The Salzburg Festival had not originally planned to celebrate its 100th anniversary with Cosi fan tutte. As it turned out, the Summer 2020 production of Mozart’s intimate opera was hailed by the German newspaper Die Welt as “The best Mozart at Salzburg for decades … Everything worked, coming together in fabulous harmony: acting, singing and theatrical concept.” The Austrian magazine Profil spoke of “The return of opera after the first lockdown in the form of a perfect Mozartian miracle”.
Before the coronavirus wrought havoc on the world, the Austrian festival had scheduled seven operas to mark its centenary. In the event, it staged just two, honouring the two composers most closely identified with Salzburg: Strauss (with Elektra) and Mozart. The production of Cosi fan tutte was created in a matter of weeks by a team led by award-winning stage director Christoph Loy and conductor Joana Malwitz. General music director in the German city of Nuremberg, Malwitz became the first woman to conduct a series of performances at the Salzburg Festival. The three female singers in the cast are all closely linked with the Erato label – soprano Elsa Dreisig and mezzo-sopranos Marianne Crebassa and Lea Desandre (respectively Fiordiligi, Dorabella and Despina) – while the male singers were tenor Bogdan Volkov and baritones Andrè Schuen and Johannes Martin Kränzle (Ferrando, Guglielmo and Don Alfonso).
Typically for a production by Christoph Loy – one of the world’s leading opera directors – streamlined, contemporary design set the scene for penetrating psychology. The opera is subtitled ‘The School for Lovers’, and Lorenzo Da Ponte’s ostensibly comic libretto is famously full of improbabilities and ambiguities as, for a bet, two young men disguise themselves and attempt to deceive their girlfriends. “I feel the piece is an invitation to enjoy life with all its complications,” says Loy. “That, combined with the prospect of potential future happiness, is quite something. For me, the fact that Mozart composed a ‘lieto fine’, a ‘happy ending’, is not mere convention — it corresponds to his deepest convictions about life.” The Viennese newspaper Die Presse found that Loy created “a relationship drama with humour and depth”, while the French newspaper Le Figaro praised “a subtle and lively production”.
To respect Austria’s Covid-19 protocols, the opera was reduced in length and played without an interval. This DVD, filmed on the first night of the production, runs for some two hours 25 minutes. Noting that the coherence and flow of the opera was preserved in this condensation, Musical America observed that: “Loy sees it as a work in which joy and melancholy are in tension. Everyone is caught in a state of emotional volatility, and the genius of the staging is that at any moment you never know – contrary to logic – which of the two conflicting emotions will surface.” “Attention was focused on the characters,” wrote the French website Altamusica, “Everything depended on the fluidity of the adaptation, which was absolutely convincing.”
There was a full-scale orchestra in the pit of Salzburg’s Grosses Festspielhaus and the chorus made its brief contributions from behind the scenes. Le Figaro described Malwitz’s interpretation of the score as “a jewel of quicksilver precision, drawing a hypersensitive, sparkling response from the Wiener Philharmoniker and giving meaning to each accent and change of tempo,” while radio station Deutsche Welle found it “Buoyant, intimate, fizzing with life.”
As for the performers on stage, Bachtrack asserted that “It’s difficult to believe Salzburg could have cast this Così any better.” The Frankfurter Rundschau declared the singing “a revelation, both in terms of individual performances and as a harmonious ensemble,” while the Salzburger Nachrichten admired “An ideal ensemble in a consummately balanced interpretation of Mozart’s experiment in love and life.”
The UK’s Opera magazine wrote that: “In a beautifully balanced cast Johannes Martin Kränzle was a more sceptical than cynical Don Alfonso. Elsa Dreisig’s luminous Fiordiligi and Marianne Crebassa’s feisty Dorabella were as well contrasted as Bogdan Volkov’s mellifluous Ferrando and Andrè Schuen’s vigorous Guglielmo, while Lea Desandre was a perky Despina.” Germany’s Orpheus magazine observed that “Elsa Dreisig and Marianne Crebassa made superb vocal sisters, singing with refinement as a pair and each sensationally good in her own right. Their male counterparts were in no way lacking by comparison: rising star baritone Andrè Schuen sang and acted the role of Guglielmo with the appropriate youthful swagger, while the perfect tenor lyricism of Bogdan Volkov … brought tears to one’s eyes. Johannes Martin Kränzle excelled as a warm, mellifluous, dandified Don Alfonso and Lea Desandre’s bubbly Despina captivated with her intensity.”
The Salzburg Festival’s artistic director Markus Hinterhäuser sums up the entire enterprise in an eloquent statement: “…Cosi fan tutte as we have seldom experienced it: overwhelmingly beautiful and adroit, and of profound refinement and elegance. We are delighted that this production – which allows audiences to hear and experience the miracle of Mozart in all its delicacy and grace, and realised with the greatest theatrical and musical intelligence – is now available on DVD.”
The Gramophone Awards 2018 – regarded as the ‘Oscars of classical music’ – reflected the robust health of the classical recording industry and the huge wealth of performing talent.
The prestigious Recording of the Year was bestowed upon the winner of this year’s Opera category, John Nelson’s recording of Berlioz’s Les Troyens on the Erato label. Praised for its stellar international cast – featuring Joyce DiDonato, Michael Spyres and Marie-Nicole Lemieux - Gramophone stated this recording represented ‘a thrilling new benchmark for this epic opera’.
James Jolly, Gramophone’s Editor-in-Chief, said at the Awards: ‘Classical music is a sector that has been performing well in the UK when compared with other kinds of music. In the first six months of this year classical CDs, downloads and streaming have all outperformed the market. Classical streams were up by 45 per cent against total market growth of 37 per cent. Let’s hope that this evening’s focus on classical music plays its part in producing more figures like that.’
The shortlists for the 13th annual BBC Music Magazine Awards, the only classical music awards in which the main categories are voted for by the public, have been announced. A jury of expert critics selected this year’s 21 nominees across seven categories from over 200 longlisted recordings reviewed in 2017 by BBC Music Magazine, the world’s best-selling classical music monthly. The public vote is now open at the magazine’s website.
The many distinguished and varied nominees include, in the Opera category, the epic recording of Les Troyens, hailed the new reference recording and topping many Best of 2017 lists including The New York Times, The Guardian and the Chicago Tribune, thanks to its impressive orchestral and choral forces and an all-star cast headed by Joyce DiDonato, Marie-Nicole Lemieux, Michael Spyres and Marianne Crebassa.
'[Conductor John] Nelson drives the drama with unforced tempos but ample theatrical vitality. Spyres...sings with lyrical grace and spirit...Joyce DiDonato sings Dido with characteristic security and expressiveness,' opined BBC Music Magazine in its five-star review.
Flying the French flag in the Chamber category is the sensational team featuring Renaud Capuçon (violin), Edgar Moreau (cello), Emmanuel Pahud (flute) and Bertrand Chamayou (piano) in these mercurial Debussy sonatas - charming one moment, sensual the next. The French critics called the six players a 'supergroup', while BBC Music Magazine noted that 'a sense of joy in collegial music-making pervades these performances. Unlike many, violinist Renaud Capuçon and pianist Bertrand Chamayou and their colleagues do not avoid the vein of sensual passion that glows beneath Debussy's perfectionism...Perhaps the finest all is the beautiful balance of elegiac tone that thins out of the Sonata for Flute Viola and Harp.'
The Concerto category also features French harpsichord firebrand Jean Rondeau on the album Dynastie, with intensely intimate, energised performances of concertos by Bach and sons. 'His spirited and eloquently ornamented playing serves the music of JS Bach and three of his sons uncommonly well,' declared BBC Music Magazine.
There are seven categories open to the public vote: Orchestral, Concerto, Opera, Choral, Vocal, Chamber and Instrumental. Audio excerpts are available on the voting site, and all UK voters will be entered into a draw to win copies of the nominations.
The winners of the Awards will be announced at a ceremony on 5 April at Kings Place, London. In addition to the public awards, there are four jury awards: Premiere Recording, Newcomer of the Year, DVD of the Year and Recording of the Year.
See all the nominees and have your say now!
French mezzo-soprano Marianne Crebassa made her London debut last night before an audience of thousands at the BBC Proms. Elegant and expressive in an embroidered Ashi gown, she brought sensuality and dramatic flair to Ravel's Shéhérazare with the Philharmonia Orchestra and maestro Esa-Pekka Salonen. ArtsDesk praised the "wonderful colours in Marianne Crebassa’s vividly characterised singing.
"She was extrovert and engaging but not meretricious, and responded sensitively to the orchestra behind her, especially in the second song, The Enchanted Flute," continued ArtsDesk critic Bernard Hughes.
The Times critic was no less seduced by Crebassa's enchanting voice and charismatic presence: “Settling down to be lulled into reverie by Ravel’s languid Shéhérazade, I was instead infused with a growing feeling that I was watching a new star. I’ve rarely heard a singer make a more poised, polished or delectable Proms debut than the young French mezzo Marianne Crebassa did in this sensuous song-cycle.”
The programme was broadcast on BBC Radio 3 and can be heard again here. Following this very auspicious debut, the young mezzo returns to a stage she knows well, singing Sesto in Mozart's La clemenza di Tito directed by Peter Sellars at the Salzburg Festival.
Crebassa's sultry mezzo and impeccable diction in French repertoire will be brought to the fore on her next album Secrets, a recital of French chanson including music by Ravel, Debussy and Fauré as well as a vocalise by Turkish pianist Fazıl Say, Crebassa's sensitive duo partner on Secrets.
Marianne Crebassa's new album Secrets will be out on 20 October, 2017.
Three of Europe's finest young classical talents make their much-anticipated BBC Proms debuts in the upcoming concert season at the Royal Albert Hall.
French opera star Marianne Crebassa, recently crowned Opera Singer of the Year in France's Victoires de la Musique Classique, makes her long-awaited London as soloist in Ravel's Schéhérazade with the Philharmonia Orchestra conducted by Esa-Pekka Salonen. The young mezzo-soprano first came to international attention at the Salzburg Festival in 2012; Gramophone has already fallen for the charms of her debut album Oh, Boy!, praising her "beautiful and spirited" Mozart.
Italian virtuoso pianist Beatrice Rana, named BBC Music Magazine Newcomer of the Year in this week's award ceremony, also makes her Proms debut this season, playing the Schumann Piano Concerto in A Minor with the BBC Philharmonic Orchestra and Sir Andrew Davis. The concert will be televised on BBC Four. Beatrice is a BBC New Generation Artist. Her latest album is Bach's The Goldberg Variations.
The 23-year-old French cellist Edgar Moreau makes his first Proms appearance this summer with his regular orchestral partners, the period-instrument ensemble Il Pomo d'oro directed by Maxim Emelyanychev. They play Italian Baroque music from their album Giovincello.
Proms favourites the John Wilson Orchestra return for their annual sell-out concerts, this time for the first European performance of the recently re-constructed stage orchestration of Rodgers & Hammerstein’s Oklahoma!. And the young, dynamic Aurora Orchestra, which has made a name for itself performing major symphonies from memory at the Proms in recent years, presents their biggest feat yet: Beethoven's Eroica.
Tickets on sale now for a lively and varied 2017 BBC Proms.
Strasbourg, April 15 and 17, 2017: The full forces of the Strasbourg Philharmonic Orchestra, three choirs and sixteen hand-picked soloists unite under the baton of veteran Berlioz specialist John Nelson for two five-hour concerts of the epic opera Les Troyens (The Trojans), in what Forum Opéra has already declared “the music event of the year” and “The Troyens of the century”. Erato had the honour of recording this French operatic milestone for release on the label in November 2017.
Some 239 musicians were present on and around the stage in surround sound formation in Strasbourg’s state-of-the-art Salle Érasme at the Palais de la Musique et des Congrès. American conductor John Nelson – who made his Metropolitan Opera debut in 1974 replacing an indisposed Rafael Kubelik in Les Troyens, has championed this grand opera for more than 40 years and has performed it more than any other conductor. Now, at last, the indefatigable maestro is at the helm of a predominantly French cast of rising stars and established artists, showcasing the finest singers of the French opera firmament, including mezzo-soprano Marianne Crebassa, baritone Stéphane Degout, bass Nicolas Courjal and tenors Stanislas de Barbeyrac and Cyrille Dubois.
Headlining this formidable Who’s Who, in the three principal roles, were American mezzo-soprano Joyce DiDonato and tenor Michael Spyres (Didon and Énée), and French-Canadian contralto Marie-Nicole Lemieux as the doomed prophetess Cassandre.
Alain Lanceron, president of Warner Classics & Erato, said: “Recording Berlioz’s Les Troyens is a once-in-a-lifetime experience. This monumental work, long considered unplayable, requires exceptional forces on all fronts: orchestra, choirs and numerous soloists, three of which take on the most demanding roles in French opera. The triumph of the concerts in Strasbourg promises a reference recording that will set a new landmark in the discography.
“It was with great emotion that we at Erato witnessed pioneering Berlioz conductor John Nelson at the podium of a transcendent Philharmonique de Strasbourg and the combined choirs of the Opéra National du Rhin, the Philharmonique de Strasbourg and the Badischer Staatsopernchor. The all-star cast led by Joyce DiDonato, Marie-Nicole Lemieux and Michael Spyres – all three in major role debuts – was surrounded by the crème de la crème of unique talents in the French school of opera: a stellar line-up that has already entered the annals of history! We are grateful to all the musicians and the recording team for their commitment to this unforgettable adventure.”
Joyce DiDonato added: “It has been a gift to return to making music with John Nelson, in particular on this momentous occasion of his return to the epic journey of Les Troyens. I cannot imagine creating the role of Didon with a more heartfelt, masterful baton in the lead. It has been an absolute highlight of my musical life, and I am honoured to have been a part of this incredible team of orchestra, chorus and superlative soloists. This is a recording I will treasure – for the music-making and for the beautiful souvenirs of these days in Strasbourg.”
“To sing with Joyce, Michael and this dream cast was and a gift and a true pleasure. We were involved in this incredible music with all our hearts because we admire John Nelson’s vision so much. I hope I served Berlioz well!” enthused Marie-Nicole Lemieux.
“I have had the enormous privilege of recording what I consider to be the greatest French opera, with a predominately French cast, which has never been done before in all the recordings to date," said John Nelson. "The cast is the best ever assembled for this opera and the orchestra is ideal, with a marvelous combination of German discipline and French élan and beauty of sound. For a conductor it doesn't get better than this! We hope this will be a recording that will last for the ages.”
Erato has recorded Berlioz’s complete Les Troyens in Strasbourg for release in November 2017.
Full cast (in order of appearance):
Richard Rittelmann Soldier (act I), Greek captain (act II)
Marie-Nicole Lemieux Cassandre
Stéphane Degout Chorèbe
Michael Spyres Enée
Marianne Crebassa Ascagne
Philippe Sly Panthée
Stanislas de Barbeyrac Hélènus, Hylas
Bertrand Grunenwald Priam
Agnieszka Sławińska Hécube
Jean Teitgen Ombre d’Hector, Mercure
Joyce DiDonato Didon
Hanna Hipp Anna
Cyrille Dubois Iopas
Nicolas Courjal Narbal
Jérôme Varnier Sentinel I
Frédéric Caton Sentinelle II
Chœur de l’Opéra national du Rhin
Chœur philharmonique de Strasbourg
Orchestre Philharmonique de Strasbourg
John Nelson conductor
Mezzo-soprano Marianne Crebassa was declared Opera Singer of the Year at the 24th Victoires de la Musique Classique - the French Grammys - during a ceremony in Paris televised to millions of viewers on France3 last night.
The young opera star beat out tough competition with soprano Patricia Petibon and mezzo Stephanie d'Oustrac also in the running. "I'd like to share this award with my fellow nominees," said Crebassa in her acceptance speech, with a special mention to her parents in attendance, and to Erato "for the chance to make the album with absolute freedom".
In her trademark tuxedo and white bowtie, she sang Gluck's Amour, viens rendre à mon âme, one of the gems from her debut album of trouser-role arias Oh, Boy!, released on Erato late 2016.
The star-studded, three-hour ceremony featured live performances from countertenor Philippe Jaroussky, contralto Marie-Nicole Lemieux (an aria from l'Italiana in Algeri ahead of the release of her Rossini album debut on Erato, entitled Sì Sì Sì Sì!).
Tenor Jonas Kaufmann sang before accepting his 'Victoire d'honneur'.
Full list of winners at the 24th Victoires de la Musique Classique:
Opera RevelationLea Desandre
Instrumental Soloist Revelation
Dufour - Burning Bright - Les Percussions de Strasbourg (Percussions de Strasbourg)
Marianne Crebassa lit up the stage as one of the soloists in the all-star, all-Mozart opening night of the 50th edition of the Mostly Mozart Festival at New York's Lincoln Center this week.
The young French mezzo-soprano, whose searing interpretations of Mozart have made her the darling of the Salzburg Festival in recent years, sang alongside the likes of Ana María Martínez, Matthew Polenzani and Peter Mattei in a programme of semi-staged Mozart arias accompanied by installations and projections by Netia Jones.
"Marianne Crebassa was a potent Sesto in two numbers of La Clemenza di Tito," opined The New York Times.
Crebassa's debut album features mostly Mozart - the 'pants roles' like that of Sesto in Clemenza di Tito in which this in-demand mezzo excels. But it also explores the same gender interplay of trouser roles in French Romantic repertoire, from Gluck to Berlioz, coming full circle to the role of Mozart as portrayed in an opera by Reynaldo Hahn!
Crebassa's Erato debut, to be released late October, was recorded in Mozart Mecca - Salzburg - with frequent collaborators the Mozarteum Orchestra and conductor Marc Minkowski.
Marianne Crebassa has signed an exclusive recording contract with Erato. Hailed “splendidly charismatic” by The New York Times, the young French mezzo-soprano is “an absolute revelation” (Forum Opéra), praised for her “luscious voice” (Financial Times).
Within a broad repertory encompassing Handel, Gluck, Berlioz, Debussy and Offenbach, Crebassa has nonetheless made a name for herself above all in Mozart. An alumnus of the Montpellier Conservatoire, she sang opposite Rolando Villazón in the acclaimed 2013 Lucio Silla at the Festwoche Salzburg, conducted by Marc Minkowski and reprised at the Salzburg Festival the same year. She made her La Scala debut in the same production in 2015; later that year, she portrayed Cherubino in Le nozze di Figaro at the Staatsoper Berlin, conducted by Gustavo Dudamel.
Crebassa’s first collaboration with maestro Minkowski was in a Salzburg performance of Handel’s Tamerlano in 2012, in which she sang alongside Plácido Domingo. The mezzo-soprano and conductor have continued to explore lesser-known Mozart repertoire together, most recently in a pioneering production based on his oratorio Davide penitente for the 2015 Salzburg Mozart Week, featuring equestrian choreography restoring the stage of the Salzburg Felsenreitschule (Horseriding School) to its original function.
Marc Minkowski and the Mozarteum Orchester Salzburg, then, were the ideal partners for Crebassa’s debut aria recital recording. For this project, the mezzo-soprano takes as a starting point the Mozart ‘trouser roles’ that have already won her acclaim on stage – Lucio Silla’s Cecilio (originally written for a soprano castrato) and Ramiro from La finta giardiniera and Cherubino. The theme continues with male characters from French grand operas by Chabrier, Gounod, Massenet and Offenbach.
Alain Lanceron, President of Warner Classics and Erato, said: “Since her first appearances in concert and on stage, Marianne Crebassa has captivated the international music scene, thanks to the exceptional quality of her vocal timbre and her innate musicality. We are delighted to welcome this jewel into the Erato family and look forward to a stellar future with her.”
Crebassa added: “I couldn't have hoped for greater luck than to bring my first recording to fruition with Erato. This album is close to my heart – it feels like a natural continuation of the personal and artistic connections I've made since my debut at the Salzburg Festival. This great musical city and the Mozarteum have supported me unfailingly from the beginning, as well as Marc Minkowski, with whom I have shared the stage many times. Let the adventure begin!”
Recorded in January in Salzburg, Marianne Crebassa’s debut album with the Mozarteum Orchester Salzburg and Marc Minkowski is slated for release in November 2016.
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