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From the moment the curtain rises, this 110-minute non-stop thriller captures the dark and bloody world where ambition and revenge run rampant. Nmon Ford as Macbeth is “compelling, weak, nervous, delusional in his courageousness. His voice crisp and burnished.” (Opera News).
The 26-year-old Swiss-American composer Bloch wrote this highly dramatic version in 1906. He invests Shakespeare’s original text with an emotional, hair-raising score of tremendous power, “teeming with Richard Strauss flourishes and echoes of Wagner…. a gripping, close-up case for a rare piece that deserves to be heard.” (Los Angeles Times). Experience this long overdue Chicago Premiere.
Ernest Bloch was twenty-four years old when he began to sketch the music of his opera, Macbeth. For months he and his friend, the poet Edmond Fleg, had been trying out all sorts of ideas for lyrical theater on which to collaborate. On June 26, 1904, Bloch wrote that he was not too interested in the idea of Macbeth, that what he really wanted to write was a work of "great gaiety." In the following six months he changed his mind, for the next mention of Macbeth is on December 7, when he began to sketch the music of the Prologue, and on the 27th he writes that he has finished sketching the first Tableau, "certainly not material of great gaiety!"
For five years he worked on the opera, when he was not involved in his parents' business in Geneva, raising a family, giving lectures at the University of Lausanne, and conducting concerts there and in Neuchatel. It is hard to imagine how he could keep the continuity of such an opera with the sort of life he led, but Macbeth was the thread that held him together. His conception of the music was to express the inner ferments of the characters, more important to him than the actual external drama. With little encouragement from his countrymen, with no financial subsidy, he was stirred by an immense inner force. He exulted, he despaired, he slashed, he rewrote.
In 1907, when the music was almost all composed, Bloch had a chance to play it at a salon at the home of the son of George Bizet. Among the persons who heard it were the famous singer, Lucienne Breval, and critic Pierre Lalo. Both were enthused and arranged an interview for Bloch and Fleg with Albert Carre, director of the Paris Opera Comique. Carre at once signed up for the rights of performance of Macbeth within two years, an unheard of thing in Paris, to bring out the work of two young unknowns who were not even French.
In September 1909, Bloch finished the opera, copying the orchestral score himself, a tremendous job of several hundred pages; and on November 30, 1910, in Paris, after all sorts of upheavals and intrigues which Bloch reacted to dramatically in contrast with Fleg's calm and serene irony. Macbeth had its first performance. There were thirteen performances in all, which met with mixed reactions -- either tremendous admirations or complete dislike.
Bloch cherished a letter from a young woman musician, telling of her appreciation to Bloch and signed Nadia Boulanger. At the same time, Gabriel Faure, Boulanger's teacher, wrote that he was impressed by the opera but disturbed by the violence, the "laideurs" in the work. He felt that even though there was ugliness in the drama the music shouldn't necessarily express it. Piere Lalo wrote in praise of the work. Romain Rolland and others felt their faith in the young composer had been justified.
After the premiere in Paris teh opera lay unperformed for twenty-eight years. In 1938 it was revived at Teatro San Carlo in Naples where due to the anti-semitic edict by Mussolini the performances were halted. It was performed again in 1953 in Rome and then 1957 in Trieste. There followed performances in Brussels in 1958 and the following year after Bloch's death, at La Scala in Milan. -Suzanne Bloch "ERNEST BLOCH: Creative Spirit".
The story is essentially that of the Shakespeare play, with the five acts compressed to three. The opera contains seven tableaux, with the prelude comprising the first tableau, and each of the three acts containing two tableaux.
The themes illustrated in Macbeth include ambition, fate, deception and treachery. Three witches decide to confront the great Scottish general Macbeth on his victorious return from a war between Scotland and Norway. The Scottish king, Duncan, decides that he will confer the title of the traitorous Cawdor on the heroic Macbeth. Macbeth, and another General called Banquo, happen upon the three witches. The witches predict that he will one day become king and Banquo's descendants will rule Scotland. Once the witches vansish, Macbeth and Banquo ponder their supernatural encounter.
Lady Macbeth, upon hearing of the witches prophecy, determines she will do all she canto see it fulfilled. When it is announced that the king will be their guest that night, she and Macbeth plot to murder him. Macbeth murders Duncan assisted by his wife who smears the blood of Duncan on the daggers of the sleeping guards. A nobleman called Macduff discovers the body. Macbeth kills the guards insisting that their daggers smeared with Duncan's blood are proof that they committed the murder. The crown passes to Macbeth. More murders ensue and the bloodied ghost of Banquo appears to Macbeth. Lady Macbeth's conscience now begins to torture her and driving her into the depths of madness where she sees blood upon her hands that cannot be washed away. Succumbing to her demons, she commits suicide. Macduff challenges Macbeth and slays him. King Duncan's son, the true heir, is crowned king of Scotland.
The creator of music of great spiritual expression, Ernest Bloch was born on 24 July 1880 in Geneva, Switzerland. In his native city, he studied violin with Louis Rey and composition with Emile Jaques-Dalcroze and later studied under Eugene Ysaye and Francois Rasse in Brussels. Bloch's principal training, however, would be in Frankfurt with Iwan Knorr, who most influenced the composer's distinct musical personality. Bloch appropriated established and novel musical elements into highly dramatic scores, often influenced by philosophical, poetic, or religious themes.
A masterly composer of music for strings, Bloch wrote four string quartets, Schelomo--A Hebrew Rhapsody (for cello and orchestra), and A Voice in the Wilderness (for orchestra and cello obbligato), which are deeply emotional works and rank among the most distinguished achievements in the neo-classic and neo-romantic idiom of early 20th-century music. Bloch's pupil Roger Sessions praised him for his special ability to express "the grandeur of human suffering." The successful premiere by the Boston Symphony of Bloch's Trois Poèmes Juifs in 1917 encouraged the composer to settle in the United States. He soon assumed the directorship of the Cleveland Institute of Music and later the San Francisco Conservatory of Music. He also taught at the University of California at Berkeley.
Bloch was distinguished in his lifetime by a long list of honors including honorary membership in the Academia Santa Cecilia in Rome, the first Gold Medal in Music of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences, the New York Music Critics' Circle Award for his String Quartet No. 2, and the same award later for his Concerto Grosso No. 2 and String Quartet No. 3. He was also the recipient of numerous honorary degrees.
Mr. Mitisek has been the General Director of Chicago Opera Theater since June of 2012. He has also been Artistic and General Director of Long Beach Opera (LBO) since 2003. A native of Austria, he served as Artistic and music Director of the Wiener Operntheater from 1990 – 1997, the foremost contemporary opera company in Austria. Mr. Mitisek has conducted at the Wiener Volksoper, the Komische Oper in Berlin, the festival “Wien Modern”, the Wiener Konzerthaus and Musikverein, and others. He is also sought after as a guest conductor in North America, leading productions for the Seattle Opera, Opera Company of Philadelphia, Vancouver Ope4ra, Austin Lyric Opera, Hawaii Opera Theater, Opera Theatre of St. Louis, amongst other. His work as director and designer for site-specific productions in parking garages, swimming pools, night clubs, and warehouses has become a successful hall mark of his work with LBO, and his first such production with COT, Ricky Ian Gordon’s Orpheus and Euridice, was critically and publicly acclaimed. He is dedicated to attracting new audiences to COT by exploring unorthodox venues and presenting new and rare works (a key attribute of his leadership at LBO). Mitisek is on the board of directors for OPERA AMERICA, the national service organization for US opera companies. Mitisek has been named by Opera News as one of the 25 people that will be a major force in the field of opera in the coming decade. Mitisek was featured as a LA Tastemaker by LA Times Magazine in 2009, Arts Leader of the Year by the Long Beach Arts Council in 2009, and was highlighted as one of the “2012 People” by LA Weekly. Recent COT credits include: conductor, stage director and production designer, Maria de Buenos Aires; director and production designer, Orpheus and Euridice; conductor, The Fall of the House of Usher.
Mr. Milioto is excited to continue his string of successful collaborations with Chicago Opera Theater, having recently conducted the double bill of The Emperor of Atlantis and The Clever One. Following his work with COT, he will once again join the staff of the Lyric Opera of Chicago, as cover conductor for productions of Strauss' Capriccio and Puccini's Tosca. As Music Director of the Skokie Valley Symphony Orchestra Mr. Milioto has planned concerts for his eighth season that will highlight the music of Jewish composers, explore music and the written word, and show an exciting juxtaposition of opera and musical theater. His eighth year as Principal Conductor of the Highland Park Strings will see him lead Beethoven's Pastoral Symphony, Brahms' Symphony No 1, and collaborate with many talented local artists such as the Lincoln Trio. Also upcoming, Mr. Milioto will conduct a performance of Bartok's Bluebeard's Castle with the New Millennium Orchestra, with which he also collaborated on COT's production of Giovanna d'Arco. In addition to leading Access Contemporary Music's Composer ALIVE project and the Sound of Silent Film Festival, he will soon release the album 1,001 Afternoons in Chicago. This album is the culmination of a wonderful collaboration with Strawdog Theater Company, and will be performed live on WFMT this spring. Mr. Milioto will conduct the second annual Emilio del Rosario International Piano Competition with the New Millennium Orchestra, and is working closely with the Ravinia Festival's outreach program to develop a Peter & the Wolf production for children. www.francescomilioto.com
A featured soloist on 2010’s Grammy Award-winning Transmigrations (Telarc) and 2006’s 4-time Grammy Award-winning (including “Best Classical Recording”) Songs of Innocence and of Experience (Naxos), Los Angeles native Nmon Ford appeared most recently with the symphonies of St. Louis and Atlanta (Carmina Burana), Opéra National de Bordeaux (Jochanaan, Salome), Michigan Opera Theater (Zurga, The Pearl Fishers), Teatro Comunale di Bologna (Don Giovanni), Sferisterio Festival in Italy (Attila), and the Grafenegg Festival (Austria). Under the auspices of the Claremont Colleges, he sang his first performances as Wotan (Die Walküre). He made his Ravinia debut with James Conlon and the Chicago Symphony in Shostakovich’s 13th Symphony, and he has soloed with the Los Angeles Philharmonic, the New York Philharmonic, and the Pittsburgh Symphony. Nmon was vocal arranger and lead singer for the CD Vai DaCapo – Songs of Delight (Billboard Top 20 – Classical) and has performed lead roles in several festival-bound feature films.
A multi-faceted artist, Suzan combines work in Opera, Music Theater and Theater. Last seen at COT as Giovanna in Giovanna d’Arco, Suzan’s impressive list of operatic heroines include Cherubini’s Medea (in Suzan’s new adaptation), Lady Macbeth, Cio-Cio San, Rosalinda, Tatiana, Pat Nixon, Floyd’s Susannah, Olympia-Antonia-Giulietta, Magda, Fiordiligi, Donna Anna, Countess Almaviva, Marilyn Klinghoffer, as well as Poulenc’s La Voix Humane. Suzan has performed with Arena di Verona, Arizona Opera, Carnegie Hall, Edinburgh, Long Beach Opera, Maggio Musicale (Florence), New Israeli Opera, Pittsburgh Opera Theater, Sacramento Opera, San Francisco Opera, Spoleto Festivals, and Virginia Opera. Frequently sought for new works, Suzan has originated many roles, including Eurydice in Orpheus X by Rinde Eckert, Hanako in Sound of a Voice and Raven in White Raven both by Phillip Glass, to name but a few. Theater roles include Maria in Wintertime, Lily in The Secret Garden, Sharon on the National Tour of Master Class, opposite Fate Dunaway’s Maria Callas.
Mr. Scholten has been hailed as “an excellent baritone with notable intelligence and trenchant musicality” (Opera News). This spring he made his Fort Worth Opera debut, where, as Guglielmo in Mozart’s Così fan Tutte, he was praised for his “even and creamy” baritone (Theater Jones). Mr. Scholten is a recent alumnus of the prestigious Lyric Opera of Chicago Ryan Opera Center, where he appeared in twelve productions over two seasons including Dancaïro in Carmen, The Wigmaker in Ariadne auf Naxos, Happy in La Fanciulla del West as well as many others. Other recent engagements include Sharpless in Madama Butterfly with DuPage Opera Theatre, Baburov in Shostakovich’s Moscow Cheryomushki with Chicago Opera Theater, Der Vater in Hänsel und Gretel with the Macon Symphony Orchestra, the title role in Tchaikovsky’s Eugene Onegin with the Opera Company of Middlebury and the role of the General in a Metropolitan Opera Workshop of Scott Wheeler’s new opera The Sorrows of Frederick.
Recently: Enoch Snow, Carousel, Glimmerglass Festival; Count Ivrea, Un Giorno di Regno, Glimmerglass Festival; Spoletta, Tosca, Pensacola Opera; Soldier, Wozzeck, Santa Fe Opera; Almaviva, Il Barbiere di Siviglia, Maryland Opera Studio. Don Ramiro, La Cenerentola, Seagle Music Colony; Jean Val-Jean, Les Miserables, Footlite Musicals; Solo Artist, Duke Energy's Yuletide Celebration, Indianapolis Symphony Orchestra
Recently: Madame Cortese, Il Viaggio a Reims, CCPA; Title role, Suor Angelica, CCPA; Jenny, Three Sisters Who are Not Sisters, CCPA; Title role, Suor Angelica, International Lyric Academy.
Recently: Mimì, La bohème, Tuscia Opera Festival; Fiordiligi, Così fan tutte, Tuscia Opera Festival; Giorgetta, Il tabarro, CCPA; Upcoming: Jessie, Mahogany Songspiel, CCPA.
Recently: The Drummer, The Emperor of Atlantis, Chicago Opera Theater; Rosina, The Barber of Seville, Opera Colorado Outreach; Carmen, Carmen, Opera Colorado Outreach; Marchesa Melibea, Il Viaggio a Reims, CCPA.