Pro Musica Colorado goes “through the looking glass” Jan. 28

Music from “periods of change:” Haydn, Mozart and Caroline Shaw

By Peter Alexander Jan. 26 at 5:41 p.m.

Pro Musica Colorado Chamber Orchestra celebrates their “Sweet Sixteen” anniversary Saturday (Jan. 28) with a nearly-new piece, a nearly-new soloist on the Boulder classical scene, and one piece from their very first concert.

The concert, at 7:30 p.m. in the Mountain View Methodist Church, will open with Caroline Shaw’s nearly-new and entirely intriguing Entr’acte for strings. Cellist Meta Weiss, who joined the CU faculty in January 2019 but has had little opportunity to perform in Boulder due to the pandemic, will play Haydn’s Cello Concerto in C major. The concert will conclude with Mozart’s Symphony No. 29 in A major, K201, a bright and cheerful piece that was on Pro Musica’s first concert.

Music director Cynthia Katsarelis will conduct.

Caroline Shaw

In her program note for the score, Shaw wrote that the Entr’acte was inspired by the minuet from Haydn’s String Quartet in F major ,op. 77 no. 2, a piece that “suddenly takes you to the other side of Alice’s looking glass. The shift from light and prancing to smooth and graceful . . . is certainly a distinct step into an utterly new place.”

That sense of going “through the looking glass,” which also gave the concert program its title, is what Shaw aims to recreate, but in a contemporary style. “One of the things that I love about her music and this particular piece is its dialog with the past,” Katsarelis says.

“She has nostalgic references to tonality and then it moves along to stuff that’s more modern. She uses some special effects, and kind of melts from the quasi-tonal idea into these special effects, and it’s really cool how she does that. It’s a real dialog with the past.”

Katsarelis particularly enjoys a part of the piece where the players create an effect of whispering. “They rub the bows pitchlessly over the strings,” she explains. “It sounds like whispers, so when we’re taking about a piece that’s in dialog with the past, it’s like ‘I wonder what they’re talking about. Are they talking about Haydn?’”

Meta Weiss. Photo by Betty Kershner

From a piece that might be talking about Haydn the program moves to a piece by Haydn, the Cello Concerto in C. Written around 1765, it is one of Haydn’s earlier pieces, and one of the earliest concertos for cello with orchestra to enter the repertoire.

“It’s such a happy piece,” Weiss says. “It’s just a perfect piece of music, it has a little bit of everything for everyone. It’s just so delightful, and it’s delightful to play.”

She knows, because it was the very first concerto she learned, when she was nine years old and studying cello in the San Francisco Bay area. She had been inspired to take up the cello when she heard Yo You Ma perform when she was about three-and-a-half. She went on to study with Joan Jeanrenaud, former cellist of Kronos, and then at Rice University and Juilliard. She came to CU in 2019, after teaching in Australia.

“There is a youthful exuberance to (Haydn’s Concerto),” she says. “We don’t always get that in concertos as cellists. It’s really nice to be able to explore the other side of the cello. And one of the beauties of the piece is that it’s so well written for the cello. It’s so well orchestrated, it’s perfect.”

It’s not surprising that Mozart’s A major Symphony K201 is one of Katsarelis’ favorite pieces that she has conducted. “The amount of repertoire that I’ve repeated is pretty small,” she says. “This will be my third time for Mozart 29. It’s a sublimely beautiful piece that I love.”

Katsarelis mentions that Mozart wrote the symphony in Salzburg, shortly before he moved to Vienna but also right after a trip to Italy, where he studied counterpoint. “He comes home with a great sense of counterpoint,” she says. That counterpoint, she believes, led to the full classical style by adding depth and intensity to the simple melodies and routine accompaniments in style right after the Baroque period.

“To have independent lines, very singing, beautiful lines going on underneath the melody, is a fairly new thing,” she says. ”If you love to enjoy the melodies, fine. If you love the inner voices and interplay, you’ve got it. The counterpoint is doing different things. It’s delighting the ear, it’s setting the mood, it’s adding excitement and complexity. It’s really fantastic.”

And that’s just the first movement. Katsarelis has equal praise for the rest of the symphony. “The slow movement is very singing, and again the inner lines are nice. The minuet is frolicking, and the symphony ends with a wonderful allegro con spirito, nice and fast with more counterpoint answering back and forth, which is really fun. It’s just delightfully enjoyable from start to finish.”

Cynthia Katsarelis with the Pro Musica Colorado Chamber Orchestra

Katsarelis thinks that the program is perfect for these days after COVID has started to recede. We are all still carrying memories of the pandemic, but thinking ahead to days with fewer restrictions.

“Through the looking glass,” she says. “I think that points to the fact that these pieces are all written during periods of change. That’s music looking backwards and forwards, at a time when we are all doing the same thing.”

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“Through the Looking Glass”
Pro Musica Colorado Chamber Orchestra, Cynthia Katsarelis, conductor
With Meta Weiss, cello

  • Caroline Shaw: Entr’acte
  • Haydn: Cello Concerto in C major
  • Mozart: Symphony No. 29 in A major, K201

7:30 p.m. Saturday, Jan. 28
Mountain View United Methodist Church

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Colorado Music Festival announces 2023 concerts

Joshua Bell as artist-in-residence, John Corigliano composer-in-residence

By Peter Alexander Jan. 25 at 11 a.m.

The Colorado Music Festival (CMF) has announced their 2023 summer season at Chautauqua. 

Peter Oundjian. Photo by Geremy Kornreich

The formal announcement of the season was made last night (Jan, 24) at the Center for Musical Arts in Lafayette, which is the sister organization of the CMF. The event was live streamed to the public.

Before the introduction of the concerts by music director Peter Oundjian, executive director Elizabeth McGuire announced that the CMF’s 2022 world premiere performance of Flying On the Scaly Backs of Our Mountains by Wang Jie had reached more than a million listeners world-wide through radio—“more than doubling the reach of the festival over its history with one performance,” she said.

Oundjian has written of the 2023 season, We are so fortunate to bring to you some of the greatest performers alive today, including artist-in-residence Joshua Bell, along with the extraordinary talents of eight of today’s brilliant composers. It is such a thrill to hear today’s voices alongside—and interacting with—groundbreaking voices from the past, giving us a unique window into centuries of the greatest in creativity.”

John Corigliano. Photo by J. Henry Fair

Since his appointment as music director in 2018, Oundjian has made the music of today a focus of the festival. Among the living composers whose music will be performed this summer is John Corigliano, winner of the Pulitzer Prize, four Grammies and an Academy Award. As composer-in-residence, Corigliano will be present at the festival for a concert devoted entirely to his music on July 13 (see full programs below).

Premieres will be presented of works by Jordan Holloway, CU faculty member Carter Pann, and Adolphus Hailstork. All three will be performed on July 16, as the culmination of a week of “Music of Today.” A preview of music by five other living composers will be offered by Bell, who has commissioned a five-movement suite for violin and orchestra from five different composers.

Joshua Bell. Photo by Phillip Knott

The suite, titled Elements, will have its official premiere later, but all five movements will be previewed over two concerts at CMF—the final two concerts of the season (Aug. 3 and 6). The composers who have contributed to Elements are among the most important composers working today: Jake Heggie, Jessie Montgomery, Edgar Meyer, Jennifer Higdon and Kevin Puts.

Bell will also be at CMF for the first week of the festival and will play Max Bruch’s Violin Concerto in G minor on the opening program, June 29 and 30.

A highlight of the 2023 festival will be two programs celebrating the 150th anniversary of the birth of composer Sergei Rachmaninoff (July 6–7 and July 9). Oundjian said that it seemed appropriate in 2023 to perform works composed outside Russia, many of them in the United States which was Rachmaninoff’s home in the later years of his life. These works include the Third and Fourth piano concertos, the beloved Rhapsody on a Theme of Paganini, and the rarely performed Symphony No. 3.

Michael Christie. Photo by Bradford Rogne

Another feature of the 2023 festival of which Oundjian is particularly proud is the continuation of the Robert Mann Chamber Music Series, named for the founding first violinist of the Juilliard String Quartet. In addition to performances by members of the Festival Orchestra, the four-concert series will also feature guest performances by the JACK Quartet, renowned for their performances of contemporary music, and the Brentano String Quartet.

The 2023 festival will also see the return of Music Director Emeritus Michael Christie to conduct concerts on July 20 and 21. Christie was the CMF music director 2000–13.

“Not only does the 2023 season promise to be artistically stunning, I know our audiences will appreciate the way the programming weaves so many diverse, timely, and relevant voices into the fabric of classical music,” executive director Elizabeth McGuire wrote.

Performances this summer will be at 7:30 p.m. on Tuesdays and Thursdays, and 6:30 p.m. Fridays and Sundays. As in past years, Tuesdays will be devoted to chamber music, other days to Festival Orchestra performances. In response to comments from patrons, the Family Concert on Sunday, July 2, has been moved earlier in the day, to 10:30 a.m. Other updates to the festival this year include a new ticketing system through the Chautauqua Box Office, and meals available for pre-order through the ticketing system.

Subscription tickets for the 2023 festival are available here. Single-concert tickets go on sale March 7 through the CMF Web page, or by phone at the Chautauqua Box Office at 303-440-7666. New for 2023, CMF is offering $10 tickets for youth (ages 18 and under) and students with current school identification. More information can be found HERE.

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COLORADO MUSIC FESTIVAL
2023 Performance Schedule
All performances at Chautauqua Auditorium

7:30 p.m. Thursday June 29 and 6:30 p.m. Friday, June 30: Festival Opening Program
Festival Orchestra, Peter Oundjian, conductor
With Joshua Bell, violin

  • Carlos Simon: “Motherboxx Connection” from Tales: A Folklore Symphony for orchestra
  • Max Bruch: Violin Concerto No. 1 in G minor
  • Mussorgsky: Pictures at an Exhibition (orchestrated by Ravel)

Family Concert: 10:30 a.m. Sunday, July 2
Festival Orchestra, Kalena Bovell, conductor
With Jennifer Bird-Arvidsson, soprano, and Janae Burris, narrator

  • Bizet: Carmen Suite No. 1
  • Eric Whitacre: Goodnight Moon
  • Samuel Coleridge-Taylor: “Danse Nègre” from African Suite
  • Prokofiev: Peter and the Wolf

7:30 p.m. Thursday, July 6 and 6:30 p.m. Friday July 7
Festival Orchestra, Peter Oundjian, conductor
With Nicolai Lugansky, piano

  • Rachmaninoff: Piano Concerto No. 3 in D Minor,
    —Symphony No. 3 in A Minor

6:30 p.m. Sunday, July 9
Festival Orchestra, Peter Oundjian, conductor
With Nicolai Lugansky, piano

  • Rachmaninoff: Rhapsody on a Theme of Paganini
    —Piano Concerto No. 4 in G Minor
    Symphonic Dances

7:30 p.m. Tuesday, July 11
Robert Mann Chamber Music Series: JACK Quartet

  • Morton Feldman: Structures for String Quartet (1951)
  • Caleb Burhans: Contritus (2010) 
  • Philip Glass: String Quartet No. 5 (1991)
  • Caroline Shaw: Entr’acte (2011)
  • John Zorn: The Remedy of Fortune for String Quartet (2016)

7:30 p.m. Thursday, July 13
Festival Orchestra, Peter Oundjian, conductor
With Timothy McAllister, saxophone

  • John Corigliano: Gazebo Dances (for orchestra) (1974)
    One Sweet Morning for voice and orchestra (2010)
    Triathlon for saxophone and orchestra (2020)

6:30 p.m. Sunday, July 16
World premieres: Festival Orchestra, Peter Oundjian, conductor
With Janice Chandler-Eteme, soprano, and Eric Owens, narrator

  • Jordan Holloway: Flatiron Escapades (world premiere commission)
  • Carter Pann: Dreams I Must Not Speak (world premiere commission)
  • Adolphus Hailstork: JFK: The Last Speech (world premiere)

7:30 p.m. Tuesday, July 18
Robert Mann Chamber Music Series: Brentano String Quartet

  • Mozart: String Quartet in D Major, K499
  • James MacMillan: Memento for string quartet (1994)
    For Sonny for string quartet (2011)
  • Beethoven, String Quartet No. 13 in B-flat Major, op. 130

6:30 p.m. Thursday, July 20, and 6:30 p.m. Friday, July 21
Festival Orchestra, Music Director Emeritus Michael Christie, conductor
With Michelle Cann, piano

  • Ravel: Piano Concerto in G Major
  • Florence Price: Piano Concerto in One Movement
  • Tchaikovsky: Symphony No. 4 in F Minor, op. 36

6:30 p.m. Sunday, July 23
Festival Orchestra, François López-Ferrer, conductor
With Grace Park, violin

  • Mozart: Overture to The Impresario K486
    —Violin Concerto No. 3 in G Major, K216
    —Adagio and Fugue in C Minor, K546
    —Symphony No. 36 in C Major, (“Linz”) K425

7:30 p.m. Tuesday, July 25
Robert Mann Chamber Music Series: Members of the Colorado Music Festival Orchestra

  • Benjamin Britten: Phantasy Quartet for Oboe and Strings, op. 2
  • Francis Poulenc: Sextet in C Major for Piano and Winds
  • Brahms: String Sextet No. 2 in G Major, op. 36

7:30 p.m. Thursday, July 27, and 6:30 p.m. Friday, July 28
Festival Orchestra: Eun Sun Kim, conductor
With Johannes Moser, cello

  • Mason Bates: The Rhapsody of Steve Jobs (2021)
  • Shostakovich: Cello Concerto No. 1 in E-flat Major, op. 107
  • Brahms: Symphony No. 2 in D Major, op. 73

6:30 p.m. Sunday, July 30
Festival Orchestra, Hannu Lintu, conductor,
With Lise de la Salle, piano

  • Einojuhani Rautavaara: Cantus Arcticus (1974)
  • Schumann: Piano Concerto in A Minor
  • Haydn: Symphony No. 96 in D Major (“Miracle”)

7:30 p.m. Tuesday, Aug. 1
Robert Mann Chamber Music Series: Members of the Colorado Music Festival Orchestra

  • Beethoven: String Trio in C Minor, op. 9 no. 3
  • Debussy: Danses sacrée et profane (Sacred and profane dances)
  • Dvořák: Piano Quintet No. 2 in A Major, op. 81

7:30 p.m. Thursday, Aug. 3
Festival Orchestra, Peter Oundjian, conductor
With Joshua Bell, violin

  • The Elements: Suite for Violin and Orchestra (commissioned by Joshua Bell)
    “Fire” by Jake Heggie
    “Ether” by Jessie Montgomery
    “Water” by Edgar Meyer
  • Debussy: La Mer

6:30 p.m. Sunday, Aug. 6: Festival Finale Concert
Festival Orchestra, Peter Oundjian, conductor
With Joshua Bell, violin

  • The Elements: Suite for Violin and Orchestra (commissioned by Joshua Bell)
    “Air” by Jennifer Higdon
    “Earth” by Kevin Puts
  • Mahler: Symphony No. 1 in D Major (“Titan”)

Boulder Phil dedicates concert to the late violinist Chas Wetherbee

Performance will be Sunday at 4 p.m.

By Peter Alexander Jan. 19 at 9:25 p.m.

Chas Wetherbee, late concertmaster of the Boulder Philharmonic

The Boulder Philharmonic will dedicate its next performance to the memory of their late concertmaster, Charles “Chas” Wetherbee, who died Jan. 9.

The concert was to have featured Wetherbee as soloist, playing Mozart’s “Turkish” Violin Concerto. The program, which also includes Anton Bruckner’s Symphony No. 7, remains unchanged. Violinist Alex Gonzalez, who joined the CU College of Music faculty in August, will substitute for Wetherbee, both as soloist and as the orchestra’s concertmaster.

Titled “Afternoon with Bruckner,” the concert will be presented at 4 p.m. Sunday, Jan. 22, in Macky Auditorium. This is a change from the orchestra’s usual schedule of Saturday evening concerts. The Phil’s music director, Michael Butterman, will conduct.

Butterman had always wanted to feature Wetherbee for this concert. In looking for a piece to pair with the Bruckner, which alone takes 70 minutes, he thought the relatively short and cheerful Mozart Concerto would be suitable.

“Something about that combination (of Mozart and Bruckner) works,” he says. While not technically an overture, Butterman says he thinks of the concerto as “an aperitif” before the main course. “And a quick Google search revealed that I was not the first person to bring those (two composers) together,” he adds.

As both soloist and guest concertmaster, Gonzalez sees his role as honoring Wetherbee. “This concert is quite special, because I’m stepping in for Chas,” he says. “I want to honor him as much as I can.

Violinist Alex Gonzalez

“He was such a generous, open musician. Particularly In the Mozart I want to bring that feeling to the concerto, and bring the freshness and open-heartedness that I’m sure he would have brought. And the piece lends itself to that.”

Gonzalez says he will bring the same respect to his role as concertmaster. The music he has received has all of the bow markings that Wetherbee had planned for the Bruckner Symphony, which is a completely new piece for Gonzalez. Normally, as concertmaster he would make his own bow markings as he learned the music, but in this case he intends to keep Wetherbee’s choices.

“While I’m given permission (as concertmaster) to change what I need to, I’m hoping to facilitate more than to change much, just because of the circumstances of this performance,” he says. “I’m really interested in playing the concert as (Wetherbee) would have.”

While the Bruckner is new for Gonzalez, it’s not for Butterman. “It’s my favorite Bruckner symphony,” he says. “Most people tend to agree that this and maybe the Ninth are his best symphonies, if one can say such a thing.”

Like most of Bruckner’s music, the symphony moves at a leisurely pace that is different from the fast pace that characterizes our world today. “It’s a slow burn,” is how Butterman puts it. “It’s not for our short-attention-span world. It’s the perfect antidote for contemporary society. But if you can relax with it, it’s incredible rewarding.”

The first two movements are especially expansive and expressive. “I just love some of the glories of the first movement,” Butterman says. 

Michael Butterman. Photo by Jiah Kyun.

The second movement was written in homage to Richard Wagner, whom Brucker idolized and who died soon after the symphony was completed. Although not a literal funeral march—Wagner was still alive when it was written—Bruckner did intend it as a tribute and it has a definite elegiac quality.

One interesting feature is the inclusion of instruments known as “Wagner tubas”—a tenor instrument that Wagner commissioned for his Ring cycle of four music dramas to fill the gap in the brass section between French horns and trombones. Their inclusion may be another homage to Wagner’s music. The Phil borrowed instruments from the CU College of Music, since few people own Wagner tubas.

Several typical characteristics of Bruckner’s style are evident in the symphony. For one, it may be a sign of his training and career as an organist that the orchestra is often used in blocks, like changing stops on the organ. The music is often built from highly regular units of four or eight measures. This can be heard particularly in the third movement, a vigorous folk-dance, and the finale, a collection of energetic ideas that each seems to stand on its own. In contrast, the first two movements are much more expansive and flexible.

Because of their length and orchestral size, Bruckner symphonies have not often been heard in Boulder. “There were a number of reasons this was important to do,” Butterman says. “Not the least is that it’s a chance for the brass to play with a roundness and warmth, and more bloom to the sound.”

While playing a less familiar symphony provides challenges for the players, Butterman concedes that Bruckner poses him a challenge as well. “Just managing the rehearsal will be a challenge,” he says. “The first two movements are so long I have to be conscious of not getting too deep in the weeds and running out of time.

“That’s my challenge.”

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“Afternoon with Bruckner”
Dedicated to the memory of the orchestra’s late concertmaster, Charles Wetherbee
Boulder Philharmonic Orchestra, Michael Butterman, conductor
With Alex Gonzalez, violin

  • Mozart: Violin Concerto No. 5 in A major, K219 (“Turkish”)
  • Bruckner: Symphony No. 7 in E major

4 p.m. Sunday, Jan. 22
Macky Auditorium

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Grace Notes: Longmont Symphony’s Family Concert

Attorney Cameron A. Grant will narrate two favorites

By Peter Alexander Jan. 17 at 3:05 p.m.

Attorney Cameron A. Grant will join the Longmont Symphony (LSO) as narrator for their annual Family Concert. The concert, conducted by Elliot Moore, will be at 4 p.m. Saturday (Jan. 21) in the Vance Brand Civic Auditorium.

The program features two works that have been favorites in past family concert performances: Selections from Saint-Saëns’ Carnival of the Animals and Lucas Richman’s Behold the Bold Umbrellephant. Both works use texts by the popular children’s author Jack Prelutsky, the first-ever U.S. Children’s Poet Laureate who personally read his poems when the LSO performed both works in 2018.

Cameron A. Grant

Prelutsky’s book Behold the Bold Umbrellaphant is a set of poems about fanciful creatures that are part animals and part inanimate objects, such as the umbrellaphant, the panthermometer and the clocktopus. Richman’s music takes eager advantage of all the musical hints in the poems. Every piece has its own character, across a wide variety of styles and musical types. The Umbrellaphant features horn calls that recall elephants’ trumpeting, while the Panthermometer is a cool cat who can tell you the temperature.

With it’s musical portraits of lions, donkeys, fossils and swans, Saint-Saëns’ Carnival of the Animals is widely performed today, but it was unknown during the composer’s lifetime. Saint-Saëns had prohibited public performances, thinking that such frivolous music would damage his reputation. It was not published until 1922, the year after the composer’s death, and it has been one of his best known and most popular works since.

The American humorous poet Ogden Nash had written a set of poems to accompany The Carnival of the Animals in the 1940s, but Prelutsky’s publisher, considering Nash’s poems to be outdated, wanted new texts. He called Prelutsky and asked him to write poems to go along with Saint-Saëns’ music. Originally reluctant, Prelutsky quickly turned out a new set of poems.

Grant is a prominent attorney in Longmont, where he is a managing shareholder in the firm Lyons & Gaddis, but he is also familiar with the performing world. He holds an undergraduate degree in English and vocal music performance from Colorado College, and attended the Aspen Opera Theater Center. He has been an active member of the local community, including a spell as president of the Longmont Council for the Arts.

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Family Concert
Longmont Symphony Orchestra, Elliot Moore, conductor
With Cameron A. Grant, narrator

  • Saint-Saéns: Selections from Carnival of the Animals
  • Lucas Richman: Behold the Bold Umbrellaphant

4 p.m. Saturday, Jan. 21
Vance Brand Civic auditorium

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Grace Notes: The familiar and unfamiliar from Boulder orchestras

World premiere from Boulder Symphony, chamber music from BCO

By Peter Alexander Jan. 12 at 3:10 p.m.

The Boulder Symphony and conductor Devin Patrick Hughes will start the new year with a new piece—the world premiere of the Oboe Concerto by CU graduate John Clay Allen.

John Clay Allen

The premiere will be included on concerts at 7:30 p.m. Friday and Saturday (Jan. 13 and 14) in the Gordon Gamm Theater of the Dairy Arts Center. Other works on the same program are the much loved “New World” Symphony of Dvořák, the Overture to The Song of Hiawatha by Samuel Coleridge-Taylor, and music from the film Jurassic Park by John Williams.

Allen, who received his DMA in composition in 2019, has been active as a pianist and conductor in addition to his work as a composer. The soloist for the concerto will be the Boulder Symphony’s principal oboist, Ingrid Anderson.

One of the most familiar works in the symphony repertoire, the “New World” Symphony includes music inspired by Longfellow’s epic poem The Song of Hiawatha. The poem was familiar to Dvořák, who once planned an opera on the subject. That connection is highlighted by the inclusion of Coleridge-Taylor’s Overture to his trio of cantatas, The Song of Hiawatha.

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Boulder Symphony, Devin Patrick Hughes, conductor
With Ingrid Anderson, oboe

  • John Clay Allen: Oboe Concert (World premiere)
  • John Williams: Themes from Jurassic Park
  • Samuel Coleridge-Taylor: Overture to The Song of Hiawatha
  • Dvořák: Symphony No. 9 in E minor (“From the New World”)

7:30 p.m. Friday and Saturday, Jan. 13 and 14
Gordon Gamm Theater, Dairy Arts Center

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David Korevaar. Photo by Matthew Dine

Pianist David Korevaar returns for the second of two chamber music concerts with members of the Boulder Chamber Orchestra (BCO) at 7:30 p.m. Saturday (Jan. 14) at the Seventh Day Adventist Church in Boulder.

The program comprises two sextets for piano and woodwind quintet, one by the obscure composer Ludwig Thuille and one by the much more familiar Francis Poulenc. The third and final concert of Korevaar’s chamber series with the BCO, comprising quintets for piano with winds, will be April 8.

Thuille “is even more obscure than (his teacher) Rheinberger, which is saying something,” Korevaar says. Apart from the Sextet, his music is very rarely performed.

“The piece is wonderful, but it sounds very much of its time and place. (It represents) a nice late-Romantic idiom, with some occasional adventurous harmonies, (but) it doesn’t push boundaries in any way.

Poulenc’s Sextet is very popular with players and audiences alike. “It’s a classic,” Korevaar says. “If you think of one piece for piano and wind quintet, this is the piece you’ll think of. it’s very popular for good reason, filled with good infectious Poulenc-ey tunes, and the writing is brilliant for all the instruments. It’s just a marvelous, successful piece.”

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David Korevaar, piano, with members of the Boulder Chamber Orchestra

  • Ludwig Thuille: Sextet in B-flat major for piano and wind quintet, op 6
  • Francis Poulenc: Sextet for piano and wind quintet

7:30 p.m. Saturday, Jan. 14
Seventh-Day Adventist Church, 345 Mapleton Ave., Boulder

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Charles (Chas) Wetherbee (July 14, 1966–Jan. 9, 2023)

Violinist, CU faculty member, father of three dies after battle with cancer

By Peter Alexander Jan. 11 at 12:45 p.m.

Some few special musicians go beyond the ability to reach listeners with their performances, and touch people with their generous and kind personalities. One of those was Charles (Chas) Wetherbee, concertmaster of the Boulder Philharmonic Orchestra, first violinist of the Carpe Diem String Quartet, and faculty member of the University of Colorado, Boulder, College of Music.

Wetherbee died Monday (Jan. 9) following a battle with cancer. He was 56.

Many tributes have been stated for Wetherbee, and a common theme has been going beyond his his great musical skills to recognize his human qualities. Korine Fujiwara, violist of the Carpe Diem Quartet, described him as “my best and most trusted friend . . . and a beautiful example of all that is good in the world.” Pianist David Korevaar, with whom Wetherbee collaborated on CU faculty concerts and other chamber music performances, wrote “You were a generous, open-hearted, wise, and patient friend. You were the best colleague anyone can have.”

Announcing that the next concert of the Boulder Philharmonic on Jan. 22 would be dedicated to Wetherbee’s memory, conductor Michael Butterman wrote that Wetherbee “brought out the best in everyone. . . . He radiated generosity, kindness and a selfless spirit that anyone in his presence could feel. The impact of his legacy is impossible to overstate.”

CU College of Music dean John Davis noted that “Chas brought a wealth of expertise and experience from his varied career as a soloist, chamber musician, orchestral concertmaster, teacher, coach and collaborator. . . . He was also a consummate mensch, widely known and loved for his kindness, enthusiasm, unwavering optimism and overall graciousness.”

A GoFundMe campaign that was started in December to support Wetherbee’s family has raised more than $200,000 from 1,200 donors, indicating both the breath and the depth of affection Wetherbee had in the local community of music lovers. Donations have ranged from $20 to $15,000.

Charles Tyler Wetherbee was born in Buffalo, New York, July 14, 1966. He made his debut with the Buffalo Philharmonic Orchestra under Semyon Bychkov, and since then has performed with the National Symphony under Mstislav Rostropovitch, as well as the Japan Philharmonic, the Concerto Soloists of Philadelphia, the Philharmonic Orchestra of Bogota (Columbia), the National Repertory Orchestra, the Orquesta Sinfónica Nacional de Mexico, the Symphony Orchestra of the Curtis Institute, the Buffalo Philharmonic, and the Virginia Symphony, among others.

A devoted chamber musician, Wetherbee was first violinist of the Carpe Diem String Quartet and performed in recital with pianist David Korevaar of the CU College of Music faculty. Wetherbee’s first orchestral appointment was as principal second violin with the National Symphony Orchestra in Washington, D.C. Following five years at the NSO, he served as concertmaster of the Columbus Symphony for 16 years. He joined the faculty of the CU College of Music in 2012 and became concertmaster of the Boulder Philharmonic in 2014. He directed the Snake River Music Festival in Dillon, Colorado, for many years 

Wetherbee is survived by his wife, Karina, a professional photographer and writer, and their three children, Tristan, Sebastian and Tessa. After Wetherbee’s death, Karina wrote on the GoFundMe page, “Chas composed his final note last night. . . . I know now that his life’s work was a symphony, of the most grand and sweeping and lyrical beauty, and each note of that music was made up of all the millions of interactions he had with every person who entered his life.”

Edward Dusinberre on music and performing

New book opens to the door into the inner life of a string quartet

By Peter Alexander Jan. 5 at 1:30 p.m.

Edward Dusinberre’s new book, Distant Melodies: Music in Search of Home, is a fascinating read on many levels.

Distant Melodies: Music in Search of Home. By Edward Dusinberre. Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 2022. 233pp.

A lovely companion for your morning coffee, it is also unlike any other book on music I have read. But it is certainly one that lovers of chamber music and fans of the Takács Quartet will want to read.

Dusinberre focuses on just four composers—Edward Elgar, Antonín Dvořák, Béla Bartók and Benjamin Britten—and music by them that he has played and recorded as first violinist of the Takács. In each case, he discusses the composer’s life and what “home” might mean to them, and to him.

This interest on Dusinberre’s part grows out of his experience as a dual national who grew up in England but has lived many years in the United States. Like Dusinberre, three of the composers left their homes for the U.S. at some point in their careers: Dvořák, who lived in New York and Iowa 1892–95 before returning permanently to his homeland in Bohemia; Bartók, who was forced to flee Europe in 1940 and died in the United States in 1945; and Britten, who voluntarily moved to the US at the outbreak of war in 1939 but whose longing for home led him to return in 1942.

In contrast, Elgar lived his entire life in Britain, apart from tours in the U.S. and continental Europe, and he provided some of the most identifiably “British” music in the form of his “Pomp and Circumstance” marches and other works.

Edward Dusinberre

But the book is far more than an introduction to these composer’s biographies, because Dusinberre describes his own relationship with each work, both individually and as a member of a leading quartet. He begins in fact with his own childhood in Leamington Spa and his move to New York, followed by his rediscovery of Elgar, as it were, as acknowledgment of his own Englishness. That sets the theme of the connection between home and music.

The section on Elgar is best understood to those who are familiar with British geography, such as the Malvern Hills, which I had to look up. The rest is easily accessible to American readers, and it is great fun to read about life in a top string quartet—both in and out of rehearsals, which are both mundane work and distilled artistry. If you follow the Takács, these will be your favorite parts of the book. For others, it will be the insight into the specific works around which the book revolves—Elgar’s Piano Quintet, Dvořák’s “American” String Quartet, Bartók’s Sixth String Quartet and Britten’s Third String Quartet—and the related works that Dusinberre mentions.

Throughout the book, he connects the works he has played to other works of the same composer, to literary works, and to the times in which they were written. As I said at the outset, I know of no other book that manages this balancing act, combining personal experience with digressions without ever losing the thread. 

In its scant 210 pages of text, I came to enjoy Dusinberre’s pleasurable company, I learned from his many insights into music, and ultimately I was sorry to put it down at the end.

Takács Quartet announces spring concerts at CU

Programs in January, March and April cover repertoire from 18th to 21st centuries

By Peter Alexander January 4 at 3:05 p.m.

The Takács Quartet has announced their spring series of concerts on the University of Colorado campus in Boulder. As usual, each of the three concerts will be played twice, on a Sunday afternoon at 4 p.m. and the following Monday at 7:30 p.m.: Jan. 8 and 9, March 12 and 13; and April 16 and 17 (see full programs below). All performances will be in Grusin Hall of the Imig Music Building.

Takács Quartet. Image by Amanda Tipton Photography

Each concert includes at least one piece that is outside what is regarded as the core repertoire for string quartet. The first concert of the series, scheduled for the coming weekend (Jan. 8 and 9) includes the String Quartet in E-flat major by Fanny Mendelssohn, programmed together with quartets by Haydn and Beethoven.

Fanny Mendelssohn was the sister of the better known composer and an accomplished musician in her own right. The Quartet in E-flat was performed only once during Mendelssohn’s life, largely because her brother disapproved of it.

The second program features two quartets by Schubert—the early Quartet in B-flat major, written when the composer was 17, and his last quartet, composed 12 years later. Completing the program is Summa by Estonian composer Arvo Pärt. Originally written as a choral work, Summa has been subsequently arranged by the composer for strings, and has been performed alike by quartets and string orchestras.

The final program of the spring series will feature the Takács with guest artist Julien Labro performing on bandoneon, the Argentinian cousin of the accordion, and accordina, a  mouth-blown harmonicon with a keyboard of a button accordion. The program will feature music by Labron, Bryce Desner, Dino Saluzzi and Clarice Assad, as well as the String Quartet in F major by Ravel.

# # # # #

Takács Quartet

  • Haydn: String Quartet in F major, op.77 no. 2
  • Fanny Mendelssohn: String Quartet in E-flat major
  • Beethoven: String Quartet in A minor, op.132

4 p.m. Sunday, Jan. 8 
7:30 p.m. Monday, Jan. 9
Grusin Hall, Imig Music Building

In-person and live stream tickets HERE 

Takács Quartet

  • Arvo Pärt: Summa 
  • Schubert: String Quartet No. 8 in B-flat major, D112 
  • —String Quartet No. 15 in G Major, D88

4 p.m. Sunday, March 12
7:30 p.m. Monday, March 13
Grusin Hall, Imig Music Building

In-person and live stream tickets HERE

Julien Labro

Takács Quartet with Julien Labro, bandoneon and accordina

  • Bryce Dessner : Circles
  • Labro: Meditation No. 1
  • Dino Saluzzi: Minguito
  • J.S. Bach: Wachet auf, ruft uns die Stimme, S645
  • Labro: Astoración
  • Ravel: String Quartet in F Major
  • Clarice Assad: Clash

4 p.m. Sunday, April 16
7:30 p.m. Monday, April 17
Grusin Hall, Imig Music Building

In-person and live stream tickets HERE

Final Bows of 2022

Remembering musicians we lost in the past year

By Peter Alexander Dec. 31 at 6:38 p.m.

Here is a partial list of musicians who passed away during the past year. Of course the list is never complete, and it reflects my own personal experience and interests. Readers are always welcome to add the names of people that you will miss that I did not include.

Dec. 19, 2021: Judith Davidoff, trained first as a cellist and later master of Renaissance and Baroque stringed instruments, particularly the viola da gamba, as a member of ensembles including the Boston Camerata and New York Pro Musica, and founder of the New York Consort of Viols, a leader of the early-music movement, 94

Maria Ewing as Salome

Jan. 5: Dale Clevenger, principal horn of the Chicago Symphony for 47 years, member of the famed Chicago brass section working with a number of other renowned brass players, known for his ability to overcome the greatest challenges on his instrument, 81

Jan. 9: Maria Ewing, soprano/mezzo-soprano who appeared at the Metropolitan Opera, Glyndebourne, The Royal Opera in London and other major houses, known for her performances as Carmen, Salome, Cherubino and Marie in Berg’s Wozzeck, among other roles, and the ex-wife of Sir Peter Hall who directed her in several roles, 71

Jan. 12: Everett Lee, African-American conductor who broke racial barriers as the music director of Leonard Bernstein’s On the Town on Broadway in 1945, and the first Black conductor to lead a white orchestra in the South (Louisville, 1953) and the New York City Opera (1955), who later pursued a career in Europe, and returned to the U.S. to conduct the New York Philharmonic on Martin Luther King Jr.’s birthday in 1976, 105

Roger Tapping

Jan. 15: Beverly Ross, one of the first female songwriters of the rock ‘n’ roll era, known for songs with a bright beat and soft-core romantic themes including “Dim, Dim the Lights,” one of the first hits for Bill Haley and the Comets, and the ubiquitous “Lollipop” (1958), 87

Jan. 18: Roger Tapping, violist, former member of the Takács Quartet and the CU College of Music faculty, who also played with the Allegri Quartet in the UK and in 2013 succeeded Samuel Rhodes in the Juilliard Quartet, 61

Jan. 20: Meat Loaf, born Marvin Lee Aday, rock singer and film actor whose 1977 debut, “Bat Out of Hell,” became a best seller and later spawned several sequels, and who appeared in The Rocky Horror Picture Show as well as Fight Club, Wayne’s World and other films, 74

Feb. 1: Leslie Parnas, American cellist and silver medalist at the 1962 Tchaikovsky competition who returned to Russia to perform and teach, and later as a jurist for the Tchaikovsky competition, a highly expressive player who was also a frequent performer at the Marlboro festival and with the Chamber Music Society of Lincoln Center; 90

William Kraft

Feb. 6: George Crumb, stunningly original American composer of works requiring careful listening and deep attention to sound, running an astonishing gambit from a nightmarish protest of the Vietnam War (Black Angels, 1970), to eerie (Ancient Voices of Children, 1970), to mysteriously evocative (Vox Balaenae, 1971), to beguiling (Music for a Summer Evening, 1974), whose scores were often visually as well as musically artistic, 92

Feb, 12: William Kraft, principal timpanist of the Los Angeles Philharmonic for 18 years and a composer who aimed to elevate percussion section above what he called “rat-a-tat, boom-boom” music, who worked with Igor Stravinsky, founded performing ensembles and taught at UC Santa Barbara, 98

Feb. 19: Gary Brooker: singer/pianist with Procol Harum who co-wrote “Whiter Shade of Pale,” the group’s first and greatest hit in 1967, and nearly all of the music that sustained their remarkable five-decade recording career that lasted until 2017, staying with the band as de-facto leader through other personnel changes, 76

March 8: Ron Miles, jazz cornet player who formed a trio with fellow Denver natives Rudy Royston and Bill Frisell and maintained a major career while remaining in Colorado and teaching at Metropolitan State University, of a rare blood dis order, 58

Harrison Birtwhistle

March 31: Joseph Kalichstein, Israeli-American pianist, Leventritt Competition winner, Juilliard graduate and later professor, best known as a chamber musician, particularly as a member of the Kalichstein-Laredo-Robinson Trio throughout its 45 years of performing and recording together, 76

April 18: Harrison Birtwhistle, an evocatively-named British composer known for music of uncompromising modernism and complex structures, a high degree of dissonance, and often intense theatricality, a one-time fellow student with Peter Maxwell Davies, 87

April 18: Nicholas Angelich, American-born pianist, winner of the Gina Bachauer International Piano Competition in 1994, who performed mostly in Europe, and primarily German repertoire, and whose American appearances garnered admiring reviews; 51

April 17: Radu Lupu, Romanian-born pianist known for his eccentric and meditative performances and his avoidance of publicity, who launched his career with wins at the Van Cliburn, George Enescu and Leeds International piano competitions but largely avoided showy repertoire, saying he would have liked a career “playing nothing but slow movements,” 76

May 11: Alexander Toradze, Georgian-American pianist who won the silver medal at the Van Cliburn competition in 1977 and defected from the Soviet Union to the U.S. in 1983, known for idiosyncratic performances of Russian repertoire, 69

Teresa Berganza

May 13: Teresa Berganza, Spanish mezzo and alto known for her performances as Carmen in Bizet’s opera and Rosina in Rossini’s Barber of Seville, who sang her debut at the Metropolitan Opera in 1967 as Cherubino in Le Nozze di Figaro, and gained acclaim in other Rossini and Mozart roles, 89

May 13: Simon Preston, English organist, conductor and composer who served at organist and choir director at Westminster Abbey 1981–87, who was first appointed organist at Westminster Abbey in 1962 and also served at St. Alban’s Cathedral and Christ Church Oxford, ad memorably directed the music for the wedding of Prince Andrew and Sarah Ferguson in 1986; 83

May 13: Rosmarie Trapp, the last surviving daughter of Baron Georg and Maria Augusta von Trapp and a member of the Trapp Family Singers, who often held sing-alongs for guests at the Trapp Family Lodge in Stowe, Vt., 93

May 17: Richard Best, American bass who sang 545 performances at the Met, including the Met premieres of Berlioz’s Les Troyens and Berg’s Lulu; he also sang at the San Francisco Opera, the Santa Fe Opera, Lyric Opera of Chicago and the Paris Opéra, and taught at Southern Illinois University after retiring from the stage, 87

May 17: Vangelis, self-taught Greek composer of the Academy-Award winning scores for the 1981 film Chariots of Fire, which made him internationally famous and was followed by scores for Blade Runner and other films, 79

May 18: Anne Howells, English mezzo-soprano who came up through the ranks at Glyndebourne from chorus member to Dorabella and Meg Page, among other roles; she also sang at Covent Garden, the Lyric Opera of Chicago and the Met, and later taught at the Royal Academy of Music, 81

Richard Taruskin

June 6: Jim Seals, half of the soft-rock duo Seals and Croft with Dash Crofts, whose Baha’i faith lead them away from the harsh and loud sound of 1960s hard rock to a gentler style characterized in hits such as 1972’s “Summer Breeze” and 1973’s “We May Never Pass This Way (Again),” 79

July 1: Richard Taruskin, a musicologist and scholar of Russian music who ascended to the level of pubic intellectual through the pages of the New York Times, who was the author of the magisterial six-volume Oxford History of Western Music (2005), and who was known for his contentious style of argument on topics from performance practice to the politics of Soviet music—most famously the honesty or dishonesty of the putative Shostakovich memoir Testimony—and just about anything else to which he turned his attention; emeritus professor at UC Berkeley, 77

July 2: Peter Brook, creative English stage director who directed works in several genres, including numerous landmark Shakespeare production; Truman Capote and Harold Arlen’s House of Flowers on Broadway in 1955; a nine-hour stage adaptation of The Mahabharata in 1985; and several operatic productions including the condensed Tragédie de Carmen in 1983 and Magic Flute in 2011; 97

July 22: Stefan Soltesz, an Austrian conductor who collapsed on the podium during a performance of Richard Strauss’ Schweigsame Frau at the Bayerische Staatsoper (Bavarian State Opera) in Munich, and died later at a hospital, 73

Olivia Newton-John

Aug. 8: Olivia Newton-John, star of the mega-hit pop musical Grease and much-loved singer of amiable pop music, including seven top-10 hits on the country chart and four records that sold more than two million copies each in the 1970s and ‘80s, and who was known in recent years for her long battle with breast cancer; 73

Aug. 25: Joey DeFrancesco, a jazz organist and the son of a jazz organist, credited with reviving jazz organ in the 21st century, who toured with Miles Davis while still a teenager and who also played trumpet, saxophone and piano, but preferred the Hammond B3 organ, 51

Sept. 5: Lars Vogt, German pianist and conductor known for his solo performances, his recitals with singers Thomas Quasthoff and Ian Bostridge, and the chamber music festival he founded in Heimbach, Germany; he was appointed music director of the Orchestre de Chambre de Paris in 2020, and was scheduled to be artist-in-residence with the Deutsche Radio Philharmonie Saarbrücken Kaiserslautern for 2022-23, 51

Sept 9: Jorja Fleezanis, American violinist, the daughter of Greek immigrants, who served as concertmaster of the Minnesota Orchestra for 20 years before joining the faculty of the Jacobs School of Music at Indiana University in 2009, and also played the premiere of Johan Adams’s Violin Concerto in 1994, 70

Sept. 10: Paul T. Kwami, longtime director of the Fisk Jubilee singers, the choral group from the historically Black Fisk University that was formed a year after the end of the Civil War and that was known for its performance of African American spirituals, 70

Ramsey Lewis

Sept. 12: Ramsey Lewis, jazz pianist whose professional life spanned more than 50 years, leader of the Ramsey Lewis Trio and later the Urban Knights, who unexpectedly broke into the pop music Top 10 in 1965 with “The ‘In’ Crowd,” and was named a Jazz Master by the NEA 2007, 87

Sept. 24: Pharoah Sanders, American saxophonist and composer who played with Ornette Coleman, Sun Ra and John Coltrane and was known for playing highly individual, spiritual free jazz as well as jazz standards and Caribbean-inflected music, 81

Oct. 4: Loretta Lynn, the “coal miner’s daughter” who became one of the most beloved country singers on the basis of both her powerful voice and her life story that was chronicled in her autobiography and the Oscar-winning film based on it; 90

Oct. 19: Joanna Simon, American mezzo-soprano, oldest sister to Lucy (see below) and Carly Simon, whose operatic career took her to the New York City Opera as well as “The Dick Cavett Show” and “The Ed Sullivan Show,” and who occasionally sang backup for her sisters, with whom she remained close throughout her career; 85

Oct. 20: Lucy Simon, sister of Joanna and Carly Simon, with the latter of whom she sang in a duo as the Simon Sisters in the 1960s folk revival, later released her own solo albums and also wrote the Tony-nominated score for the musical The Secret Garden, 82

Elayne Jones (Don Jones/San Francisco Symphony Archives)

Oct. 28: Jerry Lee Lewis, rockabilly singer and pounding pianist whose hits in the 1950s, including “Great Balls of Fire,” shot to the top of the charts, but whose personal life including his marriage to a 13-year-old cousin, cut short his rock stardom until he was able to revive his career as a country musician in the late ‘60s and ‘70s; 87

Nov. 6: Don Lewis, electronic music pioneer who in the 1970s created and performed with the Live Electronic Orchestra from his collection of keyboards, synthesizers and drum machines all joined together, the only one of its kind, which offered a remarkable choice of sounds in one package before the later invention of the MIDI keyboard; 81

Nov. 18: Ned Rorem, Pulitzer prize-winning composer noted for his art songs and other vocal works, as well as one-act operas, chamber music and three symphonies; whose published diaries gave insight into the gay musical and artistic circles from the 1960s onward; 99

Dec. 18: Elayne Jones, a timpanist who joined the San Francisco Symphony under Seiji Ozawa in 1972 as the first black principal player in a major US orchestra but had to fight a legal battle over racial and sexual discrimination when she was denied tenure by the orchestra, in spite of rave reviews from critics and public, and who continued to play in the orchestra of the San Francisco Opera until 1998; 94

Dec. 19: Stanley Drucker, orchestral clarinetist who played with the New York Philharmonic under five of its music directors, from Leonard Bernstein to Lorin Maazel and for more than 60 years, 1948–2009, and taught at the Juilliard School for 30 years; 98

CORRECTIONS: Minor typos corrected 1/1/2023

Central City’s production of ‘Amahl and the Night Visitors’ charms

Performances in tonight in Boulder, Denver Dec. 16–18

By Izzy Fincher Dec. 15 at 11:12 a.m.

A grand procession of extravagantly dressed kings moved through the church.

King Balthazar took the lead, dressed in a crimson robe and headdress covered with gold. Then, came King Kaspar, clad head-to-toe in gold and jewels, and finally King Melchior, with a silky, turquoise and plum colored cape and plumed warrior’s helmet. They each carried luxurious gifts intended for the baby Jesus, including gold, frankincense and myrrh. 

This scene took place during Central City Opera’s performance of Amahl and the Night Visitors by Gian Carlo Menotti last night (Dec. 13) at Boulder’s First United Methodist Church. The performance, directed by Iliana Lucero Barron and conducted by John Baril, offered a heart-warming interpretation of the seasonal classic, filled with the magic of the holiday spirit. 

Aside from the luxurious Magi’s costumes, the production took a minimalistic approach, letting Menotti’s masterfully written music shine through as the central storytelling element. The performance will be repeated in Boulder tonight before heading to Denver for three shows, Dec. 16–18.

Originally commissioned by NBC as the first opera for television in 1951, Menotti’s Amahl and the Night Visitors has since become a beloved Christmas tradition. It tells the story of Amahl, a poor shepherd boy with a disability who lives with his widowed mother. One fateful night, the three Magi stop at Amahl’s house to rest on their way to Bethlehem, leading to a miraculous encounter that changes the young boy’s life.

Over the past 70 years, the opera is said to have been performed more than 2,500 times—in a wide variety of settings from professional opera houses to amateur church and school performances. Over the years, the brief one-hour opera in English, originally intended for children, has proved accessible and enjoyable for diverse audiences of all ages.

For this traveling production, Baron wanted to keep the props and sets to a minimum, to more easily adapt to different venues and offer creative flexibility to the performers. This approach resulted in a rather bare-bones aesthetic. Onstage, the main set piece for Amahl’s house consisted of a wooden door frame, surrounded by stacks of firewood and topped with a hanging sheet. Nearby, stood a few makeshift wooden chairs. This simple set left the stage looking almost too empty, though the church’s massive wooden overhanging cross and towering pipe organ filled out the space.

In the opening scene, Kason Nicholas, a boy soprano from the Colorado Children’s Chorale, established himself as a charming Amahl. Though he seemed a bit hesitant at first, his excitement and well-placed comedic timing soon proved endearing. With his light, clear voice, Nicholas required amplification in the large chapel, especially singing alongside the powerful mezzo-soprano Jennifer DeDominici as his mother. During their duets, their voices sounded well-balanced for the most part, though a few times Nicholas’ higher notes clipped slightly with the mic. 

DeDominici delivered a convincing, nuanced interpretation of Amahl’s mother, realistically portraying her struggle as a single impoverished mother trying to care for a mischievous son with a disability. Her powerful, expressive voice projected through the chapel, commanding Amahl’s and the audience’s attention as her patience wore thin. 

Yet, in brief moments, she showed glimpses of tender love for her son, such as in “Have You Seen a Child” when the three Magi’s descriptions of the holy Christ Child remind her of Amahl. In the final scene, DeDominici shined during one of the opera’s few deeper moments, as she grappled with her inner turmoil and feelings of desperation, love and greed before attempting theft for the sake of her son.

Accompanying these strong soloist performances, Baril’s orchestra, sprawled across the front section of the church pews, sounded wonderful. As the conductor, Baril took full advantage of Menotti’s adept score writing, exploring the different colors and personalities within the music for each character and perfectly timing the comedic musical interchanges with the singers’ lyrics and blocking. In addition, the shepherds chorus and the First United Methodist Church choir sang skillfully and with passion, aiding in the collaborative effort. 

The three Magi, played by Paul Griggsby, Javier Abreu and Jonathan Hays, and their page, Jerome Síbulo, gave solid performances as well. In stark contrast to the humble lives of Amahl and his mother, the kings stood out as symbols of opulence, with their lavish costumes and props as the most eye-catching part of the show. They embodied the grace of nobility, singing clearly and powerfully with a beautiful blend as a cohesive unit. Throughout the opera, they played their crucial role well. 

Despite bringing splendor into Amahl’s simple world, the Magi show him and his mother that the true meaning of the Christmas miracle lies not in wealth but in forgiveness, grace and love.

# # # # #

Gian Carlo Menotti: Amahl and the Night Visitors
Central City Opera, John Baril conductor and
Iliana Lucero Barron, director 

Remaining performances:

7:30 p.m. Wednesday, 14
First United Methodist Church, Boulder
TICKETS

7:30 p.m. Friday and Saturday, Dec. 17 and 18
2 p.m. Sunday, Dec. 18
Trinity Methodist Church, Denver
TICKETS