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Boston Symphony Orchestra

Tuesday, March 19, 2019 8 PM Stern Auditorium / Perelman Stage
Andris Nelsons by Marco Borggreve, Renée Fleming by Andrew Eccles
This all-Strauss program of vocal splendor and orchestral thrills will leave you breathless. The tone poem Also sprach Zarathustra will be familiar to most for its opening “Sunrise,” the iconic passage used in the film 2001: A Space Odyssey—but that’s only one episode in a mysterious and marvelous work. From later in his career is Capriccio, his final opera, which opens with a passionate string sextet instead of a traditional overture and culminates in a rapturous monologue that ranks as one of Strauss’s finest soprano showpieces.

Boston Symphony Orchestra is also performing November 19 and March 20.

Renée Fleming is also performing October 3.


Boston Symphony Orchestra
Andris Nelsons, Music Director and Conductor
Renée Fleming, Soprano



Sextet, Moonlight Music, and Final Scene from Capriccio

Also sprach Zarathustra

Event Duration

The printed program will last approximately 90 minutes, including one 20-minute intermission.

Sponsored by Deloitte LLP

At a Glance

Richard Strauss’s final opera, Capriccio, and his tone poem Also sprach Zarathustra date from opposite ends of his long career, with some 45 years separating them. Capriccio was completed in 1941 and first performed in 1942. Such was Strauss’s status as a composer that he was able to produce an opera in Munich in the heart of wartime. Capriccio contemplates the question of the primacy of music vs. words in opera, symbolically represented by the heroine’s need to choose between two suitors—poet or composer. The 10-minute Sextet, which takes the place of an overture, is revealed when the curtain rises as music being played within the opera in a performance attended by the characters. Like an overture, it foreshadows the opera’s tone. The Moonlight Music, from near the end, sets the stage for the final scene, in which the Countess Madeleine contemplates the difficulty of choosing between her two suitors.

Although the opening moments of Strauss’s 1896 tone poem Also sprach Zarathustra are recognizably one of the most famous passages in music—even predating its fame as part of the soundtrack of Stanley Kubrick’s 2001: A Space Odyssey—the complete work is less frequently played than Don Juan or Till Eulenspiegel. Its origin as Strauss’s musical response to an important but mystical and controversial philosophical treatise by Friedrich Nietzsche makes its concept perhaps less immediate than the rest of the six great tone poems Strauss wrote between 1888 and 1898, but its musical features are just as dramatic and brilliant. Following the famous “Sunrise” passage, its episodes evoke sections from Nietzsche’s big poem, including “Of Pleasures and Passions,” “Of Science and Learning,” “The Convalescent,” and several others. Strauss makes his points in a purely musical way, using the opening fanfare as a motivic touchstone through the emotionally far-ranging narrative.


Andris Nelsons

The 2018–2019 season is Andris Nelsons’s fifth as the Boston Symphony Orchestra’s Ray and Maria Stata Music Director. Named Musical America’s 2018 Artist of the ...

The 2018–2019 season is Andris Nelsons’s fifth as the Boston Symphony Orchestra’s Ray and Maria Stata Music Director. Named Musical America’s 2018 Artist of the Year, Mr. Nelsons leads 14 of the BSO’s 26 subscription programs in 2018–2019, with highlights that include world and US premieres of pieces newly commissioned by the BSO from Thomas Adès, Sebastian Currier, Andris Dzenītis, and Mark-Anthony Turnage; the continuation of his complete Shostakovich symphony cycle with the orchestra; and concert performances of Puccini’s Suor Angelica. In summer 2015, following his first season as music director, Mr. Nelsons’s contract with the BSO was extended through the 2021–2022 season. In November 2017, he and the orchestra toured Japan together for the first time. In February 2018, he became Gewandhauskapellmeister of the Leipzig Gewandhaus Orchestra, in which capacity he brings both orchestras together for a unique multi-dimensional alliance. Immediately after the 2018 Tanglewood season, he and the BSO made their third European tour together.

The 15th music director of the Boston Symphony Orchestra, Mr. Nelsons made his BSO debut at Carnegie Hall in March 2011, his Tanglewood debut in July 2012, and his BSO subscription series debut in January 2013. His recordings with the BSO include the complete Brahms symphonies on BSO Classics; Grammy Award–winning recordings on Deutsche Grammophon of Shostakovich’s symphonies nos. 5, 8, 9, and 10; and a recent two-disc set pairing Shostakovich’s symphonies nos. 4 and 11, “The Year 1905.” A two-disc set with Shostakovich’s symphonies nos. 6 and 7, “Leningrad,” was released last month. In 2018–2019—his final season as artist-in-residence at the Konzerthaus Dortmund and first season as artist-in-residence at Hamburg’s Elbphilharmonie—Mr. Nelsons continues his regular collaborations with the Vienna Philharmonic Orchestra and Berliner Philharmoniker. He also maintains regular collaborations with the Royal Concertgebouw Orchestra, Bavarian Radio Symphony Orchestra, and Philharmonia Orchestra, and has been a regular guest at the Bayreuth Festival and the Royal Opera House, Covent Garden.

Born in Riga in 1978 into a family of musicians, Andris Nelsons began his career as a trumpeter in the Latvian National Opera Orchestra before studying conducting. He was music director of the City of Birmingham Symphony Orchestra from 2008 to 2015; principal conductor of the Nordwestdeutsche Philharmonie in Herford, Germany, from 2006 to 2009; and music director of the Latvian National Opera from 2003 to 2007.

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Renée Fleming

Renée Fleming is one of the most acclaimed singers of our time. In 2013, President Obama awarded her America’s highest honor for an artist, the National Medal of Arts. In 2014,  ...

Renée Fleming is one of the most acclaimed singers of our time. In 2013, President Obama awarded her America’s highest honor for an artist, the National Medal of Arts. In 2014, she became the only classical artist ever to sing “The Star-Spangled Banner” at the Super Bowl. Winner of the 2013 Grammy Award (her fourth) for Best Classical Vocal Solo, she has sung for such momentous occasions as the Nobel Peace Prize ceremony and the Diamond Jubilee Concert for Queen Elizabeth II at Buckingham Palace. In 2008, she became the first woman in the 125-year history of the Metropolitan Opera to solo-headline an opening night gala. Her performance in the 2018 Broadway production of Carousel earned her a 2018 Tony Award nomination. Her current and upcoming tour schedule includes concerts in New York, Chicago, London, Amsterdam, Paris, Barcelona, Hong Kong, and Beijing. She is heard on the soundtracks of the 2018 Best Picture Oscar winner The Shape of Water and Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri, and provided the singing voice of Roxane, played by Julianne Moore, in the film of the best-selling novel Bel Canto. This summer, she makes her London musical theater debut in The Light in the Piazza at Royal Festival Hall. In September, Decca released her latest album, Renée Fleming: Broadway, a collection of great musical theater songs from the 1920s to the present day. She has recorded everything from complete operas and song recitals to indie rock and jazz; her album Signatures was selected by the US Library of Congress for the National Recording Registry. Known for bringing new audiences to opera and classical music, Ms. Fleming has sung not only with Plácido Domingo and Andrea Bocelli, but also with Elton John, Sting, Josh Groban, and Joan Baez. As artistic advisor to the John F. Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts, she launched a collaboration with the National Institutes of Health, with participation by the National Endowment for the Arts, focused on the science connecting music, health, and the brain; she has given more than 20 presentations with scientists and practitioners across North America on this subject. In 2010, she was named the first-ever creative consultant at Lyric Opera of Chicago. She is a member of the boards of Carnegie Hall, Sing for Hope, and the Polyphony Foundation, and is a spokesperson for the American Music Therapy Association. Her 2004 memoir, The Inner Voice, is currently in its 16th printing. Among her awards are the Fulbright Lifetime Achievement Medal, Germany’s Cross of the Order of Merit, France’s Chevalier de la Légion d’Honneur, and honorary membership in the Royal Academy of Music.

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