Second Thoughts

Second Thoughts
By Henry C. Mayer

Some Interesting Tidbits about Opera in Louisville

Did you know that the first opera performed in these parts was in 1836? It was Rossini's comedy, "The Barber Of Seville," In the early 1850s, an Italian Opera Company arrived here after a trip down the Ohio, so naturally they did an Italian opera, with Luigui Arditi conducting. He returned in 1890 with what became the Metropolitan Opera Company. They staged Verdi's "Otello," with the title role sung by Senor Tamagni, who had been entrusted with this role when the opera had its world premiere at La Scala in Milan with its composer, Giuseppe Verdi, wielding the baton.

In the ensuing twenty years, the "Met" returned six times and one of its performances was lead by Anton Seidl, who had conducted some of Richard Wagner's music dramas on Wagner's home grounds, the Festspielhaus at Beyrouth in Bavaria. In those days, the Met toured the country. When the fabulous conductor Walter Danrosch came here, he conducted (among other classics) Wagner's "Flying Dutchman" and "The Valkyrie."

The Kentucky Opera has been touring high schools throughout Kentucky. This season, they will perform at no fewer than fifty-four schools. This tour is a great way to celebrate Kentucky Opera's 50 years of making music.

The members of the Young Artist Class of 2002, better known as the Rudd Program, have been involved in a fifteen-week internship designed to bridge the gap between study and a professional career for opera singers, This year's class includes Inge Handoljo, vocal coach/accompanist; Amy Tefft, soprano; Albert Lee, tenor; Gregory Gerbrandt, baritone and Bradley Willard, bass.

"La Traviata": A Triumph For All

Giuseppe Verdi's "La Traviata" requires talent and hard work for all involved in its production. This was Kentucky Opera's eighth production of this classic but the carefully chosen cast was up to it. The demands made on the three principals are both vocal and acting. The heroine, Violetta, experiences diverse feelings but Alexandrina Pendatchanska handled them with grace and a beautiful voice. Raul Hernandez and Gary Lehman also had to express feelings with poise and talent and as father and son and in Raul's role - that of a thoughtful but sometime troubled lover - they acquitted themselves well. The scene in Act II where Lehman, as the older Germont, has a spirited exchange with Violetta, was masterfully expressed. Maestro Scott Bergeson wielded his baton with admirable aplomb.

It would be interesting to compare his text with the earlier play and novel of the younger Dumas, especially since some of the material reflects Dumas' life experiences. As Alfredo's father finds out in the concluding part of Act II, Violetta is a highly sensitive human being and not a typical courtesan. The body language of the principals is superbly expressed. A twenty-one-gun salute is in order for flamenco dancers Lili del Castillo and Paco Antonio.

World Premiere Highlights Masterworks Opener

The Louisville Orchestra's Masterworks Series opener included a World Premiere. The Louisville Orchestra, already a leader in first performance of new compositions, formed a consortium with other orchestras in commissioning Dan Locklair's "Symphony Of The Seasons." As an expression of gratitude to Uriel Segal and the LO, the work had its world premiere here, with the composer present and introduced to the audience. Louisville Music News interviewed him..

Locklair is certainly one of today's more prolific composers, with a current catalogue of some 86 works, ranging from vocal to choral to orchestral to instrumental. His professional debut was as an organist at the age of fourteen and the "Symphony of Seasons" is his first work in this genre.

Locklair, a native of Charlotte, North Carolina comes from a musical family. He holds a Masters Degree in Sacred Music from New York's Union Theological Seminary and a doctorate in Musical Arts from the Eastman School of Music in Rochester. Asked about how he goes about composing, he replied, "I like to begin a composition with a trans-musical idea. Take this symphony, for example. I shared with a fellow faculty member at Lake Forest University that I was meditating about a work on the seasons. He referred me to a poem with that title by James Thompson, an 18th century British poet.

"I began reading and reflecting on it. The more I did it, the more I felt inspired and began to compose. Unlike other musical works on this topic, I began with Autumn, with an exuberant brass and percussion fanfare. That leads soon to the first primary section of the movement. I introduced and freely quoted variants from Martin Rinckart's hymn, "Now Thank We All Our God," which has become one of the most. popular hymns surrounding Thanksgiving Day."

The awards and commissions he has received and places where his music has been played make for two long lists. They include eleven European countries as well as Japan and Korea. He became the first American to be invited to the Czech Festival of Choral Art in 1992 and was accorded a second invitation in 1997. He has had the singular privilege of an hour-long interview on Vatican Radio which also broadcast some of his compositions. He has written extensively in sacred music including his one act opera, "Good Tidings from the Holy Beast."

The Venice Baroque Orchestra

Whoever wrote "a thing of beauty is a joy forever" may well be describing the Venice Baroque Orchestra's recent local concert at U of L's Comstock Hall. In a special way, this compliment also applies to the Orchestra's Music Director, Andrea Marcon, and violin soloist Giulano Carmignola. Marcon, who founded the orchestra some five years ago, and Carmignola were as gracious as they were competent, presenting no fewer than five encores, all by Vivaldi. Dedicated to period instrument performances, the ensemble consists of seven violins, two violists, two cellos, one double bass and one lutist, played by eight men and five women.

The program was divided into sections, each beginning with an overture (or sinfonia) by Vivaldi. Many members of the audience did not know Vivaldi had written any operas only to learn he had composed some fifty of them. The music was simply beautiful and moving; there is nothing quite like string music, especially when it is written and played with talent, dedication and in a hall whose acoustics are made especially for it.

During the current season, the orchestra is in the midst of a twenty-city concert debut of North America, plus has appearances in Rotterdam, Brussels, Cologne, Lisbon, Vienna, Barcelona, Venice and Tokyo. In the field of opera their partnership with Teatro la Fenice has accounted four sold-out performances of Handel's "Siroe." They will repeat their performances in Paris and New York next season.

During the local concert, the violinist, a veteran of 30 years of public concerts, dazzled the audience with his mastery of the instrument from two time periods.

Louisville Ballet's 50th Season Opens

The Kentucky Opera's interpretation of "Romeo And Juliet" was an electrifying opening performance for the Opera's Golden Jubilee. The principals, Joseph Nygren Cox and Elizabeth Hartwell, were a highly believable pair of "star crossed lovers" while Helen Starr and Vincent Falardo were highly believable as Juliet's parents. So was Dorissa Falk as Juliet's nurse, Gerald Stribling as Friar Lawrence and Milan Valko as Count Paris. One should also note that their performances also owe much to Alun Jones' talents in choreography and costume design and the deftness with which Bruce Simpson staged the fight sequence.

One wonders, however, if it would have been more accurate to describe Friar Lawrence as Romeo's confessor instead of tutor, as one finds in the program guide. Prokofiev's music is a tribute to his artistic integrity, since he was depicting or describing a culture in which he did not live. The whole piece requires almost as much talent for acting as dancing.

Michael Ford's gifts for lighting left little to be desired. The scenery by Wally Coburg was both believable and moving. This was a production that required hard work and coordination by a large number of people of diverse talents. It looks as though as the KO's golden Jubilee will be a great one.