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The Tanglewood Music Center was founded in 1940 by Serge Koussevitzky as an academy for advanced music studies by the most gifted young instrumentalists, vocalists, composers and conductors. Each summer 150 young musicians study with members of the Boston Symphony Orchestra and such distinguished faculty as pianists Emanuel Ax, Claude Frank, Peter Serkin and Ursula Oppens, violinists Donald Weilerstein and Joseph Silverstein, sopranos Phyllis Curtin and Lucy Shelton and composers John Harbison, William Bolcom, Elliott Carter and Colin Matthews. Many guest artists at Tanglewood concerts (such as Yo-Yo Ma and André Previn) give master classes. James Levine has taken an active role in the center's activities. He heads the conducting program, coaches the vocal fellows, and conducts the Tanglewood Music Center Orchestra in a fully staged student opera production and a concert version of a large scale work. Not since Koussevitzky has a Boston Symphony music director been so involved with the center's educational mission.

Johan Botha, James Morris, Zeljko Lucic and Patricia Racette with James Levine leading the Tanglewood Music Center Orchestra and the Tanglewood Festival Chorus in Verdi's 'Don Carlo' on 28 July 2007. Photo © 2007 Hilary Scott
Johan Botha, James Morris, Zeljko Lucic and Patricia Racette with James Levine leading the Tanglewood Music Center Orchestra and the Tanglewood Festival Chorus in Verdi's 'Don Carlo' on 28 July 2007. Photo © 2007 Hilary Scott

On 28 July Levine led the Tanglewood Music Center Orchestra in a concert version of Verdi's Don Carlo (in the four act Italian version). The sumptuous playing of the student ensemble was a testament to Levine's teaching skills. His conducting was cogent and lucid with bursts of white hot Italianate intensity. Levine's masterful articulation of Verdi's grandiose musical paragraphs and superstructure was exciting. He fielded a first rate cast. Pride of place went to the female protagonists. Patricia Racette was a memorable Elizabeth of Valois. Her radiant, pure soprano gleamed resplendently in the role's high tessitura. Racette's softest pianissimos floated miraculously through the vast performance space; her exquisite phrasing defined Verdian magic, particularly in the fourth act aria 'Tu che le vanita'. Luciana D'Intino was a fiery Princess Eboli in the grand Italian mezzo tradition of Giulietta Simionato and Fiorenza Cossotto. While her high range was rather light, D'Intino's vibrant, gutsy lower register and raw but thrilling chest voice produced show stopping ovations for her Veil Song and 'O don fatale'.

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Copyright © 4 September 2007 Lawrence Budmen, Miami Beach, USA

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