January Highlights on WVIA-FM
Hansel & Gretel
Saturday, January 6th at 1pm
A Met English-language holiday presentation, Richard Jones’s clever production of Humperdinck’s fairy-tale opera is based on the Brothers Grimm story. Donald Runnicles conducts the sweeping score and a delightful cast, including the legendary Dolora Zajick as the wayward siblings’ mother. Tara Erraught and Ingeborg Gillebo share the role of Hansel, and Lisette Oropesa and Maureen McKay share the role of Gretel.
Originally conceived as a small-scale vocal entertainment for children, Hansel and Gretel resonates with both adults and children, and has become one of the most successful fairy-tale operas ever created. The composer, Engelbert Humperdinck, was a protégé of Richard Wagner, and the opera’s score is flavored with the sophisticated musical lessons he learned from his idol while maintaining a charm and a light touch that were entirely Humperdinck’s own. The opera acknowledges the darker features present in the Brothers Grimm version of the familiar folk tale, yet presents them within a frame of grace and humor.
Richard Strauss' Tone Poems
Sunday, January 7th at 2pm
The first of four broadcasts from the 2017 Lucerne Festival, presented by WQXR, with The Lucerne Festival Orchestra, under the baton of conductor Riccardo Chailly. The program consists of several of the German composer’s tone poems — including that famed cultural touchstone Thus Spoke Zarathustra to open the program. Following will be performances of Death and Transfiguration, Strauss’ depiction of an artist in the final throes of life; and Till Eulenspiegel's Merry Pranks, which illustrates the story of Till Eulenspiegel, a German folk hero.
Cavalleria Rusticana & Pagliacci
Saturday, January 13th at 1pm
Roberto Alagna takes on the leading tenor roles in both parts of opera’s most popular double bill. In Cavalleria Rusticana, Ekaterina Semenchuk and Eva-Maria Westbroek share the role of the woebegone Santuzza, with Aleksandra Kurzak as the hot-blooded Nedda in Pagliacci. Nicola Luisotti conducts Sir David McVicar’s production, which heightens the melo-dramatic action of this timeless verismo pairing.
Two tales of passion, jealousy, and death set in southern Italy, Cav/Pag have been all but inseparable on the opera stages of the world since the Met first presented them as a double bill in 1893. The overwhelming success of Cavalleria was crucial in launching the verismo movement, inspiring other composers (including Leoncavallo) to turn to stories and characters from real life, and often from society’s grungier elements.
Festival Strings Lucerne & flutist James Galway
Sunday, January 14th at 2pm
For the second broadcast of concerts from the 2017 Lucerne Festival, you’ll be treated to the Festival Strings Lucerne's musical tour of Europe, from Germany and Austria to the frosts of Finland, including a Symphony and a Flute Concerto by Mozart and the suite Pelleas & Melisande by Jean Sibelius
Saturday, January 20th at 1pm
Ailyn Pérez is the alluring courtesan and Gerald Finley is the holy man who tries to resist her powers of seduction in Massenet’s tale of sensuality versus spirituality. Emmanuel Villaume conducts.
Jules Massenet’s opera about the power of feminine allure and the desperation of male obsession has served as a showcase for a variety of great artists in the lead roles. Thaïs is an Egyptian courtesan and priestess of Venus whom the Christian monk Athanaël seeks to reform. While she ultimately achieves salvation, he falls prey to his growing lust for the woman. Although Massenet composed Thaïs for the Paris Opéra, where spectacle was often the order of the day, he wisely concentrated on the inner lives of the two lead roles. The result is an opera as seductive as its heroine, a fascinating story of two people locked in an opposing yet parallel metamorphosis.
Chamber Orchestra of Europe with Bernard Haitink, conductor
Sunday, January 21st at 2pm
This concert from the 2017 Lucerne Festival features an evening of Mozart and Mahler from the Chamber Orchestra of Europe — plus a few selections from the festival archives. Bernard Haitink conducts Mozart’s Symphony in C Major, K. 425 and selections of lieder from Mahler’s Des Knaben Wunderhorn. Soprano Anna Lucia Richter and baritone Christian Gerhaher are the featured soloists for the latter.
Saturday, January 27th at 1pm
Sir David McVicar’s ravishing new production offers a splendid backdrop for two extraordinary sopranos sharing the title role of the jealous prima donna: Sonya Yoncheva (pictured above) and Anna Netrebko. Vittorio Grigolo and Marcelo Álvarez alternate in the role of Tosca’s revolutionary artist lover Cavaradossi, with Željko Lučić and Michael Volle as the depraved police chief Scarpia. Emmanuel Villaume and Bertrand de Billy share conducting duties.
Puccini’s melodrama about a volatile diva, a sadistic police chief, and an idealistic artist has offended and thrilled audiences for more than a century. Critics, for their part, have often had problems with Tosca’s rather grungy subject matter, the directness and intensity of its score, and the crowd-pleasing dramatic opportunities it provides for its lead roles. But these same aspects have made Tosca one of a handful of iconic works that seem to represent opera in the public imagination. Tosca’s popularity is further secured by a superb and exhilarating dramatic sweep, a driving score of abundant melody and theatrical shrewdness, and a career-defining title role.
Riccardo Chailly & the Lucerne Festival Orchestra in an all-Stravinsky program
Sunday, January 28th at 2pm
The final concert in this series from the 2017 Lucerne Festival Concerts is a show of straight Stravinsky — including longtime favorite The Rite of Spring and the Swiss premiere of Chant funèbre, Op. 5. Riccardo Chailly, the Lucerne Festival Orchestra and soprano Sophie Koch trace the creative arc of the composer, kicking off the program with his earlier works and sticking with Stravinsky as he searched for his creative identity. The program culminates with The Rite of Spring — and a Stravinsky we know and love.