North Bethesda, MD (November 4, 2019) — Botox isn’t just for beauty! Witness an unforgettable performance by legendary pianist — and medical miracle — Leon Fleisher alongside the Maryland Lyric Opera (MDLO) Orchestra in its debut symphonic performance on Nov. 12, 2019, 7:30 pm at The Music Center at Strathmore. Conducted by MDLO Music Director Louis Salemno, the Kennedy Center Honoree and Oscar-nominated Fleisher will join the MDLO in a performance of Mozart’s Piano Concerto No 12. Salemno will also lead the MDLO in performances of Mozart’s iconic Overture from Le Nozze de Figaro; Debussy’s Preludes a l’apres-midi d’un faune; and Sibelius’ Symphony No. 2 in D Major, Op. 43. Fleisher made his public debut with the New York Philharmonic at just 16 years old. By age 36, Fleisher’s right hand was barely mobile, and he was diagnosed with focal dystonia, a devastating neurological condition that caused involuntary muscular contractions. The diagnosis left Fleisher in despair only temporarily; after a few years, he turned to teaching, conducting, and left-handed piano performances. After nearly four decades, aided by Botox injections in his right hand, Fleisher returned to the stage as a two-handed piano soloist officially in 2005, performing 40 concerts in 31 cities. At 91 years young, Fleisher is still performing today. Ticket price for the concert are $25–$75. Strathmore is located at 5301 Tuckerman Lane, North Bethesda. To purchase tickets, visit Strathmore.org or call 301.581.5100. For more information, visit firstname.lastname@example.org or call 240.427.5568.
The Washington Post wrote a review of MDLO’s recent performance of La Faniculla del West, writing, “The 80-piece orchestra, trusted with most of the opera’s heavy lifting, played its collective heart out under MDLO Music Director Louis Salemno, who conducted with authority and conviction.”
“We are beyond grateful to welcome Leon Fleisher to perform with the Maryland Lyric Opera Orchestra in its symphonic concert debut,” said Brad Clark, president and artistic director of MDLO. “Because the MDLO Orchestra was performing operatic works so beautifully, Maestro Salemno and I wanted to provide the musicians an opportunity to stand on their own in the beautiful acoustic of Strathmore. Although recently formed, the MDLO Orchestra has already secured its place on stage, thanks to its diverse set of talented musicians who come from ensembles throughout the Washington region,” he said.
MDLO continues to employ the finest musicians in the region for its MDLO Orchestra, comprised of 78 local players who have prominent positions in ensembles such as the National Symphony Orchestra, the Baltimore Symphony Orchestra, the Washington National Opera Orchestra, the Wolf Trap Opera Orchestra, the Washington Concert Opera Orchestra, the former Baltimore Opera Orchestra, and the National Philharmonic, among others.
Fleisher was a child prodigy who began his piano studies at just four years old. He hails from a line of Beethoven student “descendants”: Fleisher was taught by Artur Schnabel, who was taught by Theodor Leschetizky, who was taught by Carl Czerny, one of Beethoven’s own students. He was the first American to win the Queen Elisabeth of Belgium Competition in Brussels in 1952 and, in 2007, was granted a Kennedy Center Honors, recognizing him as a “consummate musician whose career is a testament to the life-affirming power of art.” After Fleischer’s neurological issues surfaced, he turned to left-handed music and conducting, eventually joining the faculty at Peabody. Today, he is the Andrew W. Mellon Chair at the Peabody Institute of the Johns Hopkins University.
After Botox injections helped him regain ability in his right hand, Fleisher joined his wife, pianist Katherine Jacobson, to form the Fleisher-Jacobson Piano Duo, performing internationally with recordings for Sony Classical. Among other recordings, his album, “Two Hands” (2004), held a Top 5 Billboard Chart spot that year, and also received an Oscar nomination. In 2006, Fleisher was honored with the Commander in the Order of Arts and Letters by the Minister of Culture of the French government. Today, Fleisher continues international performances, as well as guest conducting.
Mozart (1756–1791) composed the famous Le Nozze di Figaro (The Marriage of Figaro) in 1786. The opera buffa (comic opera) is one of the most well-known operas today, and the Overture is one of its most iconic pieces. Composed in 1782, Mozart’s sweeping Piano Concerto No. 12 allows the keyboard to take center stage amidst the MDLO Orchestra. Debussy (1862–1918) composed Prelude a l’apres-midi d’un faune (Prelude to the Afternoon of a Faun) in 1894, the same year the piece was first performed. The composition was inspired by symbolist poet and friend Stéphane Mallarmé, and the composition was considered a turning point in the history of music. Sibelius (1865–1957) composed Symphony No. 2 in D Major, Op. 43 in 1901, calling the work a “confession of my soul.”
MDLO’s opera productions this season include a new fully staged production of Massenet’s Thaïs January 30 and February 1, 2020, at The Clarice Smith Performing Arts Center’s Kay Theatre in College Park; as well as the launch of a new fully staged cycle of the three iconic Mozart/Da Ponte operas directed by Ruggero Raimondi, beginning with Le Nozze di Figaro on June 10, 12, and 14, 2020, also at The Clarice’s Kay Theatre. A complete schedule of concerts and other events can be found at mdlo.org.
MDLO, founded in 2014 by pianist Brad Clark and reorganized for expansion in 2017, has produced staged production of Lucia di Lammermoor, Cavalleria Rusticana, Pagliacci, Roméo et Juliette, and Amahl and the Night Visitors; presented an acclaimed concert performance of La Fanciulla del West, Il Tabarro, and Cavalleria Rusticana, as well as concert performances of excerpts by Mozart, Puccini, and Verdi. The 2019–2020 season includes two fully staged new opera productions, three performances of opera in concert, two orchestral concerts featuring world class soloists, and other performances featuring the stars of opera alongside MLDO’s young artists.
MDLO’s flagship Young Artist Institute has shown exponential growth since its creation in 2017. Boasting a music staff led by Louis Salemno, William Stone, Husan Park, and Christopher Koelzer, the Institute provides a professional experience to its Institute Artists for daily, consistent, essential training. In previous seasons, MDLO hosted a national vocal competition that drew an impressive field of emerging artists; held master classes for young singers with opera luminaries Sherrill Milnes and Aprile Millo; and presented a variety of gala performances, recitals, and holiday programs. With the continued execution of its new strategic plan, MDLO will further expand its career-development programs for young artists, produce more fully staged productions, and grow its outreach programs to the local community.