Grammy Award nominations: A family affair for Latvian musicians

  • 2015-12-16
  • Michael Mustillo

LOS ANGELES - The nominations for the 2015 58th annual Grammy Awards are something of a family affair for Latvia’s own Andris Nelsons and Kristine Opolais. The husband and wife musical team have each been honoured with nominations.
“Both artists are among the most exciting and important musicians in the classical musical world today,” Alan Green of Zemsky Green, which manages Opolais, told The Baltic Times.

“Maestro Nelsons is a conductor of astonishing depth and brilliance; Ms. Opolais is without question one of the most charismatic sopranos of our day. Aside from her wonderful voice, she is an actress of incredible intensity. I have always felt she could, had she chosen, easily have made her way in the theatre or film world, just as she has done in the operatic world,” said Green.

Nelsons, the Music Director of the Boston Symphony Orchestra, has been nominated in the Best Orchestral Performance category for his performance of Dmitri Shostakovich’s “Symphony No. 10” with the Boston Symphony Orchestra.
This is the first in a series of five planned live performances entitled “Shostakovich Under Stalin’s Shadow,” which the Boston Symphony and Deutsche Grammophon plan to collaborate on. The recordings will encompass Shostakovich’s symphonies from No. 5 to 10, and will also include other pieces composed between the mid-1930s, when the composer fell out of favour with Stalin, and 1953, the year of Stalin’s death.

Nelsons, the 15th music director in the illustrious history of the Boston Symphony Orchestra, is following in the footsteps of the orchestra’s legends: Serge Koussevitzky, Charles Munch, Erich Leinsdorf, William Steinberg, Seiji Ozawa and James Levine.

Nelsons has had an intimate musical journey with Shostakovich’s work. Born in Riga in 1978 into a musical family, he initially began his career as an orchestral trumpeter in the Latvian National Opera Orchestra. Nelsons then pursued conducting studies, and was trained in the Soviet musical tradition with Alexander Titov in St. Petersburg, and later with Latvian conductor Mariss Jansons.

Opolais, who was nominated in the Best Classical Solo Vocal Album category, appears on  Jonas Kaufmann’s new album, Nessun Dorma — The Puccini Album. Conducted by Antonio Pappano, it features the Orchestra Dell’Accademia Nazionale Di Santa Cecilia from Rome, and the Coro Dell’Accademia Nazionale Di Santa Cecilia. Released on the Sony Classical label, this recording features some of Puccini’s most stupendous tenor arias.

Kaufmann, who has been described by The Daily Telegraph as “the greatest tenor of our day,” stated of his musical collaboration on this recording with Opolais: “I was also extremely lucky that Kristine Opolais, my partner in two stage productions of Manon Lescaut, was able to record a number of scenes with me.”
Opolais, 35, was born in Rezekne, Latvia, and frequently collaborates with Nelsons. She has come to world prominence for what The New York Observer has described as a “soaring voice and penetrating theatrical presence”.
“I met Kristine in the fall of 2008 in Prague through the wonderful Czech tenor Pavel Cernoch, who has sung frequently with Mme. Opolais, also in Riga,’’ said Green.

“I had been interested in Kristine for some time before that and had followed the development of her career closely.”
Green has close ties with Riga. His grandfather, the noted Polish-German composer and conductor Ignatz Waghalter, whose compositions is currently having a revival, was appointed musical director at the National Opera in Riga for the 1931–1932 season. During this time, Waghalter played an active role in the musical life of the city.
Opolais has sung in the leading opera houses of the world, and has more than fulfilled her mother’s dream of becoming an internationally renowned opera star.

She commenced her career as a member of the chorus with Latvian National Opera in 2001, and in 2003 she became a soloist at the Latvian National Opera.  
It was while engaged at the Latvian National Opera that Kristine Opolais met Andris Nelsons. Opolais and Nelsons married in 2011 at the Latvian National Opera during Nelsons’ tenure as principal conductor there.
“I was extremely impressed by the level of the performances in the theatre. I am a great admirer of Andrejs Zagars, both as a stage director and an as intendant and it was during his term there that the entire musical world became aware of what was happening in the opera in Riga,” said Green.

“Firstly with the astonishingly exciting work of maestro Andris Nelsons there, and then also with the emergence of many artists, either from Riga or singing there — on their way to important careers such as Mme. Opolais, but also many others such as Marina Rebeka, Pavel Cernoch, Dimitry Popov, Alexandr Antonenko. and of course Mme. Elina Garanca.”
The Grammy Awards’ gold-plated trophy, which depicts a gilded gramophone and honours the musical accomplishments of performers, will be presented on Feb. 15 at the Staples Center, a multi-purpose sports arena located in downtown Los Angeles.