Lothar Koenigs conducts the WNO Orchestra in a programme of music inspired by the muse | Welsh National Opera

Lothar Koenigs conducts the WNO Orchestra in a programme of music inspired by the muse

14 January 2014

To begin Welsh National Opera's Fallen Women season, Music Director Lothar Koenigs conducts the WNO Orchestra in a programme of music inspired by the muse at St David’s Hall on Friday 17 January 2014 at 7.30p.m.

The programme includes Wagner's Wesendonck Lieder (arranged by Mottl); a setting of poetry by Mathilde Wesendonck, the wife of Richard Wagner’s wealthy benefactor Otto Wesendonck. Wagner is said to have become infatuated with Mathilde and was inspired to write the lieder alongside composing his opera Tristan und Isolde. His marriage to his wife Minna failed after she intercepted a letter from her husband to Mathilde. Though it was never confirmed that his infatuation was returned, Mathilde’s friendship with the composer had a profound effect on her poems as well as his own writing.

Alban Berg's Lyric Suite also reveals a tale of concealed love. Written in 1926, he used methods derived from Schoenberg's twelve tone technique. His three movement work carries the secrets of an illicit affair with Hanna Fuchs-Robbetin, coded within the notes of the score itself only to be discovered by musicologist George Perle years later.

Symphonie Fantastique completes the programme. The work is a passionate public love-letter in which Hector Berlioz made his declaration of love for the actress Harriet Smithson before the whole of Paris. He fell in love with her having seen her perform the role of Ophelia in Hamlet. Though she didn’t hear the piece at its first performance in 1830, Smithson later heard a later version, complete with love-struck narration by an actor in 1832 and Berlioz and Smithson married the following year.

The soloist for the concert is soprano Emma Bell. Originally a BBC New Generation Artist in 1999, she is at the forefront of the younger generation of sopranos and is admired for her richly coloured voice and sensitive musicianship. Her future plans include Eva Meistersinger (Zurich), Fidelio (ENO) for the Netherlands Radio in the Concertgebouw Amsterdam, Mme Lidoine Dialogues de Carmélites (Royal Opera House), Elettra Idomeneo Teatro Colon, Buenos Aires, Donna Elvira Don Giovanni Metropolitan Opera, New York and Elisabeth Tannhauser (ROH).

Lothar Koenigs is particularly looking forward to conducting these three pieces inspired by the muse.  He says of Berg’s acquaintance with Hanna Fuchs-Robbetin, “Perhaps without this relationship, there would have been no Lulu!” referring to Berg’s opera of 1927-35 which he conducted for WNO in Spring 2013.  He is keen to stress the emotional beauty of Berg’s compositional style, which can sometimes be characterised as more mathematical than emotional; “This is such human music, so people shouldn’t be afraid!” He adds, “I’m thrilled to be working with Emma Bell again”, following her acclaimed performance in the role of Elsa in WNO’s summer 2013 production of Wagner’s Lohengrin, which Lothar conducted. He has a particular fondness for Wagner’s Wesendonck Lieder, because some of their melodies resurface in Tristan and Isolde, Wagner’s later opera, which inspired Lothar to become a conductor. He adds that Berlioz’s Symphonie Fantastique was staggeringly ahead of its time: “This piece is amazing. I can’t believe that it was written only three years after Beethoven died – it sounds like something from twenty years later!” 

At 6.15pm, prior to the concert, WNO’s Nicholas John Trainee Dramaturg, Sophie Rashbrook will give a free thirty minute talk in the Level 5 Bar at St David’s Hall, introducing the musical language and background of the pieces.

Tickets for the 17 January concert which is part of St David’s Hall’s International Concert Series are £5.00 to £33.50 and are available from St David’s Hall Box Office on 029 2087 8444 or at stdavidshallcardiff.co.uk.

The concert is part of WNO’s Fallen Women season which includes three operas Manon Lescaut, La traviata, Boulevard Solitude as well as WNO Extra events and a brand new small scale opera Anon.  More information about the season is available at wno.org.uk/fallenwomen.


Notes to Editors

• Welsh National Opera is the national opera company for Wales. WNO is funded by the Arts Councils of Wales and England to provide large scale opera across Wales and to major cities in the English regions.

• WNO production images are available for download at http://www.wno.org.uk/press

• For more information, photos or interviews please contact Rachel Bowyer, Press and Public Affairs Manager on 029 2063 5038 or rachel.bowyer@wno.org.uk or Lowri Pugh-Morgan, Press Officer on 029 2063 5037 or lowri.pugh-morgan@wno.org.uk.

• The 17 January WNO Orchestra concert is supported by the WNO Orchestra Circle.