Grammy Award-Winner Fabio Luisi Shapes Zurich Opera’s Season, Leads Major Productions at Met, Graces Top Podiums Worldwide in 2014-15
“An artist of true distinction, an interpreter in possession of a bold, unique, and clearly discernible voice.”
– Cleveland Plain-Dealer
Grammy and ECHO Klassik Award-winning conductor Fabio Luisi continues to dominate the international stage in 2014-15. In his third season as General Music Director of the Zurich Opera, where the programming reflects ever more clearly his unique artistic vision, the preeminent Italian conductor leads new productions of Martinu’s seldom-staged Juliette and Bellini’s bel canto masterpiece I Capuleti e i Montecchi; revivals of Norma, Ariadne auf Naxos, and Die Frau ohne Schatten; and a trio of Viennese-themed programs with the Philharmonia Zurich. Embarking on his fourth season as Principal Conductor of the Metropolitan Opera, he looks forward to premiering important new stagings of Cavalleria rusticana, I Pagliacci, and The Merry Widow, as well as directing a star-studded revival of Macbeth. A guest conductor in high demand worldwide, Luisi makes his Dutch National Opera debut in a new production of Lulu; gives his first, season-opening performances with the Juilliard Orchestra; and makes welcome returns to the podiums of the Cleveland Orchestra and Danish National Symphony Orchestra, where his upcoming engagements include replacing late chief conductor Rafael Frühbeck de Burgos to launch the orchestra’s season. On September 1, the Danish National Symphony Orchestra announced the appointment of Luisi as its Principal Conductor beginning in the 2017-18 season. Meanwhile, the quietly iconoclastic Luisi – as profoundly original in his chosen hobby as in his distinctive musical interpretations – continues to do double duty as a perfumer, offering his personally handcrafted perfumes for sale through his new company, FL Parfums, from which all proceeds go to charity.
Inspired leadership – both on and off the podium – at Zurich Opera
As the Wall Street Journal observes, Luisi’s“vision, like his downbeat…is crystal clear. He knows exactly what he wants.” It is this clear vision that continues to shape the Zurich Opera, where – on a 2014-15 lineup that is as rich as it is broad – the General Music Director succeeds in championing a wide range of contemporary opera, restoring neglected rarities to the repertoire, and showcasing the bel canto and Straussian classics that are among his own specialties.
“Trying to balance the Opera Zurich between mainstream titles and niche repertoire is a demanding but interesting task, which reflects perfectly the artistic choices Andreas Homoki and I are making in terms of both visual and musical realization.”
Testifying to his commitment to new opera, the Swiss opera house’s new season not only features the world premiere of Christian Jost’s Rote Laterne, a new Zurich commission, but presents three more operas composed over the past decade, with new productions of Frank Schwemmer’s Robin Hood (2007-08), Iris ter Schiphorst’s children’s opera Die Gänsemagd (2010), and, in its Swiss premiere, Oscar Strasnoy’s chamber opera Fälle (2012).
Luisi is similarly dedicated to restoring lost gems to the operatic canon, and under his curatorship Zurich offers three relative rarities this season, with new productions of Bohuslav Martinu’s Juliette and Vivaldi’s La verità in cimento, as well as a revival of Cimarosa’s Il matrimonio segreto. Luisi himself will conduct all eight performances of Martinu’s atmospheric but little-known 1938 opera in a new treatment by Zurich’s General Manager Andreas Homoki, with Annette Dasch in the title role, opposite Joseph Kaiser (Feb 14–March 4). The Schweizer Radio und Fernsehen considers Luisi and Homoki to be“almost a ‘dream team,’” while the Zürichsee-Zeitung marvels: “Under Fabio Luisi’s direction, the orchestra and singers proceed flawlessly, everything is there: every harshness, every tenderness, the fatal compulsion, the luminous quality.”
A bel canto aficionado, Luisi also takes the podium for Zurich’s new production of Bellini’s I Capuleti e i Montecchi (June 21–July 12). The production stars Joyce DiDonato and Anita Hartig as Shakespeare’s star-crossed lovers in a new staging by Christof Loy, with whom the conductor previously collaborated on Bellini’s La straniera in his inaugural Zurich season. Six bel canto revivals will also be presented at the house in 2014-15, including a Luisi-led production of Bellini’s Norma (Jan 31–Feb 21), along with favorites by Donizetti and Rossini. Embracing a wide operatic range, the company also offers original stagings of The Magic Flute from Tatjana Gürbaca, La traviata from David Hermann, Lohengrin from Homoki, and Britten’s The Turn of the Screw from Willy Decker. Rounding out the Zurich season are revivals of operas by Verdi, Mozart, Beethoven, Puccini, Wagner, and Strauss, whose Ariadne auf Naxos (Feb 15–March 3) and Die Frau ohne Schatten (Nov 22–Dec 6) will both be conducted by Luisi, always “an outstanding Straussian” (Gramophone).
An important focus of the conductor’s Swiss appointment is his leadership of the Philharmonia Zurich, with which he is entering his third season. Reflecting his dedication to an eclectic orchestral repertory, he and the ensemble present a series of themed concerts titled “Mythical Vienna,” exploring music by the great composers of the Austrian capital. Luisi leads three of these himself, pairing Mahler’s Fourth Symphony first with works by living composers: Jean-Luc Darbellay’s Trittico and Sofia Gubaidulina’s Violin Concerto “In tempus praesens” (Oct 25), and then with Rachmaninoff’s Third Piano Concerto (Jan 18), besides juxtaposing the music of Second Viennese School members Schoenberg and Berg with Rachmaninoff’s Fourth Piano Concerto (July 12). The soloist in both the Russian composer’s concertos is pianist Lise de la Salle, who returns for her second season as Zurich’s Artist in Residence. She and Luisi are frequent musical partners whose “intelligent structural awareness”impressed the Neue Zürcher Zeitung in a review that continued: “She took her time, the orchestra his, and between the two resulted in a flow of energy that sent a shiver down one’s spine.”
Of the Philharmonia Zurich’s coming season, Luisi explains:
“Philharmonia Zurich is an orchestra with huge symphonic potential, which we are trying to translate to a bigger presence on the international podiums.”
In New York City: three key Met productions, plus Juilliard debut
It was at the Metropolitan Opera that Luisi’s leadership was pronounced “exciting, insightful, and assured” (New York Times), and he returns to conduct three of the company’s most eagerly anticipated productions this season. The first is a starry Macbeth, in which Anna Netrebko makes her role debut as Verdi’s anti-heroine, with Zeljko Lucić in the title role, Joseph Calleja as Macduff, and René Pape as Banquo in Adrian Noble’s chilling staging (Sep 24–Oct 18); the October 11 performance marks the first production of the season to be transmitted to movie theaters worldwide in the Met’s celebrated Live in HD series.
The Principal Conductor also debuts two important Met productions this season, leading David McVicar’s new treatment of a popular double bill, Mascagni’s Cavalleria rusticana and Leoncavallo’s I Pagliacci (April 14–May 8), which will be shown Live in HD on April 25, as well as a new staging of Lehár’s operetta The Merry Widow from Broadway sensation Susan Stroman, with Susan Graham in the title role (April 24–May 7). Luisi also conducts the Grand Finals concert of the Metropolitan National Council Auditions (March 22), which has been dubbed “the most visible competition in America” (New York Times).
While in New York this fall, Luisi heads across Lincoln Plaza to launch the Juilliard Orchestra’s season, presenting a program of Mozart, Schumann, and Wagner in his first appearance with the orchestra (Oct 13).
Dutch National Opera debut; returns to Danish National Symphony & Cleveland Orchestra; more
The former artistic director of the Pacific Music Festival, Luisi recently returned to Japan to conduct Verdi’s Falstaff at the Saito Kinen Festival Matsumoto, and he remains highly sought after worldwide this season. For his Dutch National Opera debut, he directs the Royal Concertgebouw Orchestra in William Kentridge’s much talked-about new take on Berg’s Lulu, in which opera the New York Times has admired Luisi’s “penetrating insights and engrossing spontaneity” (June 1–28). Following his sensational success with the Danish National Symphony Orchestra (DNSO) last season, which Berlingske calls “one of the most wonderful in the orchestra’s history,” Luisi now returns to Copenhagen for two further engagements, not only stepping in to replace the orchestra’s late chief conductor in season-opening accounts of Mahler’s First Symphony and Beethoven’s Third Piano Concerto (Sep 4 & 5), but also leading a winter program of Brahms and Nielsen (Dec 5). The DNSO has just announced that Luisi has signed a three-year contract with the orchestra to be its new Principal Conductor beginning with the 2017-18 season. Kim Bohr, director of music at the DNSO commented, “That we’ve been able to attract a conductor of Fabio Luisi’s standing is quite fantastic. There is no doubt that he is the perfect match for the orchestra as regards both heart and mind. His desire to work with the deepest layers of the music and bring out the most beautiful, most nuanced musical expressions is truly extraordinary. I am very proud and absolutely delighted on the orchestra’s behalf.”
Finally, after his critically-acclaimed season-opening concerts last season, March finds Luisi back at the Cleveland Orchestra for the Ohio premiere of Luca Francesconi’s Cobalt, Scarlet: Two Colors of Dawn (2000), Liszt’s Second Piano Concerto featuring Jean-Yves Thibaudet, and Beethoven’s Seventh Symphony (March 12–14).
Even away from the opera house and concert stage, Luisi’s distinctive personality finds an unexpected outlet, as the New York Times discovered in its recent feature on the conductor’s unusual offstage hobby. For years the Italian maestro handcrafted perfumes for his friends and family, but now, with the launch of FL Parfums, all proceeds of which go to charity, his creations are available to the public too. Comparing perfumery to his career, Luisi explains: “I think it’s quite close to music. After all, how do you describe a sound? It’s not only a question of words but a question of emotions.”
A list of the conductor’s upcoming engagements follows, and more information is available at the web sites listed below.
Fabio Luisi: 2014-15 engagements
Sep 4 & 5
Danish National Symphony Orchestra (season-opening concerts)
Mahler: Symphony No. 1
Beethoven: Piano Concerto No. 3 (with Rudolf Buchbinder, piano)
Sep 24, 27; Oct 3, 8, 11, 15 & 18
Alice Tully Hall
Wagner: Siegfried Idyll
Mozart: Violin Concerto No. 3 (soloist TBA)
Schumann: Symphony No. 1, “Spring”
Jean-Luc Darbellay: Trittico
Sofia Gubaidulina’s Violin Concerto “In tempus praesens”
Mahler: Symphony No. 4
Nov 22, 27, 30; Dec 6
Strauss: Die Frau ohne Schatten
Danish National Symphony Orchestra
Brahms: Symphony No. 4
Nielsen: Symphony No. 2 “The Four Temperaments”
Rachmaninoff: Piano Concerto No. 3 (with Lise de la Salle, piano)
Mahler: Symphony No. 4
Jan 31; Feb 3, 6, 8, 12, 15 & 21
Feb 14, 17, 19, 22, 24, 27; March 1 & 4
Feb 15, 18, 22, 28; March 3
Strauss: Ariadne auf Naxos
March 12 & 14
Luca Francesconi: Cobalt, Scarlet: Two Colors of Dawn
Liszt: Piano Concerto No. 2 (with Jean-Yves Thibaudet, piano)
Beethoven: Symphony No. 7
Luca Francesconi: Cobalt, Scarlet: Two Colors of Dawn
Beethoven: Symphony No. 7
Metropolitan National Council Auditions Grand Finals concert
April 14, 18, 21, 25, 29; May 2, 5 & 8
Mascagni: Cavalleria rusticana / Leoncavallo: I Pagliacci
April 24, 27, 30 & May 7
Lehár: The Merry Widow
June 1, 6, 8, 14, 20, 23, 25 & 28
Dutch National Opera
June 21, 24, 27, 30; July 5, 7, 9 & 12
Bellini: I Capuleti e i Montecchi
Berg: Three Pieces for Orchestra, Op. 6
Rachmaninoff: Piano Concerto No. 4 (with Lise de la Salle, piano)
Schoenberg: Pelleas und Melisande, Op. 5
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© 21C Media Group, September 2014