Press Room

ASO opens 2009-10 season with Vincent d’Indy’s Fervaal

American Symphony Orchestra opens its 17th season in the “Great Performers at
Lincoln Center” series in Avery Fisher Hall on Wednesday, October 14 at 8pm,
with the first U.S. performance of Vincent d’Indy’s Romantic grand opera Fervaal. Leon Botstein, the
orchestra’s Music Director, conducts the concert performance. This first offering in the ASO’s 2009-2010 Lincoln Center season marks
the start of the
orchestra’s new policy of charging only $25 for every single ticket to its
concerts. Tickets are available by calling (212) 868-9276 (9ASO) or visiting .

Fervaalcontinues the ASO’s remarkable
series of golden-age French Romantic operas-in-concert, which have included
Dukas’s Ariane et Barbe-bleue,
Chausson’s Le roi Arthus, and Lalo’s Le roi d’Ys.  Both Claude Debussy and Paul Dukas evidently held Fervaal in higher esteem than Richard Wagner’s epics, but d’Indy’s Fervaal – like works by many of his French contemporaries – was
inspired by Wagner, and among other familiar touches, the work has love/death
and other themes in common with the latter’s Tristan und Isolde and Parsifal.

The ASO is also the resident
orchestra at the Bard SummerScape festival, where its recent performances of the grand Romantic French opera, Les Huguenots, by Giacomo Meyerbeer,
earned unanimous praise. It was the crowning achievement of SummerScape,
dedicated to the exploration of “Wagner and His World,” and the production was
described by the New York Times as “a
chance to enter into the cultural mind-set of a rich era in opera history. …
Mr. Botstein once again deserves credit for an overdue rescue job.” 

Vincent d’Indy (1851-1931) was 20
when France went to war with Prussia, but despite being an ardent Roman
Catholic and French patriot, d’Indy decided to devote himself to his musical
career rather than join the troops. 
In 1876 he attended the Bayreuth premiere of Wagner’s Ring, and not long afterward undertook
an operatic adaptation of the Swedish poem Axël,
by Esias Tegnér, which he eventually turned into Fervaal, his masterpiece. 
By the time Fervaal was
complete, d’Indy was well known for his lovely Symphonie sur un chant montagnard français (Symphony on a French Mountain Air).  The composer wrote his own libretto from Tegnér’s Axël, moving it from 18th-century
Sweden around the time of Charles XII to the dim medieval past in Celtic
Cévennes in the French Midi (called Cravann in the opera).  It concerns a wounded war-hero who is
nursed to health by a mysterious woman – Guilhen, an enemy Saracen princess –
with whom he falls in love.  After
he returns to battle against the Saracens, who are winning, she rejoins her
father’s army.  The two are
ultimately reunited in death. 
Fervaal’s name recalls that of Parsifal (Percival), while Guilhen
recalls a combination of Wagner’s Brünnhilde and Kundry. Even Fervaal’s Druid
teacher Arfagard might be descended from Parsifal’s
Gurnemanz.  D’Indy himself wrote:
“I have lived too close to the orbit of Wagner’s star not to have been fatally
involved in his revolution.”

The composer referred to his
work-in-three-acts (plus a prologue) as an “action musicale” and a “prose
poem”, composing it between 1889 and 1895. Vincent Giroud writes in a program
note for this American Symphony Orchestra concert:

“In another deliberate Wagnerian gesture, d’Indy based [Fervaal] on a strict leitmotiv system… combined with a
symbolic use of tonalities (G major for Cravann, B major for war, D major for love,
etc.).  The orchestration…calls
for large forces, including four saxophones…eight saxhorns…and even a
mountain horn.  The Théâtre de la
Monnaie in Brussels, which hosted the premieres of several major [French] operas of the period (from Massenet’s Hérodiade
to Chausson’s Le roi Arthus), staged
it first in March 1897.”

The principals from the world
premiere in Brussels also sang the French premiere at the Paris Opéra Comique
the next year, by which time France was embroiled in “l’Affaire Dreyfus”.  “The nationalist right, with which d’Indy
wholeheartedly identified [was pitted] against the partisans of the unjustly
accused Jewish captain [Dreyfus],” continues Giroud.  “It would, of course, be grossly unfair to see Fervaal as an anti-Semitic tract of the
kind d’Indy, to his discredit, deliberately attempted with his fourth (and
last) opera, La légende de Saint-Christophe.” 

Vincent Giroud and Leon Botstein
both reach the conclusion that d’Indy’s libretto is more problematic than his
beautiful music or the complicated story. 
Botstein writes of Fervaal in
his own program note for this concert performance:

the music of Fervaal is hard to characterize. It is a particular
synthesis and variation on many parallel themes in the history of music
regarding structure, harmony, narrative, orchestration, and form. D’Indy
believed that inspiration was indispensable and could not be supplanted by mere
craftsmanship. Whatever one may think about the opera’s dramatic theatrical
possibilities, its music is elegant and beautifully crafted. It is not the
music but rather the libretto and story that have helped keep Fervaal
out of the public eye and ear.” 

A fine
young cast has been assembled for the October 14 performance of d’Indy’s Fervaal, at which the Concert Chorale of
New York performs the choral scenes under the direction of James Bagwell,
recently appointed music director of New York’s Collegiate Chorale.  The title role, for tenor, is performed
by Dwayne Jones, the mezzo-soprano Guilen by Deanne Meek, and the baritone
Afargard by Donnie Ray Albert.  A
snake goddess, Kaito, is sung by contralto Barbara Dever. 

The American Symphony Orchestra,
founded in 1962 by Leopold Stokowski, is now celebrating its 47th
season, and Leon Botstein’s 17th as Music Director.  For the second consecutive season, Botstein delivers
an illuminating pre-concert lecture, free to ticket-holders, at 6.45 pm in
Avery Fisher Hall. 

Complete details of the American
Symphony Orchestra’s 2009-10 season at Lincoln Center can be found at the
orchestra’s web site: from (212) 868-9ASO (9276).


“Classics DeClassified”

In addition to its Lincoln Center performances, the
orchestra will continue its popular “Classics Declassified” series, now at
Symphony Space and expanded to six concerts this season, on Sundays at 4 pm and
Tuesdays at 7 pm.  The concerts,
preceded by illuminating lectures, will present five Beethoven symphonies and
provide a definitive look at these key works of the symphonic canon (the
remaining four Beethoven symphonies will be addressed next season).  “Classics Declassified” kicks off on
October 18, and full details will be announced separately.  Up at the Richard B. Fisher Center, the
ASO can also be seen performing in the venue’s Winter Series.  See
for details.


The American Symphony Orchestra’s 2009-10 season and programs are made
possible, in part, through support from National Endowment for the Arts, New
York State Council on the Arts, New York City Department of Cultural Affairs,
and Manhattan Borough President Scott M. Stringer.  Additional support is
provided by The Winston Foundation, Faith Golding Foundation, The Fan Fox and
Leslie Samuels Foundation, Open Society Institute, GG Group, Ann and Gordon
Getty Foundation, HBO, Carroll, Guido, & Groffman, LLP, DuBose &
Dorothy Heyward Memorial Trust, Mary Duke Biddle Foundation, Bay and Paul
Foundation, and Solon E. Summerfield Foundation.


Vincent d’Indy:
Fervaal, Op. 40

premiere, opera-in-concert

Botstein conducts the American Symphony Orchestra

October 14, at 8.00 PM

Avery Fisher Hall, Lincoln Center

tickets $25

Fervaal: Dwayne Jones
Guilhen: Deanne Meek
Afargard: Donnie Ray Albert
Kaito: Barbara Dever

Concert Chorale of New York, James Bagwell,

All tickets to the ASO’s Lincoln Center concerts are
just $25 and are
available by
calling (212) 868-9276 (9ASO) or visiting All ticket sales are final.

Enjoy an
illuminating pre-concert talk with American Symphony Orchestra Music Director
Leon Botstein, at 6:45 pm in the auditorium of Avery Fisher Hall.

more about this concert and the rest of the season at or from (212) 868-9ASO (9276).


Future ASO’s 2009-10 concerts at Lincoln Center: 

“The Remains of Romanticism” (Sun,
Nov 15, 3 pm)

Robert Fuchs: Serenade
No. 1, Op. 9 (1874) U.S. premiere  

Siegmund von
Hausegger: Wieland der Schmied,
symphonic poem (1904)  

Hermann Goetz:
Concerto for Violin and Orchestra, Op. 22 (1868/80)  

Ludwig Thuille: Romantic Overture, Op.16 (1899)  

Richard Strauss:
Symphony, Op.12 (1884)

“An American Biography: The Music of Henry Cowell” (Fri, Jan 29, 2010, 8 pm)

Hymn and Fuguing Tune No. 3

Atlantis (1926) New York premiere  

Variations for
Orchestra (1956/59)  

Symphony No. 2,
“Anthropos” (1941)  

Concerto for Harmonica
and Orchestra (1962)  

Symphony No. 11 (1953)
York City premiere

“After the Thaw” (Weds, Feb 24, 8 pm)

Alexander Lokshin:
Symphony No. 4 (1968) U.S. premiere  

Boris Tchaikovsky:
Concerto for Cello and Symphonic Orchestra (1964)  

Boris Tishchenko:
Symphony No. 5, Op. 67 (1976)  

Boris Tchaikovsky: Music for Orchestra (1987) U.S. premiere

“Schumann’s Scenes from Goethe’s
(Fri, April 9)

“Apollo and Dionysus” (Sun,
May 9)

Arthur Bliss: Hymn to Apollo (1926/65) New
York premiere

Luigi Dallapiccola:
“Frammenti Sinfonici” from the ballet Marsia

Hans Werner Henze: Symphony
No. 3 (1950)  

Albert Roussel: Bacchus et Ariane, Op. 43, Suites 1
& 2 (1931)

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© 21C Media Group, September 2009

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