Leon Botstein and ASO Present Richard Strauss's 'Sex Opera' at Carnegie Hall Tonight

Whatever else you think of Richard Strauss, you can't accuse him of picking easy subjects. While Die Frau Ohne Schattenremains one of the most elusive of opera plots, Elektra among the most bloodthirsty and Salome among the most disturbing, it is the rarely-heard one-act Feuersnot that proved a step too far to Strauss's own audiences. But then what did he expect? The plot revolves around lust and sex - and the fact that it has always been regarded as possibly semi-autobiographical no doubt didn't help his cause. Yet the opera is fascinating enough that the world premiere was conducted by Gustav Mahler.

And what of audiences today? At a time when operas such as Anna Nicole and Powder Her Face have gone far further than Strauss ever did in the raunchiness stakes, are we desensitized to sex on stage, or simply less prudish? On the other hand, what does the opera - the tale of a sorcerer who deprives a town of its ability to light fire (seen as Strauss taking allegorical revenge on the critics who dismissed him as a musical rebel) until they let him take the virginity of the mayor's daughter - say about Strauss's sexual politics? We'll find out what American audiences today think of it on December 15.

This concert follows a highly successful start to the ASO's season. The acclaimed New York Avant-Garde led Zachary Woolfe in the New York Times to coin the phrase "Botsteinburg" to describe Maestro Botstein's exciting programming. The recent Elliott Carter retrospective saw the same newspaper's Steve Smith write, "When it comes to ambitious, fearless orchestral programming, there is Leon Botstein...and then there is everyone else...the orchestra played with a bravado any orchestra might envy - and ought to."

About Feuersnot, Botstein has said, "It's a spoof on other operas - on Wagner, on Tristan, as well as on romantic love. Strauss was always upset that it was never in the repertory. He always wanted it to have a second life. The time has come to look at it again - it's a delight." The cast includes Jacquelyn Wagner as Diemut, Alfred Walker as the magician, Kunrad, theCollegiate Chorale Singers and the Manhattan Girls Chorus.

$25 / $35 / $50 and subscriptions are available at americansymphony.org and by phone at 212-868-9276. Tickets are also available at CarnegieHall.org, at the Carnegie box office, or by calling CarnegieCharge at 212-247-7800. The Conductor's Notes Q&A at 1pm in Stern Auditorium is free with concert ticket

Leon Botstein recently celebrated his 20th year as Music Director and Principal Conductor of the American Symphony Orchestra. He is also co-Artistic Director of the Summerscape and Bard Music Festivals at Bard College, where Mr. Botstein has been President since 1975. In addition he is also Conductor Laureate of the Jerusalem Symphony Orchestra, where he served as Music Director from 2003-2011.

Mr. Botstein leads an active schedule as a guest conductor all over the world, and can be heard on numerous recordings. He has just returned from Venezuela and Japan where he conducted the Sinfónica Juvenil de Caracas, the first non-Venezuelan conductor invited by El Sistema to conduct on a tour. Many of his live performances with the American Symphony Orchestra are available for download online. The Los Angeles Times called this summer's Los Angeles Philharmonic performance under Mr. Botstein "the all-around most compelling performance of anything I've heard all summer at the Bowl."

Highly regarded as a music historian, Mr. Botstein is the editor of The Musical Quarterly and the author of numerous articles and books. Last year he was invited to give the prestigious Tanner Lectures in Berkeley, CA. For his contributions to music he has received the award of the American Academy of Arts and Letters and Harvard University's prestigious Centennial Award, as well as the Cross of Honor, First Class from the government of Austria. In 2009 he received Carnegie Foundation's Academic Leadership Award, and in 2011 was inducted into the American Philosophical Society. He is also the 2012 recipient of the Leonard Bernstein Award for the Elevation of Music in Society. In 2013, following in the footsteps of Sir John Barbirolli, Otto Klemperer, and others, Mr. Botstein received the Bruckner Society's Julio Kilenyi Medal of Honor for his interpretations of that composer's music.

ABOUT American Symphony Orchestra
The American Symphony Orchestra was founded 50 years ago by Leopold Stokowski, with the avowed intention of making orchestral music accessible and affordable for everyone. Under Music Director Leon Botstein, Stokowski's mission is not only intact but thrives. And beyond that, the ASO has become a pioneer in what The Wall Street Journal called "a new concept in orchestras," presenting concerts curated around various themes drawn from the visual arts, literature, politics, and history, and unearthing rarely-performed masterworks for well-deserved revival. These concerts are performed in the Vanguard Series at Carnegie Hall.

The orchestra also gives the celebrated concert series Classics Declassified at Peter Norton Symphony Space, and regularly performs at the Richard B. Fisher Center for the Performing Arts at Bard College, where it appears in a winter subscription series as well as Bard's annual SummerScape Festival and the Bard Music Festival. In 2010, the ASO became the resident orchestra of The Collegiate Chorale, performing regularly in the Chorale's New York concert series. The orchestra has made several tours of Asia and Europe, and has performed in countless benefits for organizations including the Jerusalem Foundation and PBS.

Many of the world's most accomplished soloists have performed with the ASO, among them Yo-Yo Ma, Deborah Voigt and Sarah Chang. In addition to CDs released by the Telarc, New World, Bridge, Koch, and Vanguard labels, many live performances by the American Symphony are now available for digital download. In many cases, these are the only existing recordings of some of the rare works that have been rediscovered in ASO performances.

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