Last weekend, I enjoyed two great concerts, and, looking forward, there will be one more this weekend that will be just as exciting. In this entry, I wish to begin with some thoughts on last weekend’s offerings, before I preview the concert coming this weekend.
Saturday, April 26, I journeyed two hours north for the Shreveport Opera’s production of Turandot. The final opera by Giacomo Puccini – an opera called by some the last in the line of great Italian operas – Turandot received an excellent interpretation by the Shreveport troupe. From the very beginning, the sense of drama was immediate and intense, as the curtain lifted to reveal the imposing red palace of the Chinese emperor and a chorus of subjects eagerly calling for an awaited execution. Puccini’s music – as always – kept the drama moving throughout, without ever a dull moment. The intense drama did occasionally pause, however, when for example the three ministers Ping, Pang, and Pong reminisced about their lives before Princess Turandot’s reign of terror. Excellent singing, excellent staging, and generally another excellent performance by the Shreveport Opera.
On my drive north, I added to the experience by listening to selections from Giuseppe Verdi’s operas Rigoletto and Aida. On the way back the next morning, I turned to the twentieth century for brilliant orchestral music by Italians Gian Francesco Malipiero, Ottorino Respighi, Alfredo Casella, and Luigi Dallapiccola.
I returned from Shreveport in enough time to attend the concert by Ukrainian pianist Pavel Gintov, hosted by the Jewish Temple of Alexandria as part of their Fuhrer-Bindursky cultural arts series. In the beautiful surroundings of the Temple, Mr. Gintov gave a wonderful recital. His diverse repertoire spanned from the classicists to Myroslav Skoryk, a Ukrainian composer still active today. Highlights for me included the unfamiliar piece by Skoryk – the Burlesque, which Mr. Gintov timidly described as atonal before admitting that was nothing to be afraid of with this piece. A major component of Mr. Gintov’s recital were the personal and thoughtful insights he gave for each of the pieces. About to play the piece “Nigun” from Ernest Bloch’s suite From Jewish Life, Mr. Gintov commented that this piece had great meaning for him and his sister – Ukrainian Jews who lost family members when the Nazi forces invaded Kiev during World War II – and that they would often play it together in its original form for piano and violin; Mr. Gintov himself had made the arrangement for piano solo that he played on Sunday’s program. Sunday’s concert was an unforgettable experience, presented by a truly talented pianist who had clearly internalized the music he presented finding in those pieces personal meaning.
Tomorrow evening, the Rapides Symphony Orchestra will present Carmina Burana as the grand finale of their 2013-2014 season. To present this powerful cantata, the orchestra will perform alongside the Red River Chorale and choirs of Northwestern State University – massive forces including over two hundred musicians. Carmina Burana composed by German Carl Orff is a twentieth-century recasting of medieval songs which has become a favorite both in the concert hall and in popular culture. All will recognize the song “O Fortuna” which both opens and closes the composition as that terrifying dirge associated with unchanging and merciless fate: it has been used in countless movie trailers and commercials, so that even those who do not know it by name will remember it when they hear it (watch this YouTube video to jog your memory). Many of the other songs should be familiar too. My informative program notes are also online if you would like to take a read. So, do not miss Carmina Burana tomorrow at 7:30 PM at Coughlin-Saunders Performing Arts Center in downtown Alexandria.
Until next time, hope you enjoy some great music!
About Jackson. Jackson Harmeyer is a recent graduate of the Louisiana Scholars’ College – Louisiana’s designated honors college located on the campus of Northwestern State University. There, he studied music history, completing an undergraduate thesis entitled “Learning from the Past: The Influence of Johann Sebastian Bach upon the Soviet Composers.” Now living in Alexandria, he is one of the founding members of TicketCentral and will also be writing this season’s program notes for the Rapides Symphony Orchestra.