In an unplanned coincidence with Thanksgiving, Medici.tv will stream an important, little-known opera “of murder, plague, blackmail, and religious conflict” for free on Thursday, Nov. 23 at 10:30 a.m. PT.
Marking the late Krzysztof Penderecki’s 90th birthday, Marin Alsop leads the Polish National Radio Symphony (NOSPR) in a semistaged production of the composer’s 1986 opera The Black Mask.
After Thursday’s free streaming (which only requires registration), the video will then be available on demand for members worldwide for five years.
Based on a 1928 play by Gerhart Hauptmann, the opera is set in 17th-century Silesia after the Thirty Years’ War. The story follows a nobleman and his wife through buried secrets and blackmail.
Alsop says of the music: “This opera is a seminal work by Penderecki. It has a bold and ambitious score that captures the essence of the Polish avant-garde.”
The performance is directed by English National Opera Associate Director Georg Zlabinger and features tenor Tadeusz Szlenkier, sopranos Yeree Suh and Joanna Kędzior, and mezzo-soprano Jennifer Johnson Cano.
The Black Mask, or Die schwarze Maske, has a German libretto by the composer and director Harry Kupfer. The opera premiered at the Salzburg Festival in 1986, after which there were productions at the Vienna State Opera and the Grand Theatre, Warsaw. The work had its United States premiere in 1988 at Santa Fe Opera.
This intense and dramatic opera is one of the highlights of Alsop’s inaugural season at the head of the NOSPR. Besides serving as music director of the Cabrillo Festival of Contemporary Music from 1992 to 2016, Alsop has held numerous other conducting positions, including music director of the Baltimore Symphony, where she became the first woman to head a major American orchestra.
After launching their partnership in September with the second Szymanowski International Competition concert, followed by an orchestral program pairing Beethoven and Paul Hindemith, Alsop and the NOSPR continue their season with Robert Schumann’s Third Symphony (Dec. 14) and then Gabriela Montero’s “Latin” Piano Concerto, with the composer herself as soloist (Feb. 9, 2024).