ORT’s Season Grand Finale Concert

Conductor Daniele Rustioni

Time is of the essence for Florence’s classic music lovers, as the talented Orchestra della Toscana ends its 2018-2019 season this Thursday, May 16 at 9 pm in the historical Teatro Verdi. The evening will showcase repertoire spanning several European musical traditions, from beloved pieces of the Romantic Era to a more obscure work by one of Europe’s most celebrated composers.

The program will open with an orchestral suite featuring highlights from Bizet’s Carmen, an opera which immediately broke the theatrical and musical conventions of its time. Premiered in 1875, Carmen tells the story of a Spanish gypsy girl who charms a sergeant, distracting him from his military duties and wife-to-be, only to get bored with him and betray his trust; the opera ends with the sergeant who, in a jealous rage, violently kills her. This erotic drama reinvented the operatic genre of the 19th century, much of which followed the tradition of the ‘opéra-comique.’

French cellist Edgar Moreau will then take the stage with Saint-Saëns’ Second Cello Concerto. Dedicated to Dutch cellist Joseph Hollman, this piece was written in 1902, a full 30 years after his widely celebrated First Cello Concerto. Though the first concerto’s thematic originality has made it the more popularly played piece, the second concerto is known for its extreme technical difficulty; fortunately, Edgar Moreau’s technical prowess and musical sensitivity will surely make for a spectacular performance of this daunting work. At the young age of 24, Moreau has already won several international competitions, performed all over the world, has collaborated with distinguished artists such as Valery Gergiev, Gidon Kremer, Gustavo Dudamel and many others. His first album, released in 2014, even won an ECHO Klassik award, one of the most important record awards in the world.

Finally, the evening will close with Sibelius’ monumental Symphony No. 2. The piece is considered somewhat of a national anthem for the people of Helsinki, for its themes reflect aspects of Finnish culture and Finland’s struggle for independence at the top of the 20th century. Despite these nationalistic sentiments, however, Sibelius actually began composing his Second Symphony during his stay in Rapallo, Italy in 1901, making it a fascinating fusion of European musical cultures and a splendid conclusion to Thursday night’s event.

Besides Edgar Moreau and the extraordinary musicians of the Orchestra della Toscana, the concert will be led by orchestral director Daniele Rustioni. In addition to being the principal conductor of ORT, Rustioni also serves as the director of Opéra National de Lyon and, most recently, the Ulster Orchestra in Belfast. His musical ventures have taken him all over the globe, from the largest venues in Japan to his American conducting debut with the Indianapolis Symphony Orchestra this year. These performances, combined with his extensive discography and impressive awards, have established Rustioni as one of the most promising orchestral and operatic conductors of his generation.

Tickets for this event range from 13 to €18 with discounts for students. They can be purchased at Teatro Verdi’s box office, open Monday to Saturday from 10 am to 1 pm and 4 pm to 7 pm at Via Ghibellina, 97. They can also be bought by phone (+39 055 21 23 20) or on www.teatroverdifirenze.it. (Lea Bourgade)