Philharmonia Orchestra of New York
Season Premiere with Project Hand in Hand
Symphonic Storyboards: Jazz at Lincoln Center
Music & Video
The Flying Dutchman
The Flying Dutchman is characterized by its themes of immortality and loyalty. It tells the tale of a captain who is cursed to sail for eternity until someone pledges their love to him. After encountering a Norwegian Sea captain who recommends his daughter’s hand for marriage, the captain later discovers she already has a fiancé. Distraught and convinced he will be cursed forever, the Dutchman leaves the Norwegian coast. Upon the news of his return home, the sea captain’s daughter throws herself into the sea, her death bringing the Dutchman’s salvation. This overture showcases the early attempts at opera styles that would characterize Wagner’s later music dramas.
About the Composer
- One of the most famous composers of the 19th Century
- His Tristan and Isolde opera is considered the start of modern music
- He revolutionized classical music by creating “music drama” – the concept of “total work of art” synthesizing the poetry, visuals, music and dramatic arts
- He was self-taught in piano and composition, largely studying the music of Beethoven
Considered Rimsky-Korsakov’s most popular work, Scheherazade is an exotic fantasy filled with sensuality and wonder based on the Middle Eastern and Indian tales known as One Thousand and One Nights or The Arabian Nights.
The story begins with King Shahryar discovering that his wife has been unfaithful, causing him to believe that all women are deceitful. The King’s solution is to take a new wife every day, and then have her executed the next morning to ensure that he could never be betrayed again. One day, Scheherazade volunteers to become the king’s nightly wife and began telling him a delightfully intriguing story. The story reached its peak of excitement as the sun began to rise, delaying Scheherazade’s execution until she could finish the story the following night. This sequence continued every night, and each morning the King spared her life just one more day, so that he could hear the end of the story. After 1,001 nights, the King fell in love with Scheherazade, as she gained his trust and broke his ritual.
First Movement: The Sea and Sinbad's Ship
In this movement, Scheherazade begins her tale with the seafaring adventurer Sinbad meeting many strange people, birds and other rarities after landing on an island, which turns out to be the back of a giant fish. The harsh opening cedes to the sweetness of the Scheherazade refrain and softens into the primary theme of fragments and echoes over a series of ascending and descending notes that parallel the waves and changing moods of the ocean.
Second Movement: The Story of the Kalendar Prince
Scheherazade’s story continues as she introduces a fakir who tells Sinbad his horrendous account of bouncing between visions of veiled women and a monstrous genie.
Third Movement: The Young Prince and the Young Princess
This is where Scheherazade begins to win over the King’s love. She tells him the intense story of Ibraham who falls in love with a portrait of Jemilah. He seeks her out and wins her love when she realizes that her fierce hatred of men was only ignited by jealousy. The music in the third movement displays a playful love song, enhanced with shimmering winds and strings, offset by up-tempo variant and gentle percussion, until the Scheherazade theme perfectly unites them.
Fourth Movement: The Festival at Baghdad; the Sea; Shipwreck on a Rock; Conclusion
The work ends with the complex emotions of the second movement, as Scheherazade tells of Sinbad’s returns from his voyages to festivities in Baghdad, yearning for more adventure as he heads out to uncharted waters, where he loses his ship in a storm.
Like the stories of Scheherazade, Sinbad’s life always leads to the next adventure, full of wonder of what is yet to come. The music comes together in a restatement of the story’s main theme, to wipe away the Sultan's pretension and gain control over himself. The admirable ending belongs to Scheherazade. Having won her victory over the Sultan's cruel power through such charm and allure, Korsakov’s opening motif sinks into the deep bass while her captivating theme soars higher, drawing listeners into levels of infinite imagination.
About the Composer
- Best known for his frequent use of fairytale and folk subjects
- Before pursuing music as a career, he was an officer in the Imperial Russian military
- Considered the architect of the Russian style of composition
- Started composing at age 10
- He was a part of “The Five,” the leading group of 19th-century Russian nationalist composers (also known as “The Mighty Handful”)
- He wrote the famous Flight of the Bumblebee
Triumphal March from Aida
This story takes place in Ancient Egypt, as the country is at war with Ethiopia. Egyptians capture and enslave the Nubian princess, Aida. An Egyptian military commander, Radamès, falls in love with her and struggles to choose between his love for her and his loyalty to the Pharaoh. The opera shares an intimate story of forbidden love, unrequited in a struggle for royal power. Verdi’s atmospheric and colorful score perfectly expresses the tenderness, jealousy and longing that drive its three central characters: an Egyptian warrior, the enslaved Ethiopian princess he loves, and her royal mistress.
In 15th century Spain, Il Trovatore is a story of kidnapping, beheading, old secrets and fatal revenge. Count di Luna is in love with Leonora, who does not love him back. Leonora is having a love affair with a troubadour, Manrico. The music flows as Count Di Luna and Manrico battle over love and newly learned truths, ultimately bringing Leonora to death. Today, Trovatore is frequently referred to as a staple of the standard operatic repertoire.
La Traviata translates into “The Fallen Woman.” Violetta knows that she will die soon, exhausted by her life as a courtesan. At a party she meets Alfredo, who has been fascinated by her for a long time and he reveals his love for her. Violetta is torn by conflicting emotions—she doesn’t want to give up her way of life, but simultaneously feels that Alfredo has awakened her desire to be truly loved. Because of her past, Alfredo’s father guilts Violetta and convinces her to split from Alfredo. The story unfolds as the lovers fight to be together.
Hebrew Chorus from Nabucco
Verdi’s Nabucco takes place in Babylon times, as tensions rise between the Hebrews and the Babylonians. King Nabucco’s days are numbered, according to his false-hearted daughter Abigaille, who plans to over throw her father and expel the Israelites. She must first dispose of her kidnapped sister, whose time in captivity has found her sympathetic and dedicated to restoring peace. The “Chorus of the Hebrew Slaves” is the best-known number from Nabucco. It recollects the story of Jewish exiles in Babylon after the loss of the First Temple in Jerusalem. This story is filled with redemption, revenge, love and despair. The opera’s powerful chorus established Verdi as a major composer in 19th-century Italy.
Quartet from Rigoletto (Bella figlia dell’amore)
Rigoletto tells a tragic tale of a court jester who wants to protect his daughter from a disorderly duke who seduces her. The story revolves around the Duke of Mantua, the hunch-backed court jester Rigoletto, and Rigoletto's daughter Gilda. The theme of the performance refers to a curse placed on both the Duke and Rigoletto by a courtier whose daughter had been seduced by the Duke with Rigoletto's encouragement. The curse comes to fruition when Gilda falls in love with the Duke and ends up sacrificing her life to save him from the assassins hired by her father.
About the Composer
- He was an Italian-born Frenchman
- Considered the most important opera composer of the 19th century, along with Wagner
- He composed over 25 operas throughout his career
- He was Richard Wagner’s arch rival
- His funeral service remains the largest public assembly of any event in the history of Italy
Music has been used in hundreds of film scores, including 1990’s Pretty Woman