Alexander von Zemlinsky
The Dwarf (Der Zwerg)
April 14 at 7:30pm
Conducted by Gil Rose
New England Conservatory
30 Gainsborough Street
Boston, MA 02115
Tickets from $25
“For the future let those who come to play with me have no hearts.” —The Infanta in “The Birthday of the Infanta”
In Der Zwerg, the visionary words of Oscar Wilde’s fairy tale “The Birthday of the Infanta” are set to music by Alexander von Zemlinsky. One of the most provocative musical voices of his time, Zemlinsky influenced the work of Erich Korngold, Arnold Schoenberg, and Gustav Mahler. Der Zwerg tells the story of a person with dwarfism who falls in love with a princess, with heartbreaking results. Set to expressive music of love and despair, The Dwarf is a dramatic and musical tour de force—this seldom heard opera soars with lush post-Romantic music. Take the journey with Odyssey Opera, open up the kaleidoscopic world of opera, and go outside the ordinary to experience live orchestral music and the stunning power of the human voice.
Conducted by Gil Rose
Der Zwerg — Aleš Briscein
Donna Clara, The Infanta — Kirsten Chambers
Don Estoban — James Johnson
Ghita — Michelle Trainor
First Maid – Erica Petrocelli
Second Maid – Dana Varga
Third Maid – Vera Savage
Friends of the Infanta
The third presentation of Wilde Opera Nights is Alexander von Zemlinsky’s Der Zwerg (The Dwarf), a 90-minute, one act opera. Performed in German with projected English titles.
Aleš Briscein originally studied clarinet and saxophone, later adding opera studies at the Prague Conservatory and continuing at the West Bohemian University in Pilsen. In 1995 he began his career as a soloist of the State Opera Prague, performing several lyrical roles, including: Tamino in Mozart’s Die Zauberflöte; Ferrando in Così fan tutte; Count Almaviva in Il barbiere di Siviglia; Narciso in Rossini’s Il turco in Italia; Jeník in Smetana’s The Bartered Bride; Alfredo in Verdi’s La traviata; and Kudryas in Janáček’s Katya Kabanova. He is a regular guest of the opera at the National Theatre Prague as well as the State Opera Prague. At Prague Spring in 2002, he sang the role of Jonathan in the world premiere of Sylvia Bodorová’s oratorium Juda Maccabeus. He recorded Pavel Haas’s opera The Charlatan for the Decca label. In October 2004, he began his long-term association with the Opéra national de Paris with roles in Ariadne auf Naxos, Elektra, Der Rosenkavalier, From the House of the Dead, The Macropulos Affair, La traviata, and The Rake’s Progress.
At home and abroad his performances are dynamic. In 2008, he performed Janáček’s operas The Makropulos Affair at Teatro Real Madrid, Jenufa in Mexico City, and Fate at London PROMS; and with Paris opera he toured Japan in Diary of One Who Disappeared. In 2009 Aleš created the role of Jeník in Smetana’s The Bartered Bride at Opéra national de Paris where he also performed in The Makropulos Affair and Beethoven’s Fidelio. In 2010 he sang Jeník in Valencia, and in Antwerp performed in Berg’s Wozzeck. He also performed Boris in Janáček’s Katya Kabanova with staging by Robert Wilson, as Ferrando in Così fan tutte, and as Nemorino in Donizetti’s L’elisir d’amore. During the 2011–2012 season, he sang Princ in Dvořák’s Rusalka with the Volksoper in Vienna, followed by Janek in The Makropulos Affair at the festival in Salzburg, Erl in Wagner’s Lohengrin at Tiroler Festspiele, and Belmont in Mozart’s Die Entführung aus dem Serail with the National Theatre in Prague. In 2012-2013 he performed in Janáček’s Jenufa at both Bayerische Staatsoper (as Steva) and the National Theatre in Zagreb (as Laca). He also sang in Komische Oper Berlin’s presentation of Tchaikovsky’s Mazeppa. He appeared in Nantes, France, and at the National Theatre in Prague in the role of Ladislav Podhájský in Smetana’s The Two Widows. He also received the prestigious Thalia Award for his portrayal of Roméo in Gounod’s Roméo et Juliette. In the 2013-2014 season, Aleš Briscein sang Ferrando in Così fan tutte at Komische Oper Berlin, and performed Laca in Jenufa with Oper Graz under the direction of Peter Konwitschny. At Oper Frankfurt he sang a triple role — Mazal/Blankytný/Petřík — in Janáček’s fifth opera, The Excursions of Mr. Brouček to the Moon and to the 15th Century. As the Prince in Dvořák’s Rusalka he performed in Budapest (concert version) and Český Krumlov (staged). At the National Theatre in Brno, he sang the role of Albert Gregor in The Makropulos Affair in a production by David Radok. Aleš Briscein also received the Annual Prize of Opera PLUS Internet portal for his contributions to the form.
Kirsten Chambers made her Metropolitan Opera house debut on short notice in 2016 in the title role of Salome. Her Carnegie Hall debut came on just two days’ notice when she sang the fiendishly difficult role of Maria in Richard Strauss’ Friedenstag with the American Symphony Orchestra. Her 2016-17 season started when she joined the roster of the Metropolitan Opera for the first time this fall as a cover of Isolde in Tristan und Isolde. The 2015-16 season she debuted Rusalka at Lyric Opera of Kansas City and Leonore in Fidelio for the grand opening of New Amsterdam Opera. For her performance at the Lyric Opera of Kansas City, she “sang convincingly as the beautiful, conniving Foreign Princess, without sacrificing great vocal sounds for characterization.” (The Examiner) Her 2014-15 season began with her exciting debut in the title role of Salome at Opera Hong Kong, where “the depth of her performance grew widely as she exhibited the fitness of an athlete… The dramatic colour exhibited throughout her middle range and the defined delicacy of her high notes easy won the audience over.” (Opera Chaser) For Opéra de Rennes, she reprised the role of Elsa in Lohengrin, described as “delicious with beautiful legato and radiant high notes.” (Opéra Magazine) Her 2013-14 season began with her European debut with Savonlinna Opera Festival as Elsa in Lohengrin, with regard to her performance, Opera Magazine indicated that “Kirsten Chambers… wielded the evening’s most convincing dramatic arc, her character maturing from innocent young girl to emotionally complex woman in the course of the story.“ She also appeared as a featured soloist in excerpts from Lohengrin with the Oulu Symphony in both Oulu and Helsinki and later at the Mikhailovsky Theatre in St Petersburg in promotional concerts for Savonlinna Opera Festival. Ms. Chambers reprised the role of Elsa in Lohengrin for the Hong Kong Arts Festival. In concert she performed Isolde’s Liebestod from Tristan und Isolde with the Hong Kong Philharmonic and Brünnhilde’s Entrance from Die Walküre with Orchestra Kentucky. Ms. Chambers 2011-12 season began with a cover of the title role of Turandot with Arizona Opera and a concert performance of the title role of Tosca with Opera Saratoga. She made her Lincoln Center debut starring in the soprano monodrama Nora, in the Great Outdoors with American Opera Projects. She has appeared with Toledo Opera to cover the title role in Ariadne of Naxos and sang Nedda in Pagliacci with the Bronx Opera. A champion of new music, Ms. Chambers has been recored on the Newport Classics Label and appeared numerous times with American Lyric Theater and American Opera Projects.
James Johnson began his career as a member of the ensembles at the Staatstheater Braunschweig, Cologne Opera and Graz Opera in Germany and Austria. He has since appeared at many of the leading opera theaters in the world, including the Paris Opera, Deutsche Oper Berlin, Vienna State Opera, Metropolitan Opera, Teatro alla Scala in Milan, Gran Teatre de Liceu in Barcelona, Teatro Colon in Buenos Aires, Hamburg State Opera, Lyric Opera of Chicago, and Los Angeles Opera. He has also appeared at the festivals of Salzburg, Bayreuth, Schwelsig-Holstein, Aspen, and Ravinia. Johnson has been praised not only for his voice but also for his dramatic abilities, amply demonstrated in roles ranging from the major heldenbaritone roles of Wagner and Strauss to roles encompassing the Italian, French, Russian, Hungarian, Czech, and Polish repertoire. This season, he will appear as Wotan/The Wanderer in The Ring Cycle with Opera Australia. Johnson has sung with such leading conductors as James Levine, James Conlon, Georges Pretre, Michael Gielen, Donald Runnicles, Peter Schneider, Adam Fischer and Michael Schoenwandt. Concert appearances have included engagements with the New York Philharmonic, Chicago Symphony, San Francisco Symphony, Los Angeles Philharmonic, Berlin Philharmoniker, Munich Philharmoniker, Vienna Symphony, Royal Philharmonic Copenhagen, and the radio orchestras of Denmark and Suedfunk and Suedwestfunk in Germany. His opera recordings include Der Ring des Nibelungen, Die Meistersinger, Penthesilea, Die Voegel, and Der Zerbrochener Krug, and his concert recordings include Lyrische Sinfonie and Der Jakobsleiter.
Michelle Trainor, a Massachusetts native, makes her Odyssey Opera debut and has recently made her debut with the Boston Symphony Orchestra in their performance of Der Rosenkavalier under the direction of Andris Nelsons. Ms. Trainor performed Wagner’s Liebestod from his Tristan und Isolde with Brookline Symphony Orchestra and was the soloist in Vaughan Williams’ A Sea Symphony with New World Chorale. She will be returning to the Boston Lyric Opera stage singing the role of Marcellina in their production of Le Nozze di Figaro. As a Boston Lyric Opera Jane & Steven Akin Emerging Artist alumna she has sung roles in their productions of The Inspector, Macbeth, Clemency, The Magic Flute, The Merry Widow, and The Love Potion. Michelle has recorded Schubert’s Hagar’s Lament on the BIS label with Boston Lyric Opera and was the 2011 recipient of the company’s Stephen Shrestinian Award for Excellence. As a concert soloist she has performed at Carnegie Hall, Il Duomo in Orvieto, Italy, and in Boston Ballet’s production of the A Midsummer Night’s Dream. Next season will begin with the World Premiere of Julian Grant’s The Nefarious, Immoral but Highly Profitable Enterprise of Mr. Burke & Mr. Hare with Boston Lyric Opera, singing the role of Helen.
Praised for her “unusual but alluring timbre” (BachTrack) and “robust singing”, soprano Erica Petrocelli is quickly establishing herself as a notable singer of lyric repertoire. Erica kicked off the 2016-2017 season singing Salud in La vida breve in New England Conservatory’s Jordan Hall with Douglas Kinney Frost. In February, she will perform in NEC’s production of Massenet’s Cendrillon as the title role. Erica is also joining Opera Theatre of St. Louis’ Gerdine Young Artist program, where she will be covering Fräulein Brüstner/Leni/Offstage Voice in Glass’ The Trial, as well as making her company debut in Ricky Ian Gordon’s Grapes of Wrath. The 2015-2016 season marked and exciting time for Erica as she made her professional debut singing the role of Onoria in Ezio with Odyssey Opera, under the baton of Gil Rose. She also returned to Boston Midsummer Opera to sing Caterina and cover Suzel in Mascagni’s L’amico Fritz. In February, Erica was the recipient of the Lorraine Hunt Lieberson Encouragement Award at the Metropolitan Opera National Council Finals in the New England region. She “sent blazing shafts of tone to the [theater’s] furthest reaches with great ease,” (Boston Musical Intelligencer) in the title role of Janacek’s Cunning Little Vixen at New England Conservatory, also under Gil Rose. A resident of Danvers, MA, Erica is currently pursuing an Artist Diploma in Opera at New England Conservatory (NEC), and is a student of tenor Bradley Williams. She received her Master’s and Bachelor’s degrees in Vocal Performance at NEC.
Praised for her “stunning voice”, soprano Dana Lynne Varga placed first in the 2016 Classical Singer National Vocal Competition. Dana continues to amass accolades for her numerous operatic roles that include Musetta in La Bohème, Fiordiligi in Cosi fan tutte, Anna Maurrant in Street Scene, Rosalinda in Die Fledermaus, Micaëla in Carmen, Alcina in Alcina, Hanna Glawari in The Merry Widow, and First Lady in The Magic Flute. She has performed with Boston Lyric Opera, Opera Boston, the Caramoor festival, the Britten-Pears Festival, PORTopera, and the Boston Opera Collaborative. An avid concert soloist, Dana Lynne Varga’s recent concert and oratorio performances include Haydn’s Lord Nelson Mass and Pinkham’s White Raven with Coro Allegro, Beethoven’s Mass in C at Tanglewood, Dvořák’s Te Deum with the Metropolitan Chorale, the Fauré Requiem with Springfield Symphony, Bach’s Christmas Oratorio and B Minor Mass with the Rhode Island Civic Chorale and Orchestra, and Dubois’ Seven Last Words with Coro Allegro. Other highlights include Vaughan Williams’ Sea Symphony as well as the Brahms Requiem with Metropolitan Chorale, Handel’s Israel in Egypt with Commonwealth Chorale, and Handel’s Messiah with New England Classical Singers. In April, Dana placed second in the 2016 Rochester Oratorio Society Classical Idol Competition. She was awarded the 2012 St. Botolph Emerging Artist Grant, placed first in the 2009 Arlington Philharmonic Competition, and was among the winners in the 2006 Boston Regional Auditions of the Metropolitan National Council Auditions. Upcoming engagements include Schubert’s Mirjamsegesgesang with Commonwealth Chorale and Orff’s Carmina Burana with Granite State Choral Society.
Mezzo-soprano Vera Savage’s singing has been described as “a dream: supple and powerful with a deep velvet shimmer.” A true singing actress in every sense, critics have noted that “whatever she sings, we believe.” Her recent debuts include Praskovia in Lehar’s The Merry Widow with Boston Lyric Opera, Tisbe in Rossini’s La Cenerentola with Opera Saratoga, and her Florentine Opera debut in Milwaukee as “a thoroughly intimidating” Mrs. Baines in Robert Aldridge’s Elmer Gantry. With the Opera Institute in Boston, Vera performed Flora in Verdi’s La Traviata, Almera in Nico Muhly’s Dark Sisters, and Madeline Mitchell in Jake Heggie’s Three Decembers. The Boston Music Intelligencer described her portrayal of Mitchell as playing “A convincing diva… able to sing powerfully both operatically and as a Broadway baby,” and from Bostonist, “Vera Savage was…stunning – a radiant and solid sound that brazenly approached even the most challenging moments of Heggie’s score.” Vera returns to Boston Lyric Opera as an Emerging Artist for a second, consecutive season, where she was awarded this year’s “Stephen Shrestinian Award for Excellence.” Vera placed fourth in Shreveport Opera’s Mary Jacobs Smith “Singer of the Year” competition, was a finalist in the Bel Canto Scholarship annual competition, and was a semi-finalist in the Joy of Singing art song competition. In past years, Vera was a finalist in Houston Grand Opera’s Eleanor McCollum Competition, received the top vocal prize in the Arts and Letters Competition in Bloomington, Indiana, and second place in the Bel Canto Foundation of Chicago competition. Upcoming engagements for the 2016-2017 season include performances with Boston Lyric Opera, Meg Page in Verdi’s Falstaff with Opera Saratoga, Mozart’s Requiem with Commonwealth Chorale, and Dryade in Ariadne auf Naxos with the Berkshire Opera Festival.
Odyssey Opera’s “Dwarf”: Diminutive or Gigantic?
South Shore Critic • April 15, 2017
The bleeding heart of Zemlinsky’s Der Zwerg at Odyssey Opera, Boston
Bachtrack • April 16, 2017
Dwarf Grabs Hold: Won’t Let Go
The Boston Musical Intelligencer • April 17, 2017