Spotlight: Terfel Takes Houston; Two Netrebko Biographies

Classic Arts News   Spotlight: Terfel Takes Houston; Two Netrebko Biographies
What the stars are up to, onstage and off.

Superstar mezzo-soprano Cecilia Bartoli says her next album, due out this fall, will focus on Baroque works that have a connection to Rome, her beloved hometown. The disc, which was recorded with conductor Marc Minkowski and the Musiciens du Louvre, includes music by Handel, Caldara, and Scarlatti that was written during a tumultuous but artistically fertile period in Rome's history. Bartoli will be hoping for a repeat of the enormous critical and commercial success she scored with her last album, which was devoted to music by Salieri. The Salieri disc was a revelation to music-lovers who only knew the composer as Mozart's nemesis in the play and movie Amadeus, and it garnered prestigious awards in Belgium, Japan, Germany, and the U.K.

Bartoli, who is appearing in Rossini's Il Turco in Italia at Covent Garden in May and June, ramps up her tour schedule this fall with a series of concert appearances in the United States that coincide with the release of the new album. In October, the mezzo will appear in Berkeley, Davis, and Los Angeles, California, as well as Chicago, New York, Boston and Washington.

China's equivalent of the Grammys—the Chinese Music Media Awards—have added a Best Classical Artist category for the first time this year, and piano phenom Lang Lang is one of the nominees. The spiky-haired 22-year-old is competing against composers Chen Qigang and Huang Zi, violinist Huang Bin, and cellist Wang Jian. Lang is an international sensation and a hero back home, thanks in part to a flamboyant style that generates buzz everywhere he goes. Although his idiosyncratic interpretations rile critics, Lang's playfulness and his frequent appearances in non-traditional venues have won him a huge following and helped make his discs best-sellers. Lang has performed on NBC's Tonight show and he will be featured in episodes of the children's television program Sesame Street on May 18, June 15, July 13, and August 25. But he isn't neglecting his concert career: composer Jennifer Higdon is working on a concerto for him, and he is performing with the Philadelphia Orchestra and its music director, Christoph Eschenbach, throughout this month, both in Philadelphia and on tour in the Far East.

Soprano Anna Netrebko, 34, is the subject of not one but two fawning new celebrity bios published in Europe. The books, both by German journalists, portray the Russian-born singer in the breathless prose of Hollywood fan magazines, mixing "banal facts" and manufactured hype, according to one German newspaper. The books are likely to find readers among the legions who are smitten with opera's glamour girl. Netrebko, whose DVDs are marketed like pop music videos, enthralls fans with both her voice and her own personal Cinderella story. Born in a small Russian town, Netrebko was cleaning floors at the St. Petersburg's Mariinsky Theater to pay her way through the conservatory when conductor Valery Gergiev discovered her. In 2004, Netrebko added to her fairy tale mystique by playing herself in the Disney movie The Princess Diaries 2. Despite her pop-star aura, the diva has insisted she will never cross over into popular music. Her upcoming engagements are certainly serious: She will appear in Rigoletto in London in June and plans to spend August at the Salzburg Festival singing the demanding role of Violetta in La traviata.

The Houston Grand Opera wraps up its 50th-anniversary season this month and bass-baritone Bryn Terfel, making his debut with the esteemed company, is stealing the show. Terfel, singing one of his signature roles, Verdi's Falstaff, has been dominating the stage and mesmerizing audiences, prompting the Houston Chronicle to declare, "Terfel is the man." The season-ending performances of Falstaff are part of a triumphant spring for both Terfel and the HGO. In addition to singing in Falstaff, Terfel joined stars such as Elton John and Roger Moore in a gala anniversary concert on April 30. Besides singing a selection from Wagner's Tannh‹user, Terfel appeared with one of the gala's headliners, soprano Ren_e Fleming, for "Bess You is My Woman Now" from Gershwin's Porgy and Bess. The event netted the HGO $2.5 million.

All of this is good news to fans of the Welsh bass-baritone, who were concerned this winter when vocal problems forced Terfel to cancel several performances in England. Meanwhile, Terfel could score another triumph this month. He is in the running for three awards in the Classical Brits, including Male Artist of the Year. The awards will be presented at the Royal Albert Hall in London on May 25.

The remarkable percussionist Evelyn Glennie plans to spend July and August performing in some Britain's most beautiful and historic churches. Her recital tour will build on the last summer's successful Concerts in Churches series. Before visiting the British countryside, however, Glennie has a series of engagements in North America, during which she will present several major premieres. Glennie just wrapped up a stint with the Los Angeles Philharmonic, where she is a resident artist, and will be in Vancouver May 20 and 21 to perform Bright Sheng's new Colors of Crimson for marimba and orchestra. She will also perform a free recital in New York on June 26 as part of the Free for All at Town Hall series before jetting to the Aspen Music Festival, where she is scheduled present the U.S. premiere of Spirit Voices by Steven Stucky, the winner of the 2005 Pulitzer Prize for composition. Along the way, in early June, she'll make a quick stop in Massachusetts to pick up an honorary degree from Williams College. Glennie, who plays an amazing array of percussion instruments, is profoundly deaf and speaks frequently about the needs of people with disabilities.

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