In a recent interview, where he discussed returning to the podium at The Metropolitan Opera to conduct a revival of Dvorak’s Rusalka, Philly’s own Yannick Nezet-Seguin raved about the show’s star, soprano Renee Fleming. “Anything sung by Renee Fleming becomes the most gorgeous music,” said The Philadelphia Orchestra music director. “There is just something special about Renee and Rusalka,” And he’s right. I was there at last night’s opening, and watched — ogled, even — as Ms. Fleming ascended to the top of a tree early in the first act to sing the opera’s signature aria, “Song to the Moon.”
She was dazzling, no doubt, but Mr. Nezet-Seguin is being far too humble. There’s something else “special” about this production, and that is Yannick himself. His masterful direction of Dvorak’s lush, Romantic score breathed new life into what would normally be a rather dark, dreary and downright depressing tale of ill-fated humanity.
Each January, the who’s who of Philadelphia pays big bucks to attend the Philadelphia Orchestra’s annual Academy Ball and Concert at the Academy of Music. There are glorious gowns and fine jewels. There’s lots of society gossip. And there’s always a special guest performer, with past rosters showcasing everyone from Rod Stewart and Billy Joel to Yo-Yo Ma and Lang Lang. But this year, for the 157th edition of the grand fete, the Orchestra has chosen a much more local talent: North Philadelphia-born-and-raised Jill Scott.
Now, if you’re wondering Where the hell has Jill Scott been?, it’s not an unfair question. After a long series of Grammy- nominated songs and albums and her own 2009 show on HBO (The No. 1 Ladies’ Detective Agency), Scott more or less went underground—but not without good cause. In 2009 she had a baby boy, and one year later, she was sued by her longtime record label for millions of dollars for breach of contract, tying up her life and career. That suit has since been settled.
The Philadelphia Orchestra today announced details of its upcoming 157th Academy of Music Anniversary Concert and Ball to be held Saturday, January 25, 2014, beginning at 5:30 PM. Music Director Yannick Nézet-Séguin and The Philadelphia Orchestra welcome special guest artist and Philadelphia hero Jill Scott for this magnificent evening of music, dinner, and dancing in celebration of the Academy of Music, a National Historic Landmark.
The concert on Wednesday, September 25, at 7 PM features an all-Tchaikovsky program with the incomparable virtuoso Anne-Sophie Mutter performing the composer’s Violin Concerto. Also on the program are Marche slave andRomeo and Juliet.
Yannick and Anne-Sophie toured Germany, Austria and Luxembourg in April with the London Philharmonic Orchestra and by all accounts their musical chemistry created onstage fireworks, which will be continued and transformed on stage at the Opening Night Concert with The Philadelphia Orchestra.
Just to get you in the mood, here’s an earlier version of the Philadelphia Orchestra—under conductor Eugene Ormandy—playing the opening movement to Violin Concerto in D Major.
Plane delays suck. But they suck a little less when the Philadelphia Orchestra is onboard. The orchestra, currently on tour in China, found itself stuck on a plane in Beijing that had been sitting on the tarmac for hours. So, several members of the orchestra whipped out their instruments (apparently they were carry-on size) and entertained the crowd.
Before attending the Philadelphia Orchestra’s Friday-evening concert at Carnegie Hall—which, as its highlight, featured a stunning hundredth-anniversary performance of Stravinsky’s “Rite of Spring”—I dropped by a brief press conference and get-together at the Weill Recital Hall bar. There, Allison Vulgamore, the orchestra’s president, asked Yannick Nézet-Séguin, its new music director, questions about the ramifications of his undeniably exciting appointment and about the orchestra’s upcoming season—questions that have a special urgency, since the orchestra, its board, and its staff are still emerging from several years in which its finances were shaky, audience attendance was falling precipitously, and musician-management relations were at a catastrophic low.
Such events are never free from the twin pitfalls of mock spontaneity and self-congratulation, but in this case, the congratulation is deserved. Philly’s orchestra—and, my God, what an orchestra it is—isn’t out of the woods yet. But the sense of confidence and relief with which they conversed foreshadowed the ovation that the audience, three hours later, would give Nézet-Séguin when, after the “Rite” ended, he threw his arms out to present his players: I’m here, they’re here, you’re here—it’s gonna be O.K.
The New York Times reports: “Ah, a conductor with benefits. Riding the train called Yannick Nézet-Séguin, the Philadelphia Orchestra said it will release its first recording on a major label in 16 years, on Deutsche Grammophon. Mr. Nézet-Séguin is the orchestra’s new music director, a rising star in the conducting world who has been recording for Deutsche Grammophon since 2008. The record deal shows how a highly touted conductor’s luster can bring extras. Mr. Seguin is in the middle of recording seven Mozart operas for Deutsche Grammophon and has an agreement for three orchestral recordings as conductor of the Rotterdam Philharmonic, another orchestra he leads. The Philadelphia deal comes to an orchestra that only recently emerged from bankruptcy court and is struggling to re-establish its footing.” Well. That makes it kind of sound sad instead of awesome, doesn’t it?
There’s a happier happy ending to Aidan Milligan’s story. The 9-year-old Drexel Hill boy made news last week when the Philadelphia Orchestra volunteered to replace his trombone, which was taken when he placed it outside his house—so he wouldn’t forget to take it to school with him the next morning. That was a gesture appreciated by the family of Milligan, who has Down syndrome, but they won’t need the replacement trombone after all: Police in Haverford say they’ve recovered the missing instrument. ”I’m just overjoyed, I’m delighted,” said Helen Milligan, Aidan’s mom. Police aren’t saying if anyone was arrested in the case, nor how the trombone was found [NBC 10 Philadelphia]