Carl St.Clair, conductor
Robert Neu, stage director
Pacific Chorale — Robert Istad, artistic director
Otello: Carl Tanner, tenor
Desdemona: Kelebogile Besong, soprano
Iago: Greer Grimsley, bass-baritone
Preview Talk with KUSC's Alan Chapman at 7 p.m. Doors open at 6:45 p.m.
What’s interesting about this concert:
- Love, betrayal and jealousy – all trademarks of great tragic opera – “Otello” embraces these themes to the fullest.
- Verdi’s interpretation of Shakespeare’s tale takes you on a journey through a passionate romance destroyed by one of opera’s most loathsome villains.
- The three leading roles are among Verdi's most demanding, both vocally and dramatically. They are inhabited here by a troika of world-class opera singers: Metropolitan Opera stars tenor Carl Tanner (Otello) and bass-baritone Greer Grimsley (Iago) along with Kelebogile Besong (Desdemona).
- The South-African soprano is familiar to Orange County audiences from her starring role in Pacific Symphony’s 2017 production of “Aida”
American operatic Tenor Carl Tanner has established an international performance career and appears regularly at the world's most prestigious opera houses including Teatro alla Scala, the Metropolitan Opera, The Royal Opera House Covent Garden, Opéra National de Paris, Washington National Opera, the New National Theatre of Tokyo, Deutsche Oper in Berlin, Maggio Musicale Fiorentino, Teatro Real de Madrid, and Liceu de Barcelona, among others.
His repertory includes the title roles in Otello and Andrea Chénier, Radames in Aida, Manrico in Il trovatore, Pollione in Norma, Don José in Carmen, Canio in I Pagliacci, Turiddu in Cavalleria Rusticana, Calaf in Turandot, Des Grieux in Manon Lescaut, Dick Johnson in La fanciulla del West, Cavaradossi in Tosca and Pinkerton in Madama Butterfly.
Upcoming in the 2018-19 season Carl sings the title role in Otello at the Savonlinna Festival in Finland, followed by Otello at the Bolshoi in Moscow, and returns to the Metropolitan Opera to serve as the first cover in Il Tabarro, Otello, Aida and Samson et Delilah. He will also return to Grange Park Festival, the San Diego Opera for Aida, and make a debut with the Gerencia Orquesta Sinfónica y Coro Prado del Rey in Madrid.
Schedule highlights in Carl's 2017/18 season included performances of his signature role Radamès in Verdi's Aida with Washington National Opera, plus a return to the Metropolitan Opera as Cavaradossi in Tosca and Manrico in Il Trovatore. He also sang the role of Samson in Samson et Dalilah with Opera North Carolina and Turandot with San Diego Opera.
The young South-African spinto-soprano Kelebogile Besong is emerging on the international opera and concert stages as a talent of unusually strong stage presence, sensitive musicianship and vocal power. After making her North American debut as Aida with Pacific Symphony, critics proclaimed, “At the youthful age of 28, Besong’s vocal abilities are nothing short of phenomenal. Her Aida is truly visceral… The dramatic soprano turns on a dime, capable of radiating over and above tutti orchestra, yet poised for a quixotic shift of pianissimo phrasing that melts like butter.” (Concerto.net) The soprano returns this season to the role of Aida at Theater Dortmund, and sings Bess in the Porgy and Bess Suite in a return to Malmö Opera. Last season, Ms. Besong sang Countess Almaviva in Le Nozze di Figaro at the Hyogo Performing Arts Center in Japan, joined the Edinburgh International Festival for Musetta in La bohème, and sang Dido in Purcell’s Dido and Aeneas at Festival d’Aix-en-Provence.
Quickly establishing Aida as a signature role, Besong has also sung the role with Malmö Opera and Aalto-Musiktheater Essen. Her recent performances include: Fiordiligi in Cosi fan Tutte at the Bregenzer Festpiele; Violetta in La Traviata, Giorgietta in Il tabarro, and Dejanira Weil’s Royal Palace with Opéra National de Montpellier; Musetta in La bohème at Grange Park Opera; Micaela in Carmen with Opera Africa; Contessa in Le Nozze di Figaro with both Tampere Opera and the Orchestra of the 18th Century and conductor Kenneth Montgomery at the Concertgebouw in Amsterdam; the title role in Kálmán’s Gräfen Mariza with the Johannesburg Symphony; and Venus in John Blow’s Venus and Adonis and the Sorceress in Purcell’s Dido and Aeneas at the Innsbrucker Festwochen der Alten Musik. She created the role Gabisile in the Opera Africa’s world premiere of Ziyankomo and the Forbidden Fruit by Phelelani Mnomiya, sang the title role in Zulu Opera Princess Magogo at Den Norske Opera in Oslo, and Echo in Ariadne auf Naxos with Opéra Royal de Wallonie. On the concert stage she recently performed Handel’s Messiah and Mendelssohn’s Elijah both with the Johannesburg Symphony, and additional concert performances include Mahler’s Symphony No. 4, Beethoven’s Symphony No. 9, Mozart’s Requiem and Mass in C minor and Poulenc’s Gloria.
Ms. Besong is the proud recipient of the 2012 Standard Bank Young Artist Award in Music and in 2013 she was awarded Africa’s Most Influential Woman in Business & Government (Arts). Mrs. Besong was a finalist of the 32nd Belvedere Singing Competition 2013, held at the Dutch National Opera in Amsterdam, and represented South-Africa in the BBC Cardiff Singer of the World competition 2015.
Internationally recognized as an outstanding singing actor and one of the most prominent Wagnerian singers of our day, bass-baritone Greer Grimsley continues his reign as a leading interpreter of the god Wotan. He sang the eminent role for the Metropolitan Opera’s Der Ring des Nibelungen in Robert Lepage’s landmark production, directly followed by Stephen Wadsworth’s production for Seattle Opera, his third complete Cycle for the company in the last decade. His interpretation of Wotan has also brought him to multiple esteemed international opera houses; some highlights of this include his portrayal of the role in the entirety of Der Ring des Nibelungen with Deutsche Oper Berlin; Teatro Comunale di Bologna; Gran Teatre del Liceu in Barcelona, and the Nikikai Opera Foundation in Tokyo.
His treatments of some of Wagner’s other greatest characters earned him critical acclaim both domestically and internationally. Including the title role of The Flying Dutchman with Seattle Opera and Ravinia Festival, under the baton of Maestro James Conlon in his final performance with the company; Telramund in Lohengrin with the Metropolitan Opera, Royal Danish Opera, Lyric Opera of Chicago, and Seattle Opera; Kurwenal in Tristan und Isolde with Prague National Theatre, Royal Danish Opera, the Ópera de Bellas Artes in Mexico, Lyric Opera of Chicago, and Seattle Opera; and Amfortas in Parsifal with the Metropolitan Opera.
This season, Grimsley will reprise the role of Wotan in Das Rheingold with Minnesota Opera and in Die Walküre with New National Theatre Tokyo, where he will later return for Siegfried; Don Pizarro in Fidelio and Jokanaan in Salome with the Metropolitan Opera; and the title role of Sondheim’s Sweeney Todd with New Orleans Opera and the Glimmerglass Festival. Future engagements through 2018 include returns to Houston Grand Opera, Dallas Opera, San Francisco Opera, and Gran Teatre del Liceu in Barcelona.
An active concert artist, some favorite concert engagements include Verdi’s Requiem with the Atlanta Symphony at Carnegie Hall; Beethoven’s Symphony No. 9 with the Seattle Symphony and San Antonio Symphony; the High Priest in Samson et Dalila with Washington Concert Opera and Atlanta Symphony; Scarpia in Tosca with Deborah Voigt and the Minnesota Orchestra; and Don Pizarro in Fidelio with the Saint Louis Symphony and in his New York Philharmonic début with conductor Kurt Masur at the inaugural season of the Lincoln Center Festival.