T The Bernstein Centennial Celebration at Tanglewood | Lenox, MA
This summer, Isabel Leonard makes an appearance at some of the most prestigious summer festivals in the United States, starting with Caramoor Festival on June 28, where she performs alongside guitarist Sharon Isbin, whim whom she recently released an album of Spanish songs, Alma Española. This concert features works included in this album.
On August 4, Ms. Leonard appears at Tanglewood for Songfest, where British conductor Bramwell Tovey leads the BSO in a program that pays tribute to Bernstein as both conductor and composer. First, the orchestra is joined by the Tanglewood Festival Chorus and a cast of outstanding singers joining Ms. Leonard – soprano Nadine Sierra, mezzo-soprano Kelley O’Connor, tenor Nicholas Phan, baritone Elliot Madore, and bass Eric Owens- for Bernstein’s celebratory orchestral song cycle Songfest, composed for the American Bicentennial in 1976. Then, Mr. Tovey leads the BSO in Sibelius’s sweeping Symphony No. 2, a staple of Bernstein’s conducting repertory.
A few days later, on August 9, Isabel Leonard reprises her Spanish song program with Sharon Isbin at Aspen Festival.
For her last summer performance, on August 25, Ms. Leonard returns to Tanglewood to once again honor Leonard Bernstein in a Centennial Celebration Gala. This gala concert will feature a kaleidoscopic array of artists and ensembles from the worlds of classical music, film, and Broadway. The entire first half of the program is dedicated to selections from such brilliant Bernstein works as Candide, West Side Story, Mass, and Serenade. Music from the classical canon very dear to Bernstein’s heart-selections from Mahler’s Des Knaben Wunderhorn and music by Copland-plus a new work by John Williams, makes up a good portion of the program’s second half; the finale of Mahler’s Resurrection Symphony brings the program to a dramatic close.
New CD release: The Metropolitan Opera 50th Anniversary gala
The Metropolitan Opera has announced the release of its 50th Anniversary Gala on a 3-CD set featuring the artists that performed on May 7, 2017, when the Met celebrated its golden anniversary in Lincoln Center.
The artists featured on the historic night include Piotr Beczała, Ben Bliss, Stephanie Blythe, Joseph Calleja, Javier Camarena, Dwayne Croft, Diana Damrau, David Daniels, Joyce DiDonato, Plácido Domingo, Yusif Eyvazov, Michael Fabiano, Renée Fleming, Elīna Garanča, Susan Graham, Vittorio Grigolo, Gunther Groissböck, Christopher Job, Mariusz Kwiecien, Isabel Leonard, Željko Lučić, Angela Meade, Latonia Moore, James Morris, Anna Netrebko, Kristine Opolais, Eric Owens, René Pape, Matthew Polenzani Sava Vemic, Michael Volle, Yunpeng Wang, Pretty Yende, Sonya Yoncheva and Dolora Zajick. Dmitri Hvorostovsky, who recently passed away, made an unscheduled appearance that surprised and delighted the audience.
For more information and to purchase a copy of this CD set, click here.
IN THE PRESS
DC Metro Theater Arts | David Rohde Interviews Mezzo-Soprano Isabel Leonard
When Washington National Opera presents one of opera’s top examples of musical comedy next spring, it’s only fitting that the production will star a singer whose background sounds as ready-made for Broadway as for the opera house. Isabel Leonard, who will sing the lead role of Rosina in Gioachino Rossini’s laugh-filled romp The Barber of Seville, attended the Joffrey Ballet School, went to the high school made famous in the movie Fame, and once stepped into a key role in Leonard Bernstein’s On the Town when the show’s Broadway cast came to the San Francisco Symphony to do semi-staged performances minus one of their actresses.
At the Metropolitan Opera, Isabel is known for the high bar she’s set for stage business and physical comedy in what can otherwise be the rather earthbound business of opera. The twist is that as an operatic mezzo-soprano, she follows the centuries-old convention of opera mezzos playing both women and men according to the desires of the composers. She once even played both a young boy and a grown woman in the same evening in the case of two contrasting one-act operas by Maurice Ravel. But a passion for exploring in greater depth the music of Bernstein in the centennial year of his birth also has her developing a full recital program of the surprising variety of Bernstein’s music, which she will bring to the Kennedy Center Terrace Theater prior to the opening of The Barber of Seville.
Recently I talked with Isabel by telephone in between her engagements around the country and internationally. Here are excerpts of our conversation:
David Rohde: Tell me how you got into ballet as a kid and what it brings to you now on the opera stage.
Isabel Leonard: I think just to have that physical discipline of dance from a very early age has always given me the ability to move. I know that might sound very simple or trite, but just the ability to move from point A to point B in such a way that we can feel your character’s frustration or whatever it might be, you’ve developed a vocabulary of expression that is coming from your body and not just from your voice. And not even meaning your singing voice, but your voice just as words.
How many years of training did you have at Joffrey?
I started when I was about five, and I was there, I think, until about 11 or 12. Right around the time when I had to make the decision as to whether I really wanted to do this or not.
Would you say that your ability to move on stage helps the other people on stage that you are singing an opera with?
I think so. I think that anything that you do on stage, if it is honest and true to the character that you are portraying, and if you are being open and generous to your colleagues, then nothing but good can come from that – for everyone. I think that there’s always a positive ricochet effect.