The next free concert of the Santa Barbara Music Club — at 3 p.m. Saturday in the Faulkner Gallery of the Santa Barbara Central Library, 40 E. Anapamu St. — has an unusual program and an unusual title, “Vocalfest.”
As you might suppose, the program is all about singing (with a fair amount of fancy piano-playing in the background).
To start things off, tenor Gabriel Silva, accompanied by the inimitable Betty Oberacker on piano, will sing “Adelaide, Opus 46” by Ludwig van Beethoven (1770-1827); “La caravane (The Caravan)” by Ernest Chausson (1855-99); and “È la solita storia (It’s the Same Old Story)” from the opera L’arlesiana by Francesco Ciléa (1866-1950).
Then, Oberacker and bass-baritone Emil Cristescu will perform “Infin che un brando vindice (At Last an Avenging Sword)” from the opera Ernani by Giuseppi Verdi (1813-1901); Leoporello’s great aria “Madamina” (The Catalog Aria) from Don Giovanni by Wolfgang Mozart (1756-91); and “All men surrender to Love’s power” from Eugene Onegin by Pyotr Ilyich Tchaikovsky (1840-93).
In conclusion, Oberacker will join baritone Andre Shillo to give us “O vin, dissipe la tristesse (O Wine, Dispell My Sadness)” from Hamlet by Ambroise Thomas (1811-96); Tchaikovsky’s “Were I a man whom fate intended,” also from Eugene Onegin; and “Votre toast, je peux vous le rendre” (Toreador Song) from Carmen by George Bizet (1838-75).
It is good to find Beethoven holding his own as a vocal writer, even in this company. “Adelaide” was composed in 1795, when he was in his mid-20s and at his most romantic stage in his emotional life. It lasts about six minutes. The song is what is called “through-composed,” which means that each stanza is set to different music.
Ciléa was born in Palmi near Reggio di Calabria, and — as is often the case — took a precocious interest in music. When he was 4, his parents took him to hear Vincenzo Bellini’s Norma, and it was a life-changing experience. L’arlesiana is his most famous opera, and “È la solita storia” is his most famous aria. The first person to sing it was a very young Enrico Caruso, and the performance exponentially increased the reputation of both singer and composer.
Thomas’ fame as an opera composer was eclipsed, while he was still alive, by his achievements as an academic administrator — fate is cruel, sometimes. In fact, the music of his colleagues Gabriel Fauré and César Franck — who considered him hopelessly old-fashioned — now seems as dated as Thomas’. He had a gift for sweet melodies, and his best-known pupil is Jules Massenet (another opera composer who gets little respect from musicologists).