Tuesday, March 12, 2013

Opera Gala- Springfield Symphony Orchestra- Springfield, Massachusestts




A warm, sunny, spring-like day (for those of you not from New England, that means hovering as high as nearly 50 degrees) eased its gentle way into a starlit evening, which was a pleasant omen. The (relative) warmth had melted the snow and ice off the sidewalks and left them bare and navigable, a real treat.  The friendly cop on the beat helping us to cross the street, wishing us a good evening was another pleasant omen.  The majestic Greek Revival Symphony Hall is an impressive sight day or night, spot-lit from its celebratory banners between the huge columns and down along the broad stone steps, where scores of music-lovers met to have, as the cop directed, a good evening.

Saturday, March 9th, was the Springfield Symphony Orchestra’s Opera Gala performance, which was titled “Passion, Love, Murder & Mayhem”—pretty much all the things opera fans love about opera.  The orchestra, under Maestro Kevin Rhodes, was splendid, and provided a marvelous palette to showcase the talents of five guest singers: sopranos Mary Wilson and Amy Johnson, mezzo-soprano Stacey Rishoi, tenor Eric Ashcraft, and bass Gustav Andreassen.

Selected arias included “Seguedilla” from Carmen, brought to life in a zesty performance by Ms. Rishoi, her long, curly hair tossing with Carmen’s in-your-face seduction.  Ms. Johnson and Mr. Andreassen had notable moments in “Pace Pace” from La Forza del  Destino, and “Vous qui faites” from Faust, respectively.  Andreassen’s lusty, mocking laughs as Mephistopheles drew appreciative chuckles from the audience.

Mr. Ashcraft broke hearts with the noble, yet biting, sacrifice of “Vesti la guibba” from I pagliaci.

Ms. Wilson was especially impressive, markedly so with “Una voce poco fa” from Il Barbiere di Siviglia, where her astounding control sustaining the last notes made the audience gasp and giggle in delight of wonder.  Resounding applause filled the auditorium at her breathtaking (for her, literally) conclusion, and this was repeated in her later solo from Lucia di Lammermoor.  The richness of her voice, her expression and technique were quite stunning.

All three ladies joined in “Hab’mir’s gelobt” from Der Rosenkavelier.  A very pleasant surprise occurred when Ms. Rishoi and Mr. Andreassen, who are husband and wife, sang “Some Enchanted Evening” from Rogers & Hammerstein’s South Pacific, which was coyly disguised in the program as “Una certa sera incantata” from Pacifico del Sud.

Maestro Rhodes’ running commentary introducing each aria and its story was informative for those not familiar with these works, and often quite humorous, as he guided us through the more unsavory elements of the opera plots, which is really the stuff of opera.  Like the title of the program says, passion, love, murder & mayhem.

Another pleasant surprise occurred at the unannounced encore where all the singers joined in the salute to “King Champagne” from Die Fledermaus.

A festive, enjoyable event, and an appreciative audience, though Symphony Hall was not completely filled, and that is something to keep in mind for the Orchestra’s future classical music programs.  We have a wonderful symphony orchestra here in Western Massachusetts, the largest in the state outside of Boston, and it only benefits us to take advantage of that luck.

Most of the audience were middle aged or elderly (including a snappy couple: she in a long black gown, jewels, and opera gloves; he in a sporty tux with matching tie and vest).  It was great see a number of 20-somethings as well, and a some kids, including a few giggling teen girls swarming around Mary Wilson for her autograph.  The kids came armed with a Sharpie.

Opera fans?  I don’t know, but they’re kids who know a really good singer when they hear her.  They know now, if they didn’t before, that classical music is terrific ear candy.

We’ve mentioned the Springfield Symphony Hall, or Auditorium, as it was known back in the day, in this previous post on anothervisiting group of performers: the Trapp Family Singers, and also here on the Campanile Tower.  The Springfield Municipal Group comprising Symphony Hall, the Campanile, and the City Hall were built from 1911-1913.  The Springfield Symphony Orchestra has been in existence for 69 years, and first performed here in 1944.

Have a look here at their website for the rest of the season.  Treat yourself to, as the cop said, a very good evening.

Special thanks to corporate sponsors The Republican, United Personnel, and MassLive.com for helping to make the performance possible, as well as MassMutual Financial Group for sponsoring the 2012-2013 season.  Special thanks to whoever it was who picked up the tab for FREE parking.  That was swell.

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I'll be speaking at the Westfield Athenaeum, Westfield, Massachusetts tonight, March 12th,  in celebration of Women's History Month.  I'll be drawing from essays in my recently published States of Mind: New England.  This, and some of my novels, will be available for sale at this event.

 

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