Press Room

Fabio Luisi returns to Zurich Opera for summer and second season

When Fabio Luisi took up his post as General Music Director of the Zurich Opera last fall, he helped launch a new era, marked by bold productions and inspired artistic collaborations. For the great Swiss opera house’s newly announced 2013-14 season, he continues to build on this auspicious start. As the Intermezzo blog reports, “Zurich’s programming is showing an increasingly adventurous touch,” and Luisi has succeeded once again in attracting some of today’s most visionary directors and conductors – with such young stars as Mikko Franck, Teodor Currentzis, Cornelius Meister, and Pavel Baleff – and in drawing together first-rate casts that juxtapose living legends like Cecilia Bartoli, Edita Gruberová, Anne-Sofie von Otter, René Pape, and Nina Stemme with emerging singers on the cusp of international stardom. Anchoring the new season are eleven new productions, 18 revivals, and six orchestral concerts. Having just won a Grammy Award for his leadership of Wagner at the Metropolitan Opera, in Zurich Luisi sets his sights on this year’s other great operatic bicentennial, with four operas by Giuseppe Verdi. The conductor himself will play a major part in the new season, premiering important productions of Fidelio and Aida, as well as leading four programs with the Philharmonia Zurich and revivals of Don Carlo, Les contes d’Hoffmann, and Bellini’s La straniera. By way of a prelude to the upcoming season, the company’s new take on this bel canto classic will form the centerpiece of Luisi’s summer in Zurich, which also sees him directing Rigoletto, Der Rosenkavalier, and concerts of Schumann’s orchestral and choral music.
Luisi and Zurich Opera’s 2013-14 season
New productions: Fidelio, Aida, and more
For his first new production of the 2013-14 season, Luisi tackles Beethoven’s sole opera, Fidelio, in his first artistic collaboration in Zurich with Andreas Homoki, who also serves as the opera house’s General Manager. Homoki’s tenure at the opera house began, like the conductor’s own, in the present season, and his direction credits boast a production of Die Frau ohne Schatten that won the French Theatre Critics Award for Best Opera. As Beethoven’s heroine, Italian soprano Anja Kampe reprises the portrayal with which she has already wowed critics on both sides of the Atlantic. At Glyndebourne, there was “praise all round for Anja Kampe’s performance as Leonore” (Guardian), while at the Los Angeles Opera, the L.A. Times marveled:
“The company debut of Anja Kampe as Leonore…is more than reason enough [to attend]. … She is a marvelous singer. Her voice is distinctive, displaying a dark, rich, mellow, almost alto timbre. Yet her sound is so focused that it cuts through Beethoven’s most boisterous orchestral outbursts and his biggest, most awe-inspiring ensembles with remarkable ease. … With calm authority, Kampe expresses the impossible.”
Making his role debut as Florestan is Richard Tucker Award-winning tenor Brandon Jovanovich, whose “star potential” has been noted by both Opera News and the Sunday Times of London. Luisi will conduct all ten performances of the new production, which bows on December 8 and runs until January 11, 2014.
As the New York Times observes, Luisi is one of the select few opera conductors who are so versatile as to be “equally comfortable with Wagner and Verdi.” After leading multiple complete “Ring” cycles – and winning his first Grammy Award – as Principal Conductor of the Metropolitan Opera, he turns once again to Verdi for his second original production next season in Zurich. One of the most exciting new partnerships he has forged there is with young German director Tatjana Gürbaca, opera director of the Mainz State Theater. Earlier this spring, they premiered a new staging of Verdi’s Rigoletto together, which the Basellandschaftliche Zeitung pronounced “consistently exciting, at times even gorgeous.” Now the two reunite for the great Italian composer’s Aida, starring American soprano Latonia Moore in the title role. Moore has already sung Aida at Covent Garden, Hamburg State Opera, and the Met; in the New York Times, Anthony Tommasini reported:
“The audience loved her. … Her voice was radiant, plush and sizable at its best, with gleaming top notes that broke through the chorus and orchestra during the crowd scenes. … That Ms. Moore is a young black artist singing the most famous African heroine in opera lent an extra dimension to her affecting portrayal.”
Co-starring as Radames is Latvian tenor Aleksandrs Antonenko, a nominee for the first International Opera Award for Best Male Singer. Of his Met debut opposite Renée Fleming, the New York Times concluded: “A handsome, virile stage presence, Mr. Antonenko moved with a winning confidence and ease. His ardent lyricism and powerful sound marked him as a performer of considerable promise.” Aida will open on March 2, 2014 for ten performances with Luisi on the podium.
One of the General Music Director’s primary goals last season was to broaden Zurich’s stable of up-and-coming conductors, and to establish long-term relationships with those he engaged. Among those who appeared at his personal invitation last season – and who are returning in 2013-14 – are Marc Albrecht, who will lead Calixto Bieito’s controversial new take on Zimmermann’s Die Soldaten; Ivor Bolton, who will team up with Willy Decker for Monteverdi’s Il ritorno d’Ulisse in patria; and Patrick Lange, who undertakes Gounod’s Faust with director Jan Philipp Gloger. Francesco Angelico and Jochen Rieder will share conducting duties on Jasmina Hadziahmetovic’s world premiere production of Marius Felix Lange’s new Oscar Wilde adaptation, Das Gespenst von Canterville. Zurich’s other upcoming new productions are Handel’s Alcina, conducted by Giovanni Antonini, directed by Christof Loy, and starring Cecilia Bartoli; Tchaikovsky’s Pique Dame, with Jirí Belohlávek conducting in Robert Carsen’s staging; and Puccini’s La fanciulla del West, with Barrie Kosky directing and Marco Armiliato on the podium.
Revivals: Don Carlo, Les contes d’Hoffmann, La straniera, and more
Of Zurich’s 18 revivals next season, three will be conducted by Luisi. He leads Verdi’s Don Carlo with an all-star cast in a staging by Sven-Eric Bechtolf, head of theater at the Salzburg Festival. Fabio Sartori reprises the title role in which Opera Aktuell declared: “His tenor voice exuded pure gold. … Bravissimo!” He is joined by René Pape, “the world’s most charismatic bass” (Opera News), in his signature role as King Philip, with Russian soprano Marina Poplavskaya as “a noble, elegant Elisabeth” (New York Times). The revival runs from February 15 to March 1, 2014.
Next, Luisi conducts Offenbach’s Les contes d’Hoffmann in a production by veteran German director Grisha Asagaroff, Zurich’s Artistic Director of Operations. Young American tenor Bryan Hymel – recently named the Metropolitan Opera’s 2013 Beverley Sills Artist – will sing the title role, with French baritone Laurent Naouri in his star turn as the four villains (March 21-April 2, 2014).
The remaining revivals, which range from Sale (a pastiche of music by Handel, starring Anne Sofie von Otter) to Britten’s Peter Grimes, include Luisi’s leadership of La straniera (Sept 28-Oct 22), in the production that he will help premiere this summer (see below).
Orchestral concerts: “The Big Five”
Luisi is as venerated for his work in the concert hall as in the opera house, and an important focus of the Swiss appointment is his leadership of the Philharmonia Zurich. For the 2013-14 season, he has programmed six orchestral concerts, of which he himself will conduct four – three in collaboration with Zurich’s Artist-in-Residence, French pianist Lise de la Salle, in works by Rachmaninoff. According to the New Yorker, “Ms. de la Salle is eminently musical; she offers depth as well as virtuosity.”
Dubbed “The Big Five,” the concert series will present a path into the symphonic literature of the 19th century by way of five key masterworks. To open the season, Luisi will direct Berlioz’s iconic Symphonie fantastique, alongside Rachmaninoff’s Rhapsody on a Theme of Paganini with de la Salle (Sep 29). The two will reunite for the Russian composer’s Second Piano Concerto, which Luisi will couple with Tchaikovsky’s seminal Symphony No. 6, “Pathétique” (Dec 22). He continues with Mahler’s First Symphony on a program with Hartmann’s Concerto funèbre featuring violinist Hanna Weinmeister (March 16, 2014), before drawing the season to a close with de la Salle in Rachmaninoff’s First Piano Concerto, along with Beethoven’s exuberant Mass in C (July 6, 2014).
To complete the series, Baroque specialist William Christie will lead Mozart’s Symphony No. 40 on an all-Mozart program (May 11, 2014), and Karl-Heinz Steffens will pair Bruckner’s Fifth Symphony with Mozart’s Clarinet Concerto in A, with soloist Sabine Meyer (June 1, 2014).
Additional events: Luisi at the piano
To round out Zurich’s upcoming season, these operas and orchestral concerts will be supplemented by a wealth of additional events: ballets, gala evenings, lectures, and educational programs; lieder performances by such masters of the genre as Dmitri Hvorostovsky and Matthias Goerne; and “brunch concerts” – a series of intimate chamber performances, among them a rendition of Schmidt’s Clarinet Quintet with the conductor himself at the piano (March 2, 2014).
Luisi’s summer in Zurich
The conductor will be highly active in Zurich over the coming summer. On June 23, he premieres an original new treatment of Bellini’s La straniera from Christof Loy, the radical German director whose many recent triumphs include a “riveting new production of Janacek’s Jenufa” (New York Times). As Luisi explains in the sixth episode of his “Conductor’s Corner” video series (available on YouTube), he considers bel canto opera ripe for reconsideration, and Bellini himself highly underrated; he points out that the primacy of the melodic line in the Italian composer’s work made a big impact on the generation of composers that followed, encompassing both Chopin and Wagner. All six performances will star legendary bel canto soprano Edita Gruberová, who “has an almost mythical reputation as a vocal miracle” (Seen and Heard International), with Luisi himself on the podium (June 23-July 14).
The summer also sees the conductor reprise Tatjana Gürbaca’s new production of Verdi’s Rigoletto for three performances with baritone Quinn Kelsey – “a Rigoletto for the ages” (Globe and Mail) – in the title role (June 29-July 13). Of Luisi’s direction in the opening run, the Basellandschaftliche Zeitung marveled that it “was more than a magnificent breath of fresh air: it revealed a whole new side of the work.”
To conclude his first operatic season in Zurich, Luisi leads a revival of Richard Strauss’s Der Rosenkavalier, starring Nina Stemme, “the world’s reigning dramatic soprano” (New York Times). Running from June 30 to July 12, the production comes courtesy of Sven-Eric Bechtolf, in whose hands “Rosenkavalier pulsed with real theatrical life” (Opera Today).
With the Philharmonia Zurich in June and July, Luisi offers two programs of orchestral and choral music by Robert Schumann. On June 2, he complements the composer’s Wagnerian Fourth Symphony with the Overture to Rienzi, on a program that also presents Rudolf Buchbinder as soloist in Schumann’s Piano Concerto in A minor. Then on July 7 Luisi tackles the great German Romantic’s rarely performed secular oratorio The Paradise and the Peri, with a strong cast of vocal soloists. In the first episode of his “Conductor’s Corner” series, he explains his choice of Schumann’s music as the focus for his inaugural season with the orchestra.
Luisi at the Zurich Opera: in the press
Luisi’s conducting at the Zurich Opera has already drawn fulsome praise. “Under Fabio Luisi’s direction, the orchestra and singers proceed flawlessly, everything is there: every harshness, every tenderness, the fatal compulsion, the luminous quality,” proclaimed the Zürichsee Zeitung, while of last season’s Jenufa, Seen and Heard International declared:
“Musically, the production is a triumph. Luisi conducts for all he is worth … The orchestra plays at their very best for him and impresses all. Luisi brought out many facets of this marvelous score which I had not heard in previous productions.”
A list of the conductor’s upcoming engagements follows, and more information is available at the web sites provided below. A full brochure detailing Zurich Opera’s 2013-14 season is provided here.
Fabio Luisi at the Zurich Opera: summer and 2013-14 season
June 23, 27; July 2, 6, 10 & 14
Bellini: La straniera (new production)
June 29; July 11 & 13
Verdi: Rigoletto
June 30; July 4, 9 & 12
Richard Strauss: Der Rosenkavalier
June 2
Philharmonia Zurich
Wagner: Overture to Rienzi
Schumann: Piano Concerto in A minor, Op. 54 (with Rudolf Buchbinder)
Schumann: Symphony No. 4 in D minor, Op. 120
July 7
Philharmonia Zurich
Schumann: The Paradise and the Peri (oratorio)
Sept 28; Oct 2, 6, 13, 17 & 22
Bellini: La straniera
Sept 29
Einem: Capriccio, Op. 2
Rachmaninoff: Rhapsody on a Theme of Paganini, Op. 43 (with Lise de la Salle, piano)
Berlioz: Symphonie fantastique
Dec 8, 12, 15, 18, 20, 29; Jan 1, 5, 8 & 11, 2014
Beethoven: Fidelio (new production)
Dec 22
Philharmonia Zurich
Rachmaninoff: Piano Concerto No. 2 (with Lise de la Salle, piano)
Tchaikovsky: Symphony No. 6, “Pathétique”
Feb 15, 21, 23, 26; March 1, 2014
Verdi: Don Carlo
March 2, 2014
Brunch Concert: Fabio Luisi and Friends
Schmidt: Clarinet Quintet (Fabio Luisi, piano)
March 2, 6, 9, 13, 16, 19, 22, 26, 29; April 1, 2014
Verdi: Aida (new production)
March 16, 2014
Philharmonia Zurich
Hartmann: Concerto funèbre (with Hanna Weinmeister, violin)
Mahler: Symphony No. 1
March 21, 25, 28, 30; April 2, 2014
Offenbach: Les contes d’Hoffmann
July 6, 2014
Philharmonia Zurich
Rachmaninoff: Piano Concerto No. 1 (with Lise de la Salle, piano)
Beethoven: Mass in C, Op. 84
#             #             #
© 21C Media Group, April 2013



Return to Press Room