Sunday 21 February 2016 at 20:30

Otello vs Otello

Hye-Youn Lee, soprano
Sophie Goldrick, mezzo soprano
Ji Min Park, tenor
Sergey Romanovsky, tenor
Bechara Moufarej, tenor
Valeria Sepe, soprano
Sophie Goldrick, mezzo soprano
Kristian Benedikt, tenor
Nikoloz Lagvilava, baritone
The Al Bustan Festival Orchestra
Gianluca Marcianò, conductor

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Hye-Youn Lee, soprano
Selected in The Independent on Sunday as the “Face to Watch” in Classical Music 2013, soprano Hye-Youn Lee was born in South Korea and now lives in London. She was a member of both Les Jeunes Voix du Rhin at the Opéra national du Rhin, Strasbourg, and of L’Atelier Lyrique at the Opéra national de Paris. She has also studied in Berlin with Renate Krahmer and Julia Varady and now works with Robert Dean.
In 2014, she triumphed as Violetta La traviata for Opera North, Cio-Cio-San Madama Butterfly for Scottish Opera and returned to Leeds Castle for the 2014 Open Air Classical Concert.
In Summer 2013, she returned to Grange Park Opera as Blanche de la Force in Dialogues des Carmélites, made her debut with the Philharmonia Orchestra singing Coleridge-Taylor The Song of Hiawatha and was featured soloist at the 2013 Open Air Classical Concert with the Royal Philharmonic Orchestra at Leeds Castle. Other recent performances include Elettra Idomeneo and Cio-Cio-San Madama Butterfly for Grange Park Opera and Lisette La rondine for Finnish National Opera. She made a triumphant and highly acclaimed London debut as Marie La Fille du Regiment for Korn / Ferry Opera Holland Park in 2008, returning as Musetta La bohème and as Lisette La rondine, for which role she was awarded Best Female in a Supporting Role in the Opera Holland Park Audience Awards.
Her other engagements have included Lucia Lucia di Lammermoor for Opera Strasbourg, Oscar Un ballo in maschera for Opera Strasbourg and First Flowermaiden Parsifal at the Opéra national de Rhin, Silvia L’isola disabitata at the Opera Basse Normandie, Caen and First Esquire Parsifal at the Opéra national de Paris.Successful experiences in contemporary opera include Junge FrauReigen by Philippe Boesmann at the operas in Lausanne, Strasbourg and Mulhouse as well as the world premiere as First Blind at Prayer Les aveugles by Xavier Dayer at the Almeida Theatre, London.
Recent concert engagements have included Beethoven Choral Symphony with the Peninsula Doctors’ Orchestra, the BrahmsRequiem for Bristol Choral Society, Mozart Requiem with the Ten Tors Orchestra and Richard Strauss Four Last Songs in Gloucester Cathedral.
Her current engagements include Donna Anna Don Giovanni for Bergen National Opera, Liù Turandot for Northern Ireland Opera, Fauré Requiem with the Bournemouth Symphony Orchestra and Opera Galas with the Royal Philharmonic Orchestra at Cadogan Hall and the Royal Albert Hall.

Ji Min Park, tenor
Ji-Min Park trained at the Seoul National University, Vienna Conservatory, and was a Jette Parker Young Artist at the Royal Opera House Covent Garden, and subsequently Jette Parker Principal for the 09-10 season. Roles at Covent Garden included Rodolfo in ‘La Boheme’, Gastone and Alfredo in ‘La Traviata’, Des Grieux in ‘Manon’, Rinuccio in ‘Gianni Schicchi’, Venditore in ‘Il Taborro’ and  Iopas in a new production of ‘les Troyens’.
Ji-Min has performed major roles and enjoyed notable successes with several international opera houses, orchestras and conductors. He has made notable debuts with houses including La Fenice Venice, New National Theatre Tokyo, Opera Australia, Theatre du Capitole Toulouse, Welsh National Opera, Opera North, and Teatro Municipal de Santiago Chile, to name a few. Conductors with whom he has worked include Antonio Pappano, Daniel Harding, Yannick Nézet-Séguin, Daniel Oren, and Daniel Barenboim.

Sergey Romanovsky, tenor
The Tenor Sergey Romanovsky was born in Mineralny Vody, Russia. He graduated from the Music School as a violinist, and studied singing at the College of Music. In 2004 he entered the Moscow Tchaikovsky State Conservatory.
He has now entered into the Moscow Academy of Choral Art, where he works with Professor Dmitry Vdovin
Sergey also took part in the International School of Vocal Art  in Moscow in 2006 and 2007, where he worked with George Darden of the Metropolitan Opera, Caroline Dumas of the Ecole Normale, Paris, Stephen King, Diane Zola, Richard Bado of the Houston Grand Opera and Rudolf Piernay from London.
He is already also a prize winner in several major competitions including 2ndPrize winner of the International Bella Voce Vocal Competition in Moscow in 2005 and 3rd Prize winner of the National Vocal Competition “St.-Petersburg” in 2007.
Past appearances include Young Gipsy in the concert performance of ALEKO by Rachmaninov in San Sebastian, Spain with the Russian National Orchestra under the baton of Mikhail Pletnev in August 2007. He also recently sung Conte Libenskoff in IL VIAGGIO A REIMS in concert at the International School of Vocal Art and Alfredo in LA TRAVIATA at the Teatro Comunale Chiabrera (Savona).
He received high acclaim for his debut performance as Tebaldo in I CAPULETI E MONTECCHI at the opening night of the 08/09 season of the Moscow State Philharmonic Society opposite Patrizia Ciofi and Anna Bonitatibus and made his debut at La Scala in Milan with Libenskoff in IL VIAGGIO A REIMS. He also recently sang Ernesto in DON PASQUALE at the Norske Opera in Oslo, Lensky in EUGENE ONEGIN in Lille, Amiens and Caen and also the Bolshoi Theatre Moscow, Rachmaninov’s THE BELLS with the RSNO and a recital at the Musashino Civic Cultural Hall in Japan.
His future engagements will include IL BARBIERE DI SIVIGALIA at the Opera Royal de Wallonie, Ferrando in ‘Cosi fan tutte’ with Opera de Dijon, LA TRAVIATA in Novara,
IL BARBIERE DI SIVIGLIA and L’ELISIR D’AMORE with  the Mikhailovsky Theatre in Moscow, Rossini’s PETITE MESSE SOLENNELLE both with the Moscow State Philharmonic Society and Rossini’s STABAT MATER at the Teatro Verdi (Firenze).
He will also be making his USA debut singing THE BELLS with the Atlanta Symphony Orchestra, and will also sing the VERDI REQUIEM in Rome in the Chiesa Santa Maria Maggiore.

Bechara Moufarej, tenor
Since graduating in 2009 with his master degree in Music in Lebanon he furthered his studies in Italy and subsequently joined the opera studio back in his home town in Beirut in 2013.
Bechara Moufarrej has continued to delight audiences worldwide in some of the most celebrated venues, playing some of the greatest leading operatic roles and collaborating with renowned vocal coaches, conductors and orchestras.
Bechara Moufarrej was born in Lebanon and is one of the few singers who has started pursuing an operatic career outside Lebanon.
During his studies, he also benefitted from masterclasses with Maestra Michaella Mingheras in France, Simone Alaimo in Palermo, Maestra Vittoria Alaimo and Sylvana Ferraro in Rome.
Bechara has collaborated with the Lebanese National Orchestra, the Filarmonica Romana and the Orchestra Giovanile Italiana under the baton of conductors like Harout Fazlian, Lubnan Baalbaki, Father Toufik Maatouk, Alberto Maniaci and Nicola Pascovski. His most recent appearances include opera houses and festivals in Qatar, Dubai, Canada, Italy and the Opera de Paris in France.
In 2013, Bechara performed the role of Don Jose in Bizet’s Carmen at the Cirque d’Hiver in Paris and subsequently undertook the role of Don Basilio in Mozart’s Le nozze di Figaro and Conte d’Almaviva in Rossini’s Il Barbiere di Siviglia. This was in collaboration with the Antonine University in Beirut , the Lebanese Conservatory and the Al Bustan Festival . After his great success as Conte d’Almaviva in Beirut, his engagements in the same role took him to such places as the Teatro Giulio di Lucca , Teatro Goldoni in Livorno, Teatro Verdi in Pisa and Teatro Coccia in Novara under the baton of Nicola Pascovski and in the staging of Alessio Pizzech.
Concert performances include Rossini’s Messa di Gloria, Stabat Mater and Petite Messe Solennelle, Mozart’s Requiem and Masses as well as Verdi’s Requiem.
His future engagements include “La Traviata” , “La Boheme” , “Rigoletto” and “Il Barbiere di Siviglia” at the Opera House in Cairo under the baton of Maestro David Crescenzi.

Valeria Sepe, soprano
Born in Napoli, is one of the most talented Italian sopranos of her generation. A winner of several international vocal competitions, Sepe graduated at the Conservatory “G. F. Ghedini” in Cuneo, and attended masterclass held by Luisa Castellani, Mariella Devia, Luciana D’Intino, Bruna Baglioni and Marcello Giordani. She appeared in some of  the most important Italian theaters, including Teatro San Carlo di Napoli, Teatro Massimo di Palermo, Maggio Musicale Fiorentino, Teatro Carlo Felice di Genova, working with such conductors as Fabio Luisi, Nicola Luisotti, Renato Palumbo and Stefano Ranzani.
She debuted in Napoli Milionaria as Amalia at the theaters of Lucca, Pisa and Livorno, Liu’ in Turandot at the National Theater of Skopje with Giovanna Casolla and Rudy Park and Nedda/Colombina in Pagliacci with Piero Giuliacci at the theater of Taormina.
Recently she sang as soloist the Petite Messe Solennelle of Rossini at the XXVIII Macau Festival.
Plans include Messe Solennelle at Macao Festival.
Her performances in 2015 include Mimì, La Boheme of Puccini, at Teatro Bellini of Catania, and Teatro Massimo of Palermo; Amelia, Simon Boccanegra of Verdi, at the National Theatre of Skopje, and at the theaters of Lucca, Pisa and Livorno; Liù, Turandot of Puccini, at the Festival Euromediterraneo, Theatre of Siracusa, and at the Festival di Varna in Bulgaria.

  • 2nd appearance at the Al Bustan Festival


Kristian Benedikt, tenor
Lithuanian tenor Kristian Benedikt began his career at the National Opera of Vilnius, Lithuania, where he sang more than 20 roles. Although he began his career as a lyric tenor, over the last years Kristian Benedikt has established himself as one of the world’s most promising and exciting dramatic tenors of his generation.
In April 2013 Benedikt had his successful debut at Bayerische Staatsoper München as Otello – a role he also sung in Modena, Piacenza, Cagliari, Ekaterinburg and in Vilnius , in Santiago (and in Basel. More engagements included the title roles of Ernani, Lohengrin and Otello as well as the roles of Eleazar/La Juive, Radames/Aida, and Don José/Carmen.
His operatic repertoire features moreover some of the most demanding roles, such as Manrico/Il Trovatore, Cavaradossi/Tosca, Canio/I Pagliacci, Giordano/Andrea Chenier, Siegmund/Die Walküre, Calaf/Turandot, the title role in Rienzi and Dick Johnson/La Fanciulla del West. He continues, nonetheless, to also sing in parallel fashion other more lyric roles, such as Edgardo/Lucia di Lammermoor, and the title role in Les Contes d’Hoffmann. As a guest, Mr. Benedikt has sung at such prestigious venues as the Bavarian State Opera in Munich; the Mariinsky Theater in Saint Petersburg; the Royal Opera House in Copenhagen; the Finnish National Opera in Helsinki; the Dutch National Opera in Amsterdam; the Estonian National Opera in Tallinn; Liceu theatre in Barcelona; and the theatres of Piacenza, Modena and Cagliari in Italy.
His international breakthrough came in 2002 at Munich Rundfunk Orchestra where he recorded Ponchielli’sLa Gioconda with M. Viotti and P. Domingo. In 2004 at Nederlandse Opera (DNO-Amsterdam) he sang in Verdi’s Don Carlo with R. Chailly. Other highlights were singing Don José/Carmen in 2005 at the Mariinsky theatre, and Canio/I Pagliacci in 2006 at Estonian National Opera in Tallinn. From 2007 to 2009 he was a regular guest with most of the operas in the Baltic Countries in roles such as Hoffmann/Les contes d’Hoffmann, Cavaradossi/Tosca, Duca/ Rigoletto, Manrico/Trovatoreand Alfredo/La Traviata.
In 2009 he had his debut in Verdi‘s Requiem with European Union Choir and the 2009/10 season included importantdebuts in four roles as Andrea Chenier, Des Grieux/Manon, Corrado in Ponchielli’s I Lituani and as Pinkerton/Madama Butterfly. In 2010/11 he sang successfully Eleazar/La Juive, the title role in Otello, Turiddu/Cavalleria Rusticana, and Calaf/Turandot at Opera houses in Russia, Baltic Countries and at the DanishRoyal Opera. Furthermore he sang Don Jose in Sweden Opera festival.
Last season Benedikt made his debut as Edgardo/Lucia di Lammermoor as well as singing many concerts and performances of Otello, Eleazar, Jose, Des Grieux, Manrico, Siegmund/Die Walkürein various opera houses. He also performed Dick Johnson/La Fanciulla del West at the Finland National Opera.On the concert stage Kristian Benedikt has sung Dubois’ The Seven Last Words of Christ, Rossini’s Stabat Mater and Verdi’s Requiem, amongst other works. He has also taken part in several oratorio performances, such as Handel’s Messiah, Mahler‘s Das lied von der Erde, Rachmaninov’s The bells, and Webber‘s Requiem.
Mr. Benedikt has sung under the baton of several famous conductors including M. Viotti, R.Chailly, A. Hold Garrido, M.Barbacini, P.Carigniani, A. Fisch, G.M.Bisanti and worked with great stage directors such as W.Decker, D.Bertman, A.Bernard, E.Nekrošius, P.F.Maestrini, and I.Uschakov.

Nikoloz Lagvilava, baritone
Born in Tbilisi, Georgia, Nikoloz Lagvilava graduated from the Vocal Department of the Tbilisi State Conservatoire and mastered his skills at the 5 Internationale Opernwerkstatt Schloss Laubach, Germany, and the prestigious Accademia del Teatro alla Scala.
He was awarded the 2001 European Foundation for Culture Prize, the 2002-2004 Presidential Award, and the 1st Prize at the 2003 Georgian Singers’ First Contest.
Since 2003 Nikoloz Lagvilava is soloist of the ensemble of Tbilisi National Opera.
His operatic repertoire comprises Renato in Un ballo in maschera, Nabucco, Giorgio Germont in La traviata, Amonasro in Aida, Iago in Otello, Don Carlo di Vargas in La forza del destino, Dr Malatesta in Don Pasquale, Guglielmo in Puccini’s Le villi, Sharpless in Madama Butterfly, Baron Scarpia in Tosca, Don Giovanni, Don Alfonso in Così fan tutte, Figaro in Il barbiere di Siviglia, Aleko, and Escamillo in Carmen among the others.
Recent engagements include his participation in the Classical Georgia concert at Astana Opera Theatre in Kazakhstan and Shavleg Shilakadze’s oratorio Galobani sinanulisani with the Tbilisi Symphony Orchestra.
In 2015 he took part in the Bolshoi Theatre production of Carmen, singing the role of Escamillo.

Sophie Goldrick, mezzo sopranoFor the biography of Sophie Goldrick, please refer to the concert of Tuesday, February 16

The Al Bustan Festival Orchestra
For the biography of The Al Bustan Festival Orchestra, please refer to the concert of Tuesday, February 16

Gianluca Marcianò, conductor
For the biography of Gianluca Marcianò, please refer to the concert of Tuesday, February 16

Giuseppe Verdi (1813 – 1901)
Verdi prided himself as an Italian patriot, both politically and musically, and distanced himself from the resurgence of attention to German music, going as far as to state that it was a crime to imitate the harmonies, symphonic approach and leitmotifs that formed the basis of Wagner’s structural method. Boito, on the other hand, urged a change in style away from the stale formulas into which he felt Italian opera had lapsed. Verdi took this as an insult and retaliated by mocking the constant modulations in Arrigo Boito’s Mefistofele.
In drawing distinctions between Verdi and Wagner, Paul Henry Lang cites not only their musical approaches, but the characters that their operas depict. Thus, Wagner’s protagonists tend to be idealized mythological heroes whose fates come from external forces, whereas Verdi’s are living characters subject to weak human passions. In that sense, Otello seemed an ideal vehicle for Verdi. Yet, it seems ironic that Verdi endured criticism that his Otello violated the esthetic principles of his own prior works and crossed the line into Wagner’s rich harmonies, continuous writing, and integration of arias into the whole and strong reliance upon the role of the orchestra – the very qualities of German music that he decried.
Verdi deeply resented insinuations that he was influenced by Wagner. Even so, the unbroken flow of his music, its role as commentary upon the text, and the richness of his orchestration all tend to bridge the gap between the two primary schools of late-Romantic opera. Yet, in a clear break with Wagner, Verdi used a thematic motif only once in Otello, and then to striking effect – the gorgeous tune that ends Act I to accompany Otello kissing Desdemona returns twice in the final act: to provide an ironic comment upon his murderous mission as he enters her chamber, and to underline the magnitude of his loss at the very end. Rather than rely on Wagnerian signposts, George Marek contends that Verdi assigns each major character individual musical expression – Desdemona’s innocence is portrayed with lyric sweetness and fluid melody, Iago’s inherent evil is implied through shakes and trills (within mostly deceptively light music), and Otello’s evolution from the confident leader and lover in Act I to one who is tormented (Act II), becomes a tormentor (Act III) and finally is steeped in guilt and seeks atonement (Act IV) is complemented in each phase by appropriate musical delineation.

Gioachino Rossini (1792 – 1868)
They have been crucifying Otello into an opera…music good but lugubrious’. So wrote Byron of Rossini’s 1816 Otello when it was performed in Venice. Maintaining the stage until Verdi came along with his setting that sticks closer to Shakespeare’s version of the story, Rossini’s score gets a frequent airing these days, with performances in London, Pesaro, Antwerp/Ghent/Zurich (same production), Paris and so on having taken place over the last few years. However, its very popularity in the 19th Century gave rise to a number of additional versions which can be chosen from. As well as the outrageously contrived happy ending created for Rome, the machinations of a diva gave rise to a version in which the role of Otello is played en travesti by a woman. Although based on the so-called ‘Malibran’ version of 1831, Maria Malibran was not in fact the first diva to take on the role of the noble moor, having been pipped to this by Giuditta Pasta who sang the role at the King’s Theatre, London in 1828. In current times, the Martina Franca Festival performed it in 2000 with Patrizia Ciofi as Desdemona.
In many ways the transposition of the leading role to travesti isn’t intrinsically nonsensical; after all, audiences were familiar with the convention following the decline of the castrati, though inevitably you might be left with the feeling that Otello is a much younger man than is generally portrayed, closer to the youthful Romeo or Tancredi rather than a battle-hardened general.
The libretto by the Marchese Berio di Salsa might strike the casual reader as a betrayal of Shakespeare’s tragedy, but viewed within the conventions of the age it is a successful, even ground-breaking telling of the basic story, which would have shocked the original audience, unused to tragic finales involving suicide. The unities of time, place and theme are more fluid. The action takes place wholly in Venice, in contrast to Verdi’s/Boito’s decision to set it all in Cyprus. The first two acts are admittedly conventional ottocento structures, though with two concertati in the first act finale and a duet that turns into a trio in the second. The third act is an outstanding achievement for a composer who was but 24 at the time and had already written two other operas that year, La gazzetta and Il barbiere di Siviglia. So much for the oft-used accusation levelled at Rossini that he was a lazy composer!