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Gerald Carpenter: ‘Opera Scenes,’ Brass ‘Tuesdays’ Open Week at Music Academy

This year’s annual three-week acting and movement workshop for Music Academy of the West Voice Program Fellows will culminate in two performances of the popular “Opera Scenes” concert at 7:30 p.m. Monday and 7:30 p.m. Wednesday, both in Hahn Hall. Tickets are $39.

Shoskatovich
Composer Dmitri Shostakovich thought he was ill-suited for the role of hero of the resistance.

Music Academy Voice and Vocal Piano Fellows, supervised by stage director Gregory Fortner, with Academy faculty artists John Churchwell and Jonathan Kelly, will perform best-loved scenes from seven well-known operas. Fortner will be stage director, Kelly and Churchwell the music directors. The singers will be in full costume, and the props and sets will be sketchy to non-existent.

This year’s program includes scenes from Gioachino Rossini’s La cenerentola (Cinderella), Gaetano Donizetti’s Don Pasquale and L’elisir d’amore, Richard Strauss’ Der Rosenkavalier, Benjamin Britten’s Albert Herring, Giuseppi Verdi’s Il trovatore and Gian-Carlo Menotti’s The Saint of Bleeker Street.

This is an almost perfect program. (Were it not for the academy’s unaccountable fondness for his compositions, I would think that the Britten was thrown in for contrast.) But what a treat to hear some of the Menotti!

The next faculty artist chamber music concert, “Tuesdays at Eight,” will go forward at 8 p.m. Tuesday in Hahn Hall. Tickets are $40.

The program and performers will consist of the following: Johannes Brahms’ Trio No. 3 in C-Minor for Piano, Violin, and Cello, Opus 60 (1875) (Erin Keefe on violin, Alan Stepansky on cello and Jonathan Feldman on piano) and his Five Songs, Opus 20, No. 2; Opus 28, Nos. 3-4; Opus 75, Nos. 3-4, arranged for horn, trombone and piano by Verne Reynolds (Julie Landsman on horn, Mark Lawrence on trombone and Carrie-Ann Matheson on piano); plus Felix Mendelssohn’s Concert Piece in F-Minor for Clarinet, Bassoon, and Piano, Opus 113 (1833) (Richie Hawley on clarinet, Benjamin Kamins on bassoon and Margaret McDonald on piano); and Dmitri Shostakovich’s String Quartet No. 8 in C-Minor, Opus 110, arranged for brass quartet by Verne Reynolds (Paul Merkelo on trumpet, Julie Landsman on horn, Mark Lawrence on trombone and Joseph Alvarez on tuba).

For a Jewish grocer in Bernard Malamud’s novel The Assistant, the world’s population was divided into three groups: “Jews, a twilight fringe of good goyim, and Nazis.” For most Jewish music lovers, Shostakovich has long been secure in the inner ring of that fringe and, on the strength of several of his works (his Symphony No. 13 in B-Flat-Minor, Opus 113 “Babi-Yar”, the Piano Trio No. 2 in E-Minor, Opus 67, the String Quartet No. 8 in C-Minor, Opus 110 and others), the composer has become almost revered in the state of Israel as Raoul Wallenberg and Oskar Schindler.

Poor Dmitri! He’s had a hell of a time having his music heard simply as music. For years, he was pushed into the forefront of the musical resistance, first to Joseph Stalin then to the Soviet governments. Then, since his death, and particularly since the demise of the Soviet Union, he has been elevated to the post of premier musical poet of the Holocaust. Yet, heard outside these frames, he is still one of the greatest composers of the 20th century. You don’t have to know what this quartet is allegedly “about” to be moved — even shattered — by it; indeed, the “program” and Dedication can restrict our appreciation of the music. Translated into brass terms, it should prove riveting.

While most of his symphonies contain gorgeous choral passages for the brass section, the only the only piece I know of containing a significant solos for a brass instrument is the Concerto in C-Minor for Piano, Trumpet, and String Orchestra, Opus 35, where the trumpet passages are very effective, but mainly ironic. This quartet is not ironic.

If there are seats left by showtime — and the “Opera Scenes” is one of the most popular events of the Festival — tickets can be purchased at the door. Reserved seats to either of these events can be purchased by phone at 805.969.8787 or online by clicking here.

— Gerald Carpenter covers the arts as a Noozhawk contributing writer. He can be reached at .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address). The opinions expressed are his own.

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