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Iestyn Davies 2013-14: Britten at Met & Carnegie; Dowland CD and tour

The 2013-14 season sees Iestyn Davies – “now in the stratosphere of top young international countertenors” (Observer, UK) – play a key role in celebrations of the Britten centennial, starring as Oberon in A Midsummer Night’s Dream at the Metropolitan Opera and making high-profile appearances at Carnegie Hall and (Le) Poisson Rouge. The singer, winner of the 2012 Gramophone Recital Award, maintains his U.S. presence in the spring: following the release of his new Hyperion album of Dowland’s lute songs, he embarks on a major North American recital tour with lutenist Thomas Dunford. With stops at Carnegie Hall, Washington’s Vocal Arts DC, and Berkeley’s CAL Performances, the tour will juxtapose the music of Dowland and his Elizabethan contemporaries with the American premiere of a new commission from Nico Muhly.
Honoring Britten at the Met, Carnegie Hall, (Le) Poisson Rouge, and more
According to the Times of London, it is the music of Benjamin Britten (1913-76) that elicits Davies’s finest mastery,” inducing “shivers down the spine.” In honor of the English composer’s centennial this fall, his works predominate in Davies’s upcoming schedule. At the Metropolitan Opera, in what the countertenor describes as “the highlight of my career so far,” he will headline Britten’s opera A Midsummer Night’s Dream as Oberon, a role he has already sung to acclaim at the English National Opera and Houston Grand Opera. Opera News reported:
As Oberon, countertenor Iestyn Davies had not only the high range but also a top-to-bottom depth of resonance that projected both the unearthly and regal qualities of the fairy king. At times, the effect…was nothing short of uncanny, vividly evoking the supernatural world.”
At the Met, where his 2011 house debut was pronounced “outstanding” (New York Times), Davies will star opposite soprano Kathleen Kim, in an avant-garde staging by Tim Albery and Antony McDonald, with James Conlon on the podium (Oct 11-31). When the production first bowed at the Met, the New York Times declared: “Mr. Albery and Mr. McDonald set Shakespeare free. The opera’s charm works wherever it wanders.”
Composed over the course of Britten’s career, the Canticles chart his personal and creative relationship with his muse, tenor Peter Pears, in subject matter ranging from biblical tales to meditations on love and loss. With tenor Ian Bostridge, baritone Joshua Hopkins, and pianist Julius Drake, Davies presents all five Canticles alongside Britten’s realizations of songs by Purcell at Carnegie’s Zankel Hall (Oct 20). When Davies, Bostridge, and Drake teamed up for the Canticles at London’s Royal Opera House and the Aldeburgh Festival this past summer, the London Standard called their performance “spine-chilling,” and the Independent reported: “The result was a fascinating blend of timbres, with Drake’s piano sending up a wonderful miasma of additional dark harmonics.”
The countertenor will reprise Britten’s Canticles at Amsterdam’s Concertgebouw (Nov 26), the Théâtre de la Monnaie in Brussels (Dec 11), and the Moscow Festival of Britten (Dec 1), where he will also sing the Voice of Apollo for the Russian premiere of Britten’s Death in Venice, led by Gennady Rozhdestvensky (Dec 8). At La Scala, Music & Vision concluded that “Davies as the Voice of Apollo was perfect.”
To complete his upcoming Britten offerings, in a special Met presentation titled “An Evening of Britten and Muhly, Davies explores connections between the English composer’s work and that of self-confessed Britten devotee Nico Muhly, coupling vocal selections by Britten with Muhly’s Four Traditional Songs. The young composer, who wrote the work expressly for Davies, will provide the accompaniment himself, on a program with sopranos Patricia Racette and Kathleen Kim at (Le) Poisson Rouge (Oct 17). Explaining why he loves performing at the downtown New York venue, Davies says: “Stripped of the vestiges and traditions of the concert hall, LPR reveals all that is great about great music”.
Dowland songs on new CD and American tour that culminates at Carnegie Hall
The countertenor, who won the 2012 Gramophone Recital Award for Arias for Guadagni, his second solo Hyperion album, looks forward to releasing a new title on the same label in March. On the forthcoming disc, The Art of Melancholy, Davies explores the music of John Dowland with lutenist Thomas Dunford. He explains,
The seeds of the art song were essentially sewn in the Elizabethan era and John Dowland is the greatest exponent of this lute song genre. Heartbreaking sentiments – as painfully familiar today as in the composer’s own time – pervade the songs.”
Music by the English Renaissance master has long featured in Davies’s recital programs. After a recent performance, The Guardian marveled:
“The immaculate sound of Davies’s countertenor did beguile all cares. His delivery seems understated, yet every syllable and emotion is carefully focused [so] as to draw the listener into the heart of the music; melancholic anguish in the case of John Dowland.”
Davies considers Dunford “the ideal lute accompanist,” and their partnership is already justly celebrated. The York Press praised “Dunford’s remarkably sensitive accompaniment,” while the Birmingham Post admired the “understated rapport…that helped them craft [Dowland’s] songs together as one.”
The launch of The Art of Melancholy coincides with a major North American recital tour that takes Davies to Carnegie’s Weill Recital Hall (April 10), Washington’s Vocal Arts DC (April 8), Berkeley’s CAL Performances (March 28), and three dates in Canada (March 30–April 5). It was after the countertenor’s Carnegie Hall recital debut that the New York Times recognized his “potential to be one of the truly special artists of his generation.”
As on the recording, Davies will be accompanied on tour by Dunford, now with a program juxtaposing songs by Dowland and his fellow Elizabethans Robert Johnson and John Danyel with a new commission from Nico Muhly. Titled Old Bones (2013), Muhly’s new piece was inspired by the recently unearthed skeleton of Richard III. Davies and Dunford premiered Old Bones during a July residency at London’s Wigmore Hall that was filmed for TV broadcast, and their upcoming tour will mark the work’s first American performances. As Davies says, in Old BonesMuhly reveals a great understanding of the countertenor voice and its relationship with the lute in a mesmerizing piece of great immediacy.
Davies can also be heard this fall on new recordings of two great oratorios, singing the role of Daniel in Handel’s Belshazzar, with William Christie and Les Arts Florissants, and as a soloist in Bach’s Christmas Oratorio, with Stephen Layton and the Orchestra of the Age of Enlightenment.
George Benjamin in Paris, Handel title roles, and oratorios by Handel and Bach
Besides the Met Dream, the new season’s operatic highlights include Davies’s house debut at the Opéra Comique in Paris, where he stars in George Benjamin’s Written on Skin, dubbed “the best opera written in the last 20 years” by Le Monde (Nov 16-19). A “first class Handelian” (Time Out New York), the countertenor also undertakes the title roles of Rinaldo (at Glyndebourne) and Solomon (in Cologne and Lisbon), and reprises Bertarido, the male lead, in Rodelinda at the English National Opera. He celebrates Christmas and Easter with performances of favorite Handel and Bach oratorios – the Messiah, the Christmas Oratorio, and the St. John Passion – in collaboration with such esteemed ensembles as the Academy of Ancient Music, the Orchestra of the Age of Enlightenment, and the Britten Sinfonia at venues including London’s Barbican Hall and St. John’s, Smith Square, Paris’s Salle Pleyel, and Amsterdam’s Concertgebouw. And to round out his full season, Davies looks forward to recitals with pianist Malcolm Martineau at Wigmore Hall and Cologne’s Philharmonie.
Details of Iestyn Davies’s upcoming engagements are provided below, and more information is available at the artist’s web site:
Iestyn Davies: engagements 2013-14
Oct 11, 15, 19, 23, 26 & 31
New York, NY
Metropolitan Opera / James Conlon
Benjamin Britten: A Midsummer Night’s Dream (Oberon)
Oct 17
New York, NY
Metropolitan Opera Guild
Opera News presents The Singer’s Studio: Iestyn Davies and Matthew Rose
Oct 17
New York, NY
(Le) Poisson Rouge
The Met @ Le Poisson Rouge: “An Evening of Britten and Muhly”
With Nico Muhly, Kathleen Kim, and Patricia Racette
Oct 20
New York, NY
Carnegie Hall (Zankel Hall)
Britten: Canticles
With Ian Bostridge, Julius Drake, and Joshua Hopkins
Nov 16, 18 & 19
Paris, France
Opéra Comique / Kent Nagano
George Benjamin: Written on Skin (Angel 1 – The Boy)
Nov 26
Amsterdam, Holland
Britten: Canticles
Dec 1
Moscow, Russia
Moscow Festival of Britten
Moscow Conservatoire
Britten: Canticles: Abraham and Isaac
Dec 8
Moscow, Russia
Moscow Conservatoire
Britten: Death in Venice (Voice of Apollo)
Dec 11
Brussels, Belgium
Théâtre de la Monnaie
Britten: Canticles
Dec 17-20
Tour with Academy of Ancient Music / Bernard Labadie
Handel: Messiah
Dec 17: London, UK (Barbican Hall)
Dec 18: Cambridge, UK (King’s College Chapel)
Dec 20: Paris, France (Salle Pleyel)
Dec 22
London, UK
St. John’s, Smith Square
Bach: Christmas Oratorio
Choir of Trinity College, Cambridge
Orchestra of the Age of Enlightenment / Stephen Layton
Dec 23
London, UK
St. John’s, Smith Square
Handel: Messiah
Orchestra of the Age of Enlightenment / Stephen Layton
Feb 28; March 2, 4, 6, 8, 11, 13 & 15
London, UK
English National Opera
Handel: Rodelinda (Bertarido)
Feb 9
Tudeley, Kent, UK
Tudeley Festival
Recital with Thomas Dunford, lute
March 20 & 21
Lisbon, Portugal
Gulbenkian Orchestra / Paul McCreesh
Handel: Solomon (title role)
March 28
Berkeley, CA
CAL Performances
“Flow my Tears”: recital with Thomas Dunford, lute
March 30
Vancouver, British Columbia
Vancouver Recital Society
“Flow my Tears”: recital with Thomas Dunford, lute
March 31
Vancouver, British Columbia
Vancouver Recital Society
April 4
Calgary, Alberta
Christ Church
“Flow my Tears”: recital with Thomas Dunford, lute
April 5
Banff, Alberta
“Flow my Tears”: recital with Thomas Dunford, lute
April 8
Washington, DC
Vocal Arts DC
“Flow my Tears”: recital with Thomas Dunford, lute
April 10
New York, NY
Carnegie Hall (Weill Recital Hall)
“Flow my Tears”: recital with Thomas Dunford, lute
April 16–20
On tour with Britten Sinfonia Voices
Bach: St. John Passion
April 16: Cambridge, UK (West Road Concert Hall)
April 17: Amsterdam, Holland (Concertgebouw)
April 18: London, UK (Barbican Hall)
April 20: Norwich, UK (Norwich Theatre Royal)
May 17
Cologne, Germany
Recital with Malcolm Martineau, piano
June 11
Cologne, Germany
Handel Festspiele Halle
Handel: Solomon (title role)
With Kölner Kammerchor
June 15
London, UK
Wigmore Hall
CD launch recital
with Thomas Dunford, lute
June 22-24
London, UK
Wigmore Hall
Dunedin Consort
Aug 9-24 (seven performances)
Glyndebourne, Sussex, UK
Glyndebourne Festival
Handel: Rinaldo (title role)
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© 21C Media Group, October 2013

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