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RPO Philharmonics Concert Ends the Season on a Fateful Note of Destiny

May 01, 2008

Orff’s Spectacular “Carmina Burana” Features Cast of Hundreds; Concerts Dedicated to Eastman Kodak Company

Rochester, NY – As the grand finale to its landmark 85th anniversary season, the Rochester Philharmonic Orchestra under music director Christopher Seaman presents Carl Orff’s spectacular Carmina Burana, whose text popularized the “wheel of fortune” centuries before Vanna White.  The concerts on Thursday, May 22 and Saturday, May 24 at 8 p.m. at the Eastman Theatre, will provide a sight and sound rarely experienced on the Eastman Theatre stage, with a combined total of 255 RPO musicians and singers from the Rochester Oratorio Society (Eric Townell, director), vocal soloists Barbara Shirvis, John Gaston and Aaron St. Clair Nicholson and the Spectrum Singers – 16 high school students from Rush-Henrietta High School.  This invigorating program also features Strauss’ roguish tone poem Don Juan and Delius’ tragic love story, The Walk to the Paradise Garden.  Christopher Seaman hosts the 7 p.m. pre-concert chat.

In grateful appreciation of Eastman Kodak Company’s recent $10 million commitment to the renovation and expansion of the Eastman Theatre complex the RPO is proud to dedicate these performances to Kodak.  “This renovation will transform the entire concert experience for our patrons for generations to come,” says RPO president Charlie Owens. “With a more intimate seating capacity—and 2,250 new seats!—Kodak Hall itself will come alive with new energy and excitement at every performance.”

Opening the concert will be Richard Strauss’ orchestral showpiece Don Juan, a portrait of the gallant aristocrat who specializes in breaking women’s hearts.  The swaggering, swashbuckling French horns represent Don Juan, in contrast to the beautiful oboe as the female heart.  Strauss’ spectacular orchestration of this colorful work made it his first big success, which it has remained ever since.  Next, Frederick Delius’ hauntingly beautiful The Walk to the Paradise Garden from his opera A Village Romeo and Juliet follows a young couple fated never to be together.  Delius’ music masterfully portrays a poignant moment of yearning and nostalgia as the two lovers walk sadly through a beautiful garden to face their own tragic destiny.

The concert culminates with Carl Orff’s magnificent Carmina Burana, which brilliantly illuminates all aspects of love, passion, pleasure and fate.  Inspired by a collection of unusually secular ancient manuscripts written by wandering scholars and defrocked priests, Orff’s intention was to compose a work that would appeal to the masses. Carmina Burana begins with one of the most recognized musical themes ever written – O Fortuna (Luck, Empress of the World) — saluting the inscrutable, unpredictable concept of luck and destiny.  The next two movements In Springtime and On the Green highlight the joy of springtime (a feeling to which all of Rochester can relate!).  The riotous In the Tavern salutes the juice of the grape with a falsetto tenor soloist as a swan slowly roasting on a spit, and a baritone soloist as an Abbot leading the choir in a rollicking ode to drink.  After traveling through the lyrical Court of Love, the spectacular soprano solo In the Balance and the ecstatic fervor of Blanzifor and Helena, Orff’s grandiose opening hymn to luck returns, in cyclical fashion, to close Carmina Burana as majestically as it began. 

The RPO is proud to continue its long history with the Rochester Oratorio Society, which this year marks Music Director Eric Townell’s second season with the organization.  The ROS has grown to become Rochester’s premier large concert chorus.  In July 2008, the ROS will perform in Beijing, China, as the keynote ensemble of the pre-Olympic Cultural Festival.  In addition, the ROS has toured six European capitals and given numerous Rochester premieres of major works.  As only its third director, Mr. Townell is widely recognized as a versatile and dynamic conductor of choral, operatic and symphonic repertoire.  A two-time prize winner of the International Opera Conducting Course/Competition, he also leads the Master Singers of Milwaukee.

Barbara Shirvis began her opera career at New York City Opera, where for a decade she sang such roles as Micäela in Carmen, Pamina in Magic Flute, Sophie in Der Rosenkavalier and Yum-Yum in Mikado. Her credits have grown to include the roles with such companies as Toledo Opera, Cleveland Opera, Kentucky Opera, New Jersey Opera Theatre, San Diego Opera, Berkshire Opera and Syracuse Opera. Barbara Shirvis’ 2007-08 season includes appearances with the Kentucky Opera and the North Carolina Symphony.

John Gaston made his Carnegie Hall debut in Bernstein’s Chichester Psalms, and sang the American premiere of Giya Kancheli’s Diplipito (for countertenor and chamber orchestra).  Mr. Gaston is a first-place winner of Florida Grand Opera’s competition and a regional finalist of the Metropolitan Opera National Council Audition competition. Recent highlights include the Metropolitan Opera, New York City Opera and Lyric Opera of Chicago as well as performing Apollo in Death in Venice at Glimmerglass Opera and appearing with Atlanta Opera in a gala concert.

Baritone Aaron St. Clair Nicholson has won praise for his superb vocal gifts and the dramatic integrity he brings to his performances.  He made his Metropolitan Opera debut as Schaunard in La Bohème and followed those performances with Papageno in The Magic Flute. An alumnus of the prestigious Glimmerglass and Merola programs for young artists, Mr. Nicholson starred in a new Glimmerglass production of The Barber of Seville as the wily barber and as Lt. Lukash in The Good Soldier Schweik.  Highlights for next season include return engagements at the Florida Grand Opera, Calgary Opera, Pacific Opera Victoria and the Vancouver Symphony.

Tickets for these performances begin at $22, available online 24/7 at www.rpo.org, by phone (454-2100); in person from the RPO Box Office, Monday-Saturday, 10 a.m.-5 p.m. (non-concert Saturdays, 10 a.m.-3 p.m.); and seven days a week at area Wegmans.  A convenience fee may apply.  Students and senior citizens are entitled to a 20% discount on advance single ticket purchases as well as half-price rush tickets beginning at 10 a.m. on the concert day.

The Philharmonics Series is sponsored by The Eastman Kodak Company and Bausch & Lomb.  This concert is supported by The Mozart Performance Fund.  The RPO gratefully acknowledges PAETEC Communications Inc. for the PAETEC Philharmonic Partners program, which offers $5 Philharmonics Series tickets to local college students with valid ID. 

Now in its 85th season, 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. 

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