This Saturday, July 16, sees the launch of the Bel Canto at Caramoor season with the centuries-overdue American premiere of Rossini’s Aureliano in Palmira. This will be led by Caramoor’s Director of Opera, Will Crutchfield, whose interpretation of the long-neglected opera was recognized at last year’s International Opera Awards as Best Rediscovered Work. On Sunday, July 31, Caramoor complements the historic revival with an account of Beethoven’s sole opera, Fidelio, an audience and critical favorite since it premiered in its final form during the same season as Aureliano. Mounted in the superb acoustics of the outdoor Venetian Theater on Caramoor’s idyllic Westchester estate, both semi-staged productions feature the resident Orchestra of St. Luke’s, whose Principal Conductor, Pablo Heras-Casado, takes the podium for Fidelio. Likewise, both operas showcase singers making Caramoor opera debuts in the title roles: the Rossini stars young American tenor Andrew Owens, whose “powerful, yet supple, tenor voice [is] capable of tossing off Rossini’s high notes with ease” (Der Neue Merker, Austria), and the Beethoven stars South African soprano Elza van den Heever, winner of the 2008 Seattle Opera International Wagner Competition and a familiar face at the Metropolitan Opera. Both presentations will be preceded by a rich array of free auxiliary events, as detailed below. As the New York Times observed last summer, Caramoor’s “bucolic, picnic-friendly settings and a programming philosophy that balances hedonism and exploration have made this festival a must for music lovers.”
Caramoor is justly celebrated for nurturing young talent and offering sterling follow-up support, through young artist programs that include the Bel Canto Young Artists. Each year, approximately twelve Bel Canto Young Artists receive training in vocal technique and interpretation, before taking part in the season’s two opera productions and auxiliary events. These take place in the afternoon preceding each of the two opera performances, in the Rosen House’s Spanish Courtyard. Before Aureliano in Palmira (July 16), Rossini Foundation editorial coordinator Daniele Carnini joins Crutchfield for “Detective Story,” a conversation about the year they spent reconstructing Rossini’s original manuscript (3pm), and gives a pre-opera Introductory Talk (7pm). In “The Road to Rossini,” the Bel Canto Apprentices perform selections from Italian opera during the years between Mozart’s last operas and the emergence of Rossini (4pm), and, in “The Last Castrato,” the Bel Canto Young Artists pay tribute to Giovanni Battista Velluti, opera’s last castrato superstar, for whom the role of Arsace was originally created (5pm). Similarly, before Fidelio (July 31), the Bel Canto Young Artists explore the path from Leonore to Fidelio in “Beethoven’s Wrestling Match with Opera” (1pm); the Bel Canto Young Artists and Apprentices offer a capsule view of “Bel Canto in Milan and Vienna, 1814” (2pm); and Crutchfield prefaces Beethoven’s masterpiece with an Introductory Talk (3pm). Tours of Rosen House will also be provided on both days.
The Bel Canto Young Artists also showcase their development in a pair of summer recitals. The first of this season’s offerings was last week’s “The Intimate Rossini: Ensembles and Choruses,” a program pairing ensemble pieces from the composer’s post-operatic Parisian period with little-known gems from his years in Italy and Vienna. Held in the intimate outdoor space of Caramoor’s Spanish Courtyard, this will be followed by “Beethoven in Song,” which explores the master composer’s legacy as one of the founding fathers of the German lied (July 21). As NPR notes, “Opera mavens flock to Caramoor, as the festival often gives plum roles to important young singers.”
Looking ahead to the summer, Will Crutchfield explains:
“It is a season of firsts for us: The first performance anywhere in America for Aureliano; our first guest appearance by Pablo Heras-Casado, principal conductor of the Orchestra of St. Luke’s; our first German opera (though before our ‘Bel Canto’ program was established, Caramoor did give Fidelio’s predecessor, Leonore, in 1989); and festival debuts for several notable singers.
“None of us knew quite what to expect [of Aureliano]; the history books depict it as an obscure flop among Rossini’s 39 operas. But … this is a fully-developed work by Rossini at the height of his youthful powers, unique in the Romantic color it brings to the old opera seria style, thrilling in its broad use of orchestra and chorus. It fell by the wayside through unfortunate circumstances surrounding the premiere; today it is ready to be welcomed to the Rossini canon.
“Fidelio as a companion opera may seem surprising, but after all it dates from the same year, and many traveling opera-goers heard both works when they were new (Milan was under Austrian rule at the time). Beethoven knew some Rossini and Rossini knew some Beethoven. Today, when we know them both to be as distinct as two great composers can and must be, it is fascinating to hear them in the juxtaposition that their own audiences experienced.”
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For more than 70 years, Caramoor Center for Music and the Arts has been a leading destination for music lovers. Comprising a Mediterranean revival villa on 90 acres of gardens and serene woodlands in Westchester County, NY, the estate is just 40 miles north of Manhattan. Summer concerts take place in two outdoor theaters – the 1,546-seat, acoustically superb Venetian Theater, and the more intimate, romantic 500-seat Spanish Courtyard – as well as in the picturesque gardens, which include a Sense Circle for the visually impaired, Sunken Garden, Butterfly Garden, Tapestry Hedge, and Iris and Peony Garden. Audiences are invited to come early to explore the grounds, tour the historic Rosen House, enjoy a relaxing Sunday afternoon tea, or unwind with a pre-concert picnic. In addition to the summer season, Caramoor presents concerts all year round in the magnificent Rosen House Music Room. Through an impressive range of education programs, Caramoor serves more than 6,000 students in the New York metropolitan area, besides boasting an array of highly successful mentorship programs designed for young professionals who have completed their conservatory training. Over the past 20 years, alumni from these programs have become leaders of the next classical generation, whose accomplishments include winning a MacArthur Fellowship, becoming first violinist of the Juilliard String Quartet, and appointment as the Concertmaster of the New York Philharmonic.
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 every event Thursdays through Sundays. For current information, check the Metro North schedule.
For the opera performances, 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 2016
Sat, July 16Aureliano in Palmira: pre-opera eventsTickets are free of charge
3pm: Talk: “Detective Story” (Daniele Carnini & Will Crutchfield)
4pm: Recital: “The Road to Rossini” (Bel Canto Apprentices / Lucy Yates)
5pm: Recital: “The Last Castrato” (Bel Canto Young Artists / Will Crutchfield
7pm: Talk: Introduction to Aureliano in Palmira (Daniele Carnini)
Sat, July 16 at 8pm
Rossini: Aureliano in Palmira (U.S. premiere)Tickets are $20, $50, $70, $95, $110
Aureliano: Andrew Owens, tenor
Zenobia: Georgia Jarman, soprano
Arsace: Tamara Mumford, mezzo-soprano
Orchestra of St. Luke’s / Will Crutchfield
Thurs, July 21 at 7pm“Beethoven in Song”Tickets are $15, $24, $32, $40
Bel Canto Young Artists / Rachelle Jonck
Sun, July 31
Fidelio: pre-opera eventsTickets are free of charge
1pm: Recital: “Beethoven’s Wrestling Match with Opera” (Bel Canto Young Artists & Timothy Cheung)
2pm: Recital: “Bel Canto in Milan and Vienna, 1814” (Bel Canto Young Artists & Apprentices)
3pm: Talk: Introduction to Fidelio (Will Crutchfield)
Sun, July 31 at 4pm
Beethoven: FidelioTickets are $20, $50, $70, $95, $110
Leonore: Elza van den Heever, soprano
Florestan: Paul Groves, tenor
Marzelline: Georgia Jarman, soprano
Rocco: Kristinn Sigmundsson, bass
Jaquino: Andrew Owens, tenor
Don Pizarro: Alfred Walker, bass-baritone
Orchestra of St. Luke’s / Pablo Heras-Casado
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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 2016 Summer Music Festival is supported in part by an award from the National Endowment for the Arts.
© 21C Media Group, July 2016