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  • LOS ANGELES PHILHARMONIC GIVES WORLD PREMIERE OF TRISTAN PROJECT
  • Dec. 3, 2004
  • Music Director Esa-Pekka Salonen, Director Peter Sellars, And Video Artist Bill Viola Present Groundbreaking Interpretation of Wagner's Opera Tristan und Isolde

    December 3, 4, 5 and 10, 11, 12, 2004 at Walt Disney Concert Hall

    The Tristan Project is supported by a generous grant from the Florence Gould Foundation

    Los Angeles Philharmonic Music Director Esa-Pekka Salonen teams with dynamic director Peter Sellars and celebrated video artist Bill Viola for the Tristan Project, a multi-discipline arts experience at Walt Disney Concert Hall, designed around Wagner's seminal opera, Tristan und Isolde. Presenting one semi-staged act per night along with works influenced by Tristan und Isolde, Salonen and the Philharmonic perform the complete opera twice: Act One is complemented by Berg's Lyric Suite (December 3 and 10); Act Two by Debussy's Suite from Pelleas and Melisande (December 4 and 11); and Act Three by the West Coast premiere of Kaija Saariaho's Cinq reflets (December 5 and 12). Each act includes video art exploring the underlying themes of the opera: betrayal, transformation, rebirth, memory, and time. This co-production with the Paris Opera brings the fully staged version to the Paris Opera with Salonen conducting the Paris Opera orchestra in April 2005.

    The trio of Salonen, Sellars, and Viola plan to produce a Tristan stretching the boundaries of Wagnerian production in a setting (Walt Disney Concert Hall) that lends itself to exploration. "Tristan und Isolde is a tale of a love so overwhelming and intense it transcends mortal bounds. This project represents an exciting opportunity to collaborate with fellow artists Peter Sellars and Esa-Pekka Salonen, to explore and draw fresh inspiration from both the story and the great creative work of Richard Wagner, and to re-tell this medieval myth of timeless significance and universal relevance," Bill Viola says.

    Tristan und Isolde has long proven to be a test of a musician's mettle and a favorite of conductors. Salonen comments: "Since my early 20's, Tristan has been on the list of operas I wanted to conduct. When one decides to take on an iconic piece of the repertoire, it's more fascinating - in my opinion - to put it into a new context and to illuminate it from various angles. I'm looking forward to collaborating with Peter again, and am very eager to work with the interpretations Bill Viola brings to the project."

    Many composers have viewed Richard Wagner's oeuvre as highly influential to their artistic growth. Richard Strauss once wrote: "Tristan und Isolde marked the end of all romanticism. Here the yearning of the entire 19th century is gathered in one focal point." The works paired with each act - Berg's Lyric Suite, Debussy's Suite from Pelleas and Melisande and Kaija Saariaho's Cinq reflets - illustrate the great influence Wagner has had on other composers. In his Lyric Suite, Berg was highly influenced by the story line of the doomed lovers, a story line which played in his own life as well. Debussy and Saariaho also demonstrate touches of Tristan and the impressions it has made in the Suite from Pelleas and Melisande and Saariaho's new work.

    Vocal soloists for Tristan include soprano Christine Brewer as Isolde; tenor Clifton Forbis, in his Philharmonic debut, as Tristan; mezzo-soprano Jill Grove, as Brangäne; bass Stephen Milling, in his debut, as King Mark; bass-baritone Alan Held as Kurwenal; tenor Michael Slattery as Sailor's Voice/A Shepherd; and tenor Thomas Studebaker, also making Philharmonic debut, as Melot. Soprano Heidi Grant Murphy and bass-baritone Kyle Ketelsen perform in Saariaho's work.

    BACKGROUND ON TRISTAN UND ISOLDE

    Considered in its time one of the most complex operas ever written, Tristan und Isolde is an operatic masterpiece. Wagner's earliest sketches for the opera date from December of 1856. He completed the prose poem for the opera in 1857 and completed the composition of the music between 1857 and 1859.

    After moving to Paris in 1859, Wagner attempted to secure a theater for the opera's world premiere. No opera house in Paris wanted to take it on. Finally the Dresden Opera, impressed by the work's seemingly simple requirements (very little chorus, few principals, and three acts), decided to hold the premiere. After 77 rehearsals, the work was declared unperformable and was abandoned by the company.

    The opera finally had its premiere at the Munich Royal Court Theater in 1865 with an orchestra so large that seats in the front were removed to accommodate all of the of musicians required. While the first audience was scandalized by the opera's erotic nature, Tristan has become one of the most influential works in Western musical literature.

    ESA-PEKKA SALONEN, the tenth conductor to head the Los Angeles Philharmonic, began his tenure as Music Director in October 1992. Salonen made his American debut conducting the Los Angeles Philharmonic in November 1984, and he has conducted the orchestra every season since. Among the many highlights of Salonen's activities with the Philharmonic have been world premieres of new works by composers John Adams, Bernard Rands, Rodion Shchedrin, Steven Stucky, and Salonen himself, well-received Ligeti and Stravinsky Festivals, appearances at the Ojai Festival, critically acclaimed international tours, and his extensive discography with the Philharmonic for Sony Classical. Salonen was born in Helsinki, Finland in 1958. He made his conducting debut with the Finnish Radio Symphony Orchestra in 1979, and he has been one of the world's most sought-after conductors since his debut in London with the Philharmonia Orchestra in September 1983. He served as principal guest conductor of the Philharmonia from 1985 to 1994 and as principal conductor of the Swedish Radio Symphony Orchestra from 1985 to 1995.

    PETER SELLARS has directed more than 100 productions, large and small, across America and abroad. A graduate of Harvard University, he studied in Japan, China and India before becoming Artistic Director of the Boston Shakespeare Company. At 26 he was made Director of the American National Theater at the Kennedy Center in Washington, D.C. He is a recipient of the MacArthur Prize Fellowship and was awarded the Erasmus Prize at the Dutch Royal Palace for contributions to European culture. Sellars has collaborated with the Wooster Group, and was featured in Jean-Luc Godard's film of King Lear. He has also appeared on Bill Moyer's A World of Ideas¸ Miami Vice, and The Equalizer, has directed a rock video for Herbie Hancock, and has produced a series of radio episodes for the Museum of Contemporary Art's The Territory of Art series. His first feature film, The Cabinet of Dr. Ramirez, starred Joan Cusack, Peter Gallagher, Ron Vawter, and Mikhail Baryshnikov.

    BILL VIOLA is widely recognized as one of the leading video artists on the international scene. For more than 30 years he has created videotapes, architectural video installations, sound environments, electronic music performances, and works for television broadcast. Viola's video installations are total environments that envelop the viewer in image and sound, employ state-of-the-art technologies, and are distinguished by their precision and direct simplicity. His single channel videotapes have been broadcast and presented cinematically around the world, and his writings have been published and anthologized for international readers. A recipient of the John T. and Catherine D. MacArthur Foundation Fellowship in 1989, and of the first Medienkunstpreis in 1993, Viola was invited to be a Scholar-in-Residence at the Getty Research Institute in Los Angeles in 1998; later that year, he created a suite of three new video pieces for the rock group Nine Inch Nails' world tour. In 2001, he completed his most ambitious project, Going Forth By Day, a five-part projected digital fresco cycle in high definition video, commissioned by the Deutsche Guggenheim Berlin.

    American soprano CHRISTINE BREWER's appearances in opera, concert and recital are marked with her own unique timbre, at once warm and brilliant, combined with a vibrant personality and emotional honesty unique in her generation of vocalists. Concert highlights this season include Fidelio with the Orchestra of Saint Cecilia and Antonio Pappano, Mahler's Symphony No. 8 with the Rotterdam Philharmonic Orchestra conducted by Valery Gergiev, and Strauss' Drei Hymnen with the BBC Orchestra under the baton of Donald Runnicles. Also, Brewer will perform and record Mozart's Requiem with the Atlanta Symphony Orchestra. Later in the season, Ms. Brewer looks forward to reviving Britten's Gloriana in her hometown of St. Louis, returning to the Santa Fe Opera as Elle Orford in a production of Peter Grimes, and to working with Seiji Ozawa at the Saito Kiren Festival where she sings Gurrelieder.

    Tenor CLIFTON FORBIS has been praised internationally for his beautiful voice and for his expressive and dramatic interpretations. He has excelled in challenging repertoire in six languages. In addition to celebrated performances at the Metropolitan Opera, Opera National de Paris, and Vienna State Opera, this award-winning singer has dazzled audiences in concert halls and on opera stages all over the world.

    Mezzo-soprano JILL GROVE has been recognized by the world's major opera companies and orchestras for the beauty and power of her voice. The 20040/5 season begins with a return to London, this time for her Royal Opera, Covent Garden debut as La Cieca in concert performances of La Gioconda conducted by Antonio Pappano. She then returns to Lyric Opera of Chicago as Erda in Das Rheingold conducted by Sir Andrew Davis and returns there later in the season for this role as well as Erda in Siegfried and the First Norn in Götterdämmerung in the company's complete RING cycles. Later in the season, she returns to Santa Fe Opera as Auntie in a new production of Peter Grimes under Alan Gilbert. She sings the Verdi Requiem with the San Diego Symphony and returns to the San Francisco Symphony for Janacek's Glagolithic Mass under Michael Tilson Thomas. During the summer of 2004, she also made her Mostly Mozart Festival debut at Lincoln Center in Mozart's Requiem under Louis Langrée.

    Recognized internationally as one of the leading singing actors today, American bass-baritone ALAN HELD has appeared in major roles in the world's finest opera houses, including the Metropolitan Opera, San Francisco Opera, Lyric Opera of Chicago, Seattle Opera, Royal Opera House, Covent Garden, Teatro alla Scala, Vienna State Opera and the Paris Opera among others. Equally at home on the concert stage, Held has performed with the Chicago Symphony Orchestra, the Cleveland Orchestra, the Pittsburgh Symphony, the Metropolitan Opera Orchestra, the Berlin Philharmonic, the Kirov Opera Orchestra, the Montreal Symphony, and the Houston Symphony. This season, Held returns to the Vienna State Opera as the Four Villains, the Washington Opera as the High Priest of Dagon in Samson and Dalila, and the Lyric Opera of Chicago in their performances of the Ring Cycle and Fidelio. He also goes on tour to Tokyo in the Salzburg Festival's production of Fidelio.

    American bass-baritone KYLE KETELSEN has been a featured soloist with the symphonies of Los Angeles, St. Paul, New York, Indianapolis, and numerous other organizations throughout the midwestern U.S. He made his Carnegie Hall debut with Haydn's Creation with the Oratorio Society of New York in 1999. His many concert performances include the Verdi Requiem, Brahms German Requiem, Handel Messiah, Haydn Creation, Fauré Requiem, Dvorák Te Deum, Beethoven Ninth Symphony, Bach Passions, and Mozart C-Minor Mass. Ketelsen is originally from Clinton, Iowa. He performed graduate work at Indiana University, where he studied with Metropolitan Opera bass-baritone, Giorgio Tozzi. He completed his undergraduate degree from the University of Iowa, where he studied with Albert Gammon.

    The young Danish bass STEPHEN MILLING was born in Copenhagen and received his education at the Royal Danish Academy of Music. Recently he made his Metropolitan Opera debut as Sparafucile in Rigoletto, with later performances of Hunding under Valery Gergiev. He also made his Brussels debut as the Landgraf in Tannhauser, and his San Francisco Symphony debut under Michael Tilson Thomas, winning raves for his performances of Daland in Die fliegende Hollander. He debuted at the San Francisco Opera as Philip in Don Carlo. He returned to the Seattle Opera as Gurnemanz in Parsifal and made his U.K. debut as part of the London Symphony Orchestra's Berlioz festival, singing Narbal in Les Troyens under Sir Colin Davis. In Copenhagen he collaborated for the first time with conductor Christoph Eschenbach for performances of the Verdi Requiem. He makes his debuts this season at the Vienna State Opera as Gurnemanz (with Sir Simon Rattle), at the Royal Opera House Covent Garden as Hunding (with Antonio Pappano), and at the Châtelet, again as Hunding (with Christoph Eschenbach).

    HEIDI GRANT MURPHY is one of the outstanding vocal talents of her generation. A native of Bellingham, Washington, she was named a winner of the Metropolitan Opera National Council Auditions and engaged by Maestro James Levine to participate in the Metropolitan Opera's Young Artist Development Program. Today, Murphy has established a reputation not only for her radiant musicianship and impeccable vocal technique, but also for her warm personality and generosity of spirit. Murphy has appeared with many of the world's finest opera companies and symphony orchestras, notably the Metropolitan Opera, Salzburg Festival, Frankfurt Opera, Netherlands Opera, Theatre Royal de la Monnaie, Opera National de Paris and Santa Fe Opera. Murphy's 2004-2005 season includes appearances with internationally acclaimed orchestras of the highest caliber. In September 2004, she performs the world premiere of Augusta Read Thomas's Gathering Paradise with the New York Philharmonic and Lorin Maazel, and later debuts the piece under Maestro Maazel's baton with the Chicago Symphony Orchestra. She joins the Boston Symphony Orchestra in performances of Mahler's Symphony of a Thousand No. 8 for Maestro Levine's inaugural concerts as Music Director at both Boston's Symphony Hall and New York's Carnegie Hall. Opera audiences will enjoy Ms. Murphy's Servilia in Mozart's Clemenza di Tito at the Metropolitan Opera in Spring 2005.

    MICHAEL SLATTERY made his Mostly Mozart debut in Handel's Acis and Galatea at Lincoln Center. He has also appeared in Handel's Messiah with the Philadelphia Orchestra, the Los Angeles Chamber Orchestra, and Les Violons du Roy; Mozart's Requiem with the Los Angeles Philharmonic, and concerts with the Cincinnati and St. Paul Chamber Orchestras. Slattery has been heard on Radio France, National Public Radio, and Radio Canada broadcasts and has sung leading roles with the Glimmerglass Opera, the Aspen Music Festival, and the Opéra de Rouen. He has been a soloist with the New World and Kansas City symphonies, the Spoleto Festival and French National Orchestras, and with players from the New York Philharmonic at Carnegie's Weill Hall.

    A graduate of the Curtis Institute of Music and Illinois State University, tenor THOMAS STUDEBAKER sings Beethoven's Ninth Symphony with the New York Philharmonic in a New Year's Eve Gala. Additionally, he will be heard in a duo recital in New York City with Christine Brewer as a part of the prestigious George London Foundation recital series. Acclaimed both for his performances in concert as well as in opera, he recently sang the role of Erik in Wagner's Der fliegende Hollander with both the Pittsburgh Opera and Opera Australia, Beethoven's Ninth Symphony with the Pittsburgh Symphony and the Missa Solemnis with the London Philharmonic Orchestra under Kurt Masur.


    EDITORS PLEASE NOTE:

    Friday, December 3, 8 PM

    Friday, December 10, 8 PM

    Walt Disney Concert Hall

    111 S. Grand Avenue, Los Angeles

    LOS ANGELES PHILHARMONIC

    ESA-PEKKA SALONEN

    CHRISTINE BREWER, Isolde

    CLIFTON FORBIS, Tristan

    JILL GROVE, Brangäne

    ALAN HELD, Kurwenal

    MICHAEL SLATTERY, Sailor's Voice

    MEN OF THE LOS ANGELES MASTER CHORALE

    PETER SELLARS, director

    BILL VIOLA, video artist

    BERG Lyric Suite

    WAGNER Tristan und Isolde, Act One

    Saturday, December 4, 2004, 8 PM

    Saturday, December 11, 2004, 8 PM

    Walt Disney Concert Hall

    111 S. Grand Avenue, Los Angeles

    LOS ANGELES PHILHARMONIC

    ESA-PEKKA SALONEN

    CHRISTINE BREWER, Isolde

    CLIFTON FORBIS, Tristan

    JILL GROVE, Brangäne

    ALAN HELD, Kurwenal

    MICHAEL SLATTERY, Sailor's Voice

    PETER SELLARS, director

    BILL VIOLA, video artist

    DEBUSSY (arr. Leinsdorf) Suite from Pelleas and Melisande

    WAGNER Tristan und Isolde, Act Two


    Sunday, December 5, 2004, 2 PM

    Sunday, December 12, 2004, 2 PM

    Walt Disney Concert Hall

    111 S. Grand Avenue, Los Angeles

    LOS ANGELES PHILHARMONIC

    ESA-PEKKA SALONEN

    CHRISTINE BREWER, Isolde

    CLIFTON FORBIS, Tristan

    JILL GROVE, Brangäne

    STEPHEN MILLING, King Mark

    HEIDI GRANT MURPHY, soprano

    ALAN HELD, Kurwenal

    KYLE KETELSEN, bass-baritone

    THOMAS STUDEBAKER, Melot

    MICHAEL SLATTERY, Sailor's Voice

    PETER SELLARS, director

    BILL VIOLA, video artist

    SAARIAHO Cinq reflets

    WAGNER Tristan und Isolde, Act Three

    The Tristan Project is supported by a generous grant from the Florence Gould Foundation.

    Upbeat Live pre-concert events take place one hour prior to each concert in BP Hall at Walt Disney Concert Hall, and are free to all ticket holders. Edward Yim, Director of Artistic Planning for the Los Angeles Philharmonic Association, hosts.

    Tickets ($15 - $125) are on sale now at the Walt Disney Concert Hall box office, online at LAPhil.com, or via credit card phone order at 323.850.2000. When available, choral bench seats ($15), will be released for sale to selected Philharmonic, Colburn Celebrity Recital, and Baroque Variations performances beginning at noon on the Tuesday of the second week prior to the concert. A limited number of $10 rush tickets for seniors and full time students may be available at the Walt Disney Concert Hall box office two hours prior to the performance. Valid identification is required; one ticket per person; cash only. Groups of 12 or more may be eligible for special discounts for selected concerts and seating areas. For all information, please call 323.850.2000
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  • contact:

    Elizabeth Hinckley, 323.650.8488; Rachelle Roe, 213.972.7310; photos: 213.972.3034