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Gerald Carpenter: UCSB Vocalists to Go for Italian Flair

The Music Department will host 'An Afternoon of Italian Opera and Song' on Saturday in Hahn Hall

Conductor and mezzo-soprano Helena von Rueden will add her voice to the Italian vocal concert from UCSB.
Conductor and mezzo-soprano Helena von Rueden will add her voice to the Italian vocal concert from UCSB.

Lovers of Italian opera — more or less synonymous with lovers of opera — and devotees of the art song will be happy to learn that the UCSB Department of Music is offering “An Afternoon of Italian Opera and Song,” starring students and special guests, at 2 p.m. this Saturday, Feb. 5, in Hahn Hall at the Music Academy of the West, 1070 Fairway Road in Montecito.

The concert is presented by the faculties of the UCSB Voice and Collaborative Piano programs, under the direction of Benjamin Brecher, with faculty members John Ballerino, Susana Poretsky and Paul Sahuc.

The first half of the concert will showcase the songs and solo pieces of individual composers such as Francesco Paolo Tosti, Vincenzo Salvatore Bellini, Stefano Donaudy, Giacomo Puccini and Giuseppe Verdi, while the second half will be given over to arias, scenes and ensembles from individual operas such as Tosca, Ernani, Lucia di Lammermoor (Donizetti), L’Italiana in Algeri (Rossini) and others.

Of course, whatever the Italians might claim, they didn’t invent song itself, but their exclusive role in the development of opera is beyond challenge.

As Romain Rolland has written, “The invention of opera is generally attributed to the Florentines at the end of the 16th century. It was said to be the work of a little group of musicians and poets and fashionable people, who gathered about the court of the Grand Duke of Tuscany, or, to speak more exactly, in the salon of a great nobleman, the Count Bardi, between 1590 and 1600. Among the names associated with the creation of this dramatic and musical form, which was to have such astonishing adventures in the world, we find those of Vincenzo Galilei (the father of the great Galileo), the poet Ottavio Rinuccini, the scholar Jacopo Corsi, the singers Peri and Caccini, and Emilio de’ Cavalieri, who was the director of the plays and fetes at Florence” (Some Musicians of Former Days, 1916).

From the astonishing masterpieces of Claudio Monteverdi (1567-1643) to the ingenious entertainments of Gian Carlo Menotti (1911-2007), the Italians have dominated the opera stage for the past four centuries and show no signs of letting go of the crown. Even the German geniuses George Frideric Handel and Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart wrote their greatest operas in Italian forms, with Italian libretti.

Admission to “An Afternoon of Italian Opera and Song” is $15 for the general public and $7 for students, with tickets at the door. For more information, call 805.893.7001.

— Gerald Carpenter covers the arts as a Noozhawk contributor. He can be reached at .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address).

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