The Orchestre symphonique de Montréal announces an international festival devoted to bel canto in Knowlton

2008-07-25, from Member

Montreal, May 21, 2008 — The Orchestre symphonique de Montréal and its music director, Kent Nagano, announce that a festival will be taking place devoted to bel canto (“beautiful singing”). The festival, which will be held from August 15 to 24 in the historic village of Knowlton, is a presentation of the OSM and Rome’s Accademia Nazionale Santa Cecilia in association with Bombardier. The OSM wishes to enhance its summertime programming – something it has offered for many years now – by repositioning the timeframe, setting and repertoire of its summer festival and in so doing expand the development of its audience. This first edition of the festival will be held under the distinguished patronage of Italian soprano Renata Scotto. Madam Scotto, one of the great singers of the second half of the 20th century, today devotes herself to teaching, among other ways as master of voice at the Accademia.

“Among all the musical instruments, the human voice occupies a very special place,” states OSM music director Kent Nagano. “It is considered by many the most beautiful of instruments, capable of translating the passions and torments of the human soul in the most eloquent manner. For my colleagues at the OSM and myself it is important to honour, to share and to bring to life the great tradition of Italian bel canto today. We wish to provide a wider public with the possibility of discovering and enjoying this form of vocal art. And this is one more way of innovating and enriching our educational mission.”

Two weekends with the OSM and free events

Six concerts under the tent

In the environs of Brome Lake, in a rustic and intimate setting, six concerts spread out over two weekends will be presented in a tent accommodating 600 spectators. Two performances in a concert version of the opera Norma, Vincenzo Bellini’s masterpiece, will take place on Sunday, August 17 and 24, at 3 p.m. Mezzo-soprano Jennifer Larmore and pianist Antoine Palloc will launch the Festival on August 15 at 8 p.m. in a major recital with piano. On August 16 at 8 p.m., soprano June Anderson and four young singers from the Accademia Nazionale di Santa Cecilia will take the stage with the OSM and Kent Nagano to perform some of the most beautiful arias and ensembles by Rossini and Donizetti. The coloratura soprano Sumi Jo, meanwhile, will be featured at an evening dedicated to Mozart, Rossini, Donizetti and Bellini under the direction of Kent Nagano on August 22 at 8 p.m. This concert will be presented in Montreal as well, on August 20, as part of the Mozart Plus series, again under Kent Nagano. On a more popular note, well-known singer Gino Vannelli will be doing a show of Italian songs inspired by his most recent album, entitled “Canto,” with the Orchestre symphonique de Sherbrooke under the direction of Stéphane Laforest.


August 15-16-17
• Opening recital with Jennifer Larmore
• June Anderson and young singers from the Accademia under the direction of Kent Nagano
• Bellini’s Norma
opera in a concert version with the OSM and Kent Nagano

August 22-23-24
• Sumi Jo sings Mozart, Donizetti and Bellini with the OSM and Kent Nagano
• Gino Vannelli in concert
in excerpts from his most recent disc, “Canto”
• Bellini’s Norma
opera in a concert version with the OSM and Kent Nagano

And six free events

The programming includes free events during the day on the weekends: a concert featuring young singers from the Atelier lyrique de l’Opéra de Montréal; a concert by the Chœur classique de l’Estrie led by François Panneton, giving pride of place to area artists; and a chamber-music concert with OSM musicians and soprano Marianne Fiset. In addition, master classes will be offered by mezzo-soprano Jennifer Larmore and the Accademia’s head of voice, Massimiliano Murrali.

Partnership with the Accademia nazionale Santa di Cecilia

This partnership with the Accademia Nazionale di Santa Cecilia is the result of an initiative of OSM music director Maestro Kent Nagano and Professor Bruno Cagli, president of the Accademia Nazionale Santa Cecilia and who will be present in Knowlton. Founded in 1585, the Accademia is one of the world’s most renowned music institutions, as much for the exceptional role it plays in education as for the excellence of its orchestra and chorus. Renata Scotto, patron of the Festival, is currently master of voice at the Accademia. A bel canto festival in Rome will take place from September 12 to 29, 2008.

As Professor Cagli explains, the Accademia was founded at the time of the great polyphonists (Palestrina, Vittoria, Gesualdo, Marenzio), just before the birth of opera: “We work regularly with Renata Scotto and other musicians to maintain the great tradition of bel canto, an essential part of the history of music. We are convinced of the need to offer an exact representation of the great vocal repertoire but also of the need to guide young singers in their professional apprenticeship. We hope that the collaboration between Santa Cecilia and the OSM, between these two worlds, will excite the interest of those who appreciate good music and will lead us to further initiatives in the future.”

A number of artistic and educational collaborations are being born out of this partnership between the OSM and the Accademia. The bel canto festivals in Knowlton and Rome will present the same opera: Vincenzo Bellini’s Norma conducted by Maestro Kent Nagano with Micaela Carosi and John Relyae. Singers from the Accademia di Santa Cecilia have been invited to Knowlton to share the stage with soprano June Anderson. Moreover, teaching is at the heart of the partnership, with master classes, scholarships offered by the Accademia for advanced study in Rome, and a training program for young singers. Finally, violinist Riccardo Minasi, a specialist in early instruments (style and practice) from the Accademia, will act as advisor for the performances of Norma.

Norma by Vincenzo Bellini

If the repertoire can be said to contain the very incarnation of bel canto, an opera against which the legends of singing have gauged themselves since its premiere, that work is truly Vincenzo Bellini’s Norma. The chosen ground of the greatest female voices, the title role brings together all the attributes of the prima donna assoluta: diaphanous purity of line and phrasing, ethereal high notes, perfect mastery of breathing and dynamics, and virtuosity and stylistic elegance coupled with a dramatic instinct reserved for the greatest tragedians.

The decision to sing Norma represents a turning point, the reaching of a major milestone in a vocal career. Italian soprano Micaela Carosi will tackle the role for the very first time in Knowlton under the direction of Kent Nagano and backed by a high-calibre cast, before redoing the role in Rome the following month with the Orchestra dell’Accademia Nazionale Santa Cecilia again under Kent Nagano.

Bel canto: the background

The origins of bel canto are virtually indivisible from those of opera in Italy. From Jacopo Peri’s Euridice (1600) to Bellini’s Norma (1831) by way of works by Cavalieri, Caccini, Monteverdi, Rossini, Donizetti and a number of lesser known composers, the art and science of “beautiful singing” evolved according to principles and techniques handed down over the centuries by the greatest performers to a handful of carefully selected students, the trustees of an invaluable treasure. The predominance of bel canto in Italy (and its influence right across Europe) obviously had important repercussions on vocal music written after 1845 – the first name that comes to mind being that of Verdi.

Bel canto enjoyed a new golden age during the first third of the 19th century when Rossini (1792-1868), Donizetti (1797-1848) and Bellini (1801-1835), smitten by classical ideals, lent their incomparable melodic gifts to the most beautiful voices of their time, fostering a virtuosity always at the service of expression. Soaring cantilenas, cascades of coloratura, runs, trills and other vocal fireworks – the most endowed singers found their abilities glorified by the pens of these composers of genius. Inspired by the magnetism and the personality of their performers, and laying the foundation for a veritable cult of the diva or divo par excellence – in the best sense of the terms – they devoted their creative talent to that most beautiful of instruments, the one that conveys with greatest eloquence the passions and torments of the soul: the human voice.

Closer to our era, the words bel canto evoke, for lovers of the vocal arts, a sort of Eden restored. Maria Callas, Joan Sutherland, Montserrat Caballé, Luciano Pavarotti, Marilyn Horne and Renata Scotto in the second half of the 20th century succeeded in restoring a lost art its letters patent, while in our time June Anderson, Sumi Jo and Jennifer Larmore have been some of the heirs to this great tradition.

Important partners

The Orchestre symphonique de Montréal wishes to thank Bombardier for its important collaboration in carrying out this Festival. Mr. Laurent Beaudoin, chairman of the board and chief executive officer of Bombardier Inc., stated: “Bombardier is extremely happy to be sponsoring the very first edition of the International Bel Canto Festival, which is taking place this summer in the enchanting setting of Knowlton. We are proud to promote an event that, in concert with the OSM, celebrates vocal art, itself synonymous with discipline and passion, values that Bombardier holds dear. I invite the public to turn out for the event in great numbers – and I wish this festival long life.”

The OSM also thanks its government partners: the Ministère des Affaires municipales et des Régions du Québec and the Ministère du Tourisme du Québec. The Bel Canto Festival could not have seen the light without the generous support of Ms. Constance Pathy and Mr. Jean-Marc Eustache, without the backing of the elected representatives of the village of Knowlton and the Town of Brome Lake and without the mobilization of a good number of citizens and businesspeople in the Brome-Missisquoi area.

For the honorary president of the Festival, Mr. Marco Genoni, president of the Knowlton chamber of commerce, “The extraordinary beauty of nature here, the renowned gastronomy and the abundant historical character of the village were some of the factors in the choice of Knowlton as the setting for the Festival. A decisive element was the community itself, of Knowlton and of the region: a community that answered the call with enthusiasm and generosity, a community rich in tradition. I thank the Town of Brome Lake, which will be a major partner in the organization of the Festival.”

Tickets on sale at 1-888-842-9951 (toll-free) or 514-842-9951
or at www.osm.ca  or www.festivalbelcanto.ca  



Source:
Lucie Paquin
Head of Media Relations
(514) 840-7414
lpaquin@osm.ca  

Marie-Josée Desrochers
Senior Director, Communications and Marketing
(514) 840-7416
mjdesrochers@osm.ca  

 
 

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