Kees Bakels was born in Amsterdam and began his musical career as a violinist. He later studied conducting at the Amsterdam Conservatoire and at the Academy Chigiana in Siena. During his studies he became Assistant Conductor of the Amsterdam Philharmonic Orchestra and subsequently held the
position of Associate Conductor with that orchestra. At that time he also became Principal Guest Conductor of the Netherlands Chamber Orchestra which he took to festivals in England, Finland, Belgium and Spain and on a coast-to-coast tour of the USA.
Bakels has also held numerous other titled positions with major orchestras, including the Malaysian Philharmonic Orchestra (MPO) where he was Music Director from its inception in 1997 to the end of the 2004/05 season. He was the central artistic force behind the creation of the Orchestra and conducted the inaugural concerts at the newly built Petronas Hall in Kuala Lumpur. He toured and recorded extensively with the MPO. His other positions have included Principal Conductor of the Netherlands Radio Symphony Orchestra and Principal Guest Conductor and Artistic Adviser to the Quebec Symphony Orchestra. He was Chief Guest Conductor of the Bournemouth Symphony Orchestra for 10 years until 1999 and still works with the orchestra each season.
Bakels has conducted all the major Dutch orchestras, including the Netherlands Philharmonic, Het Brabant, Netherlands Radio Philharmonic and others. Guest-conducting engagements have included Norwegian Radio, KBS (Korea), Orchestre Symphonique de Quebec, National Arts Centre Orchestra,
Ottawa and Melbourne Symphony, Orchestre de Chambre de Paris, Orchestre National de Lille, Lausanne Chamber, Orquesta Ciudad de Granada, Berne Symphony and the São Paulo Symphony Orchestras.
From the beginning of his career, Bakels has concentrated as much on opera as on symphonic repertoire and has regularly appeared with the Netherlands and the Vancouver Operas. In the UK he has conducted new productions of Aïda and Fidelio with English National Opera and La Bohème and Carmen
for Welsh National Opera. He conducted concert performances of opera for the famous VARA Matinee Series at the Concertgebouw in Amsterdam regularly over 25 years. He has championed the lesser known operas of composers such as Mascagni and Leoncavello including Mascagni’s Zanetto, Amica, Il Piccolo Marat, Isabeau, Iris, Nerone, and his Messa di Gloria, and Leoncavello’s La Bohème, Edipo Re and Zaza.
Maestro Bakels’s recordings include the complete Vaughan Williams symphonies, the complete Nielsen Concerti with the Bournemouth Symphony Orchestra for Naxos, and four recordings with the Netherlands Radio Symphony Orchestra for NM Classics.
Gil Rose is a conductor helping to shape the future of classical music. His dynamic performances and many recordings have garnered international critical praise.
In 1996, Rose founded the Boston Modern Orchestra Project (BMOP), the foremost professional orchestra dedicated exclusively to performing and recording symphonic music of the twentieth and twenty-first centuries. Under his leadership, BMOP’s unique programming and high performance standards have attracted critical acclaim and earned the orchestra fourteen ASCAP awards for adventurous programming as well as the John S. Edwards Award for Strongest Commitment to New American Music.
Rose maintains a busy schedule as a guest conductor on both the opera and symphonic platform He made his Tanglewood debut in 2002 and in 2003 he debuted with the Netherlands Radio Symphony at the Holland Festival. He has led the American Composers Orchestra, Warsaw Philharmonic, National Symphony Orchestra of the Ukraine, Cleveland Chamber Symphony, Orchestra della Svizzera Italiana, and National Orchestra of Porto.
Over the past decade, Rose has also built a reputation as one of the country’s most inventive and versatile opera conductors. In 2013, he founded Odyssey Opera, an inventive company dedicated to presenting eclectic operatic repertoire in a variety of formats. The company debuted in September to critical acclaim with a five and-a half hour concert production of Wagner’s Rienzi. This past summer, the company presented two critically acclaimed productions: Verdi’s early comedy, Il Giorno di Regno and a double bill of Mascagni’s Zanetto and Wolf Ferrari’s Il segreto di Susanna.
Prior to Odyssey Opera, Rose led Opera Boston as its Music director from 2003, and in 2010 was appointed the company’s first Artistic Director. Rose led Opera Boston in several American and New England premieres including: Shostakovich’s The Nose, Weber’s Der Freischütz, and Hindemith’s Cardillac. In 2009, Rose led the world premiere of Zhou Long’s Madame White Snake, which won the Pulitzer Prize for Music in 2011. (Photo by Julius Ahn)
Conductor, pianist, composer, and pedagogue Robert Spano is one of the most imaginative talents of his generation. Serving Atlanta as Music Director of the Atlanta Symphony Orchestra since 2001, he has created a sense of inclusion, warmth and community that is unique among American orchestras. As Music Director of the Aspen Music Festival and School, he oversees the programming of more than 300 events and educational programs for 630 students, including Aspen’s American Academy of Conducting.
Under Spano’s guidance, The Atlanta Symphony Orchestra and audiences explore a creative programming mix. Thanks to multi-year partnerships, Spano has formed what has come to be known as The Atlanta School of Composers (Jennifer Higdon, Christopher Theofanidis, Osvaldo Golijov, Michael Gandolfi, and Adam Schoenberg), which reflects the conductor’s and the Orchestra’s commitment to American contemporary music. He has led ASO performances at Carnegie Hall, Lincoln Center, and the Ravinia, Ojai and Savannah Music Festivals. Guest engagements include the New York and Los Angeles Philharmonics, San Francisco, Boston, Cleveland, Chicago and Philadelphia Symphony Orchestras, as well as Orchestra Filarmonica della Scala, BBC Symphony and Amsterdam’s Royal Concertgebouw Orchestra. He has conducted for Covent Garden, Welsh National Opera, Lyric Opera of Chicago, Houston Grand Opera and the 2005 and 2009 Seattle Opera Ring cycles.
In 2013-14, Spano made three appearances at New York’s Carnegie Hall in varied programming. This was the fourth consecutive season in which he was presented by the prestigious venue in more than one medium – and marked the eighth time that he led his Atlanta Symphony Orchestra and Chorus in Carnegie Hall’s Isaac Stern Auditorium. In October, he joined the American Composers Orchestra for a concert of Ian Williams, Christopher Theofanidis, Peter Fahey and Julia Wolfe. Later, he stepped off the podium and joined soprano Jessica Rivera and mezzo-soprano Kelley O’Connor as pianist for recitals at UC Berkeley, Pepperdine University, Kennesaw State University, the Constella Festival in Cincinnati and Carnegie Hall’s Zankel Hall. In April 2014, the Atlanta Symphony Orchestra and Chorus joined Spano in New York for a performance of Britten’s War Requiem. Additional guest appearances were with the Minnesota Orchestra, Cincinnati Symphony, Orquesta Sinfonia de Galicia, Tampere Philharmonic and two weeks of performances with the Boston Symphony Orchestra. Spano was also an artistic curator at the Ojai Festival for a second season in June 2014.
In addition to his work on the podium and at the piano, Spano has continued to focus on composition. Later this year, he will release a digital recording of his solo piano work, under water, and a cycle of five songs written for soprano Jessica Rivera. In addition to the recording, Spano and Rivera performed the first three songs of the cycle in recital at Pepperdine University.
Spano’s extensive discography of 21 recordings for Telarc, Deutsche Grammophon and ASO Media has garnered six Grammy Awards. An all-Sibelius recording is planned for release in November 2013. Dedicated to pedagogy and multi-disciplinary studies, he has lectured on “Community” for TEDx and recently completed a three-year residency at Emory University. He was inducted into the Georgia Music Hall of Fame in 2012.
Spano serves on the faculty of Oberlin Conservatory, and has received honorary doctorates from Bowling Green State University, the Curtis Institute of Music, Emory University and Oberlin. Spano served as director of the Festival of Contemporary Music at the Boston Symphony Orchestra's Tanglewood Music Center in 2003 and 2004, and from 1996 to 2004 was Music Director of the Brooklyn Philharmonic. He headed the Conducting Fellowship Program at the Tanglewood Music Center from 1998 to 2002. In May 2009, Spano was awarded Columbia University's Ditson Conductor's Award for the advancement of American music.
Born in Conneaut, Ohio, and raised in Elkhart, Indiana, he is a graduate of Oberlin, where he studied conducting with Robert Baustian, continuing at the Curtis Institute of Music with the late Max Rudolf. He has been featured on CBS’s “Late Night with David Letterman” and “CBS Sunday Morning.” Robert Spano was named Musical America’s 2008 “Conductor of the Year” and is proud to live in Atlanta.
Making his subscription debut with the New York Philharmonic in 2013-14, Joshua Weilerstein also entered his third season as the orchestra's Assistant Conductor. In 2009 Weilerstein, then twenty-one years old, was unanimously named the winner of the 2009 Malko Competition for Young Conductors in Copenhagen, Denmark. His first-prize honors included a series of engagements with major Scandinavian orchestras, the first of which was the Gothenburg Symphony Orchestra in June 2009, marking Weilerstein’s professional conducting debut.
During the 2013-14 season, Weilerstein made several debuts in the US with the symphony orchestras of Baltimore, Fort Worth, and New Mexico (Albuquerque). He also returned to the Florida Orchestra (Tampa). In Europe, he debuted with the Orchestre National de Lyon, Orchestre de la Suisse Romande, Royal Liverpool Philharmonic, Bergen Philharmonic, Orchestre National de Belgique, Salzburg Mozarteumorchester, and the Orchestre de Chambre de Lausanne. He also returned to the BBC Symphony, Oslo Philharmonic, Danish National Symphony, Finnish Radio Symphony, Swedish Chamber Orchestra, and Northern Sinfonia, among others.
Born into a musical family and growing up in the NEC community (his parents, violinist Donald Weilerstein and pianist Vivian Hornik Weilerstein, are both on the faculty), Weilerstein decided to enter the music profession after a life-changing experience during a youth orchestra tour of South and Central America. He studied at NEC, beginning in the Preparatory School, and received his dual Master of Music degrees in orchestral conducting with Hugh Wolff and in violin with Lucy Chapman in 2011. He spent the summers of 2009 and 2010 studying with David Zinman and Robert Spano at the Aspen Music Festival, where he was awarded the Robert J. Harth and Aspen Conducting Prizes, its most distinguished honors.
In 2007 the Simon Bolivar Symphony Orchestra of Venezuela (SBSO) engaged Weilerstein as a violin soloist. Shortly after this appearance, the SBSO asked him to join the first violin section for the orchestra’s 2007 American tour with Music Director Gustavo Dudamel, making Weilerstein the ensemble’s first non-Venezuelan guest member. In January 2010 he made his guest conducting debut with the SBSO. Since then, he has rapidly become one of the most sought-after young conductors in the world. Recent engagements include the Los Angeles Philharmonic, Toronto Symphony, Copenhagen Philharmonic, Royal Stockholm Philharmonic, Brussels Philharmonic, BBC Symphony, BBC Scottish Symphony, and Stuttgart Chamber Orchestra, to name but a few.
Barbara Bonney, soprano
Barbara Bonney is one of the leading lyric sopranos of her generation. With over 100 recordings to her name, her artistry has been documented for generations of singers to come. Her Sophie (Der Rosenkavalier) is legendary the world over, as are her Mozart roles of Susanna (The Marriage of Figaro) and Pamina (Die Zauberflote). Bonney devoted much of her 30 year career to lieder, and continues to sing lieder recitals and orchestra concerts. She is a devoted mentor of the next generation singer and is currently Professor at the Mozarteum in Salzburg, as well as Guest Professor of the Royal Academy of Music in London.
Bonney was born in Montclair, New Jersey. As a child she studied piano and cello. When she was 13 her family moved to Maine, where she became part of the Portland Youth Orchestra as a cellist. She spent two years at the University of New Hampshire (UNH) studying German and music including voice with Patricia Stedry, and spent her junior year at the University of Salzburg, where she switched from cello to voice. While there, she studied at the Mozarteum. Years later she received an honorary doctorate from UNH.
In 1979, Bonney joined the Darmstadt Opera, where she made her debut as Anna in The Merry Wives of Windsor. In the subsequent five years she made appearances throughout Germany and Europe, notably at the Royal Opera House Covent Garden in London and La Scala in Milan. She made her Metropolitan Opera debut in 1987 in Richard Strauss' Ariadne auf Naxos in the role of Nyade and her Vienna Staatsoper debut the same year as Sophie in Der Rosenkavalier. Since then, she has appeared at the major opera houses of the world and at the Salzburg Festival, where she was Servilia in Mozart's La Clemenza di Tito.
Along with her wide-ranging repertoire in opera as a lyric soprano, she is a distinguished recitalist in command of many languages. She appears on more than 90 recordings, including 15 solo recitals. For two years, starting in 1999, Bonney did not perform in opera, to focus on lieder recitals. However, she noted that solo recitals lacked the camaraderie of performing in an opera production with many other people. In 2002, she contributed "The Willow Song" to the compilation album, When Love Speaks (EMI Classics), which features famous actors and musicians interpreting Shakespeare's sonnets and play excerpts.
Bonney is the founder of The Bonney Foundation, whose mission is "to give young singers the needed support for a good career start. The Bonney Foundation gives financial aid to young singers, and finances seminars and master classes held by Miss Bonney and international performing artists.
Jane Eaglen, soprano
Dramatic soprano Jane Eaglen joined New England Conservatory's voice studio faculty beginning with the 2013–2014 academic year.
She has enjoyed one of the most formidable reputations in opera for the past two decades. Her performances of roles such as Isolde in Tristan und Isolde, the title roles in Puccini’s Turandot, Bellini’s Norma, and Strauss’s Ariadne auf Naxos, Brünnhilde in Wagner’s Der Ring des Nibelungen have earned her acclaim on stages of the leading opera houses of the world, including the Metropolitan Opera, Lyric Opera of Chicago, San Francisco Opera, Royal Opera House, Covent Garden, Teatro alla Scala, Vienna State Opera, and l’Opera National de Paris.
Other notable roles in her repertoire include the title roles of Tosca (English National Opera as well as in Argentina, Australia, and Japan), La Gioconda (English National Opera and Lyric Opera of Chicago), and Donna Anna in Don Giovanni (Bavarian State Opera, English National Opera, Los Angeles Opera, Metropolitan Opera, Vienna State Opera, Teatro Comunale di Bologna, etc.), Amelia in Un Ballo in Maschera (Paris and Bologna).
She has appeared with many of the world’s leading orchestras, including the New York Philharmonic conducted by Zubin Mehta (Immolation Scene from Götterdämmerung and the final scene from Strauss’s Salome), Chicago Symphony conducted by Daniel Barenboim (Strauss’s Four Last Songs), Boston Symphony Orchestra conducted by Bernard Haitink (Immolation Scene from Götterdämmerung), Orchestra of Santa Cecilia conducted by Daniele Gatti (Verdi Requiem), Mahler’s Symphony No. 8 conducted by Klaus Tennstedt, Schoenberg’s Gurrelieder conducted by Claudio Abbado for the Salzburg and Edinburgh Festivals, plus concert performances of Die Walküre and Götterdämmerung with the Gurzenich Orchestra of Cologne conducted by James Conlon.
Eaglen’s extensive discography includes a number of solo albums for Sony Classical: Arias by Wagner and Bellini; Arias by Strauss and Mozart; Strauss’ Four Last Songs (which includes Wagner’s Wesendonck Lieder and Berg’s Seven Early Songs); and Italian Opera Arias. The complete recording of Wagner’s Tannhäuser conducted by Daniel Barenboim for Teldec earned her a Grammy Award. She may also be heard in recordings of Mahler’s Symphony No. 8 conducted by Riccardo Chailly for Decca, Beethoven’s Symphony No. 9 conducted by Claudio Abbado for Sony Classical, Tosca for Chandos, Norma conducted by Riccardo Muti for EMI, and the title role in Medea in Corinto for Opera Rara. Her voice is also featured on Sony Classical’s soundtrack for the film adaptation of Sense and Sensibility.
For her services to the arts, Eaglen was honored by the U.S. House of Representatives in 2005 and by the Licia Albanese–Puccini Foundation with their Baccarat Award in 2008. She received an honorary Doctor of Music from McGill University, Doctor of the University by Bishop Grossteste University College, Lincoln, England, and as an Honorary Member of the Wagner Society of Northern California and the Ohio Wagner Society.
While continuing to perform, she is active as a teacher. In addition to her new full-time teaching role at NEC, she is cofounder and artistic director of the Wagner Intensive summer program held at Baldwin-Wallace University Conservatory of Music. She has also served as Senior Artist in Residence at the University of Washington School of Music, Principal Vocal Instructor for the Young Artist Program of the Seattle Opera, teaches periodically at the Cardiff International Academy of Voice, and returns annually to teach and mentor young artists for the Merola Program at the San Francisco Opera.
Denyce Graves, mezzo soprano
Recognized worldwide as one of today's most exciting vocal stars, Denyce Graves continues to gather unparalleled popular and critical acclaim in performances on four continents. USA Today identifies her as "an operatic superstar of the 21st Century," and the Atlanta Journal-Constitution exclaims, "if the human voice has the power to move you, you will be touched by Denyce Graves."
Her career has taken her to the world's great opera houses and concert halls. The combination of her expressive, rich vocalism, elegant stage presence, and exciting theatrical abilities allows her to pursue a wide breadth of operatic portrayals and to delight audiences in concert and recital appearances. Denyce Graves has become particularly well-known to operatic audiences for her portrayals of the title roles in Carmen and Samson et Dalila. These signature roles have brought Graves to the Metropolitan Opera, Vienna Staatsoper, Royal Opera, Covent Garden, San Francisco Opera, Opéra National de Paris, Lyric Opera of Chicago, The Washington Opera, Bayerische Staatsoper, Arena di Verona, Deutsche Oper Berlin, Opernhaus Zürich, Teatro Real in Madrid, Houston Grand Opera, Dallas Opera, Teatro Colón in Buenos Aires, Los Angeles Opera, and the Festival Maggio Musicale in Florence.
Graves’s 2012-13 season included two world premieres; she created the roles of Mrs. Miller in Minnesota Opera’s New Works Initiative commission of Doubt composed by Douglas J. Cuomo, and directed by Kevin Newbury, and of Emelda in Champion by Terence Blanchard at the Opera Theatre of St. Louis. That season also marked two role debuts for Graves as Herodias in Strauss’s Salome at Palm Beach Opera, and Katisha in Gilbert and Sullivan’s The Mikado with the Lyric Opera of Kansas City. Graves makes numerous concert and recital performances including at Opera Carolina, Arizona Musicfest, National Philharmonic, San Diego Symphony, and several prestigious universities throughout the nation. As Graves’s dedication to teaching the singers of the next generation continues to be an important part of her career, and she is currently a member of the voice faculty of the Peabody Conservatory of Music in Baltimore.
In 2001, Graves gave a series of appearances in response to the tragic events in New York City, Washington, D.C., and Shanksville, Pennsylvania on September 11, 2001. She was invited by President Bush to participate in the National Prayer Service in Washington's National Cathedral in which she sang “America, the Beautiful” and “The Lord’s Prayer.” This event was televised worldwide and was followed by Graves’s appearance on The Oprah Winfrey Show in a live musical program of “Healing through Gospel Music.” Graves has since participated in numerous other benefit concerts, and RCA Records released a recording of patriotic songs by Denyce Graves, the proceeds of which benefit various groups who have been affected by the events of September 11. (Photo by Devon Cass)
Greer Grimsley, Bass-Baritone
American bass-baritone Greer Grimsley is internationally recognized as an outstanding singing actor and one of the most prominent Wagnerian singers of our day. Continuing his reign as a leading interpreter of Wotan, he recently sang the role in the Metropolitan Opera’s Ring Cycle in Robert Lepage’s landmark production in the Spring of 2013, directly followed by Stephen Wadsworth’s production for Seattle Opera. This past season’s engagements also included Don Pizarro in Fidelio for Seattle Opera and the High Priest in Samson et Dalila in his hometown of New Orleans Opera.
Future seasons see returns to San Francisco Opera as the title role in The Flying Dutchman which he will also perform for Opera Carolina, Wotan in Die Walküre at the Gran Teatre del Liceu in Barcelona as well as Tokyo’s Nikikai Opera Foundation, the title role in Macbeth with Minnesota Opera, Don Pizzaro in Fidelio for Santa Fe Opera, and his debut as Claggart in Billy Budd with the Los Angeles Opera. Through 2017 he will also see returns to the Metropolitan Opera, Seattle Opera, Dallas Opera, Gran Teatre del Liceu and San Diego Opera.
Additional engagements that have led him to be labeled a leading Wagnerian interpreter include: Telramund in Lohengrin with the Metropolitan Opera, Royal Danish Opera, the Lyric Opera of Chicago, and Seattle Opera; Kurwenal in Tristan und Isolde with the Prague National Theatre, the Royal Danish Opera, the Opera de Bellas Artes in Mexico, Lyric Opera of Chicago, and with Seattle Opera; Amfortas in Parsifal with the Metropolitan Opera; and his other signature role as the terrifying Der Fliegende Holländer with performances at the Deutsche Oper Berlin, at the Teatro Comunale di Bologna under Maestro Gatti’s baton, with the Opéra National de Lorraine in Nancy, France, with Seattle Opera, Pittsburgh Opera, Opera Lyra Ottawa, in Lithuania, and in concert with the Syracuse Opera. He has also performed the role of Wotan in Die Walküre and Das Rheingold at the Deutsche Oper Berlin, and in the full Ring Cycle with the Teatro La Fenice di Venezia, Oper Köln, and on tour in Shanghai.
International engagements have also included Scarpia in Tosca at the Oper der Stadt Köln, at the Deutsche Oper Berlin, The Norwegian National Opera in Oslo, and at the Hyogo Performing Arts Center in Japan; Jokanaan in Salome with the Deutsche Oper Berlin, Aarhus-Den Jyske Opera in Denmark, the Scottish Opera, and the Opera de Bellas Artes in Mexico; Mephistopheles in Faust in Oviedo, Spain; Mandryka in Arabella with the Royal Danish Opera; Don Pizzarro in Fidelio with the Scottish Opera as well as the Portuguese National Opera São Carlos; Jack Rance in La Fanciulla del West and the title role in Bluebeard’s Castle with L’Opera de Montreal; the title role in Don Giovanni and Scarpia in Tosca with the Stadttheater Basel in Switzerland; the Villains in Les Contes d’Hoffmann with New Israeli Opera; and Amonasro in Aïda with Opera de Caracas in Venezuela.
In North America his more recent performances have also included Jokanaan in Salome at the San Francisco Opera, San Diego Opera, Santa Fe Opera, Vancouver Opera, Michigan Opera Theater, and Arizona Opera; Scarpia in Tosca with Seattle Opera, San Diego Opera, L’Opera de Montreal, Portland Opera, Pittsburgh Opera, New Orleans Opera, and Opera Colorado; Mephistopheles in Faust at the San Diego Opera, New Orleans Opera, and in a new production with Arizona Opera; Don Pizzarro in Fidelio with Opera Company of Philadelphia and Portland Opera; Jack Rance in La Fanciulla del West with Seattle Opera; the title role of Macbeth with Vancouver Opera and Opera Lyra Ottawa; Amonasro in Aida with Portland Opera; the High Priest in Samson et Dalila with San Diego Opera; and Claggart in Billy Budd with Pittsburgh Opera.
Also an active concert artist, Mr. Grimsley made his New York Philharmonic debut as Don Pizzaro in Fidelio with conductor Kurt Masur at the inaugural season of the Lincoln Center Festival. Additional concert engagements have included Verdi’s Requiem with the Atlanta Symphony at Carnegie Hall; Beethoven’s Symphony No. 9 with the Seattle Symphony and San Antonio Symphony; the High Priest in Samson et Dalila with Washington Concert Opera; Don Pizzarro in Fidelio with the Saint Louis Symphony; and Scarpia in Tosca with Deborah Voight and the Minnesota Orchestra. (Photo courtesy of Seattle Opera)
Thomas Hampson, baritone
Thomas Hampson enjoys a singular international career as an opera singer, recording artist, and “Ambassador of song” and maintains an active interest in research, education, musical outreach and technology. The American baritone has performed in the world’s most important concert halls and opera houses with many renowned singers, pianists, conductors, and orchestras. Recently honored as a Metropolitan Opera Guild “Met Mastersinger,” he has been praised by the New York Times for his “ceaseless curiosity” and is one of the most respected, innovative, and sought-after soloists performing today.
Hampson’s operatic engagements in the 2012-13 season were highlighted by much Verdi, from his company role debut as Iago in Otello at the Metropolitan Opera to singing Giorgio Germont in La traviata at the Vienna State Opera. Having wowed critics last fall in the title role of Simon Boccanegra at Chicago’s Lyric Opera, the baritone now looks forward to reprising the Doge at London’s Royal Opera House and, in concert and live recording, at Vienna’s Konzerthaus. It was as Scarpia in Puccini’s Tosca that Hampson opened the 2012-13 season at Santa Fe Opera, and he revisits the role at Zurich Opera, where he also portrays Wolfram in Wagner’s Tannhäuser this winter. He returns to Wagner in summer 2013, singing Amfortas in Parsifal at the Munich Opera Festival, before rejoining the Salzburg Festival as Rodrigo in a new Pappano/Stein production of Verdi’s Don Carlo.
Hampson was recently inducted into the American Academy of Arts and Sciences and has won worldwide recognition for thoughtfully researched and creatively constructed programs that explore the rich repertoire of song in a wide range of styles, languages, and periods. Through the Hampson Foundation, founded in 2003, he employs the art of song to promote intercultural dialogue and understanding. He is one of the most important interpreters of German Romantic song and with his celebrated “Song of America” project, a collaboration with the Library of Congress, he has become known as the “Ambassador of American song.” (Dario Costa photo)
José van Dam, bass-baritone
World-renowned in concert, opera and recital, José van Dam is one of today's most honored interpreters of the bass-baritone repertoire. He has been heard in the music capitals of Europe, the Americas and Japan, singing at opera houses and concert halls under the world's premier conductors.
In recent seasons, Mr. van Dam has sung celebratory performances of Don Quichotte at La Monnaie in Brussels as well as recitals and concerts in Paris and Brussels. He sang the title role in Simon Boccanegra with James Levine and the Boston Symphony, as well as a recital and La Damnation de Faust with the Boston Symphony and James Levine at Tanglewood, in Boston, at Carnegie Hall, and a tour with performances in Lucerne, Essen, Paris and London; the Berlioz Romeo et Juliette with Lorin Maazel at Orchestra dell’Accademia Nazionale di Santa Cecilia in Rome; the Verdi Requiem with Daniele Gatti in Liège; Fra Melitone in La forza del destino in Brussels; Germont in La traviata, the Father in Charpenter’s Louise, Prokofiev’s The Love For Three Oranges, and the Speaker in Die Zauberflöte, all at the Paris Opera; the title role in staged performances of Elijah at the Teatro Communale di Firenze and at the Saito Kinen Festival with Seiji Ozawa; the title role of Boris Godunov and Germont in La Traviata at La Monnaie in Brussels; Janacek’s From The House of the Dead at the Teatro Real in Madrid; Claudius in Hamlet at the Grand Theatre de Geneve; recitals in Bucharest, Frankfurt, Madrid, Peralada, and Vienna and concert appearances at the Concertgebouw, the Verbier Festival and elsewhere.
Born in Brussels, José van Dam entered the Brussels Conservatory at age 17, graduating a year later with first prizes in voice and opera performance. Within a few years he had won four prizes in competitions, including the Bel Canto Competition in Liège; Concours "Ecole des Vedettes" in Paris; Concours de la Chanson in Toulouse; and the International Music Competition in Geneva. He made his operatic debut in Liège as Don Basilio in Rossini's The Barber of Seville and subsequently performed the role of Escamillo in Bizet's Carmen at La Scala, Paris Opera, and Covent Garden. Conductor Lorin Maazel asked Mr. van Dam to record Ravel's L'Heure Espagnole for Deutsche Grammophon, subsequently inviting him to join the Deutsche Oper in Berlin where he sang his first leading roles.
The art of José van Dam can be heard on an extensive discography. He is a two-time Grammy Award winner, in 1985 for his recording of Ravel songs with Pierre Boulez conducting the BBC Symphony Orchestra, and in 1992, Best Opera Recording for Richard Strauss' Die Frau ohne Schatten.
Mr. van Dam has been honored in many countries around the world. His Majesty Albert II of Belgium named him a Baron, and the city of Berlin awarded him the title of "Kammersänger." For his many extraordinary interpretations in recordings and on stage, he has received the German Music Critics' Prize, Gold Medal of the Belgian Press, Grand Prix de l'Académie Française du Disque, the Orphée d'Or of the Académie Lyrique Française in 1980 and 1994, the European Critics' Prize for St. Francois d'Assise, and France's Diapason d'Or and Prix de la Nouvelle Académie du Disque. He was featured in the motion pictures The Music Teacher and Don Giovanni, conducted by Lorin Maazel, and his video recording of Schubert's Winterreise has been released by Disques Forlane.
Robert Xavier Rodríguez
Robert Xavier Rodríguez is “one of the major American composers of his generation” (Texas Monthly). His music has been described as “Romantically dramatic” (Washington Post), “richly lyrical” (Musical America) and “glowing with a physical animation and delicate balance of moods that combine seductively with his all-encompassing sense of humor” (Los Angeles Times). “Its originality lies in the telling personality it reveals. His music always speaks, and speaks in the composer’s personal language.” (American Academy and Institute of Arts and Letters). Rodríguez has written in all genres — opera, orchestral, concerto, ballet, vocal, choral, chamber, solo and music for the theater — but he has been drawn most strongly in recent years to works for the stage, including music for children. His new work, Xochiquetzal: Chamber Concerto for Violin and Percussion Sextet is his second commission for NEC. In 2006, the Percussion Ensemble commissioned and premiered his El día de los muertos, to which the new work is a pendant.
Rodríguez received his early musical education in San Antonio (b. 1946) and in Austin (UT), Los Angeles (USC), Lenox (Tanglewood), Fontainebleau (Conservatoire Américain) and Paris. His teachers have included Nadia Boulanger, Jacob Druckman, Bruno Maderna and Elliott Carter. Rodríguez first gained international recognition in 1971, when he was awarded the Prix de Composition Musicale Prince Pierre de Monaco by Prince Rainier and Princess Grace at the Palais Princier in Monte Carlo. Other honors include the Prix Lili Boulanger, a Guggenheim Fellowship, awards from ASCAP and the Rockefeller Foundation, five NEA grants and the Goddard Lieberson Award from the American Academy and Institute of Arts and Letters. Rodríguez has served as Composer-in-Residence with the San Antonio Symphony and the Dallas Symphony. He currently holds the Endowed Chair of University Professor at The University of Texas at Dallas, where he is Director of the Musica Nova ensemble. He is active as a guest lecturer and conductor.
Rodríguez’ music has been performed by conductors such as Sir Neville Marriner, Antal Dorati, Eduardo Mata, James DePriest, Sir Raymond Leppard, Keith Lockhart and Leonard Slatkin. His work has received over 2000 professional orchestral and operatic performances in recent seasons by such organizations as the Vienna Schauspielhaus, The National Opera of Mexico, New York City Opera, Brooklyn Academy of Music, American Repertory Theater, American Music Theater Festival (now Prince Music Theater), Dallas Opera, Houston Grand Opera, Pennsylvania Opera Theater, Michigan Opera Theatre, Orlando Opera, The Aspen Music Festival, The Bowdoin Festival, The Juilliard Focus and Summergarden Series, The Israel Philharmonic Orchestra, Mexico City Philharmonic, Toronto Radio Orchestra, American Composers Orchestra, The Baltimore, Dallas, Houston, San Antonio, Knoxville, Indianapolis, St. Louis, Pittsburgh, Milwaukee, Boston and Chicago Symphonies, The Los Angeles Philharmonic, National Symphony, Los Angeles Chamber Orchestra, Louisville Orchestra and Cleveland Orchestra. Rodriguez' chamber works have been performed in London, Paris, Dijon, Monte Carlo, Berlin, Stockholm, Copenhagen, Edinburgh, The Hague and other musical centers. His music is published exclusively by G. Schirmer and is recorded on the Newport, Crystal, Orion, Gasparo, Pro Arte, ACA, Urtext, CRI (Grammy nomination), First Edition, Schott, Naxos and Albany labels. (Photo by Gabriel Berde)
Since the mid-1970s, as a composer, performer, and record and concert producer, Zorn has been one of the most illustrious and charismatic figures associated with the avant-garde world of alternative, experimental, fusion-based, and free improvisational expression known as New York’s “downtown” music scene.
Born in New York City, Zorn attended the United Nations International School and then went on to Webster College in St. Louis. There, he came into contact with the Black Artists Group (BAG) and the Association for the Advancement of Creative Musicians (AACM), which exerted profound influences on his subsequent path; and he turned to the saxophone as his principal instrument, becoming an accomplished virtuoso and a leading innovator in terms of its expanded possibilities. After a brief sojourn on the West Coast, he returned to New York and began making a name for himself in the stimulating downtown milieu—an environment in which he flourished naturally and whose devotion to spontaneous, communal participation and collective extemporization encouraged and nurtured his own propensities.
Zorn quickly caused a stir with his array of unorthodox sonic experiments, which at that early stage included blowing duck calls into bowls of water and creating strange howling sounds on a removed saxophone mouthpiece. He began to appropriate freely the sounds from what he has called the “media bombardment” of our age. More conventional musicians might lament the onslaught of industrial noises, commercial cacophonies, and electronic media-induced sounds that permeate our surroundings, but Zorn welcomes them as inspirational influences as well as extramusical parameters in his pieces. Virtually all sounds, whatever their source, have come in principle to be fair game for his musical manipulation and incorporation.
Zorn’s experimental work with rock and jazz, especially in fusions with other genres and styles, has attracted a group of loyalists that has been characterized as a cult following. But in the aggregate his work draws on a much broader variety of his experience, which has included classical forms, hard-core and punk rock, eastern European Jewish band music, non-Western ethnic traditions, and film, cartoon, popular, and improvised music apart from traditional jazz. He credits a selective variety of artistic sources as having fueled his early development: American innovators within the mold of cultivated art music, such as composers Charles Ives, Elliott Carter, John Cage, and Harry Partch; the 20th-century phase of the European tradition as manifested in the Second Viennese School (Schoenberg, Berg, and Webern) as well as the work of Stravinsky, Boulez, and Kagel; experimental jazz and rock; and avant-garde theater, film, visual art, and literature. Like “downtown” composers in general, his music defies conventional or academic categories. But perhaps even more than his contemporaries from that world, Zorn has pursued an irreverent and intensely idiosyncratic brand of expression that often dissolves the boundaries between and among previously established styles, while blurring the demarcation between traditionally perceived composition in the Western sense (i.e., organized and then notated musical development) and improvisation. And frequently he has eroded the distinction between recording and live performance. Some of his pieces are in fact best suited to the recording studio as an actual medium, where they can be assembled bit by bit, moment by moment, event by event, and gesture by gesture.
Particularly curious is Zorn’s proudly acknowledged debt to cartoon soundtracks and their composers, whose sonic world, he maintains, is similar to his own: “That comes from all the films and TV shows I absorbed at an early age.” Keyboard magazine once referred to his music as resembling “soundtracks for movies never made.”
A significant leap to commercial success came with Zorn’s release of his 1986 LP album, The Big Gundown, which included arrangements of music by the Italian film composer Ennio Morricone. As in a number of successive pieces, he employed self-contained blocks of sound that alternate abruptly among contrasting styles, timbres, and sound sources. He notated these parameters on index cards to introduce structure into otherwise free collective improvisation. Hence the name “file card pieces,” from the cards that contain his jotted down musical ideas (which he calls “musical moments”), which are then sorted and ordered as suggested instructions to the other performers. This became one of his early trademarks. In his improvisatory “game pieces,” that structure, for example, is provided by using the cards to steer the performers’ interaction, without specifying the precise musical material of the individual parts.
Zorn’s other significant recordings from the 1980s include Archery, a set of electronically colored improvisations; Ganryu Islands, duets between Zorn on reeds and the Japanese shamisen player Michihiro Sato; and Spillane, the title track of which is informed by the B-movie music from the popular Mickey Spillane detective films of the 1950s. During the 1980s Zorn was cited by no less a classically oriented critic than John Rockwell in The New York Times as the single most interesting, important, and influential composer to arise from Manhattan’s downtown avant-garde since Steve Reich and Philip Glass. “What they [Reich and Glass] were to the 1970s,” wrote Rockwell, “he [Zorn] is to the 1980s.” Zorn continued to compose and record prolifically, and to celebrate his fortieth birthday, in 1993, he played a monthlong series of concerts—each with distinct music—at the Knitting Factory, which by then had become the focal point of downtown music.
Although a Jew by birth, Zorn had not previously been involved with either religious or secular Jewish culture, but in the early 1990s he began exploring Jewish roots in his music—in the context of his own ever-evolving aesthetics. His first composition to address Jewish subject matter was Kristallnacht (1992), a Holocaust-related work inspired by the memory of the orchestrated pogrom throughout the Third Reich on November 9–10, 1938, which, following five years of increasing persecution, became the prelude to Germany’s eventual attempt to annihilate European Jewry altogether. A pastiche of songs and disparate sound elements that has been dubbed a “brutal sound portrait of the Holocaust”—ranging from references to traditional Jewish folk melos to chaotic, discordant, violent, screeching, and even ear-shattering noises—the recording contained a provocative warning on its jacket concerning its high-frequency extremes at the limits of human hearing and beyond: “Prolonged or repeated listening is not advisable, as it may result in temporary or permanent ear damage.”
Also in the 1990s, Zorn, together with Marc Ribot, formulated a new initiative called Radical Jewish Culture, whose stated purpose is to extract, expose, and illuminate elements that he perceives to be Jewish components of American culture. Not all those subjective perceptions of what may constitute Jewish components, however, are necessarily shared either by mainstream (including reasonably liberal) Jewish cultural or social critics or by Judaically informed artists.
Still, actual Jewish themes have inspired some of Zorn’s most admirable works, some of which integrate aspects of authentic Jewish melos from a variety of sources. Improvisational chamber pieces, such as Bar Kokhba and Issachar, contain echoes of prewar eastern European Jewish life and explore comparisons between jazz and instrumental Jewish folk music. His celebrated ensemble, Masada (one of his several bands), is named after the plateau fortress above the Dead Sea in Israel, where a fanatical group of zealots staged a last holdout against Rome and—according to a legend that has been subjected in recent years to historical reexamination—committed collective suicide (which, at least in the case of the children, must be admitted as homicide) rather than surrender. He has written more than 100 “Masada tunes” for the group. Another ensemble, Bar Kokhba—a sextet named after the Jewish rebel leader who organized an ill-fated revolt against Roman authority in 132 C.E.—was formed in 1996 and continues to flourish.
Zorn’s compositional approach has been described as “kaleidoscopic” because of the way many of his pieces present rapidly changing flashes of unrelated and fleeting sound elements, gestures, and series of musical moments—all in a quick-paced flow of sonic information. The music, which can appear to leap from idea to idea and from idiom to idiom in distilled abstractions, without much in the way of development, can have a hyperkinetic air about it. By the dawn of the new millennium, when his reputation as the “bad boy” of the avant-garde was firmly established, his works had already appeared on more than sixty recordings.
Not all of Zorn’s works are completely improvisatory. His notated compositions have been commissioned and performed by such “uptown” ensembles and artists as the New York Philharmonic, the Kronos Quartet, the Netherlands Wind Ensemble, the WDR Symphonie-orchester Koln (Cologne), and the Bayerischer Staatsoper. His own record label, Tzadik (a Hebrew word signifying a righteous spiritual leader, more often than not in Hassidic contexts), on which his music appears, has also included works of such academically rooted outsiders to the downtown aesthetics as Charles Wuorinen.
—Neil W. Levin, for the Milken Archive recording project.
Leon Major, director, is currently the artistic director of the Maryland Opera Studio at the University of Maryland School of Music. He was also Artistic Director for the Boston Lyric Opera from 1998-2003. From 2003-2007 he served as Artistic Consultant for Opera Cleveland. Recent productions under Mr. Major’s direction include Miss Havisham’s Fire (Maryland Opera Studio) and The Inspector (Boston Lyric Opera), which premiere he directed in 2011 with Wolf Trap Opera Company. Additional engagements have included master classes at the Royal Conservatory of Music, Toronto and the International Vocal Arts Institute.
Among productions he has staged are L'Italiana in Algeri (Opera Festival of New Jersey); Die Fledermaus, Roméo et Juliette, La traviata, L’elisir d’amore, Carmen, Don Carlos, Resurrection, Don Giovanni, Aïda, L’italiana in Algeri (Boston Lyric Opera); Salome (Boston Lyric Opera and Glimmerglass Opera); Falstaff, Intermezzo, Don Pasquale (revived for the 2003/04 season), and Macbeth (New York City Opera); Intermezzo; Salome, Falstaff (New York City Opera and Glimmerglass); Cosi fan tutte (San Diego Opera, Teatro Municipale, Rio de Janeiro, and Florida Grand Opera); Il barbiere di Siviglia, The Marriage of Figaro, and Later the Same Evening (Glimmerglass Opera Festival); Don Pasquale, L’Italiana in Algeri, The Merry Wives of Windsor, Il barbiere di Siviglia (Washington National Opera); Faust, Don Pasquale (Opera Company of Philadelphia); Peter Grimes (Vancouver Opera); and Il tabarro, Shadowboxer (Premiere), Clara (a newly commissioned opera), The Tales of Hoffman, and Florencia en al Amazonas (Maryland Opera Studio).
In addition to his work as an independent director throughout the United States, Leon Major has directed plays and operas for companies in Canada and Europe and given master classes around the world from Shanghai to Tel Aviv. In May 2011, Hal Leonard released his book The Empty Voice: Acting Opera.
Formed in 2002, the Grammy Award-winning Parker Quartet (Daniel Chong, violin, Ying Xue, violin; Jessica Bodner, viola; Kee-Hyun Kim, cello) has rapidly distinguished itself as one of the preeminent ensembles of its generation. The New York Times has hailed the quartet as “something extraordinary,” the Washington Post has described them as having “exceptional virtuosity [and] imaginative interpretation,” and the Boston Globe acclaims their “pinpoint precision and spectacular sense of urgency.” The quartet began touring on the international circuit after winning the Concert Artists Guild Competition as well as the Grand Prix and Mozart Prize at the Bordeaux International String Quartet Competition in France. Chamber Music America awarded the quartet the prestigious biennial Cleveland Quartet Award for the 2009–2011 seasons. The Parker Quartet recently joined the faculty of Harvard University’s Department of Music as Blodgett Artists-in-Residence.
Highlights of the 2014–2015 season include the project Schubert Effect in collaboration with Shai Wosner at the 92nd Street Y, the premiere of a new string quartet by Augusta Reed Thomas as part of the quartet’s four-concert series at Harvard University, and return engagements at Wigmore Hall and Music at Amherst. The Quartet also continues to be a strong supporter of Kim Kashkashian’s project Music for Food by participating in concerts throughout the Boston area for the benefit of various food bank programs.
Performance highlights from recent seasons include appearances at Carnegie Hall, 92nd Street Y, Philadelphia Chamber Music Society, Library of Congress, the Slee Series in Buffalo, Music Toronto, Concertgebouw in Amsterdam, Wigmore Hall in London, Musikverein in Vienna, Monte Carlo Spring Festival, Seoul Arts Center, Rockport Chamber Music Festival, Mecklenburg-Vorpommern Festspiele in Germany, and San Miguel de Allende Festival in Mexico. The quartet has recently collaborated with artists including Kim Kashkashian, Nadja Salerno-Sonnenberg, Anne- Marie McDermott, Shai Wosner, Kikuei Ikeda of the Tokyo Quartet, Jörg Widmann, and Claron McFaddon. In 2012 the Parker Quartet was the recipient of a Chamber Music America commissioning grant, enabling the ensemble to commission and premiere Capriccio, an hour-length work by American composer Jeremy Gill.
Successful early concert touring in Europe helped the quartet forge a relationship with Zig-Zag Territoires, which released their debut commercial recording of Bartók’s String Quartets Nos. 2 and 5 in July 2007. The disc earned high praise from numerous critics, including Gramophone: “The Parkers’ Bartók spins the illusion of spontaneous improvisation… they have absorbed the language; they have the confidence to play freely with the music and the instinct to bring it off.” The quartet’s second recording, György Ligeti’s complete works for string quartet, was released on Naxos in December 2009 to critical acclaim. This recording won the 2011 Grammy Award for Best Chamber Music Performance. They are the last string quartet to have won this category.
The Quartet was founded and is currently based in Boston. In addition to their full-time residency at Harvard, they will continue their visiting residency at the University of South Carolina. From 2008 to 2013, the quartet spent much of its time in St. Paul, MN, where they served as Quartet-in-Residence with the St. Paul Chamber Orchestra (2008–2010), were the first-ever Artists-in-Residence with Minnesota Public Radio (2009–2010), visiting artists at the University of Minnesota (2011–2012), and Artists-in-Residence at the University of St. Thomas (2012–2014).
The Parker Quartet’s members hold graduate degrees in performance and chamber music from the New England Conservatory of Music and were part of NEC’s prestigious Professional String Quartet Training Program, directed by Paul Katz, from 2006–2008. Some of their most influential mentors include members of the former Cleveland Quartet, Kim Kashkashian, György Kurtág, and Rainer Schmidt.