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Pacific Symphony’s “Bolero and Hot Latin Nights” offers sizzling rhythms and orchestral fireworks under the starry sky for an evening of mesmerizing music
Orange County, Calif. — July 10, 2015
It is a night of spicy, riveting music and dance featuring salsa, Cuban rhythms and the sounds of Spain, when Pacific Symphony, led by Music Director Carl St.Clair, delivers the third concert of Summer Festival 2015. The evening is chock-full of hot-tempered tunes, including Ravel’s “Bolero,” featuring the most famous drumbeat in classical music and immortalized in the movie “10”; Rimsky-Korsakov’s sparkling orchestral painting of Spain, Capriccio Espagnol, full of passionate tunes and brilliant colors that have made it a smash-hit concert favorite; the short but potent “Ritual Fire Dance” from de Falla’s ballet, “El amor brujo”; and excerpts from Bizet’s alluring “Carmen,” sung by opera star, mezzo-soprano Milena Kitić. The band JT & Friends then delivers high-octane entertainment on the second half, which includes Bizet’s “Farandole” from L’Arlesienne Suite No. 2 and Bernstein’s heart-pumping “America” from the classic film, “West Side Story.” Completing the mix are dancers, Salsa king Bobby Rivas, singer Beau Williams, and music that includes Barry Mann’s “On Broadway,” Flores’ rowdy “Tequila” and more.
Taking place Sunday, Aug. 9, at Irvine Meadows Amphitheatre (formerly Verizon Wireless Amphitheater), the concert begins at 7:30 p.m. and audience members are welcome to picnic on the grounds starting at 5:30 p.m. Tickets range from $25-$107 and kids are half price in most sections. For more information or to purchase tickets, call (714) 755-5799 or visit www.PacificSymphony.org.
“Spanish music is so rich, varied and diverse,” says Maestro St.Clair. “So what this program shows as a whole is its incredible variety and brilliance, from the virtuosity of ‘Carmen,’ to Ravel’s ‘Bolero’ as the tour de force of orchestration. This is a concert that has a full palette of vibrant colors.” Ravel’s memorable “Bolero” (if you’ve heard it once, you’ve never forgotten it), with its repetitive layering of instruments, intensifying with each pass until it’s ready to explode—is a one-movement, 17-minute wonder, with the snare drum maintaining steely precision and poetic sensitivity as the musical tension builds. By far Ravel’s most popular work, “Bolero” takes the most basic of melodies and squeezes it for all it’s worth. Coming at the audience in waves, it builds and builds and before you know it, what started as a whisper is now a gigantic roar. The cymbals come crashing down and there is plenty of drama and bombast.
Ravel said of his famous piece: “Before its first performance, I issued a warning to the effect that what I had written was a piece lasting 17 minutes and consisting wholly of ‘orchestral tissue without music’—of one very long, gradual crescendo. There are no contrasts, and practically no invention except the plan and the manner of execution.” Generations of less successful composers, perhaps including some envious ones, have made a joke of agreeing with Ravel.
In 1887, Rimsky-Korsakov, 43, composed Capricco Espagnol, a piece celebrating Spanish melodies and locations he loved. Like the full-blooded, intoxicating Spanish-flavored inspirations, the suite is bursting with orchestral imagination and beauty. It was first performed in St. Petersburg, the same year it was written, conducted by the composer, and featured many glittering and flashy solos from different instruments in the orchestra (every musician needed to have virtuoso skills to play it properly)—and the audience went wild! They demanded that the orchestra perform the entire piece again. (Even the musicians kept stopping to applaud the composer’s brilliance during the rehearsals!) Rimsky-Korsakov was actually annoyed that people seemed to only see in the piece the exciting orchestration. To this day, Capricco Espagnol remains one of the most popular orchestral works around, even though it’s relatively short (about 15 minutes).
Influenced by Rimsky-Korsakov's “Flight of the Bumblebee,” “Ritual Fire Dance” is an exciting, rhythmic 3-4 minute movement from the ballet “El amor brujo” (The Bewitched Love),
written in 1915 by the Spanish composer Manuel de Falla. Made popular by the composer’s own piano arrangement, the work features fast, repetitive trills and ornaments. The piece was influenced by the traditional, religious ceremony of a fire dance, which was used to worship the fire god and involved people jumping through or leaping around the fire.
“We’re so fortunate to have one of the consummate Carmens in our midst with Milena Kitić,” says Maestro St.Clair. “She’s sung this role in the major houses of the world. It’s her role, and it’s wonderful she’s returning after her magnificent performance with us for our concert opera of ‘Carmen.’”
“Carmen” is so packed with memorable melodies that it’s guaranteed to remain one of the world’s most performed operas and is packed with three-minute pop songs from start to finish. Set in Seville, the steamy nature of “Carmen” shocked audiences when it debuted. In fact, Bizet was seen as a rebel for having set to music something so apparently salacious. Carmen drives men wild, flirts outrageously and is an all-round good-time girl. The risqué plot, sexual tension and typically exotic music all fuse together to create a universally appealing opera that cements Bizet’s position within the history of the genre. Here was a composer who wrote mass-market music in the very best sense of that phrase. Today, nearly 150 years after its premiere performance, it remains hugely popular the world over.
Classical composer/conductor Bernstein is remembered as a dashing man of music, an advocate as well as a creator. Bernstein was famous for musical achievements that came astonishingly early in his career. This includes his innovative score for the musical “West Side Story,” although by then he was in his 30s. Bernstein periodically had tried his hand at writing Broadway musicals, but none was as ambitious as “West Side Story,” a score that is infused with Bernstein's classical sensibility, even as it deliberately draws in influences from jazz and Latin music. “America,” a song of dueling Puerto Rican girls—one who wants to go home and one who wants to stay in Manhattan—is not just a typical comic song in a Broadway musical. It is acutely witty, marking the introduction of a lyricist (Stephen Sondheim) on a par with Cole Porter.
“To see music through his eyes really changed my vision about the world of classical music,” says St.Clair of his mentor, Bernstein. “It was a great gift and set me out on a whole different path. My musical journey changed immediately.”
The band JT & Friends (led by John Tu) accepts only a limited number of engagements, all of which are fundraising efforts for the arts and medicine. They have appeared at Pacific Symphony’s Gala for the past five years, and are uniting with the orchestra for the second time at the Symphony’s Summer Festival. The band’s musicians have backed Neil Young, performed with Al Jarreau, George Benson, played Carnegie Hall, toured China and played at the Great Wall. Others have recorded with Michael Jackson and performed with Smokey Robinson. Another works with Glenn Yarbrough and Sergio Mendes. Several are Emmy Award winners. The costume designer also works with Paul McCartney and Sting.
A star of the Belgrade Opera, Serbia, Kitić made her debut with the National Theater in Belgrade in 1989 as Olga in Tchaikovsky’s “Eugene Onegin” and performed for eight years in a variety of roles. Kitić has performed as Carmen throughout Germany, Austria, The Netherlands, Belgium and the Czech Republic. She made her U.S. debut in 1990 with Palm Beach Opera, and her Carnegie Hall debut in 1999. In 2002, Kitić debuted with the Washington D.C. Opera as Carmen. In 2003, she debuted with Opera Pacific as Herodias in “Salome.” Highlights include her role in “Samson and Delilah” with Opera Pacific, her role in Verdi’s “Falstaff” with Los Angeles Opera and debuting at the Metropolitan Opera as “Carmen.” In 2007, Kitić became the recipient of the artist-in-residence award given by Chapman University, where she is an adjunct professor and master class instructor. She also leads classes at USC and UC Irvine. Kitić serves as chair for artistic excellence for Los Angeles Opera with whom she recently performed in “Carmen.”
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