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With Its Own "Sea-Man" At The Helm, RPO Steers A Clear Course Through A Sea of Symphonic Music

September 20, 2007

Poetic Inspiration and Nautical Themes Open RPO Philharmonics Series

Rochester, NY – No life rafts will be necessary in the warm and dry Eastman Theatre for the opening concert of the RPO’s Philharmonics Series at 8 p.m. on Thursday, October 11 and Saturday, October 13, but onstage the Orchestra – under Music Director Christopher Seaman – will be making waves in “A Sea Symphony.”  Christopher Seaman hosts the pre-concert chat at 7:00 p.m.; he will be joined on Thursday night by poet Sean Thomas Dougherty to discuss the inspiration and interplay between words and music.

The delightful Suite from Water Music by Handel and Vaughan Williams’ expansive choral masterpiece, A Sea Symphony, are the featured selections on this pair of concerts, with the latter piece buoyed by the talents of internationally renowned soloists, soprano Jane Eaglen and baritone Dean Elzinga performing with the Rochester Oratorio Society. 

Handel’s Water Music is a collection of pieces written to accompany the royal boating party down the Thames River of England’s King George in 1717.  Quite varied in character, the Suite from Water Music includes many of the standard dances of the time whose orchestration features an abundance of instrumental color.  Although Handel’s manuscript score has not survived, the music heard today was taken from printed editions during the first half of the 18th century.  In some early versions, the full score is divided into three suites; Christopher Seaman has chosen a generous selection from all three for these concerts.

Inspired by Leaves of Grass by the American poet Walt Whitman, Vaughan William began his Symphony No. 1 (“A Sea Symphony”) in 1903, working throughout the next six years to create this large work using selected Whitman text.  Although the inclusion of voices places it within the British choral music tradition, Vaughan Williams conceived it as symphonic.  “The work unfolds with a noble and graphic description of the sea and all who sail on it,” explains Maestro Seaman. “But the words take us deeper than sea-pictures; Whitman sees beyond the obvious to its spiritual significance – a metaphorical parallel to one’s own voyage through life.”

Soprano Jane Eaglen has one of the most formidable reputations in the opera world today, having performed contrasting lead roles for the Metropolitan Opera, Seattle Opera, Teatro Liceu Barcelona and Lyric Opera of Chicago, among many others.  Her equally impressive reputation on the concert stage includes performances with the Chicago Symphony (Barenboim), New York Philharmonic (Mehta), Boston Symphony (Haitink and Jeffrey Tate), and at the Salzburg and Edinburgh Festivals.  On recordings, Miss Eaglen can be heard through her many solo albums of arias and song cycles.  Her recording of Wagner’s Tannhauser with Barenboim for Teldec earned a Grammy for Best Complete Opera.  Miss Eaglen is featured on Sony’s recent soundtrack for the film adaptation of Jane Austen’s Sense and Sensibility.  Future plans include performances of Tristan und Isolde in Spain, Die Walkure in Oslo, Gotterdammerung in Europe, Macbeth in Vancouver, The Flying Dutchman in the U.S. and Tosca in Japan.

A superb singer and actor, bass-baritone Dean Elzinga is a regular on concert and opera stages, often in contemporary works requiring his unique dramatic conviction, presence and assured musicianship.  He enjoyed international acclaim for Peter Maxwell Davies’ fiendishly difficult Eight Songs for a Mad King performed in New York and Cleveland.  His many opera credentials include the Metropolitan, Los Angeles, San Diego, Vancouver, Seattle and Arizona Operas, Hawaii Opera Theatre, Glimmerglass and the New York City Opera.  In concert, Mr. Elzinga repeatedly has been invited by Leon Botstein to perform with the American Symphony Orchestra.

The Rochester Oratorio Society is Rochester’s premier large concert chorus and an integral part of Rochester’s vibrant arts community.  Under music director Eric Townell (now in his second season), the ROS explores a widely diverse, multi-cultural and modern repertoire including the great standards, collaborates with local arts groups and performs in non-traditional community settings.  In July 2008, ROS will perform in Beijing, China, as the keynote ensemble of the pre-Olympic Cultural Festival.  ROS Director Eric Townell is widely recognized as a versatile and dynamic conductor of choral, operatic and symphonic repertoire.  A two-time prizewinner of the International Opera Conducting Course/Competition, he has led youth, family, educational and pops concerts for the RPO, the Milwaukee and Madison Symphonies and many others.  Townell also leads the Master Singers of Milwaukee.

In the RPO’s continuing effort to expand the concert experience, it is teaming up with BOA Editions, the Rochester-based, Pulitzer Prize-winning publishing house, in Rhythm & RhymeSean Thomas Dougherty – a BOA poet inspired by the work of Walt Whitman – will share the Thursday evening pre-concert chat with Christopher Seaman, after having held a master class earlier that day for local college poetry students and their professors.  Immediately after Thursday’s concert, Mr. Dougherty will be presenting a free, public reading of his works at Java’s (16 Gibbs Street), with an open mike to follow.

Tickets for these performances are $20-$55, available online 24/7 at www.rpo.org, by phone (454-2100) and in person from the RPO Box Office, Monday-Saturday, 10 a.m.-5 p.m. (non-concert Saturdays, 10 a.m.-3 p.m.). 

The Philharmonics Series is sponsored by The Eastman Kodak Company and Bausch & Lomb.  Christopher Seaman’s appearance is made possible by Friends of Christopher.  His pre-concert chat is made possible by Drs. Robin and Michael Weintraub in memory of their parents.  The RPO gratefully acknowledges PAETEC Communications Inc. for the PAETEC Philharmonic Partners program, which offers discounted Philharmonics Series tickets to local college students. 

Celebrating its 85th season in 2007-08, the RPO inspires and enriches the community through the art of music.  The Orchestra is passionately dedicated to outstanding musical performance at the highest artistic levels, and has a unique tradition of musical versatility, commitment to music education in the broadest sense and a deep and enduring engagement with the community.  The RPO has been honored with the New York State Governor’s Arts Award and two recent ASCAP awards for adventurous programming.  RPO performances are made possible in part with grants from the National Endowment for the Arts; the New York State Council on the Arts, a State Agency; the State of New York; Monroe County and the City of Rochester. 

Note: Digital photos of Miss Eaglen and Mr. Elzinga are available on request, as are interviews.

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