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Thursday March 16, 2023

Conducting Debussy's "La Mer," David Afkham Returns to Orchestra Hall April 14-15

The evocative program also features Outi Tarkiainen’s Ring of Fire and LoveLili Boulanger’s Of a Sad Evening and Richard Wagner’s Wesendonck-Lieder

American soprano Emily Magee will perform as soloist in Wesendonck-Lieder

David Afkham—a frequent guest conductor of the Minnesota Orchestra and the chief conductor and artistic director of the Orquesta y Coro Nacionales de España—returns to Orchestra Hall to lead a program centered around Claude Debussy’s La Mer. Bursting with life and oscillating between calmness and chaos, the composer’s kaleidoscopic work is meant to recreate the feeling of a visit to the sea. The ensemble’s trumpets, horns, flutes and cellos feature prominently in the glittering piece. [View this video clip of the Minnesota Orchestra’s 2018 performance of La Mer.]

The program will be performed at Orchestra Hall in downtown Minneapolis on Friday, April 14, at 8 p.m., and Saturday, April 15, at 8 p.m., with ticket prices ranging from $22 to $82. Free tickets are available for young listeners under the age of 18, thanks to the Orchestra’s Hall Pass program. For more information, visit minnesotaorchestra.org/hallpass. The Friday night performance will be broadcast live on stations of YourClassical Minnesota Public Radio.

The concerts will open with contemporary Finnish composer Outi Tarkiainen’s Ring of Fire and Love, which will mark the United States premiere of the work. Of her 2021 composition, Tarkiainen writes that this music speaks to the moment of birth—“this earth-shattering, creative, cataclysmic moment [the mother and child] travel through together.”

American soprano Emily Magee will then take the stage to perform Richard Wagner’s Wesendonck-Lieder, five songs originally for voice and piano—but later orchestrated by Austrian conductor Felix Mottl—set to poems by Mathilde Wesendonck, with whom the composer had a passionate connection that some speculate was romantic. Magee has earned critical acclaim for her earlier interpretations of Wagner’s compositions, with notable leading roles as Elsa in Lohengrin and Elisabeth in Tannhäuser. She last performed with the Minnesota Orchestra in 2003 as a soloist in Gustav Mahler’s Symphony of a Thousand.

La Mer will not be the only piece of 20th-century French repertoire featured on the program, as the concerts include Lili Boulanger’s melancholic D’un soir triste (Of a Sad Evening). Full of both sorrow and hope, the work would be Boulanger’s final before her untimely death at the age of 24. Her Of a Spring Morning, the companion piece to Of a Sad Evening, was performed earlier this season in concerts conducted by Thomas Søndergård, the Minnesota Orchestra’s music director designate.


About David Afkham

David Afkham, who debuted with the Minnesota Orchestra in October 2021, became chief conductor and artistic director of the Orquesta y Coro Nacionales de España in 2019, building on the success of his tenure as the orchestra’s principal conductor since 2014. As a guest conductor, Afkham is in high demand with some of the world’s finest orchestras and opera houses and has established a reputation as one of the most sought-after conductors to emerge from Germany in recent years.

Afkham’s recent and upcoming highlights as guest conductor include returns with the Chicago Symphony Orchestra, Philadelphia Orchestra, Münchner Philharmoniker, HR Sinfonieorchester Frankfurt, Swedish Radio Symphony, Orchestra of Accademia Santa Cecilia and NHK Symphony Orchestra, as well as debuts with the Pittsburgh Symphony and Dresden Philharmonic. He was the winner of the 2008 Donatella Flick Conducting Competition in London and was the inaugural recipient of the Nestlé and Salzburg Festival Young Conductors Award in 2010. From 2009 to 2012 he was assistant conductor of the Gustav Mahler Jugendorchester. More: davidafkham.com.


About Emily Magee

Soprano Emily Magee makes her return to the Minnesota Orchestra this weekend for the first time since her last appearances in 2003. She is in great demand on the leading opera and concert stages of the world, earning her recognition as one of the most important voices of her generation. Her radiant voice and intelligent stage presence have won her acclaim in a wide variety of roles, particularly those of Richard Strauss and Wagner, alongside roles of Puccini, Verdi, Janaček, Britten and others.

Throughout her career, Magee has worked with such acclaimed conductors as Daniel Barenboim, Christian Thielemann, Riccardo Muti, Zubin Mehta, Claudio Abbado, Antonio Pappano, Franz Welser-Möst, Donald Runnicles, Simon Rattle, Sir Andrew Davis, Semyon Bychkov and Christoph von Dohnanyi.  In addition to performances at New York's Metropolitan Opera, the Vienna State Opera, The Royal Opera, Zürich, Paris, Berlin, Munich, Frankfurt, Chicago, San Francisco and La Scala, Magee has appeared at Europe's finest summer festivals including Salzburg, Bayreuth, and Lucerne. Recent highlights include her Metropolitan Opera Debut as the Foreign Princess in Rusalka, and a series of concerts of Strauss' Four Last Songs with the leading orchestras of the day. More: emilymagee.com.

Minnesota Orchestra Classical Concerts



Friday, April 14, 2023, 8 p.m. / Orchestra Hall*

Saturday, April 15, 2023, 8 p.m. / Orchestra Hall


Minnesota Orchestra

David Afkham, conductor

Emily Magee, soprano


TARKIAINEN The Ring of Fire and Love
WAGNER/Mottl Wesendonck-Lieder
BOULANGER Of a Sad Evening


Tickets: $22 to $82 [Free tickets available for young listeners under age 18, thanks to the Hall Pass program.]

* The Friday night performance will be broadcast live on stations of YourClassical Minnesota Public Radio, including KSJN 99.5 FM in the Twin Cities.


Tickets and subscription packages can be purchased now at minnesotaorchestra.org or by calling 612-371-5656. For groups of 10 or more, call 612-371-5662.

The Hall Pass program makes free tickets available for young listeners ages 6 to 18 for select Classical and Symphony in 60 concerts, and all kids under 18 for Family concerts. This program is sponsored by Cynthia and Jay Ihlenfeld. For more information, visit minnesotaorchestra.org/hallpass. 

This activity is made possible by the voters of Minnesota through a Minnesota State Arts Board Operating Support grant, thanks to a legislative appropriation from the arts and cultural heritage fund.

Details around COVID safety protocols can be found at minnesotaorchestra.org/safety.

All programs, artists, dates, times and prices subject to change.


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