When conductor Simone Young takes the podium at the newly renovated Sydney Opera House, it will be more of a homecoming than many people think.
Young is the new conductor of the Sydney Symphony Orchestra and will be in place on July 20 for Mahler’s Symphony No.2, as part of the 2022 season unveiled on Tuesday.
“I grew up in Manly, so when I was little I would cross the harbor on the ferry with my dad and we would watch the Sydney Opera House being built,” Young from Zurich said.
“It’s such an iconic building, and leading this orchestra now, after the venue has been completely renovated – I mean, how often do you get a chance to get a fresh start? “
Perhaps it is no coincidence that Young, who regularly conducts the world’s greatest orchestras and opera companies, included the majestic Mahler 2, known as the “Resurrection” symphony, in the reopening celebrations. .
These homecoming performances will also mark Young’s debut as a conductor of an orchestra with which she has been involved for 25 years.
“The first time I saw the Mahler 2 was when Stuart Challender conducted the symphony in a performance of it,” she says of the famous late conductor, under whose direction, among other things, Young trained.
“It gives me a strong personal connection to the work and to the orchestra, which is true excellence in a wide range of repertoires.”
Not only that, but Mahler worked hard on the score while he was musical director of the Hamburg State Opera, which Young herself conducted – with the Hamburg Philharmonic Orchestra – between 2005 and 2015.
Mahler’s immense symphony, which the company has not performed for over a decade, requires a full orchestra, two singers and a large choir.
The concerts will feature American mezzo-soprano Michelle DeYoung and Paris-based Australian soprano Nicole Car.
“I hired her as a soloist for a new big production in one of the biggest opera houses in the world a few years later,” Young reveals of Car.
“She’s a great artist and having her in the Mahler 2 is wonderful.”
The symphony will be preceded by the world premiere of a new work by Kalkadunga composer and didgeridoo performer William Barton, as part of the orchestra’s 50 fanfares commission project.
“For me, it was important to have a meaningful Aboriginal Australian voice to open up this space,” Young said of Barton, who has previously collaborated with the orchestra on two commissions.
In the fall of 2022, the orchestra will continue to perform at Sydney Town Hall, as it did last year and earlier this year.
The chapter includes a concert by Brahms and Tchaikovsky under the direction of Peruvian conductor Miguel Harth-Bedoya with Macedonian pianist Simon Trpceski.
Popular Australian pianist Alexander Gavrylyuk will also perform Rachmaninoff’s Piano Concerto No. 2 under the direction of local colleague Benjamin Northey.
In the winter and spring of 2022, Young will conduct the orchestra in nine separate concerts, including the Mahler 2, in the renovated concert hall.
Grammy-winning American violinist Hilary Hahn will perform Prokofiev’s Violin Concerto No. 1.
Danish baritone Bo Skovhus will perform in Brahms’ A German Requiem alongside Australian soprano Emma Matthews and the Sydney Philharmonia Choirs.
Spanish classical pianist Javier Perianes will make his Australian debut, performing Beethoven’s five piano concertos.
The Belvoir Orchestra and Theater Company will come together to present A Midsummer Night’s Dream in an interpretation of the Shakespearean text and Mendelssohn’s stage music for orchestra and voice.
Canadian violinist James Ehnes will perform Beethoven’s Violin Concerto and three of his sonatas.
And there’s a People’s Choice concert of audience-chosen works, a format that Young first tested in Hamburg and has proven to be very popular.
“The audience can create the program, so everyone feels like they own it,” she says.
“In a way, it’s our gift to the Sydney audience that has been so supportive and loyal to the orchestra for the past 18 months.”
At the end of each season, Young and the orchestra will present an opera in concert mode.
In 2022, it is Beethoven’s only opera, Fidelio, with South African soprano Elza van den Heever alongside ententenor Simon O’Neill and bass baritone Jonathan Lemalu, both from New Zealand.
Having recently read Sand Talk: How Indigenous Thinking Can Save the World by academic and writer Tyson Yunkaporta, a member of the Apalech clan from far north Queensland, Young had an idea.
“One of the exciting things about this work is that I seek to actively engage with Indigenous artists,” Young said.
“Tyson is a unique voice. It draws inspiration from Indigenous culture while placing it in a contemporary context and giving it timeless relevance.
Young says that’s exactly what she tries to do with classical music.
She deleted the opera’s spoken dialogue in favor of five passages of prose that she commissioned Yunkaporta to write.
“They’re confrontational, sometimes provoking, deeply emotional – I always get goosebumps when I read them and I’ve read them half a dozen times already,” Young says.
“They bring out key points of the subject of Beethoven’s opera, which is really about humanitarian principles, and I think that’s not a bad way to end your first season.”
Other highlights include concerts with principal guest conductor Sir Donald Runnicles and former conductor Edo de Waart, as well as performances by German-American violinist Augustin Hadelich and German cellist Daniel Muller-Schott.
Young is only the third Australian – and the first woman – to hold the post of conductor in the orchestra’s 90-year history.
“It feels good,” she says of her next role as head of the orchestra, adding that she had been musical director of Opera Australia for almost 20 years, from 2001 to 2003.
Somewhat controversial, Young’s contract with the opera company was not renewed.
“I had a great time in Europe and America and it will continue,” she says. “But I’ve been conducting this orchestra for 25 years, and over the past five years we’ve found a passion for the same music and an ease with each other that lays the best possible foundation for a great working collaboration for years. future.
“Sydney is my home,” she continues.
“My place of residence may be in the UK and I can spend most of the year in Germany and Austria, but I still have a huge smile when the plane lands in Mascot.”
Young is back in Sydney in February.
Currently in Zurich to conduct the Zurich Opera in a new production of Salomé by Richard Strauss, Young has just finished directing the Vienna State Opera in a new production of Das verratene Meer (The Betrayed Sea) by Henze.
She’s been at the top of her game for decades, and during that time she’s seen the industry change.
“Thirty years ago I was walking in a pit in Berlin and unless the orchestra started clapping there would be no applause until I got on the podium, because people thought I was a late-arriving musician, ”she says.
“There is no longer a burst of surprise when a woman takes the stage to direct.”
Young says she has always refused to talk about being a female conductor.
“But now that I’m 60, I think I can say that my position in the industry is not due to reverse discrimination. Everyone appreciates that I’m here because I put a lot of effort into it. job.”
Last year, Young visited the Concert Hall, where the upgrade is taking longer than expected, hence the reason why next season’s first chapter will be held at Sydney Town Hall.
“All of the acoustics are new, the stage has been lowered so the lines of sight are better, and there is hydraulics in different sections so you can elevate elements of the stage,” she says.
While inspecting the room, Young climbed the scaffolding to the top and touched the ceiling.
“I can’t tell you how emotional I was,” she said.
“My first concert experience in this hall was seeing Leonard Bernstein with the New York Philharmonic perform Tchaikovsky’s 6th, which took place before the official opening concert in 1973.”
Not only did Young witness the construction of the Sydney Opera House, not only did she make her conductor’s debut there in 1985, but the music she has conducted there since has touched that same ceiling and the audience below, countless times.
She says her date is fair.
“I come from a family that has no musical training, an absolute zip, so I am evangelical enough to bring in people who have not had the opportunity to be exposed to classical music”, says- she.
“Come hear us because it is a life changing experience. Music is emotional, deep and physical. And when people hear something that touches them like that, we are doing our job right.”
For more information on the Orchestra’s 2022 season, visit www.sydneysymphony.com