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De Waart opens HKPO’s Season with Critically Acclaimed Opera in Concert series

17 August 2007

Hong Kong, 17 August 2007– Following the critically acclaimed and ground-breaking concert performances of three tragedies - Richard Strauss’s Salome, Elektra and Puccini’s Madama Butterfly, Edo de Waart will open the Hong Kong Philharmonic Orchestra’s new season with Strauss’s most famous comic opera, Der Rosenkavalier, in September. Headlining the cast of 20 international and local singers are sopranos Dagmar Schellenberger and Heidi Elisabeth Meier, mezzo-soprano Michelle Breedt, bass Franz Hawlata and baritone Wolfgang Holzmair. Celebrated tenor Warren Mok will also make a special guest appearance as the Italian singer. Tam Wah Ching Foundation sponsors Der Rosenkavalier opera in concert will be held on 27 and 29 September (Thursday and Saturday), 7pm, at the Hong Kong Cultural Centre Concert Hall. Der Rosenkavalier opera in concert will be sung in German with English and Chinese surtitles. It is in three acts and runs about 3 hours 45 minutes, including two 25-minute intervals.

Set in mid-18th century Vienna, Der Rosenkavalier (The Cavalier of the Rose) is an operatic masterpiece completed in 1910 by composer Richard Strauss and librettist Hugo von Hofmannsthal, the distinguished German poet. In 1911, it was performed 50 times in Dresden and 37 in Vienna. It such a success that special trains were run and cigarettes were named after the opera. Ever since, it has been frequently performed and recorded, featuring some of the world’s most revered opera divas today, such as Dame Kiri Te Kanawa and Dame Gwyneth Jones.

Edo de Waart is a renowned interpreter of Richard Strauss and has a particular fondness for the opera Der Rosenkavalier. He has conducted it many times, one of his most important productions being ten years ago at Opera Bastille in Paris with three of the world’s top opera singers - Renée Fleming (as the Marschallin), Barbara Bonney (as Sophie) and Susan Graham (as Octavian). His recording of the opera at the beginning of his career in the 1970’s with the Rotterdam Philharmonic was complimented as "musicianly and spirited" (William Mann, The Times) and full of “Mozartian grace” (Gramophone, UK).

Set in mid-18th century Vienna, Der Rosenkavalier centres around the shifting romantic attachments of four principal characters, the Marschallin (a noblewoman whose visual charms are quickly succumbing to the aging process), Octavian (a handsome young man with an eye for a beautiful woman), Baron Ochs von Lerchenau (the Marschallin’s bumbling and foolish cousin) and Sophie (to whom Baron Ochs is engaged). The opera opens with the Marschallin and Octavian, having spent the night together, being disturbed by the arrival of Baron Ochs who has come to seek the Marschallin’s assistance in courting Sophie. Octavian is appointed a “Rosenkavalier”, whose duty it is to carry the Baron's love-token - a silver rose - to Sophie. As soon as he sets eyes on Sophie, however, Octavian falls in love with her, and Sophie begs him to help her avoid marrying Ochs. After convoluted plot twists, Sophie and Octavian are united, Ochs is abandoned and the Marschallin, who knew Octavian would eventually leave her for a younger woman, is left alone.

In the run-up to the performances of this operatic classic, the HKPO has organized two activities that welcome the public’s participation:

1) The “Message of Love” campaign

Express your love to him/her and win the fabulous prize! The “Message of Love” campaign invites you to write your own message of love to your special someone. The most touching love messages (maximum 30 Chinese characters) will be selected for publication/broadcast on Sing Tao Daily, Hong Kong Broadband TV, Der Rosenkavalier opera in concert house programme and RTHK Radio 1. All selected participants will receive a gift and the best message will win the grand prize - a white gold diamond necklace with pink tourmaline (approx. value HK$27,000), sponsored by Chow Sang Sang. Please email your “Message of Love” to silver-rose@hkpo.com stating your name and contact number before 31 August. Please state “Message of Love Campaign” in the subject. All winners will be notified by email.

2) Talk (in Cantonese) + Open Rehearsal

A once in a lifetime opportunity! On 18 September, HKPO invites you to watch Edo de Waart conducting the Orchestra and singers in a rehearsal of the opera Der Rosenkavalier. Before the open rehearsal, you are invited to attend a talk by Mr Rupert Chan (in Cantonese), distinguished playwright and one of the hosts of Sunday Opera on RTHK Radio 4, to give you a better understanding of the opera. Due to the limited quota of 60 persons only, please pre-register by emailing your name and contact details by sending an email to silver-rose@hkpo.com, stating “Der Rosenkavalier Talk (in Cantonese) + Open Rehearsal” in the subject.

About the Singers:

Singing the role of the Marschallin will be the distinguished German dramatic soprano, Dagmar Schellenberger. A highly challenging role, the singer has to undergo rapid and conflicting mood changes in the course of the opera. In her performances of the Vienna State Opera this past season, she was praised by Germany’s major newspaper, Der Merkur, as ‘elegant and attractive. Her gleaming soprano was always evenly produced and is clean in all registers’.

The ‘cavalier of the rose’, Octavian, is Michelle Breedt. Born in South Africa, Michelle Breedt’s career blossomed in Europe, where she became a member of the Vienna State Opera and widely sought after in various European opera houses, including Bayreuth. It was under the guidance of the celebrated German mezzo, Brigitte Fassbaender, when she sang her first Octavian, and who still advises her on vocal technique and repertoire. While at the Vienna State Opera, she won the Eberhard Waechter Medal for the role of Octavian in Der Rosenkavalier.

German bass singer Franz Hawlata first sang Baron Ochs in Der Rosenkavalier with Welsh National Opera, a production which launched his career and a role which became one of his great calling cards of the next decade. Franz sang this role for his debut at the Metropolitan Opera, Vienna State Opera, as well as in major opera houses all over the world. He sang in the acclaimed production of the opera at Opera Bastille, Paris, conducted by Edo de Waart.

Lyric coloratura soprano Heidi Elisabeth Meier, a Nuremberg State Theatre artist, has impressed audiences and critics with her versatility and voluptuous voice. “Heidi Elisabeth Meier rose seemingly without any difficulties to the highest peaks of her role. Accordingly she was celebrated by the audience for her marvelously beautiful singing.” (Nordbayerischer Kurier)

Der Rosenkavalier opera in concert: http://silver-rose.hkpo.com will be ready soon! Go to this website for more information about the opera and the performers!

Programme Details:
Tam Wah Ching Foundation sponsors: Der Rosenkavalier opera in concert
27&29 | 9 | 2007
Thursday and Saturday
HK Cultural Centre Concert Hall
7 pm (ends around 10.45pm)
$580, $440, $300, $160
Available at URBTIX outlets
URBTIX website: www.urbtix.hk
Reservations: 2734 9009
Credit Card booking: 2111 5999
Programme Enquiries: 2721 2030
HKPO Website: www.hkpo.com

Opera in concert in 3 acts
Sung in German with surtitles in Chinese and English
Running time: about 3 hours and 45 minutes, including 2 intervals

Artists

Edo de Waart Artistic Director and Chief Conductor

ROLE
VOICE
ARTIST
Marschallin soprano Dagmar Schellenberger
Octavian mezzo Michelle Breedt
Sophie soprano Heidi Elisabeth Meier
Baron Ochs bass Franz Hawlata
Faninal baritone Wolfgang Holzmair
Marianne soprano Merlyn Quaife
Valzacchi tenor Richard Greager
An Italian Singer tenor Warren Mok
Annina contralto contralto Carole Wilson
Notary/Police Inspector/Waiter/Baron's Servant bass Brian Montgomery
Three Noble Orphans soprano Yuki Ip
  mezzo Carol Lin
  contralto Shanice Ng
Major-Domo/Innkeeper tenor David Quah
A Milliner soprano Sandy Leung
A Vendor of Pets tenor Albert Lim
Footman /Waiter /Messenger tenor Oliver Lo
Footman /Messenger /Waiter/Baron's Servant baritone Benjamin Chan
Footman /Messenger tenor Alex Tam
Footman /Waiter /Baron's Servant bass Sammy Chien

Special Pre-Concert Event: Der Rosenkavalier Talk + Open Rehearsal
Date: 18 September 2007 (Tue)

Talk (in Cantonese)
Speaker: Mr Rupert Chan (Host of ‘Sunday Opera’, RTHK Radio 4)
Time: 7.15 - 8pm
Venue: AC1, Level 4, Administration Building, Hong Kong Cultural Centre
+ Open Rehearsal
Time: 8.15 – 9.30pm
Venue: Hong Kong Cultural Centre Concert Hall

To register, please email us with your name and telephone number to silver-rose@hkpo.com , stating ‘Der Rosenkavalier Talk + Open Rehearsal’. There is a limited quota for 60 people only.

Der Rosenkavalier opera in concert is title sponsored by Tam Wah Ching Foundation.

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ABOUT THE HONG KONG PHILHARMONIC ORCHESTRA
Hailed as “one of Asia's top orchestras”, the Hong Kong Philharmonic Orchestra (HKPO) is one of the leading orchestras in the region, led by the internationally renowned Artistic Director and Chief Conductor Edo de Waart. Enriching Hong Kong’s cultural life for over a century, the Orchestra has grown into a formidable ensemble of Chinese and international talents in the last three decades, attracting world-class artists to perform on the same stage. In April 2006, The Swire Group Charitable Trust became the Hong Kong Philharmonic’s Principal Patron, committing HK$36 million over three years to enable Maestro de Waart’s artistic vision for the Orchestra to be realized. HKPO annually touches the lives of nearly 200,000 music lovers through more than 150 performances, including a series of outreach activities such as the free outdoor concert Symphony under the Stars which attracted nearly 20,000 people this season. Please visit www.hkpo.com for more information about the Hong Kong Philharmonic Orchestra.

The Hong Kong Philharmonic Orchestra is financially supported by the Government of the Hong Kong Special Administrative Region.

SWIRE is the Principal Patron of the Hong Kong Philharmonic Orchestra.