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When Present Meets Past: RPO Debuts Renovated Kodak Hall at Eastman Theatre

Rochester, NY – The scaffolding will be gone, the paint cans and brushes put away, the carpeting laid, the new seats installed, the chandelier re-lamped, the whine of power tools extinguished.  Since July 1, the busts of Bach and Beethoven quietly have borne witness to the 21st century renovation of the historic 1922 Eastman Theatre.  On Thursday evening, October 8, 2009 at 8:30 pm, the silence and stillness of Kodak Hall at Eastman Theatre will be broken by the opening notes of the Rochester Philharmonic Orchestra conducted by Music Director Christopher Seaman, as it debuts its 2009-10 Season – and celebrates its 87th year – in its transformed home. 

“History will be made tonight,” writes Christopher Seaman in his music director’s note.  “The opening of our newly renovated Kodak Hall at Eastman Theatre is probably the most important event for orchestral music in Rochester since the hall was built in 1922.”  As befits the “present meets the past” theme, the renovated hall’s grandeur and significance will be reflected in the RPO’s repertoire for its three-concert Opening Weekend – Thursday night, Saturday night (October 10 at 8:00 pm), and Sunday afternoon (October 11 at 2:00 pm).  

The concert’s first half harkens back to George Eastman with the celebratory RPO-commissioned world premiere of Geo by Eastman School of Music Dean and composer Douglas Lowry.  After intermission,  the RPO presents Beethoven’s magnificent Ninth Symphony with the Rochester Oratorio Society culminating in its glorious and life-affirming “Ode to Joy” for chorus and four renowned soloists: soprano Barbara Shirvis, mezzo-soprano Jami Tyzik, tenor Charles Reid, and bass Kevin Deas.  There will be no pre-concert chat on the Thursday night opener. 

Geo pays tribute to George’s dreams, revitalized as ‘Kodak Hall at Eastman Theatre,’ ’’ writes Douglas Lowry, “yet also salutes Eastman’s cinematic spirit in a style of music that moving pictures ultimately inspired.”  The piece is divided into five sections: George is Awakened, George’s Elegy for Maria Kilbourn, Waltz, The Bustle of the 20th Century, and Opening Finale.  “Mr. Eastman would have been proud to see his School and his Orchestra collaborating like this – teamwork which has brought about the renovation of his Theatre,” adds Seaman.  The other featured work, Beethoven’s Ninth Symphony, is “a great work of power and optimism,” continues Seaman, “and a true inspiration to us all as we face life’s challenges.  I never cease to be amazed by Beethoven’s ability to rise above his terrible circumstances – sick, deaf, and short of money – to write a work so full of joy and hope.”

Prior to Thursday’s 8:30 concert, the RPO plays host to a Red Carpet Spectacular fundraiser sponsored by Harter, Secrest & Emery LLP, Wegmans, The Pike Company, and First Niagara, with Eastman Kodak Chairman and CEO Antonio Perez and University of Rochester President Joel Seligman as Honorary Co-Chairs.  This will be followed by a Red Carpet walk for musicians, plus live interviews with RPO Music Director Christopher Seaman, President & CEO Charlie Owens, Mr. Perez, Mr. Seligman, and other dignitaries.

Tickets for these performances are $24-$75, available online 24/7 at; 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.  The Philharmonics Series is sponsored by the Eastman Kodak Company and Bausch & Lomb; this concert is sponsored by Harter Secrest & Emery LLP. 


Soprano Barbara Shirvis returns to perform with the RPO in a season that also includes re-engagements with the Toledo Opera in Falstaff, the Jacksonville Symphony Orchestra in Così fan tutte, and in recital with her husband, baritone Stephen Powell.  Other recent highlights include Madama Butterfly with the Utah Opera, Otello with Opera Roanoke, La bohème with the West Virginia Symphony, Mahler’s Symphony No. 2 with the Syracuse Symphony, as well as appearances with the Cleveland Opera, Brevard Music Festival, Kentucky Opera, and the symphony orchestras of North Carolina, New Mexico, Amarillo, New Jersey, and Dallas.

Jami Tyzik, mezzo-soprano and daughter of Jeff Tyzik, has been bringing her performance to life with energy and elegance since making her solo debut with the RPO at age 17.  She earned her bachelor’s degree from the Eastman School of Music, and her master’s from Boston University, and has gone on to make appearances in Germany, Austria, Italy, the Netherlands, Australia, and throughout the U.S.  Ms. Tyzik has been a soloist in the Mozart Requiem, Beethoven’s Ninth Symphony, Handel’s Messiah, Bach’s Magnificat, Le Roi David, and Il Tramonto with such orchestras as the Charleston, Bangor, Chattanooga, and Eastern Connecticut symphonies.  She continues to expand her operatic repertoire and made her recent debut with Aspen Opera Theatre in the title role in Carmen.

Charles Reid has been acclaimed in the German press as having a “shimmering tenor voice, flawless technique, extraordinary feeling for style, and very clear intonation.”  He opened last season at the Nationaltheater Mannheim with his debut as Nemorino in L’elisir d’amore, followed by Tamino in The Magic Flute, and Alfredo in La Traviata. His regular European appearances are paired with performances in the U.S. including the operas of San Francisco, Connecticut, Sarasota, and the Spoleto Festival USA, in addition to nine seasons with the Metropolitan Opera.  He recently sang at the Kennedy Center, and debuted with Boston’s Handel and Haydn Society.  Mr. Reid is the recipient of awards from the Richard Tucker Musical Foundation, Loren L. Zachary National Vocal Competition, Florida Grand Opera YPO Competition, Connecticut Opera Competition, and the Marjorie Lawrence International Vocal Competition.  Last year, he began a recording project with Amor Artis Baroque Orchestra in Haydn’s The Seasons.

Kevin Deas has gained international acclaim as one of America’s leading basses, celebrated for his signature portrayal of the title role in Porgy and Bess, with the New York Philharmonic, Philadelphia Orchestra, National Symphony, and St. Paul Chamber Orchestra; the San Francisco, Atlanta, San Diego, Houston, Utah, Baltimore, and Montreal symphonies; and the Ravinia and Saratoga festivals.  This season he performs Beethoven’s Ninth Symphony with the Buffalo Philharmonic, Brahms Requiem with the Hartford Symphony, Messiah with the Minnesota Orchestra and Musica Sacra, and Verdi’s Requiem with the Vermont Symphony.  A strong proponent of contemporary music, Mr. Deas was heard at Italy’s Spoleto Festival in a new production of Menotti’s Amahl and the Night Visitors for the composer’s 85th birthday, videotaped for worldwide release.  He has recorded for Decca/London, Vox Classics, and Telarc.

Rochester Oratorio Society; Eric Townell, director
An integral part of Rochester’s vibrant arts community, the Rochester Oratorio Society explores a widely diverse, multi-cultural, and modern repertoire that includes the great standards; collaborates with local arts groups of all kinds; and performs in non-traditional community settings.  In July, 2008, the ROS performed in Beijing, China as the keynote ensemble of the pre-Olympic Cultural Festival.  Beginning in 1945, the ROS has presented the Rochester premieres of such major works as Britten’s War Requiem and Mahler’s Symphony of a Thousand.  It has performed in six European capitals and at prominent festivals.  Its distinguished history with the RPO will be further expanded this season with this performance as well as other appearances throughout the season.  Eric Townell is widely recognized as a versatile and dynamic conductor of choral, operatic, and symphonic repertoire.  Formerly music director of the Central Wisconsin Symphony, he has appeared as guest conductor with numerous American orchestras, as well as with the Silesian State Opera Orchestra in the Czech Republic.  Now in his fourth season with the ROS, he concurrently leads the Master Singers of Milwaukee.