LA Opus
Reporting on music and the lively arts
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First Congregational Church of Los Angeles

By Douglas Neslund
First Congregational Church of Los Angeles was filled Friday night to hear Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart’s immortal Requiem in D minor, which was completed by Xaver Süßmayr after Mozart's death. The conductor, Daniel Suk, organized the Dream Orchestra, an assemblage of primarily professional instrumentalists and 22 members of “Opera Chorus of Los Angeles,” who were joined by the young scholars of the Los Angeles County High School for the Arts Choir. The young people were gifted an opportunity to sing one of the true gems of all music alongside the professionals.
Soloists were soprano Golda Zahra Berkman, mezzo-soprano Cassandra Zoé Velasco, tenor Vladimir Dmitruk, and bass Patrick Blackwell. As a quartet, they were uneven and unblended. Ms. Berkman is but 15 years of age and on this occasion suffered ongoing pitch problems. Mr. Dmitruk spent most of his solo opportunities on the loud side of moderato. Ms. Velasco and Mr. Blackwell sang well but in the disconnected manner of singers who probably had not much experience singing together as a musical unit. John St. Marie prepared the combined choruses.
Daniel Suk and his Dream Orchestra
The Dream Orchestra, with Minh Nguyen playing the church's iconic pipe organ, were excellent as pros would be expected to be, but were rarely called upon to play softer than mezzoforte, and often much louder. When the assembled participants were asked to maximize their collective forces,  the result was deafening. Inasmuch as the writer sat near the front, it is possible that those sitting in the back of the church might have needed the extra musical volume due to acoustical considerations.
That said, this was not a concert concerned with nuance, phrase shaping, subtlety, or acknowledgement of historical performance practice. One could, however, find moments of Mozartean beauty. But chances for serenity or reflection offered in movements such as the Lacrimosa, were missed.
One wishes, in semipro events like this, that funding for two more rehearsals could have been found to elevate the performance to its maximum potential. Without a doubt, Mr. Suk would agree.
The enthusiastic audience was distractingly clap-happy, even in brief pauses within a movement.
The concert coincided with the 46th anniversary of Martin Luther King’s “I’ve got a dream” speech, a portion of which was declaimed by Teryne Chatman. An additional dedication at the death of Conductor Emeritus of the Los Angeles Master Chorale Paul Salamunovich was graciously given. Malotte’s “Lord’s Prayer,” in a choral-instrumental arrangement, followed the Requiem in something of an odd pairing, and which also served as an encore, bringing the festive evening to a close. 

Most of the costs for the event, including a sumptuous reception afterward, were generously paid for by Ms. Berkman’s parents, Jilla and Shallom Berkman, owners of Urth Caffé.
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Photo of First Congregational Church of Los Angeles from Internet sourcesPhoto of Daniel Suk and the Dream Orchestra by San Marino Tribune, used by permission
2 years ago | |
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"Jonah and the Whale" (1621) by Pieter Lastman

By Douglas Neslund
Following the general theme of a Biblical story in its annual presentation at the Cathedral of Our Lady of the Angels, Los Angeles Opera and its Music Director James Conlon were faced with finding a suitable vehicle to succeed Benjamin Britten’s brilliant “Noah” and the excellent medieval play “Daniel.”
The requisite forces were to include two or three soloists drawn from the LAO roster and a myriad of amateur actors, dancers, instrumentalists and singers. And kids. Lots of kids.
A commission was offered for such a work, based on the story of Jonah, the reluctant prophet, the wicked city of Nineveh, and a man-swallowing whale. This adventurous plan fell through, as the youthful commissioned composer could not fulfill his end of the bargain.
Another composer, Jack Perla, was handed the chance to write the one-act opera ultimately entitled “Jonah and The Whale,” featuring the principals of Jonah, with the title role played and sung by tenor Matthew McNeill, his estranged wife Sarah (Hai Ji Chang), Margalit, Jonah’s mother (Cassandra Zoé Velasco), Captain Mordecai (Valentin Anikin), Townspersons/ Sailors (Rebecca Nathanson, D’Ana Lombard and Joshua Guerrero, and Sailors (Vladimir Dmitruk and Kihun Yoon). A featured vocal ensemble including soprano Lisa Eden, alto Michelle Hemmings, tenor Ashley Faatoalia and bass Vincent Robles contributed.
An aggregated adult chorus made up of members of the Cathedral and eight other churches and groups were joined by a children’s choir comprised of five school and church affiliates. All of the above were supported by a small core of professionals from the LA Opera Orchestra and dozens of young people from various schools and conservatories. And a bell choir, too.
Smaller children had acting roles: some as fish, some as crabs, some were jellyfish, while others played krill. Yes, non-Biblical krill. And were very good at it, too, as they joined Jonah in the belly of the whale.
Fortunately, the principal singer-actors were miked, as one would expect them to be in a very large space as the Cathedral. Although sitting in darkness for most of the time and being unable to verify, it would be expected that additional mikes were utilized in key places amongst the choirs, orchestra and first-chair participants.
The three most principal singers, Mr. O’Neill, Ms. Chang and Ms. Velasco, sang their difficult roles with as much passion, conviction and emotion as allowed by the often incoherent score. There is nothing about the vocal skills of these soloists that would deny them first-rank designation among current practitioners of the operatic arts. But it is not possible, given the artificial volume controls not in their own hands, to evaluate their singing further. The secondary principals were equally fine, but also miked.
Someone, however, apparently misjudged the cumulative sound of orchestra, chorus and soloists in the Cathedral’s space – at least from the writer’s seat in the third row for the second of two performances. A lot of ensemble performance got lost in the miasmic sound waves colliding – too many singers and players playing too many notes and too many chord mashes piling one on top of the previous one, and sound-enhanced principals providing yet another layer. A chorus singer in both events said that the Friday night performance was sonically much superior to the one reviewed on Saturday night, and stated that it sounded as though the amplification was doubled for no apparent reason.
When Mr. Perla’s score first arrived and was made available for study by participants (about six months before downbeat with the composer’s final additions not arriving until February), Director Eli Villanueva was compelled to scrap his first staged concept and start all over. A lack of clarity in the score as regards downbeats due to a constantly shifting rhythmical scheme made it difficult for Mr. Villanueva and his valiant amateurs to form stage pictures with any coherence to the score and story line. Scenery Designer Carolina Angelo and Lighting Designer Tantris Hernandez gave the large audience understandable frames, and Costume Designer Paula Higgins had no problem representing Biblical characters.
Presiding again over the masses of singers, players and krill, was Los Angeles Opera’s Conductor James Conlon, who may not have envisioned a commission turning into quite this much of a challenge, soldiered bravely on through innumerable time changes and wrong entries by principals, although it didn’t seem to matter one way or another.
Thus hangs the question: will a revised “Jonah” join “Noah” and “Daniel” in a three-opera cycle as originally thought (with Britten’s “Noah” being presented every other year)? Or will the present “Jonah” be revised for the 2019 slot or scrapped entirely, and a new commission awarded a new Biblical opera?
2 years ago | |
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By Erica Miner 
As part of the Mainly Mozart Festival’s 25th Anniversary Season in San Diego, residents of Carlsbad were treated to a unique pleasure on Sunday, March 30, when a cadre of chamber music’s finest performers performed a program to please Schubert and Mozart lovers alike: Mozart’s infrequently performed piano Adagio in B Minor, K. 540, bookended by Schubert’s Arpeggione Sonata D. 821, and “Trout” Quintet, D. 667.
Those in attendance were able to worship at the feet of these two musical giants in the airy, cheerful contemporary surroundings of St. Elizabeth Seton Church, picturesquely perched at the top of a treed, flowered hill in Carlsbad. The heavenly setting added to the atmosphere of reverence associated with Franz and Wolfgang and their incalculable contribution to the infinite riches of the chamber music repertoire.
The program opened with the Arpeggione performed by cellist Ronald Thomas. A veteran performer with Chamber Music Society of Lincoln Center and co-founder and Artistic Director Emeritus of the Boston Chamber Music Society, Thomas dons his many hats as performer, teacher and administrator with great effectiveness. As a prelude to his rendering of the fiendishly difficult work, Thomas explained to the audience the origins of the six-stringed instrument for which Schubert presumably wrote the piece, which resembled a bass viola da gamba and was bowed like the cello but fretted and tuned like a guitar. Schubert’s sonata, which was not published until 1871 when the instrument had long been absent from the musical scene, and is now most often played on the cello, is notorious in cellist circles for its seemingly constant thumb position. Thomas expertly handled the technical demands of the piece without sacrificing beauty of sound: a true challenge when sitting atop an unforgiving concrete floor.
To morph from accompanist to soloist in quick succession is no mean feat, and pianist Anna Polonsky deserves kudos as the consistent trouper of the afternoon, performing with great expertise in both Schubert works and taking a solo turn in the limelight in the Mozart Adagio. Striking a perfect balance between the sensitivity required in a Mozart solo piano work and the declamatory passion so crucial to portray the darkness of the key of B minor, in which the composer seldom wrote, Polonsky superbly evoked the composer’s presumed dark state of mind following a less than stellar success of the 1788 Vienna premiere of Don Giovanni.
The crown jewel of the afternoon was the Trout Quintet, and the stellar ensemble chosen to interpret the piece was equally dazzling. Violinist Steven Copes, known for his versatility in his many roles as soloist, orchestral leader, chamber musician and more, showed equal adaptability as both the ensemble leader and solo violinist. His upper register was exceptionally assured, particularly in the tricky leaps and trill flourishes of the “Trout” movement, and the other passages meshed beautifully with those of the other four instruments. All in all, he made the challenging aspects of the piece look easy. Yura Lee’s lush viola sound provided ample support to Copes’s excellent passagework. Each of them passed phrases seamlessly to each other, to Thomas, and to San Diego Symphony’s principal bassist Jeremy Kurtz-Harris, whose sound was both opulent and well defined exactly as needed. Their renderings were beautifully enhanced by Polonsky’s deft technical execution in the challenging solo passages and sensitivity in the accompanying passages. 
Even Richard Wagner came down from his lofty, self-centered pedestal to bow to the limitless genius of Mozart, when he acknowledged: “The most tremendous genius raised Mozart above all masters, in all centuries and in all the arts.” Mainly Mozart does a brilliant job of bringing the composer’s genius to Greater San Diego. As Mainly Mozart’s Executive Director Nancy Laturno Bojanic pointed out in her pre-concert speech to the ample crowd of music lovers assembled for the event, Mozart is the guiding inspiration for the organization’s mission, which is to keep Mozart alive for the San Diego artistic community. When it comes to Mozart, it’s definitely “Mission Possible.”
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Photo: http://www.mainlymozart.org/ 
Erica Miner can be contacted at emwriter@earthlink.net
2 years ago | |
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By Douglas Neslund
One of the few downsides of living in Los Angeles is the fact that most musical ensembles from the United Kingdom and Continental Europe hesitate at touring all the way to the West Coast due to the distance factor vis-à-vis income potential. We have learned to cherish those groups of artists who do make that leap. The Friends of Great Music at St. James Church have served as host to many important music organizations, relatively few with the 700 year old history of Oxford’s Choir of Christ Church Cathedral.
Performing a richly traditional repertoire of Anglican and Catholic church music, the 18 boys and 13 men easily met the high bar of the finest such choirs anywhere. Their voices were bright, enunciation of texts clear.
The centerpiece of the concert was Ralph Vaughan Williams’ major a cappelladouble-chorus work, Mass in G Minor, the Kyrie and Gloria of which established to the audience the level of excellent singing to be expected throughout. Soloists were employed where indicated in the score, and with the possible exception of one lad whose treble days appear possibly to be numbered, all sang with assurance and top musical values, surely the very sound the composer intended.
“In ieunion et fletu” (Lamenting and Weeping) drawn from Joel 2:17 by Thomas Tallis interrupted the Mass with colorful 16thcentury word painting. The Mass continued with the Sanctus and Benedictus of Vaughan Williams, and it was in the Sanctus that arguably the most delicately beautiful and memorable singing of the trebles was to be heard. The music itself does not make the task easy, as entrances in the opening statement are top-down, and phrase attacks are brutally exposed; yet the boys got the job done with beauty of tone and accuracy of pitch throughout.
Alexander Pott is the Organ Scholar traveling with the choir, and while the men and boys had a chance to sit and rest, Mr. Pott performed Johann Sebastian Bach’s Prelude in B Minor (BWV 544) with brilliant articulation.

Dr. Stephen Darlington
“O sacrum convivium” (O holy banquet) in a setting by Tallis is an antiphon honoring the Blessed Sacrament. This was beautifully tended to, with special care taken by the highly esteemed Director Dr. Stephen Darlington, with careful phrase shaping, and attacks and releases that make Anglican choirs especially notable.
Vaughan Williams’ Agnus Dei from the G Minor Mass brought the first half to a most effective close.
Highlights were difficult to identify out of the overall excellence, but Henry Purcell’s “O God, thou art my God” was particularly special. Perhaps the choir was rejuvenated during the Interval, or perhaps there is an inherent common appreciation of that composer’s work, but the singing here was luminous.
Two Choruses from the Foundling Hospital Anthem by George Frideric Handel, “Comfort Them, O Lord” and “Hallelujah Chorus” followed, with audience remaining seated, as the Georgian gesture of standing was not required.

Clive Driskill-Smith, the Choir’s Organist, then performed the Final of Louis Vierne’s Symphony No. 3 in F Sharp Minor with distinguished skill, earning sustained applause from both audience and choristers.
Four items remained for the choir: “My soul, there is a country” by Charles Hubert Hastings Parry, which blessed the assemblage with a beautiful dose of 19th century romanticism; “Where does the uttered music go?” by William Turner Walton, which added a dollop of middle 20thcentury harmonies cum dissonance; and two Spirituals cleverly arranged by Michael Kemp Tippett, “Steal away” and “Deep river,” after which the audience arose as one with shouts of “Bravo!” to be heard. Despite the generous amount of singing already performed, two encores were proffered by the choir: “Somewhere over the rainbow” and “Our love is here to stay” which were chock full of multitiered harmonies.
One of the gentlemen, Edward Kay, is keeping public track of things through his Tour Blog, which may be found and followed at:http://www.chchchoir.org/category/tour-blog/usa-canada-2014/
Another chorister, Thomas Chapman, wrote the following on the Tour Blog:  “Something that is a shame about performing choral music in England is that high standards can become taken for granted.” But highly treasured elsewhere, Thomas! He continued, “I can only hope that the good times continue. I mean, what could possibly go wrong? We’re living the American dream, right?!”
The choir’s next performance will take place tomorrow night on the Queen Mary in Long Beach, leaving four more concerts, two in North Carolina, and two in Toronto, Canada, before a return to what is described as a very soggy Oxford.




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Photo credits, used by permission:
Choir by Tom King (2012)
Stephen Darlington by Wiley Stewart for WDAV
Clive Driskell-Smith by Association des Grandes Orgues de Chartres
Choir walking in 'crock' by Florence Maskell
2 years ago | |
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Chee-Youn, Philippe Quint and Margaret Batjer rehearse
By Douglas Neslund
Four of the existing 650 Stradivarius instruments created by Antonio Stradivari in the early 18th century were brought together to be admired for their unique audio qualities and historical curiosity for the admiration and appreciation of a large audience of Los Angeles Chamber Orchestra followers at Zipper Concert Hall of the Colburn School Thursday night.
The concert was the second of four events in the “Strad Fest LA” series sponsored by LACO in which the music of Johann Sebastian Bach (1685-1750) and Georg Philipp Telemann served as brilliant vehicles in the hands of Margaret Batjer (playing the “Milstein” Stradivarius, made in 1716), Cho-Liang Lin (his own “Titian” Strad of 1715), Chee-Yun (the “Leonora Jackson” Strad of 1714) and Philippe Quint (the “Ruby” Strad of 1708).
Cho-Liang Lin and his Titian Strad
Outstanding as a quartet, the audience was treated to the rarely-heard Telemann Concerto in D Major for Four Violins, TWV 40:202, a work of wit and showman qualities that allowed the audience to watch as well as hear, as themes were handed off from one violinist to the next, with the soloists obviously enjoying their common assignments.
The sound produced by these four instruments is not the booming sound sources of today’s violins. In fact, the Strads are smaller, especially in the upper portion above the bridge. The result is a thinner and edgier sound that didn’t always blend well with the other, modern instruments in performance; the typical Bachian aria accompaniments between flute and solo Strad (the Titian) were a bit of a mismatch, although Mr. Lin’s placement further upstage might have played a role.
Three Bach cantatas provided the meat of the performance, and featured the guest vocal excellence of bass Steve Pence and soprano Elissa Johnston. 
The concert opened with Cantata No. 152, a six-movement work entitled “Tritt auf die Glaubensbahn,” with Mr. Pence and Ms. Johnston exchanging recitatives and arias, joining in the final movement in a pietistic conversation between Jesus and the Soul.
Elissa Johnston
The Soul “role” was certainly meant for a high-voiced boy soprano, a vocal instrument known for possessing an upper range in excelsis, and one at Bach’s disposal in Weimar. Use of an innocent child is quite different from the implied relationship between Soul and Jesus when the soprano is an adult female. Nonetheless, Ms. Johnston hit all the high notes without much effort and with her considerable musicianship well intact. Mr. Pence’s bass is darkly rich in overtones but narrow in focus, a very good fit for a hall the size of Zipper Concert Hall.
After the Telemann, the fourth movement of “Sehet, wir gehen hinauf gen Jerusalem,” Cantata No. 159, “Es ist vollbracht” provided Mr. Pence with a solo turn with three of the Strads serving as “halo” accompaniment to Jesus’s triumphant declaration.
Cantata No. 84, “Ich bin vergnügt mit meinem Glücke,” a solo cantata of five movements brought the evening to a close, courtesy of Ms. Johnston’s artistry and Bach’s expression of satisfaction in his good fortune at God’s provenance. The fifth movement is a chorale, requiring in this case the audience as choir.
Steve Pence
Other performers were the evening’s host, Allan Vogel (oboe); Tereza Stanislav and Josefina Vergara (violin); Roland Kato (viola), who also arranged the Sarabande in B-minor for this occasion leading into the Telemann Concerto; Armen Ksajkian (cello); Peter Lloyd (double bass); Patricia Mabee (harpsichord); and Janice Tipton (flute). The performances were of professional recording excellence, revealing the players' joy in performing this repertoire.

Three other Strads will be heard at a gala event Saturday night, in addition to those on display at Zipper Hall: Serdet, Kreisler, Beechback, and the famous Red Mendelssohn. To be held at the California Club, this is believed to be the first time these seven Strads will have been heard in concert together.

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Photo credits, used by permission:Three Strads - Damian Doverganes
Cho-Liang Lin- MTV ArtistsSteve Pence - Los Angeles Master ChoraleElissa Johnston - Salastina Music
2 years ago | |
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By Erica Miner 
In a continuation of our extraordinary conversation, Maestro Ferruccio Furlanetto reveals insights on performing the astonishing Russian basso repertoire - in Russia. Performing repertoire outside the operatic sphere. And Murder
EM: Maestro, we were just discussing the need for the interpretation of Don Quichotte to have a special kind of sensibility. Could you elaborate? 
FF: Yes. The beautiful quality of the sound. Not enough. For instance, when I started to study a long time ago, way before doing it, Winterreise. I was listening to everybody. And of course the most famous was Fischer-Dieskau. Nothing. Not a little bit cold, it was frozen. And then on the other hand I had the luck to listen to the person that would have been the inspiration for the rest of the way, Hans Hotter. He made his recording - you could only imagine what would have been the state of mind of a young man in 1943 in Berlin, where he did this recording. And you can feel it, you receive a wave after another of joy in desperation, pain - death. And it’s amazing, I am already doing this Winterreise, I think three or four years, how it develops, constantly, even with a gap of months between recitals. You find new intentions, new colors, you get closer and closer to what it should be. But again, it cannot be just vocal effort. You must put yourself in it, heart, brain and everything, physically. Totally in it. Otherwise it’s totally empty as it was for Fischer-Dieskau. 
EM: And the lieder can’t be. 
FF: No, you must kill them (laughs). Now in July I want to redo the recording, to make another one. Because it’s another planet since then. I just did it before coming here in Berlin, in Milano, Scala, and in Moscow Conservatory Hall. In Moscow there was a radio recording, and they gave me the first CD that it will be of course incorporated, but already if you compare it to the recording, it’s hardly the same person. In a matter of everything, colors, the way you feel it. Again, I love to use this word, “filtering.” It is a filter. 
EM: And in July you get to do it again. 
FF: With the same pianist, a very talented young man who has had a very specific state of mind these days because he is German now but is originally Ukrainian. He had good reasons to be… whew. A lot of emotion. But I think it’s important because this piece needs to be done just to transfer emotion, and I repeat, in three years it’s another world. 
EM: You have a special affinity for the Russian repertoire. “L’âme Russe de Ferruccio Furlanetto,” as it’s been described. 
FF: (Sighs) This is nothing. Of course there are singers who are more attracted than others. But just think what Russian music has for basses, for baritone, for dark voices. It’s a universe. You cannot not be attracted by it. And once you are attracted, once you’re doing it, you have to do it properly. The more properly you do it, the more you are involved in it. Before Winterreise I also did in Berlin the Russian recital and in Geneva also, Rachmaninoff first, and the Mussorgsky lieder ending with the Song and Dance of Death. What do you want more than that? In Rachmaninoff everything is love. Mussorgsky, death. And death could be a fantastic subject in music. And in acting. Therefore Russian repertoire offers an interpreter the widest choice of roles. How couldn’t you be attracted by it? Between that and to have a Russian soul - I would say there is an affinity for sure, because my part of Italy, northeast, we have because of former Yugoslavia, all the Eastern countries relatively close, we have Slavic influence for sure, over the centuries as you can imagine. I would never live in Russia, although I go there very often - because there is still the “stink” of Communism. That you can receive from the state of their architecture, and now they tend to restore it, to make it as beautiful as it was. But if you look inside in details you see how abandoned it was by this terrible period. I was born in freedom, I grew up in freedom, and I cannot stand both Communism and Fascism. These extremes don’t exist and they shouldn’t exist. I will never be able to live there because unfortunately we see, in these days, in the present, now the mentality of this very small group of power, one man surrounded by ten or twelve oligarchs who couldn’t care less of the rest of the country. They just take care of their own interests, they share the cake, and it’s absolutely dreadful. But whenever I am there and I am in concert with people, and with their amazing history… almost two years ago now, I was in Moscow with Gergiev and the Mariinsky to do Don Quichotte in concert version, at the Conservatory Hall, a glorious hall, beautiful acoustics, sensational. And a good friend of mine proposed if I would be interested to go to Boris’s grave. I said of course. So she took me to it, eighty kilometers away from Moscow, kind of a fortified little village surrounded by walls, very mystical. There are five churches, Orthodox, of course. There is still in there what they call starets (staritsi), a holy man, somebody who can tell you - they believe this kind of thing - your past, but it’s religious. In front of one of these churches there is a simulacrum (draws in the air), like that, with Boris Godunov, his wife, (and children) Tsenia and Fyodor. Why outside? Because historically the wife, who was sent to a cloister, they say she committed suicide. But you know in those times they were killing people and saying it was something else. And it was so touching to be in front of this grave and to be somehow related to him through music. Such a touching experience. I didn’t make any picture, it was just something private. And I was extremely grateful to this friend of mine because I was into the Old Russia, the big heart Russia. Because when you’re singing this repertoire you feel this pathos, this somehow almost a pleasure of sufferance.
EM: My parents were both Russian, so believe me, I came to understand the Russian soul. 
FF: You can understand. It’s one of these (whispers), “Oh my God, I suffer but somehow it’s beautiful to suffer.” It’s wonderful, and you understand the soul of these people. They have this misfortune to go through this dirty eighty years of garbage. Then when you are there, it’s just a moment of their life, there are centuries behind it. St. Petersburg, when you walk around, it’s unique, especially in winter. Then you are really feeling the real Russia. When you have this blaze of ice hanging from the roofs of the palaces, very dangerous, two or three meters long, it could kill anyone. But this is… whew. 
EM: The real Russian soul. The one that defeated Napoleon. 
FF: Yes. 
EM: I can see it in your face, when I’ve watched you singing in Russian. There seems to be a special joy. 
FF: You cannot be not involved emotionally. And if you are, that’s your face (laughs). 
EM: Just to shift gears for a moment. In our second interview last season about your sensational appearance here in Murder In The Cathedral  you had mentioned you would love to do it at the Met someday.
FF: I would like to do it everywhere. 
EM: At that time, Maestro Levine was not in physical shape to be considering it. Have you approached him again about it now that he’s back at the Met? 
FF: No. I talked to him about it, I also sent him the DVD from here. I know he’s gradually come back. I also have something with him in 2018, so it means he wants to be there. He proposed me some other opera, not close to the time of Assassinio but in that direction, L’Amore di Tre Re, and I said, “Yes, I’ve done it in concert in Vienna, it’s such a glorious piece. But you should also take a moment to listen to this (Assassinio). You saw the success we had last season, and that it was a national success because it was the first time in this country. And I think it should be wonderful.” But what can I do more than what I am doing? It will happen, for instance, with Gergiev because Gergiev loves it and when he says we will do it you can be sure it will happen. And this is a great quality. This time in January we were doing a Quichotte in Bolshoi and we had dinner afterward, and he said, yes, we will do it in St. Petersburg, the “white nights,” in concert version and we are pushing in that direction. We tried to do it with the London Symphony when he was there, but the London Symphony created so many problems. After St. Petersburg with Mariinsky Orchestra I would find sponsors, and I’m sure he can, we would do it in Canterbury Cathedral. And that for me is the final target. Because to do this magnificent piece and to have Becket die in exactly the place where he died in 1170, it will be an amazing musical event. Everybody I speak with, I’ve really spoken with the high level of the Canterbury Cathedral, and I mention it, they (gasps), they are enthusiastic. They are the ones who commissioned the theatre work in those times, so they are extremely interested to have an opera celebrating their own saint, for sure, so it’s not a problem. 
EM: For Becket to be assassinated on that very spot would be amazing. 
FF: That will be great. Maybe that could kick some interest in other places. You remember this piece was written in 1958, and six years after Karajan brought it in Vienna, where he was the boss. And he did it at that time, unfortunately in German, with Hans Hotter, by the way. Because at that time whatever they were doing in their own language - in Italy we were doing Carmen in Italian - but Karajan himself was the greatest personality in music of the century. (He) wanted it immediately, in his own theatre. So wouldn’t it be good in Vienna, for instance, to repurpose it. They are afraid of one thing, that these kind of operas need an interpreter. If the interpreter gets sick, the entire little castle collapses. And this could be a good reason. Last year when I did it here I didn’t have a cover, for me. And it was a tremendous responsibility. 
EM: That’s high pressure. 
FF: I was really so worried. I never played golf last year until the day after my last performance, because I stayed two days more. Finally the day after the last performance I went to play. But before that I couldn’t even think to do that and to put this production that I strongly wanted to be jeopardized or collapse because of a stupid cold. Of course a major theatre should train a young singer. In Milano I had a cover, a Finnish bass, who sang also one performance. just in case. 
EM: So it took some pressure off you. 
FF: Yes. In Milano they didn’t do like Pizzetti wanted, the four Tempters are the same Knights coming at the end. There were four Tempters and four Knights, but they could be switched. If one of the four were sick, they could interchange. That could be done also. Here we did it again with the same voices, which is right, perfect. And it’s wonderful and should be that way. It’s a bit risky (laughs). But it went well, and it was a magnificent event. Magnificent. And at the end after we finished, I was so happy and proud that I really insisted the point that they came to Milano, (Ian) Campbell and two ladies from the Board, they saw it, heard it, and realized… in Milano we had eight performances totally sold out - okay, it’s Italy, it was first time in fifty years it was redone - and it was a sensational success, and it could be tomorrow again. The production was stunning -Yannis Kokkos, the same guy who did Don Quichotte at Mariinsky. And I must say San Diego was so courageous to do it. When it finished and the success was stunning, I was so happy and proud that we make it happen. 
EM: As well you should be. At this point in your career have you done practically everything you want to do? Is there something you haven’t yet done? 
FF: There’s something I will do in fall, in Vienna, but it’s not Boris, it’s Khovanshchina, with Bychkov, under the direction, the production of Lev Dodin, who will never be traditional but he’s so clever. That will be for sure very interesting. But apart from that I want to continue to do what I’m doing now. Basically this: a lot of Carlos, a lot of Boris, Quichotte the most often as I can, and Murder In The Cathedral.
EM: And recitals also? 
FF: Recitals, yes. I want to keep going, especially the Winterreise, because the reason I told you, the development is so amazing, so unique, that it’s great, great pleasure and satisfaction. Then there is another one taking body, it Beethoven and Brahms. And then I think, keep going with this. I am mostly an opera singer. Recitals are marginal, let’s say, although they give you a dimension you will never get in opera. Because you are there for one hour and a half and you have to paint. 
EM: And you get a chance to explore a depth of emotion on a very profound level. 
FF: I think that to have this recital part of a career going on, it’s extremely important for the voice, because you explore your vocality in a way you wouldn’t be able to do in opera, and for that reason you can find new colors, things that at the beginning you were not even dreaming it could have been possible to find. And then you find you can refine your intentions, find new dynamics. Something special. 
EM: It sounds like a marvelous plan. And of the moment, we have your exquisite Don Quichotte to look forward to. 
FF: As I said before, very special. Very beautiful. It will be great.
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Photos used by permission of San Diego Opera
Erica Miner can be contacted at emwriter@earthlink.net
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By Erica Miner 
Notwithstanding the pall of despondency hovering over San Diego Opera, to be in the presence of Ferruccio Furlanetto’s greatness for one amazing hour while he imparted his wisdom was an overwhelming experience. In spite of, or perhaps because of, his greatness, he remains utterly modest and unprepossessing. And, as always, a true gentleman. 
EM: We’re ecstatic as always at your return to San Diego Opera, Maestro. Congratulations on your fortieth anniversary on the stage. And thank you so much for your astonishing performance in Verdi’s Requiem. I was honored to be able to hear it. 
FF: Ah, good. 
EM: It was such a privilege. 
FF: And it was a very special state of mind in general that night, because it just happened, this… strange mess. And it would have been the last thing to do, I would say, a Requiem for an opera theater, but we did and it was beautiful. I was very glad to be in that. 
EM: Yes, it was special on so many different levels. 
FF: It’s such an amazing, magnificent piece that is absolutely a privilege every time you have the chance to perform it. To be in it, to filter it. It’s great. 
EM: In our interview last season you had mentioned a very special Verdi Requiem you did with Guilini, and the emotions you experienced. 
FF: That was by far the best case. Because this man was really filtering this incredible masterpiece. You know, our duty is really that, to filter with our own emotion, with our own sensibility, this amazing masterpiece, and to be the filter between the composer... And Giulini - you could tell the pain was his pain, and it was so magnificent. I will never forget. And I did many others, beautiful ones I will never forget also. The one on January 28, 2001, for the hundred years of Verdi, in the San Marco church in Milano, where it happened for the first time for the funeral of Manzoni, conducted by Verdi himself. That day was Muti and full, full, full church. I remember that Muti at the beginning asked the audience to listen, to have it in their hearts, and at the end consider the circumstance and why the event was taking place, just to leave the theater without applauding. It was so touching, because you could understand that everyone was really “washed” inside. But it is magnificent music.
EM: Yet this time for you, to perform it on the fortieth anniversary of your first appearance on stage, that must have been a different set of emotions. 
FF: Everything was ideal, because the day before, the day of the generale, it was the day of my first step on stage forty years before, and to be singing the Verdi Requiem, and to be in San Diego, which is without any doubt one of my few dearest places in the world, it was magic. Everything was so beautiful. It was only spoiled by this terrible news. 
EM: Once you started singing, though, was that awful news hanging over the whole time? 
FF: When you start to sing you immediately get into the piece and of course if you have any special reason to sing it, that’s even better. I’ll never forget another one I did in ’94. I was in Japan with Seiji Ozawa, we were doing a series of them, Requiems, and the last one was the day of the TV. And on that very day my grandmother died. And there was something special, because Ozawa said that night it was something amazing. And of course if you have a very special reason to which to dedicate this music… on that night something amazing happened, because maybe a month after I received a letter from Japan from a young woman, say early 40s, and she told me, “In those days my husband died of cancer, I was destroyed, absolutely desperate. I was even considering suicide. And that night I heard this Verdi Requiem on the TV and I understood there was reason to live.” And I still have this little letter, inside a beautiful precious manuscript of Don Giovanni, because this was a most amazing proof you have touched the heart of somebody. This is where everybody in the profession should target, to reach hearts. And this was proof that I did it that night. And somehow, I don’t know if I saved a life or not, but nevertheless this woman understood that there was a reason to continue. I was in tears when I read it. I was devastated. Beautifully devastated. 
EM: That’s the power of music, and what we, as performers, aspire to, to reach people with that power. When two events like that coincide, it becomes magical. 
FF: That happens both in stage operas or in recitals or in a concert like that, without staging. But just the fact that we are filtering emotions and transferring them to an audience. This is the greatest privilege. 
EM: Yes, it is. Then to follow the Requiem with Don Quichotte, which you mentioned, last time we spoke as possibly the role you love most of all…
FF: Probably it is… I just did it the 26th of January in Moscow, because the production we did one year before, in Mariinsky with Gergiev, was awarded the biggest prize in Russia. So for the final event we were invited to perform the production at the Bolshoi. And it has been sensational to be in this amazing theatre, of course, but also even more because it was the second performance in ninety-nine years. The first performance was in 1915 done by Chaliapin for whom the piece was written by Massenet, and the audience went wild. It was magnificent to repurpose it in a beautiful production, this stunning piece. There’s a lot of criticism about Massenet about Don Quichotte, because they find that these kind of operas are a bit light. I cannot agree on that at all. The character of Quichotte is so special, so unique. He’s exactly what men should be for three hours in their life: love. Love for everything that’s around us, whether it’s nature, sky, air, other persons, animals. And when it comes to the end, for instance, the death of Quichotte is so touching, so involving emotionally. I would say it’s on the same level or maybe even deeper than the death of Boris, for a very simple reason, because both are death of a real person. Boris is one of the greatest Tsars Russia had, and you have in this opera his real life, and Don Quichotte is the purity that every man can have. It’s just a matter of will. 
EM: You think perhaps with Quichotte it’s a bit more poignant because he is so childlike and naïve and idealistic? 
FF: Yes, but in the end naiveté went away. Everything finishes with the refusal of Dulcinée. His world is collapsing, and like an elephant he goes in a very specific place because he knows he has to die. But he dies beautifully, purely like the rest of his life, with a transparent soul, through which you can see everything: present, past and future. And it’s a sensational privilege to have a sensibility to do it properly, and to live this situation, because unfortunately normally in life when the end comes you don’t have much time. Very often it’s something sudden or painful. In theatre you have this possibility to leave your kind of legacy and when it’s done in such a touching way it’s so beautiful, really beautiful. 
EM: You also had mentioned that when you were doing Mozart you were almost challenging - or rather, “channeling” - Siepi. Do you feel you are channeling, evoking, anyone else as Don Quichotte? 
FF: I think Siepi was impossible to challenge or channel. Siepi was a god. An inspiration for sure. I was trying to get close, to go in that direction, and I did. Even in that repertoire I was lucky enough to do certain productions where I was absolutely happy. All the Figaros with Ponnelle, the Don Giovanni with Chereau in Salzburg, I was a hundred percent in agreement with everything. And in that moment it’s pure happiness. 
EM: So as Quichotte, would you say you channeled perhaps Chaliapin? Christoff? 
FF: No, Chaliapin is too far. Nobody, I would say, for one simple reason. Chaliapin - of course, yes, the photo of the head, of Chaliapin, tells a lot. A great inspiration, because you see the eyes, the face, you imagine how you would present yourself in this role. But all the documentation we have is so old, so distant. Christoff, who was another god of mine - I had the privilege to meet and to do a tour with him, my very second opera, I was the Monk in Don Carlo and he was King Philip, and he was charming to me. But Christoff, for instance, in Don Quichotte, was a bit strange. His French was not good, the Italian was not good. It was (sings, growling) Bulgarian. I asked through friends if there was a tape, documentation, of Siepi doing Quichotte, and he replied very kindly that unfortunately he never did it. And this I think is such a loss, because his French was magnificent, and that voice! Applied to Don Quichotte it would have been… like chocolate, dark chocolate, melting. So, no, I just learned it, went though, digested it in the way I was feeling it. There is enough material to do so in this piece. 
EM: You also mentioned that when you are doing Filippo you feel you have to stay close to his historical character. But with Quichotte being just a fictional character, do you feel a bit more interpretive freedom? 
FF: Yes, but nonetheless there is this track of purity that has to be followed. Because the way he speaks, thinks, the way he sees even love towards a young girl - everything is extremely pure, healthy. And you can move within it, but you cannot go out from that and I believe that’s rather impossible. But of course you could. It happened that I saw some Quichottes done by people who were not filtering it in this way, and then even if it’s well sung it could be… empty. And Don Quichotte cannot afford to be empty. The voice is fifty percent. The other fifty percent is from the mental, and it must be pure of heart. Otherwise it’s a lost vocation. 
EM: So there’s something missing. 
FF: Absolutely. I won’t name names, but there are some recordings of great singers - I can remember two of them - where there’s nothing in it. Because they didn’t have that kind of sensibility. They were thinking just about the beautiful quality of the sound. Not enough.
EM: You also said then that French was the most difficult language to sing for you. Do you still feel that way? 
FF: Yes, French, if you are compelled to sing it like many French coaches would ask, is awfully difficult and against the human voice when it comes to be sung. For instance to listen to French spoken by a beautiful young girl is the most amazing language in the world, because it goes together. I remember talking with Jose Van Dam, we were doing Pelleas in Paris - he’s Belgian, so his mother language is French - and he told me when it comes to sing you must sing it as you would if you were Italian. Therefore, forget about (makes nasal sounds) because that doesn’t travel, closed nose doesn’t go anywhere in a matter of projecting. So just the “Rrrr” - you have to sing it, to project it, to make people understand it in the distance. Now it’s years I’m doing that in Quichotte and there is no problem whatsoever. 
EM: This may be a strange question, but you’ve sung the role in a French opera house. Does it any feel different for you, knowing your audience is mostly French? 
FF: No, but I did Boris in St. Petersburg and in Bolshoi, and I did my Russian recitals in St. Petersburg. It would be even more dramatic there, but when I prepared myself properly, deeply, I never pretended to be Russian. I never pretended to be French. I just want to be understandable, correct. 
EM: And Quichotte is a role you can do for the rest of your life. 
FF: Ah, yes. 
EM: Maestro, thank you so much for spending this time with me. It was a great pleasure as always. 
FF: Thank you
EM: I’m looking forward to opening night of Don Quichotte
FF: The cast is very lovely. It will be very special, very beautiful. It will be great.
Next: Furlanetto Part 2: The Russian Soul
---ooo---

Photos used by permission of San Diego Opera
Erica Miner can be contacted at emwriter@earthlink.net
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By Rodney Punt
There is grand opera and then there is great opera. Lucia di Lammermoor at Los Angeles Opera is both. Nearly two centuries after its premiere in 1835, its grisly flights of vocal frights can still give us the shivers. Which is just what it's doing at the Dorothy Chandler Pavilion in an expressionistic new staging, featuring a top-notch cast and a precision-led, well-projected orchestra. Once again, Lucia di Lammermoor is reveals itself a supreme masterpiece of early Romantic opera. 
At the time of its origins, Rossini had retired and Bellini was in his grave. As the reigning Italian opera composer, Donizetti must have felt a sense of liberation to reach for new heights in this work. Lucia's famous mad scene, for instance, sets the template for Giuseppe Verdi's similar one for Lady Macbeth a dozen years later.

Opera’s progressive camps often dismiss the “bel canto” style for tendencies to hoary dramatics and musical clichés, and, with a story based on one of Sir Walter Scott’s most gruesomely dark thrillers, Lucia, is certainly of this milieu. It mixes more plot devices -- blood feuds, forbidden love, forced marriage, spousal abuse, hallucination and insanity -- than any season of Mad Men.

Yet Lucia is also a compelling portrait of a fragile mind in extremis. Donizetti ingeniously shaped his melodies for dramatic and psychological effect, providing spectacular ensembles (the sextet is one of the greatest in all opera) and glinting orchestral colors, and introducing one of the lyric stage's stranger musical instruments. Mopping up the blood and gore in less than three hours, the composer also kept one step ahead of the tedium associated with the soapier side of opera. 
Bel canto means beautiful singing, and any performance of Lucia rises or falls primarily on that standard. Since the revival of this most famous of bel canto operas in the era of great post-war coloraturas -- Maria Callas, Joan Sutherland, and Beverly Sills -- Lucia has been the favored testing ground for its new divas.
In the title role here was Russian coloratura soprano Albina Shagimuratova, who debuted an impressive Queen of the Night in LA Opera’s Magic Flute five years ago. Since then, her voice, while maintaining its brilliance and flexibility, has taken on even greater richness, as has her ability to handle this role’s dramatic journey from love’s raptures to its twisted madness. Her blood-drenched dagger scene, accompanied in the orchestra by the spooky sounds of a glass harmonica, the instrument introduced to opera by the composer, surpassed even the audience's high expectations. Shagimuratova’s intensity and emotional commitment was palpable, inspiring her colleagues to greater heights in their own performances.

The uniformly strong cast of principals, in combination, greatly enhanced the story’s effectiveness. Youthful, ardent and magnetic tenor Saimir Pirgu, as Edgardo, was Lucia’s, hotheaded lover, whose star-crossed fate was ensured by his rival, Enrico, Lucia’s destitute and manipulative brother, menacingly portrayed by baritone Stephen Powell. LA Opera’s impressive in-house bass, James Creswell, was the well-intentioned but ultimately collaborationist cleric, Raimondo. Scene-stealing tenor Vladimir Dmitruk was the tipsy, weak-charactered alternate suitor to Lucia, suitable, that is, for her later cutting edge evaluation. Mellifluous soprano D’Ana Lombard’s Alisa was Lucia’s faithful servant. Tenor Joshua Guerrero’s Normanno coolly assisted Enrico in his fatal deceptions.
Elkhanah Pulitzer, debuting as director, proved less is more by placing the action in expressionistic abstractions stripped of pictorialism, with her protagonists strategically set in power relationships. Lucia is literally “cornered” by her brother Enrico with no escape. Something of Robert Wilson’s influence is felt in the stylized hand gestures of the supernumeraries. Wendall K. Harrington’s projections and Carolina Angulo’s scenic designs clean out the inherited gothic cobwebs of operatic yesteryears. Minimalist sets and single-toned lighting projections provide clean backdrops for the unfolding drama. Broad fields of color set each scene’s emotional climate, with occasional images suggesting forest or interiors of the Ravenswood Castle. Lucia’s unbalanced mental state is established in the eerily floating image of a murdered woman she sees (a circular wall projection suggests the well she peers into). Colors intensify as Edgardo departs and Enrico’s machinations unhinge Lucia’s link to reality.


James Conlon’s orchestra has never sounded so well projected (as heard from a seat in row M of the orchestra level), nor as cleanly executed by all concerned. Donizetti’s woodwinds and the glass harmonica (performed by Thomas Bloch) were perfectly gauged as Lucia’s rattled interior mind chambers.

I came away from the evening with the same quizzical grin Warner Brothers must have felt when they took home the best picture Oscar for 1942’s Casablanca, the B-movie that triumphed over seemingly more substantial fare like For Whom the Bell Tolls and Madame Curie. It was not hard to figure out why. Like Casablanca, Lucia di Lammermoor surpasses its genre and this production overcomes, with ingenious solutions, the ever present (and especially today the acute) challenges of giving new life to old conventions, maintaining high standards of performance, dealing with budget constraints and satisfying often fickle public tastes.

That's why we call it great opera.
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Performance reviewed: Thursday, March 20, 2014. 
Remaining dates March 26, 29 and April 6. Tickets here

Photos courtesy of the Los Angeles OperaRodney Punt can be contacted at Rodney@ArtsPacifica.net



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By Erica Miner
Otello. Aida. Don Carlo. 
A chilling Dies Irae that evokes the wind-and rain-lashed Cyprian coast. A Requiem Aeternam that conjures fronds of papyrus bending over an Egyptian stream and the gossamer fabric of Egyptian priestesses’ garb. A Domine Jesu Christe that replicates the atmosphere of Numi Pietà. An Agnus Dei accompanied by three ethereal flutes. A Lacrymosa that evokes the poignant confused cries of two anti-monarchal Spaniards. 
The comparisons are irresistible. Though Verdi’s Requiem is not an opera, whispers of Falstaff, murmurs of Aida, power-soaked reminders of Don Carlo, infuse this work with shimmering elicitations of Verdi’s unprecedented body of work. Nonetheless this masterpiece stands on its own, reaching beyond the annals of operatic literature, to meld the drama of opera and the monumental power of a religious experience. 
In the hushed cathedral of San Diego’s Civic Center, as if transformed for one magical evening into the church of San Marco in Milan where the Requiem premiere took place, a packed audience hung on every note and nuance emitting from the combined forces of the San Diego Symphony, massive San Diego Opera Chorus and San Diego Master Chorale, and four astonishing soloists whose artistic prowess outweighed their considerable combined star power. This one-time event was the experience of a lifetime, capturing the wonder of the audience, and the souls and minds of a collective musical consciousness assembled to perform a work whose 1874 premiere was worthy of being conducted by the composer himself. Unlike the premiere, which took place in a church where applause was prohibited, last night’s audience burst forth in a no-holds-barred expression of emotion. The atmosphere of a city mourning the loss of its stellar opera company added to the poignancy - and mystery - of the experience. 
According to tenor Piotr Beczala, this Requiem is not a religious experience, not an overpowering statement of power: “Not part of the Mass, not prayer or being in church. It is its own piece, much more intimate than opera… one’s own intimacy shared with something outside of oneself… a Supreme Being.” 
Yet, the raw emotional power evoked and expressed via the music amount to a supplication to that Supreme Being to show forgiveness and mercy, to help one confront one’s own mortality. Verdi was not a religious man, but in this work he plumbs the depths of his grief at the loss of his beloved colleague Alessandro Manzoni, who died the year between the Aida and Requiem premieres. That the Company assembled was able to capture this essence is a testament to San Diego Opera’s astonishing teamwork. 
Verdi wrote the vocal solos for four singers he knew. Three of them had sung in the 1872 Aida premiere, among them the Aida, a soprano with a superb high C; and the Amneris, a mezzo with exquisite legato. The composer gives all the soloists a miraculous range of vocal and dramatic possibilities at once diverse, demanding, and virtuosic, and, by injecting his own distinctive strokes, gives the listener an extra feeling of intimacy with the work. 
The Requiem has been staged in a number of ways in recent years, but no staging is necessary with a formidable group of soloists the likes of which rarely is seen on any operatic or concert stage. Complementing the stellar cast of SDO’s recent A Masked Ball - tenor Beczala, soprano Krassimira Stoyanova and mezzo-soprano Stephanie Blythe - Ferruccio Furlanetto, celebrating his fortieth anniversary on the stage, added his breathtaking basso profundo artistry, packing a powerful punch to the already giddy audience’s experience. 
Beczala clearly was born to sing this work. His voice, as golden as in his rendering of King Gustavo in A Masked Ball, spun each tone with perfect consistency from top to bottom with virtual effortlessness. One can hardly imagine a more finely shaped or poignant Ingemisco. Each word, each phrase was so brilliantly wrought that no Supreme Being could deny the absolution the supplicant is begging for. 
Blythe also showed perfect control, not only in her range but also in her ability to alternate between soloist and team player. Her voice rose from the depths, forcefully at times, poignantly at others, dominating in her solos, and then blending seamlessly with the other voices. Especially impressive was the Agnus Dei soprano-mezzo duet, in which Blythe and Stoyanova sounded together as one perfect whole. 
One San Diego Symphony member described Furlanetto’s as the richest bass she’d ever heard. Indeed, the voice goes far beyond sumptuousness. That an instrument with the depth, power and opulence of Furlanetto’s can at once negotiate the lower extremes of the basso range, and at its apex communicate the delicacy of a mere mortal pleading for the indulgence and understanding of a Supreme Being, demonstrates the essence of the singer’s vocal virtuosity, and his uncanny ability to hold the audience in thrall whenever he emits a note. 
Stoyanova swept the audience off their feet throughout, and especially in the final Libera Me. Astonishing in her ability to spin delicate tones throughout the massive work without ever sounding forced, and to project crystal-clear B’s and C’s right through the combined forces of a double chorus and an orchestra of Wagnerian proportions, Stoyanova sustained her fine-tuned artistry without ever sacrificing delicacy, creating an inspired ending filled with subtle power. 
It is said that for a conductor the Requiem is a dream come true, a unique opportunity to meld operatic drama, thrilling symphonic writing and dazzling solo moments. Massimo Zanetti displayed true command of all these elements, showing a deep understanding of the contrasts between terrifying and poignant moments, in touch with his emotions yet distancing himself when necessary. The San Diego Symphony was up to the task of fulfilling the demands of a score that tests the limits of each musician’s technical and interpretive skills. 
For San Diego Opera Chorus Master Charles Prestinari and Master Chorale Music Director Dr. Gary McKercher, the evening represented an impressive accomplishment. The impeccably prepared chorus sang with both force and subtlety whenever called for, alternately prominent and restrained, with consistency of tone throughout. To be able to control such massive forces so beautifully and effectively stands as proof of both men’s expertise and acumen. 
Verdi “adopted” the trumpet fanfares Berlioz used in his Requiem, but improved upon them, and the San Diego Symphony brass gave a remarkable performance. Often positioned antiphonally in the hall, the sounding brass symbolizes the call into the next world, to challenge our view of what lies ahead in the afterlife. One almost hopes this afterlife might somehow include a resurrection of San Diego Opera. 
Religious or not, those of us blessed with the fortune to witness this staggering evening cannot help but give thanks: to whatever Supreme Being is responsible for Verdi’s inspiration, and especially to San Diego Opera for providing a grateful audience with a memorable experience - and the opportunity to plumb the depths of our own grief at the loss of our beloved Company, the jewel in the cultural crown of San Diego, which one hopes will rise again, delivered “from death eternal” into “perpetual light.”
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Photos used by permission of Piotr Beczala
Erica Miner can be contacted at emwriter@earthlink.net
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