“Bel Canto at Caramoor” Celebrates 20th Anniversary Season with Angela Meade featured in Il pirata (July 8), the Opening Night Gala (June 17), and More
This summer marks the 20th anniversary season of the “Bel Canto at Caramoor” series. To celebrate this milestone, Caramoor is thrilled to present five offerings, two of which showcase the exceptional artistry of 2017 Artist in-Residence Angela Meade. Hailed as “the most talked-about soprano of her generation” (Opera News), Meade first catapulted to prominence at Caramoor. She returns to star in this year’s operatic centerpiece – a semi-staged production of Bellini’s Il pirata (July 8), in which she makes her eagerly anticipated role debut – and the opening-night gala concert, “A Night of Italian Opera” (June 17). Mounted in the superb acoustics of the outdoor Venetian Theater on Caramoor’s idyllic Westchester estate, both events feature the resident Orchestra of St. Luke’s – “one of the most versatile and galvanic ensembles in the U.S.” (WQXR) – under the baton of Caramoor’s Director of Opera Will Crutchfield. As the New York Times observes, “Mr. Crutchfield brings vast knowledge and palpable involvement to this repertory, which is why Bel Canto at Caramoor … [has] become a summertime draw for opera lovers.”
To round out the anniversary offerings, members of Caramoor’s celebrated Bel Canto Young Artists’ program present a duo of al fresco events in the Spanish Courtyard: a program of miniatures for soloists and ensemble that shed light on “The Intimate Bellini” (July 13), and the American premiere of Manuel García’s 1830-31 chamber opera Un avvertimento ai gelosi (“A warning to the jealous”)(June 29). Also supplementing this summer’s Venetian Theatre offerings will be a performance of Rossini’s Petite messe solennelle, an extended missa solemnis, with the original orchestration, that the composer called “the last sin of my old age” (July 23).
Reflecting on all that the Bel Canto at Caramoor program has achieved, Will Crutchfield says:
“Over the last 20 years, American opera houses have dramatically increased their Bel Canto programming. I think the attention we’ve brought to certain works has something to do with that – and it makes our program more necessary than ever, because the young singers get a kind of training here they won’t find elsewhere.”
Thanks in no small part to Crutchfield’s scholarship and expertise, opera has long been central to Caramoor’s success. Last summer, he led the centuries-overdue American premiere of Rossini’s Aureliano in Palmira, in which his leadership impressed Opera News as “revelatory.” As the Financial Times put it, he “conducted with stylistic authority unmatched in this repertoire in the U.S.,” ensuring that the event would, as the Huffington Post noted, go down in “operatic history.”
For the fourth year in a row, WQXR, New York City’s classical music station, and Caramoor will collaborate to bring audiences broadcasts, this season of the Opening Night and Il pirata. Performances will air on WQXR 105.9 FM; its sister station, WQXW 90.3 FM, serving Central and Northern Westchester; and online at www.wqxr.org – reaching online audiences across the region and around the globe.
2017 Artist-in-Residence Angela Meade
One of Caramoor’s two 2017 Artists-in-Residence, American soprano Angela Meade is the laureate of no fewer than 57 vocal competitions, whose honors include both the Metropolitan Opera’s Beverly Sills Artist Award and the Richard Tucker Award. It was at Caramoor that she first came to international attention when, after her debut as Semiramide in 2009, her “stunning Norma was the big news” (New York Times) of the 2010 festival. Thus established as a firm Caramoor favorite, she went on to win further accolades in Bel Canto presentations of Les vêpres sicilienne and Lucrezia Borgia, fast becoming recognized as one of today’s outstanding vocalists. Opera Today declares: “When we listen to Meade, we begin to know the sound of golden age singing,” and the New Yorker marveled after one of her Caramoor appearances:
“Meade is astounding. … She has exceptional dynamic control, able to move from floating pianissimos to sudden dramatic swells. The coloratura effects – rapid runs, trills, delicate turns, and so on – are handled with uncommon ease. She is a very musical singer, naturally and intelligently riding the phrase.”
Anticipating Il pirata, Crutchfield explains:
“I always look forward to working with Angela, but especially so in this case, because apart from her history-making Norma, we have always done Rossini, Verdi, or Donizetti. So it is great to return to Bellini with her. She has exactly what Bellini needs: a big, exciting voice, but essentially lyrical. Powerful but not heavy, not blunt. It’s a voice for melody, and the genius of Bellini is mostly in the melodic line. She’s able to go forever in a single breath, so his long long lines never have to be compromised.”
Meade and her Il pirata co-star, tenor Santiago Ballerini, take center stage together at the festival’s season-opening concert, “Celebrating 20 years of Bel Canto at Caramoor with A Night of Italian Opera.” A festive program of favorite arias, duets, and ensembles from Rigoletto, Aida, Nabucco, and other high watermarks of Italian opera, this will be bookended by the iconic overture and finale from Rossini’s William Tell, an opera in which Meade has proven herself “a model of bel canto singing at its finest” (Chicago Tribune). The performance will be broadcast live on Classical 105.9 WQXR, Classical 90.3 FM Ossining, and streamed at www.wqxr.org. The evening is complemented by the opening-night gala, which includes a celebratory pre-concert cocktail reception and dinner, premium concert seating in the Venetian Theater, and an “After Dark” party for post-concert drinks, dancing, and desserts (June 17).
Vincenzo Bellini’s 1827 breakthrough opera, Il pirata (“The Pirate”) was one of the first to be presented by Bel Canto at Caramoor. Crutchfield recalls: “In 2000, Il pirata was the first Bellini title revived by Bel Canto at Caramoor, and everyone was bowled over by [its] depth and beauty.” Indeed, as Opera News reported, “this was a soulful Pirata from beginning to end.” The opera is also (with Lucrezia Borgia) one of only two that Bel Canto at Caramoor has ever chosen to revisit, not only as the perfect showcase for the gifts of Angela Meade, but because of its superlative score and a plot that continues to resonate.
Set among the warring factions of medieval Sicily, Bellini’s third opera is the story of Imogene, whose forced marriage to Duke Ernesto is suddenly disrupted by the reappearance of her true love Gualtiero, a dispossessed nobleman who has taken to the seas as a pirate. The fatal love triangle leads inexorably to death for both men and madness for Imogene.
Crutchfield explains Caramoor’s return to the opera:
“I think a lot of our current public did not know about Bel Canto at Caramoor yet when we did Il pirata 17 years ago. Bellini was helping to usher in a new kind of opera. The pain of love that cannot be crowned with union; the longings of an outcast for status and community; the hunger for affection by the unloved – these are the themes of Il pirata, and they would be the themes of opera’s Romantic century, the era that produced the art form’s most durable masterpieces.
“Il pirata was only Bellini’s third opera, but it speaks in his unique voice from start to finish. You can’t get the best out of it if you approach it as a ‘general’ bel canto score – you know, here is the cabaletta, here is the love duet, here is the cadenza, here is the finale. It’s a drama of lonely, isolated people longing for connection, and denied the chance of finding it. That’s the tragedy. And Bellini somehow feels all the poetic melancholy of that loneliness and makes something transcendent from it.”
Musically, moreover, the opera is one that has exerted a powerful influence on the composers who followed. Imogene’s mad scene – “a musically strong and psychologically acute example of the genre” (New York Times) – is widely acknowledged as the inspiration for Donizetti’s better-known example in Lucia di Lammermoor. Furthermore, as Crutchfield points out:
“Bellini was the influential Italian for composers outside Italy. Though he died young and produced only ten operas – as against Verdi’s 37, Rossini’s 39 or so, and nearly 70 by Donizetti – he left a legacy of influence and lasting worth out of any proportion to its size. I don’t think Chopin, Schumann, or Wagner could have formed their language the way they did without him. He is the one who re-set the balance between dissonance and resolution – he makes you wait, and makes you enjoy waiting. And everybody learned something from that, especially Wagner.”
Although Caramoor’s semi-staged production marks Meade’s role debut as Imogene, the soprano already reigns undisputed as one of today’s foremost exponents of Bellini’s Norma, an especially formidable role, and when she previewed excerpts from Il pirata in concert at Washington Concert Opera last fall, her performance was pronounced “incendiary” (Voix des Arts). Bel Canto at Caramoor presents her Imogene opposite the Gualtiero of tenor Santiago Ballerini, whose “lovely mezza voce in expressions of tenderness” (New York Times) graced Donizetti’s La favorite at Caramoor two seasons ago. Crutchfield notes:
“Ballerini has a wonderfully concentrated, clean sound, whether singing soft or loud, and he has the kind of yearning, longing quality in both voice and phrasing that are the essence of the Romantic tenor.”
Lending his “voice of impressive size and smoothness” (Associated Press) to the role of Ernesto, bass Harold Wilson completes Il pirata’s doomed love triangle.
Preceding the performance of Il pirata (July 8), Caramoor presents a rich selection of auxiliary events in the afternoon. In “A New Voice,” Crutchfield explains the influence of Bellini’s harmonic and melodic innovations on such Romantic masters as Schumann, Chopin, and Wagner. The Bel Canto Young Artists and Apprentices explore songs with keyboard accompaniment by Bellini’s compatriots from Paisiello to Puccini in “Canzonetta sull’aria (A Song in the Air),” before presenting “Bellini’s First Pirates”: a vocal portrait of the three superstars (Henriette Méric-Lalande, Giambattista Rubini, and Antonio Tamburini) for whom Il pirata was originally written. Finally, vocal pianist and chorus master Timothy Cheung offers an introduction to the opera in “Bellini’s Breakthrough.”
The performance of Il pirata will be broadcast this fall on Classical 105.9 WQXR, Classical 90.3 FM Ossining, at www.wqxr.org, and distributed nationally by the WFMT Radio Network.
Bel Canto Young Artists’ recitals and other related events
Caramoor is justly celebrated for nurturing young talent and offering sterling follow-up support, through young artist programs that include the Ernst Stiefel String Quartet-in-Residence, Evnin Rising Stars, Schwab Vocal Rising Stars, and Bel Canto Young Artists. Each year, approximately twelve Bel Canto Young Artists and 30 Apprentice Artists receive training in vocal technique and interpretation, before demonstrating their development in a series of summer performances in the intimate outdoor space of Caramoor’s Spanish Courtyard.
For their first offering of the summer, Bel Canto Young Artists join pianist Timothy Cheung for the American premiere of Manuel García’s chamber opera Un avvertimento ai gelosi (“A Warning to the Jealous”; 1830-31). Rossini’s opening-night tenor in Il barbiere di Siviglia, García was also a prolific composer and singing teacher who wrote a series of one-act “operettas” with piano accompaniment, for performance by his students. Un avvertimento ai gelosi showcases the bel canto virtuosity and expressive flair that were García’s hallmarks as a performer and instructor (June 29).
For their next performance, “The Intimate Bellini,” the Bel Canto Young Artists and Will Crutchfield pay tribute to the father of modern melody with a program of his songs with piano accompaniment, some of which develop ideas that later found their way into his operas (July 13).
Finally, the Bel Canto Young Artists present Gioachino Rossini’s Petite messe solennelle (1864), a choral gem that, as has been frequently noted, is neither small nor particularly solemn. Instead it is conceived on a grand scale, unashamedly operatic, and contains some of the composer’s most beautiful and expressive music. At Caramoor it will be heard in the original chamber version for two pianos and harmonium, of which the New York Times writes: “The economy and eccentricity of the original scoring are surely part of the work’s allure.” Rachelle Jonck, the longtime chief coach and chorus master of Bel Canto at Caramoor, conducts (July 23).
Preceding the performance of the Petite messe solennelle (July 23), Caramoor presents a pair of auxiliary events. “Church and Stage” offers a sampling of rare sacred gems by other Italian composers better known for their work in opera, and in “Neither ‘Petite’ nor ‘Solemn,’” Will Crutchfield gives an introduction to Rossini’s final masterpiece.
The young artists also take part in the season’s two mainstage operatic events; as NPR notes, “Opera mavens flock to Caramoor, as the festival often gives plum roles to important young singers.”
For high-resolution photos, click here.
Caramoor is a performing arts center located on a unique 90-acre setting of Italianate architecture and gardens in Westchester County, NY. It enriches the lives of its audiences through innovative and diverse musical performances of the highest quality. Its mission also includes mentoring young professional musicians and providing educational programs for young children centered around music. Audiences are invited to come early to explore the beautiful grounds, tour the historic Rosen House and its collection of fine and decorative arts, and on special Sundays enjoy a delicious Afternoon Tea or unwind with a pre-concert picnic. Summer concerts take place in two outdoor theaters: the acoustically superb Venetian Theater, which seats approximately 1,500, and the more intimate, romantic Spanish Courtyard, which seats around 470. In the fall and winter, concerts are presented in the magnificent Music Room in the Rosen House. Caramoor’s gardens, also used for concerts and the sound art exhibition Sonic Innovations, are well worth the visit and include nine unique perennial gardens. Among them are a Sense Circle for the visually impaired, the Sunken Garden, a Butterfly Garden, the Tapestry Hedge, and the Iris and Peony Garden.
Getting to Caramoor
Getting to Caramoor is simple by car, train or public transportation. All parking is free and close to the performance areas. Handicapped parking is also free and readily available.
By car from New York City, take the Henry Hudson Parkway north to the Saw Mill River Parkway north to I-684 north to Exit 6. Go east on Route 35 to the traffic light (0.3 miles). Turn right onto Route 22 south, and travel 1.9 miles to the junction of Girdle Ridge Road where there is a green Caramoor sign. At the junction, veer left and make a quick right onto Girdle Ridge Road. Continue on Girdle Ridge Road 0.5 miles to the Caramoor gates on the right. Approximate drive time is one hour.
By train from Grand Central Station, take the Harlem Division Line of the Metro-North Railroad heading to Southeast, and exit at Katonah. Caramoor is a 3.5-mile drive from the Katonah station, where taxi service is always available and free shuttle service is available for select performances. For current information, check the Metro-North schedule.
For the performances of Il pirata and Petite messe solennelle, Caramoor offers ticketed, round-trip transportation from NYC on the Caramoor Coach, a luxury air-conditioned coach traveling from Grand Central/Lexington Ave to Caramoor’s front door and back. To learn more, contact the Box Office.
Bel Canto at Caramoor, summer 2017
Opening Night Concert & Gala:
Celebrating 20 years of Bel Canto at Caramoor with A Night of Italian Opera
Gala: 5:30pm; performance: 8:30pm
Artist-in-Residence Angela Meade, soprano
Santiago Ballerini, tenor
Bel Canto Young Artists
Orchestra of St. Luke’s / Will Crutchfield
Rossini: Guillaume Tell Overture, final rondo (OSL)
Verdi: “Va, pensiero, sull’ali dorate” from Nabucco (chorus)
Verdi: “Ah, dagli scanni eterei” from Aroldo (Meade)
Bellini: “A te, o cara” from I puritani (Ballerini, 3 BCYA soloists, chorus)
Meyerbeer: “Sombre chimère” from Les Huguenots (5 BCYA soloists)
Mozart: “Der Hölle Rache” from Die Zauberflöte (BCYA soloist)
Bellini: “Tu! Sciagurato! Ah, fuggi … Bagnato dalle lagrime” from Il Pirata (Meade, Ballerini)
Verdi: “Qui Radamès verrà…O patria mia” from Aida (Meade)
Donizetti: “Chi mi frena” from Lucia di Lammermoor (6 BCYA soloists, chorus)
Mascagni: Intermezzo from Cavalleria Rusticana (OSL)
Verdi: “La donna è mobile” from Rigoletto (Ballerini)
Rossini: “Inflammatus et accensus” from Stabat mater (Meade, chorus)
Rossini: Final hymn from Guillaume Tell (tutti)
[Program is provisional and subject to change]
Bel Canto at Caramoor
Manuel García: Un avvertimento ai gelosi (U.S. premiere)
Bel Canto Young Artists
Timothy Cheung, piano
2:30pm: “A New Voice” (Will Crutchfield explains Bellini’s influence)
3:30pm: “Canzonetta sull’aria” (Bel Canto Young Artists & Apprentices sing keyboard-accompanied songs by Italian composers)
4:30pm: “Bellini’s First Pirates” (Bel Canto Young Artists & Apprentices give a portrait of the three vocalists who starred in Il pirata’s premiere)
6:30pm: “Bellini’s Breakthrough” (Timothy Cheung introduces Il pirata)
Artist-in-Residence Angela Meade, soprano (Imogene)
Santiago Ballerini, tenor (Gualtiero)
Harold Wilson, bass (Ernesto)
Bel Canto Young Artists
Orchestra of St. Luke’s / Will Crutchfield, conductor
Bel Canto at Caramoor
“The Intimate Bellini”
Bel Canto Young Artists
Bel Canto at Caramoor
Rossini’s Petite messe solennelle
2pm: “Church and Stage” (sacred music by Italian opera composers)
3pm: “Neither ‘Petite’ nor ‘Solemn’” (Will Crutchfield introduces Rossini’s Petite messe solennelle)
Bel Canto Young Artists
Rachelle Jonck, conductor
Derrick Goff, piano
Timothy Cheung, piano
Lucy Tucker Yates, organ
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All concerts made possible, in part, by ArtsWestchester with funds from the Westchester County Government.
All concerts made possible by the New York State Council on the Arts with the support of Governor Andrew Cuomo and the New York State Legislature.
The 2017 Summer Music Festival is supported in part by an award from the National Endowment for the Arts.
© 21C Media Group, April 2017