Esa-Pekka Salonen is an official Olympic Torchbearer and will run one mile in London on July 26. He's just one of the 8,000 people chosen for the honor to carry the Olympic Flame across the UK during its 70-day journey.
Our biggest get well wishes to Maestro Esa-Pekka Salonen at the news that the Finnish conductor has cancelled four Milan performances with Filarmonica della Scala in February for health reasons.
Marko Letonja (who excelled in Les contes d'Hoffmann that we wrote about here) jumps into Salonen's appointments from February 11-13 with Filarmonica in a concert of Bartók, Luca Lombardi (the world premiere of a new composition commissioned by La Scala to mark the 150 years of Italian Unification), Debussy and Skrjabin.
Daniel Harding will conduct the concert on February 6 with Filarmonica that substitutes violinist Leila Josefowicz with pianist Lars Vogt and a small change-up of the program (Brahms' Concerto no. 1).
Why do we rock the new new with Corriere della Sera's lux fashion supplement Style Magazine? It's got the Made-in-Italy edge on the NYTimes' T Magazine and it's less Mr. Peanut (spats, top hat & monocle) than the FT's How To Spend It. That.
And also: OC contributed to its January/February 2012 edition. Much appresh to the classical world's most desirable free agent Esa-Pekka Salonen, whose streamlined & pragmatic style in wardrobe, furniture and workspaces is admired by the city that created understated-elegance. (Answer: Milan).
Since 2007 it has shaken audiences in Berlin, Vienna, Aix-en-Provence, Amsterdam, and New York. Now three years later, Da una casa di morti comes to Milan's La Scala. Leoš Janáček's opera based on Dostoyevsky's writings about hope and transcendence in a Siberian Gulag will open tomorrow night in Patrice Chéreau's epic production (costumière Caroline De Vivaise; set designer & Chéreau-collaborator since their 1979 Bayreuth Ring, Richard Peduzzi; and choreographer Thierry Thiue Niang). Pierre Boulez was the man with the plan, conducting performances prior to NYC, but now Esa-Pekka Salonen is all over it. Since Scala has only seen it once on stage in over 40 years, this weekend it's been a media deluge with articles in Corriere della Sera, La Repubblica, Vivimilano, and La Stampa. Opera Chic covered it extensively when it premiered at the Metropolitan Opera this past fall, but will sooooo be there tomorrow night.
Chéreau said to Vivimilano: "It's an opera rich with energy and vitality that's reflected in Janáček's music. There aren't true protagonists, rather, many characters. The protagonist is the society that the detainees have formed, with their trauma there are also moments of beauty. The prisoners are relatively free. They eat, drink, sleep, think, love, hate, rebel, mess around, play, walk, and act..."
To Corriere: "Behind the work of Janáček is Alban Berg's Wozzeck. The Czech composer had heard it three years prior to writing From the House of the Dead and remained transfixed by the work." Of Peduzzi's scenery: "With the movable walls, I wanted to synthesize the feeling of a prison. Like a box, huge and encompassing, or small and oppressive. Walls and walls, not a single breath of air and no sky."
To La Stampa Chéreau said that after this production finishes at La Scala, he's done with opera. In his future it will be more cinema and theater, searching always for a new audience, a new challenge, and as always, a new experiment. Spoken like a real philosopher.
Franco Donatoni has always been the odd man out of post-WWII Italian music; in his native country he wasn’t as influential as Berio, as revered as Nono, as coolly idiosyncratic as Maderna. But Donatoni has been, among the twentieth century’s composers, the greatest alchemist: the composer himself explained his creative process as being similar to alchemy – always ready to surprise you, to create the most beautiful transparent sounds, the quickest changes of pace, of mood. He was the Harry Potter of classical music, ready to turn children’s voices into a flight of hummingbirds, a single saxophone into a scary monster, a double bass into the sound of the end of the world.
It does not surprise that so many composers – among them Magnus Lindberg, the late great Giuseppe Sinopoli who is still missed so deeply, Esa-Pekka Salonen – have been Donatoni students in their youth. Donatoni, his former pupils are happy to tell you, was a generous teacher, full of humor and surprises as his own music was.
Tuesday night at Teatro alla Scala, Donatoni’s city, Milan, had the chance to listen to his final work, commissioned by Salonen in his LA Philharmonic days, a piece that debuted after the composer’s death in the summer of 2000. Its title? “Esa (In Cauda V)”. A work for orchestra that astonishes you with its clarity, its force, the transparency of the orchestration – with the simple, stunning beauty of its voice. Because in Donatoni’s music, everything reminds you of the human voice – Donatoni was one of the most human composers, too. Donatoni’s heartbeat is all over “Esa”, as is his sense of humor, his joy – and this is all more heartbreaking when you think that the piece was completed by Donatoni when he lay dying in Milan’s Niguarda hospital, with his assistants taking dictation. Salonen deserves so much credit for so many things, but his generosity in promoting Donatoni’s work is among his greatest merits: he conducted the piece at Scala Tuesday night in its Italian premiere the way you might imagine someone would conduct his father’s work, with tenderness and admiration and a son’s love. Salonen said back in 2000, before the piece’s premiere in LA, that he considered “Esa” to be "my old teacher's message to me, something like 'Carry on, son, it will be OK.'" The Finnish conductor returned from intermission to conduct the work, wielding his baton that he had left behind for the first half.
One is grateful that Franco and Esa, father and son, shared their talent and mutual admiration and love with the audience last night. It turned Milan’s gloomy rainy winter into spring.
O for a Muse of fire, that would ascend the brightest heaven of invention. And so began Patrice Chéreau's achingly theatrical production of Leoš Janácek’s From the House of the Dead, in a Shakespearean tribute, darkness punctuated by a single match -- a prisoner lighting his cigarette -- our first glimpse of the Siberian prison that would be our reckoning point for the next hour (and some), where humility is all that keeps buoyant in the oppressive confines of the descending concrete walls.
Gelb frantically covered all his bases in the month leading-up to the premiere, speaking about the ensuing Czech opera from the insultingly lowbrow dailies to the heavy hitters & glossies, drumming up support for the opera that blazed a glorious comet-trail of success across Europe last year (and the year before that), leaving critics and Janácek-martyrs alike breathless from Pierre Boulez's conducting with Patrice Chéreau's coup d'theatre.
After the Luc Bondy Tosca scuffle that opened the Metropolitan Opera's 2009/10 season, where boos rained-down from the offended, excitable self-appointed arbiters of the Family Circle ring, Gelb (and the rest of the world) now had a scarily-sobering barometer of what the Metropolitan audiences considered avant garde. And frankly, if Bondy's calm-as-a-kitten Tosca was treated by NYC audiences like Calixto Bieito's fisting/S&M visions of proctological Regie, one should definitely worry about the well-being of Chéreau. So Gelb rode weary his House of the Dead warpath, proclaiming the Met's "theatrical renaissance", relying on free panels and local news promos to ingratiate Janácek to the people. Did all that exhausting work deliver a nice payload? Well, last night, OC witnessed one of the longest MET curtain calls that she's ever lingered for (c'mon...while we Milanese stick around for 20+ headline-breaking minutes of applause, those serious businessmen NY'ers rush out do their serious businessmen things). All in all, a nice reception for Patrice Chéreau's house debut.
And so last night premiered Leoš Janácek’s last opera, From the House of the Dead, never before staged in the MET's history. It's okay. There's a time and place for that strict, uncompromising Czech a$$hole. And that time is now...the lean, streamlined version from Chéreau's body-of-work that teasingly floats hope and morality millimeters away from Janácek’s harrowing score, love and pity closely intertwined. The opera is an assemblage of unsentimental, unflinching scenes from Dostoyevsky's book of the same name (without narrative thrust or clear protagonists) of his 4 years spent in a Siberian gulag. A poignant, cinematic treatment, including the English titles that were projected on the back of the scenery, fittingly like film noir.
As each prisoner enumerates their crimes, they no longer are the psychopathic criminals, and each becomes his own distinct character. As OC heard here at the Met Panel, Chéreau hired professional actors to mix with the singers to heighten his desired theatrical conventions. Railing against the powers that have locked them in, each prisoner is a distinct entity, uplifting and full of humility in the face of oppression. Here we have no hardened criminals resigned to do their time lifting weights and reading the bible (and getting crappy tattoos)...we have instead humble men, spurned on by survival and clutching to the last remnants of hope, whether it be a stuffed eagle that spirits the men to their imaginations or remembrance of landscapes past.
Chéreau's production team seamlessly wove an opera that transported the Metropolitan Opera audiences from the massive, sterile maw of that cosmopolitan stage to Vienna or Amsterdam or Aix-en-Provence (heck, even Milan where "Da una casa di morti" will premiere in March 2010).
Longtime Chéreau collaborator and French set designer Richard Peduzzi, who was responsible for that Tosca that ya'll hated so much (OMG *that's* not what an Italian church looks like!) erected large gray massive walls that opened and closed as the opera progressed; Associate director Thierry Thieû Niang choreographed the excellent prison secks pantomime, homage to the French ballet interludes so cherished in traditional opera; French costume designer Caroline de Vivaise had a very Max Ernst vision and color palette, perfectly visualized with every detail caressed; Lighting maestro Bertrand Couderc expertly fluctuated from creamy rose-tinged washes to golden afternoons to soul-baring, psychopathic whites.
Former MD of the the L.A. Phil Esa-Pekka Salonen made his house debut last night, presenting a score full of clarity and vibrant light, saddled with lush romanticism and a buoyancy that echoed Dostoevsky's book: cruel human trauma suffused with wit and an underlying sense of hope. For Esa-Pekka to carry off such a sound at the cavernous and impersonal auditorium of the MET was quite a skill indeed. An unforgiving, unflinching mastery, Esa-Pekka plowed ahead ruthlessly in a soaring, expressive dialog with his singers on-stage, never rushing never overshadowing.
Towering Swedish baritone Peter Mattei sang Shishkov, the prisoner with the most intricate past, effectively pushing his character through all the phases of remembrance and retribution. Czech tenor Stefan Margita as Filka/Luka sang effectively and cunningly, American tenor Kurt Streit as the psychotic Skuratov was a standout, with the remainder of the main characters -- British tenor Peter Hoare as Shapkin and bass-baritone Willard White as Gorianchikov -- wonderfully rounding-out the corps of political prisoners.
Are American opera audiences ready to accept what the Europeans/Brits so easy recognize -- that there exists in this scarily-big world production-driven performances and that the singers themselves don't always have to be the ticket-sellers? Let's hope that Chéreau effectively indoctrinates, prison secks included.
The Czech opera, the last penned in Janáček's career, has never before been staged in the MET's entire history -- quite fittingly adept for producer Patrice Chéreau and Finnish conductor Esa-Pekka Salonen's house debuts next week. Thanks to The Gelbster, Americans will be privy to a (variation of a) production that blazed through cultural headlines in prestigious dailies abroad as a roundly bulletproof work, and untouchable coup d'theatre that had critics and Janáček fetishists (OC fits in somewhere on that spectrum) clamoring for tickets.
Pierre Boulez, who had conducted the FTHOTD European runs, bowed out of the USA duties, citing travel preparations as just too strenuous for his advanced years (the reality is, he actually thinks we're all barbarians over here in the Colonies). Picking up the baton is former MD of the LA Phil, Esa-Pekka Salonen, who joined Gelb and Patrice Chéreau, glorious Frenchman and stage, film, and opera director (who could easily be a 007 film extra/James Bond advisor) on stage last night in a free chat with future ticket holders about their gloriously terrifying Janáček vision.
In what Gelb called a theatrical renaissance for the MET, Patrice Chéreau is undoubtedly most qualified to breathe life into Gelb's inspired strategy -- first known to the opera masses after a 1976 Bayreuth Ring cycle, although past collaborations with theater luminaries such as Giorgio Strehler at Milan's Piccolo Teatro mark his long, theatrical career. Although Chéreau may have been the most appealing project leader, he petitioned for many stipulations regarding the Czech opera. He hired professional actors to mix with the singers, as his vision for effectively presenting the opera relied on a predominantly theatrical convention. Also, main characters have to spend the evening completely untethered without the aid of a prompter, as Chéreau wanted the actors absolutely focused on personal interactions. Nor was the prompter's box harmonic with the clean visual aesthetics of the stage setting, carefully planned by French set designer Richard Peduzzi (longtime Chéreau collaborator who also designed the sets for Tosca).
In co-production with Vienna, Amsterdam, and Aix-en-Provence, what unfolds on stage for the MET is markedly different than what has been seen in Europe, along with a new crop of singers and actors. Even costume designer Caroline de Vivaise stepped it up for the cast: after vacationing in Hungary and exploring the local flea markets, new inspirations came for guard and prisoner costumes, each painstakingly chosen to match the idiosyncrasies of each singer. Swedish baritone Peter Mattei sings Shishkov, Czech tenor Stefan Margita sings Filka Morozov, American tenor Kurt Streit sings Skuratov, British tenor Peter Hoare sings Shapkin, and bass-baritone Willard White sings Gorianchikov, and will all have their turns at encapsulating the trenchant themes of hope and survival, the steely pulse of Dostoevsky's book, written after spending soul-crushing years in a Siberian gulag.
After the MET run, FTHOTD heads to Milan in March 2010 where Scala gets its horny hands on it -- this time as Da una casa di morti where Esa-Pekka Salonen and crew get to kick up their post-game heels at Da Giacomo over steaming plates of garganelli alla bottarga, and Opera Chic will be throwing her Carine Gilson handmade panties -- well, culottes, actually -- in the orchestra pit, hoping E-Pek catches them.
The inaugural concert of the 7th annual Baltic Sea Festival arrives shortly, today at 7:30pm to be exact, local Stockholm time. The festival is the collaboration of Esa-Pekka Salonen, Valery Gergiev and Michael Tydén to ensure protection for the Baltic region (mainly with an environmental thrust to protect the fragile seabeds and yummy little fishes). Held in Stockholm, it's one of Northern Europe's best festivals.
It will open with the Swedish Radio Symphony Orchestra and their former principal conductor (and the festival's artistic director), Esa-Pekka Salonen. He'll be leading the orchestra in the European premiere of his Violin Concerto, and Stravinsky's Oedipus Rex (with the kick-a$$ mezzo, Ekaterina Gubanova, singing Iokaste).
The festival closes on September 3rd with Musical Director of the Swedish Radio Symphony Orchestra, Daniel Harding, conducting his corps in Verdi's Requiem.
We'll gladly take the Salonen & Harding concerts, but we're kind of disappointed that Tony Iivonen, "the Harry Potter of accordions", won't be part of the broadcasts. Looks like he's disappointed, too :-(
Never invited to Esa-Pekka Salonen's Brentwood Corbusian villa? Sucks for you!! Now that it's on the market, you'll never have the chance. The sprawling grounds, which we reported all on here, was designed by Ted Tokio Tanaka and offers 6-bedrooms, 5.5 bathrooms, and a sparkling pool. It can be yours for 4.5 million (US dollars, not Thai bahts).
Look, Brentwood's OK, even if OC would rather live in the Hollywood Hills -- the houses up there always looked cooler to her (and yeah, Beverly Hills with those huge houses is a bit too much; Bel Air way too much). Same for hotels: the Bel Air is wonderful but really too swanky with a OPEC oil baron vibe (Michael Jackson stayed there, after all), the Four Seasons kind of meh, the Peninsula in fact, yes, adorable. But still, despite the evident douchiness of the surroundings -- not to mention Bar Marmont, the epitome of douche -- the Chateau Marmont remains pretty cool, with all its ghosts (and bungalow 3 gives you a private parking space back on Marmont Lane, and possible John Belushi sightings). Desserts at Chateau Marmont are pretty delicious, too. The Sunset Tower is also a favorite destination -- restored to perfection, with a smaller pool but much better French fries (and those big bay windows).
Anyway, that's why Opera Chic turned down Esa Pekka's offer (he would make it a cool 4 mil, with a nice 100,000 dollars discount for all the time OC babysat his kids). Still, four.point.one is a good deal, if 5 1/2 baths are not too many for you (just restocking the Kiehl's soap bars and the toilet paper must be a bit of a nightmare):
The current house sits on 0.21 acres of land and features nearly
4,700 square feet of living space, with six bedrooms and 5 1/2 baths.
Inside, there is a floating staircase, 2 1/2 story windows and a wine
room. Outside is a garden courtyard, swimming pool and a spa. (We're
told the spa bears an inscription from Jean Sibelius' "Finlandia.")
Now why would anyone keep bears in the spa and why would anyone want to think about Sibelius when naked and sweating.
If you, like Opera Chic, found yourself very moved by Steve Lopez's columns in the Los Angeles Times about Nathaniel Ayers back in 2005 (click and scroll down), the Juilliard musician whose career and life had been destroyed by mental illness and had been reduced to homelessness in L.A.'s skid row, and haven't seen ~The Soloist~, the based-on-a-true-story Hollywoodization of the friendship between the two men, good for you.
You've escaped the sappy script and the pointless direction that cranks up the schmaltz Lopez had tried hard to avoid, for the most part, in writing, and instead turns poor Jamie Foxx's mental illness into a series of weird, LSD-like blown-out hallucinations that make Easy Rider's oldie psychedelic moments seem well made. And maybe Foxx won't even win an Oscar for this, because that Australian dude in Shine was much cuddlier in his cinematic madness.
It's a testament to its badness that not even Beethoven himself can save the film but, at least, and despite the mandatory schmaltzy voiceover in the final scene (with a hint that leaves open the possibility that maybe Robert Downey Jr will win back the supercool Catherine Keener, a wonderful actress and seriously cool woman Opera Chic would likely go gay with if OC were twenty years older and, well, gay, and if Keener were gay too, which makes it all very complicated, but still), despite the voiceover we were saying, Beethoven in all his might -- the might of his Ninth Symphony's Adagio -- almost makes the finale work.
Trying to salvage at least the ending, even Esa-Pekka Salonen appears -- magically due to a quite complicated dolly shot -- he's our favorite Finn after Sibelius (but Esa's hotter) -- is on the podium, looking quite glum (maybe he had read the script).
Anyway, on top of the post and below, two screencaps with Esa-Pekka as Hollywood actor.
Here's Esa-Pekk with his wife and one of his daughters at the film's premiere.
~*Click the link below for TONS more images of Esa-Pekk on the red carpet. You won't be disappointed! Bonus images of Los Angeles Philharmonic cellist, Ben Hong, the dude who taught the dude (Jamie Foxx) how to play the cello *~
These two are inseparable. It's like The Parent Trap, only without identical twins or Lindsay Lohan. Yefim Bronfman and BF4E&E Esa-Pekka Salonen’s untitled Piano Concerto CD is ready to drop! The Piano Concerto was originally commissioned by the NY Philharmonic, but Salonen wrote it with Bronfman in mind, his longtime collaborator who shares Esa-Pek's razor-sharp wit.
OC still considers herself lucky for catching the world preimere, which she described as, "This concerto was incredibly difficult, layered, complex, and furious.
Salonen has got mad money $kill$. It's was a mixture of trippy,
space-age, Wagnerian, Shostakovichian, new-age motifs."
"E-P in L.A.: Reinventing the Los Angeles Philharmonic": two-hour
documentary Sunday, April 5, 4 p.m.
"Live from Walt Disney Concert Hall: Esa-Pekka Salonen and the L.A.
Phil": A live broadcast of Salonen’s new Violin Concerto featuring
violinist Leila Josefowicz. Saturday, April 11, 8 p.m.
"Esa-Pekka Salonen’s 1984 L.A. Phil Debut Concert": Mendelssohn’s Symphony No. 4,
Ravel’s Piano Concerto, Lutoslawski’s
Symphony No. 3. Sunday, April 12, 4 p.m.
"Live from Disney Hall: Salonen’s Grand Finale": A live broadcast of
the conductor’s final performance as Music Director. Sunday,
April 19, 2 p.m.
Opera Chic is a longtime fan -- on the record since this blog's beginning in 2006 -- of Gustavo (OC's an even bigger fan of Eloisa); but E-Pek does leave a great legacy there. The d00d has a big standard -- in musical and human terms -- to keep up in L.A.
I have long been fascinated (and amused)
by the arcane spermists’ theory, who held
the belief that the sperm was in fact a “little
man” (homunculus) that was placed inside a
woman for growth into a child. This seemed
to them to neatly explain many of the mysteries
of conception. It was later pointed out
that if the sperm was a homunculus, identical
in all but size to an adult, then the
homunculus may have sperm of its own.
This led to a reductio ad absurdum, with an
endless chain of homunculi. This was not
necessarily considered by spermists a fatal
objection however, as it neatly explained how
it was that “in Adam” all had sinned: the
whole of humanity was already contained in
I decided to call my piece Homunculus
despite the obvious weaknesses of the spermists’
thinking, as I find the idea of a perfect
little man strangely moving.
In the meantime, and for those who won't be able to make it to LA on November 19, here's a taste of another piece by Esa-Pekka, from his LA Variations, here Rapidshared for your pleasure. Just click, or copy the link below:
The friends over at artsjournal alert us that the LA Phil has created a cool, videogamey website where you can find everything you might possibly want to know about their soon-to-be-former music director esa pekka salonen (EVERYTHING but his phone number; OC is not giving that up, sorry)
Even if the scawyness of the program was toned down, E-Pek got his Grand Macabre on (and his rawks off) unleashing -- and this is truly genius -- Canadian soprano/ sultry goth chick Barbara Hannigan on Ligeti's score:
Hannigan showed up in a leather coat and boots and apparent wig to sing “Mysteries of the Macabre,” a compilation from Ligeti’s opera “Le Grand Macabre.” It’s a weird and funny piece in which the character, Gepopo, the Chief of Police in a fantastical land, sings in code and goes haywire in the process, like a robot on speed. It’s a coloratura tour de force, the orchestra cackling, squeaking and burping in support, and Hannigan threw herself into it with considerable success.
At the end, the “Firebird” finale came festooned with some nifty indoor fireworks (really), timed to the beats in the music. No one was hurt.
It's all fun until you consider that there are only 22 E-Pek concerts to go until he leaves L.A.