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Concert Program Cover

Third Concert of the 55th Season

 

Sunday, March 13th, 1994
Cordier Auditorium
Robert Jones, Conductor

  Overture to Le Cheval de Bronze Daniel François Esprit Auber  
       
  Le Nozze di Figaro, K. 492 Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart  
 

"Non so più cosa son"
"Deh, vieni, non tardar"

 
  "Come scoglio" from Così fan tutte, K. 588    
  Julie Eckert, soprano  
       
  Selections from West Side Story Leonard Bernstein  
 

I Feel Pretty
Maria
Something's Coming
Tonight
One Hand, One Heart
Cool
America

 
       
  Intermission  
       
  "L'altra notte in fondo al mare" from Mefistofele Arrigo Boito  
  "O mio babbino caro" from Gianni Schicchi Giacomo Puccini  
  "Un bel dì" from Madama Butterfly    
  Mary Creswell, mezzo-soprano  
       
  Carmen Suite No. 1 Georges Bizet  
 

Prélude - Aragonaise
Intermezzo
Seguedille
Les dragons d'Alcalá
Les Toréadors

 
       
 

Program Notes by James R. C. Adams

 
  Overture to Le Cheval de Bronze
(The Bronze Horse)
Daniel François Esprit Auber
(1782-1871)
 
 

Alas, more is known about Auber than about his music! He was the composer of more than forty operas, but all we remember are less than a hand-full of overtures. Most of his work was light, catchy, but not particularly demanding... either intellectually, or emotionally. However, one of his operas, Masaniello, was quite serious. So serious, in fact, that it signaled the beginning of the revolution that was to separate Belgium from Holland!

Auber was somewhat eccentric, refusing to attend concerts featuring his own music. On one occasion, he attended a performance of William Tell (he loved the music of Rossini), and was horrified to discover there was a last minute change of program. As the opening strains of his own Masaniello swelled forth, Auber bolted from the theater.

The Bronze Horse, as is immediately apparent, is one of the many light works by Auber. The story is of Chinese origin, though no trace of orientalism appears in this overture. One can hear the trotting of the bronze horse of Prince Yang-Yang more than once in this piece.

Less than a minute into the piece there is an attractive tune: La bas, sur ce rocher sauvage... which describes the assumption of Stella, the Mogul's daughter, to the paradise groves of the planet Venus. True, it's a little fanciful, and there are probably few Chinese maidens named "Stella," but this is French Opera Comique. Most of the overture can be described as "hectic," but toward the end, it becomes quite delicate with a very light gait for a horse of bronze.


 
       
  "Deh, vieni, non tardar" from Le Nozze di Figaro Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart
(1756-1791)
 
 

Le Nozze di Figaro (The Marriage of Figaro) is one of Mozart's most popular operas. It is based on infidelity, but the women remain steadfast, and it is only the men who are lecherous, so it didn't raise the indignation occasioned by Così fan tutte.

Figaro is the "barber of Seville," subject of a later opera by Rossini (and still other operas by lesser composers), who is about to marry Susanna. They are both in the service of Count Almaviva, who demands his droit du seigneur, the old custom that allows the lord the right to spend the first night with the bride of any of his retainers. Neither Figaro nor Susanna is happy with this plan, nor is the Countess, who loves her husband in spite of his Zeus complex. In an effort to thwart the Count's plans, the women disguise themselves as each other, and through a series of plot twists, succeed in making fools out of all the men. They manage to trick the count into renouncing the droit du seigneur, whereupon there is a sigh of relief from the entire town.

Giunse alfin il momento... followed by the aria, Deh, vieni, non tardar....

Susanna, disguised as the Countess, realizes that Figaro is watching her, thinking that she is planning to "get it on" with the Count, and decides to taunt him, by singing of her passion for him without actually naming him. He thinks she is singing of the Count, when she is in fact singing of him.

Come now, my darling, no more delaying,
Come and answer the call of love.
Before heaven's torch shines bright in the sky,
While the night is still dark and the world at rest.

Here the brook is babbling, and the breezes are playing,
and their sweet sounds refresh my heart.

Here the flowers are laughing, and the grass is cool:
Here everything welcomees the pleasures of love.

Come now, my dear one: and among these sheltered trees
I'll crown your brow with roses.

Non so più cosa son

A sub-plot concerns the love-struck Cherubino. He thinks he is in love with the countess, whose husband is busy philandering, but he really is in love with Love. He is a young man, routinely played by a woman, so the aria is appropriately sung by a soprano.

I don't know what I am anymore, or even what I'm doing...
Sometimes I'm on fire, and them I'm all ice...
Every woman makes me change color,
Every woman makes my heart throb.
The mere mention of love or delight
Upsets me, and unsettles my heart,
And I find myself talking about love
From a need I can't even explain!
I talk about love when I'm awake,
I talk about love in my dreams:
To the rivers, the shadows, the mountains,
The flowers, the grass, and the fountains,
To the echo, the air, and the winds,
Which carry away with them
The sound of my useless words...
And if there's no one to hear me,
I talk about love to myself. (Parlo d'amo con me.)


 
       
  "Come scoglio" from Così fan Tutte Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart  
 

Così fan tutte is a "modern" opera as far as plot is concerned. It deals with the question of infidelity. rumor has it that the plot was suggested by Mozart's patron, the Emperor Joseph II. Viennese society considered the plot "indelicate," to say the least, and it was not a very popular opera in its time. It had a champion, however, in Richard Strauss, and since his revival of it, it has gained a solid place in the modern Mozart repertoire.

The literal meaning of Così fan tutte is "thus do all women," or more commonly, "Women are Like That." A translation of the nineties might be, "Yeah, tell me about it!"

Fiordiligi and Dorabella are madly in love with two young men, Ferrando and Guglielmo, who are about to go off to do their military service. The men are satisfied with the devotion of their fiancées, but are challenged by the old cynic, Don Alfonso, who believes that while the cat's away, the mice will play. The three men make a bet that the women will not be able to remain faithful.

Alfonso enlists the aid of the maid, Despina, and hatches the following plot: The two men will return, disguised as Albanians, and try to seduce the two women. Initially, this fails, to the delight of the two men (the aria come scoglio, "like a rock"). But Alfonso insists that the bet is not yet finished. At his suggestion, the two men pretend to be poisoned, and only through the efforts of the maid, do they recover and ask for a kiss of welcome from the two women. They again refuse.

Space does not permit the unfolding of the complete story. Suffice it to say that the women finally succumb to the charms of the "strangers." Of course, they are the same charms to which the women had succumbed in the first place, so the test proves nothing, as the young men finally decide, and the quartet is married. Most productions leave the audience to decide who marries whom, but it is pretty obvious that Mozart, Da Ponte (the librettist), and the Emperor all intended the original couples to remain together.


 
       
  Selections from West Side Story Leonard Bernstein
(1918-1990)
 
 

By this time, everyone knows that West Side Story is an updated version of Romeo and Juliet. The idea came from the choreographer Jerome Robbins in 1949, and originally was to have involved feuding between the Catholics and the Jews of New York around the time of Easter-Passover. The plan "marinated" for several years while Bernstein worked on other projects like Candide. By 1955, the Jewish-Catholic conflict had given way to the Puerto Rican-American rivalry, for a more contemporary theme.

This work is so well established that we tend to overlook its innovations. The movie version was a real landmark, containing almost twice as much music as the standard Hollywood musical.

Also, unlike typical Hollywood musicals, it was filmed on location on West 68th Street in New York. Interestingly, that street no longer exists, the buildings have been razed to provide space for Lincoln Center, home of the New York Philharmonic, conducted for years by Leonard Bernstein, and the Metropolitan Opera, where, about ten years ago the work was resurrected as a full-fledged opera . . . conducted by Leonard Bernstein.


 
       
  "L'altra notte in fondo al mare" from Mefistofele Arrigo Boito
(1842-1918)
 
 

Boito is best known as a librettist for a number of well-known composers, especially for Verdi (Otello, Falstaff), with whom he developed a life-long friendship. He was talented in many fields, but principally in literature. He was a successful poet and critic, and aspired to be one of Italy's great opera composers.

His first opera was Mefistofele, based on Goethe's Faust. He was a literary perfectionist, and so respected Goethe, that, unlike Gounod and other composers who produced operas based on only part of Goethe's work, he insisted on being faithful to the original story. His first version of Mefistofele ran to more than three hours, and was a colossal failure. Its failure was partly due to its length, to the fact that the singers weren't up to the task, and to Boito's ineptitude as a conductor.

He was crushed by his failure, and for years earned a living translating foreign libretti into Italian. The success of Ponchielli's La Gioiconda, with libretto by Boito, led the publisher Giulio Ricordi to consider him to be a logical collaborator for Verdi.

Mefistofele continued to obsess boito, and after being subjected to many revisions, and deletions, the opera was presented at Bologna in 1875 with great success. Still not satisfied, Boito continued to revise the opera to the point where no-one knows what to consider "authentic" any more.

He agonized over every word and note, and his perfectionism and lack of confidence almost immobilized him. He never completed his other opera, Nerone, because of this artistic paralysis.

The great basso Feodor Chaliapin, who created the role of Mefistofele, went round to see Boito after a successful performance. He found him in a good mood, but when Chaliapin asked him how his new opera, Nerone, was coming along, Boito's manner suddenly changed completely. His expression went cold, and after a moment he withdrew a large pistol from a drawer, placed in in Chaliapin's lap and said, "shoot me. Yes, do. Please, for indulging in such nonsense."

The aria we hear today is from the third act of Mefistofele, when Margherita lies, half mad in a prison cell, awaiting execution. Her mother has died in her sleep, and her baby has been murdered, and she has been accused of killing them both. In this aria, she is singing of her lost child, and her imminent doom.

L'altra notte in fondo di mare... (The other night they threw my baby into the depths of the sea).


 
       
  "O mio babbino caro" from Gianni Schicchi Giacomo Puccini
(1858-1924)
 
 

Puccini was one of the most successful operatic composers in history. Almost all of his operas were popular. He was a typical romantic, in every sense of the word. His operas were infused with drama, and they took place almost anywhere but his native Italy: France, Spain, China, America, and Japan, the locale of Madama Butterfly.

Puccini loved la dolce vita, staying in the finest hotels, revelling in his adoration. He was basically a kind person, but was not above putting down the self-important. No-one was fonder of the great tenor Caruso than Caruso himself. On one occasion, when Caruso was dragging out his aria "Chi son? Chi son?" (Who am I?), Puccini called out, "Sei un imbecile!" (You're a fool!)

On another occasion, he was luxuriating in his hotel suite in pajamas when the desk clerk informed him that there was a young lady waiting to see him. He asked what she was like, and when informed that she was charming, had her shown up. He asked her to wait while he changed into something more formal. Upon returning, he found her standing stark naked!

 His immediate thought was that she was mad, and was about to ring for security, when he reflected that it could be dangerous to oppose the will of a lunatic, and he decided that it was better not to do so.

This opera does take place in Puccini's Italy, in Florence, to be precise. Lauretta is pining over her lover, pleading with her father to let them marry, and threatening suicide if she is prevented.

Oh, dear daddy,
I like him, he's so handsome;
I want to go to Porta Rossa
To buy the ring!
Yes, yes, I do want to go!
And if I were to love him in vain,
I'd go to the Ponte Vecchio
and throw myself in the Arno!
I fret and suffer torments!
Oh, God, I wish I could die!
Daddy, have pity, have pity!

 

 
  "Un bel dì" from Madama Butterfly
   
 

Madama Butterfly is a tragedy about the love between a Japanese maiden, Cio San, and a dashing American naval officer. While he is away at sea, she dreams of him and is unheedful of the fears of her servant that he will never return. "One fine day he will return," she sings (Un bel dì...)

He does, in fact, return... but with his American bride. In despair, Cio San kills herself.


 
       
  Carmen Suite No. 1 Georges Bizet
(1838-1875)
 
 

Georges Bizet was born in Paris, and died there at the age of thirty-seven. He is often cited as an example of the misunderstood genius driven to an early grave by an indifferent or hostile public, his death being attributed to the "failure" of Carmen. Actually, although the opera received some adverse criticism for the "indelicacy" of its subject, it met with fair success at the box office, being performed some thirty-three times in the two-month period between its premiere and the death of Bizet from a ruptured artery. Carmen came to be the most often performed opera in the world, and between 1983 and 1985 has inspired no fewer than three screen versions.

The Suite we hear today consists of six selections from the opera. Four of them are from orchestral preludes or entr'actes, and two are orchestrations of arias from Acts I and II.

Prélude -- The menace of the events to follow is quickly established by the sustained, nervous twitching of the strings, over which is superimposed an almost Wagnerian brass theme in a minor key. This is punctuated by an occasional double thump from the plucked basses.

Aragonaise (Entr'acte from Act IV) -- This piece is based on a dance from the Spanish province of Aragon, and is the most characteristically "Spanish" of all the pieces, with its use of castanets and tambourines.

Intermezzo (Entr'acte from Act III) -- This is a slow piece, almost a Barcarole, featuring woodwinds and strings, opening with the flute supported by harp.

Seguidilla -- This is one of the two pieces adapted from an aria, in this case, Carmen's from the first act. Carmen, a flirtatious gypsy, has set her cap for Don José, a corporal in the guard, who, at first, ignores her. She tosses him a cassia flower, intended to put a spell over him. It apparently succeeds, since shortly after, when she is arrested for stabbing a fellow worker in the cigar factory, he carelessly allows her to escape. This aria is sung immediately prior to the escape, and it is a teasing invitation to anyone to become her lover, and to meet her later at the café of Lillas Pastia, near the city walls. But it is slyly directed toward Don José.

Les Dragons d'Alcalá (Entr'acte from Act II) -- This piece has the rhythm associated with a military drum-beat. It formed the orchestral introduction to the second act, and mimics the marching steps of the Dragoons, or troops of the King.

Les Toréadors -- This selection is the second orchestral adaptation of an aria, this time, the matador Escamillo's from Act II. No sooner has Carmen ensnared José, than she sees the matador Escamillo. In this aria, he tries to interest her, but appears to fail. It is not too long, however, before Carmen ruins José, then takes up with Escamillo, provoking the despondent José to stab her to death. In this aria, Escamillo sings of the similarity of matadors to soldiers, sings prophetically of danger, and mentions the two dark eyes upon them.


 
       
 

Manchester Symphony Orchestra Personnel

 
  Violin
Linda U. Kanzawa, Concertmaster
Rosemary Manifold *
Martha Barker
Joyce Dubach
Jeff Hartleroad
Matthew N. Hendryx
Rodney Morrison
Sandra Neel
Moo Il Rhee
Melanie Rondeau
Dinah A. Smith

Viola
Annete Hopkins *
Joyce Gouwens
Naida MacDermid

Cello
Jim Eaton *
Betty Bueker
Polly Hoover +^
Elizabeth Sluder
Cortland D. Stevens +^

Bass
Randy Gratz *
Darrel Fiene
George W. Scheerer

Piccolo
Linda Allen

Flute
Kathy Urbani *
Sue Hibma

Oboe
Rita Kimberley *
George Donner

English Horn
George Donner
Clarinet
Kris Bachman *
Jane Grandstaff

Bass Clarinet
Kris Bachman

Bassoon
Donna Russell *
Jennifer Davis

Horn
Nancy A. Bremer * (co-)
Bryan Gibson * (co-)
Josh Eikenberry
Jenni Double +^

Trumpet
Steven Hammer *
Mike Clark
Doug Hofherr

Trombone
D. Larry Dockter *
Matthew Gratton +^
Joseph Neff

Tuba
William DeWitt

Timpani
Tana M. Tinkey

Percussion
Terry Vaughn *
Kirk Gay

Harp
Martha Warren


* Denotes principal
+ Denotes MC student
^ Denotes MSS Scholarship recipient
       
 
Julie EckertJulie Eckert began her musical career in Indiana at Ball State University, where she was a member of University Singers and was featured as "Fiona" in Brigadoon and "Nellie" in South Pacific.

She concinued her studies in Chicago at Sherwood Conservatory and Roosevelt University. While in Chicago, Miss Eckert performed as a member of the Fort Dearborn Portable Opera Troupe and as a guest artist for Lyric Opera Guilds, Union League Club, and numerous recitals.

Miss Eckert studied voice with Walter Kirchner of the Sherwood Conservatory, and Giulio Farario of the Chicago Lyric Opera. She was a semi-finalist in the Bel Canto Vocal Competition in 1988.

She has performed previously in North Manchester for the 1992 Manchester Symphony Society banquet, and the 1991 "In Concert at Peabody."