Royal Seville Symphony Orchestra

Artistic and Musical Director John Axelrod

The Royal Seville Symphony Orchestra was created in 1990 following the signing of a memorandum of understanding between the Junta de Andalucía and the City Council of Seville for this joint initiative. The orchestra was unveiled for the first time at the Teatro Lope de Vega on the 10th of January 1991, which was the start of a journey that has allowed it to become a benchmark and an undeniable cultural asset in the city of Seville and surrounding area. The title “Royal” was awarded to the orchestra in 1995 by the then King, Don Juan Carlos I.

John Axelrod is the current Musical and Artistic Director. Previously the role had been held by Vjekoslav Šutej’s (from the creation of the orchestra to 1996), Klaus Weise (1997-2000), Alain Lombard (2001-2003) and Pedro Halffter (2004-2014).

The Orchestra’s main activity centres around the programme for the concert season that takes places at the Maestranza Theatre. With an average of one hundred performances per season, the most highly regarded national and international conductors, soloists, singers and choirs have performed with the orchestra since it first began. At the same time, the orchestra also plays in the pit during the lyrical and dance seasons of the Maestranza Theatre as well as in zarzuela productions. They accompany both classical ballet as well as contemporary and Spanish ballet companies. This ability to play for both symphonic and theatrical performances demonstrates the orchestra’s great versatility.

Its symphonic work, which focusses on traditional and contemporary repertoires, also pays particular attention to Spanish music, to recovering works that are rarely performed and to more unusual pieces of music such as those from film and popular culture. Furthermore, the orchestra organises each year a series of concerts for offenders and children and young people at risk of social exclusion with the aim of educating and rehabilitating them. The orchestra also participates in institutional events as well as going on national and international tours and making recordings for radio and television.

On its tours the Royal Seville Symphony Orchestra has performed in Spain in many parts of the region of Andalusia. It has played on a number of occasions at the Granada, Santander and Úbeda International Festivals, the Spanish Music festival of Cadiz and has appeared at all of the main concert halls in Spain. The orchestra has also appeared at international festivals in Germany, Austria, Italy, Portugal, Puerto Rico at the Casals Festival, Japan on a fourteen concert tour of several cities, and the People’s Republic of China in the summer of 2008. The group were the sole Spanish orchestra invited to perform in the build up to the 2008 Olympic Games in Beijing and played three concerts at important auditoriums in Beijing, Shanghai and Shenzhen. Furthermore, in Feburary 2009 the group embarked on a highly successful tour of central Europe featuring the following destinations: Stuttgart / Liederhalle, Vienna / Konzerthaus, Frankfurt / Alte Oper, Dusseldorf / Tonhalle, Mannheim / Rosengarten, Hannover / Kuppelsaal, Hamburg / Laeiszhalle and Zurich / Tonhalle.

The recordings made by the Royal Seville Symphony Orchestra focus on its great symphonic and lyrical repertoire and, in particular, on newly created works, those that have not previously been recorded, those by Andalusian composers or linked to the region, and both traditional music and that from popular culture.

During 2016 the orchestra will be celebrating its 25th anniversary and staging the twenty-sixth Concert Season with a new symphonic cycle which will feature national and international conductors, soloists, singers and choirs of the highest calibre.

A unique orchestra

During a season the Royal Seville Symphony Orchestra puts on a wide variety of events ranging from traditional to contemporary symphony concerts, many of which premiere at the theatre, and include works that the orchestra has composed itself. Add to this the offer of more unusual performances such as cinema and pop music and a large number of opera, zarzuela, classical, Spanish and contemporary ballet productions and it is clear to see just how versatile the orchestra is.

The orchestra also organises and collaborates on several chamber music concert series and in 1998 formed the Chamber Music Orchestra of the Royal Seville Symphony Orchestra as well as several groups specialising in different areas made up of musicians from the orchestra itself. The orchestra takes part in institutional events as well as going on national and international tours and recording pieces for radio and TV.

Since its creation, the orchestra has had an educational role to play, performing to over 30,000 school children, young people and their families productions such as Prokofiev’s Peter and the Wolf, Tchaikovski’s The Nutcracker, Grieg’s Peer Grynt, Rossini’s William Tell, Britten’s The Young Person’s Guide to the Orchestra, Beethoven’s Fifth Symphony, Ravel’s The Tales of Mother Goose and Remembering Mozart. Furthermore, the orchestra’s musicians have carried out educational projects with schools such as "Adopt a Musician" as well as parts from works by Offenbach, Wagner, Bizet, Albeniz, Turina, Falla, Chueca and Lope to name just a few. These projects are put on by a wide variety of people hailing from both musical and educational backgrounds, such as Fernando Palacios, Eulen Spiegel, Araceli González Campa, Fernando Argenta, Ana Hernández-Sanchiz and Belén Otxotorena and are led by the orchestra’s director, Juan Luis Pérez, a long standing supporter of these projects since the orchestra first began.

Such an array of activities would not be possible without an orchestra of the highest quality. This has meant that its level as a pit orchestra is exceptionally high; its role in lyrical performances means that musicians must demonstrate great concentration and be able to react immediately to the conductor’s instructions. These characteristics coupled with an impressive artistic discipline and constant desire to improve, have allowed the orchestra to welcome some of the world’s great conductors who are only too pleased to work with the orchestra again in successive seasons. For this reason and despite only having been founded some 27 years ago, the orchestra can boast having worked with some of the top conductors, soloists, singers, and choirs on both national and international stages.

Visiting artists

Among the Spanish conductors to have worked with the orchestra are the following: T. Alcántara, O. Alonso, R. Frühbeck, E. García Asensio, García Navarro, M. A. Gómez Martínez, C. Halffter, J. López Cobos, M. Roa, A. Ros Marbá o Víctor Pablo, Max Bragado, Juanjo Mena. Collaborations with foreign conductors have included names such as M. Atzmon, C. Badea, A. Ceccato, N. Kraemer, P. Magg, I. Marin, G. Pelhivanian , K. Penderecki, H. Rilling, R. King , D. Shallon, Y. Simonov, Y. Temirkanov, o T. Vasary, L. Hager, W.D. Hauschild, P. Daniel, P. Steinberg, M. Jurowski, M. Plasson, M. Soustrot, H. Shellenberger, M. Nesterowicz, G. Neuhold, Ch. Zacharias and M. Schønwandt.

As for instrumental soloists, the Seville Symphony Orchestra has played alongside national artists such as as J. Achúcarro, F. Ayo, P. Corostola, Los Romero, R. Orozco (who performed for the opening of the Maestranza Theatre on the 2nd of May 1992), R. Torres Pardo and J. Perianes and the international artists D. Bashkirov, R. Buchbinder, A. Dumay, P. Gallois, K. Georgian, D. Geringas, N. Gutman, H. Handerberger, I. van Keulen, M. Kliegel S. Marcovici, S. Meyer, A. A. Meyers, O. Mustonen, J. O’Connor, G. Sokolov, S. Stadler, K. Thunemann, R. Tureck, U. Ughi, J. Williams, F. P. Zimmermann, T. Zimmermann, N. Znajder, E. Leonskaja, G. Rivinius, Raschèr Saxophone Quartet, Jean-Yves Thibaudet, the brothers Reánud y Gauthier Capuçon, M. Camilo, J. Fischer, A. Da Costa, I. Gringolts and N. Lugansky.

In terms of support for lyrical productions that have taken place at the Maestranza Theatre in the last 27 years, the orchestra has provided the music for Rigoletto (Kraus/Lind), Tosca (Ewing/Domingo), La favorita (Verrett/Kraus), Aida (Gruber/Olsen), La Bohème (Zefirelli) Cossi fan tutte, Werther (Kraus/Senn), Falstaff (Alaimo/Mazzola), Samson y Dalila (Brunet/Siukola), Lucia di Lammermoor (Menotti), Il barbiere di Siviglia (Zedda), Tannhäuser (Herzog), Nabucco (Arena), L’italiana in Algeri (Frisell), Turandot (Lombard), Don Carlo (Visconti), I Pagliacci / Cavalleria rusticana (Licata), Le Cid (Matos/Domingo/de Ana), Le nozze de Figaro (Lombard), Lonhengrin (Ronconi/Soustrot), La cenerentola (de Simone(Desderi), Norma (Guleghuina/Arena), La Traviata (Arteta/Domingo), Les Contes d’Hoffmann (Machado/Bayo/del Monaco), Elektra, Die Walküre (Soustrot), Manon Lescaut (Dessi/Armiliato), Simon Boccanegra (Pier’Alli), Madama Butterfly (del Monaco/Rizzi), Salomé (Gustafson/Kollo/P. Halffter), La Sonambula (Mailler/Paternostro), Lulú (P. Halffter), Der Ferne Klang (Mussbach), Romeo et Juliette (Manfrino/Plasson), Fidelio (Plaza), Der Fliegende Holländer (Matos/Silvasti), Don Giovanni (Gas/Ros Marbà), Doktor Faust (P. Halffter) as well as the Zarzuelas: La Verbena de la Paloma, La del manojo de rosas, La canción del olvido, El barberillo de Lavapiés, Marina, El asombro de Damasco La boda/El baile de Luis Alonso and La tabernera del Puerto.

The orchestra has also accompanied a number of top national performers in concerts, operas and recordings such as C. Álvarez, J. Aragall, A. Arteta, T. Berganza, M. Caballé, J. Carreras, M. Cid, P. Domingo, A. Kraus, P. Lorengar and J. Pons. As for international voices it has provided accompaniment for J. Bowman, I. Danz, L. Dawson, H. Donath, M. Ewing, M. Freni, F. Furlanetto, C. Gasdía, N. Ghiaurov, D. Graves, E. Halfvarson, K. Kovat, T. Krause, K. Kuhlmann, V. La Scola, K. Mattilla, I. Nielsen, L. Nucci, A. Opie, T. Quasthoff, R. Raimondi, L. Schemtschuck, S. Verrett, P. Lang and N. Stutzmann as well as the National Choir of Spain, Orfeón Donostiarra, Gachinger Kantorei Stuttgart, BBC Singers, The Choral Academy of London and the Escolanía del Real Monasterio de San Lorenzo de El Escorial.

In dance the orchestra has accompanied both classical ballet, with Romeo and Juliette and La Bayadère (Munich Opera), Cinderella (Lyon Opera y Montecarlo Ballet), Swan Lake (Moscow Classical Ballet, Berlin Staatsoper Unter den Linden and Stuttgart Opera Ballet), Sleeping Beauty (Novosibirsk and Montecarlo Ballet), The Nutcracker (Wiener Staatsoper), Don Quixote (Ballet del Teatro alla Scala, Milan), Giselle and Coppélia (Deutsche Staatsoper Berlin), and contemporary ballet with the Spanish National Dance and Ballet Company. In 1994 the orchestra participated in the opening night of the new production of El Amor Brujo with Victor Ullate.

An active orchestra

The array of activities that the Orchestra is involved in plus its work on different musical concerts and festivals and participation in lyrical productions and tours have helped it to reach an audience of more than 2 million in the past 27 years with an average attendance of 80%. In one season the group plays anything up to 22 series of concerts to 2,200 season ticket holders. In the 2010/11 season there were 15 concert series for the 1,700 subscribers (hay que actualizar este dato) who are quick to show their gratitude with their loyalty and applause.

Both the concerts for subscribers and the orchestra’s collaborations on lyrical productions take place at the Maestranza Theatre in Seville. The theatre was opened by the Royal Seville Symphony Orchestra on the 2nd of May 1991 and boasts a capacity of 1,800 (1,656 for symphony concerts) and magnificent acoustics. During the Universal Expo in Seville in 1992 the theatre welcomed the finest orchestras, conductors, instrumental and vocal soloists from around the world as well as hosting top lyrical productions from such great opera groups as La Scala from Milan, Metropolitan from New York and Staatsoper from Dresden and Vienna.

An active orchestra

The orchestra has played twice at both the Granada and Santander International Festivals as well as appearing at all of the main concert halls in Spain: The National Auditorium of Music in Madrid, The Palau de la Música in Barcelona, The Palau de la Música in Valencia, The Region of Murcia Auditorium, The Galicia Auditorium in Santiago de Compostela, The Kursaal in San Sebastián, The Baluarte in Pamplona, The Euskalduna Palace in Bilbao and the Main Theatre in Vitoria (en el original me pregunto si hay un fallo de ortografía y debe leerse "Vitoria" en vez de "Victoria"). The orchestra has also participated in concert series exchanges between Spanish orchestras organised by the Spanish Association of Symphony Orchestras (AEOS) as well as working with the Teatro Real of Madrid, where the group performed for the first time in June 1998.

In the summer of 1992 under the guidance of the Artistic Director and Main Conductor, Vjekoslav Šutej, the orchestra embarked on its maiden tour, visiting Germany (Wiesbaden, Berlin and Stuttgart), Austria (Vienna/Schloss Schonbrunn) and Italy (Roma/Termas de Caracalla) and accompanying the artists José Carreras, Ilona Tokody and Montserrat Caballe. The orchestra then played in America for the first time in the summer of 1996 when they were invited to by The Centre for Fine Arts to play at the 40th Casals Festival in Puerto Rico and in the process becoming the first Spanish orchestra to perform there. Here they were conducted by García Navarro and featured appearances from the cello soloist Aurora Natola Ginastera and piano soloist Rosa Torres-Pardo. Two years later in April 1998 the orchestra was invited by the Spanish Pavillion to perform at the Culturgest Auditorium as part of the World Expo held in Lisbon that year.

Summer 2001 took the group to Asia as they performed alongside Ros Marba and the Japanese guitarist Dai Kimura, giving a total 14 concerts in several cities such as Tokyo, Sapporo, Saga, Tottori and Kyoto. In August 2008 they returned to Asia, this time China, at the request of the Olympic Arts Festival to perform as the sole Spanish orchestra in the build up to the 29th Olympic Games in Beijing. These concerts were held in Shanghai and Shenzhen and led by the then artistic director Pedro Halffter and the guitarist José María Gallardo. In February of the following year the group embarked on a tour that would cement their place on the international stage. Together with Pedro Halffter and Los Romero, the group travelled to the heart of central Europe visiting the cities of Stuttgart, Vienna/Konzerthaus, Nuremberg, Ratisbona, Brunswick, Frankfurt, Dusseldorf, Mannheim, Hannover, Hamburg, Zurich/Tonnhalle and Munich/Prinzregententheater.

An orchestra you can enjoy at home

The Royal Seville Symphony Orchestra have made a number of recordings. Here are the most popular: 2 CD album dedicated to Manuel Castillo (Almaviva y Ensayo).

CD, video and LD live recording of John Williams tribute concert in Seville featuring the guitarist himself (Sony).

Doña Francisquita de Amadeo Vives with Ainhoa Arteta, Plácido Domingo and Carlos Álvarez (Sony). CD of the lyrical ball held for the very first concert series at the Maestranza Theatre (BMG/Ariola). CD dedicated to the processional marches of Seville (Pasarela).

CD "The Musical Generation of 27" (Almaviva) featuring the works of Salvador Bacarisse, Rodolfo Halffter and Gustavo Pittaluga.

Monograph "Concerto Flamenco" by Henri Collet (Claves).

CD "Suspiros de España" featuring symphony instruments for Pasodoble (Pasarela).

2 CD album featuring the works of Joaquín Rodrigo; the first of harp and orchestra music (Moretti, Auvidis-Valois) and the second of guitar and orchestra music (Sony).

CD "Músicas para el Tercer Milenio" with contemporary music from Carmelo Bernaola, Tomas Marco, Luis de Pablo and García Abril.

CD paying tribute to the victims of the 2004 11-M terrorist attack in Madrid featuring exclusive content from nine Andalusian composers and the cantaora Carmen Linares (produced by the Parliament of Andalusia).

CD of the opera "Manon Lescaut de Puccini" (Real Sound) with a pit orchestra and featuring D. Dessi, M, Vannaud and E. Caputano.

Various CD’s of the works of Leonardo Balada (Naxos) and José María Sánchez-Verdú (Almaviva) as well as a CD of the works of Joaquín Nin Culmell (Autor) and "El Miserere" by Hilarión Eslava (Deutsche Grammophon).

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