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The Conductor – Marin Alsop Documentary – Receives Emmy Nomination; Alsop Leads Unprecedented Third “Last Night of the Proms” (Sep 9); and Her “Kaddish” Performance with Chicago Symphony Airs on PBS (Aug 21)

(August 2023)The Conductor, a documentary about the life and career of Marin Alsop, has just been nominated for a 2023 Emmy Award. The news crowns several full months for the MacArthur award-winning conductor, whose summer concludes with PBS’s Great Performancesbroadcast debut of her celebrated 2022 account of Bernstein’s “Kaddish” Symphony with the Chicago Symphony Orchestra and Chorus (Aug 21) and the Last Night of the 2023 BBC Proms at London’s Royal Albert Hall (Sep 9), where she will become not only the first woman but also the first American to guest conduct three Last Nights in the festival’s 128-year history.

Emmy nomination for Alsop documentary, The Conductor

Directed by Bernadette Wegenstein, The Conductor made its television debut as part of PBS’s Great Performances series last March. Now nominated for the 2023 Emmy for Best Arts and Culture Documentary, the film tells Alsop’s story through a combination of intimate interviews, moments from her professional and private life, encounters with cognoscenti in the music world, previously unseen archival footage with her mentor Leonard Bernstein, and vérité scenes of her teaching and mentoring the next generation of female conductors through the Taki Alsop Conducting Fellowship. After premiering at the 2021 Tribeca Film Festival, The Conductor was screened at festivals around the world, winning the Naples International Film Festival’s 2021 Focus on the Arts Award. Unseen Films hailed it as “a glorious portrait of a woman you’ll want to hang out with and talk to for hours,” concluding: “This film is a joy.” Calling The Conductora riveting, dynamic portrait,” the Bay Area Reporter observed: “Alsop is a necessary force of nature in the classical music world and this documentary is an inspiring tribute to her.” The Emmys awards ceremony takes place in January 2024. Meanwhile The Conductor is available here for home streaming.

Making history at London’s Last Night of the Proms (Sep 9)

The closing concert of London’s annual BBC Proms festival has long been an iconic if sometimes controversial tradition. Ten years ago, marking the first time it had been conducted by a woman, Alsop’s Last Night of the Proms debut was hailed as “the most enjoyable, the least hysterical and the most warm-hearted … of all Last Nights in recent memory” (The Guardian). After leading a second Last Night two years later, now Alsop returns for her third, at which she and the BBC Symphony Orchestra and Chorus will be joined by Norwegian soprano Lise Davidsen and British cellist Sheku Kanneh-Mason. Grammy-winner Davidsen sings operatic favorites by Wagner, Mascagni, Kálmán and Verdi, while 2016 BBC Young Musician of the Year Kanneh-Mason, who once collaborated with Alsop’s OrchKids program in Baltimore, is the soloist in Samuel Coleridge-Taylor’s Deep River and Bruch’s Kol nidrei. Also featuring Richard Strauss’s Don Juan and the world premiere of 1922, a celebration of the BBC’s centenary from fast-rising British composer James B. Wilson, the program will once again see Alsop put her own characteristic spin on the event’s trademark mix of singalongs, sea shanties, flag-waving and humor (Sep 9).

Bernstein’s “Kaddish” with Chicago Symphony on PBS (Aug 21)

Integrating serialism with tonality, and music with the spoken word, Bernstein’s Symphony No. 3, “Kaddish” represents a highly original, dramatic response to the Jewish prayer, in which the composer grapples with the same crisis of faith that informs his better-known MASS. Last summer, at the 2022 Ravinia Festival, Alsop “oversaw an impeccable, wonderfully dramatic rendering” of the original version of the work, as created for Bernstein’s wife, actor Felicia Montealegre, that Chicago’s WTTW TV considered a “once-in-a-lifetime experience.” Featuring soprano Janai Brugger and narrator Jaye Ladymore with the Chicago Symphony Orchestra and Chorus and Uniting Voices Chicago (formerly the Chicago Children’s Choir), Alsop’s interpretation of the work was captured on film. It can be seen by home audiences nationwide when the PBS Great Performances series presents its broadcast premiere on August 21 at 9pm ET (check local listings).

Launching new Philharmonia appointment (Oct 19)

In a highlight of her upcoming fall season, Alsop launches her four-season appointment as Principal Guest Conductor of London’s Philharmonia Orchestra with an all-American program on October 19. This combines Joan Tower’s Fanfare for the Uncommon Woman, a work dedicated to the conductor, and the Drums Overture by James Price Johnson, whose symphonic music she has played a significant part in rediscovering, recording and championing, with three repertory staples: Barber’s First Symphony, Gershwin’s Rhapsody in Blue, and “Three Dance Episodes” from On the Town by her early mentor Bernstein, of whose music she is one of today’s foremost exponents. It was one of Alsop’s previous appearances with the Philharmonia that prompted The Times of London to marvel: “Alsop whipped up the excitement right to the end.”

Recent U.S. guest conducting successes

Alsop recently returned to the podiums of four preeminent U.S. orchestras. She led the Philadelphia Orchestra at Pride Week, after stepping in to draw “a viscerally thrilling performance” (Financial Times) of The Rite of Spring from the same ensemble at Carnegie Hall. When she conducted a Romeo and Juliet-themed program in Seattle, BachTrack noted that “throughout the concert, the Seattle Symphony Orchestra responded with enthusiasm and even wonder to Alsop’s charismatic podium presence.” With the New York Philharmonic, where she juxtaposed the U.S. premiere of Chick Corea’s Trombone Concerto with works by Barber and Prokofiev, she proved herself not only an “artist who easily code switches between jazz and classical idioms” but also one with a “vivid sense of color and rhythmic clarity” (New York Times). And at the Ravinia Festival, where, as Chief Conductor, she led six creatively curated programs with the Chicago Symphony, the Chicago Tribune praised her “propulsive and personality-packed” reading of Tchaikovsky’s Fifth Symphony as being “thoughtful, nuanced, exhilarating and cleanly performed.

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Marin Alsop: fall engagements
Sep 9
London, England
Royal Albert Hall
BBC Symphony Orchestra
Prom 71: Last Night of the Proms 2023
With BBC Symphony Chorus and BBC Singers
R. STRAUSS: Don Juan
COLERIDGE-TAYLOR, arr. S. Parkin: Deep River (with Sheku Kanneh-Mason, cello)
BRUCH: Kol nidrei (with Sheku Kanneh-Mason, cello)
James B. WILSON: 1922 (world premiere of new BBC commission)
WAGNER: “Dich, teure Halle” from Tannhäuser (with Lise Davidsen, soprano)
MASCAGNI: Easter Hymn from Cavalleria rusticana (with Lise Davidsen, soprano)
MASCAGNI: Intermezzo from Cavalleria rusticana
VERDI: “Vieni! t’affretta!” from Macbeth (with Lise Davidsen, soprano)
KÁLMÁN: “Heia, heia, in den Bergen ist mein Heimatland” from The Gypsy Princess (with Lise Davidsen, soprano)
TRAD., arr. Wood: Fantasia on British Sea Songs
ARNE, arr. Sargent: Rule, Britannia!
ELGAR: Pomp and Circumstance March No. 1 in D, “Land of Hope and Glory”
PARRY, orch. Elgar: Jerusalem
UNKNOWN, arr. Britten: The National Anthem
TRAD., arr. Paul Campbell: Auld Lang Syne

Sep 23
Katowice, Poland
Polish National Radio Symphony Orchestra
Szymanowski Competition Concert

Oct 7
Graz, Austria
ORF Vienna Radio Symphony Orchestra
Rep. TBA

Oct 13
Katowice, Poland
Polish National Radio Symphony Orchestra
Hannah EISENDLE: Heliosis
BEETHOVEN: Symphony No. 3 (“Eroica”)
STRAVINSKY: The Rite of Spring

Oct 19
London, England
Royal Festival Hall
Philharmonia Orchestra
JOHNSON: Drums Overture
BARBER: Symphony No.1
COPLAND: Fanfare for the Common Man
Joan TOWER: Fanfare for the Uncommon Woman
BERNSTEIN: Three Dance Episodes from On the Town
GERSHWIN: Rhapsody in Blue

Nov 2–5
São Paulo, Brazil
São Paulo Symphony (OSESP)
Carlos SIMON: Amen!
Anna CLYNE: DANCE (with Inbal Segev, cello)
PROKOFIEV: Excerpts from Romeo and Juliet

Dec 7
London, England
Royal Albert Hall
“Too Hot to Handel” TBC

Nov 23
Katowice, Poland
Polish National Radio Symphony Orchestra
PENDERECKI: The Black Mask

Dec 14
Katowice, Poland
Polish National Radio Symphony Orchestra
COLERIDGE-TAYLOR: Christmas Overture
VAUGHAN WILLIAMS: Fantasia on Greensleeves
James MACMILLAN: Concerto for percussion and orchestra, “Veni, Veni, Emmanuel” (with Colin Currie, drums)
TCHAIKOVSKY: Symphony No. 5

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© 21C Media Group, August 2023

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