RICHARD STRAUSS 1864 - 1949 Four Last Songs Frühling September Beim Schlafengehen Im Abendrot PLEASE NOTE: during the performance of Vier letzte Lieder the lighting will be dimmed and surtitles will be displayed. Reprinted courtesy of the Philharmonia Orchestra Surtitles: Jonathan Burton
Some great artists – Mozart or Schubert for example – seem destined to die young, leaving a bitter aftertaste of promise unfulfilled. Others – such as Sibelius – burn out, sinking into a bleak creative silence with the approach of later middle age. But there are those who continue to blossom into old age – Richard Strauss was one of these. Strauss’s last years, however, were overshadowed by the appalling devastation of his homeland during the Second World War. His 15th opera, Capriccio, was finished in August 1941, and he knew it would be his last, telling his colleague Clemens Krauss: ‘Isn’t this D flat major the best conclusion to my theatrical life- work?’. In 1943 the theatre that had hosted the premières of so many of his operas – the Nationaltheater in Munich – was destroyed by Allied bombs, followed shortly afterwards by other treasured cultural monuments. In the spring of 1945 Strauss’s horror at the tragic whirlwind Germany was reaping found expression in the Metamorphosen for 23 solo strings; and after the collapse of the Third Reich, he and his wife went into voluntary exile in Switzerland, where he had to undergo the humiliation of appearing before a denazification tribunal (he had unwittingly allowed himself to become a puppet of the Nazi government in the early 1930s, when he was briefly appointed Director of the Reichsmusikkammer, and then hastily removed from office when he refused to forego his collaboration with the Jewish librettist Stefan Zweig). In the early summer of 1948 the 84-year-old composer heard that his reputation had been cleared, and he was free to return home to Garmisch. But by now his health was failing, and he was forced to stay in Switzerland to undergo an operation. During that summer he worked on four orchestral songs, which were to be his swansongs. The first, Im Abendrot (At Gloaming), to a text by Eichendorff, was finished on 6 May; and the remaining three – all to words by Hermann Hesse – between 18 July and 20 September. The last song – appropriately enough – was entitled September. Strauss never set pen to paper again. In August 1949 his heart began to fail, and he died peacefully on 8 September, telling his daughter-in-law, Alice: ‘Dying is just as I composed it in Tod und Verklärung’. Strauss never heard the Four Last Songs, which were first performed in the Royal Albert Hall by Kirsten Flagstad and the Philharmonia Orchestra under Wilhelm Furtwängler on 22 May 1950. Later the same year they were published in the order dictated by Universal Edition’s editor, Dr Ernst Roth (to whom Im Abendrot is dedicated) and in which they are most often sung today, beginning with Frühling (Spring) and ending with Im Abendrot. Over the past 64 years they have achieved iconic status among music-lovers and they have been performed and recorded by the greatest sopranos of the age, including Elisabeth Schwarzkopf, Jessye Norman, Lucia Popp, Gundula Janowitz and Karita Mattila. The beauty of the poems is matched by incomparable orchestration – rich, glowing, but sufficiently restrained to support and enfold the voice. In the Four Last Songs, Strauss bade farewell to
his three great musical loves: the soprano voice, the violin and the horn. The horn melody that introduces the coda of September and the luminous violin that ushers in the third verse of Beim Schlafengehen (Going to Sleep) rank among the greatest orchestral solos of all time. All four songs are irradiated from within by the imagery of the setting sun and the awareness of approaching death, but there is nothing here of the bleak despair of Schubert’s late songs. Strauss and his life’s companion – his beloved wife Pauline whose voice inspired many of his greatest works – go hand in hand gently into the twilight, choosing not to ‘rage against the dying of the light’. Frühling is an ecstatic setting of one of Hesse’s most romantic poems, praising the beauties of spring; while in September, the sun, like the ageing composer, longs to close ‘its great, wearied eyes’. Beim Schlafengehen (setting a poem written during the First World War while Hesse was undergoing an emotional crisis) expresses the weary soul’s desire to live forever in the ‘magic circle of night’. Finally, Im Abendrot depicts an elderly couple who have come through life’s joys and sorrows together. Now, with tired eyes, they gaze at the sunset, while overhead two larks – portrayed by gentle flute trills – rise into the darkening sky. ‘Is this perhaps Death?’ they ask, to an echo of the ‘transfiguration’ theme from Tod und Verklärung. © Wendy Thompson
FRÜHLING (Hermann Hesse) In dämmrigen Grüften träumte ich lang von deinen Bäumen und blauen Lüften, von deinem Duft und Vogelgesang. Nun liegst du erschlossen in Gleiß und Zier, von Licht übergossen wie ein Wunder vor mir. Du kennest mich wieder, du lockest mich zart, es zittert durch all meine Glieder deine selige Gegenwart.
SPRING In dusky caverns I dreamed long of your trees and azure breezes, of your scents and birdsong. Now you lie revealed in glitter and array, bathed in light like a miracle before me. You recognise me again, tenderly you beckon to me. Through all my limbs quivers your blissful presence.
SEPTEMBER (Hermann Hesse) Der Garten trauert, kühl sinkt in die Blumen der Regen. Der Sommer schauert still seinem Ende entgegen. Golden tropft Blatt um Blatt nieder vom hohen Akazienbaum. Sommer Lächelt erstaunt und matt in den sterbenden Gartentraum. Lange noch bei den Rosen bleibt er stehn, sehnt sich nach Ruh, langsam tut er die (großen) müdgewordnen Augen zu.
SEPTEMBER The garden is in mourning: the rain sinks coolly on the flowers. Summertime shudders quietly to its close. Leaf upon golden leaf is dropping down from the tall acacia tree. Summer smiles, amazed and exhausted, on the dying dream that was this garden. Long by the roses still it tarries, yearns for rest, slowly closes its (great) weary eyes.
BEIM SCHLAFENGEHEN (Hermann Hesse) Nun der Tag mich müd gemacht, soll mein sehnliches Verlangen freundlich die gestirnte Nacht wie ein müdes Kind empfangen. Hände, laßt von allem Tun, Stirn, vergiß du alles Denken, alle meine Sinne nun wollen sich in Schlummer senken. Und die Seele unbewacht will in freien Flügen schweben, um im Zauberkreis der Nacht tief und tausendfach zu leben.
GOING TO SLEEP Now that day has tired me, my spirits long for starry night kindly to enfold them, like a tired child. Hands, leave all your doing; brow, forget all your thoughts. Now all my senses want to sink themselves in slumber. And the soul unwatched, would soar in free flight, till in the magic circle of night it lives deeply and a thousandfold.
IM ABENDROT (Joseph Eichendorff) Wir sind durch Not und Freude gesangen Hand in Hand, vom Wandern ruhn wir beide nun überm stillen Land. Rings sich die Täler neigen, es dunkelt schon die Luft, zwei Lerchen nur noch steigen nachträumend in den Duft. Tritt her und laß sie schwirren, bald ist es Schlafenszeit, daß wir uns nicht verirren in dieser Einsamkeit. O weiter, stiller Friede, o tief im Abendrot. Wie sind wir wandermüde – ist dies etwa der Tod?
AT GLOAMING Through want and joy we have walked hand in hand; we are both resting from our travels now, the quiet countryside below us. Around us the valleys incline; already the air grows dark. Two larks still soar alone half-dreaming, into the haze. Come here, and let them fly about; soon it is time for sleep. We must not go astray in this solitude. O spacious, tranquil peace, so profound in the gloaming. How tired we are of travelling – is this perchance death?
German texts © Copyright 1950 by Boosey & Co. Ltd. Reproduced by permission of Boosey & Hawkes Music Publishers Ltd.
English translation © William Mann
Cristina Bakhoum Sanchez / Soprano Cristina Bakhoum Sanchez is a vibrant soprano who credits her love and natural ear for languages to her exotic background of Egyptian and Mexican parents.
Cristina is a proven standout performer celebrated equally for her powerful voice and dynamic character portrayals.
Under the direction of acclaimed, brilliant director Jennifer Williams, Cristina will star in the first ever staged production of Richard Strauss’ beloved “Four Last Songs”. The multimedia immersive performance will take place early 2020 in New York City.
During the 2018-2019 season, Cristina performed a career highlight portraying Mimì in Puccini’s La Bohème with Indianapolis Opera, which were both a role and company debut for her. Her interpretation of Mimì was hailed as “remarkably expressive” (Nuvo Indy’s Alternative Voice) and “splendid… not just from the standpoint of her powerful vocal performance, but also her heartbreaking portrayal of tragic Mimì” (On the Aisle-Indianapolis). She recently reprised the iconic role of Mimì with First Coast Opera in St. Augustine, Florida.
She has attained the incredible opportunity to perform three role debuts over the past several seasons with Mobile Opera. Most recently she was seen as Rosina in Rossini’s iconic Il Barbiere di Siviglia. Cristina has had the pleasure of also working with Central City Opera, Capitol City Opera, Shreveport Opera, Verdi Festival of the Arts, Pine Mountain Music Festival, and New Orleans Opera.
Previous roles include: Dorabella in Cosí fan tutte, La Suora Zelatrice in Suor Angelica, Flora in La Traviata, Fermina in Man of la Mancha, Amante in Don Quichotte chez la Duchesse, Pitti-Sing in The Mikado, the title roles in La Périchole, Dido and Aeneas, and Bizet’s Carmen, Amastre in Handel’s Serse, Thelma in Musto’s Later the Same Evening, Annio in La Clemenza di Tito, and Juno in Orpheus in the Underworld. A notable concert credit was receiving the honor to be a soloist in the world premiere of Illuminessence, a Vatican commissioned interfaith oratorio commemorating the 10-year anniversary of September 11th, which took place in the national historic landmark of Jordan Hall.
Cristina’s notable competitions include Premiere Opera International Vocal Competition, Soma International Foundation Competition, Shreveport Opera Singer of the Year Competition, Dallas Opera Vocal Competition. In addition to Fielder Grant for Vocal Career Advancement in Austin, Texas where she was a distinguished prizewinner.
She proudly received her Graduate Diploma from the New England Conservatory of Music under the tutelage of renowned Luretta Bybee. She holds a Master of Music from Florida State University and Bachelor of Music from Loyola University New Orleans. www.cristinabakhoumsanchez.com
Asa Benally / Costume Designer
Credits include: Venus and Adonis, Savitri (New Camerata Opera); Too Heavy For Your Pocket (George Street Playhouse); Skeleton Crew (Westport Country Playhouse); Father Comes Home…(Juilliard); Then They Forgot About the Rest (INTAR Theater); Cymbeline (Yale Repertory Theater); The Brobot Johnson Experience (The Bushwick Starr); Tricks the Devil Taught Me (Minetta Lane Theatre); Coriolanus and The Seagull (Yale School of Drama); Whale Song (Perseverance Theater); Roberto Zucco, Trouble in Tahiti (Yale Cabaret); A Midsummer Night’s Dream, Measure for Measure (Frog and Peach Theater Company); The Winters Tale (HERE Arts Center); M.F.A Yale School of Drama. B.F.A. Parsons School of Design. He is originally from the Navajo Nation in Northern Arizona. www.asabenally.com, Instagram: @Asa_Benally_Design.
Sara Chiesa / Music Director Coach/Pianist Sara Chiesa has coached and performed throughout North America, Europe, and Asia. She is a Professor of Music at Molloy College in New York City where she also music directs the opera ensemble. She has worked as the Resident Guest Artist Coach with l’Opéra de Montréal, Fort Worth Opera, and Michigan Opera Theatre. In 2018-19, Chiesa was the Assistant Professor of Vocal Coaching and Collaborative Piano at Utah State University where she was the Music Director and Performance Pianist for Hansel and Gretel as well as two original student-produced cabarets entitled When I Grow Up and On My Way. This February, she will return to Logan, Utah as an invited Guest Artist to give a masterclass, private coachings, and a recital with soprano, Cindy Dewey.
In the summer of 2019, Chiesa was the Music Director and Performance Pianist at Highlands Playhouse in Highlands, North Carolina for Buddy: The Buddy Holly Story, Oklahoma!, and Always... Patsy Cline. And in the summers of 2017 and 2018, she was a Principal Coach/Pianist at Utah Festival Opera for Il barbiere di Siviglia, The Secret Garden, The Pirates of Penzance, and Madama Butterfly.
Chiesa has spent extended time performing with New Opera Singapore, Arizona Opera, Chicago Summer Opera, Fresno Grand Opera, North Carolina Opera, Opera Saratoga, Virginia Opera, V.O.I.C.Experience, the Interlochen Arts Academy, the Prague International Piano Masterclasses, and the Festival dei Due Mondi in Spoleto, Italy.
She holds piano performance degrees from Oakland University (B.M.) and Bowling Green State University (M.M.) as well as a Doctor of Music in Collaborative Piano from Florida State University.
In New York City, Chiesa maintains a private coaching studio of singers represented on regional opera house stages as well as the stages of the Metropolitan Opera, on Broadway, and oﬀ-Broadway. She has also worked as the vocal coach for some television personalities including Kesav Wable and Peppermint from RuPaul’s Drag Race. Next month, she will be the Principal Coach/Pianist for The Opposable Thumb with American Lyric Theater. Soon after, Chiesa will return to both North Carolina Opera as the Principal Coach/Pianist for Die Zauberflöte as well as to Resonance Works in Pittsburgh to coach/play for her fourth production of Rigoletto.
Andrew Garvis / Video Projections Designer Andrew Garvis is a New York City based lighting and video designer. He is thrilled to work on the immersive experience of Vier Letzte Lieder. He works across theatre, dance, opera, concerts, and events. His work has been seen in NYC, Dallas, Edinburgh Fringe Festival and the Edmonton Fringe Festival. Other credits include Contact High, The 25th Annual Putnam County Spelling Bee,Twelfth Night, Trumbo, Mary Stuart, The Fantasticks, The Drowsy Chaperone, Suburbia, and Your Alice. www.andrewgarvis.com
Jungah Han / Set Designer Jungah Han is a New York based Set Designer in Theatre, TV, and Film. She is thrilled to collaborate this interesting immersive artwork with the team. She has designed a various styles of theatre productions including Numbness: Chapter 2 (New Ohio Theatre), Shockheaded Peter, When the Rain Stops Falling (Cygnet Theatre), Coriolanus, Paradise Lost, Cardboard Piano, Measure for Measure (Yale Iseman Theatre), Solo Bach (Yale Cabaret), A Number (Cygnet Roland Theatre), and No Exit (Diversionary Theatre). Her production photos can be seen on her website, www.jungahhan.com
Jennifer Williams / Director Acclaimed by The San Francisco Chronicle as “an imaginative director of particular ingenuity,” Jennifer Williams is known for her work that puts opera in conversation with our contemporary world, drawing upon immersive theater, multimedia and video design, and installation and site-specific visual art. Recent and upcoming engagements include Schubert’s GoetheLieder staged in the round (Austrian Embassy, Washington, DC); a multimedia immersive adaptation of Carmen set amidst the Triad gangs of modern Hong Kong (More Than Musical, Box Freespace, Hong Kong); a double bill of the new operas Mary Motorhead by Emma O’Halloran and Crude Capital by Michael Lanci using digital puppetry and immersive staging (National Sawdust/Beth Morrison Projects, New York); an immersive installation of The Crucible (Theater im Delphi, Berlin); an immersive circus installation of Libby Larsen’s Barnum’s Bird at (le) poisson rouge (New Camerata Opera); site-specific installations of La bohème, Don Giovanni, Così fan tutte, The Turn of the Screw (Washington, DC); Il barbiere di Siviglia staged in the round (Sacramento Opera); new productions of Mohammed Fairouz’s Sumeida’s Song and Ricky Ian Gordon and Royce Vavrek’s 27 (Pittsburgh Opera); the world premiere of Douglas Knehans’ and Juanita Rockwell’s Backwards from Winter (for soprano and electric cello, Center for Contemporary Opera); a new production of Amahl and the Night Visitors (Michigan Opera Theatre); Venus and Adonis and Sāvitri (New Camerata Opera); and new productions with video projections of La bohème, A Midsummer Night’s Dream, Les contes d’Hoﬀmann, Ainadamar, and Dark Sisters (Miami Music Festival). She has been a staﬀ director at Houston Grand Opera and a revival and associate director at The Kennedy Center as well as Theatro Municipal de São Paulo. A Fulbright Scholar, Williams holds a bachelor’s degree in Interdisciplinary Studies in the Humanities from the University of Chicago, a Ph.D. in Performance and Media Studies from Cornell University and an artist diploma in opera directing from the University of Cincinnati College-Conservatory of Music (CCM). She also trained at the San Francisco Opera Merola Program and with Anne Bogart in the Viewpoints at the SITI Company. www.jenniferwilliamsdirector.com