Teatro Nuovo to Celebrate The Centenary Of Maria Callas With CALLAS: PAST AND FUTURE

A day-long activity at El Museo del Barrio on December 2.

By: Oct. 11, 2023
Teatro Nuovo to Celebrate The Centenary Of Maria Callas With CALLAS: PAST AND FUTURE
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Teatro Nuovo announced today an all-day celebration of the 100th birthday of Maria Callas,  on December 2 at El Museo del Barrio (1230 Fifth Avenue), next door to the great soprano's birthplace. 

“Teatro Nuovo, like all performers and fans of Bel Canto, owes everything to Callas,” said company director Will Crutchfield. “She opened doors that might otherwise have remained closed for many years.” 

Though Callas's career was brief, she reached levels of recognition unparalleled in the 20th century. For many opera-lovers, her recordings still provide the most meaningful expressive contact with the great roles she sang. “Teatro Nuovo's celebration honors the past in which she lived by assembling some expert opera-goers to share their recollections of seeing her on stage, and honors the future she made possible by putting her legacy to work in the here and now” said Crutchfield. 

Events will begin with an introductory talk at 2:30 p.m., followed by a live demonstration of the way young singers can put Callas's examples to constructive work in their own technical and musical development. A panel discussion by those who witnessed her legendary New York performances follows; after that, the diva's fans have their chance to compete for prizes in a Callas Trivia contest. 

Following a break for dinner comes the celebratory concert showcasing six of the leading ladies who have headlined Teatro Nuovo's acclaimed summer opera productions, supported by additional soloists and the Teatro Nuovo Chorus in music by Rossini, Donizetti, Bellini, and Verdi.  More details follow below. Tickets are now on sale at TeatroNuovo.org.

A TRANSITION AT TEATRO NUOVO

Also announced today was the departure of Philip Pierce, who has been the company's Executive Director since 2019. “Nothing can adequately express my gratitude to Philip for his stewardship and understanding of our mission,” said Crutchfield, “and I am thrilled that his expertise will remain just a phone call away, as he will now serve on our Board of Directors.” Pierce has been elected, effective January 2024, to the seat vacated by the recent passing of TN's founding trustee Patricia D. Klingenstein.  

"The last four years leading Teatro Nuovo,” said Pierce, “were the high point of a twenty year career in opera. The entire company was a daily inspiration, from my colleagues in the leadership team, to all the artists with whom we worked. I am eternally grateful for my time with Teatro Nuovo, especially to Will Crutchfield and his vision. My next chapter will include a pivot to psychology, with the aim of working with performing artists from a very different perspective"

The company's longtime Director of Production Cynthia Marino will step into the role of General Manager, while Tom Weatherly will come on board as Director of Finance. They will divide Pierce's duties with Crutchfield for the 2023-24 season while the company plans its search for a successor.

CALLAS AND THE Bel Canto REVIVAL

Maria Callas was a genius of musicality and dramatic expression, and she would probably have been that no matter how she was trained. But the particular training she received shaped the directions that her genius followed: she was taught, beginning at age 14, by one of the last great old-school coloratura sopranos, Elvira de Hidalgo. 

Thanks to the old-fashioned disciplines of Bel Canto, Callas had early triumphs in the operas from that repertory that were still being performed in the 1940s, and later she began to reintroduce neglected masterworks from the period. These Callas productions were the first phase of the worldwide Bel Canto Revival, making the subsequent developments possible. 

The second phase belonged to a select group of stars who followed her into the once-forgotten repertory: above all Joan Sutherland, Beverly Sills, Montserrat Caballé, Marilyn Horne, and Renata Scotto. The third phase was headlined by the revelatory editions of Philip Gossett and his many students, giving the world reliable scores of the Bel Canto composers for the first time, and by the establishment of the Rossini Opera Festival in Pesaro, where TN's artistic director Will Crutchfield reintroduced two important early works by that master. 

Teatro Nuovo is the protagonist of the fourth phase: blending Bel Canto with the achievements of the Early Music movement, with an orchestra of period instruments and radical application of research into 19th-century performance style. “The effect,” wrote Heidi Waleson in The Wall Street Journal, “is transformative.” 

Event Details: 

Callas: Past and Future December 2, 2023 at 2:30pm
El Museo del Barrio

2:30 PM - INTRODUCTION 

Will Crutchfield on why and how Callas still matters

3:00 PM -  CALLAS FOR THE FUTURE

The first afternoon feature on Dec. 2 is a live demonstration of the way Teatro Nuovo seeks to put the legacy of great recorded singers - in this case Callas - to work in service of opera's life in the 21st century. “Imitation can be dangerous,” says Crutchfield, “and yet it's the way all musicians learn. The challenge is to understand what is to be imitated. Everything Callas did is worth understanding. She had her faults, and that too needs to be understood - but she is the best model we have for some of the most essential tools of our trade.” At El Museo del Barrio, Crutchfield and a group of young singers will give a window into the process of learning those tools with Callas as guide.

4:15 PM - WE WERE THERE

A must-see event: Three veteran opera-goers share recollections of seeing Callas onstage in her legendary New York performances as Norma, Lucia, Violetta, and Tosca. Critic and pedagogue Conrad L. Osborne, author of Opera as Opera: The State of the Art, is joined by Peter Mark, longtime director of Virginia Opera and a boy soprano at the Met when Callas first arrived there, and the distinguished artist and illustrator Bob Ziering, who studied singing with Tina Paggi in the 1950s. 

5:15 PM -  NOTHING IS TOO TRIVIA

Every recorded note of Callas's singing has been published and re-published; every known fact of her life has been recounted in over thirty books and countless articles; every controversy in her turbulent career has been debated. Part of respect for a genius is the sheer fun of knowing more, and in our trivia contest, Callas's fans can compete to be her champion. Any ticket-holder can play; sparks will fly!

6:00 PM -  DINNER BREAK

Ticket-purchasers will receive a guide to recommended restaurants nearby

8:00 PM - CONCERT (80 minutes without intermission) 

The featured soloists are six of the leading ladies of Teatro Nuovo's opera productions. The informal theme is a celebration of the Bel Canto world to which Callas paved the way: operas she did not get to during her career, but might have sung, by her beloved Rossini, Donizetti, Bellini, and Verdi. Here are our “divas” in alphabetical order, with a line from the critics about each one's Teatro Nuovo appearances: 

Teresa Castillo: “a vibrant performance as Annetta, with sparkling tone and fluent coloratura” in Crispino e la Comare (George Loomis, Musical America)

Liz Culpepper: “hilariously booming authority” as the Fairy in Crispino e la Comare (Christopher Corwin, Observer)

Chelsea Lehnea:  “dug into Paolina's conflicting emotions with a mercurially colored, highly responsive instrument that flew seamlessly through its registers” in Poliuto (Oussama Zahr, The New York Times)

Hannah Ludwig: “Her tone chocolaty and large, yet with focus and agility, she captured the integral aspect of Bel Canto: expression emerging from a long, intelligently shaped musical line” in La Gazza Ladra (Zachary Woolfe, The New York Times)

Christine Lyons: “a magnificent Alaide, her warm, creamy soprano at its very best when challenged by Bellini's seemingly endless melodies” in La Straniera (Clive Paget, Musical America)

Alina Tamborini: “a plush, flexible instrument with shimmering vibrato and a wide range, with well-knit but distinctly colored registers; her coloratura was especially expressive” in La Straniera (Susan Brodie, Classical Voice North America)

They will be supported on Dec. 2 by tenor Derrek Stark, baritones Markos Simopoulos and Kyle Oliver, bass Vincent Graña and the Teatro Nuovo Chorus, with Lucy Tucker Yates, Will Crutchfield, and Derrick Goff on piano.

THE BIRTHPLACE

On your way to “Callas: Past and Future,” or at the dinner break, don't miss the chance to pass by the hospital where “La Divina” came into the world (as Sophia Cecilia Kalos) on Dec. 2, 1923. At that time it was The Flower Hospital; today it is the Terence Cardinal Cooke Health Care Center, at 1249 Fifth Avenue (between 105th and 106th Streets, exactly a block north of El Museo del Barrio). A plaque honoring Callas can be seen in the lobby.

About Teatro Nuovo

Teatro Nuovo is a new American Opera Company specializing in Italian opera of the Romantic or “Bel Canto” period. Launched in 2018 with performances of Tancredi and Medea in Corinto, it was quickly hailed as “the way it should be done” (The Financial Times) and “stupendous” (Opera News) for its innovative restoration of period performing style. Its second season saw a move to the ideally suited Rose Theater for Bellini's La straniera and Rossini's La gazza ladra. After losing 2020 to the pandemic shutdown, Teatro Nuovo restored opera to New York City with performances of The Barber of Seville at Lincoln Center's Damrosch Park.




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