Bel Canto at Caramoor Presents Rossini's Semiramide July 31

Classic Arts Features   Bel Canto at Caramoor Presents Rossini's Semiramide July 31
Bel Canto at Caramoor, which opened July 18 with a stunning L'elisir d'amore closes out its season with a July 31 staging of the rarely-seen Rossini tragedy Semiramide.


The work will be sung in Italian with English supertitles at Caramoor's Venetian Theater.

Caramoor's Director of Opera Will Crutchfield, who will conduct the Orchestra of St. Luke's, chatted about the program prior to the first performance.

1. What was it like being the youngest music critic for the New York Times?

It was a fantastic education, though the people being reviewed probably deserved a more experienced listener. I tried to make up for inexperience by studying fanatically. Back then, the Times covered a lot more music than it does now, and I reviewed seven events per week. That's a lot of scores to study, because you would feel like an idiot if you're supposed to describe somebody's interpretation but you don't know the piece. So at the least, I came out of it having learned a lot of music.

2. You now find yourself creating the music that you spent years critiquing. How does your past as a music critic affect the way you approach your career as a conductor?

Once people are in a room rehearsing together, nobody is really thinking about each others' backgrounds, because we're immersed in the job. This is probably lucky for me, since musicians don't necessarily have a high opinion of critics in general.

3. This year Caramoor presents Donizetti's L'elisir d'amore and Rossini's rarely heard Semiramide. What inspired you to choose these operas?

Elisir, because we like to re-examine the familiar classics from scratch, with no pre-conceived assumptions about how they should go. That can be a real eye-opener. Semiramide, because a first-rate cast was available. It is the Mount Everest of bel canto opera.

4. Tenor Lawrence Brownlee stars in both operas this season at Caramoor. When did you first hear him?

About 2002, but this is the first summer his calendar and ours were in sync.

5. Vivica Genaux, Daniel Mobbs, Georgia Jarman, Eglise Gutierrez and Kate Aldrich are some of the artists whose careers you have helped develop. How do you find these young singers?

People tell me about them, or I meet them working in other theaters, or they show up for general auditions. In the case of Vivica, I first worked with her as an unknown substitute for another singer _ I had never heard her, so I called Speight Jenkins and said "ok, tell me frankly _ if somebody put on La cenerentola just to show her off, would she justify it?" He said "don't worry," and he was right, to say the least.

6. When did you first become interested in opera?

My dad is a tenor, so I was doomed from childhood.

7. Part of the Caramoor Bel Canto program includes presenting critical editions by opera scholar Philip Gossett. How did you get involved with Mr. Gossett?

As Philip said in his book, we have been arguing with each other for over twenty years. I sent him the draft of a scholarly article when I was just out of college, and he helped get it published, and we have been at it ever since. He is not afraid to tell me when I'm off track, whether musicologically or musically, so I always ask his advice. I'm thrilled that we can now have him at Caramoor working with our singers and introducing operas to our public.

8. What critical editions are featured in this year's Bel Canto series and how do they differ from the original works?

The point of a critical edition, hopefully, is that it brings us closer to the original work. But they do also include alternative items the composers wrote before or after the version that appears in the familiar scores. This year, we will hear a different soprano aria in Elisir and a short, poignant death scene for Semiramide. However, the main reasons for using a critical edition are more subtle. Hundreds of small improvements in articulation and detail can make a big cumulative effect, even if you don't notice each one at the time.

9. Along with opera, what other types of music do you enjoy?

Pretty much all, but especially jazz, where the improvisation is actually quite similar to what you do in bel canto.

10. This is the 13th season of Bel Canto at Caramoor. In what ways has this program developed over the past thirteen years and where would you like to see it go?

The Young Artist program has grown in budget, staff and scope, and we're very proud of it. The next step should be taking some of the operas elsewhere after they have been heard at Caramoor.

Lawrence Brownlee
photo by Dario Acosta

Both works this season feature tenor Lawrence Brownlee, who thrilled audiences worldwide with his performance in the Metropolitan Opera's Cenerentola, broadcast for the Live in HD series. Mr. Brownlee's calling�card repertoire has centered on Rossini, and Idreno in Semiramide will be his eighth role by that master of bel canto (he will later return to the Met in Armida opposite Renee Fleming).

Semiramide stars Angela Meade in the title role, Vivica Genaux as Arsace, Daniel Mobbs as Assur and Christopher Dickerson as Oroe.




Friday, 8:00pm ~ Venetian Theater

Pre-Opera Events Free for Ticket Holders:

5:00 PM "Rossini and his Singers"
Rossini was himself a good enough singer to appear often in public concerts, and his wife - the original Semiramide - was a celebrated diva. Throughout his career, he tailored his music to the greatest vocal artists of the day. This recital of intriguing rarities presents music - by Rossini and other composers, and sometimes by the singers themselves - that give us hints of the art of Colbran, Nozzari, Cinti-Damoreau, Pelligrini, Fodor, Naldi, Garcia, Bordogni, Pisaroni, Pasta, Rubini, and the other stars of Rossini's constellation. Philip Gossett and Will Crutchfield host the program; Rachelle Jonck accompanies the Bel Canto Young Artists.

6:00 PM Dinner Break

7:00 PM Pre-Opera Lecture - Philip Gossett introduces Semiramide


Tickets, priced $20-$85, may be purchased here.

For opera-only visitors on 7/31, a Caramoor Caravan will depart Grand Central Station/Vanderbilt Avenue at 4:30 PM and arrive at around 6 PM. Tickets are $19 one-way and $26 round trip. For information and reservations visit Getting to Caramoor.

Caramoor is the legacy of Walter and Lucie Rosen, who built their summer home _ now known as the historic Rosen House at Caramoor _ and filled it with their treasures. Walter Rosen was the master planner for the Caramoor estate, bringing to reality his dream of creating a place to showcase his vast collection and to entertain friends from around the world. Their musical evenings were the seeds of today's Caramoor International Music Festival. Realizing the pleasure their friends took in the beauty of Caramoor _ the house with its art collection, the gardens, and the musical programs on summer evenings _ in 1946 the Rosens established a public charity to open Caramoor to the community.

Lucie Rosen survived her husband by seventeen years. During those years, she expanded the Music Festival: the Spanish Courtyard was used as a setting for musical events, as it is today, and, under her direction, the great stage of the Venetian Theater was built.

Caramoor is often described as "a Garden of Great Music" where audiences are invited to come early, explore the beautiful grounds, take a tour of the Rosen House, visit the gift shop, enjoy a pre�concert picnic, and discover beautiful music in the relaxed settings of the Venetian Theater, Spanish Courtyard, Music Room of the Rosen House, and the magnificent gardens. With its unique heritage, Caramoor remains a place where magical summer days and nights are shared and enjoyed by thousands.

For full Festival information, visit Caramoor.

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