The Boston Philharmonic Orchestra will perform an all-Wagner program with soprano soloist Alwyn Mellor, conducted by Benjamin Zander. The concerts will take place on Wednesday, November 18 at 7:30pm (Discovery Series) at Sanders Theatre, 45 Quincy St, Cambridge, MA 02138; Saturday, November 21 at 8:00pm with a Conductor’s Talk at 6:45pm at NEC’s Jordan Hall, 30 Gainsborough St, Boston, MA 02115; and Sunday, November 22 at 3:00pm with a Conductor’s Talk at 1:45pm at Sanders Theatre, 45 Quincy St, Cambridge, MA 02138.
About this program Benjamin Zander says, “Once bitten by the Wagner bug one is hooked for life. For me, I confess, it came rather late in life. After conducting only a few of the overtures many times over the years, I finally gave an all-Wagner program with the BPO eight years ago. It was one of the great musical adventures of my life, and I know the whole orchestra felt the same, as did the audience. Another pinnacle of my musical life was the performance of Act 3 of Siegfried with the Boston Philharmonic Youth Orchestra. Everything about the preparation of that concert was as moving and inspiring for me as it was for the players, and the audience, of course, went wild. One of the happy upshots of that performance was the privilege of working with the great Wagnerian soprano Alwyn Mellor, whose gorgeous and flawless vocal instrument and uncanny sensitivity to words astonished everyone. I felt it was virtually a necessity to invite her back, this time to the BPO, to sing in an all-Wagner program that would include excerpts from her two most famous roles, Isolde and Brünnhilde. I can hardly wait to delve into the profound and impassioned Wagnerian world again. And, I can promise you, there will be more Wagner to come!”
After last season’s wildly successful third act of Wagner’s Siegfried with the Boston Philharmonic Youth Orchestra in Symphony Hall, Maestro Zander decided to devote an entire program to his music for the BPO’s second concert of the 2015-16 season. The performance will feature the acclaimed Wagnerian soprano Alwyn Mellor, who masterfully performed in Siegfried last year, and who is possibly today’s leading exponent of the roles of Brünnhilde and Isolde.
Opening the concert are three excerpts from Die Meistersinger von Nürnberg: the poignant, profound prelude to the third act, the delightful Dance of the Apprentices, and the noble Entry of the Mastersingers. As the only comedy among his mature operas, Die Meistersinger takes place in Nuremberg during the middle of the 16th century, and revolves around the real-life guild of Meistersinger (Master Singers), an association of amateur poets and musicians.
Both vocal scenes featuring Ms. Mellor are being presented in context, as far as that is possible in a symphony concert. The Liebestod will be preceded by the Prelude to Tristan und Isolde, a searing paean to love that never fails to hold audiences spellbound. The Liebestod is perhaps the lyric pinnacle of Wagner’s writing for the voice. No music, by any composer, reaches to greater sublimity or depth of feeling.
The entire second half of the program is devoted to five excerpts from Die Götterdämmerung, played together as a single work to serve as a kind of concert summary of the great four-hour opera. It will include the most well-known of the orchestral excerpts from the opera: Siegfried’s Rhine Journey, the radiant Dawn music, the poignant scene of Siegfried’s Death and ensuing Funeral March, and will conclude with Brünnhilde’s Immolation Scene, with Ms. Mellor singing the role of Brünnhilde. One of the most dramatic and expansive solo scenes in all of opera, the Immolation Scene is a formidable vocal challenge, even by Wagnerian standards.
Benjamin Zander is the conductor of The Boston Philharmonic Orchestra and the Boston Philharmonic Youth Orchestra and a guest conductor around the world. With London’s famed Philharmonia Orchestra he is recording the complete cycle of Mahler symphonies, recordings that have been received with extraordinary critical acclaim both for the performance and Zander’s now famous full-length disc explaining the music for the lay listener. Their recordings of Mahler 9th and Bruckner’s 5th Symphony were nominated for Grammys for Best Orchestral Performance. Their latest recording, Mahler’s 2nd Symphony, was nominated for a Grammy in 2014. In 1967, Mr. Zander joined the faculty at New England Conservatory, where he taught an interpretation class, conducted the Youth Philharmonic Orchestra, and conducted the conservatory orchestras. For 30 years he was the Artistic Director of the joint program between New England Conservatory’s Preparatory School and The Walnut Hill School for the Performing Arts in Natick, Massachusetts.
Mr. Zander is one of the most sought after speakers in the world. He has given both the opening and the closing Keynote address at the World Economic Forum in Davos, where on another occasion he was awarded the Crystal award for “outstanding contributions in the Arts and international relations”. In 2002 he was awarded the “Caring Citizen of the Humanities” Award by the International Council for Caring Communities at the United Nations. In honor of his 70th birthday, and 45 years of teaching, he was recently awarded an Honorary Doctorate by the New England Conservatory. His partner Rosamund Zander and he have collaborated on a best-selling book, “The Art of Possibility” which has been translated into fifteen languages.
Soprano Alwyn Mellor has been praised as “Unquestionably in the very top flight of Wagnerians anywhere” (Opera). She made her debut at Seattle Opera in 2013 as Brünnhilde in Die Walküre (“Seldom has the Valkyrie’s famous calling card sounded so opulently secure: no vague swoops or screeches, just thrillingly accurate quality” wrote The Seattle Times), followed by the same role in Siegfried and Götterdämmerung (“The high point of an impressive cast – a real triumph” wrote The Vancouver Sun). This performance was released on Avie CD in September 2014 (“Rare is the artist who brings to this marathon a sound of such roundness and luster, or a spirit so transparent, youthful and feminine,” wrote The Wall Street Journal.)
She returns to Seattle Opera later this season to sing Senta in Der fliegende Holländer, and her Wagnerian engagements have further included Brünnhilde in Bergen, Düsseldorf, Gothenburg, Leipzig and Paris, Senta for the Florentine Opera Company, Opera North and Welsh National Opera, and Isolde in Tristan und Isolde for Grange Park Opera, the Opéra de Bordeaux and Washington National Opera.
Ms. Mellor sang Brünnhilde in the Boston Philharmonic Youth Orchestra’s performance of Siegfried – Act 3 earlier this year and is delighted to be working again with Maestro Benjamin Zander.
Wagner // Three excerpts from Die Meistersinger von Nürnberg
Wagner // Tristan und Isolde – Prelude and Liebestod
Alwyn Mellor, soprano
Wagner // Five excerpts from Götterdämmerung
Alwyn Mellor, soprano
About the Boston Philharmonic Orchestra:
The Boston Philharmonic Orchestra, founded by Benjamin Zander in 1979, features professional, student, and amateur musicians. One of Boston’s premier orchestras, the Boston Philharmonic follows a vision of passionate music making without boundaries by presenting top-notch music in a manner that both aficionados and the casual listener can enjoy.
The orchestra’s season includes performances at Symphony Hall, New England Conservatory’s Jordan Hall, and Sanders Theatre at Harvard University. The Philharmonic performs with a wide range of soloists from highly gifted performers at the start of their international careers such as Stefan Jackiw, Gabriela Montero and Caitlin Tully, to world-famous artists like Yo-Yo Ma, Alexander Baillie, Russell Sherman, Jon Kimura Parker and Kim Kashkashian and legendary masters such as Ivry Gitlis, Denes Zsigmondy, Georgy Sandor, Leonard Shure and Oscar Shumsky. The Philharmonic has released five critically acclaimed recordings, including works by Stravinsky, Beethoven, Mahler, Shostakovich and Ravel.
The orchestra presents innovative pre-concert talks with the conductor, Benjamin Zander. Zander has a unique approach to explaining classical music, and his intense passion for the art form attracts hundreds of attendees for each talk.