Daphne in Bruxelles

At the La Monnaie / De Munt Theater

In this Daphne – the ‘bucolic tragedy’ about the beautiful Daphne, who is loved both by the simple shepherd Leukippos and the god Apollo – director Guy Joosten sets the world of an ecologically-inspired ‘hipster’ on the fringes of the mainstream against a hard economic reality. Apollo kills his rival and leaves Daphne inconsolable, after which he immortalises her in the form of a laurel tree. Daphne’s sad story, as described by Ovid and given shape to by Bernini and Chassériau in the plastic arts, inspired Richard Strauss to write his thirteenth opera, which quite possibly contains his finest music. ‘ The metamorphosis of Daphne is set in a total union with the music, whereby the words become superfluous and Daphne becomes just a voice that resounds out of the moonlit treetop’ – this is how the librettist Joseph Gregor characterised the ultimate moment in the opera.

New production Production La Monnaie / De Munt With the support of Belfius


Daphne: CAST

Music direction ¦ Lothar Koenigs
Director ¦ Guy Joosten
Set design ¦ Alfons Flores
Costumes ¦ Moritz Junge
Lighting ¦ Manfred Voss
Video ¦ Franc Aleu
Choreography ¦ Aline David
Chorus direction ¦ Martino Faggiani
Peneios ¦ Iain Paterson
Gaea ¦ Birgit Remmert
Daphne ¦ Sally Matthews
Leukippos ¦ Peter Lodahl
Apollo ¦ Eric Cutler
Erste Magd ¦ Tineke Van Ingelgem
Zweite Magd ¦ Maria Fiselier
Schäfer ¦ Matt Boehler
Gijs Van der Linden
Kris Belligh
Justin Hopkins

Orchestra & chorus ¦ La Monnaie Symphony Orchestra & Men’s Chorus

09, 11, 14, 16, 18, 21, 23, 25, 27 & 30 September

Sung in German
Surtitles in French / Dutch

Approximate running time: 1hour 45′ (no interval)

Pre-performance talks half an hour before the start of the performances by Jacqueline Guisset (in French) in the Grand Foyer and by Reinder Pols (in Dutch) in the Foyer Alechinsky.

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Remembering the Great Licia Albanese

Written By: Linda Ann Lo Schiavo, as it appeared on L’Idea Magazine (NY), August 27. 2014

My father introduced me to Licia Albanese. I was wearing a bib and enjoying strained bananas, while he was savoring the strains of the glorious love duet from “La Boheme.”
“Licia Albanese is the world’s best soprano,” my Dad explained to me. He nudged my mother, hovering over my highchair. “Listen, honey, and you’ll hear Toscanini humming along!”
“Yes, dear,” agreed my multi-tasking Mom. “I’ve heard Jan Peerce sing with her before.”
Eventually, I learned that this prized performance, captured in 1946, celebrated the 50th anniversary of the world premiere of Puccini’s opera in Turin, led by Arturo Toscanini on February 1, 1896.
Thirteen years later, in July 1909, Felicia Albanese hit her first high C in Torre a Mare near Bari. The 25-year-old made her unofficial debut at Teatro Lirico, replacing a soprano in Puccini’s “Madama Butterfly.” At that magnificent Milanese moment, did this newcomer suspect her voice would take her far, and that she would be in demand for years at Metropolitan Opera, top-billed on leading world stages, and sought after for studio albums? She rose to prominence between 1940 and 1966, appearing in a variety of operas with Jussi Bjorling, Tito Schipa, Franco Corelli, Beniamino Gigli, and Giacinto Prandelli.


Soprano Licia Albanese sang the title role in Puccini’s Madama Butterfly 72 times at the Metropolitan Opera.

Soprano Licia Albanese sang the title role in Puccini’s Madama Butterfly 72 times at the Metropolitan Opera.
Buying Met tickets or those extravagant sets of a complete opera with a libretto were beyond the budget of a municipal employee supporting a family and paying off a mortgage. But my father had two buddies who were opera buffs and bachelors, Augie and Larry. During their visits, they would regale us with the highlights of a live Met performance such as the one on February 15, 1958, when Licia Albanese reprised her role as Mimi, partnered by Carlo Bergonzi as Rodolfo, and conducted by Thomas Schippers.

Claudio Bergonzi

Claudio Bergonzi

Carlo Bergonzi [1924—2014] caught my attention when I learned that he had first trained as a baritone, but retrained as a tenor. By 1958, I was singing in a church choir, shamed by my miserable alto, aware that the prized solos only went to a soprano. I hoped that my weak voice could be upgraded ——like Bergonzi’s ——but my parents dismissed my pleas for coaching as totally ridiculous.
albanese4Taking pity on my LP-less Dad, Augie and Larry bought him “La Boheme,” reissued by RCA Victor. My father played it often, always on Sunday morning when my mother was at Mass and I was putting away my choir books and setting the table. Like Toscanini, he hummed along, especially when his prized nightingale had an aria. I heard Licia Albanese’s recording enough times to memorize the score.
At 17 years old, when I got my first fulltime job, I squirreled away a $5 bill each week and bought my father his second opera set: “Madama Butterfly” starring his idol as the doomed Geisha. In the course of 40 years, Licia would sing this role about 300 times.
To keep herself fresh, despite her frequently repeated performances, Licia had her own approach. During a 2004 interview with Allan Ulrich, music critic of the San Francisco Chronicle, she said, “I always changed every performance. I was never boring, and I am against copying. What I learned from the great singers was not to copy, but that the drama is in the music.”


When I moved to Greenwich Village, Licia followed me. Italian restaurants and the salumerias along Bleecker Street displayed her photo, outfitted in an elaborate kimono. Any time there was an interesting anecdote behind that autographed picture, I would share it with my father.
In 1974, the retired diva founded the Licia Albanese-Puccini Foundation to support young singers. In 1995, President Bill Clinton presented her with the National Medal of Honor for the Arts. Encouraged by my friend Elsie Cardia to cover the Puccini Foundation’s aspiring singers, I did so, reporting on their annual concert for L’IDEA and others. During my first interview with this lifelong star, we had our picture taken together. When I mailed the article to my father, he was astounded. “She’s still active,” he marveled, “and she looks just the way I remembered.”
Her activities included teaching a master class. Grateful students and other admirers often sent gifts. One day Licia phoned her longtime friend Aldo Mancuso to tell him the Venice Opera House delivered a brick. “So what do I do with a BRICK?” According to him, it was cradled in a beautiful red-velvet case, wearing a bronze tag of authenticity, and is now on display in his Caruso Museum. He also acquired some of her exotic personal memorabilia.

About ten years ago, after Licia had accompanied Mr. and Mrs. Mancuso to a remembrance Mass for Enrico Caruso at St. Patrick’s Cathedral, she invited them to her apartment on East 72nd Street and Third Avenue. After trying on four different Cio-Cio-San costumes, Licia asked Aldo which was his favorite. He pointed to a gold-threaded kimono from a San Francisco Opera performance; she donated the complete ensemble (with headdress and shoes) to his Caruso Museum in Brooklyn, New York.
“Licia Albanese and I attended many events together,” recalled Mancuso, “because I was her ‘wheels’ for more than 20 years.” He explained that she didn’t like anyone to try to help her into or out of a car, priding herself on her capability and independence. “Wherever we went, she was the life of the party,” he recalled, “often joking, dancing, and breaking into song. She was used to late hours and I would gently remind her at 11 o’clock that my bed was calling me.” The last evening they spent together was in December 2013 at a holiday party for the Gerda-Lissner Foundation when Licia was 104. “On that occasion, I whispered in her ear that surely her bed was calling her.”
Licia Albanese died in her apartment on Friday, August 15, 2014, and her son, Joseph Gimma Jr. commented to the press, “My mom had a wonderful, wonderful life and great career.” She was 105.

Alfredo Vecchio, a frequent member of the audience at her performances, gave the following tribute to the career of Licia Albanese at New York City’s Columbus Club in 1986:
Like all great artists, Licia’s specific ingenuity as a singer, the originality of her art, lay in the fact that technique for this artist at least was always a means to an end and never an end in itself — — for the salient features of all great art is the ability to connect technique to the emotions. Any other approach would have been for Albanese contrary to the musical sense with which she was born, contrary to musical training she acquired, and, if such exists, contrary to her musical morality. It was this, Licia’s uniqueness and musical mastery which drew me, which drew us, into the world of Mimi, Cio-Cio-San, Manon, Liu, and Violetta, week after week, year after year, inviting me to a place and places I had never been before. It is for all these reasons that Virgil Thomson was able to write of Licia’s first Violetta: ‘She did not sing the role — — she recreated it for our times.’ As we all know, Albanese’s art is capable of the widest range of effects from the tragic to the comedic, from dramatic repertoire to the lyrical and even soubrette. And for anyone fortunate enough to have heard her rendition of operetta pieces, she leaves no doubt in the mind that she was born to the operetta form as well as to the rest.

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Opera fans around the world are grieving for the loss of famed soprano Licia Albanese, who died on August 15, 2014, at the age of 105, in her home in Manhattan.

Licia-Albanese3-300x202Born Felicia Albanese in Torre a Mare near Bari, Italy, in 1909, she debuted in Milan in 1934, replacing another soprano in Puccini’s Madama Butterfly. In forty years, she sang more than 300 performances of Cio-Cio-San, a role for which she became famous for.
Albanese made her Metropolitan Opera debut on February 9, 1940. She had an immediate success, and Albanese stayed at the Met for twenty-six seasons, singing at the same time at the San Francisco Opera. During her career, besides performing widely in recitals, concerts, and opera, she participated in benefits, entertained the troops, had her own weekly radio show, was a guest on other broadcasts and telecasts, and recorded frequently.
Her voice had a distinctive character which the Italians call a lirico spinto, marked by its quick vibrato, incisive diction, intensity of attack and unwavering emotional impact. albanese4During her career she performed with many of the contemporary greats of opera—Beniamino Gigli, Claudia Muzio, Jussi Björling, and Franco Corelli. She worked with some of the best conductors of her time, but it is her work with Toscanini that has endured.
In 1995, President Bill Clinton presented her with the National Medal of Honor for the Arts. She received awards and honorary degrees from Marymount Manhattan College, Montclair State Teachers College, Saint Peter’s College, New Jersey, Seton Hall University, University of South Florida, Fairfield University, Siena College, Caldwell College, and Fairleigh Dickinson University.
licia-albanese-4-211x300In 2000, Rudolph Giuliani presented her with the prestigious Handel Medallion, the highest official honor given by the City of New York to individuals for their contributions to the city’s cultural life.
Albanese was chairman of the The Licia Albanese-Puccini Foundation, founded in 1974 and dedicated to assisting young artists and singers. She also served as a trustee of the Bagby Foundation. She worked with the Juilliard School of Music, the Manhattan School of Music, and Marymount Manhattan College, and conducted master classes throughout the world.
Licia Albanese, who was interview by our magazine a few years ago, was also present at many events within the Italian American and operatic communities.

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Google Glasses For Turandot In Cagliari

Google Glasses were showcased at the Teatro Lirico di Cagliari to create a new, thrilling and interactive live opera experience.

The audience was finally able to see the show through the troupe’s eyes. The Teatro Lirico di Cagliari was the first to use Google Glasses to allow the audience to interact with Puccini’s Turandot, from July 30 – August 16, 2014, one of the most powerful masterpieces of italian opera, in an extraordinary production, directed by Pier Francesco Maestrini with scenes designed by Pinuccio Sciola, the most visionary and charismatic sardinian artist of contemporary art scene, defined as the poet of sounding stones.


Until today, going the opera has meant listening to words and music and observing gestural expression and images from a single point of view.
Now, thanks to the app developed for Google Glasses by TSC Labs, a partner of the Teatro Lirico di Cagliari MediaLab and a Google Enterprise Partner, the audience will be able to see the performance from multiple points of view – from the soprano’s to the stagehand’s.
The project of the Teatro Lirico di Cagliari is highly innovative. It is the first Opera House to host a Research and Technology Centre. Moreover it is the first to use Google Glasses during a live opera performance.
The public only needs to check the Teatro Lirico di Cagliari social media sites to get the most up-to- the-minute photos and videos.
The Teatro Lirico di Cagliari’s Turandot is a new and innovative production. Mauro Meli, Teatro Lirico Intendant, chose Sardinian artist Pinuccio Sciola to design the sets and Google Glasses and Social Networks to provide a totally new and immersive opera experience.



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“Il Viaggio a Reims” in Cape Town


Rossini’s Il Viaggio a Reims

Presented by Cape Town Opera in collaboration with the

University of Cape Town College of Music


Baxter Theatre
26-30 August 2014 (5 performances)
Presented by Cape Town Opera

Cape Town Opera and the UCT Opera school are proud to bring this critically acclaimed zany comic opera (which played to full houses at the Baxter Theatre in 2010) back to the opera stages.

They obsess, they flirt, they fight, they panic, they faint, they drink, fourteen Fashion-loving B-list celebrities find themselves stranded in a chic airport hotel lobby. The boredom of waiting in transit has never been more nuanced and entertaining than in this opera.

IL-V_0412 IL-V_0686 IL-V_0887 IL-V_1184sml IL-V_1258 IL-V_2150

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Roberto Alagna will be Otello at the ‘Chorégies d’Orange’

otello2By Natalia DiBartolo

In the career of an Opera singer, the genesis of a character is not immediate, and the maturation of a role can mobilize a lifetime, not just a voice. The human voice is the most delicate and difficult instrument that exists and is subject to a thousand troubles, day after day. Thus, the choice of this or that repertoire, or this or that specific role, can also damage it if vocally inappropriate and/or dealt with at the wrong age or at the wrong time. For these reasons, lyrical singers are combining the various roles throughout all the duration of their careers, addressing some of them first, and not rising to others before maturity.  Over time, the voice is changing, evolving. That of today is no longer that of yesterday, and not yet that of tomorrow; top professionals are fully aware of that. This is the case of the tenor Roberto Alagna who, in the full plenitude of his career, is getting ready to tackle the role of Otello by Verdi in which he will make his stage debut at the ‘Chorégies d’Orange’ in August 2014.

otello3 This 27th June 2014, in the historical Pleyel Concert Hall (Paris), he performed it almost entirely, in a concert version, with a great intensity, alongside soprano Inva Mula as Desdemona and baritone Dmitri Hvorostovsky as IagoThe National Orchestra of Île de France was conducted by Maestro Riccardo Frizza, who led the score in full compliance with the philological tempo, leading the singers in a careful reading of the score to the safe shores of success. Indeed, in a concert, a very personal interpretation of the conductor may always be detrimental to the artists: as always in these cases, even if they have the normal and legitimate opportunity to rely on their score at their stand, they are alone on stage and more exposed – without any safety net, than when they are in costume in a stage set.  Therefore, a concert cannot be directed nor dealt with as a stage performance would be, but should be performed with both good sense and good taste. These two prerogatives characterized this Pleyel’s evening, eagerly awaited by a wide and cheering audience.

otello4Going back to what was mentioned above, the great Roberto Alagna tackled the program (consisting of large excerpts from Otello’s role) with a mature voice, a flexible emission, clear and powerful, and great expressive and vocal skills, but sacrificing, because of the “concert” nature of the performance, part of his propensity for actively acting on stage. Far from being intimidated by the role, but rather particularly enjoying the most dramatic scenes of jealousy and the tragic ending, Alagna/Otello took over the successive parts of the program, also highlighting the most intense scenic passages. He demonstrated, if needed, he had reached the proper maturity to address this role at the appropriate moment of his career, well and sharp armed. A role which has been sung by decades of successive famous and glorious tenors and of which he will certainly offer a very personal and memorable performance on stage.

otello5The tenor was accompanied by a delicate Inva Mula, always at the dizzying altitudes that the role of Desdemona demands to its performers, earning a great personal success, especially in the divine and famous “Ave Maria” aria. Cool and experienced, the baritone Hvorostovsky was as Iago vocally robust and as treacherous as one could be. As mentioned above, the concert was preceding the presentation of Verdi’s masterpiece in the beautiful ‘Theatre antique’ in Orange, on 2nd and 5th August 2014. It has admirably foreshadowed the magic Otello to which the French-Sicilian tenor will certainly give life and soul. We are looking forward to this thrilling event with great anticipation.


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With Roberto Alagna in Morocco: the Voices and Sounds of the Mediterranean Sea

Written By:  for L’Idea Magazine, 23 June 2014|

With Roberto Alagna in Morocco: the Voices and Sounds of the Mediterranean Sea

10353190_790540664312498_3792124209396384892_nUnique musical sensations in Morocco on Saturday 14th June, 2014 with Roberto Alagna in concert, accompanied by the group of Palestinian origin The Khoury Project.

The famous tenor was performing as part of the 20th edition of the “Fez Festival of World Sacred Music “, which is held each year under the patronage of His Majesty the King Mohammed VI of Morocco.

The show, called “Mediterraneo”, masterfully set and directed by David Alagna, was created to bring in Morocco the acoustic tones characterizing the music of the countries bordering ‘Mare Nostrum’ and all what they have in common, despite the wide range of continents and various Eastern nations it represents. Many regions which are evoking sand and deserts, oases and palm trees, but also the sea waves reflecting the silhouette of Vesuvius, olive and almond trees and the harsh and sunny Sicily.

Southern Italy, with its centuries-old history of domination and various invasions, but also its own unique culture and tradition, is a legitimate and full part of it. By its genuine nature, this folk music has integrated sounds and Arabic-Andalusian influences in particular, both in the music itself as well as in the manner of vocalizing the lyrics.

Here, the blend of all of that, magically balanced and mixed, gave the concert a very special atmosphere, making the happy synthesis of the sacred and the profane. The whole was performed in a full consistency with the Festival’s theme, resonating with the depth of feelings and human soul’s sensations in which peoples of the Mediterranean basin fully recognize.

10300761_787798067920091_2297250299638384048_nEverything was perfectly rendered by the great Alagna and highlighted by the refined arrangements of the Khoury Project, an Ensemble formed by Basil, Elie Khoury and Osama. They accompanied the tenor with ethnic and unusual music instruments, alongside other musicians forming on this occasion a rare and stunning orchestral mix.

The beautiful voice of Roberto Alagna captivated the crowd in Bab El Makina, while expressing their feelings, the ones that any “Mediterranean”-born is carrying in his own genes. He revealed himself and opened up with an irresistible passion through each note and each word. His emotion was palpable, his joy of singing obvious, his presence and stage performance truly charismatic.

10398056_651028758314332_1734833871088783249_nA swirl of notes, dialects, Neapolitan and Sicilian, coupled with the elegant presence of the French language, a true Ghibli of sounds, extended by the solo performances of the musical group, in a demonstration of their outstanding technical virtuosity.

The concert began with an Aria of “The Pearl Fishers” by Bizet, “De mon amie”, which immediately created the right atmosphere, followed by “Marechiare”: the oriental charm of the French Opera thus extended by a traditional Neapolitan song, into a parallel which certainly owes nothing to chance.

Then came the beautiful “Our Father” prayer, composed and written in French by Roberto Alagna, and “Panis Angelicus” by Cesar Franck: the sacred atmosphere properly installed, the concert continued with a new French Opera excerpt, with an Aria from “Marouf” by Rabaud, then in a still consistent style, came the “heart” of the concert i.e. a succession of Sicilian and Neapolitan songs alternately: “O Sarracino” and “Maruzzella” by the smiling and romantic Renato Carosone, “Napulitanata” by Costa, as well as Sicilian songs, traditional or not, such as “Amuri Carritteri”, “Cu ti lu dissi” and “Mattinata Siciliana”, the latter particularly dear to the heart of the singer whose own family origins are rooted in the Ancient Greece, in the legendary and great Syracuse.

Each sound has its own color and its own captivating charm. Every word has its own poignancy and perfect pronunciation, providing the audience with a wave of emotion, especially with the new song written in Sicilian by his brother Frederico Alagna, “Amuri feritu”, he delivered with a special intensity.

10468199_712067735520934_3058406523290562768_nAs long as the show progressed, the main protagonist announced the program in French, with all the clever charm, sensitiveness and tactful sense of humor that characterizes his way of addressing the people: that, coupled with his incomparable voice, did not fail to delight the public too. Many “Encore”, requested by an enthusiastic audience, concluded an unforgettable evening under the African sky, in a picturesque setting, definitively rare and lovely.

The show was both TV and web-broadcasted and a DVD is also expected

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