How time flies when you're having fun. I had a draft saved to my blog that I "kept meaning to get to," and it turns out it's been a few months... This January, I had the pleasure of performing with the Strauss Symphony of America in the Florida productions of Salute to Vienna. I played a ton of Viennese waltzes for the New Year's Concert in Sarajevo last year, so it was fun to do it stateside. (Unfortunately I didn't get to sing William Tell on this concert...)
The Salute to Vienna concerts bring in great musicians and dancers from Vienna to celebrate the New Year. I was very happy to work with Niels Muus, our conductor. He had great passion for the music that was infectious, and wouldn't allow anything less than his highest expectations. It was great to work with someone with such clear vision. Soprano Akiko Nakajima and tenor David Danholt were fantastic vocalists, and Akiko's rendition of A Night in Venice was hilarious. The singer is supposed to act drunk, but she really hammed it up by rolling onto the stage from the front row in her incredibly ornate dress.
The FGO production in February was Verdi's Nabucco (English Nebuchadnezzar). I had played most of the main arias from Nabucco in the numerous aria concerts we did in Sarajevo, so it was interesting to play them again in the context of the actual opera. There are four acts and two intermissions in Nabucco, which is much, much longer than Mourning Becomes Electra. A few of the singers seemed to tire out towards the end of the show, with some high notes showing the strain that repertoire can put on a professional voice. However, the performances were stellar, especially the Abigaille played by Maria Guleghina. The Chorus of Hebrew Slaves (Coro di schiavi ebrei) showed off our chorus, and we played it twice in each performance while encouraging the audience to sing along in the reprise. The chorus is often applauded enough to call for an encore, but I'm wondering if we were inspired by Riccardo Muti's 2011 speech in support of Italian arts funding:
During the Nabucco run, the Palm Beach Symphony Brass performed a concert with organ at the beautiful Bethesda-by-the-Sea church in West Palm Beach. My favorite piece on the concert was the Tomasi Fanfares Liturgiques, I love the horn lick in the opening. José Sibaja and Domingo Pagliuca of Boston Brass play with us, and had some particularly impressive solos in an arrangement of Sing, Sing, Sing and the Tomasi, respectively. The Palm Beach Daily News wrote a great review of the concert, particularly the horns: "Throughout, the playing of the horn section, individually and collectively, was nothing short of glorious."
After Nabucco, I played Il barbiere di Siviglia (The Barber of Seville) with the Palm Beach Opera. West Palm Beach is a bit of a haul from Miami, but the mezzo soprano singing Rosina made the trip worth it. Palm Beach Opera has some great singers, but Gaia Petrone really stood out in her performances as Rosina. I have never heard such clearly articulated runs from a female singer, especially not a mezzo. Mezzo sopranos often have a wooly, covered timbre to their sound, and it smears some of the sharpness from the voice; I rarely hear a mezzo and think it's outstanding. Gaia consistently produced a beautifully agile, crystal clear sound with impressive flexibility. Here's a video of her singing "Numi, che intesi mai!" from Mercadante's Nitocri:
I've been braving the cold here in the Northeast for a couple weeks, and head back to Florida on Monday. Ready for some sunshine and Tosca!