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This is the first time that the French edition of Verdi's Die sizilianische Vesper/The Sicilian Vespers has ever been performed in Frankfurt. The love story in the work takes second place to events leading up to the Scilian rebellion against French occupying forces in Palermo in 1282, which began at the time of vespers. Verdi was commissioned to write the work for Paris, centre of the music world in those days. He wanted to take the form of French Grand Opéra further and make it less superficial than it had become at the hands of Meyerbeer and others, but only partially succeeded in giving more depth to the sumptuous tableaus and spectacular effects expected, as entertainment, in this genre. Nonetheless it it one of his most richly coloured and differentiated scores, in which inklings about how he would be composing in the later years of his life can be heard.
This new production (which opened at the end of last season) was directed by Jens-Daniel Herzog, Intendant of Oper Dortmund, who enjoyed great success here in 2008/09 with Wagner's Lohengrin. The conductor is Giuliano Carella, returning to Frankfurt where he led concert performances of Donizetti's Anna Bolena and a Revival of Verdi's La Traviata in recent seasons. German tenor Burkhard Fritz (Henri), a member of the Ensemble at the Berlin State Opera, has appeared in Frankfurt before, as Arindal in concert Performances of Wagner's Die Feen/The Fairies (2010/11) and Paul in Korngold's Die tote Stadt (2011/12). Members of our Ensemble singing roles in this production for the first time are: Kihwan Sim (Procida), Franz Mayer (Béthune), Björn Bürger (Vaudemont) and Dietrich Volle (Robert). The other roles are sung by artists who sang in the first run of performances, including the incredible Hawaiian baritone Quinn Kelsey (Montfort). Elza van den Heever was also back to sing Helene, a role that will be sung tonight by the Armenian soprano Lianna Haroutounian.