: Prelude to Act III (3’)*
: "Stridono lassù" (5’)*
: "Casta diva" (7’)*
Symphony No. 1 in C major, Opus 21
: "O patria mia" (5’)*
Bootlegger’s Tarantella (7’)*
: "Ebben?… Ne andrò lontana" (3’)*
t: Intermezzo (5’)*
: "Un bel di" (4’)*
: "Meine Lippen sie küssen so heiss" (6’)*
*Indicates approximate performance duration.
Program subject to change.
The title character of Richard Wagner’s (1813-1883) opera Lohengrin
(1850) is the son of the Grail knight Parsifal. Having championed the cause of the falsely-accused Elsa, thereby gaining enemies in the court of King Heinrich. As Act II ends, Lohengrin and Elsa are escorted to their wedding, and as Act III begins, a chorus serenades the newly-married couple. So the brief Prelude before Act III is a happy affair, with buoyant strings proclaiming the wedding, and Lohengrin’s heroic theme heard in the brass.
During his life, Ruggiero Leoncavallo (1857-1919) was a fairly successful composer, even competing with Puccini for contemporary popularity. Posterity has relegated him to the status of a “one-hit wonder,” that hit being his 1892 one-act tragedy I Pagliacci
– a story based on a case his father, a police official, had worked on. The aria “Stridono lassù” is sung by inconstant wife Nedda, who wishes to be free of the vagabond life of the theatrical troupe her husband leads, while waiting for her lover, Silvio, to arrive. The metaphor of birds, which have the freedom to fly and go where they wish, is used to underscore her feeling of confinement.
These days, Norma
is counted as the greatest and most enduring of Vincenzo Bellini’s (1801-1835) operas. It was not a success at its 1831 premiere, however. The title role is considered one of the most difficult in all of opera. Bellini was drawn to the subject of the story as a vehicle for the soprano Giuditta Pasta, and many legendary singers have added to its pantheon of performers. The famous and demanding aria “Casta diva” is sung by the ancient Roman seer Norma to a “chaste goddess,” imploring her to watch over Norma’s secret lover, Pollione.
Ludwig van Beethoven (1770-1827) arrived in Vienna in 1798, with the words of his sometime patron Graf Ferdinand von Waldstein etched in his autograph book: “With the help of assiduous labour you will receive Mozart’s spirit from the hands of Haydn.” Soon enough, the blossoming revolutionary would indeed ascend to the lofty heights of his predecessors. But by the time of the April, 1800 concert at which his Symphony No. 1 in C Major
premiered, he was still trying to establish himself.
Works such as this symphony certainly began to do just that. It begins, as many previous and straightforwardly classical symphonies did, with a slow introduction. But here, the introduction is nowhere near the symphony’s actual home key of C Major – it begins, in fact, with a perfunctory chord in F Major, then wanders down to G. The Allegro begins surely enough in C, but in no time has switched to D. To ears attuned to the classical traditions, as those in 1800 Vienna certainly were, all this was surely unexpected and brash. There is a confident gentility to the main theme of the movement, while the secondary theme is dominated by the wind instruments. The slow movement is a gently rocking Andante, one much more in keeping with the tradition of Mozart and Haydn.
That tradition normally featured a Minuet and Trio as a third movement. But while Beethoven may have called the movement a “Menuetto,” it really had none of the trappings. It is a raucous and rousing, full of stops and starts and dynamic contrasts. For each of the remaining eight symphonies, Beethoven gave up pretense and labeled these movements “Scherzo” (from the Italian word for “joke”) – to which this movement fits in perfectly. The Finale begins almost comically. A firm G chord is sounded, then a series of upwardly moving scales, as if the Allegro proper was reluctant to begin, or unsure of its welcome. It’s all set aside once the rollicking main music begins, full of boisterous good spirits and punctuated by timpani rolls and splashes. Beethoven had set the stage as the great symphony innovator he would become.
Giuseppe Verdi (1813-1901) wrote Aïda
on a commission from Isma'il Pasha, Khedive of Egypt, but not for the opening of the Suez Canal, as many believe. The title character is the daughter of the Ethiopian king, whose people have been enslaved by the Egyptians. A love triangle between Aïda, the Egyptian soldier Radamès, and Amneris, daughter of the Egyptian king provides the opera’s dramatic impetus. The impassioned aria “O patria mia” is sung by Aïda in Act III, when the vanquished Ethiopians bemoan their fate, and Aïda realizes she will likely never see her homeland again, and contemplates her mortality.
is a precursor to John Estacio’s (b. 1966) opera Filumena
, which had its world premiere in Calgary in February, 2003 – to great critical and popular success. It was presented by Edmonton Opera in 2005. The opera is based on the true story of Filumena Losandro, a young Italian woman who immigrated to Canada in the early 1900s and settled in the Crowsnest Pass. Caught up in the criminal bootlegging life of the family she married into, Filumena became the last woman executed in Canada.
Mr. Estacio has said this about Bootlegger’s Tarantella
: “I wrote this short overture before I started writing the opera, and a few of the themes from this overture in fact ended up in the opera. The first of three themes in this piece is a folk-like melody, which segues into a dance tune that one might hear at a traditional Italian wedding party; and perhaps the wedding band has had one too many of the bootlegger’s brew. The third theme suggests the passionate elements of the story; betrayal, unrequited love, and the despair at the tragic turn of events. Gradually, the music returns to the theme that started off the piece.”
Alfredo Catalani (1854-1893) is really known today for only one work, his 1892 opera La Wally
. The title character is a young girl from the Tyrolean Alps who is hopelessly in love with the son of her father’s fierce rival. The opera’s most famous moment is the impassioned aria “Ebben? Ne andrò lontana,” from the opera’s first act, in which the Wally sings of her determination to leave her home forever.
The story of Manon Lescaut
, the would-be love of the Chevalier des Grieux and sometime mistress of the rich Géronte, is told in a novel by French author Abbé Prévost. It has proven irresistible to a number of composers; half a dozen operas or ballets are based on the story, originally published in 1731. Of all the musical treatments, however, Giacomo Puccini’s (1858-1924) opera, first performed in 1893, is likely the most famous. The Intermezzo provides an important dramatic element beyond linking the opera’s second and third acts. As Act II ends, Manon has been arrested attempting to steal jewels before fleeing from Géronte. While the music of the Intermezzo plays, Manon is transferred to Le Havre prior to deportation to America, despite the pleas of des Grieux.
Is there a bigger cad in all of opera than the selfish U.S. naval officer Pinkerton, from Puccini’s 1904 opera Madama Butterfly
? He marries the young courtesan Cio-Cio San with no intention of staying with her, and she bears him a son. For her part, Cio-Cio San believes he loves her, and dreams of the day he will return for her. The aria “Un bel dì,” one of the most famous in all of opera, is the young girl’s dream that she will see the ship carrying her love return, and she will wait for him to call out for his “Butterfly,” and that all will be well.
was not only Franz Lehár’s (1870-1948) last stage work, it was the closest he got to composing a true opera. In fact, the work was produced for the Vienna State Opera, and premiered there in January 1934. It tells the story of the love between an army officer and Giuditta, a sultry Mediterranean girl – a singer in a North African cabaret. The aria “Meine Lippen, sie küssen so heiß” (“My lips, they kiss so fervently”) is sung by Giuditta to a sensuous waltz.
Program notes © by D.T. Baker, except as noted
William Eddins, conductor
Now in his eighth season as Music Director of the Edmonton Symphony Orchestra, William Eddins has a captivating energy, a magnetic stage presence, and an adventurous musical curiosity that continues to propel the orchestra to unique, new and exciting achievements. His commitment to the entire spectrum of the ESO audience brings him to the podium for performances in every subscription series, as well as for a wide variety of galas and specials.
A distinguished and versatile pianist, Bill was bitten by the conducting bug while in his sophomore year at the Eastman School of Music. In 1989, he began conducting studies at the University of Southern California with Daniel Lewis, and Assistant Conductorships with both the Minnesota Orchestra and the Chicago Symphony (the latter under the leadership of Daniel Barenboim) followed.
Bill has many non-musical hobbies including cooking, eating, discussing food and planning dinner parties. He is also quite fond of biking, tennis, reading and pinball. He recently complete building a state-of-the-art recording studio at his home in Minneapolis, where he lives with his wife Jen (a clarinetist), and their sons Raef and Riley.
While conducting has been his principal pursuit, he continues to perform as pianist, organist and harpsichordist. He has conducted the ESO from the keyboard on many occasions, and in 2007, joined then-ESO concertmaster Martin Riseley and cellist Yo-Yo Ma in Brahms' Piano Trio No. 1 at a gala concert celebrating the 10th anniversary of the Winspear Centre. In 2008, he conducted Gershwin’s Porgy and Bess for Opéra de Lyon, leading to repeat performances in Lyon, London and at the Edinburgh International Festival in 2010. Other international highlights include a 2009 tour of South Africa, where Bill conducted three gala concerts with soprano Renée Fleming and the kwaZulu-Natal Philharmonic Orchestra. On May 8, 2012, Bill made his Carnegie Hall debut conducting the ESO at a memorable concert featuring four Canadian soloists, and music by three Canadian composers alongside Martinů's rarely-performed Symphony No. 1.
Yannick-Muriel Noah, soprano
Canadian soprano Yannick-Muriel Noah is recognized in Europe and North America for her sumptuous lyricism and the dramatic intensity of her portrayals. She enjoyed a person triumph as Cio-Cio San (Madama Butterfly
) with the Canadian Opera Company, a role she later repeated for Staatsoper Hannover, and covered for San Francisco Opera. Further European engagements include Aïda
and La Wally
for Stadttheater Klagenfurt, Ariadne auf Naxos
in Heidelberg, Margherita in Mefistofele
in Valencia, and she toured Spain as Verdi's doomed Ethiopian princess. A former member of the Canadian Opera Company Ensemble Studio, other COC credits include Tosca
, and Mona in Rolfe's Swoon
. In the U.K., she premiered Sante at the Aldeburgh Summer Music Festival. In Canada, she has been heard as Nedda in I Pagliacci
for Opera Lyra Ottawa, in Verdi's Requiem
with the Victoria Symphony, in Beethoven's Ninth Symphony
for l'Orchestre symphonique de Québec, and in Messiah
for the National Arts Centre.
Ms. Noah's numerous awards include several top prizes at the following international competitions: Jaume Aragall, Concours Musical International de Montréal (2nd prize, COVC Jean A. Chalmers Award for Best Canadian Artist), Palm Beach (1st prize and Audience Favourite Award), Lotte Lenya, George London Foundation, Brian Law, William Matheus Sullivan Foundation, Marmande, and the prestigious Hans Gabor Belvedere (2nd Prize Opera, 3rd Prize Operetta, Audience Prize, Stadttheater Klagenfurt Prize, Morioka Prize, and Teatro alla Scala Prize). Born in Madagascar, Ms. Noah holds a Bachelor of Architectural Studies from Carleton University.
In April 20011, Ms. Noah sang the title role in Edmonton Opera’s production of Tosca
, with the Edmonton Symphony performing in the pit, and performed with the ESO for Handel's Messiah
in December 2012.