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Fabio Luisi’s 2013-14 at Zurich Opera, Met, La Scala, and in concert

In his second season as General Music Director of the Zurich Opera, Grammy and ECHO Klassik Award-winner Fabio Luisi premieres important new productions of Beethoven’s Fidelio and Verdi’s Aida, and conducts revivals of Bellini’s La straniera, Offenbach’s Les contes d’Hoffmann, and Verdi’s Don Carlo with René Pape, which also serves as the vehicle for his return to the Teatro alla Scala. As distinguished in the concert hall as the opera house, he leads four orchestral programs with the Philharmonia Zurich, makes his long-awaited London Symphony Orchestra debut, and returns to the Royal Concertgebouw Orchestra, Vienna Symphony, Accademia Nazionale di Santa Cecilia, and Cleveland Orchestra, with which he launches the new season. As Principal Conductor of the Metropolitan Opera, the distinguished Italian conductor leads productions of Puccini’s Madama Butterfly and Rossini’s comedy La Cenerentola, which will be transmitted live to movie theaters around the world in the Met’s celebrated Live in HD series.

At Zurich Opera: new productions, revivals, and orchestral series

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. “Zurich’s programming is showing an increasingly adventurous touch,” reports the Intermezzo blog, and Luisi has succeeded once again in attracting some of today’s most visionary directors and conductors and in drawing together first-rate casts that juxtapose living legends like Cecilia Bartoli and René Pape with emerging singers on the cusp of international stardom. “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, and the conductor plays a major part in the new season.

He conducts eight performances of Beethoven’s sole opera, Fidelio, in a new production from Zurich General Manager Andreas Homoki, whose honors include the French Theatre Critics Award for Best Opera. As Beethoven’s heroine, German 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” (Guardian), while at the Los Angeles Opera, the Los Angeles Times deemed her “marvelous.” She sings opposite Richard Tucker Award-winner Brandon Jovanovich, who makes his role debut as Florestan (Dec 8­–Jan 5).

For his next original production in Zurich, Luisi reunites with young German director Tatjana Gürbaca, with whom he recently premiered a “consistently exciting, at times even gorgeous” (Basellandschaftliche Zeitung) new staging of Verdi’s Rigoletto, for the Italian composer’s Aida. With Luisi on the podium for all ten performances, the new production stars American soprano Latonia Moore, who has already embodied the title role at Covent Garden, Hamburg State Opera, and the Met; the New York Times praised her “radiant, plush, and sizable” voice and “affecting portrayal” (March 2–April 1). 

Luisi also leads Zurich revivals of Verdi’s Don Carlo, with an all-star cast anchored by René Pape, dubbed the “world’s most charismatic bass” by Opera News (Feb 15–March 1); Offenbach’s Les contes d’Hoffmann, with 2013 Metropolitan Opera Beverly Sills Artist Bryan Hymel (March 21–April 2); and Bellini’s La straniera, starring legendary bel canto soprano Edita Gruberová (Sep 28–Oct 22).

The conductor is as venerated in the concert hall as 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 conducts four – three in collaboration with Zurich’s Artist-in-Residence, French pianist Lise de la Salle. Dubbed “The Big Five,” the series will present a path into the symphonic literature of the 19th century by way of five key masterworks. To open the season, Luisi directs Berlioz’s iconic Symphonie fantastique alongside Rachmaninoff’s Rhapsody on a Theme of Paganini with de la Salle (Sep 29). The two reunite for the Russian composer’s Second Piano Concerto, which Luisi couples with Tchaikovsky’s Symphony No. 6, “Pathétique” (Dec 22). He continues with Mahler’s First Symphony and Hartmann’s Concerto funèbre (March 16), and draws the season to a close with de la Salle in Rachmaninoff’s First Piano Concerto, paired with Beethoven’s exuberant Mass in C (July 6).

An intimate “brunch concert” titled Fabio Luisi and Friends, offering a rendition of Schmidt’s Clarinet Quintet with the conductor himself at the piano, rounds out his upcoming Zurich season (March 2). 

Guest conducting at Cleveland Orchestra and in Europe

In one of his many high-profile guest-conducting engagements, Luisi opens the Cleveland Orchestra’s season at Severence Hall, leading three performances of Beethoven’s Fifth Piano Concerto with Hélène Grimaud as soloist. Mahler’s Fourth Symphony rounds out the program for the first and final concerts; Schumann’s First Symphony, “Spring,” closes the second (Sep 19-21). Reviewing the conductor’s first appearance with the Cleveland Orchestra, the Cleveland Plain Dealer concluded: “Here was an artist of true distinction, an interpreter in possession of a bold, unique, and clearly discernible voice.”

For his hotly-anticipated debut with the London Symphony Orchestra at Barbican Hall, Luisi leads the British orchestra in Bruckner’s Symphony No. 8 and Mozart’s Piano Concerto No. 23, K. 488, joined once again by Lise de la Salle (June 19 & 22). He returns to Amsterdam’s Royal Concertgebouw Orchestra for three performances of an all-French program comprising Saint-Saëns’s Third “Organ” Symphony, Honegger’s Rugby, and Lalo’s Symphonie espagnole; it was with Saint-Saëns that he impressed Seen and Heard International with the “the rich texture and fine sense of detail that is [his] calling card” (May 15-18). Back in his native Italy, he leads programs of Strauss, Schumann, and Bernhard Lang with Rome’s Accademia Nazionale di Santa Cecilia (May 31–June 3) and of Berlioz, Beethoven, Strauss, and Dukas with the Orchestra dell’Accademia della Scala (Oct 18-21). And for his return to the Vienna Symphony, where he recently concluded his tenure as Chief Conductor, Luisi conducts performances of Mahler’s Ninth Symphony and Schmidt’s Fantasia for piano and orchestra, with Beethoven Competition-winner Jasminka Stancul as soloist (Nov 8-10). 

At Met and La Scala

With his first performances at the Met, Luisi proved himself “a musician who knew exactly what he wanted and conveyed it through the Met’s orchestra and chorus with electrical jolts of conductorial will” (New York Times). Now launching his third season as Principal Conductor of the house, the conductor looks forward to leading spring presentations of two Met favorites. The first is Rossini’s effervescent comedy La Cenerentola, with a cast boasting mezzo Joyce DiDonato in her company role debut as the title character, opposite Juan Diego Flórez as her Prince Charming. Their final performance will be transmitted live to movie theaters around the world in the Met’s Live in HD series (April 21–May 10).

When he conducted Tosca at the Met, Luisi “drew a taut, surging performance from the orchestra, chorus, and cast” that the New York Times pronounced “riveting.” He returns to Puccini for his next Met appearances, leading performances of Madama Butterfly in a revival of Anthony Minghella’s acclaimed staging. South African soprano Amanda Echalaz makes her house debut in the title role, opposite Bryan Hymel’s Pinkerton (May 1-9).

Directing Massenet’s Manon in his long-awaited debut at Milan’s Teatro alla Scala last season, it was Luisi who proved “the real star” (Giornale della Musica). For his return to the storied venue, he looks forward to leading a revival of Verdi’s Don Carlo. René Pape heads a stellar cast in his signature role of Filippo II, alongside Martina Serafin and Ekaterina Gubanova as Elisabetta and Eboli (Oct 12-26).

Highlights of 2012-13

Last season saw Luisi launch his tenure at the Zurich Opera in a new, season-opening production of Jenufa that was pronounced “a triumph” (Seen and Heard International), followed by Tosca, La bohème, Rigoletto, La straniera, and Der Rosenkavalier. With the newly renamed Philharmonia Zürich, he embarked upon a special initiative, programming and conducting an increasing number of orchestral concerts, with an initial focus on the music of Schumann. At the Met, Luisi led David Alden’s new staging of Un ballo in maschera and revivals of Les Troyens and Aida, all of which were selected for Live in HD transmission. He undertook three complete cycles of Robert Lepage’s visionary Met “Ring,” headlined by Bryn Terfel and Deborah Voigt, winning 2013 Grammy and ECHO Klassik Awards for his leadership of Siegfried and Götterdämmerung when Deutsche Grammophon’s DVD release of the full cycle, recorded live at the Met, was named Best Opera Recording of 2012. Luisi directed the Met Opera Orchestra and pianist Yefim Bronfman at Carnegie Hall, and led multiple programs in the final leg of his journey with the Vienna Symphony, where he was honored with the Golden Bruckner Medal and Golden Bruckner Ring.

A list of the conductor’s upcoming engagements follows, and more information is available at the web sites provided below.

Fabio Luisi: upcoming engagements, 2013-14
Sep 19 & 21
Cleveland Orchestra
Beethoven: Piano Concerto No. 5 in E-flat (“Emperor”), Op. 73 (with Hélène Grimaud, piano)
Mahler: Symphony No. 4
Sep 20
Cleveland Orchestra
Beethoven: Piano Concerto No. 5 in E-flat (“Emperor”), Op. 73 (with Hélène Grimaud, piano)
Schumann: Symphony No. 1 in B-flat (“Spring”), Op. 38
Sep 28; Oct 2, 6, 13, 17 & 22
Zurich Opera
Bellini: La straniera
Sep 29
Philharmonia Zurich
Einem: Capriccio, Op. 2
Rachmaninoff: Rhapsody on a Theme of Paganini, Op. 43 (with Lise de la Salle, piano)
Berlioz: Symphonie fantastique
Oct 12, 16, 19, 23 & 26
Teatro alla Scala, Milan
Verdi: Don Carlo
Oct 18 & 20
Orchestra dell’Accademia della Scala
Dukas: The Sorcerer’s Apprentice
Strauss: Don Juan
Berlioz: Symphonie fantastique
Oct 21
Orchestra dell’Accademia della Scala
Dukas: The Sorcerer’s Apprentice
Strauss: Don Juan
Beethoven: Symphony No. 7 in A
Nov 8-10
Philharmonia Zurich
Schmidt: Fantasia for Piano and Orchestra (with Jasminka Stancul, piano)
Mahler: Symphony No. 9 in D
Dec 8, 12, 15, 18, 20, 29; Jan 1 & 5
Zurich Opera
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
Zurich Opera
Verdi: Don Carlo
March 2
Brunch Concert: Fabio Luisi and Friends
Schmidt: Clarinet Quintet (Fabio Luisi, piano)
March 2, 6, 9, 13, 16, 19, 22, 26, 29; April 1
Zurich Opera
Verdi: Aida (new production)
March 16
Philharmonia Zurich
Hartmann: Concerto funèbre (with Hanna Weinmeister, violin)
Mahler: Symphony No. 1
March 21, 25, 28, 30; April 2
Zurich Opera
Offenbach: Les contes d’Hoffmann
April 21, 25, 28; May 2, 6, & 10
Metropolitan Opera
Rossini: La Cenerentola
May 1, 5 & 9
Metropolitan Opera
Puccini: Madama Butterfly
May 15, 16 & 18
Royal Concertgebouw Orchestra
Honegger: Rugby
Lalo: Symphonie espagnole
Saint-Saëns: Symphony No. 3
May 31; June 1 & 3
Accademia Nazionale di Santa Cecilia
Lang: Monadologie II, Don Quichote
Strauss: Don Quixote
Schumann: Symphony No. 1
June 19 & 22
London Symphony Orchestra (debut)
Mozart: Piano Concerto No. 23, K. 488 (with Lise de la Salle, piano)
Bruckner: Symphony No. 8
July 6
Philharmonia Zurich
Rachmaninoff: Piano Concerto No. 1 (with Lise de la Salle, piano)
Beethoven: Mass in C, Op. 86
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© 21C Media Group, September 2013


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