- About Festival
It was as if the heady days of the Bel Canto Revival, with Sills, Sutherland and Callas, were back again, eerie and unforgettable. That is how Opera Magazine presented Aleksandra Kurzak.
Aleksandra Kurzak began to learn to play the violin and the piano at the age of seven. She graduated from the Vocal Faculty of the Academy of Music in Wrocław and from Hochschule für Musik und Theater in Hamburg. Winner of vocal competitions in Warsaw, Helsinki, Barcelona, and Guangzhou, she made her début on the stage of Wrocław Opera as Suzanne in The Marriage of Figaro by the side of her mother and teacher, Jolanta Żmurko, who was cast as Countess Rosine.
At the age of 27, she performed in the two most prestigious opera theatres of the world. Her performance in the role of Olympia in The Tales of Hoffmann at the Metropolitan Opera garnered great recognition from the New York musical critics, who in unison announced the sensational début of the Polish singer. Her Aspasia in London’s production of Mitridate, re di Ponto at the Royal Opera House (Covent Garden) received an equally favourable reception.
Aleksandra Kurzak returned to the MET as Blonda in The Abduction from the Seraglio, Gilda in Rigoletto,Gretel in Hansel and Gretel,Adina in The Elixire of Love where again she was highly enthusiastically welcomed by both musical critics and the audience. The artist also regularly returns to the Royal Opera House in London which has almost become her home theatre. She also performed there as Norina in Don Pasquale, Adina in The Elixir of Love, Suzanne, and also as the title Matilde in Matilde di Shabran, Donna Fiorilla in The Turk in Italy, Rosina in The Barber of Seville, and Gilda.
Aleksandra Kurzak performs regularly on the world’s principal operatic and theatrical stages: Teatro alla Scala in Milan (Gilda, Suzanne, La Comtesse Adèle in Le comte Ory), Seattle Opera (Lucia of Lammermoor), Wiener Staatsoper (Rosina, Adina, Suzanne, Violetta in La Traviata, Marie in The Daughter of the Regiment), Bayerische Staatsoper in Munich (Cleopatra in Julius Caesar, Adela in Die Fledermaus, Rosina, Donna Fiorilla), Teatro Massimo in Palermo (Norina), Welsh National Opera in Cardiff (Aspasia), Théâtre du Capitole in Toulouse (Gilda), Theater an der Wien (Donna Anna in Don Giovanni, Amenaide in Tancred), Palau de les Arts Reina Sofía in Valencia (Adina), Lyric Opera House in Chicago (Blonda), Staatsoper in Berlin (The Queen of the Night in The Magic Flute), the Helsinki Opera (Gilda), the Salzburger Festspiele (Ännchen in Der Freischütz, Donna Anna), Rome’s Accademia Nazionale di Santa Cecilia (Carmina Burana), Teatro La Fenice in Venice (Donna Anna), Teatro Regio di Torino (Violetta), Teatro Regio di Parma (Gilda), Gran Teatre del Liceu in Barcelona (Adina), in the Teatr Wielki – Polish National Opera in Warsaw (Hanna in Straszny dwór / The Haunted Manor, Gilda, Violetta, and Lucia), Teatro Real in Madrid (Suzanne, Marie), Arena di Verona (Rosina, Juliet in Romeo and Juliet, Gilda), Los Angeles Opera (Fiordiligi in Così fan tutte), San Francisco Opera (Gilda) and Opera National de Paris (Adina in The Elixire of Love).
She is the first Pole in the history of vocal music to have signed an exclusive contract with Decca. Her first solo album Gioia! was released in August 2011 and became a platinum record. Her following CDs are Bel Raggio with Rossini’s arias and Hej, kolęda! with a collection of the most beautiful Polish Christmas carols (golden record). In turn the album Chopin: Songs, which she recorded for the Fryderyk Chopin Institute in Poland, was awarded the prestigious Diapason d’or.
Aleksandra Kurzak was awarded two scholarships from the Minister of Culture and Art and has also held one from Aleksander Gudzowaty’s Crescendum Est – Polonia Foundation. Her achievements have won her awards from the Mayor of Wrocław, Governor (Voivode) of the Dolnośląskie Region, and Minister of Culture and Art of the Republic of Poland. She is also the recipient of the Wiktor Award from the Polish Television Academy and the Gwarancja Kultury / Guarantee of Culture Award from TVP Kultura. In 2009, she was given a doctorate in art.
In 2015 she received not only the International Opera Award 2015 but also the Bachtrack Opera award as the best singer of the season just passing for her rendition of Donna Fiorilla at the Royal Opera House.
Michael Schneider is considered as a musician in a very broad sense:
As virtuoso both on the recorder and on the transverse flute he is active world-wide as soloist as well as a member of his chamber-music group CAMERATA KÖLN.
As conductor of his orchestra with period-instruments LA STAGIONE FRANKFURT he performs concerts and productions of symphonic repertoire as well as oratorios and operas of the baroque and classical era.
As professor he taught first since 1980 at the former “Hochschule Der Künste” Berlin (nowadays “Universität der Künste”).
In 1983 he changed to the „Hochschule für Musik und Darstellende Kunst Frankfurt/M“, where he is responsible not only for a recorder-class but also for the department of Early Music established by himself.
About 100 CD-recordings (chamber music, symphonic music, cantatas, oratorios and operas from the baroque an classical period) are mirroring his artistic output of more than 30 years now.
His last projects include the Complete Recording of Telemann’s Wind-Concertos (8 CDs) as soloist and conductor as well as 3 CDs with unedited baroque recorder concertos. (jpc/cpo)
Occasionally he likes to express his thinkings in articles and reviews in different magazines (Co editor of “Tibia”).
In 2000 Michael Schneider was awarded the „Telemann-Prize“ of the city of Magdeburg for his merits concerning the work of this composer.
Karl Kaiser studied at the Music Universities in Cologne and Münster. In parallel, he also studied theology, philosophy and musicology at the Universities in Bonn and Cologne, but then decided to become a professional musician. Since then, he has made an outstanding name for himself, not only as a soloist, a chamber and orchestral musician in the field of historically informed performance practice, but also as a pedagogue.
After having gathered many diverse and inspiring experiences in various Early Music orchestras and groups, Karl Kaiser concentrates today on just a few complementary ensembles. He has been a member and flutist of the Freiburg Baroque Orchestra for 28 years. With this orchestra he played in all the big halls around the world.
He has been flutist at the Camerata Köln for almost 30 years with world-wide concerts and over 50 CD recordings of a large part of the Baroque and Early Classical chamber music repertoire.
Karl Kaiser is also a founding member of the Frankfurt orchestra La Stagione under Michael Schneider, and soloist on CDs with flute concertos by Telemann, Abel and Holzbauer.
Karl Kaiser’s interests as an enthusiastic pedagogue are wide-ranging. He is professor for historical flutes and performance practice at the University of Music and Performing Arts in Frankfurt and at the Freiburg Music University. He gives masterclasses and lectures on 18th century performance practice on a regular basis. He is the author of the book Basiswissen Barockmusik (‘Basic knowledge on Baroque music’) published by the con brio Verlag. Karl Kaiser sees his teaching activities, beyond the mere instruction of skills, within a broader context.