MUSIC DIRECTOR EMMANUEL VILLAUME OFF TO A BRILLIANT START IN 2016
French Conductor Earning Rave Reviews For Award-Winning Commercial Recordings, Recent Appearances in London and Chicago
DALLAS, MARCH 1, 2016 –The Dallas Opera is very pleased and proud to call attention to the recent successes and professional accolades bestowed upon internationally acclaimed Mrs. Eugene McDermott Music Director Emmanuel Villaume, who returns to the company stage this spring to conduct our first “Great American Musical”: Kern and Hammerstein’s Show Boat (April 15 through May 1, 2016 in the Margot and Bill Winspear Opera House at the AT&T Performing Arts Center, Dallas).
Maestro Villaume’s year began on a celebratory note with the announcement from Opera News magazine in New York that two of his commercial recordings had made their “Top Ten Lists” for the Best of 2015.
Tchaikovsky’s Iolanta, a Deutsche Grammophon release recorded with the one-and-only Anna Netrebko, Sergei Skorokhodov, the Slovenian Chamber Choir and the Slovenian Philharmonic earned the number three spot on the magazine’s list of “Top Ten Opera Recordings.”
Edward Seckerson, reviewing the CD for Gramophone (U.K.) wrote: “How shrewd to add a French sensibility into the mix (Villaume) just as Tchaikovsky invoked medieval France through Russian sensibilities…The refinement of Villaume’s conducting is a constant source of delight: it nuances and tempers even the most wholehearted flights of fancy.”
Villaume’s conducting of French grand opera arias performed by American tenor Bryan Hymel, the Prague Philharmonia and the Czech Philharmonic Choir of Brno was recognized by Opera News in the magazine’s January 2016 list of “Top Ten Recital Recordings” from the previous year.
“Bryan Hymel: Héroïque” for Warner Classics was an “Editor’s Choice” for the magazine last May. Critic Judith Malafronte drew particular attention to “Emmanuel Villaume’s stunning work with the Prague Philharmonia throughout.”
“These phenomenal artists are also very astute professionals who have exceptional control over their vocal instruments, as well as clear-cut ideas about their repertoire and the works they choose to champion,” explains Dallas Opera Music Director Emmanuel Villaume.
“I have been touring Europe for several years with soprano Anna Netrebko, one of the world’s foremost artists, giving critically acclaimed concert performances of Iolanta to audiences who have never before—or rarely—encountered Tchaikovsky’s final opera. It’s been a passionate labor of love for us both.
“The chance to introduce this too-long-neglected gem to opera lovers everywhere was an opportunity we couldn’t pass up; we are so grateful to the decision-makers at Deutsche Grammophon for making that possible.
“I can’t say enough about the dedication showed by the other great artists who participated in this project, as well as the Slovenian Chamber Choir and the Slovenian Philharmonic.
“As for collaborating with New Orleans-born tenor Bryan Hymel, “Villaume adds, “It became clear very quickly that these glories of the French operatic repertoire are, literally, in his DNA, and it was a pleasure for me to conduct his first solo recording with the gifted musicians of the Czech Philharmonic Choir of Brno and the PKF-Prague Philharmonia.
“Bryan not only possesses an amazingly natural, supple, charismatic and elegant voice, he is also a first-rate actor, able to convey a wide range of emotions through his singing.
“Warner Classics is to be commended for recognizing that this voice and that repertoire had to be captured now, and preserved for all posterity.”
Outside the recording studio, Maestro Villaume has garnered widespread critical acclaim for his outstanding podium work. Recently, the Dallas Opera Music Director triumphed in Puccini’s Tosca at the Royal Opera House, Covent Garden.
Tim Ashley of The Guardian (U.K.) lavishly praised “Emmanuel Villaume’s conducting—intense, passionate and detailed, yet always considerate of the singers, who are never swamped by the orchestra.”
Hannah Neptil of The Financial Times observed, “Conductor Emmanuel Villaume supplies the missing sex-factor, teasing out sultry, sumptuous playing from his orchestra.”
Seen and Heard International noted that Villaume’s conducting “occasionally cranked up the tension almost unbearably…He grabbed this listener’s attention from the opening chords and kept it throughout until the closing ones.”
Anna Picard of The Times (U.K.) wrote that Villaume drew “thrilling playing from the orchestra,” while Melanie Eskenazi of Music OMH was hooked from the start: “Emmanuel Villaume, the Music Director of the Dallas Opera, conducted with plenty of fire, those menacing introductory notes just about as blazing as we’ve ever heard them, and he coaxed superb playing from the strings.”
Sam Smith of Opera Online had this analysis: “In the pit, Emmanuel Villaume asserts a high degree of precision and control over a score that undergoes a remarkable number of ‘mood swings.’ This is a reading that allows the details and nuances in sound to come to the fore, and in those moments that employ few instruments the vast Royal Opera House suddenly feels like a very intimate place.”
Finally, William Hartston of The Daily Express concluded: “With the Covent Garden Orchestra playing that music with great power under the baton of Emmanuel Villaume, this is opera at its best.”
Currently, the Dallas Opera Music Director is earning accolades for eliciting “lustrous” music from both chorus and orchestra (The Chicago Sun-Times) in the Bartlett Sher production of Gounod’s Romeo and Juliet, which opened last week at Lyric Opera of Chicago.
John von Rhein of The Chicago Tribune enthused: “A superb conductor for this repertory, Villaume is the only native Francophone on the roster. He made you aware how much red blood pulses in the veins of Gounod’s opera. The urgency of his pacing, his sensitivity to the singers’ needs and the sure responses he got from the orchestra, lent Sher’s production its firm musical underpinning.”
Barnaby Hughes of Stage and Cinema wrote, “French conductor Emmanuel Villaume moves the music forward ever so deftly, keeping it wonderfully lithe and lively.”
Jacob Davis of Chicago Critic realized that the renowned conductor ensured that “no matter what is happening onstage, the orchestral music is a sturdy pillar around which the production wraps itself.”
Lawrence A. Johnson of Chicago Classical Review summed up Villaume’s contributions to the opening night performance: “Emmanuel Villaume is almost without peer in this repertory, and the French conductor brought crackling vitality as well as Gallic elegance to the score.”
Here in Dallas, Kern Wildenthal General Director and CEO Keith Cerny expressed the pride felt by the entire company: “We are so extraordinarily fortunate to have Emmanuel as both a leader and ambassador for The Dallas Opera, in North Texas and throughout the world. A recent contract extension that secures his presence at our podium through June of 2022 means that he will be able to play an even larger role in attracting the finest opera artists to the Winspear Opera House, as well as alerting us to the remarkable productions he encounters in his travels.
“It’s equally important to me that Emmanuel is well-liked and respected by The Dallas Opera Orchestra, with whom he has established a collegial relationship that has raised the performance bar to an exciting new level.”
“As national and international acclaim for Emmanuel’s conducting continues to build,” Cerny adds, “the entire city benefits. The artistic profile of The Dallas Opera is higher today than it has been in many years.”