Michael Tilson Thomas leads the San Francisco Symphony and Symphony Chorus in three performances of Claude Debussy’s Le Martyre de Saint Sébastien January 12th–14th at Davies Symphony Hall. The concerts will include multi-media created by director-designer Anne Patterson. The projected visuals and staged elements will magnify the work’s Gothic atmosphere and theatrical pageantry. Debussy created Le Martyre de Saint Sébastien as a vehicle for ballerina Ida Rubinstein, a colorful member of the Ballet Russe and muse to numerous visual artists and musicians. In this spirit, the production will include a video featuring Damian Smith, a Principal Dancer with San Francisco Ballet, in original choreography designed by Myles Thatcher, a member of the Corps de Ballet and choreographer known for the experimental silent-film comedy, The Glitter Emergency. Guest singers include soprano Karina Gauvin, mezzo-sopranos Sasha Cooke and Leah Wool. Frederica von Stade appears as the narrator. The evening will open with Janáček’s Sinfonietta. Click here to purchase tickets on-line to this extraordinary event: SAINT SÉBASTIEN
In 1993 MTT conducted the London Symphony Orchestra in a highly-acclaimed recording of Debussy’s complete work and led the last SF Symphony performances during his first season as Music Director in 1995. Saint Sebastian, a Christian martyr venerated in the Roman Catholic and Orthodox Churches, is said to have been killed during Roman emperor Diocletian’s persecution of Christians. Sebastian was a head archer who was shot to death by his own troop of archers. The depiction of his martyrdom, a favorite subject for Renaissance painters, is distinguished by an appeal to the erotic.
“The Martyrdom of Saint Sebastian is one of my favorite pieces,” says Michael Tilson Thomas. “It’s an incredible mixture of beautiful harmonies, soaring voices, lush orchestral landscapes, and the spoken word…Every time I come back to this piece, I feel hypnotized being inside of it again. It is somehow touching, heartbreaking, haunting, and uses very simple ideas in the orchestra with a kind of glowing hue to take you from the quiet prelude to a dazzling climax when the saint enters into heaven. What could be better?”
MEET THE ARTISTS
Soprano Karina Gauvin made her SFS debut in May 2011 in performances of Mahler’s Symphony No. 2. Mezzo-soprano Sasha Cooke is a frequent collaborator with the SFS who last appeared with the orchestra in Mozart’s Requiem and Feldman’s Rothko Chapel in February 2011. Mezzo-soprano Leah Wool makes her debut with MTT and the Orchestra in these performances. She was soloist in the SFS Chorus’ performances of Duruflé’s Requiem in May 2011. Narrator Frederica von Stade has had a storied career as a mezzo-soprano, appearing many times with the SFS Orchestra since her debut in 1975.
Anne Patterson is a visual artist, designer and director based in New York City. Her innovative strategy of integrating scenic, lighting, and projection elements within the traditional symphonic hall is revolutionizing the concert experience. Her creations have been seen by audiences at Avery Fisher and Alice Tully Halls at Lincoln Center, the Juilliard School, the Brooklyn Academy of Music, Philadelphia Orchestra, Atlanta Symphony, and Arena Stage. She has designed fourteen operas, including one world premiere and three US premieres for the Aspen Music Festival. Patterson’s sculptures and paintings are in public and private collections in the United States and London. In 2006 she collaborated with composer Mason Bates to create Mercury Soul, first performances held in San Francisco in February 2008 and May 2009 featuring musicians from the San Francisco Symphony. This is her first artistic partnership with MTT.
Projections are created by New York-based Adam Larsen who has designed images for Hal Prince’s LoveMusik (Broadway), The Gospel at Colonus (Herod Atticus, Athens), world premieres of The Women of Brewster Place (Alliance/Arena Stage) and Christmas Carol 1941 (Arena Stage) and recently The Wind Up Bird Chronicle (Ohio Theater) and Love Lies Bleeding, a ballet based on the life of Elton John (Alberta Ballet). Lighting design is by Brooklyn-based Matthew Frey. He has created lighting designs for the Brooklyn Academy of Music, Playwrights Horizons, Soho Rep, New York Theatre Workshop and Berkeley Repertory Theater.