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Mark Russell Smith Leads the Curtis Symphony Orchestra in an All-Wagner Program at the Kimmel Center May 5

Featuring Metropolitan Opera stars and Curtis alumni Heidi Melton and Eric Owens in a stunning kaleidoscope of excerpts from the Wagnerian repertoire

Year-end celebration includes Grand Season Finale Gala in Commonwealth Plaza at the Kimmel Center for the Performing Arts

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(April 26, 2013) Mark Russell Smith ('87) leads an all-Wagner program with Metropolitan Opera stars Heidi Melton ('07), soprano, and Eric Owens ('95), bass-baritone, on Sunday, May 5 at 8 p.m. in Verizon Hall at the Kimmel Center. The program features excerpts from Tannhäuser, Die Meistersinger, Der fliegende Holländer (The Flying Dutchman), and the Ring Cycle.
Tickets are $5 to $45 and are available at the Kimmel Center Box Office and from Ticket Philadelphia at (215) 893-1999 or The program is part of the Jack Wolgin Orchestral Concert Series.
The program opens with one of the most brilliant and gripping storm scenes in music, the overture to The Flying Dutchman, led by student conductor Kensho Watanabe. Following are selections from Tannhäuser, Wagner's tale of a valiant knight who is seduced by the goddess Venus into debauchery but is redeemed through the virtuous love of Elisabeth, who sings the famous "Dich, teure Halle". 
Selections from Die Meistersinger, Wagner's opera based on the Nuremberg tradition of the 16th-century mastersingers, will be followed by excerpts from the Ring Cycle: "Siegfried's Rhine Journey" from Götterdämmerung and selections from Die Walküre:  Wotan's remorseful "Farewell" and the "Magic Fire Music" in which Wotan imprisons his daughter Brünnhilde in fire to protect her from all but the bravest of heroes and launches the inexorable process that will end the gods' dominion over human affairs. 
An elegant Grand Season Finale Gala in Commonwealth Plaza at the Kimmel Center for the Performing Arts bookends the all-Wagner concert. The first Curtis gala to take place entirely at the Kimmel Center, it includes pre-concert cocktails, dinner created by world-renowned chef Jose Garces, and a lavish post-concert dessert reception. Join gala chairs Susan and Sherwood "Woody" Goldberg, Sueyun and Gene Locks, and Mark and Robin Rubenstein for this spectacular finale to the 2012-13 season. Gala dinner sponsored by Glenmede; gala cocktail reception sponsored by PNC. For tickets and more information visit or contact Charles Finch in the Curtis Development Office, (215) 717-3141. All proceeds benefit the Curtis Student Assistance Fund.
Mark Russell Smith, a 1987 graduate of the Curtis Institute of Music, is director of the new music projects for the Saint Paul Chamber Orchestra, artistic director of orchestral studies at the University of Minnesota, and music director of the Quad City Symphony Orchestra. Mr. Smith has conducted the Saint Louis and Houston symphonies, the Minnesota Orchestra, and the Saint Paul Chamber Orchestra. In 2007 he returned to his alma mater to lead the Curtis Symphony Orchestra in Verizon Hall, and led Curtis On Tour in China and Korea in 2011. Other recent and upcoming appearances include the Colorado, Eugene, Hartford, Jacksonville, Phoenix, and Santa Barbara symphonies; the Tulsa Philharmonic; Orchestra London (Ontario); the Eastern Music Festival; the Curtis Opera Theatre; and the European Center for Opera and Vocal Art in Ghent, Belgium. Mr. Smith collaborated with Yo-Yo Ma on Bridge of Souls, a concert featuring world premiers by Asian and American composers.
A firm believer in the use of technical innovation, he annually conducts the final round of the Minnesota International Piano e-Competition, streamed live online. Mr. Smith was previously music director of the Richmond, Cheyenne, and Springfield (Mass.) symphony orchestras. He studied cello at the Julliard School with Claus Adam and conducting at the Curtis Institute of Music with Max Rudolf and Otto-Werner Mueller. He resides in Minneapolis, where his wife, Ellen Dinwiddie Smith, is a horn player with the Minnesota Orchestra. 
Kensho Watanabe, from Greenwich, Connecticut, entered the Curtis Institute of Music in 2010 and studies with Otto-Werner Mueller, distinguished conducting pedagogue. All students at Curtis receive merit-based full-tuition scholarships, and Mr. Watanabe is the Thomas D. Watkins Fellow. He has recently led the Curtis Symphony Orchestra in Jennifer Higdon's blue cathedral and Tchaikovsky's Romeo and Juliet: Duet for soprano and tenor in Verizon Hall, as well as the world premiere of Richard Danielpour's Consecration for soprano and chamber orchestra. Mr. Watanabe previously served as the assistant conductor of the Yale Symphony Orchestra under Toshiyuki Shimada, leading the YSO in concerts at Woolsey Hall and Battell Chapel. He was also the music director of Yale's Berkeley College Orchestra from 2006 to 2009.
In recent seasons, Heidi Melton has sung the role of Sieglinde in Die Walküre, Gutrune in Götterdämmerung, Fata Morgana in in Love for Three Oranges, and Amelia in Un ballo in maschera at Deutsche Oper Berlin; Venus and Elisabeth in Tannhäuser, Elsa in Lohengrin, Didon in Les Troyens, the Marshallin in Der Rosenkavalier, and Ellen Orford in Peter Grimes at Badisches Staatsheater Karlsruhe (Germany); and the Third Norn in the Metropolitan Opera's Ring Cycle. In concert, Ms. Melton sang Wagnerian excerpts with the Baltimore and Dallas symphonies and the Grand Teton Music Festival; and in Mahler's Symphony No. 8 at the Aspen Music Festival. Future seasons will see her at the Metropolitan Opera, Deutsche Oper Berlin, San Francisco Opera, Oper Frankfurt, Teatro alla Scala, Opéra National de Bordeaux, Canadian Opera Company, and Badisches Staatstheater Karlsruhe. 
The 2009 winner of the George London Foundation's George London/Kirsten Flagstad Memorial Award, Ms. Melton made her Metropolitan Opera debut in 2009 as the Second Maid in Elektra. She has sung leading roles with Opéra National de Bordeaux and with the San Francisco Opera, where she participated in the Merola and Adler programs. Concert credits include the BBC Scottish Symphony Orchestra, the Milwaukee Symphony, and the Berkeley Symphony. She received her Master of Music degree in 2007 from the Curtis Institute of Music, where she performed leading roles in Ariadne auf Naxos, Alcina, Albert Herring, and Così fan tutte.
Eric Owens is both an esteemed interpreter of classic works and a champion of new music. He is the highly acclaimed Alberich of the Metropolitan Opera's Robert Lepage production of the Ring Cycle. Other recent roles include Ramfis in Aida at San Francisco Opera, the title role in Hercules at Lyric Opera of Chicago, and various roles at the Glimmerglass Festival. Recent concert performances include a concert version of Salome with the Cleveland Orchestra, Beethoven's Missa Solemnis with the Boston Symphony, Otello with the Chicago Symphony Orchestra, the Storyteller in A Flowering Tree with the Atlanta Symphony, and Verdi's Requiem with the National Arts Centre Orchestra.
Mr. Owens is celebrated for his embrace of new operas, including the title role in Elliot Goldenthal's Grendel with the Los Angeles Opera and the Lincoln Center Festival; General Leslie Groves in Doctor Atomic at the San Francisco Opera and the Metropolitan Opera; and the Storyteller in A Flowering Tree at the Los Angeles Philharmonic. He made his Boston Symphony Orchestra debut in John Adam's Nativity oratorio El Niño. Career highlights include Otello at the San Francisco Opera; Norma at the Royal Opera, Covent Garden; Aida at Houston Grand Opera, Rigoletto, Il trovatore, and La bohème at Los Angeles Opera; Die Zauberflöte at the Bastille Opera in Paris; and Ariodante and L'incoronazione di Poppea at the English National Opera.
A native of Philadelphia, Mr. Owens studied voice at Temple University and received his Master's degree in Opera from the Curtis Institute of Music in 1995.
Praised for its "otherworldly ensemble and professional level of sophistication" (New York Times), the Curtis Symphony Orchestra presents three concerts annually under the direction of eminent conductors in Verizon Hall at the Kimmel Center. Recent visiting conductors include Jahja Ling, Charles Dutoit, Simon Rattle, Robert Spano, and Michael Tilson Thomas. This professional training has enabled Curtis alumni to assume prominent positions in America's leading orchestras, as well as ensembles around the world.
The Curtis Institute of Music educates and trains exceptionally gifted young musicians for careers as performing artists on the highest professional level. One of the world's leading conservatories, Curtis provides its 165 students with full-tuition scholarships and personalized attention from a celebrated faculty. The school's distinctive "learn by doing" approach has produced an impressive number of notable artists since its founding in 1924. Curtis alumni hold principal chairs in every major American orchestra, and each season they are featured as guest soloists with the world's leading orchestras, opera houses, and chamber music series.
Curtis's innovative programs encourage students to perform often and hone 21st-century musical skills, and the school's facilities offer superb spaces for music-making as well as state-of-the-art technologies to enhance learning. Students perform internationally with Curtis On Tour in addition to more than 150 performances in and around Philadelphia each year. When they graduate, they become musical leaders, making a profound impact on music around the globe. 
Curtis Symphony Orchestra
The Jack Wolgin Orchestral Concerts
Sunday, May 5 at 8 p.m.
Verizon Hall at the Kimmel Center for the Performing Arts, Broad and Spruce Streets, Philadelphia
Mark Russell Smith, conductor ('87)
Kensho Watanabe, conductor 
Heidi Melton, soprano ('07) 
Eric Owens, bass-baritone ('95)
WAGNER    Overture to Der fliegende Holländer (The Flying Dutchman)

Tannhäuser, selections
Overture--Venusberg Music
"Dich, teure Halle"

Die Meistersinger, selections
Prelude to Act III                 
Dance of the Apprentices
Procession of the Meistersingers

"Siegfried's Rhine Journey" from Götterdämmerung
  Die Walküre, selections
Wotan's Farewell
Magic Fire Music
Tickets: $5, $16, $22, $33, $45; available at the Kimmel Center Box Office and from Ticket Philadelphia at (215) 893-1999 or
Grand Season Finale Gala: Pre-concert cocktails, dinner by renowned chef Jose Garces, and post-concert dessert reception in Commonwealth Plaza at the Kimmel Center for the Performing Arts. Gala dinner sponsored by Glenmede; gala cocktail reception sponsored by PNC. Proceeds benefit the Curtis Student Assistance Fund. Tickets and more information: Charles Finch, (215) 717-3141 or


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