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Journey of resilience and inspiration: Pacific Symphony presents unique, semi-staged program that includes “Carmina Burana,” one of the most popular pieces ever written
Orange County, Calif. — May 19, 2014
Final Music Unwound program of the 2013-14 (35th anniversary) season includes powerhouse voices of the Pacific Chorale, world-class soloists and Children’s Chorus
“Inside and Out” Plazacast: “Carmina Burana” projected on outside wall at Segerstrom Center for the Arts for free community event; community ensembles kick off evening at 5 p.m., concert starts at 8 p.m., June 7
Sunday Connections concert, “Carmina Burana Discovered,” further explores Carl Orff’s masterpiece, June 8
Haunting melodies and sweet, euphonious voices combine to create a deeply moving, life-affirming evening of music, as Pacific Symphony dives into spiritual depths in preparation for Carl Orff’s masterful oratorio, “Carmina Burana.” Weaving together lyrics that date back to the 12th and 13th centuries, “Carmina Burana” is brazen with its gleeful double entendre and is made even more decadent with the magnificent voices of soprano Cyndia Sieden, tenor Marc Molomot and baritone Michael Kelly joining the orchestra. Led by Music Director Carl St.Clair, the Symphony paves the way for Orff’s masterful work by performing John Williams’ “Exsultate Justi,” Lukas Foss’ “Elegy for Anne Frank,” Charles Ives’ “The Unanswered Question” and Kathy C. Bowen’s “I Believe in God.” Pacific Chorale, led by Artistic Director John Alexander, lends its voices to enhance the majestic sounds, while Southern California Children’s Chorus represents the voices of children during World War II.
This program is the final installment of the Symphony’s highly praised Music Unwound series, focused on non-traditional formats, audience engagement and multimedia content. The brainchild of Maestro St.Clair, Music Unwound concerts are underwritten by the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation. The June 5-6 performances are underwritten by the Shanbrom Family Foundation, longtime investors in classical music performances in Orange County.
Stage director Eric Einhorn and videographer Paul DiPierro (the same team behind the inventive staging for 2013’s opera production, “Tosca”) have joined forces to visually enhance the program’s music. Through art, video and costumes evocative of World War II, as well as the music, the theme of children’s unwavering hope and optimism, and humanity’s persistence to seek faith amid suffering is juxtaposed against the horrors of the Holocaust. Einhorn arranged for children’s artwork from the Holocaust to be projected above the stage, while other segments feature video content of a family’s journey by train as they relive memories of the home they were forced to leave behind.
Experience an evening of history and mastery on Thursday, Friday or Saturday, June 5-7, at 8 p.m., in the Renée and Henry Segerstrom Concert Hall. Tickets are $25-$99. Continue the excitement and investigate Orff’s work further during Sunday Connections’ “Carmina Burana Discovered,” taking place June 8, at 3 p.m. Tickets are $25-$85. For more information or to purchase tickets, call (714) 755-5799 or visit www.PacificSymphony.org.
The Saturday performance also features the Symphony’s third “Inside and Out” Plazacast and Community Celebration, a free party on the arts plaza complete with food trucks and performances by community ensembles, including Laguna Flutes, Freedom Drum Circles, Helix Collective and Nilu, starting at 5 p.m. Concertgoers are invited to come early, bring a blanket, chair and picnic on the plaza while enjoying the music. The first 100 people to arrive receive a free pair of tickets to select concerts at the Symphony’s Summer Festival 2014!
“In beginning work on a ‘production concept’ for this concert, Carl and I were very interested in finding a way to unify the whole program,” says Stage Director Einhorn. “Although not obvious at first glance, there are interesting connections that emerge between the two halves of this program. The first half focuses on children and hope, as well as meditates on life’s greater questions. The second half, ‘Carmina Burana,’ is a far more earthy work, drawing on profane medieval poetry. Upon careful consideration, a World War II theme merged that became the springboard for the concert narrative we have developed. Foss’ ‘Elegy for Anne Frank,’ through beautiful orchestral writing and spoken excerpts from Anne’s diary, paints an evocative picture of a child’s experiences during the war while in hiding and facing an uncertain future.
“‘Carmina Burana,’ written during 1935-1936, was a popular work in Nazi Germany. The text, while mainly about pastoral themes, love and drinking, seemed to tell a story of escapism: the text was sung as a way to forget the present. This connection led to the development of an overall concert narrative that centers on the journey of a Jewish family during the war and the hope that persists despite the events surrounding them.”
The concert opens with John Williams’ “Exsultate Justi,” the buoyant chorale written for the film “Empire of the Sun.” The story, based on actual events, is set in the dawn of the atomic age, and told from the point of view of an English child who grew up to be the science fiction author J. G. Ballard. The energy and joyful polyphony is an ideal way to set the tone of the evening. The program continues with an extraordinary rendition of Foss’ “Elegy for Anne Frank.” Written to mark the 60th anniversary of the birth of Anne Frank, the Elegy’s poignancy is emphasized by a simple, childlike motive in the piano performed over string tones that is eclipsed by playing in the percussion section, which builds to an unbearable tension before it ceases abruptly. The effect is haunting, and recalling its composition in an interview almost a decade later, Foss called it “one of the most soulful things I’ve ever done.” (Pacific Symphony recorded the Elegy along with two piano concertos of Foss in 2001 for the label Harmonia Mundi.)
The densely layered “The Unanswered Question” by Ives hypnotizes with multiple melodies, tonalities and rhythms that unspool simultaneously. This deeply contemplative question is voiced seven different times by the trumpet in a neutral tonality. Bowen’s “I Believe in God” represents faith in humanity’s goodness and in God. This emotional piece is scored for two-part chorus and is based on a poem discovered on a wallet found in a Nazi concentration camp. The Southern California Children’s Chorus joins the Symphony to highlight a child’s steadfast belief in the goodness of others before the Symphony performs “Carmina Burana.”
“The narrative in the first half deals a bit more abstractly with children during the war, and their unswerving hope and optimism,” says Einhorn. “‘Carmina’ shifts to a slightly more realistic story of a family making a journey from their village to an uncertain fate at the hands of the Nazis. Throughout the journey, the parents tell their children stories of love, beauty and hope as a way to escape their reality. The family holds on to hope even as the crushing music of ‘O Fortuna’ returns at the end of ‘Carmina Burana,’ representing the true strength of the human spirit.”
Lauded by the Austin Chronicle as “a rising star in the opera world” and praised by Opera News for his “keen eye for detail and character insight” for which “the result was a seamless, gripping flow,” Einhorn returns this season to the Florentine Opera to direct “Giulio Cesare.” He also returns to the Metropolitan Opera to stage “La Cenerentola” and for the company’s new productions of “Prince Igor” and “Die Fledermaus” as well as for “The Nose” and “Tosca.” His future engagements include his debut with Portland Opera as well as his return to the Metropolitan Opera. His recent direction of “Dialogues des Carmélites” for Austin Lyric Opera was a resounding triumph and was awarded Best Opera at the Austin Critics’ Table Awards in addition to garnering him a nomination for Best Director.
American soprano Cyndia Sieden moves easily among the Baroque, Classical, Romantic and contemporary repertoires to worldwide acclaim. Sieden has starred at most of the world’s great opera houses, including the Munich Bayerische Staatsoper, the New York Met and Paris’ Opéra Bastille. Her highly praised Metropolitan Opera debut was as Berg’s Lulu, and her success quickly led to reengagement in 2008 as Queen of the Night in Mozart’s “Die Zauberflöte,” one of her signature roles. She is a brilliantly idiomatic interpreter of the works of Richard Strauss. Her performances in the high-flying role of Ariel in the premiere of Thomas Adès’s “The Tempest” at the Royal Opera House, Covent Garden, ignited rave reviews and an astonished public.
Possessed of a rare high-tenor (haute-contre) voice, Marc Molomot enjoys an international opera and concert career. While best known for appearances with early music ensembles and conductors including William Christie, John Eliot Gardiner, Nicholas McGegan and Andrew Parrott, Molomot ventures regularly into other repertoire including Mozart’s “Le Nozze di Figaro,” Auber’s 1830 opera “Fra Diavolo” and the title role in Britten’s “Albert Herring.” Molomot’s recording of Lully’s Thésée with the Boston Early Music Festival was nominated for a Grammy.
Praised as “expressive and dynamic” and “vocally splendid,” American baritone Michael Kelly distinguishes himself as a consummate artist, sought-after for his riveting interpretations of recital, concert and operatic repertoire. This season, Kelly appears in recital with Malcolm Martineau and the Detroit Symphony in a world premiere by David Del Tredici and with SongFusion, a recital series of which he is a co-founder. He can be found on three soon-to-be released recordings of Schubert’s “Winterreise,” Del Tredici’s “A Field Manual” and a recording of Britten’s folk song settings.
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