July 7 Ciro in Babilonia by Gioachino Rossini
Bel Canto at Caramoor
About the Opera About the Artists
Ewa PodleÅ›, contralto; Jessica Pratt, soprano; Michael Spyres, tenor;
Scott Bearden, baritone; Sharin Apostolou, soprano; Eric Barry, tenor;
Krassen Karagiozov, baritone
Orchestra of St. Luke’s
Will Crutchfield, conductor and Director of Opera
Davide Livermore, stage director and video projections designer
Cori Ellison, guest lecturer
This production is in collaboration with the Rossini Opera Festival in Pesaro, Italy.
ABOUT CIRO IN BABILONIA By Will Crutchfield
A NOTE FROM EWA PODLEÅš
At the time of his conquest of Babylon, Cyrus the Great was already a mature man, who very much like myself had already lived for more than half a century. That is the reason why I have decided to work on this part without any inhibitions or second thoughts; it is quite natural for a mature singer to present a mature hero, rather than for instance a fifty-year-old soprano singing a sixteen-year-old Cio-Cio-San.
Ciro is not the imaginary creation of a librettist, but a historic figure that left a prominent mark of his presence in the world. He was a successful leader, full of initiative, a fantastic strategist, a clever and insightful ruler, and a human being of broad horizons. It was he who wisely left conquered peoples to follow their own faith and traditions, it was he who freed the Jews from the Babylonian captivity, and finally it was he who is considered to be the first author of a civil rights bill of sorts in human history.
I am fully aware of the historic legacy of the hero. I cannot imagine him to be dreamy and lyrical. Judging by his actions, he was strong, energetic, determined but also deeply thoughtful and emotional. This is how I will attempt to portray him. -Ewa PodleÅ›
The libretto of Ciro in Babilonia is based on one of the most dramatic stories from the Old Testament, the fall of Babylon and its ruler Belshazzar, after the latter has profaned the vessels his ancestor Nebuchadnezzar carried off from the Temple of Solomon. At Belshazzar’s banquet, just after he permitted his soldiers and concubines to drink from the sacred goblets, a supernatural hand appeared and inscribed on the wall in fiery letters a prophecy of doom. This was the original “handwriting on the wall”—Mene, Mene, Tekel, Upharsin, in the most familiar transliteration—which the prophet Daniel interpreted to mean “God has numbered the days of your kingdom and brought it to an end; you have been weighed in the balance and found wanting; your kingdom is divided and given to the Medes and the Persians.” (Daniel 5:25-28) The episode occurs in Act Two of Rossini’s opera, followed by a “mad scene” for the afflicted Belshazzar and an aria for Daniel foretelling the city’s destruction.
The warrior who fulfilled this prophecy was Cyrus the Great, who lived from about 600 BC to 530 BC and was an immensely significant figure in ancient history. Like all internationally renowned leaders of his time, he made his name through conquest—building the Achaemenid Empire, the largest the world had yet seen—but by contemporaneous standards, he was astonishingly progressive, showing generosity to the defeated, permitting diversity of religious worship, and repatriating displaced peoples. Most famously, he released the Hebrews from the Babylonian Captivity, and not only permitted the rebuilding of the Temple of Solomon, but funded it, sending his treasurer with meticulously detailed instructions to Jerusalem for the purpose.
Many historians see Cyrus as the precursor of the liberalizing rulers who, over the course of centuries, gradually loosened the bonds of despotism and contributed to the principles we now call “human rights.” His precepts were known, and influential, during the founding period of the Athenian democracy, and some scholars believe he is the same person as the Dhul-Qamayn whose exploits are recounted admiringly in the Koran. In Iran he is venerated to this day as the father of the nation, and his tomb there is a UNESCO-designated World Heritage Site.
His foe Belshazzar is sometimes called the “king” of Babylon, but surviving historical traces suggest that he is better described as a prince regent for his father Nabonidus, who apparently spent long portions of his reign in religious meditation far from the capital. However, in 540 or 539 BC King Nabonidus was apparently at the head of an army defeated in the field by Cyrus, who entered Babylon two days later.
Nabonidus does not figure in the version of the story used by Rossini’s librettist. Darius, Cyrus’s subject and comrade-in-arms, is mentioned in the text, but does not appear in person; Cyrus’s son Chambyses, who eventually succeeded him as emperor, does appear, as a young child with a non-singing role. The kingship in Babylon was granted to Darius after Belshazzar’s fall (Darius was a Mede, Cyrus a Persian, corresponding to Daniel’s interpretation of the fiery letters).
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Rossini was just shy of twenty years old, with four operas already to his credit, when he received the contract to compose Ciro in Babilonia for the Teatro Communale of Ferrara early in 1812, to a libretto by the aristocratic dilettante Francesco Aventi. Operas on Old-Testament stories were popular in Italy at the time, and in some cities were obligatory for performances during Lent; other examples include Rossini’s own Mosè in Egitto, Donizetti’s Il diluvio universale (telling of Noah and the Flood), and Verdi’s Nabucco (about Belshazzar’s forefather Nebuchadnezzar). The usual dramatic strategy for these works – as with operas based on ancient military history - was to insert a love story or other personal complication into the outline of the familiar narrative. In this case, the opera finds Ciro (Cyrus) encamped outside Babylon, poised for victory, but unable to attack because the forces of Baldassare (Belshazzar) have managed, in a prior battle, to capture Ciro’s wife Amira and son Cambise (Chambyses).
The libretto strikes a modern reader as having the flavor of the 18th and not the 19th century. Many of its situations were standard tropes in opera seria for generations: the warrior hero who must disguise himself as a servant or messenger; the virtuous queen of an exiled or otherwise absent monarch who must resist the threats and blandishments of a lecherous usurper; the prison scene which allows the protagonist to sing of vulnerability and doubt. All of these occur repeatedly in the heroic operas of Handel, Hasse, Vivaldi and the pre-reform Gluck; also reminiscent of those operas is the subplot involving love between two secondary characters, Argene (handmaiden of Amira) and Arbace (a Persian who has entered the service of Babylon, but betrays his masters to help his compatriots win their victory). As Philip Gossett points out in Divas and Scholars, his landmark account of the revival of 19th-century Italian opera, it would be unthinkable for Ruiz and Ines in Il trovatore to have a love story and sing arias of their own. The only substantive difference between Aventi’s libretto for Ciro and uncountable libretti written a century earlier is that it provides for ensemble numbers along with arias for the protagonist, but even this is an innovation already well-established by 1780 or so.
That such a relatively conservative libretto could still seem functional in 1812 is a testament to the long and impressively vital tradition of serious lyric drama in Italy: late-20th-century revivals have banished the once-common supposition that the form ever turned stale or that the fount of compositional inspiration for it ever ran dry. But what is happening in the musical score of Ciro tells a different story. Rossini, in ways that the scholarly world is still only beginning to understand, gathered the threads of operatic language as it existed in his youth and wove from them a radically new fabric. Stendhal compared his conquest of the world’s opera houses to Napoleon’s in the military and political sphere, and this is not far-fetched. Without explicitly rejecting anything in the makeup of opera as he found it, he managed to pass it on to his successors in a way that bore the stamp of his personal musicality—his way of feeling rhythm and harmony, his way of organizing the orchestra, his way of matching vocal to dramatic expression.
The main ingredients were four: a radical simplification of harmonic motion (anyone who pauses to analyze Rossini’s music is bound to be startled by the amount of it that relies on the most basic alternation of tonic with dominant); a way of building structures from symmetrical blocks of rhythm that could be repeated, halved or doubled to generate forward motion; systematical adoption of certain ornamental figures used in improvisation by the singers he admired in his youth as the basis of his vocal writing; and colorful, exciting, sometimes exuberantly noisy exploitation of the resources of the orchestra.
For much of the 20th century, when Rossini was in disrepute, these qualities were known to audiences through the ubiquitous Barbiere di Siviglia, several overtures that stayed popular as concert pieces, and occasional attempts to perform truncated versions of Guillaume Tell. But the “Rossini revival”—starting with Maria Callas, Joan Sutherland and Marilyn Horne, and continued through the work of scholars like Philip Gossett, conductors like Alberto Zedda and Claudio Abbado, and adventurous companies—above all the Rossini Opera Festival in the composer’s home town of Pesaro—have long since revealed the way these gifts could illuminate subjects as diverse as the fairy tale of Cinderella, the high Romanticisim of The Lady of the Lake, the tragedy of Othello, the visionary leadership of Moses, and the antique grandeur of Hermione, Tancred or Semiramis. Most regular operagoers today have encountered several of the operas just alluded to, and most leading theaters have at least one non-Barbiere Rossini title in every season.
Even now, though, it is difficult to grasp the degree to which his way of making opera dominated the scene in his own day. By the early 1820s, his operas accounted for well over half the season’s repertory in practically all Italian theaters and in the Italian-oriented houses of London, Paris, Vienna and St. Petersburg as well. When Italian opera was introduced to New York in 1826, the repertory consisted of eight operas: two by the leader of the troupe (the tenor and composer Manuel García), one by Mozart (Don Giovanni, a star vehicle for García in Europe)—and five by Rossini, who was by that time only thirty-four years old. Younger composers (including Donizetti for a longish while) made their way by imitating Rossini as closely as they could. His forms and structures are felt throughout the works of Bellini and Weber, and also shaped the fledgling efforts of Wagner and Verdi (the latter's Otello—written some sixty years after Rossini’s— shows in countless details the influence of its predecessor).
The astonishing thing for any musician who studies Ciro in Babilonia is the extent to which Rossini commanded his style while still a teenager and an operatic beginner. For those of us at Caramoor who performed last summer in Guillaume Tell, Rossini’s last and most ambitious opera, it is moving to hear how many ideas that appear in that work were already present in Ciro—developed, extended, matured in the 1829 Parisian masterpiece by the world’s most famous living composer; fresh, spontaneous, and naively secure already in the 1812 Ferrarese debut of a youngster just beginning to make his name. Rossini was already Rossini. The forms are not yet completely set: for instance, what we call a “cabaletta,” the fast movement at the end of an aria or duet, does not always behave in the way that the composer later standardized, and that was observed strictly up to the time of La traviata and Il trovatore. But already they sound like cabalettas—clearly distinguishable in their spirit and patterns from the closing allegros of the 18th century, clearly marked by the verve and directness that were among Rossini’s many gifts to the dawning Romantic era. Ciro in Babilonia shines throughout with the light of those gifts, tells a strong story in a heartfelt way, and absolutely deserves to take its place among the revived works of an author whose reputation grows with each new rediscovery.
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A NOTE ON THE PERFORMANCE
For those of us who are interested in the performing style of the distant past, Ciro is a particularly rewarding chance to put into practice the evidence that survives from the earliest generation of singers Rossini admired and worked with—singers like Angelica Catalani, Andrea Nozzari, Manuel Garcia, Giambattista Velluti and the composer’s future wife Isabella Colbran. All of them were famous before Rossini entered their repertories and lives, and all left written examples of the ornamental style that the composer borrowed from them. We have made copious use of those examples in interpreting the relatively simple vocal notation of Ciro.
A frustration in dealing with the work, on the other hand, is the absence of the composer’s own autograph score— one of the few by Rossini to have gone missing over the years. We are entirely dependent on a few handwritten copies and two published piano-vocal scores made at an unknown distance from the lost original. These contain various conflicts and many obvious errors for which the corrections are far less obvious. I am extremely grateful to Ilaria Narici of the Fondazione Rossini and the Casa Ricordi for providing me with copies of some of the sources from which she and Daniele Carnini have made the new critical edition of the score; I hope my collaboration has been of some use to them in arriving at the final text, and I know that their generosity in sharing the raw materials has been of great use to me in arriving at interpretive decisions (even when some of those go in different directions from the choices they have made for the edition itself).
What we are performing tonight is an uncut rendition of all the musical pieces Rossini composed for Ciro in Babilonia. We have, however, made abbreviations in the continuo-accompanied recitatives (which may or may not have been composed by Rossini), and we have decided for this performance not to use the original vocal line of the one piece in the opera that is well-known by anecdote. Late in life Rossini told one of his biographers how he arrived in Ferrara to find a secondary soprano whose voice was so inadequate that audiences had been hissing and whistling at her performances, and how he tried her voice and discovered that it had only one good note, middle B-flat—whereupon he composed an aria sung exclusively on that note. “The rest,” he said, “I put into the orchestra, and the singer was surprised and delighted at her success.” That sounds too good a story to be literally true, but the principal sources do show a vocal line consisting (almost) entirely of that single pitch. Whether this is what was really sung in Ferrara is unknowable; whether the drama is served by such a device is debatable. We do know, though, that when Ciro circulated to other theaters, unknown adapters set about providing Argene with a normal vocal line in Rossinian style—still using the same orchestral accompaniment exactly as he wrote it—and that is the approach we are employing at Caramoor tonight. Perhaps in Pesaro we will do the one-note aria, so that both possibilities will have the chance to be compared in action. - Will Crutchfield
ABOUT THE ARTISTS
Eric Barry, Tenor
Eric Barry (Arbace) has set himself apart from other singers through his signature sound, musical sincerity, and ease of dramatic expression. On stage he is an excellent actor with surprising range, while off stage he is a remarkably generous and giving colleague. His performances have earned him international approval: the PBS documentary Young Opera declared him to be “the next big thing in the tenor world.” This Spanish-American tenor has been heard throughout the U.S. and Europe, including broadcasts on National Public Radio.
Last season’s operatic highlights include a recording and performance of Donizetti’s Maria Padilla at the Beethoven Easter Festival in Warsaw, Poland. He made his debut with the Orchestra Sinfonica di Milano Giuseppe Verdi in Milan, and sang the role of Don Ottavio in his final Yale Opera production, Don Giovanni. Mr. Barry had resounding success performing with the Wolf Trap Opera Company in Wolf-Ferrari’s rare operatic work Le donne curiose (Florindo) and Sondheim’s Sweeney Todd (Anthony Hope). He also participated in Wolf Trap Opera’s 40th anniversary opera gala. His performances as Rodolfo in Amarillo Opera’s production of La bohème were recorded and broadcast as part of PBS’s Fall Arts Festival.
This year Mr. Barry covered the role of Alfredo in New York City Opera’s production of La traviata. He was invited back to the Beethoven Easter Festival in Warsaw, Poland where he performed the role of Avito for their production and recording of Montemezzi’s L’amore dei tre re. The CD will be available this fall. Later this year he will revisit Wolf Trap, singing the title character of Tom Rakewell in The Rake’s Progress. He will also perform as Otello in Rossini’s Otello at Opera in the Heights and as Rodolfo in La bohème at Opera Memphis.
In addition to operatic repertoire, Mr. Barry is well versed in early music and oratorio. His most celebrated performances have been Händel’s Messiah, Verdi’s Messa di Requiem, Beethoven’s Christus am Ölberge, Brahms’ Liebeslieder, and selections from J.S. Bach’s St. John and St. Matthew’s Passions. His recent performances of Mozart’s Requiem, on tour with the Munich Symphony under the baton of Philippe Entremont, in addition to his performance at the Washington National Cathedral under the direction of Maestro Michael McCarthy, were held in high regard and received international praise.
Mr. Barry holds a Master of Music degree and Artist Diploma from the prestigious School of Music at Yale University. For more information, or to hear recordings, please visit his web-site: www.eric-barry.com.
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Scott Bearden, Baritone
(Zambri) Scott Bearden’s career highlights have included previous appearances at the Caramoor Festival as the Duke of Chevreuse in Maria di Rohan, Dick Deadeye in H.M.S. Pinafore. and Gessler in Guillaume Tell. He has also performed the title role in Falstaff with Toledo Opera and at the Tanglewood Music Festival under the baton of Maestro Seiji Ozawa; Don Pizarro in Fidelio with Opera Boston; the title role in Falstaff, Tonio in I pagliacci, the title role in Gianni Schicchi, and Germont in La traviata with Mississippi Opera; the title role in Rigoletto with Opera Theater of Connecticut and Eugene Opera; Iago in Otello and Tonio in I pagliacci with Knoxville Opera; Scarpia in Tosca with Opera New Jersey and Opera Theater of Connecticut; Renato in Un ballo in maschera with Opera Memphis; the title role in Falstaff and Germont in La traviata with Rochester’s Mercury Opera; Germont in La traviata with Toledo Opera; Bartolo in Il barbiere di Siviglia with Opera Grand Rapids; the title role in The Secret Agent (based on the novel by Joseph Conrad) with the Center for Contemporary Opera at New York’s Kaye Playhouse; Amonasro in Aïda with Cedar Rapids Opera Theatre; Count Di Luna in Il trovatore and Renato in Un ballo in maschera with California’s Festival Opera; the title role in Falstaff, Scarpia in Tosca, and Michele in Il tabarro with the International Vocal Arts Institute; Don Alfonso in Così fan tutte with the Sanibel Music Festival; the title role in Rigoletto, the title role in Falstaff, Tonio in I pagliacci, Sharpless in Madama Butterfly, Marcello in La bohème, Lescaut in Manon, Don Alfonso in Così fan tutte, Bartolo in Il barbiere di Siviglia, and Dulcamara in L’elisir d’amore with Opera San Jose; and Mr. Peachum in The Threepenny Opera with West Bay Opera.
Concert highlights have included Scarpia in Tosca and Marcello in La bohème with the Midland Symphony; the title role in Rigoletto and Count Di Luna in Il trovatore with the Monterey Symphony; and Iago in Act I of Otello with the Oakland East Bay Symphony. His discography includes Albert Herring on the Vox Classics label. Mr. Bearden was named First Prize Winner and “audience favorite” in the 2008 Irene Dalis Vocal Competition. In 2007, he was the winner of the Second Chester Ludgin American Verdi Baritone Competition, with a jury that included Plácido Domingo, Mignon Dunn, and Julius Rudel. His upcoming engagements include performing the role of Jack Rance in La fanciulla del West with the Knoxville Opera.
Paolo Cucco, Video Designer
Mr. Cucco of Turin, Italy, is a renowned creator of innovative communications projects. He has developed exclusive video design systems such as the Free Format Holographic system and The Drop Videomapping 3D Vision system.
As the CEO of D-Wok, he has been the event designer for some of the biggest international brands as e.g. Gucci, Fiat, Vodafone, Kia, and a cutting-edge TV video designer for RAI, Mediaset and Sky.
With stage designer David Livermore, he was art director of the 2011 World Archery Games Opening Ceremony for which he won the Best Event Awards 2011 for the Conception and Creation of the virtual scenography.
He also was director of the 2007 Universiade Opening Ceremony and the 2009 Closing Ceremony of the World Swimming Championships.
Again collaborating with stage director Davide Livermore, Mr. Cucco’s current projects include preparing the technology design set for the exhibit Bucintoro, and advanced video design for La Boheme in Philadelphia, The Magic Flute in Oslo, and for Ciro in Babilonia here at the Caramoor Festival and also at the Rossini Opera Festival in Pesaro, Italy, during July and August of this year.
Paolo Cucco has a degree in Modern Literature and Movie History with a thesis on Beatles’ movies, published by Falsopiano.
As a drummer, he has performed with some of the most important Italian composers such as Mau Mau, 883 and Meg, and with international stars such as Manu Chao.
Davide Livermore, Stage Director
Born in Turin, Italy, he studied at the Cuneo Conservatory, and continued his preparation under the guidance of Franca Mattiucci. In 1992 he won a special As.Li.Co competition held in Cremona celebrating the 350th anniversary of Monteverdi’s death. Soon thereafter, , he made his debut in Monteverdi’s Selva morale et spirituale, which was recorded for the Amadeus label. Over a period of ten years Mr. Livermore sang in such opera houses as Teatro alla Scala, Teatro dell’Opera di Roma, Teatro Regio di Torino, Teatro Massimo di Palermo, Teatro San Carlo in Napoli, Opéra de Nice, Maggio Musicale Fiorentino, Teatro La Fenice di Venezia, Teatro Lirico di Cagliari, Teatro Verdi di Trieste, and Bunka Kaikan in Tokyo.
Since 1998 he has turned his creative energies into stage direction. During this career he has directed important productions at the Maggio Musicale Fiorentino, Teatro Verdi di Trieste, Teatro Regio di Torino, Teatro Carlo Felice di Genova, Teatro La Fenice di Venezia, with the Opera Company of Philadelphia, Opéra de Montpellier, Opéra d’Avignon, Opera de La Coruña, at Teatro Arriaga in Bilbao, and at Teatro de la Zarzuela in Madrid.
Mr. Livermore’s most recent productions have included L’elisir d’amore at the Opéra d’Avignon, at the Teatro Verdi in Trieste and at the Opéra de Tours; La gazza ladra at the Bunka Kaikan in Tokyo for the Japan Opera Foundation; La Dafne by Marco da Gagliano at the Maggio Musicale Fiorentino and at the Festival di Cremona; Il signor Goldoni by Luca Mosca at the Teatro La Fenice di Venezia; La cenerentola at the Opéra de Montpellier; Billy Budd at the Opera de Bilbao; La fille du régiment at the Opéra de Montpellier; Idomeneo at the Teatro Regio in Torino and at the Teatro Comunale in Bologna; Rossini’s Demetrio e Polibio at the Rossini Opera Festival in Pesaro; and Agrippina at the Festival de Santiago de Compostela.
He opened the 2010-11 season directing La fille du regiment in La Coruña, followed by two new productions: Mefistofele at the Seoul Arts Center and I Vespri siciliani at the Teatro Regio di Torino for the celebration of the 150th Anniversary of the Unification of Italy; and a new work by Luca Mosca, L’Italia del destino, at the Maggio Musicale Fiorentino (world premiere).
Among his future plans are new productions of Ciro in Babilonia at the Rossini Opera Festival di Pesaro and at the Teatro San Carlo di Napoli, as well as a production of La bohème at the Philadelphia Opera Company. He also plans revivals of I vespri siciliani at Teatro Nacional de São Carlos in Lisbon, at Teatro Arriaga de Bilbao, and at Den Norske Opera in Oslo, as well as Demetrio e Polibio at Teatro San Carlo di Napoli.
In recent seasons Mr. Livermore directed productions of I quatro rusteghi by Wolf-Ferrari at the Teatro La Fenice di Venezia; Die Entführung aus dem Serail at the Teatro Regio di Torino; Bajazet by Antonio Vivaldi at the Radio France Festival; La cenerentola at the Opera Company of Philadelphia, L’elisir d’amore at the Opéra de Montpellier and in Toulon; Lo sposo di tre e marito di nessuna by Luigi Cherubini at the 31th Festival in Valle d’Itria; Don Giovanni at the Teatro Carlo Felice di Genova; Il barbiere di Siviglia at the Teatro Petruzzelli in Bari; Billy Budd by Benjamin Britten at the Teatro Regio di Torino; Arsilda, regina di Ponto by Antonio Vivaldi at the Festival Opera Barga; Lo scoiattolo in gamba by Nino Rota with the Orchestra Verdi in Milan; and La colomba ferita by Francesco Provenzale at the Teatro di San Carlo di Napoli.
As an author for radio and television, Davide Livermore has written Livermore Show, a television series for Swiss Italian television, and a radio show for Italian radio Rai3. Artistic Director of the Teatro Baritti in Turin, where he produces experimental musical theatre, Davide Livermore also teaches voice and music education at Teatro Stabile School in Turin.
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Ewa PodleÅ›, Contralto
(Ciro) Widely regarded as the world’s foremost contralto, Warsaw-born Ewa PodleÅ›’ engagements include the Metropolitan Opera (La Cieca in Ponchielli’s La Gioconda), Seattle Opera (title role in Händel’s Giulio Cesare, Adalgisa in Bellini’s Norma, and Erda in Wagner’s Ring cycle); San Diego Opera (Cesare; Marquise in Donizetti’s La fille du régiment); San Francisco Opera (Principessa in Puccini’s Suor Angelica), Canadian Opera Company (Cesare, Jocasta in Stravinsky’s Oedipus Rex, Klytämnestra in Richard Strauss’ Elektra, and the title role in Rossini’s Tancredi); Houston Grand Opera (Ulrica in Verdi’s Un ballo in maschera and the Marquise); Dallas Opera (Bertarido in Händel’s Rodelinda and Erda); Milwaukee’s Florentine Opera (Azucena in Verdi’s Il trovatore); Michigan Opera Theatre (Ulrica); Opéra de Monte Carlo (Countess in Tchaikovsky’s Pique Dame); Madame de la Haltiere in Massenet’s Cendrillon at Paris’ Opéra Comique; and at the Royal Opera, Covent Garden, Minnesota Opera (Malcolm in Rossini’s La donna del lago), and Klytämnestra in Warsaw and Nice.
Appearances at New York’s Carnegie Hall include Gluck’s Orphée et Eurydice with the Oratorio Society of New York, Ulrica with the Collegiate Chorale, Baroque and Rossini programs with the Moscow Chamber Orchestra, Das Lied von der Erde with the Philadelphia Orchestra; and Szymanowski’s Three Hymns with Sinfonia Varsovia. Among her signature pieces is Rossini’s cantata Giovanna d’Arco which she performed with the Moscow Chamber Orchestra in Pittsburgh and at Lincoln Center’s Avery Fisher Hall and Toronto Symphony. The University Musical Society in Ann Arbor, Michigan has presented her in recital, as Tancredi with the Detroit Symphony, and as Orfeo in a semi-staged version of the work. Mme. PodleÅ› has sung principal roles at the Deutsche Staatsoper Berlin and Deutsche Oper Berlin; Frankfurt Alte Oper; Gran Teatre del Liceu; Teatro Bellini; La Scala; La Fenice; Teatro San Carlo; Warsaw’s National Theatre; Théâtre Châtelet and Opéra Bastille. She remains a member of Warsaw’s Teatr Wielki.
She has sung with the Saint Paul Chamber Orchestra, San Francisco, Detroit, Seattle, Montreal, American, Toronto, NHK, New World and Pittsburgh Symphonies; Maggio Musicale Fiorentino and National Arts Centre Orchestras; National Orchestra of Spain; Hong Kong and Dresden Philharmonics; and under the batons of such conductors as David Atherton, Leon Botstein, Myung-Whun Chung, Gerard Schwarz, Nicholas McGegan, Neeme Jaervi, Lorin Maazel, Constantine Orbelian, Alberto Zedda, and Pinchas Zukerman. A particularly acclaimed recitalist, she has been featured on major art-song series in Cleveland, Atlanta, Vancouver, Philadelphia, St. Paul, Chicago, Paris, Amsterdam, London, Toronto, Moscow, Warsaw, Montreal, San Juan, Québec, and New York (Alice Tully Hall and the 92nd Street Y). Festival invitations over the years have led to appearances at New York’s Bard Festival, Aix-en-Provence, Flanders, Montpellier, and Lanaudière. At Caramoor she has sung both Azucena and Tancredi to great acclaim in the past few years.
Her many collaborations with Marc Minkowski and Les Musiciens du Louvre includes two Deutsche Grammophon recordings: Händel’s Ariodante and Gluck’s Armide. Other issues include two acclaimed Delos recordings: Händel’s Arias and Russian Arias. She has made three recital discs with the pianist Garrick Ohlsson, including a new release recorded “live” at Wigmore Hall.
Mme. PodleÅ› vocal study was with Alina Bolechowska at Warsaw’s Chopin Music Academy. Her many awards and honors include top prizes at Moscow’s prestigious Tchaikovsky Competition.
Jessica Pratt, Soprano
(Amira) In the few years following her debut in the title role of Lucia di Lammermoor in 2007 with As.Li.Co., soprano Jessica Pratt has been invited as a guest artist to perform in many of Europe’s most important theatres, including Wiener Staatsoper, Teatro alla Scala in Milan, Opernhaus Zurich, Teatro dell’Opera in Rome. and Maggio Musicale Fiorentino in Florence.
She regularly collaborates with such conductors as Daniel Oren, Kent Nagano, Ralf Weikart, Donato Renzetti, Vladimir Ashkenazy, Christian Thielemann, David Parry. and Nello Santi. She successfully participated in numerous national and international competitions, winning the Australian Singing Competition, The Vienna State Opera Award and the Rome Opera Award, to name only a few.
In 2005 she was invited to study at the Opera di Roma under the guidance of Gianluigi Gelmetti, and later attended a series of master classes with Renata Scotto. Ms. Pratt currently studies with Lella Cuberli.
The 2009 season saw Ms. Pratt making a successful stage debut at the Teatro alla Scala in Milan as La Prima Donna (Le convenienze ed inconvenienze teatrali) conducted by Marco Guidarini and directed by Antonio Albanese. The performance was broadcast live in Europe and is currently being broadcast in numerous international movie theatres. The production was also released on DVD for Bel Air Classique.
In 2010, Ms. Pratt performed in Lucia di Lammermoor (title role) at the Teatro Carlo Felice in Genoa under the baton of Daniel Oren, who subsequently invited her to debut the roles of Eudoxie in La Juive at the New Israeli Opera in Tel Aviv and Juliette in Romeo et Juliette at the Teatro Verdi in Salerno. She also performed in the U,K, première of Rossini’s Armida (title role) and Rigoletto (Gilda) conducted by Donato Renzetti at the Terme di Caracalla with the Opera di Roma and La sonnambula (Amina) with As.Li.Co. The same year, her recording of Rossini’s Otello (Desdemona) was released by Naxos.
Highlights of her recent engagements include: her stage debut at the Royal Opera House-Covent Garden in London as Die Königin der Nacht in Die Zauberflöte under the baton of Sir Colin Davis; Elvira in I puritani in Salerno, Cremona, Brescia and Pavia; Lucia di Lammermoor at the Teatro La Fenice in Venice and in Tel Aviv; Adelaide di Borgogna (title role) at the Rossini Opera Festival in Pesaro; and Candide (Cunegonda) in Rome.
Her future engagements include I Capuleti e i Montecchi (Giulietta) in Reims and Salerno, where she will also perform La Juive, as well as Ciro in Babilonia (Amira) at the Rossini Opera Festival in Pesaro.
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Michael Spyres, Tenor
(Baldassare) Michael Spyres was born in Mansfield, Missouri, where he grew up in a family of musicians. He began his studies in the United States and continued them at the Vienna Conservatory, Austria. After his debut at Teatro San Carlo of Naples in 2006 as Jaquino in Fidelio, Spyres performed the role of Alberto from Rossini’s La gazzetta at the Bad Wildbad Rossini Festival and toured Japan as Alfredo in La traviata. He returned to Bad Wildbad in July 2008 for his role debut as Rossini’s Otello.
During the last two seasons, Mr. Spyres was a member of the Deutsche Oper Berlin, where he performed roles such as Tamino in Die Zauberflöte and Steuermann in Der fliegende Holländer; debuted in London as Fernand in La favorite; sang at the Teatro alla Scala di Milano as Belfiore in Rossini’s Il viaggio a Reims, as well as performed in the role of Raoul in Meyerbeer’s Les Huguenots for the SummerScape Festival in New York. Other performances included the title role in Bernstein’s Candide for his debut with the Vlaamse Opera; his debut with OperaIreland as Roméo in Gounod’s Roméo et Juliette; sang as Néocle in Rossini’s Le siège de Corinthe at the Wildbad Rossini Festival, and performed as Tybalt in Roméo et Juliette for the Salzburg Festival 2010. In May 2010, Mr. Spyres performed the role of Ozìa in Mozart’s Betulia liberata with Riccardo Muti at the Salzburg Whitsun Festival and subsequently sang at the Ravenna Festival.
Roles during the 2010-2011 season included Tamino in Die Zauberflöte at the Opéra de Wallonie in Liège; the title role in the first modern staged performances of Mazzoni’s Antigono in Lisbon; Gianetto in Rossini’s La gazza ladra at Semperoper Dresden; and Arnold in Rossini’s Guillaume Tell at the Caramoor International Music Festival. Under the direction of Maestro Riccardo Muti, he participated in a series of concert performances of Verdi’s Otello with the Chicago Symphony Orchestra. These concerts included his debut at Carnegie Hall in New York.
During the 2011-2012 season, he returned to La Scala di Milano as Rodrigo in Rossini’s La donna del lago and took part in a concert tour with the London Symphony Orchestra and John Eliot Gardiner singing Beethoven’s Ninth Symphony in London, Munich, and Hamburg. Mr. Spyres could also be heard in the title role in Candide at the Opera di Roma; as Edgardo in Lucia di Lammermoor at Minnesota Opera; as Masaniello in Auber’s La muette de Portici at Opéra Comique in Paris; and in Berlioz’ Requiem with John Eliot Gardiner at the St Denis Festival.
This season, Michael Spyres will give his role debut as Faust in Berlioz’ La damnation de Faust at the Vlaamse Opera; will be heard in Missa Solemnis and Beethoven’s Ninth Symphony at Carnegie Hall; will sing in Orange County, Valencia, and Madrid (under the baton of John Eliot Gardiner); perform as Don Ramiro in La Cenerentola at Palm Beach Opera; and will also be part of Verdi’s Messa da Requiem in Porto, Candide at the Vlaamse Opera, and as Rodrigo in Rossini’s La donna del lago for his debut at the Royal Opera House Covent Garden in London. He will also sing a concert in Moscow in February 2013. Future engagements include a 2013-2014 season debut at Lyric Opera Chicago as Alfred in Strauß’s Die Fledermaus, and, in 2014-2015, returns to Covent Garden for a new production of Mozart’s Idomeneo and in Paris as Berlioz’ Benvenuto Cellini under the baton of John Eliot Gardiner.
Michael Spyres has recorded Rossini’s La gazzetta, Otello (also on DVD) and Le siège de Corinthe for Naxos. His first Solo CD, A Fool For Love, (Delos) was released in 2011.
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Sharin Apostolou, soprano
New Jersey native Sharin Apostolou, soprano, (Argene) began the 2011-12 season as Alinda in Cavalli’s Giasone with Opera Omnia at Le Poisson Rouge. The season will also include her debut and her first Susanna in a condensed production of Le nozze di Figaro as part of the Bryant Park Fall Festival. She will also cover the role of Fortuna in Mozart’s Il sogno di Scipione with Gotham Chamber Opera and perform as Alison in Holst’s The Wandering Scholar with the Little Opera Theatre of New York. Ms. Apostolou will also join the Baltimore Concert Opera for Il Trittico and will perform as Lauretta in Gianni Schicchi and Suor Genovieffa in Suor Angelica. She began the 2010-2011 season as Clotilde in Norma with Bel Canto at Caramoor, was seen as Belinda in Dido and Aeneas with the Macao International Music Festival, and returned to Portland Opera as Fire, Nightingale, and Princess in L’enfant et les sortileges. During last season, Ms. Apostolou also made debuts with Utah Opera as Nannetta in Falstaff, sang at Avery Fisher Hall as the soprano soloist in Handel’s Alexander’s Feast, performed in Mozart’s Requiem and Handel’s Messiah; and collaborated with the Boston Symphony Orchestra at Tanglewood in an all-Baroque program with Susan Graham.
Ms. Apostolou is a graduate of the Portland Opera Studio, where she sang the titles roles in Rodelinda and La Calisto, Ms. Wordsworth in Albert Herring, Frasquita in Carmen, Clorinda in La Cenerentola, Annina in La traviata, and Countess Ceprano in Rigoletto. Her upcoming engagements include the roles of Rosina in Il barbiere di Siviglia and Gilda in Rigoletto, both with Shreveport Opera. She will return to Portland Opera as Almirena in Handel’s Rinaldo and then sing again Avery Fisher Hall in Messiah with the National Chorale.
Krassen Karagiozov, Baritone
Baritone Krassen Karagiozov (Daniello) was born in Stara Zagora, Bulgaria, where he began his musical studies as a pianist. He participated in, and won, many international competitions in both piano and voice. In addition to concert work as a collaborative pianist in Bulgaria, Turkey, and the United States, he appeared as baritone soloist for recitals and recordings for the Bulgarian National Radio. As a member of Opera San José’s resident principal artists, he appeared in 15 principal roles among which are the title role in Eugene Onegin, Sgt. Belcore, Guglielmo, Escamillo, Marcello, Figaro, Angelotti, Vronsky, Count Almaviva, Dandini, and Lescaut. Mr. Karagiozov’s recent roles include Marquis D’Obigny in La traviata for NYCO, Valentin in Faust for OSJ, Henry in The Gift of the Magi for Hidden Valley, Silvio in I pagliacci for OSJ, and Gianni Schicchi for Hawaii Performing Arts Festival. He has also performed the roles of Masetto, Germont, Sharpless, Don Giovanni, Tarquinius, Silvio, Schaunard, Harlequin, Peter, Raoul de Gardefeu, and Prometheus. Mr. Karagiozov has appeared with opera companies such as New York City Opera, Opera San José, Opera Carolina, Lake George Opera Festival, Spoleto Opera Festival, Aspen Opera Theater, The Opera Company of North Carolina, Opera Roanoke, Piedmont Opera Theater, and Capital Opera Raleigh. He has also appeared as a soloist for the Symphony Silicon Valley, the Bulgarian Radio-Symphony Orchestra, the North Carolina Symphony Orchestra, Carolina Chamber Symphony, Winston-Salem Symphony Orchestra, and the Enid Symphony Orchestra in a concert featuring the world-renowned soprano Leona Mitchell. Mr. Karagiozov is a North Carolina district winner of the Metropolitan Opera National Council Auditions and First Prize winner of the Charlotte Opera Guild Competition, as well as a finalist of the Irene Dalis and Heinz Rehfuss Vocal Competitions. His future engagements include Sharpless in Madama Butterfly for Opera Santa Barbara.
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