same Parisian public embraced The Rite of Spring at a concert performance (i.e. without dancing) the next year.
Some of the most exciting new sounds were the chords that Stravinsky constructed by superimposing clashing triads, especially one signature chord—composed of an E-flat dominant seventh stacked over an E triad—that first appear in Augurs of Spring, foretelling the ritual sacrifice to come. The ferocity comes as much from the pounding, unpredictable accents as from the jagged chord itself.
At the same time, the score exudes a rustic, Russian attitude, even if Stravinsky did not quote any folksongs verbatim. The section titled Spring Rounds, for instance, incorporates the traditional Khorovod or circle dance.
Those scenes come in Part I of the ballet, The Adoration of the Earth, which depicts a springtime celebration filled with games, dances and blessings. The fateful second part, The Sacrifice, builds to the selection of a virgin who dances herself to death. The brutal Sacrificial Dance that ends the ballet plunges listener into all the intensity and horror of the imagined ancient ritual.
PDF score from the IMSLP Petrucci Music Library
Guide to The Rite of Spring made by Keeping Score, created by Michael Tilson Thomas with the San Francisco Symphony
Video of Stravinsky playing the all-important chord on the piano
-- Copyright © 2016 Aaron Grad
Aaron Grad is a composer, guitarist and writer based in Seattle. Besides providing program notes for the New World Symphony, he has been the Orpheus Chamber Orchestra’s program annotator since 2005 and also contributes notes to the Saint Paul Chamber Orchestra and Seattle Symphony.
Audio clips provided by Naxos of America, Inc.
Michael Tilson Thomas is Co-Founder and Artistic Director of the New World Symphony, America’s Orchestral Academy; Music Director of the San Francisco Symphony; and Conductor Laureate of the London Symphony Orchestra. In addition to these posts, he maintains an active presence guest conducting with the major orchestras of Europe and the United States.
Born in Los Angeles, Mr. Tilson Thomas is the third generation of his family to follow an artistic career. His grandparents, Boris and Bessie Thomashefsky, were founding members of the Yiddish Theater in America. His father, Ted Thomas, was a producer in the Mercury Theater Company in New York before moving to Los Angeles where he worked in films and television. His mother, Roberta Thomas, was the head of research for Columbia Pictures.
Mr. Tilson Thomas began his formal studies at the University of Southern California where he studied piano with John Crown and conducting and composition with Ingolf Dahl. At age 19 he was named Music Director of the Young Musicians Foundation Debut Orchestra. He worked with Stravinsky, Boulez, Stockhausen and Copland on premieres of their compositions at Los Angeles’ Monday Evening Concerts. During this same period he was the pianist and conductor for Gregor Piatigorsky and Jascha Heifetz.
In 1969, after winning the Koussevitzky Prize at Tanglewood, he was appointed Assistant Conductor of the Boston Symphony Orchestra. That year he also made his New York debut with the Boston Symphony and gained international recognition after replacing Music Director William Steinberg in mid-concert. He was later appointed Principal Guest Conductor of the Boston Symphony Orchestra where he remained until 1974. He was Music Director of the Buffalo Philharmonic from 1971 to 1979 and a Principal Guest Conductor of the Los Angeles Philharmonic from 1981 to 1985. His guest conducting includes appearances with the major orchestras of Europe and the United States.
His recorded repertoire of more than 120 discs includes works by composers such as Bach, Beethoven, Mahler, Prokofiev and Stravinsky as well as his pioneering work with the music of Charles Ives, Carl Ruggles, Steve Reich, John Cage, Ingolf Dahl, Morton Feldman, George Gershwin, John McLaughlin and Elvis Costello. He also recorded the complete orchestral works of Gustav Mahler with the San Francisco Symphony.
Mr. Tilson Thomas’ television work includes a series with the London Symphony Orchestra for BBC Television, the television broadcasts of the New York Philharmonic Young People’s Concerts from 1971 to 1977 and numerous productions on PBS’ Great Performances. Mr. Tilson Thomas and the San Francisco Symphony produced a multi-tiered media project, Keeping Score, which includes a television series, web sites, radio programs and programs in schools.
In 1990 Mr. Tilson Thomas and the New World Symphony were presented in a series of benefit concerts for UNICEF in the United States, featuring Audrey Hepburn as narrator of From the Diary of Anne Frank, composed by Mr. Tilson Thomas and commissioned by UNICEF. This piece has since been translated and performed in many languages worldwide. In August 1995 he led the Pacific Music Festival Orchestra in the premiere of his composition Showa/Shoah, commemorating the 50th anniversary of the bombing of Hiroshima. Thomas Hampson premiered his settings of poetry by Walt Whitman, Renée Fleming premiered his settings of the poetry of Emily Dickinson and the San Francisco Symphony premiered his concerto for contrabassoon entitled Urban Legend. As a Carnegie Hall Perspectives Artist from 2003 to 2005, he had an evening devoted to his own compositions which included Island Music for four marimbas and percussion, Notturno for solo flute and strings and a new setting of poems by Rainer Maria Rilke. Other compositions include Street Song for brass instruments and Agnegram, an overture for orchestra.
Among his many honors and awards, Mr. Tilson Thomas is a Chevalier dans l’ordre des Arts et des Lettres of France, was Musical America’s Musician of the Year and Conductor of the Year, Gramophone Magazine’s Artist of the Year and has been profiled on CBS’s 60 Minutes and ABC’s Nightline. He has won 11 Grammy Awards for his recordings. In 2008 he received the Peabody Award for his radio series for SFS Media, The MTT Files. In 2010 President Obama awarded him the National Medal of Arts, the highest award given to artists by the United States Government.
Renée Fleming is one of the most acclaimed singers of our time. In 2013 President Obama awarded her America's highest honor for an individual artist, the National Medal of Arts. She brought her voice to a vast new audience in 2014 as the first classical artist ever to sing the National Anthem at the Super Bowl. Winner of the 2013 Grammy Award (her fourth) for Best Classical Vocal Solo, Ms. Fleming has sung for momentous occasions around the world, from the 2006 Nobel Peace Prize ceremony to a historic first in 2012, when she sang on the balcony of Buckingham Palace in the Diamond Jubilee Concert for Queen Elizabeth II. In 2008 Ms. Fleming became the first woman in the 125-year history of the Metropolitan Opera to solo headline an opening night gala.
This year Ms. Fleming’s concert schedule takes her to Boston, New York, Stockholm, London, Paris, Vienna, Madrid, Monte Carlo, Buenos Aires, Miami and San Francisco. This season she will perform the role of the Marschallin in a new production of Strauss’ Der Rosenkavalier at the Royal Opera, Covent Garden and the Metropolitan Opera. Known for bringing new audiences to classical music and opera, Ms. Fleming has sung not only with Luciano Pavarotti, Plácido Domingo and Andrea Bocelli, but also with Elton John, Paul Simon, Sting, Lou Reed, Josh Groban and Joan Baez. She has hosted a wide variety of television and radio broadcasts, including the Metropolitan Opera’s Live in HD series and Live from Lincoln Center.
Decca released Ms. Fleming’s most recent album, Berg: Lyric Suite; Wellesz: Sonnets, last year. In recent years this 14-time Grammy-nominated artist has recorded everything from complete operas and song recitals to jazz, indie rock and the movie soundtrack of The Lord of the Rings. Her recent opera DVDs include Handel's Rodelinda, Massenet’s Thaïs and Verdi’s Otello, all three in the Metropolitan Opera Live in HD series; Strauss' Arabella and Ariadne auf Naxos; and Verdi’s La Traviata, filmed at London’s Royal Opera House.
Among Ms. Fleming’s numerous awards are the Fulbright Lifetime Achievement Medal; Germany’s Cross of the Order of Merit; Sweden’s Polar Prize; France’s Chevalier de la Légion d’Honneur; Honorary Membership in the Royal Academy of Music; and honorary doctorates from Harvard University, Duke University, Carnegie Mellon University, the University of Pennsylvania, the Eastman School of Music and The Juilliard School. Her memoir, The Inner Voice, has been published around the world and is currently in its 14th paperback printing from Penguin.
In March of this year, Ms. Fleming was named an Artistic Advisor at Large for The John F. Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts in Washington, D.C. In 2010 she was named the first-ever Creative Consultant at Lyric Opera of Chicago, where she recently curated the creation of Bel Canto, a world- premiere opera based on Ann Patchett’s best-selling novel. She is currently a member of the Board of Trustees of the Carnegie Hall Corporation, the Board of Sing for Hope, the Board of Trustees of the Asia Society and the Artistic Advisory Board of the Polyphony Foundation. For more information, please visit www.reneefleming.com.
Dean Whiteside, a native of New York City, is in his first season as the Conducting Fellow of the New World Symphony, where he leads a variety of performances and serves as assistant to Artistic Director Michael Tilson Thomas. Mr. Whiteside is Founder and Director of the Nashville Sinfonietta, hailed by John Pitcher of NPR as “a virtuoso band.” He opened the Blair School of Music’s 2013-14 season directing a multimedia realization of Haydn’s Seven Last Words of Our Savior on the Cross, which was called “innovative” by The Tennessean and “deeply meditative and satisfyingly original” by ArtsNash.
Mr. Whiteside won second prize and the Zagreb Philharmonic Orchestra Prize at the Sixth International Competition of Young Conductors Lovro von Matačić in 2015. He was the 2015 David Effron Conducting Fellow at the Chautauqua Institution Music Festival and served as a conducting fellow at the 2014 Castleton Festival, where he was mentored by Lorin Maazel. He has recently appeared with the Tonhalle Orchestra Zurich at the Sixth International David Zinman Masterclass, the Danish National Symphony Orchestra at the Malko Competition and The Juilliard Orchestra, where he led rehearsals as the assistant to Fabio Luisi.
Mr. Whiteside’s European debut came in 2011 after winning the Jorma Panula Blue Danube Masterclass and Competition. He has since led the Opéra Orchestre National Montpellier, Rousse State Opera Orchestra, Sibiu Philharmonic, Wiener Kammerorchester and Zagreb Philharmonic, as well as the Vanderbilt Orchestra on a five-city tour of China.
Mr. Whiteside trained at the Aspen Conducting Academy with Robert Spano and at the University of Music and Performing Arts Vienna, where he studied with Simeon Pironkoff and Yuji Yuasa, and from which he graduated with distinction. He participated in master classes led by such conductors as Bertrand de Billy, Mark Elder, Fabio Luisi, Jun Märkl, Kurt Masur and Jorma Panula. He began his conducting studies with Robin Fountain at Vanderbilt University, where he graduated cum laude with a double major in viola and philosophy.