NY Philharmonic's Alan Gilbert Conducts Premiere of Le Grand Macabre May 27

Music Director Alan Gilbert will conduct the New York Philharmonic in the New York Premiere of Le Grand Macabre, the absurdist opera by György Ligeti, in a staged production directed and designed by Douglas Fitch and produced by Edouard Getaz, Thursday, May 27, 2010, at 7:30 p.m., and Friday, May 28, and Saturday, May 29, at 8:00 p.m. Single tickets for the performances are $31 to $112 and can be purchased online at nyphil.org or by calling (212) 875-5656. Tickets may also be purchased at the Avery Fisher Hall Box Office or the Alice Tully Hall Box Office at Lincoln Center, Broadway at 65th Street.  On Tuesday, May 11 at 6:30 PM Alan Gilbert and Douglas Fitch will participate in an Insights Series Event, Conversation About Le Grand Macabre, at the Stanley H. Kaplan Penthouse. Tickets are $20. 

The opera will be performed in English, and the production, created by Giants Are Small, will feature "live animation" - a technique consisting of puppeteering miniature elements in front of a camera and projecting the result in real time to create moving images that are synched with the orchestra and soloists' live performance - as well as full costumes designed by Tony Award-winner Catherine Zuber and lighting designed by Clifton Taylor.

Le Grand Macabre, with its surreal, carnival-like atmosphere, swirling soundscape, and ironic and darkly humorous storyline, was premiered in Stockholm in 1978, but has never been performed in its entirety in New York. The German libretto, by Michael Meschke, was inspired by La Balade du grand macabre, a 1934 farce by the Belgian avant-garde dramatist Michel de Ghelderode. The text in the New York Philharmonic's production will be performed in English, in a translation prepared by Geoffrey Skelton. Set in an "anytime" century, Le Grand Macabre follows a character named Nekrotzar - who may or may not represent Death - as he arrives in the fantastical kingdom of Breughelland, a city of skyscrapers strewn with litter and populated by vagrants, to announce the end of the world. Nekrotzar encounters a variety of whimsical and grotesque characters, including the drunkard Piet the Pot; Prince Go-Go, Breughelland's obese boy ruler; the lovers Amanda and Amando; the transvestite astronomer Astradamors and his nymphomaniac wife Mescalina; and a host of others. The events ultimately raise the question: do the characters really face impending doom, or has it all been a farce? Ligeti's music for the opera involves a diverse melding of sonorities that begins with a rhythmic toccata for car horns and maintains a breathless and exhilarating level of energy and invention over the opera's two-hour course.

The cast will include soprano Barbara Hannigan (as Gepopo), in her New York Philharmonic debut; soprano Kiera Duffy (Venus); soprano Jennifer Black (Amanda), in her Philharmonic debut; mezzo-soprano Renée Tatum (Armando); countertenor Anthony Roth Costanzo (Prince Go-Go), in his Philharmonic debut; mezzo-soprano Melissa Parks (Mescalina), in her Philharmonic debut; tenor Mark Schowalter (Piet the Pot), in his Philharmonic debut; baritone Joshua Bloom (The Black Minister), in his Philharmonic debut; bass-baritone Eric Owens (Nekrotzar), making his Philharmonic subscription debut; bass Wilbur Pauley (Astradamors); and tenor Peter Tantsits (The White Minister); with the New York Choral Artists, Joseph Flummerfelt, director.

"Le Grand Macabre is a highlight of the season for me," says Music Director Alan Gilbert. "It's a fantastic, fantastical contemporary opera. It's basically about the existential crisis in the modern world; about finding meaning in life, wondering whether - with all the nonsense and craziness that's going on in the world - it all amounts to a hill of beans. It's a very strange score in many ways, but it also has amazingly traditional, lush melodies. It's about trying to find order and meaning, and there are lots of symbolic and grotesque and unusual characters. It's a real theatrical tour de force and will provide something dramatic as well as musical for everyone to identify with."
Director/designer Douglas Fitch, who has a long history of collaboration with Mr. Gilbert, calls the opera "a sophisticated farce, a satire that dips into the realm of chaos." He adds: "I see it as an operatic form of a memento mori, with symbols about how time is flying quickly and you have to grab the meaning of it as quickly as you can. For the production, we create a moving image over the orchestra that's constantly changing, constantly transforming, almost like a piece of visual alchemy."

For more information about Le Grand Macabre, visit nyphil.org/macabre.

Single tickets for the Insights Series event on May 11 are $20. Single tickets for the performances are $31 to $112. Tickets for Pre-Concert Talks are $5. Tickets for the Open Rehearsal are $16.00. Tickets for the Musical Supper are $150, with concert ticket required for purchase. All tickets may be purchased online at nyphil.org or by calling (212) 875-5656, 10:00 a.m. to 8:00 p.m., Monday through Saturday, and 12:00 noon to 5:00 p.m. on Sunday. Tickets may also be purchased at the Avery Fisher Hall Box Office or the Alice Tully Hall Box Office at Lincoln Center, Broadway at 65th Street. The Box Office opens at 10:00 a.m. Monday through Saturday, and at noon on Sunday. On performance evenings, the Box Office closes one-half hour after performance time; other evenings it closes at 6:00 p.m. A limited number of $12 tickets for select concerts may be available through the Internet for students within 10 days of the performance, or in person the day of. Valid identification is required. To determine ticket availability, call the Philharmonic's Customer Relations Department at (212) 875-5656.

Photo Courtesy New York Philharmonic: Alan Gilbert, Music Director

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