Rochester, NY – A distinguished quartet of renowned vocal soloists and a 150-voice choir from the Rochester Oratorio Society join the Rochester Philharmonic Orchestra for the Verdi Requiem Mass, one of that composer’s most significant and personal compositions. The concert—which serves as the Orchestra’s Philharmonics season Finale—takes place on Thursday, May 20 at 7:30 pm and Saturday, May 22 at 8:00 pm at Kodak Hall at Eastman Theatre. Complimentary sweets from Hedonist Chocolates will be provided to all box seat ticket holders. Christopher Seaman hosts the First Niagara Pre-Concert Chat one hour prior to concert start.
One of Italy’s greatest opera composers, Guiseppe Verdi wrote his Requiem Mass inspired by his high esteem for two fellow Italian artists: composer Gioachino Rossini and patriotic author Alessandro Manzoni. Originally intended to be written jointly by a group of composers but never finished or performed, Verdi’s final composition was spurred on by Manzoni’s death. As a promise to the mayor of Milan, Verdi stipulated that the piece would be dedicated as a testimonial to the author’s memory and performed on the first anniversary of Manzoni’s death.
Christopher Seaman describes how all the emotions of “sorrow, longing, religious devotion, and fear” are evoked by such a piece. “Few visions of Judgment Day are more terrifying than the Dies Irae (Day of Wrath),” he continues, “with its furious opening chords, its shattering strokes on the bass drum, and its brass fanfares summoning the dead to account.” Not surprisingly, the Requiem’s theatricality has resulted in its being performed more often in theaters than in churches. As is common practice, the work will be performed without intermission. Biographies of soloists follow release.
Tickets for the Philharmonics performances are $22-$66, with $75 box seats, available online 24/7 at www.rpo.org; by phone (454-2100); in-person from the RPO Box Office, 108 East Avenue, 10:00 am-5:00 pm, Monday-Saturday (non-concert Saturdays, 10:00 am-3:00 pm); and seven days a week at area Wegmans. A convenience fee may apply. Group rates apply for 10 or more patrons; student tickets are available for $10 with current ID. The Philharmonics Series is sponsored by the Eastman Kodak Company and Bausch & Lomb.
Possessing a luminous voice, soprano Arianna Zukerman is equally in-demand for opera and in concert. This season includes re-engagements with Lisbon’s Gulbenkian Foundation Orchestra in Salieri’s Requiem, Mozart’s Requiem with Music of the Baroque, and Mozart’s “ch’io mi scordi di te” with the National Arts Centre Orchestra. She also sings in The Magic Flute with Opera Lyra Ottawa, and Mahler’s Symphony No. 4 with the National Philharmonic. Other recent appearances include the Nashville Symphony (Slatkin); the Springfield, Alabama, and Elgin symphonies, and the Berkshire Choral Festival. In 2009, she returned to the Chateauville Foundation to reprise the role of Female Chorus in The Rape of Lucretia (Maazel), and appeared in the Netherlands at Festival Classique den Haag in James Whitbourn’s Annelies. She recently made her Boston Symphony Orchestra debut under James Levine in Moses and Aaron, and her Philadelphia Orchestra debut in Beethoven’s Symphony No. 9 under Rossen Milanov and at the Saratoga Performing Arts Center with Charles Dutoit. Internationally, she has performed Mozart’s Mass in C Minor and Handel’s Solomon with the Israel Philharmonic; Messiah with the English Symphony Orchestra; and Mozart’s Requiem and Vivaldi’s Gloria with the Moscow Chamber Orchestra.
With her unique vocal timbre and insightful musicianship, American mezzo-soprano Nancy Maultsby is in demand by opera companies and orchestras throughout the world in repertoire from the operas of Monteverdi and Handel to recent works by John Adams. She regularly performs the major heroines of 19th-century French, Italian, and German opera and the great symphonic works. Ms. Maultsby opens this season with a return to Washington National Opera as Mistress Quickly in Falstaff (Sebastian Lang-Lessing); reprises her roles in Tan Dun’s Tea: A Mirror of the Soul at Opera Company of Philadelphia under the baton of the composer; and sings Verdi’s Requiem with New Orleans Opera and the RPO. The season also sees a pair of notable debuts: with the Saint Paul Chamber Orchestra as Baba the Turk in The Rake’s Progress (Edo de Waart), and with the Mormon Tabernacle Choir and the Utah Symphony in Mahler’s Symphony No. 2. Maultsby’s operatic career has included a wide range of roles in some of the world’s most prestigious houses including Lyric Opera of Chicago, Seattle Opera, Stuttgart Opera; Netherlands Opera; Minnesota Opera, Michigan Opera Theater, Palm Beach Opera, and at the National Theater Athens, among many others.
Making his RPO debut, tenor Scott Ramsay is establishing himself on the concert stages and in leading opera roles in America and abroad. Praised for his performance of Edgardo in Lucia di Lammermoor under the baton of Jesús López-Cobos at the Lyric Opera of Chicago, he reprised that role in his European debut at the Dublin International Opera Festival. He makes three role debuts this season: as Belmonte in Die Entführung aus dem Serail with the New Jersey Symphony; Faust in a new production of Gounod’s Faust at Eugene Opera; and a return to Opera Boston as Fritz in Offenbach’s La Grande-Duchesse de Gérolstein. Mr. Ramsay’s numerous symphonic engagements have included the American Symphony Orchestra at Avery Fisher Hall (U.S. Premiere of The Destruction of Jerusalem/Leon Botstein), Grant Park Symphony Orchestra, Music of the Baroque, and the symphony orchestras of Chicago, Toronto, Saint Louis, Madison, and Jacksonville, among others. Mr. Ramsay has won the top prizes from the American Opera Society and the Union League Civic & Arts Foundation.
Also making his RPO debut is Norwegian-American bass Gustav Andreassen, who has performed to great acclaim with major opera companies and orchestras throughout North America and Europe. This season, he sings Colline in La Bohème with Portland and Indianapolis Opera, Raimondo in Lucia di Lammermoor with Green Mountain Opera Festival, as soloist in Beethoven’s Symphony No. 9 with the Fresno Philharmonic and Springfield Symphony, and in Verdi’s Requiem with the RPO and the Louisville Orchestra. Recent appearances include Arizona Opera, Opéra Atelier (Toronto), the Hartford Symphony, the Atlanta Symphony, the National Symphony Orchestra, the Boston Symphony Orchestra (James Levine) at Tanglewood, and at the Aspen Music Festival in Shostakovich’s Symphony No. 13, “Babi Yar.” Andreassen’s prolific opera career includes appearing at such leading opera houses as Deutsche Oper am Rhein, Hamburgishe Staatsoper, De Vlaamse Opera, and in Lucca, Italy. An avid concert artist, Mr. Andreassen has sung with the symphony orchestras of Atlanta, Seattle, Cincinnati, and Tucson, among many others.
Rochester Oratorio Society debuted 60 years ago with the first of its now traditional Christmas season performances of Handel’s Messiah. Since that time, the ROS has grown to become Rochester’s premiere large concert chorus. In 2006, Eric Townell joined ROS as only its third director. In July 2008, ROS performed in Beijing, China as the keynote ensemble of the pre-Olympic Cultural Festival. The group has performed with the European Symposium of Choral Masterworks in Paris, London, Salzburg, Mantua and Verona, as well as at prominent festivals closer to home, including Chautauqua. ROS has given the Rochester premieres of numerous major works, including Britten’s War Requiem, John Rutter’s Magnificat and Mahler’s Symphony of a Thousand.