Eklund Opera will present Tchaikovsky’s Eugene Onegin in Russian with English titles

‘Wonderfully Romantic piece’ is musically appealing, educationally valuable

By Peter Alexander March 14 at 1:22 p.m.

The University of Colorado Eklund Opera Program is doing something it has never done before: perform a full opera in Russian, with English surtitles.

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Publicity still for CU Opera production of Eguene Onegin. (Photo by Glenn Asakawa/University of Colorado)

The opera is Tchaikovsky’s Eugene Onegin, one of the most well known and popular Russian operas, in and outside of Russia. Performances will be March 15–17 in Macky Auditorium. The cast of CU students will be directed by Leigh Holman, director of the Eklund Opera Program, and conducted by Nicholas Carthy, the program’s music director.

Eugene Onegin is about the unrequited love between Onegin, a bored ne’er-do-well aristocrat, and Tatyana, a naive country girl whose sister is engaged to Onegin’s friend, Lensky. Tatyana impulsively writes a letter declaring her love to Onegin, who brushes her aside.

Soon after, Onegin kills Lensky in an impetuous duel that neither man wants, and then wanders the world for several years in despair. Returning to St. Petersburg, he realizes he is in love with Tatyana, now married to an older nobleman. When he declares his love, Onegin finds the shoe is on the other foot, as Tatyana turns him aside out of loyalty to her husband.

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Nicholas Carthy

Carthy has wanted to conduct Eugene Onegin since he coached singers in a production at the Salzburg Festival 30 year ago. “I thought, ‘I really need to do this,’ and I’ve been waiting ever since,” he says.

Because it requires bigger voices, Onegin is not an opera that a university company can always perform. This year the stars aligned and the singers were available for Onegin at CU. Holman called Carthy while he was on sabbatical last year to say she thought this would be the year.

“We’re just excited to have the big voices now that can do [Onegin]”, she says.

Read more in Boulder Weekly.

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EugeneOnejin-X4 copyEugene Onegin by Tchaikovsky
CU Eklund Opera Program
Leigh Holman, director and Nicholas Carthy, conductor
Sets designed by Peter Dean Beck, costumes by Tom Robbins

7:30 p.m. Friday and Saturday, March 15 and 16
2 p.m. March 17
Macky Auditorium

Sung in Russian with English titles

Tickets 

 

 

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Boulder Bach Festival announces 38th concert season

B-minor Mass will be performed on Veterans’ Day/Remembrance Day Nov. 11

By Peter Alexander May 24 at 10:20 p.m.

The 38thconcert season of the Boulder Bach Festival, 2018–19, will include a performance of the B-minor mass, one of the great masterworks of European music, as well as a chamber concert, a guest appearance by conductor Nick Carthy from CU, a dance performance with electric instruments, and the unveiling of a new/old piano, manufactured in Paris in 1845.

ZC conducts chorus May 2017

Boulder Bach Festival Orchestra and Chorus, Zachary Carrettin, conductor

Also noteworthy will be the role of guest artists during the season, both as performers and as expert teachers of early musical performance styles, and the introduction of a Baroque orchestra and a Romantic orchestra as historically-informed performance ensembles.

The season was announced tonight (May 24) at the BBF’s final concert of the 2017–18 season. In a news release, the BBF’s director, Zachary Carrettin, commented: “The Boulder Bach Festival’s 38th season celebrates the influence of J.S. Bach across time and across cultures, and explores the musical dialogue with modern instruments, period instruments, electric instruments, and various vocal and choral forces. The guest artists contribute in performance, masterclasses, lectures, and more, adding to our rich cultural landscape.”

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Robert Hill

The season opens Sept. 13 with a chamber concert featuring harpsichordist Robert Hill, who teaches historical keyboards and performance practice at the Hochschule für Musik in Freiburg, with Carrettin performing on Baroque violin and viola and the cello da spalla. The all-Bach program will include sonatas, a concerto, a suite, and the Chromatic Fantasy and Fugue in D Minor BWV 903. (See details of all concerts below.

The BBF returns to CU Macky Auditorium for a performance of the B-minor Mass on Nov. 11, Remembrance Day in the Commonwealth nations and Veterans’ Day in the U.S. The performance by the Bach Festival Orchestra, Chorus and soloists will be under Carrettin’s direction. Audience members will be given poppies, since World War I a symbol of soldiers lost in battle, and given the opportunity to place them on the front of the stage.

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Nicholas Carthy

Nicholas Carthy, music director of the CU Eklund Opera Program, will be guest conductor for performances Feb 14 and 16 by the BBF Fellowship Artists Baroque Orchestra. Titled “From London with Love,” the concert will feature Baroque music from England.

The BBF moves to the Dairy Arts Center April 5, 6 and 7 when the Venice on Fire electric Baroque instrument trio collaborates with 3rdLaw Dance/Theater to recreate “Obstinate Pearly,” first performed in 2014. Composers will include Barbara Strozzi, J.S. Bach and their contemporaries.

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1845 Érard piano

For the season finale May 23, the BBF will present a Romantic-era period instrument chamber orchestra accompanying pianist Mina Gajićin Chopin’s Piano Concerto #2 in F Minor. Past performances have introduced Gajić’s 1895Érard piano, and in this concert she will play her earlier Érard grand from 1845, an instrument built during Chopin’s lifetime. The orchestra will also perform Haydn’s Symphony No. 49 in F minor, “La Passione,” and the Fellowship Artists Vocal Ensemble will perform a motet by Brahms.

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Boulder Bach Festival
38thSeason, 2018–19

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Zachary Carrettin with cello da spalla

Gala opening concert
Robert Hill, harpsichord, and Zachary Carrettin, Baroque violin, viola and cello da spalla
Solo and duo works by J.S. Bach

7:30 p.m. Thursday, Sep. 13
Stewart Auditorium, Longmont Museum

Dance of Life: J.S. Bach’s B Minor Mass
Festival Chorus and Orchestra, Zachary Carrettin, conductor
With Jennifer Bird-Arvidsson, soprano; Abigail Nims, alto; Peter Scott Drackley, tenor; and Ashraf Sewailam, bass

2 p.m. Sunday, Nov. 11
Macky Auditorium

From London With Love
Songs of love and passionate concertos
Boulder Bach Festival Fellowship Artists Baroque Orchestra, Nicholas Carthy, guest conductor
With Guy Fishman, cello; Szilvia Schranz, soprano; and Claire McCahan, mezzo-soprano

7:30 p.m. Thursday, Feb. 14, 2019, Broomfield Auditorium
7:30 p.m. Saturday, Feb. 16, 2019, Stewart Auditorium, Longmont Museum

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3rd Law Dance/Theater

Obstinate Pearl
Venice On Fire electric instrument trio with 3rd Law Dance/Theater
Zachary Carrettin, violin; Gal Faganel, cello; and Keith Barnhart, guitar
Katie Elliot, choreographer
Music by Barbara Strozzi, Robert de Visée, J.S. Bach and others

7:30 p.m. Friday, April 5, 2019
2 and 7:30 p.m. Saturday, April 6, 2019
7 p.m. Sunday, April 7, 2019
Dairy Arts Center

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Mina Gajic

The Romantic Period Orchestra and Piano
Boulder Bach Festival Fellowship Artists Chamber Orchestra and Vocal Ensemble
Zachary Carrettin violin/conductor, with Mina Gajic, piano
Colorado debut of 1845 Érard grand piano

Brahms: Es ist das Heil uns kommen her
Haydn: Symphony No. 49 in F minor, “La Passione”
Chopin: Piano Concerto No. 2 in F Minor

7:30 p.m. Thursday, May 23
Boulder Adventist Church, 345 Mapleton Ave., Boulder

Season subscription tickets available May 25

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Lehár’s Merry Widow waltzes into Macky Auditorium (and does other dances, too)

Classic Viennese operetta gives its characters a second chance Oct. 27–29

By Peter Alexander

Franz Lehár’s Merry Widow, the classic Viennese operetta, is a delicious platform for wonderful singing, graceful dancing, colorful costumes, and an inexhaustible supply of humor. But in the hands of stage director Leigh Holman, director of the CU Eklund Opera Program, there is a serious side too.

The Merry Widow-X4The CU production will be presented Friday–Sunday, Oct. 27–29, in Macky Auditorium. Nicholas Carthy will conduct an orchestra and cast of CU students. Other artistic staff of the production are set and lighting designer Peter Dean Beck; costume designer Tom Robbins; choreographer Stephen Bertles; and technical director Ron Mueller.

The major roles are double cast, with different singers on Saturday and Friday/Sunday. The performances will be sung in German with English titles.

“People think of it as light, and it is a funny show,” Holman says. “But I’ve taken a little bit more serious tone with it—not to scare anyone off because it’s still very hilarious and fun, but I’ve been doing a lot of thinking about second chances.”

In fact, it’s a second chance for the two main characters that drives the plot of The Merry Widow.

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Leigh Holman

As the operetta opens, the fictional east-European country of Pontevedro is facing a budget crisis. At their embassy in Paris, the ambassador hopes to arrange the marriage of the wealthy widow Hanna Glawari with Ponetvedro’s most eligible bachelor, Danilo. That would, he believes, save the country by keeping her money in Pontevedro. But Paris is filled with men—bachelors and married alike—who would love to get their hands on her and her money, making the ambassador’s matchmaking all the more urgent.

Of course there are many other comic-opera complications with many other couples, but you want to keep your eye on the ball, which is the Hanna-Danilo relationship. As Holman explains, this is where the second chance comes in, because they have a history.

“They fell in love years ago when she was a farm girl,” Holman says. “He was wealthy and a nobleman, and his uncle did not approve of their relationship.” Because Danilo hesitated to oppose his uncle, Hanna ended the relationship and got revenge by marrying another wealthy suitor.

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Lightening strikes twice for Danilo (Bryce Bartu) and Hanna (Anna Whiteway) in CU’s “Merry Widow.” (Photo by Glenn Asakawa)

“I wanted to deepen the understanding of the audience for what this couple had gone through,” Holman says. “So I decided to do a pantomime during the Overture, with a young Danilo and a young Hanna in front of the curtain. We get to experience their young love, and the situation where the uncle disapproves and Danilo hesitates. He eventually asks her to marry him, but she shows him her ring, that she’s already married. So we get all of that before the curtain opens.”

After the Overture, the curtain opens on the embassy party. Hanna’s much older husband has now died, leaving her a fortune, and Danilo has buried his sorrows by being a feckless man about Paris. ”They see each other again after all these years,” Holman explains. “Now they just love to spar with each other all the time, always testing each other.

“We really wanted to play on the idea, what would happen if we all got a do-over, if we had the chance to go back again? The question is, would we love to [do that]? We don’t know how it would end up, but we all wonder.”

This being operetta, you can count this second chance ending up with a happy outcome for all of the mixed-up couples. And you can also count on a lot of great entertainment along the way: a bit of farce and mistaken identities, gorgeous individual arias, hilarious ensembles, wonderful “Pontevedrian” folk music and costumes, and plenty of dancing.

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Conductor Nicholas Carthy

“We are having a wonderful time,” Holman says of herself and the cast. “It’s just a joy to go to work every day. We walk into the rehearsal hall and they’re all warming up, everybody’s dancing, the Viennese Waltz, the polka, the mazurka, the everything!”

Because Holman is devoted educator as well as opera director, “the everything” has great benefits for the students. “It’s the whole triple threat,” she says. “They’re singing, dancing, and acting with [spoken] dialog, so it’s a great opportunity for them. And comic timing! There really is an art to that and it’s something that has to be learned. They’re really grasping it and that’s exciting to see.

“Our goal is that when they leave CU they’re ready for whatever life brings. With musical theater and opera melding ever closer and closer together, I think this will get them ready for whatever opportunities they have.”

In other words, young opera singers have to be ready when they leave school because—unlike Hanna and Danilo—they won’t always get second chances when opportunities appear. And neither do audiences; The Merry Widow is only in Macky this weekend.

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The Merry Widow by Franz Lehár
CU Eklund Opera Program
Leigh Holman, stage director
Nicholas Carthy, music director and conductor

7:30 p.m. Friday & Saturday, Oct. 27 & 28
2 p.m. Sunday, Oct. 29
Macky Auditorium

Tickets

Boulder Chamber Orchestra risks “The Curse of the Ninth”

2016–17 season will explore jinxes of a 13th year, and Beethoven’s greatest work

By Peter Alexander

bsaless.4.Keith Bobo

Bahman Saless. Photo by Keith Bobo.

Bahman Saless likes to live dangerously.

The conductor of the Boulder Chamber Orchestra (BCO) just released the group’s 2016–17 season, and they are meeting two great jinxes head-on. Titled in part “The Curse of the Ninth,” the season will feature a season-ending performance of Beethoven’s Ninth Symphony with the Boulder Chorale and soloists, as well as several other works that were created under the shadow of that work—considered one of the greatest creative achievements of Western music.

It is the orchestra’s 13th season, which also leads to the full title of the season: “JINX and the Curse of the 9th.”

Saless says that it was almost inevitable that the next season would include Beethoven’s Ninth. It will be the only Beethoven Symphony he has not conducted, and it is of course a work that can prove the standing of any orchestra and conductor.

Beethoven

Beethoven: Portrait by Joseph Karl Stieler, 1820

To fill out the season around such a bold choice for a chamber orchestra, Saless picked several works that illustrate the curse that supposedly came from Beethoven’s Ninth. It was such an overwhelming work that many composers were intimidated at the very prospect of attempting another symphony after it was completed in 1823.

For example Brahms, who was hailed by many as Beethoven’s successor, was not willing to present a symphony to the public until 1876—after 21 years of work on the piece, when the composer was 43 years of age, and all of 53 years after Beethoven’s Ninth was completed. Brahms First even features a melody that resembles Beethoven’s famous “Ode to Joy” from the Ninth—a similarity that, Brahms said, “any ass can see.”

The symphony was immediately greeted as the true successor to Beethoven’s symphonic legacy, and was referred to by some as “Beethoven’s Tenth.”

Another aspect to the “curse of the Ninth” was the notion that subsequent composers could not complete more than nine symphonies. Mahler famously tried to dodge the curse, finally finishing a Ninth Symphony but dying before he could finish his 10th. Tchaikovsky finished six, started a seventh and reached nine only if you count a couple of tone poems. Others, such as Dvořák and Bruckner, only just managed to finish nine.

Schubert is another composer with a famous final Ninth Symphony, but he also left three unfinished symphonies from the last years of his life. One of these—the most famous “Unfinished” Symphony of all, his Symphony No. 8 in B minor—will also be on the season schedule next year.

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Nicholas Carthy

The season will offer another final symphony, though not a ninth: Mendelssohn’s rarely performed Symphony No. 5 (“Reformation”), on a concert to be led by guest conductor Nicholas Carthy from the CU Eklund Opera Program. Carthy will also be a soloist on the same concert, playing and conducting Mozart’s Piano Concerto in C minor, K491.

Other soloists during the season will be the young Chinese violinist Yabing Tan, playing Henryk Wieniawski’s Violin Concerto No. 2. Violinist Karen Bentley Pollick will play the U.S. premiere of a Violin Concerto titled How Did it Get so Late so Soon! by David A. Jaffe, a composer best known for his work in computer music and the development of the NeXT Music Kit software. The concerto has been written for Pollick, and will be premiered by her at the Tytuvenai Festival in Lithuania in August.

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Lindsay Deutsch

Yet another violin soloist on the season will be Lindsay Deutsch returning to the BCO to perform two pieces written for her. The brand new Beatles Fantasy by video-game composer Maxime Goulet will be premiered with the Bartlesville Symphony in Oklahoma; and Deutsch will also play Saless’s own Tango Variations, based on the popular song “Nature Boy.” It was written for her by the BCO’s conductor and premiered with the BCO in 2010.

Another feature of the season will be the inclusion of works usually thought of as full symphonic repertoire, including the Brahms and Mendelssohn symphonies. Certainly the Beethoven Ninth is not generally considered a chamber orchestra piece. Originally performed in Beethoven’s lifetime with an orchestra of about 78 players, it requires an orchestra large enough to support a full chorus.

Asked about this, Saless says that Beethoven performed by a small orchestra is “much more dramatic” and “more muscular.” Not to get too far into the weeds on a complex historical issue, it is true that in Beethoven’s lifetime, and for much of the 19th century, there were not many large standing orchestras like those we are accustomed to in the 21st century.

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Manuscript page of Beethoven’s Ninth Symphony

Small orchestras were common at the smaller courts and regional opera houses around Europe; larger orchestras were only found in the largest cities such as London and Paris, or for festive occasions, as sometimes happened in Vienna. Thus any of the Romantic works that Saless has performed recently—concertos by Brahms and Tchaikovsky, other works from the 19th century—could have been performed by smaller as well as larger orchestras.

And Saless is surely right that hearing music that is most familiar to us with the lush sound of large string sections performed by the BCO does reveal aspects of the music that we may not have heard before. By programming Beethoven’s Ninth, Saless will be giving us another opportunity to hear a familiar work in a new guise.

In addition to the orchestra concerts that have been announced, there will be a concert by the Lebanese darbuka (goblet drum) virtuoso Rony Barrak, and at least two chamber music concerts that will be announced later.

 

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Boulder Chamber Orchestra
Bahman Saless, music director and conductor
2016–17 Season: “JINX and The Curse of the 9th”bconew_1

September 23 & 24
With Yabing Tan, violin
Rossini: Overture to La Gazza Ladra (The thieving magpie)
Henryk Wieniawski: Violin Concerto No. 2 in D minor, Yabing Tan, violin
Brahms: Symphony No. 1 in C minor

Karen B P

Karen Bentley Pollick

November 11 &12
With Karen Bentley Pollick, violin
Samuel Barber: Adagio for Strings
Copland: Appalachian Spring
David A. Jaffe: Violin Concerto How Did it Get So Late So Soon? (U.S. Premiere)

December 10 &11
Nicholas Carthy conductor and pianist
Mendelssohn: Symphony No. 5 in D major (“Reformation”)
Mozart: Piano Concerto in C Minor, K 491
Dvorak: Nocturne in B major for String Orchestra, op. 40

February 10 & 11
With Lindsay Deutsch, violin
Maxime Goulet: Beatles Fantasy
Bahman Saless: Tango Variations (Variations on “Nature Boy”)
Schubert: Symphony No.  8 in B minor (“Unfinished”)

Barrak

Rony Barrak

April 7,8, 9
An Evening with Rony Barrak and Friends.

May 5, 6 & 7
With the Boulder Chorale & soloists TBA
Beethoven: Symphony No. 9 in D minor

 

 

No glass slippers, but it’s still Cinderella

CU Eklund Opera Program presents Rossini’s La Cenerentola

By Peter Alexander

Max Hosmer and Taylor Raven in the Eklund Opera Program production of Rossini's La Cenerentola Ro(Photo by Glenn Asakawa/University of Colorado)

Max Hosmer and Taylor Raven in the Eklund Opera Program production of Rossini’s La Cenerentola (Photo by Glenn Asakawa/University of Colorado)

No glass slippers or fairy godmother? What kind of Cinderella is that?

Actually, it’s Rossini’s opera La Cenerentola (Cinderella), and it’s the current production of the CU Eklund Opera Program. Performances this weekend will be Friday and Saturday (Oct. 23–24) at 7:30 p.m. and Sunday (Oct. 25) at 2 p.m. in CU Macky Auditorium. CU faculty member Nicholas Carthy will conduct the student orchestra and guest artist Bill Fabris will direct.

The cast features three graduate students—one performance each—in the demanding mezzo-soprano role of Cinderella: Taylor Raven, Rebecca Robinson and Christina Adams. The tenor role of Ramiro, aka the Prince, will be sung by Max Hosmer, a CU post-graduate, and CU faculty member Matthew Chellis (Saturday only).

CarthyAlthough it is based on the familiar Charles Perrault version of the fairy-tale, Rossini’s opera makes several changes to downplay magic and put more stress on Cinderella’s goodness of heart. The glass slippers are gone; instead, the prince recognizes Cinderella by a bracelet that she has worn at the ball. The cruel stepmother is replaced by a cruel stepfather, and the fairy godmother is replaced by a philosopher.

However, the greatest change makes the prince more of an actor in the drama. Because he wants to know the true nature of the young women he might marry, he switches places with his servant. In this way he learns about the selfishness of Cinderella’s sisters. Likewise, he observes the cruelty and arrogance of Cinderella’s stepfather, who is desperate to marry one of his daughters to the prince, and he experiences Cinderella’s kindness.

Aldoro, the philosopher who stands in for the usual fairy godmother, also appears in disguise, and sees that Cinderella is the one truly good person of her family. It is for that reason that he intervenes to get her to the ball.

Leigh Holman, director of the Eklund Opera Program, described the CU Cenerentola as a “relatively traditional” production set at the turn of the 20th century. “It’s hilarious, truly a comedy,” she says. “But unlike the Disney version, it’s also more grounded and realistic.

“What I enjoy most about this opera are its pervasive themes of character development. Cinderella is neglected and oppressed by an abusive father, but she learns to let that go. Because of the glorious love she’s found, forgiveness grows before regret and resentment take root. It’s a story of transcendence.”

Guest stage director Bill Fabris

A free-lance stage director who works in opera and music theater around the country, Fabris was engaged for the CU production on short notice when Holman was unable to be in Boulder for the rehearsals and performances. Not having done La Cenerentola for some time, he was happy not to deal with an unusual concept for the show. “It’s a little updated but still a traditional production,” he says, “which is fine with me, coming late in the process.”

When he arrived, Fabris was impressed with the student cast. “When I found out that most all of the roles are double cast, I thought, wow! And then I got here, and they’re doing it! They know what they’re singing they know how to manipulate all the fast runs.

“These wonderful young artists and their vocal gymnastics are amazing. Wait until you see it!”

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Cinderella_FINALfull-X2La Cenerentola (Cinderella) by Gioachino Rossini

CU Eklund Opera Program
Bill Fabris, stage director
Nicholas Carthy, conductor

7:30 p.m. Friday, Oct. 23, and Saturday, Oct. 24
2:00 pm. Sunday, Oct. 25
Macky Auditorium

Tickets