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Pacific Symphony’s “Fire and Water”—a multimedia, musical exploration of the elements—provides operatic finale to Music Director Carl St.Clair’s 25th Anniversary Season

Orange County, Calif. — May 20, 2015

Orange County’s own diva, soprano Deborah Voigt, sings the last scene of Wagner’s “Götterdämmerung,” which St.Clair led to critical acclaim in Europe

World premiere of “Siren Songs” by Laura Karpman explores women and the ocean
with video provided by Gregory MacGillivray of IMAX fame

Fourth “Inside and Out: Plazacast and Community Celebration” takes place on Saturday, June 13, for free outdoor simulcast of concert at Segerstrom Center for the Arts; Community ensembles, food trucks and Aquarium on Wheels begins at 5 p.m.

A grand, meaningful and operatic evening of music awaits, as Music Director Carl St.Clair leads Pacific Symphony’s final concert of his 25th anniversary season, “Fire and Water,” a program representing the innovative and defining characteristics of the orchestra. Furthering St.Clair’s commitment to new music, the evening includes the world premiere of “Siren Songs” by Laura Karpman, accompanied by video and animation by Tempe Hale, who has used footage from Gregory MacGillivray, Academy-Award nominated cinematographer of films such as “The Living Sea” and “Dolphins.” Karpman’s piece explores women and the ocean and is based on a set of poems by internationally known poet, Amy Gerstler, who is also a professor at UC Irvine. For the fiery finale, St.Clair leads the orchestra in selections from Wagner’s epic “Götterdämmerung,” (“Twilight of the Gods”), featuring Metropolitan Opera superstar, Deborah Voigt, who brings her beautiful and powerful voice to Brünnhilde’s famous “Immolation Scene.”

“Fire and Water” takes place Thursday-Saturday, June 11-13, at 8 p.m. in the Renée and Henry Segerstrom Concert Hall. Tickets are $25-$99. For more information or to purchase tickets, call (714) 755-5799 or visit www.PacificSymphony.org. The multimedia enhancements in this “Music Unwound” concert are generously supported by the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation.

Throughout the season, St.Clair has used his anniversary celebration to turn the spotlight onto the musicians of the orchestra, and this evening is no different. Principal Flutist Benjamin Smolen takes center stage to perform Vivaldi’s Flute Concerto, “La Tempesta di Mare.” Translating to “the storm at sea,” this piece opens the concert with theatrical flair and vivid scene-painting.

The concept of fire and water came to Maestro St.Clair in a number of ways. Vivaldi’s “La Tempesta di Mare” he says, “fits so beautifully to the idea of water and the tempestuous nature of the sea and with Laura’s work ‘Siren Songs,’ which has to do with the various goddesses of the sea.” Wagner’s “Götterdämmerung” is the perfect allegory for fire. “Including anybody and everybody in the orchestra” says St.Clair, the piece is brilliant and loud, and features Orange County native and international opera star, Voigt.

St.Clair, who performed Wagner’s “Ring” Cycle to great critical acclaim in Europe as the general music director and chief conductor of the German National Theater and Staatskapelle, brings his passion for the art to Orange County with this concert. He was also the general music director for the Komische Oper in Berlin, and his European opera career shaped his artistry in America and was the catalyst for the Symphony’s opera and vocal initiative, “Symphonic Voices.”

“Opera, in a very short period of four years, has become a part of our DNA at Pacific Symphony through our four productions,” says St.Clair. “And so to finish with one of the greatest operatic moments, if not the greatest, I thought it was very appropriate. My memory of ‘Götterdämmerung’ in Germany was always so exhilarating. It was standing on top of the Mount Everest of musical compositions, so I thought there couldn’t be a more appropriate way to finish this 25th-anniversary season. I’m just very excited to end with this piece."

 

INSIDE AND OUT: PLAZACAST AND COMMUNITY CELEBRATION

In addition to the three concerts, the fourth “Inside & Out: Plazacast and Community Celebration” takes place on Saturday, June 13, when the concert is simultaneously shown on a screen outside for the public to enjoy at no charge. Encouraged to bring their own picnics, blankets and chairs, everyone is invited to come early to enjoy food trucks and performances by community ensembles. The first 100 people to arrive receive a free pair of tickets to select concerts at the Symphony’s Summer Festival 2015.

This year’s “Inside & Out” line-up features Golden West Pops at 5 p.m., Color Choreography at 5:30 p.m., Huntington Beach Concert Band Brass Ensemble at 6 p.m. and Helix Collective at 6:30 p.m. Also, the Aquarium of the Pacific’s Aquarium on Wheels is on display from 5-7 p.m., providing a mobile tide-pool exhibit for concertgoers of all ages to feel the unique textures of sea stars, cucumbers and even sharks, leaving them with a shimmering memory and an appreciation of the sea. The Plazacast is presented in association with Segerstrom Center for the Arts and is sponsored by The James Irvine Foundation.

 

WATER: VIVALDI AND LAURA KARPMAN

Vivaldi’s Concerto for Flute and Orchestra in F Major, RV 433, “La Tempesta di Mare” features the Symphony’s Principal Flutist Benjamin Smolen, along with the harpsichord and strings. The piece depicts the illustrious scene of a disastrous storm at sea, becoming more complex with the soloist’s rapid performance of scales to create a sense of forceful winds and pulverizing waves. Similar to nature’s fury, the dynamics change on a dime to develop the opposing calm and violent moods of the storm.

The new piece “Siren Songs,” written by Laura Karpman, lasts around 23 minutes, and involves a large wind and percussion section. Karpman’s work is an allusion to Greek mythology’s sirens, seductive women of the sea who sing to sailors to lure them into dangerous waters and their deaths. Based on three poems by internationally recognized poet, Amy Gerstler, the titles of each of her three movements correspond with a line from Gerstler’s poems: “Come Kiss Me,” “An Astonishing Fleet” and “Ours is the Blue Planet.” Karpman chose similarly toned instruments in the orchestra to mimic the sounds that the mythological sirens played, such as the lyre and aulos (double-piped instrument), in addition to their voices. For example, the harp and piano are used instead of a lyre, two oboes are used in place of the aulos and the cello resembles the voice.

All inspired by women and the ocean, the first movement is representative of the seductive and beautiful sirens of the sea; the second movement is evocative of Diana Nyad’s courageous swim from Cuba to Florida; and the third is a tribute to Dr. Sylvia Earle, a female scientist dedicated to saving the oceans.

“When I got a call from Carl St.Clair to write a piece about the ocean, I thought it would be simple,” says Karpman, explaining that she has lived her whole life by the ocean. “But I strangely struggled with this composition—I struggled with how to somehow communicate my love, my need for this place, for its peace, its turbulence, for my holy place. I am overwhelmed with the searing reality of how we have smothered the lungs of the earth…how we could have let things go this far…how my son may not be able to continue living in this place that I have built my life around, our dreams around.

“I knew I wanted to write a piece about women and the sea,” she continues. “The ocean is always spoken of with the feminine pronoun, boats are too, but history tells of men exploring, ‘conquering’ the seas, and finally, now conquering them in what may be their ultimate destruction,” says Karpman, who became greatly affected by this realization. She thought: “What if I composed a piece that metaphorically represented the voicelessness of women and the ocean, the underwritten histories of women sea goddesses, sailors, navigators, surfers, swimmers and scientists?” It was then that Karpman discovered the poem, “Siren” by Gerstler. “It was perfect. It captured everything that I wanted to explore in the piece: warmth, humor, and a certain scary and very seductive quality.”

Karpman is a true 21st-century American composer. She is one of a handful of female composers with an active career in film and television, winning four Emmys and receiving an additional seven nominations, an Annie Award nomination and a GANG award and nomination for her video game music. She was named one of the most important women in Hollywood by Variety magazine, and is a professor at UCLA in the School of Theater, Film and Television. She began composing at the age of 7 and progressed to a talented musician with a love of jazz. She received her master’s in conducting from the University of Michigan and a master’s and doctoral degree in composition at The Juilliard School.

 

FIRE: WAGNER

The Symphony’s performance of selections from Wagner’s “Götterdämmerung,” includes “Dawn and Siegfried’s Rhine Journey,” “Siegfried’s Funeral Music” and “Brünnhilde’s Immolation Scene.” Wagner is considered one of Western music’s most influential composers, not only for his approach to opera, but also for his philosophical essays reflecting his ideas on artistic and musical expression. He declared his opera-dramas to be “The Artwork of the Future.” And, indeed, his influence can be discerned in such film scores as John Williams’ “Star Wars” and Howard Shore’s “Lord of the Rings” trilogy.

Wagner composed “Götterdämmerung” as the final installment in his four-opera cycle, “Der Ring des Nibelungen.” The 15-hour tetralogy unfolds a sprawling story of gods, goddesses and mythological creatures fighting for possession of a magical golden ring that grants world domination to the owner. “Dawn and Siegfried’s Rhine Journey” begins with sounds of daybreak giving way to vigorously heroic music descriptive of Siegfried’s valiant deeds. He is killed in the third act of “Götterdämmerung” and his dramatic funeral processional provides a deeply moving interlude before the grand finale, “Brünnhilde’s Immolation Scene.” Perhaps the most spectacular and breathtaking musical episode in all of opera, this final scene portrays an apocalypse where the world ends in flames. Brünnhilde jumps onto her stallion and leaps onto Siegfried’s funeral pyre. The golden ring reverts to the Rhine maidens, the violent curse is lifted, the world is redeemed, and the drama concludes with stunningly sublime music. And we realize that Brünnhilde is actually the cycle’s true heroine.

Soprano Voight, who sings the role of Brünnhilde, the Valkyrie and lover of the hero Siegfried, is an extraordinarily gifted artist who is internationally celebrated as one of today’s greatest Wagnerian sopranos. She studied opera locally at California State University, Fullerton, and was a member of San Francisco Opera’s Merola Program, winning both the Gold Medal in Moscow’s International Tchaikovsky Competition and First Prize at Philadelphia’s Luciano Pavarotti International Voice Competition. Among her many successful recordings are two for EMI Classics: “All My Heart: Deborah Voigt Sings American Songs” and Strauss’s “Egyptian Helen.” Voigt is a frequent recitalist and performs many popular songs from Broadway and appears regularly as a performer and host of the Metropolitan Opera’s “Live in HD” series, played in movie theaters worldwide.

 

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