Classical Music News of the Week, December 23, 2012

Kristine Opolais Makes Her Metropolitan Opera and U.S. Debut in Puccini’s La Rondine on January 11, 2013

Soprano Kristine Opolais makes her Metropolitan Opera and U.S. debut this January (11, 14, 18, 22, 26) as Magda in Puccini’s La Rondine. She has been hailed as one of the most promising young up-and-comers in the opera world, though she has already established herself in the eminent operas houses in Europe.

Ms. Opolais will make her Met debut in La Rondine along side Giusseppe Filianoti, Anna Christy, Dwayne Croft and Marius Brenciu, among others. Ion Marin will conduct. This breakout performance is not to be missed, and it is without a doubt that Kristi-ne Opolais’ tremendous talent will be appreciated by Met Opera audiences for years to come.

Kristine Opolais says of her debut as Magda, “I am very happy that I am making my Met and US debut with a Puccini opera, as he is one of my favorite composers! I discovered La Rondine from a different side when I started to prepare for this role…it’s not as light and naive a story as I thought before. This opera is full of passion and suffering and there are a lot of tragic moments, so I would like to explore the character of Magda from a different side.”

Born in Latvia, Ms. Opolais has impressed audiences around the world with her vocal and dramatic skill. Her breakout season was 2011-2012 when she starred in Rusalka at the Bavarian State Opera in Munich, as Nedda in Pagliacci at La Scala, and as Cio-Cio-San in Madama Butterfly for her debut at the Royal Opera, Covent Garden.

She became the darling of the opera houses when she stepped in at the last minute and took on the lead roles in Rusalka and Madama Butterfly. Rising to the occasion is an understatement. She performed both roles with the intensity of a seasoned diva and was catapulted to fame seemingly overnight. As Cio-Cio-San, her performance was, according to Seen and Heard International, “…something that I will file along with some of the other greatest moments from my time watching opera.”

Kristine Opolais floats her voice through the rafters, yet brings the audience closer to her by exploring the inner depths of her characters. The Times, London said of Ms. Opolais, “She delivered a tour de force. Here is, for once, a Butterfly who can be naive girl, stubbornly loyal bride and abandoned, properly tragic heroine in one evening. Opolais did that by finding an inner steel beneath the silk kimono…”

Kristine Opolais’ recent appearances include the title role in Janácek’s Jenufa at Zurich Opera, in a season-opening new production conducted by Met Principal Conductor Fabio Luisi and directed by Dmitri Tcherniakov; the title role in Dvorák’s Rusalka at the Bavarian State Opera in Munich; Cio-Cio-San in Puccini’s Madama Butterfly at the Royal Opera, Covent Garden; Mimì in Puccini’s La Bohème at the Vienna State Opera and the Latvian National Opera; the title role in Puccini’s Tosca; and Nedda in Leoncavallo’s Pagliacci at La Scala. Later this season, she will sing Tosca at Covent Garden and Mimì at Vienna State Opera. This season she will be performing several solo concerts, including a performance in Vienna where she will sing a concert version of Simon Boccanegra with Thomas Hampson and Joseph Calleja, to be recorded and released with Decca. She has recently released an album of Puccini’s Suor Angelica on Orfeo.

--Amanda Sweet, BuckleSweet Media

Music Institute Students Selected for Chicago Youth in Muisc Festival
Festival orchestra appears onstage at Orchestra Hall Jan. 14–Feb. 4, 2013.

The Music Institute of Chicago is proud to announce that seven of its students have been selected to participate in the Chicago Youth in Music Festival, a biennial celebration of the achievements of young classical musicians from across Chicago and the world for an incredible journey of music-making and learning. The 2013 Festival takes place January 14-February 4.

Music Institute students Tess Krope* (Chicago), violin student of Marko Dreher; Nathan Walhout* (Wheaton), cello student of Gilda Barston; Richard Li* (Bolingbrook), cello student of Gilda Barston and Hans Jorgen Jensen; and Aaron Kollasch (Naperville), cello student of David Cunliffe, were chosen after a selective audition process. Kitsho Hosotani (Wilmette), violin student of Paul Vanderewerf, and Mira Williams* (Chicago), viola student of Marko Dreher, have also been selected to participate in the Festival Orchestra. (The * indicates students in the Music Institute’s prestigious Academy for extraordinarily gifted pre-college musicians.) Tess Krope also will serve as Assistant Concertmaster.

The Music Institute students are among the approximately 65 Chicago area high school students in grades 9–12 who make up the Festival Orchestra, as well as select members of the Civic Orchestra of Chicago. Joined by a dedicated group of mentors from the Civic Orchestra of Chicago and the Youth Orchestra of the Americas (YOA), the Festival’s international guest youth ensemble, these young musicians will participate in a series of intensive rehearsals and workshops in preparation for appearances onstage at Orchestra Hall and in neighborhood locations around the city and suburbs.

In addition, Music Institute student March Saper (Chicago), flute student of Meret Bitticks, was named a Student Ambassador. Ambassadors play an important role in welcoming YOA members, participate in a workshop with YOA and the Civic Orchestra about citizen musicianship, assist with production of community-based events January 30–February 2, and attend the Festival’s culminating event February 4 at Orchestra Hall.

CSO Music Director Riccardo Muti, YOA Music Director Carlos Miguel Prieto, and Civic Orchestra Principal Conductor Cliff Colnot are serving as the artistic leadership of the 2013 Festival. Students will gain valuable orchestral experience and develop an understanding of the values expressed by the CSO’s Citizen Musician initiative through workshop sessions.

To launch the 2013 Festival, the Orchestra will rehearse with Civic Orchestra Principal Conductor Cliff Colnot to prepare for an open rehearsal led by CSO Music Director Riccardo Muti on Monday, January 14, 2013. Repertoire will include select movements of Tchaikovsky’s Symphony No. 5 and Verdi’s Overture to The Sicilian Vespers. On Wednesday, January 30, the Orchestra will join YOA members for a public reading session of standard orchestral works led by Guest Conductor Carlos Miguel Prieto. Both events take place at Orchestra Hall and are free and open to the public.

On Saturday, February 2, 11 a.m.–12:15 p.m., the Music Institute hosts a Festival-related community event, free and open to the public, at its Highland Park campus, the Highland Park Community House Ballroom, 1991 Sheridan Road. Music Institute Academy strings students and YOA musicians will perform side by side in a chamber orchestra reading session conducted by Academy Director James Setapen. Following the session, YOA and community leaders will engage in a panel discussion about how young people can forge paths as Citizen Musicians and cultural entrepreneurs in their own communities.

The Festival culminates with “A Celebration of Youth in Music,” a free public concert conducted by Carlos Miguel Prieto Monday, February 4 at 8 p.m. at Orchestra Hall. The program will include Copland’s El salón Mexico and Strauss’ Ein Heldenleben, Op. 40.

The Chicago Youth in Music Festival is a collaboration between the Institute for Learning, Access and Training at the Chicago Symphony Orchestra and Chicago’s leading organizations in music education, including the Music Institute of Chicago.

--Jill Chukerman, JAC Communications

Brooklyn Public Library Presents Annual Free Kwanzaa Program, featuring AOP I Hear America Singing and Nkeiru Okoyes’s Folk Opera on Harriet Tubman
Additional Performances at Brownsville, Brooklyn's Rosetta Gaston Senior Center.
AOP (American Opera Projects) in partnership with The Walt Whitman Project will be participating in the Brooklyn Public Library's annual free Kwanzaa program on Thursday, December 27 at 3pm at the S. Stevan Dweck Auditorium at the Central Library, Grand Army Plaza, Brooklyn Public Library, 10 Grand Army Plaza, Brooklyn, NY 11238. On Friday, December 28 at 2pm the program will be repeated at the Rosetta Gaston Senior Center in Brownsville, 460 Dumont Avenue, Brooklyn, NY 11212. Both performances are free and open to the public. Reservations are not necessary, but seating is first come, first served.

AOP I Hear America Singing will be presenting excerpts of Nkeiru Okoye's folk opera Harriet Tubman: When I Crossed That Line to Freedom, performed by soprano Sumayya Ali (B'way's Porgy and Bess, Ragtime!), mezzo-soprano Briana Hunter with AOP Resident Music Director Mila Henry on piano. Direction is by Beth Greenberg (New York City Opera). The opera is currently in development at AOP.

Created by American Opera Projects and The Walt Whitman Project (Artistic Director, Greg Trupiano) in 2009, I Hear America Singing, inspired by the poem of Walt Whitman, seeks to express the varied thoughts, feelings, and stories of the people of our nation into a communal voice that will resonate for all. Previous performances of I Hear America Singing include works by AOP composers Gilda Lyons (Songs from the A Train and Songs from the F Train) and Nkeiru Okoye (Brooklyn Cinderella), based on poetry written by Brooklyn children.

2012 marks the 8th year of the Kwanzaa program at the Brooklyn Public Library. Poet Angeli Rasbury will return to curate the free celebration honoring universal African-American heritage and culture with music performances, readings, and reflections. In addition to the music by AOP, storytelling will be provided by Elders Share the Arts' Pearls of Wisdom.

Over the years, the event has enjoyed the participation of diverse performers including CASYM Steel Pan Orchestra, the Restoration Youth Arts Academy, and features the works of composers and librettists currently working in Brooklyn as well as new creations of young writers.

--American Opera Projects

Nadja Salerno-Sonnenberg and the New Century Chamber Orchestra Embark on an Eight-State National Tour January 18-February 2, 2013
They will present the tour programs in two special kick-off concerts January 13, San Francisco, and January 15, Atherton. An “Evening Serenade” gala benefits New Century’s Education and Artistic Programs January 13.

Nadja Salerno-Sonnenberg, in her fifth season as Music Director of New Century Chamber Orchestra, leads the ensemble on their largest national tour to-date with nine performances in eight states, January 13 – February 2, 2013. Two special tour kick-off concerts will be presented in the Bay Area showcasing tour repertoire on January 13 at Herbst Theater, San Francisco and January 15 at the Center for Performing Arts at Menlo-Atherton High School, Atherton. The 2013 National Tour includes debut performances in Danville, KY; Sewanee, TN; Greenville, SC; Greenville and Durham, NC; Winchester, VA; Bethesda, MD; and return engagements in Evanston, IL and Ann Arbor, MI.

New Century’s 2013 National Tour follows the resounding success of their 20th Anniversary 2011 East Coast Tour. Designed to showcase the ensemble’s acclaimed virtuosity, vitality and passion, the tour repertoire features a selection of works including Richard Strauss’s Metamorphosen for 23 Solo Strings, which appears on New Century’s acclaimed 2010 CD recording, LIVE: Barber, Strauss, Mahler and William Bolcom’s Romanza for Solo Violin and String Orchestra, a work that was given its world premiere by New Century during his residency as the orchestra’s 2009-10 Featured Composer. Ms. Salerno-Sonnenberg is the featured soloist for this piece. Speaking in a review of New Century’s debut New York performance during the 2011 East Coast Tour, James Oestreich of the New York Times said “Ms. Salerno-Sonnenberg traced these wildly varied moods (of Bolcom’s Romanza) with consummate skills and panache.” Completing the program is Felix Mendelssohn’s String Symphony No. 10 and the Aria from Bachianas Brazilieras No. 5 by Heitor Villa-Lobos.

The National Tour Kick-Off Gala: An Evening Serenade immediately follows the January 13 performance upstairs in the Green Room and is sponsored for the second year in a row by City National Bank. An estimated 180 guests will be joined by Music Director Nadja Salerno-Sonnenberg and the musicians of the Orchestra for a live auction, Fund-A-Need, and an elegant sit-down dinner, with proceeds benefitting the ensemble’s education and artistic programs. Auction items include a luxury vacation with a choice of four destinations and a wine country package featuring a private tour and lunch at Iron Horse Vineyards. Financial advisor, author, and television host Suze Orman serves as the Honorary Gala Chair.

About the Program:
One of America’s pre-eminent composers, William Bolcom has been recognized as 2007 Composer of the Year by Musical America, honored with numerous Grammy Awards and is the recipient of the 1988 Pulitzer Prize in Music for his Twelve New Etudes for piano. Romanza for Solo Violin and String Orchestra was written in 2009 as part of New Century’s Featured Composer program and given its world premiere that same year. The composer intended this work to be “shamelessly Romantic” and inspired by Schubert, Schumann and Mendelssohn. Stylistically, the work still displays his delightful, effortless eclecticism for which Bolcom has long been celebrated.

A leading champion of music education in Brazil and the first South American composer to achieve world-wide renown, Heitor Villa-Lobos absorbed many different forms of Brazilian music with influences from new European music. His Bachianas Brasileiras was written between 1930 and 1945, and comprises of nine works for different instrumental forces, of which No.5 is perhaps the most widely known movement. A great admirer of J.S Bach, the composer stated the he wanted to write “the kind of music the Leipzig master might have written had he been born a twentieth-century Brazilian composer.”

By the time he was 15 years old, Mendelssohn had written no fewer than four concertos and twelve symphonies, in addition to a large number of solo, chamber and vocal works. The string symphonies were suppressed by Mendelssohn upon reaching adulthood, regarding them as student works unworthy of public performance. Their existence remained largely unknown except to scholars, until 1959 when they were first published on the 150th anniversary of the composer’s birth.

Richard Strauss’ Metamorphosen was written in 1945, with the end of World War II in Europe imminent. The work is written in similar fashion to other nostalgic, late Romantic style works, perhaps in response to his mourning of the great German cities where had spent his life and the great opera houses that had seen his triumphs. The piece is written as a study for 23 solo string instruments, meaning that no two players have the exactly the same part.

--Karen Ames Communications

New Philharmonic Presents “Viennese Pops New Year’s Eve with a Twist” at the Lund Auditorium in River Forest, Illinois, Monday, December 31 at 7 p.m.
Oo la la! Champagne corks will pop when the New Philharmonic (NP) and Music Director and Conductor Kirk Muspratt provide a special way to ring out the old with “Viennese Pops New Year's Eve with a French Twist at the Lund Auditorium at Dominican University Performing Arts Center, 7900 W. Division Street in River Forest, Illinois, Monday, Dec. 31 at 7 p.m.

The evening will feature traditional Viennese musical selections from Strauss and Stolz as well as ornate French orchestral pieces and arias…plus a few surprises. Award-winning soprano Kiri Deonarine of the Lyric Opera of Chicago-Ryan Opera Center will join the acclaimed New Philharmonic Orchestra to ring in the New Year. A listing of the full program can be found at the end of this release.

Performance tickets are $65 adult/$63 senior/$55 youth. For advance ticket purchases, contact the MAC box office: (630) 942-4000, or visit: Tickets are also available the day of the performance at the Dominican University Performing Arts Center box office. For more information call 708-488-5000 or visit Free parking is available.

To add to the celebratory nature of the evening, New Philharmonic and the MAC are creating add-on dining packages and bus transportation to and from the Lund Auditorium in River Forest. For more information call the MAC box office at 942-4000.

New Philharmonic is a fully-professional, 80-member orchestra that has inspired classical music enthusiasts in Chicago and the suburbs for three decades. Under the direction of Conductor and Music Director Kirk Muspratt, named a 2006 Chicagoan of the Year by the Chicago Tribune, the group gives innovative treatment to both classic compositions and modern works and strives to make the music accessible to new audiences and youth through a variety of educational efforts. New Philharmonic is the resident orchestra of the McAninch Arts Center at College of DuPage in Glen Ellyn, Ill., and performs a complete season annually.

Dominican University Performing Arts Center, located in the Fine Arts Building at 7900 West Division Street in River Forest, Ill. is an accessible, comfortable home for the creative spirit, located just 10 miles west of Chicago's Loop. New Philharmonic's Oct. 13, Dec. 31 and Feb. 16-17 performances will be held in the Lund Auditorium which has a seating capacity of just under 1,200 seats. This venue offers superb acoustics, ideal sight lines and ample, free parking. For more information call 708-488-5000 or visit For more information call 708-488-5000 or visit

--Ann Fink, New Philharmonic

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Meet the Staff

Meet the Staff
John J. Puccio, Editor, Publisher, Reviewer

Understand, I'm just an everyday guy reacting to something I love. And I've been doing it for a very long time, my appreciation for classical music starting with the musical excerpts on the Big Jon and Sparkie radio show in the early Fifties and the purchase of my first recording, The 101 Strings Play the Classics, around 1956. In the late Sixties I began teaching high school English and Film Studies as well as becoming interested in hi-fi, my audio ambitions graduating me from a pair of AR-3 speakers to the Fulton J's recommended by The Stereophile's J. Gordon Holt. In the early Seventies, I began writing for a number of audio magazines, including Audio Excellence, Audio Forum, The Boston Audio Society Speaker, The American Record Guide, and from 1976 until 2008, The $ensible Sound, for which I served as Classical Music Editor.

Today, I'm retired from teaching and use a pair of bi-amped VMPS RM40s loudspeakers for my listening. In addition to writing the Classical Candor blog, I served as the Movie Review Editor for the Web site Movie Metropolis (formerly DVDTown) from 1997-2013. Music and movies. Life couldn't be better.

Karl W. Nehring, Contributing Reviewer

For more than 20 years I was the editor of The $ensible Sound magazine and a regular contributor to its classical review pages. I would not presume to present myself as some sort of expert on music, but I have a deep love for and appreciation of many types of music, "classical" especially, and have listened to thousands of recordings over the years, many of which still line the walls of my listening room (and occasionally spill onto the furniture and floor, much to the chagrin of my long-suffering wife). I have always taken the approach as a reviewer that what I am trying to do is simply to point out to readers that I have come across a recording that I have found of interest, a recording that I think they might appreciate my having pointed out to them. I suppose that sounds a bit simpleminded, but I know I appreciate reading reviews by others that do the same for me -- point out recordings that I think I might enjoy.

For readers who might be wondering about what kind of system I am using to do my listening, I should probably point out that I do a LOT of music listening and employ a variety of means to do so in a variety of environments, as I would imagine many music lovers also do. Starting at the more grandiose end of the scale, the system in which I do my most serious listening comprises an Arcam CDS50 CSD/SACD CD player, Goldpoint SA4 Passive Preamp, Legacy Audio PowerBloc2 amplifier, and a pair of Legacy Audio Focus SE loudspeakers. I also do a lot of listening while driving in my 2016 Acura RDX with its nice-sounding ELS Studio sound system through which I play CDs (the ones I especially like I rip to the Acura's hard drive so that I can listen to them whenever I want) or stream music through the system using my cell phone. For more casual listening at home when I am not in my listening room, I often stream music through the phone into a Vizio soundbar system that has remarkably nice sound for such a diminutive physical presence. And finally, at the least grandiose end of the scale, I have an Ultimate Ears Wonderboom Bluetooth speaker for those occasions where I am somewhere by myself without a sound system but in desperate need of a musical fix. I just can't imagine life without music and I am humbly grateful for the technology that enables us to enjoy it in so many wonderful ways.

Bryan Geyer, Technical Analyst

I initially embraced classical music in 1954 when I mistuned my car radio and heard the Heifetz recording of Mendelssohn's Violin Concerto. That inspired me to board the new "hi-fi" DIY bandwagon. In 1957 I joined one of the pioneer semiconductor makers and spent the next 32 years marketing transistors and microcircuits to military contractors. Home audio DIY projects remained a personal passion until 1989 when we created our own new photography equipment company. I later (2012) revived my interest in two channel audio when we "downsized" our life and determined that mini-monitors + paired subwoofers were a great way to mate fine music with the space constraints of condo living.

Visitors that view my technical papers on this site may wonder why they appear here, rather than on a site that features audio equipment reviews. My reason is that I tried the latter, and prefer to publish for people who actually want to listen to music; not to equipment. My focus is in describing what's technically beneficial to assure that the sound of the system will accurately replicate the source input signal (i. e. exhibit high accuracy) without inordinate cost and complexity. Conversely, most of the audiophiles of today strive to achieve sound that's euphonic, i.e. be personally satisfying. In essence, audiophiles seek sound that's consistent with their desire; the music is simply a test signal.

William (Bill) Heck, Contributing Reviewer

Among my early childhood memories are those of listening to my mother playing records (some even 78 rpm ones!) of both classical music and jazz tunes. I suppose that her love of music was transmitted genetically, and my interest was sustained by years of playing in rock bands – until I realized that this was no way to make a living. The interest in classical music was rekindled in grad school when the university FM station serving as background music for studying happened to play the Brahms First Symphony. As the work came to an end, it struck me forcibly that this was the most beautiful thing I had ever heard, and from that point on, I never looked back. This revelation was to the detriment of my studies, as I subsequently spent way too much time simply listening, but music has remained a significant part of my life. These days, although I still can tell a trumpet from a bassoon and a quarter note from a treble clef, I have to admit that I remain a nonexpert. But I do love music in general and classical music in particular, and I enjoy sharing both information and opinions about it.

The audiophile bug bit about the same time that I returned to that classical music. I’ve gone through plenty of equipment, brands from Audio Research to Yamaha, and the best of it has opened new audio insights. Along the way, I reviewed components, and occasionally recordings, for The $ensible Sound magazine. Recently I’ve rebuilt--I prefer to say reinvigorated--my audio system, with a Sangean FM HD tuner and (for the moment) an ancient Toshiba multi-format disk player serving as a transport, both feeding a NAD C 658 streaming preamp/DAC, which in turn connects to a Legacy Powerbloc2 amplifier driving my trusty Waveform Mach Solo speakers, supplemented by a Hsu Research ULS 15 Mk II subwoofer.

Mission Statement

It is the goal of Classical Candor to promote the enjoyment of classical music. Other forms of music come and go--minuets, waltzes, ragtime, blues, jazz, bebop, country-western, rock-'n'-roll, heavy metal, rap, and the rest--but classical music has been around for hundreds of years and will continue to be around for hundreds more. It's no accident that every major city in the world has one or more symphony orchestras.

When I was young, I heard it said that only intellectuals could appreciate classical music, that it required dedicated concentration to appreciate. Nonsense. I'm no intellectual, and I've always loved classical music. Anyone who's ever seen and enjoyed Disney's Fantasia or a Looney Tunes cartoon playing Rossini's William Tell Overture or Liszt's Hungarian Rhapsody No. 2 can attest to the power and joy of classical music, and that's just about everybody.

So, if Classical Candor can expand one's awareness of classical music and bring more joy to one's life, more power to it. It's done its job. --John J. Puccio

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"Their Master's Voice" by Michael Sowa

"Their Master's Voice" by Michael Sowa