Wednesday, November 26, 2014

Happy Thanksgiving From Mary Garden And Her Native Friends

"The Chiefs and the Prima Donna" (Photo: Underwood & Underwood) 
In a photo, originally published in the 1913 edition of The Outlook Magazine, soprano Mary Garden is seen greeting new friends: "A company of Indian chiefs from the Glacier Park National Reservation in Montana who recently came to Chicago to present a pair of moccasins to the Indian maid Natomah, in the opera of that name, a part taken by Mary Garden. The moccasins contained 200,000 beads, and it took two months' work by ten squaws to make them." [Source] Natomah is an opera in three acts by Victor Herbert. "First performances on any stage at the Metropolitan Opera House, Philadelphia, February 23, 1911, with Miss Mary Garden, Miss Lillian Grenville, Mr. Huberdeau, Mr. Dufranne, Mr. Sammarco, Mr. Preisch, Mr. Crabbe, Mr. Nicolay, Mr. McCormack." A full synopsis, information about the opera and the Natomas, as well as audio excerpts from the opera, can all be found after the jump.

Grace Bumbry Will Perform To Honor Martin Luther King Jr.

La Bumbry: The legend will make a rare
appearance for this celebratory concert
in New York City this January.
The concert, titled Celebrating a King, will mark a rare performance by the legendary opera star Grace Bumbry. "Fill your Martin Luther King, Jr. holiday with thrilling music. On January 17 and January 19, 2015 Courtney's Stars of Tomorrow honors the life and singular achievement of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. in music. Legendary mezzo-soprano and 2009 Kennedy Center honoree Grace Bumbry makes an all too rare US appearance to sing Brahms' masterwork, Alto Rhapsody (Op.53), conducted by Ted Taylor. Adding to the celebration are three magnificent singers who command the stage in these special concerts, which showcase their tremendously expressive powers. This tour de force will be co-conducted by rising star conductor Ramon B. Braxton. Please call 1-800-838-3006 for special seating arrangements or wheelchair access." [Source] Purchase tickets by clicking here. The concert poster with details of the additional singers on the program can be found after the jump.

Friday, November 21, 2014

A Soubrette Dilemma: Where Have All The Pretty Voices Gone?

Kathleen Battle sang the soubrette role of
Despina in Mozart's Così fan tutte during
January 1982 at the MET.
(Photo: Winnie Klotz/Metropolitan Opera)
When people talk about opera sopranos, many immediately conjure up the caricature of a Rubensian figure wearing viking horns with the vocal amplitude of an diaphone foghorn. Fortunately for audiences these high voices come in all shapes and sizes. On the more petite end of the spectrum is a specialized fach known as the soubrette. Often categorized as light and lyric, this voice type is more likely to caress the listener's ear drum rather than penetrate it. The last century has seen a radical shift in the characteristics of this genre. Marcella Sembrich was a late 19th-century Polish soprano who often made appearances onstage as Zerlina (Don Giovanni), Susanna (Le Nozze di Figaro), and Rosina (Il Barbiere di Siviglia). These roles were a sharp contrast to her typical fare of dramatic coloratura roles of Lucia (Lucia di Lammermoor) and Elvira (I Puritani). This fascinating cross-pollination of repertoire certainly brought a radiant sound and identity to her characterizations in the opera house. At the end of her career, the soprano taught at the Curtis Institute in Philadelphia where one of her students, Eufemia Gregory, would go on to teach another famous soubrette of the 1970s & 1980s: Judith Blegen. It was in the latter half of the 20th-century that sopranos really began to give the vulnerable and sweet women in the soubrette repertoire their own distinct sound that didn't always carry over to other vocal categories. They were interpreters from around the globe like Rita Streich, Mattiwilda Dobbs, Norma Burrowes, Reri Grist, and Patrice Munsel, starting to emerge as leaders in this repertoire. But the silky floating tones of a coquette didn't mean she could not be strong in her own right. These roles became more crafted and unique under the domination of singers like Edith Mathis, Helen Donath, Elly Ameling, Judith Blegen, and Kathleen Battle. This group was heavily influenced with the stereo advancements in the recording industry which begged for a delicate immediacy from a voice in front of a microphone
Vocal Spectrum: Anna Netrebko as Adina* [top]
and Lady Macbeth** [bottom]. (Photos: Ken
Howard* & Marty Sohl**/Metropolitan Opera)
that didn't need to carry over a wave of 4,000 audience members in the opera house. Did all this saccharine give way to a more vanilla tone in the 1990s when voices seemed to be more precise and pointed than brilliantly sensuous in the likes of Sylvia McNair, Dawn Upshaw, Barbara Bonney, and Heidi Grant Murphy? This latter group of ladies was distinctly musical, possessed superb instruments, and sang musically. But something was lacking in the timbre of the sound that seemed to bloom in the previous generation. As opera crosses into its fourth century in existence, have interpreters of the soubrette roles become even more watered-down with a non-distinct sound lacking lushness and identity leaning more toward an early music style by sopranos like Danielle de Niese and Mojca Erdmann? Society today favors an individual who can "do it all" and this may lead to the demise of the specialized singing in soubrette repertoire. Take for instance superstar soprano Anna Netrebko who sang the role of Adina in Donizetti's L'elisir d'Amore at the Metropolitan Opera in January 2014 and then took on one of the heaviest soprano roles in opera,  Lady Macbeth in Verdi's Macbeth at the Bayerische Staatsoper in June 2014. This blurring of lines can produce dramatic reinterpretations of roles by bringing new colors, not to mention volume, to a character in opera and certainly harkens back to the old-school voices that could tackle multiple ranges of repertoire. Read more about soubrettes and listen to audio samples of 20 sopranos in soubrette repertoire after the jump.

Tuesday, November 18, 2014

Sonya Yoncheva Heralded As Mimì At MET By New York Times

Ms. Yoncheva in rehearsal (Photo:
Jonathan Tichler/MET Opera)
"In the third act of Puccini’s La Bohème, Mimì, the tubercular seamstress, says goodbye. 'Addio,' she tells Rodolfo, her poet lover, at the end of the aria 'Donde lieta usci,' and then repeats it for emphasis: 'Addio, senza rancor.' Many Mimìs keep this moment simple, singing both iterations of 'addio' roughly the same. But at the Metropolitan Opera on Friday, the Bulgarian soprano Sonya Yoncheva first sang the word in a voice straightforward and resolute, trying desperately to project strength. The second time, she sounded wispy and vulnerable: a poignant revelation of her true feelings. Subtle, thoughtful and heart-rending, the passage seemed like the work of a veteran artist. But astonishingly, this was Ms. Yoncheva’s first staged performance of the role. Her delicate, dreamy, detailed Mimì has arrived more or less fully formed — and, for good measure, with less than two weeks’ notice and just a month after she gave birth to a son....Her voice is not huge, but her precise articulation of the text and the slightest metallic glisten in her warm tone allow it to penetrate. Her first-act aria built to a gently riveting reverie, and she grew in tragic stature as the opera went on, with her soft-grain echo of Rodolfo’s earlier melody a textbook lesson in tender nostalgia near the end. The rest of the performance was not at her level." [Source] Her debut recording, "Paris, Mon Amour," will be released on Sony Classics in January 2015.
As the delicate Puccini character Mimì in La Bohème, Sonya Yoncheva receives a triumphant review.

Monday, November 17, 2014

Photo Flashback: Leona Mitchell, Renata Scotto, Virginia Zeani, Tito Capobianco

Power Quartet: Tito Capobianco, Leona Mitchell, Virginia Zeani, and Renata Scotto, post-recital in Fort Lauderdale, Florida, on February 22, 2014. Details of the evening are after the jump. (Photo: Venetian Arts Society/Facebook)

Saturday, November 15, 2014

Patroness Gets Opera Center Named After Her By Madison Opera

Helping the Arts: A photo of Margaret C.
Winston in the 1940s at Stanford University
"Finally, one of Madison's most generous 'anonymous friends' has a name. Dr. Margaret Winston, a ground-breaking radiologist, world traveler, astute financial manager and deeply passionate supporter of the arts, lived most of her 86 years in Madison. When she died on Sept. 12, she requested no obituary or memorial service. Born in Seattle and raised in the Twin Cities and the San Francisco Bay area, Winston never married or had children. Family members live on the West Coast. So it wasn't until Sunday, Nov. 2, when Madison Opera renamed its home at 335 W. Mifflin St. as the Margaret C. Winston Opera Center, that the myriad local nonprofits Winston supported began to come together. 'The depth and breadth of her giving we'll never know,' said Kathryn Smith, general director of Madison Opera. 'She was an anonymous donor to so many organizations...we don't know what they all are.'....'None of the people she made things accessible for knew who she was,' said Stephen Fleischman, director at the Madison Museum of Contemporary Art. 'She didn't care about the physical world, objects and trappings, about collecting things. Those weren't her interests. Her interests were art and intellect.'....A devoted opera lover, Winston gave directly to UW Opera and the School of Music's new Performance Center. In 2003, through the UW School of Music, Winston funded a fellowship for a graduate student in voice. Recipients have included James Kryshak, a tenor now singing with the Vienna State Opera, soprano Shannon Prickett, about to make her role debut in as Micaela in Carmen, and tenor J. Adam Shelton, a local arts educator who recently appeared in Madison Opera's Dead Man Walking. 'Margaret wanted to be anonymous,' said UW-Madison voice professor Mimmi Fullmer. 'But if I would ask her, 'Do you want students to come see you?' she'd say, 'That would be OK.' By all accounts, Winston was a deeply private person. She didn't like having her picture taken, and she was cautious about where she gave her money. According to Smith, Winston's gifts made possible the purchase of Madison Opera's current building. 'We said to her, wouldn't you like to name the building after you?' Smith said. 'And she said no, but she also said, 'What you do after I'm gone, I can't do anything about,' kind of with a wink. 'We took that to be permission, to finally have something that acknowledges who she was and how important she was.'....'Margaret was a person who was ahead of her time in so many ways,' Fleischman at MMoCA said. 'She was a person who loved crossing disciplines, before it was really viewed as the thing to do. She was not a person who was in it for name recognition, that was the furthest thing from her desires. She was in it for the beautiful civic and cultural reasons. She wanted to make sure what was important in her life, cultural opportunities, would be given to other people and in her community.'" [Source] Check out The Margaret C. Winston Madison Opera Center by clicking here.
Kathryn Smith, General Director of Madison Opera, sits in The Margaret C. Winston Opera Center

Friday, November 14, 2014

Natalie Dessay Basking In The Glow Of Her Second Singing Career

No High Notes Required: Natalie Dessay sings with the band at Château de Versailles
"This new collection showcasing 20 years of recordings from this most versatile of artists including classical, opera and songs from musicals – includes previously unreleased track 'Bebe'. Natalie Dessay defies categorisation. Over a 20-year career the multi-faceted soprano has risen to the most diverse challenges, brilliantly fleshing out the great Romantic coloratura roles,
savouring the delights of the Baroque, and moving with equal aplomb from comic opera to bel canto and from French art song to French (and Brazilian) pop song. An uncommonly human Queen of the Night in Die Zauberflöte, she has sparkled lovingly in Lakmé and descended into harrowing madness as Ophélie and Lucia di Lammermoor; and just as she has brought Manon to vivid life, she has experienced all Violetta’s passion and pain in La traviata. With her shining eyes, Dessay is a tiny slip of woman who radiates charisma. She has often taken a stand against operatic convention and diva clichés, impudently daring to talk about the trials of her profession, including stagefright and the frantic demands of juggling the roles of star, woman and mother. Then there is her recurring frustration at the essential mismatch between a dramatic temperament suited to the great tragic heroines and a voice predisposed to the roles of singing doll or willing victim. But though her voice has always been light, it has never been lacking in juice, and the purity of her top notes – cleaving like daggers – her quicksilver virtuosity, and her supreme musicianship have given her the power to cast an irresistible spell. It took years for her to accept herself for what she had always been. In 1997, when she told an interviewer that 'There is more
to life than top notes', people thought she was being precious; she was in fact expressing profound disquiet. Over the course of a career that imposed operations on her vocal cords in 2003 and 2005, Dessay has come to the conclusion that 'the interplay of physiological skills and characterisation is as about as thrilling as something can get.' A perfectionist who is also prone to impulse, this great French singer has brought something new to her roles through her still unfulfilled passion for the straight theatre, an art form that remains a defining force for her: it was, after all, as a student actress that she first discovered her talent as a singer. She has now succeeded in resolving the dichotomies within her, uniting her personality and her voice by choosing to move away from opera. Since 2013 she has reinvented herself with recitals of French art song (notably Debussy with the pianist Philippe Cassard), with popular song and musicals (above all in her collaboration with the pianist and composer Michel Legrand), and even with Brazilian music (in the company of three sisters-under-the-skin, the singers Helena Noguerra and Agnès Jaoui and the guitarist Liat Cohen). Her commitment to each genre has been characteristically unreserved. Of one thing we can be sure: Natalie Dessay, in all her
infinite artistic variety, has many more delicious surprises in store." [Source] And out soon is a new DVD of the chanteuse in concert: "Two icons of French song – Natalie Dessay and Michel Legrand – follow the huge worldwide success of their album Entre Elle et Lui with a DVD of the very special concert on the 11th June 2014 at the Orangerie of the Château de Versailles. This is a unique collaboration from two giants of French music. The CD release in 2013 was hotly anticipated and received great critical acclaim upon its release. Natalie Dessay brings her lyrical voice and fresh interpretations to a selection of some of Michel Legrand’s best-loved songs including 'La Valse des Lilas', 'Les moulins de mon cœur' (Windmills of Your Mind), 'Duo de Guy et Geneviève', 'Papa Can You Hear Me' and many more." [Source] Watch highlights from the concert, and see a few more photos, after the jump. 
Dessay à la Streisand: The soprano sings "Papa can you hear me?"

Thursday, November 13, 2014

Regardez Tout Le Gala Du Tricentenaire De l'Opéra Comique

Watch the entire gala celebrating 300 years of the l'Opéra Comique with opera stars Anna Caterina Antonacci, Sabine Devieilhe, Patricia Petibon, Julie Fuchs, Stéphane Degout, and more. "Carmen, Lakmé, Pelléas et Mélisande, La Fille du régiment... Autant de chefs d'oeuvre de l'art lyrique nés sur les planches de l'Opéra Comique. Depuis sa création en 1715, cette prestigieuse maison fait rayonner l'opéra à la française, accueille des artistes de renom, programme des oeuvres de tous les répertoires. Un lieu chargé d'histoires que cette soirée de gala ambitionne de résumer. A grand renfort d'images d'archives, d'interventions et bien évidemment de chants, apprêtez-vous à voir défiler trois siècles de création artistique. En maître de cérémonie, Michel Fau. Avec son impertinence habituelle, l'homme de spectacle redonnera vie aux petits et grands moments de la célèbre institution. A ses côtés, chanteront Anna Caterina Antonacci, Sabine Devieilhe, Julie Fuchs, Patricia Petibon, Frédéric Antoun, Stéphane Degout et Vincent Le Texier. Des chanteurs d'envergure internationale, familiers de la Salle Favart, qui interprèteront les airs qui ont marqué l'Opéra Comique et l'art lyrique en général. Ils seront accompagnés dans ce voyage dans le temps par Jérôme Deschamps, des chanteurs de l'Académie de l'Opéra Comique, le choeur Accentus et l'orchestre Les Siècles dirigé par François-Xavier Roth. « Si l’Opéra Comique m’était conté », une soirée exceptionnelle pour un lieu qui l'est tout autant. Le 28 décembre, Arte diffusera une version enrichie de ce Gala du tricentenaire. Sujets documentaires et témoignages viendront s'ajouter à la captation du 13 novembre. La soirée sera également diffusée en direct sur France Musique." [Source] More photos and the video are after the jump.

Monday, November 10, 2014

Uncovering Elena Obraztsova Treasures As 75 Years Is Celebrated

Operatic Tsaritsa: The legendary
 Elena Obraztsova
For over 50 years, Elena Obraztsova has been a fixture on the operatic scene. Her debut was at the Bolshoi Theater in a production of Boris Godunov in 1963 and as of last week the performer was still singing with plenty of full voice during a gala celebrating her 75th birthday with stars like Anna Netrebko, Dmitri Hvorostovsky, Maria Guleghina, José Cura, Julia Lezhneva, Hibla Gerzmava and Olga Peretyatko. In her native Mother Russia, Ms. Obraztsova recorded a trove of music for the label Melodiya over the years. The label was later acquired by EMI and many of the recordings never made it to the CD format barring the arias disc with Giuseppe Patanè that first appeared in Japan and eventually on Russian import. Thanks to the scrupulous work of Melodiya digitizing much of the mezzo-soprano's back catalog, these albums are now available in MP3 format and reveal a surprising depth for the song repertoire by this monumental artist. The majority of her recorded legacy features the works of Soviet neo-romantic composer Georgy Sviridov. Music recorded between 1977-1983, with the composer at the piano, shows how the opera singer placed her esteem of his work alongside Tchaikovsky and Rachmaninoff whose works she also laid down for posterity. Whether arias,
One of the prized solo recordings to 
make a commercial release worldwide.
romances, or folk songs, it is clear that Ms. Obraztsova was first and foremost a nationalist. The most surprising treat in the discography is a disc of Schumann lieder featuring the complete Frauenliebe und leben alongside excerpts from Liederkreis, 12 Gedichte, Myrthen, and 6 Gedichte von N. Lenau und Requiem. Her rendition of "Mondnacht" rivals that of German baritone Dietrich Fischer-Dieskau. Next to the contributions of fellow Russian stars Irina Arkhipova and Galina Vishnevskaya, the collection of music put forth by Elena Obraztsova is admirable. There are still albums of hers not available to the public, including a disc of Bach & Händel arias, Pergolesi's Stabat Mater, Vivaldi's GloriaCavalleria Rusticana with tenor Zurab Sotkilava, Wagner's Wesendonck Lieder, Brahm's Rhapsody for Alto, and a collection of Viennese operetta with conductor Algis Ziuraitis, but there are others still in print on various labels including Deutsche Grammophon (Un Ballo in Maschera, Aida, Alexander Nevsky, Werther, Samson et Dalila, Rigoletto), Sony (Adriana Lecouvreur), Decca (Cavalleria Rusticana, Andrea Chénier), EMI (Nabucco), as well as a slew of recordings on private labels and live performance documents. After the jump: Learn 
more about Elena Obraztsova, see all of the recordings currently available digitally, and watch the 75th birthday concert in its entirety.
Elena Obraztsova stands center stage as international opera stars pay hommage last week.

Sunday, November 9, 2014

Dorothea Röschmann Delivers Package Of German Lieder For Sony

"Gefeiert auf den wichtigsten Opernbühnen der Welt - als Susanna, Ännchen, Eva, Fiordiligi, Micäela und in vielen anderen Rollen - ist die deutsche Sopranistin Dorothea Röschmann auch eine der großen Liedinterpretinnen unserer Zeit. Für ihre neue CD wählte sie wunderschöne Lieder von Schubert, Schumann, Strauss und Wolf, die von berühmten Frauengestalten aus Literatur und Geschichte inspiriert wurden. Von Malcolm Martineau gefühlvoll am Klavier begleitet zeichnet sie subtile StimmungsPortraits, welche die fein schattierten Nuancen der Figuren widerspiegeln, die in den Liedern dargestellt werden. Das Ergebnis sind sorgfältig konzipierte, einfühlsam gesungene Miniaturen mit Höhepunkten wie Schuberts 'Gretchen am Spinnrad' und 'Nur wer die Sehnsucht kennt,' Strauss 'Die Nacht' oder 'Morgen' und den Mignon Liedern von Hugo Wolf." [Source] Get more information about the album including track listing, and listen to the samples from the recording, after the jump.

Saturday, November 8, 2014

AHS Makes Clowns More Terrifying Than Leoncavallo's "Pagliacci"

John Carroll Lynch plays the murderous kidnapping 
clown in American Horror Story: Freak Show
"American Horror Story: Freak Show caps off centuries of suspicion towards Bozo & co. 'You know, Dave,' Chicago children's entertainer Pogo reportedly said over dinner with two cops who'd been tailing him, 'clowns can get away with murder.' Pogo would know, because outside of his clown identity he was John Wayne Gacy, the notorious 1970s serial killer and maybe one of the worst things to happen to clowns since the 1892 opera Pagliacci. Clowns, it's fair to say, are not currently having the best time of it, PR-wise. The fourth season of American Horror Story, which debuted Wednesday, features Twisty the Clown as the primary antagonist: a terrifying perversion of the profession with a mask of grinning, oversized teeth and distorted black lips. In the opening episode, Twisty bounds up to a young couple in broad daylight, knocks them both out with juggling clubs, stabs the young man over and over again, kidnaps the woman and locks her up with a young boy in a decrepit old school bus, and forces them both to watch him craft balloon animals (there being clearly no limits to his malevolence).
Even a dandy can turn into an evil clown with the right 
accessories: Finn Wittrock stars as the twisted Mr. Mott
In addition to this new incarnation of the monstrous, murdering clown trope, rogue scary clowns have been spotted recently stalking the streets of Wasco, California. In July, a 'creepy' clown wearing a red wig and clutching a handful of pink balloons was sighted walking through Brooklyn's Green-Wood Cemetery. The professional clown industry, for once, isn't smiling. Membership of the World Clown Association, a U.S.-based trade group for performers, has fallen from 3,500 to 2,500 over the last 10 years. In the UK, a similar group, Clown International, has lost almost 90 percent of its members from its peak in the 1980s. Earlier this year, Butlin's holiday camp, in the popular destination of Bognor Regis, withdrew its annual offer to sponsor the group's annual gathering thanks to a decline in overall clown approval ratings....Despite all this, clowns were typically viewed in a positive light for most of the 19th and 20th centuries, even though Leoncavallo's aforementioned 1892 opera, Pagliacci, told the story of a clown who murders his unfaithful wife and her lover with a knife. ('Se il viso è pallido, è di vergogna,' the clown sings, or, 'If my face is white, it is for shame.') The turning point, culture-wise, appears to have been the arrest of Gacy, dubbed "the Killer Clown" by the media, whose grisly string of sexual assaults and murders contrasted so vividly with his alternate clown persona. As Pogo, Gacy
Tears of a Clown: Plácido Domingo as
Canio in the opera Pagliacci
performed at parades, parties, and charitable events, even meeting First Lady Rosalynn Carter in 1978 thanks to his role as director of Chicago's Polish Constitution Day Parade. While on death row, he painted a number of portraits of clowns, many depicting himself as Pogo, claiming that he wanted to use the paintings 'to bring joy into people's lives.'" [Source] After the jump, find portraits of over 100 tenors who have sung the role of Canio over the last century and watch tenor Jonas Kaufmann record the famous aria "Vesti la giubba" from Leoncavallo's Pagliacci. An interesting article from 2008 showing how often popular media use the famous aria in advertising can be read here. Most recently Wendy's referenced it in their new "99¢ Right Size Menu" campaign. Watch the video below:

Top Singers Commemorate The Fall Of Berlin Wall 25th Anniversary

UPDATE 11/10/2014: Jonas Kaufmann was replaced by heldentenor Klaus Florian Vogt as seen in the photo below. Watch the finale of the performance from Sunday evening by clicking here.
The Brandenburg Gate Quadriga
On November 9, 2014, conductor Daniel Barenboim will step onto the podium in front of the Brandenburg Gate to conduct the Staatskapelle Berlin in Beethoven's Symphony No. 9 to commemorate the 25th Anniversary of the Berlin Wall falling. Soloists will include Renée Fleming, Elīna Garanča, Jonas Kaufmann, and René Pape. "The performance is part of a three-day, city-wide celebration of the Fall of the Berlin Wall, which includes a 15 kilometer Lightgrenze, or Light Frontier, from the Wall Memorial to the Brandenburg Gate. The Lightgrenze, by artist Christopher Bauder and filmmaker Marc Bauder, comprises 8,000 illuminated white balloons, each with its own story and patron. The installation also includes large-screen projections of historical film collages, along with guided tours and public exhibits. Barenboim and the Staatskapelle Berlin’s performance will coincide with the release of the 8,000 balloons as they sail above the German capital. The performance will be broadcast on ARD and rbb beginning at 6.50 p.m. CET. Tell the world about your experiences of witnessing the fall of the Berlin Wall and what the Peaceful Revolution of 1989 means to you today. Use the hashtags #fallofthewall25 or #fotw25 on Facebook, Instagram and Twitter, and your message will appear in the virtual web portal here." [Source]
As we look back to that historic moment in 1989, let's remember the concert that marked the original event: "On December 25, 1989, Leonard Bernstein gave a concert in Berlin celebrating the end of the Wall, including Beethoven's 9th symphony ('Ode to Joy') with the word 'Joy' (Freude) changed to 'Freedom' (Freiheit) in the lyrics sung." The quartet of soloists were comprised of singers from around the world: soprano June Anderson, mezzo-soprano Sarah Walker, tenor Klaus König, and bass Jan-Hendrik Rootering. Conductor Leonard Bernstein led a chorus and orchestra was comprised of members from the Chor des Bayerischen Rundfunks, Rundfunkchor Berlin, Symphonieorchester des Bayerischen Rundfunks & Members of the
American soprano June Anderson and British mezzo-soprano
Sarah Walker singing at the historic event in 1989.
Staatskapelle Dresden, Orchestra of the Kirov Theatre, London Symphony Orchestra, New York Philharmonic, Orchestre de Paris. "The fall of the Berlin Wall on November 1989 unleashed a wave of democratisation in Central and Eastern Europe that radically transformed the world order. In a typically grandiose yet eloquent gesture, Leonard Bernstein spontaneously accepted an invitation to conduct a performance of Beethoven’s Ninth Symphony to celebrate this freedom....In a typically grandiose yet eloquent gesture, Bernstein spontaneously accepted an invitation to conduct a performance of Beethoven’s Ninth Symphony to celebrate this freedom. It was only fitting that East Germany’s new-found freedom should be celebrated with Beethoven’s Ninth Symphony. The monumental works, perhaps the world’s most famous Symphony, was inspired by Schiller's poem “Ode to Joy”, a passionate paean to freedom. Adding to the symbolism of the event, Bernstein conducted an orchestra and chorus formed of musicians from both East and West Germany (Bavarian Radio Symphony Orchestra, Staatskapelle Dresden), as well as the United States (New York Philharmonic), Great Britain (London Symphony), France (Orchestre de Paris) and the Soviet Union (Orchestra of the Kirov
Polish-born and German raised tenor Klaus König and
German-born of Dutch ancestry bass Jan-Hendrik
Rootering sing Beethoven for Bernstein.
Theater). Recorded at the Schauspielhaus, Berlin, December 25, 1989, the German label Deutsche Grammophon would commemorate the event by issuing multiple CD versions with different title and one limited edition copy that contained a piece of the Berlin Wall for collectors. "The Berlin Wall (German: Berliner Mauer) was a barrier that existed between 1961 and 1990, constructed by the German Democratic Republic (GDR, East Germany) starting on August 13, 1961, that completely cut off (by land) West Berlin from surrounding East Germany and from East Berlin until it was opened in 1989. The barrier included guard towers placed along large concrete walls, which circumscribed a wide area (later known as the 'death strip') that contained anti-vehicle trenches, 'fakir beds' and other defenses. The Eastern Bloc claimed that the wall was erected to protect its population from fascist elements conspiring to prevent the 'will of the people' in building a socialist state in East Germany. In practice, the Wall served to prevent the massive emigration and defection that marked East Germany and the communist Eastern Bloc during the post-World War II period....In 1989, a series of radical political changes occurred in the Eastern Bloc, associated with the liberalization of the Eastern Bloc's authoritarian systems
Lucky collectors were able to get a recording of the
event with a piece of the Berlin Wall inside
and the erosion of political power in the pro-Soviet governments in nearby Poland and Hungary. After several weeks of civil unrest, the East German government announced on November 9, 1989, that all GDR citizens could visit West Germany and West Berlin. Crowds of East Germans crossed and climbed onto the wall, joined by West Germans on the other side in a celebratory atmosphere. Over the next few weeks, euphoric public and souvenir hunters chipped away parts of the wall; the governments later used industrial equipment to remove most of what was left. Contrary to popular belief the wall's actual demolition did not begin until Summer 1990 and was not completed until 1992. The fall of the Berlin Wall paved the way for German reunification, which was formally concluded on October 3, 1990." [Source, Source] Watch the finale of that historic concert from 25 years ago, and see the different packaging for the DG recordings, after the jump.