March 10, 2013
Wagner: Overture to The Flying Dutchman
Verdi: "Triumphal March" from Aida
Mascagni: “Son pichi fiori” from L’Amico Fritz
Puccini: “O mio babbino caro” from Gianni Schicchi
Wagner: “Good Friday Spell” from Parsifal
Britten: “Four Sea Interludes” from Peter Grimes
Special Guest: Eva Gheorghiu, Soprano
Eva Gheorghiu, Soprano
Eva Gheorghiu is nineteen years of age and in her second year of study at The Juilliard School.
Exploring music for as long as anyone can remember, Eva’s earliest connection to the world of opera was made while attending rehearsals and concerts of her parents, both oboists and teachers in Olympia, Washington.
A true product of her community, Eva participated in the Capital Playhouse “Kids At Play” productions, directed by Troy Fisher and Jeff Kingsbury from 2000 to 2010. She was cast in The King and I, The Mikado, Children Of Eden, Rags, Les Miserables, Man of La Mancha and Oliver! She took on the role of The Lead Player in Pippin, was Eliza Doolittle in My Fair Lady, and Rapunzel in Sondheim’s Into The Woods.
Eva auditioned for the Seattle Girl’s Choir in 2004 and was placed in their top touring choir as their youngest member. She recorded with them and toured Europe that year as both choir member and soloist.
In 2005, Eva’s passion for opera was undeniable. The renowned coloratura soprano, Cyndia Sieden, saw this and agreed to become Eva’s teacher. With great enthusiasm, they explored a tremendous amount of music together in the six years prior to Eva leaving home for study at The Juilliard School.
Eva represented the Chinook Region at the WMEA State Music Competition, taking second place as a freshman and first place in both her sophomore and junior years. She also won the Coeur d’Alene Young Artist Competition and Masterworks Young Artist Award in both 2005 and 2009. Eva received a full scholarship from the Herb Alpert Foundation to attend and perform in the Hawaii Performing Arts Festival in 2010 and was awarded the POSSCA Scholarship in 2011.
Since graduating high school, Eva has received the J.P. Hoyland Scholarship, the William R. Hearst Scholarship, the Mary E. Birsh Scholarship, and the Cecelia Entner Scholarship. She is also a part of the Gluck Fellowship Program at The Juilliard School.
Eva is currently studying voice under the fearless wings of Edith Wiens at The Juilliard School. Since beginning her training in 2011, Eva has appeared in Juilliard’s production of Mozart’s Don Giovanni as Elvira’s maid and in Mozart’s Cosi fan tutte as Alphonso’s housemaid. Most recently, she has also had the opportunity to cover the role of Rosaura in Le donne curiose by Ermanno Wolf-Ferrari.
Eva is thrilled to be invited to perform again with the Olympia Symphony, and is grateful to her community for every encouragement she has received.
Born May 22, 1813, Leipzig, Germany.
Died February 13, 1883, Venice, Italy.
Overture to The Flying Dutchman
The majority of work on Der fliegende Holländer was undertaken in 1841 but the opera was not complete until the following year. It marked Wagner’s first theatrical success and the composer made further revisions in 1860 for performances in Paris, which included an overhaul of the overture. (It is interesting to note that Wagner's drama, set off the coast of Norway, was originally set off the rugged shores of Scotland; Wagner experienced a perilous sea voyage from Palau—on the Baltic—to London, which had to make an emergency change of course and seek refuge in a Norwegian fjord.) The opera deals with the moribund Dutchman, who is forced to sail the seas for seven years; he can only achieve redemption through the love of a faithful woman, which he eventually finds in Senta's all-sacrificing nature.
The stirring overture begins with the horns announcing the motif associated with the Dutchman. The brass section intones the theme, under which the strings play the “Spirits of the Ocean” motif (swirling, chromatic scales) and the Dutchman's “Wandering” (agitated arpeggios). The tempo slows and the English horn plays the “Redemption” theme (from Senta's Act II aria), which is developed by the woodwinds. The “Dutchman” motif again breaks out with terrific force, Wagner conjuring a ferocious, Turner-like seascape. The music brightens and the merrymaking from the Norwegian crew (“Sailor’s Chorus”) is heard in the winds, which contrasts with the dark passion of the Dutch vessel. Snippets of all the motifs are tossed around the foaming brine, with the “Redemption” theme appearing with increasing insistence. After a brief pause, the violins initiate the D major coda, when the “Dutchman” motif is augmented and heard for a final time. The overture closes with a sumptuous setting of the “Redemption” theme (harps and high violins), which adds poignancy to Senta's transfiguring love.
Born October 10, 1813, Bussetto, Italy.
Died January 27, 1901, Milan, Italy.
“Triumphal March” from Aida
Like Wagner, Verdi was born 200 years ago this year in 1813. Along with Rigoletto, Otello, La Traviata and Falstaff, Aida ranks among Verdi’s greatest and most-enduring stage works. This grand opera was completed in 1870 and was premiered on Christmas Eve 1871 in Cairo, as Aida is set in Egypt. The famous “Triumphal March” occurs in Act II, scene 2, when Captain Radamès returns victorious, having led the Egyptian army over the Ethiopians.
Four Opera Arias
We are pleased to have Olympian Eva Gheorghiu join us for arias from four contrasting operas. Mozart’s The Magic Flute was penned in 1791 shortly before his death. “Ach, Ich fühl’s” is Pamina’s famous Act II aria: she is heartbroken as Tamino refuses to speak to her (not knowing he has taken a vow of silence as a test in order to win her love). Pietro Mascagni, the composer of Cavalleria rusticana, completed his three-act opera L’amico Fritz in 1891. Suzel, a farmer’s daughter, gives Fritz flowers as a birthday gift and sings about them in the great aria “Son pochi fiori.” Verdi turned to Shakespeare at the end of his life and his final opera was the comedy Falstaff (1893). During Act III, deep in Windsor Park, Nannetta (Ford’s daughter) is disguised as the Fairy Queen and summons the forest sprites out to dance in the moonlight with “Sul fil d’un soffio etesio.” Although not Puccini’s most well-known or produced opera, Gianni Schicchi (1918) contains one of his most treasured arias, “O mio babbino caro”, in which Lauretta pleads with her father to allow her to love her heart-throb, Rinuccio.
“Good Friday Spell” from Parsifal
This concert opened with Wagner’s breakthrough work and we open the second part with his ultimate music drama, Parsifal, completed the year before his death in 1882. Wagner described Parsifal not as an opera but “A Consecration Festival of the Stage” and it includes two communion scenes, a baptism and is, again, concerned with redemption on many levels. Parsifal is lauded for its luminous, near-impressionistic orchestration—Wagner’s musical language had evolved and refined significantly—and it was Debussy who once remarked, “the orchestra in Parsifal sounds as if it has been lit from behind.” Act III is set on Good Friday: Amfortas, the Knights of the Grail’s spiritual leader, lays wounded and ashamed, having lost the Holy Spear to the pagan magician Klingsor. Parsifal, the “fool made wise through pity”, returns to the Grail kingdom with the Holy Spear (captured in Act II), heals Amfortas’ wound, who can then reveal the Grail for communion to take place. The “Good Friday Spell” is a radiant, lyrical passage when Parsifal, now made wise through faith and compassion, is recognized as the Knights’ savior. It includes the Leitmotifs for “Atonement”, “Faith”, the “Spear”, “Meadow Flowers” and “Parsifal” himself.
Born November 22, 1913, Lowestoft, Suffolk, England.
Died December 4, 1976, Aldeburgh, Suffolk, England.
“Four Sea Interludes” from Peter Grimes, Op. 33a
As Denby Richards states: “Man’s relationship with the sea is an unending source of inspiration to artists, from the earliest cave drawings to our own time. Water covers more of our earth than land and the great oceans still await explorers to chart their depths. They were the first great frontier, dividing men from one another, and when the intrepid early boat-builders set out on the water they soon learned that ingenuity and courage were needed rather than brute strength, and that the sea—like the air and now outer space—cannot be tamed. We can harness some of its power for our own purposes: we can take food from its magnificently stocked larder; we can travel on its surface; but we must never forget that once roused the sea can become terrible, awesome and dangerous.”
Benjamin Britten grew up by the sea. He longed to be near his beloved Suffolk coastline and he is buried barely a stone’s throw from the North Sea. British people live on an island and are constantly aware of the sea; it is a special neighbor, employer, multifaceted challenge and, many times, it has been a vital protector. Completed and premiered in 1945, Peter Grimes—based on George Crabbe’s narrative poem The Borough (1810), set in Aldeburgh,—became the most successful English opera since Handel. It centers on a sadistic fisherman and a small community on the English coast—picturesque though drab in existence—whose livelihood is at the mercy of the sea. Peter Grimes marked a turning point in the course of British music, coming just eleven years after the deaths of Elgar, Delius and Holst. The work is not based on English pastoral lore (the catalyst for many of Vaughan Williams’ compositions, as well as those by Finzi and Butterworth), the royalty or Shakespeare (Walton and Tippett) but a grim anti-hero, along the lines of Wagner’s Flying Dutchman and Alban Berg’s operatic outcasts Wozzeck and Lulu. Britten and Grimes were outsiders both—individuals not fitting-in with society—Grimes being an oddball character, an unstable loner in a gossipy village. As Eric Walter so aptly observed, “It is the sea which dominates Grimes’s life and personality, not man or protocol, and it is to the sea that Peter Grimes goes at the end of his life.”
Peter Grimes contains six “Interludes” for orchestra alone, which link or separate the action between scenes in the opera’s three acts. Britten wanted a continuity of sound—rather rather like the endless sea itself—so each act is an unbroken passage of music. Preludes and entr’actes are nothing new in opera (such as those in Bizet’s Carmen) but very few composers, other than Wagner in The Ring and Parsifal, used the orchestra’s voice within acts to enhance an atmosphere or develop a certain character. Britten, noting the popularity of these orchestral passages, took four of the interludes to create this atmospheric concert hall work, which has firmly established itself as a 20th-century classic.
“Dawn”, which follows the opera’s Prologue, is a grey and static piece, evoking the cold light, dank salt air and cry of gulls as the new tide rises. “Sunday Morning” (Prelude to Act II) suggests the bustle of the fishing port, the call to church, as well as the sunshine on the ocean’s surface. It also represents Grimes’ sniping critics and the clanging bells toll for his impending doom. In “Moonlight” (Prelude to Act III), tension again rears its head from the depths as the harp and percussion quote Grimes’s famous “mad scene monologue”, when he is overcome with paranoia and guilt over the drowning of his first apprentice, William Spode. The final “Storm” is actually taken from within Act I; it is a furious orchestral toccata, illustrating the prodigious powers of the swirling ocean amid gale-force wind. (Britten also said “it represented the emotional opposition between Grimes and the Borough citizens.”) The quieter respite towards the recalls Grimes’s anguished appeal, “What harbour shelters peace? What habour can embrace terrors and tragedies?” Peter Grimes is indeed a gripping tragedy, a very dark piece—as dark as the soupy waters of the North Sea itself, as anyone who has stood at its edge on the pebbled beach at Aldeburgh knows.
Program Comments Copyright ©2013 by Huw Edwards