New era begins for Philadelphia Orchestra

Thus, the Yannick era begins.

The Philadelphia Orchestra has announced its 2012-2013 season, the inaugural season for its highly anticipated music director, Yannick Nézet-Séguin. Works feature a mixture of classical star power, flashy stage productions, and new music premieres.

The season will open with a gala featuring soprano Renee Fleming, the opera mega-star whom Nézet-Séguin calls a friend.

The season pays tribute to Leopold Stokowski, the legendary conductor who became the orchestra’s music director 100 years ago. Programs of Wagner, Rachmaninoff, and Poulenc are inspired by Stokowski’s vision for the orchestra.

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“Everyone admires [Stokowski] for ‘democratized’ music. ‘Accessible.’ These are popular words now,” said Nézet-Séguin. “That was not how it was perceived. It was someone who was interested in new technology, and recording, and very much about a certain star system.”

The season is heavy with classical chestnuts: Mozart, Brahms and Ravel are here in force. “Carmina Burana” and “The Rite of Spring” are on board.

The orchestra will perform “The Rite of Spring” in two settings. One on its own, and the other as part of a multimedia performance staged by the New York avant-garde troupe Ridge Theater and Philly Live Arts, the company that stages the Fringe festival. The orchestra will also perform Prokofiev’s score for the Sergei Eisenstein film, “Alexander Nevsky,” while the film is screened in Verizon Hall.

The orchestra also will premiere three works that were commissioned for it — works by Gabriela Lena Frank, Oliver Knussen, and Osvaldo Golijov. They will be programmed along with selections from the classical canon.

“I always like to do many things — it’s not because I have trouble concentrating. It’s more because doing Debussy helps me do Wagner. Doing Monteverdi helps me do Verdi,” said Nézet-Séguin. “I think all composers are interrelated. Designing a season, and one program, is about identifying an angle of well-known pieces, and putting it beside a less-known piece.”

For his inaugural season with the Philadelphia Orchestra, Nézet-Séguin has launched his own series of requiems that will stretch over several seasons. He will open the 2012-2012 season with a death Mass by Verdi. “Why about death, when it’s a beginning?” he asked, rhetorically.

“Very often a composer puts what is most intimate and essential about his writing in a text about life and death,” said Nézet-Séguin. “The Verdi is one which is close to me. I’m doing so much opera lately, and we’re bringing a star-studded cast from the opera world, most of which are my friends.”

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