Recent Concert

Fall 2022
A Verdi Puccini Fest
Sat, Nov 12 7:30 PM Sun, Nov 13 4:00 PM

The Verdi Chorus’ 39th season culminates with  A Verdi Puccini Fest, for two performances only at the First Presbyterian Church in Santa Monica on November 12 and 13.  Led by Founding Artistic Director Anne Marie Ketchum, the Verdi Chorus is the only choral group in Southern California that focuses primarily on the dramatic and diverse music for opera chorus. This program, which Ketchum says  includes “some of the most exciting moments from two of the greatest operatic composers who ever lived,” will feature selections from four Verdi operas – I Lombardi, Don Carlo, Rigoletto, and La traviata, and sequences from Puccini’s Turandot, La bohème, Suor Angelica, Tosca, La fanciulla del West, and La rondine.

Conductor Anne Marie Ketchum says, “Both Verdi and Puccini were masters of writing operatic music that was extremely theatrical. Verdi is known for melody, and Puccini is known for dramatically writing for the orchestra with his striking use of colors and rhythm in a rich theatrical style. They are truly deserving of being referred to as two of the greatest opera composers that ever lived.  In terms of the opera chorus, Verdi wrote for the chorus as an actual character and force in what the leading characters were saying and doing, and Puccini wrote musical tones and hues for the chorus to illustrate more deeply the story being told.”

Fall 2022
Concert Program
I LOMBARDI
Giuseppe Verdi (1813-1901)
"O signore dal tetto natio"
The Chorus
Visione
Jamie Chamberlin Granner, Nathan Granner and the Chorus
DON CARLO
Giuseppe Verdi (1813-1901)
"Carlo il sommo Imperatore"
Mauricio A. Palma II and the men of the Chorus
"Dio che nell' alma infondere"
Mr. Granner and Ben Lowe
"Spuntato ecco il di"
The Chorus
RIGOLETTO
Giuseppe Verdi (1813-1901)
"La donna e mobile"
Mr. Granner
"Povero Rigoletto!"
Mr. Lowe, Jamie Sanderson, Esteban Rivas, Danielle Duckett and the men of the Chorus
"Cortigiani, vil razza dannata"
Mr. Lowe
LA TRAVIATA
Giuseppe Verdi (1813-1901)
"Libiamo ne' lieti calici"
Ms. Chamberlin Granner, Mr. Granner and the Chorus
"Sempre libera"
Ms. Chamberlin Granner
Chorus of the Gypsies "Noi siamo zingarelle"
Rachel Labovitch, David Peterson and the women of the Chorus
Chorus of Spanish Matadors "Di Madride noi siam mattadori"; Act III Finale "Ne appellaste? Che volete?"
Ms. Chamberlin Granner, Mr. Granner, Mr. Lowe, Ariana Stultz, Elias Berezin, Mr. Sanderson, Mr. Rivas, T. Jared Hughes and the Chorus; Tambourine by Ariana Stultz
INTERMISSION
TURANDOT
Giacomo Puccini (1858-1924)
"Gira la cote"
The Chorus and Mr. Granner
LA BOHÈME
Giacomo Puccini (1858-1924)
"O soave fanciulla"
Ms. Chamberlin Granner, Mr. Granner, Cesar Ballardo, Mr. Peterson and Mr. Hughes
"En un coupé?"
Mr. Granner and Mr. Lowe
SUOR ANGELICA
Giacomo Puccini (1858-1924)
"Senza mamma" and "Sorella, o buona sorella"
Ms. Chamberlin Granner, Amelia DeCoster and the women of the Chorus
TOSCA
Giacomo Puccini (1858-1924)
"Tre sbirri...Una carrozza"
Mr. Lowe and the Chorus
"E lucevan le stelle"
Mr. Granner
FANCIULLA DEL WEST
Giacomo Puccini (1858-1924)
"Che faranno i vecchi miel"
Mr. Lowe and the men of the Chorus
LA RONDINE
Giacomo Puccini (1858-1924)
Act I Scene 1 "Amore! O cielo! lo struggo!" and "Chi il bel sogno di Doretta"
Ms. Chamberlin Granner, Joseph Gárate, Dina Murphy, Megan McDonald, Alexandra Bass, Mr. Palma II and the Chorus
"Nella dolce carezza"
Tiffany Ho, Mr. Gárate and the Chorus
"Bevo al tuo fresco sorriso"
Ms. Chamberlin Granner, Mr. Granner, Mr. Lowe, Ms. Ho, Mr. Gárate and the Chorus
Fall 2022
Concert Notes
A Verdi Puccini Fest

There are two great lions of Italian opera. The first is Giuseppe Verdi whose life spanned nearly 90 years all the way to the birth of the 20th century. Verdi took an art form in its powerful adolescence in 1842 and brought it through to its modern maturity after a career that spanned more than 50 years. His heir to the Italian lyric stage was Giacomo Puccini whose youthful masterpiece La Bohème premiered in1896 but whose career was tragically cut short less than 30 years later. Chances are good that if you are an opera fan today, it’s because of one or both of these great composers.

I LOMBARDI

Our program opens with Verdi’s I Lombardi alla prima crociata (but we just say I Lombardi) which premiered at La Scala in 1843. It was subsequently the first of Verdi’s operas to be performed in the United States just four years later in New York.

In Act IV the chorus of crusaders and pilgrims sing the plaintive “O signore, dal tetto natio” pleading with the almighty not to abandon them in the desert. Meanwhile the Soprano Giselda dreams of her lost love, Oronte, who appears to her in a dream (“Visione”) and directs her to the life-saving spring that will rescue her people and bring them to Jerusalem.

DON CARLO

Verdi had a lifelong fascination with politics which plays a role in nearly all of his operas in a small or large way. His greatest political opera was Don Carlos which premiered as a five-act grand opera in Paris in 1867. It was later revised, translated into Italian, and shorn of its first act, which is how it is most commonly performed today.

This version of the opera opens at the Monastery of Saint-Just where the monks sing at the tomb of the former Emperor Charles V (who may not actually be dead), “Carlo ill sommo Imperatore".

The Infante crown prince Don Carlo meets with his friend Rodrigo the Marquis of Posa. Don Carlo’s proposed betrothal has been thwarted by his father King Philip II and Rodrigo begs Carlo to come with him to Flanders to help ease the oppression there by Spanish rule. The two men swear a bond of eternal friendship in one of Verdi’s most rousing duets, "Dio, che nell'alma infondere".

Next we’re in front of the great cathedral of Valladolid as the chorus sings of the preparations for a public auto-da-fé by the Spanish Inquisition, “Spuntato ecco il di.”

RIGOLETTO

We jump now to two operas from Verdi’s middle period: RIgoletto and La Traviata. Both premiered at the famous La Fenice in Venice (which ironically, since it’s named after the mythical Phoenix, has been destroyed by fire and rebuilt three times in its history). Our tenor favors us with one of the most popular arias in all of opera “La donna e mobile.”  Verdi knew a hit tune when he wrote one, and he refused to give the music to the tenor singing the Duke until a few days prior to the premiere and even then swore him to secrecy, not allowing him to sing it anywhere but in rehearsal. Otherwise he knew every gondolier in Venice would be belting it out before the opera had even been performed.

Our baritone next performs the great scena with chorus “Povero Rigoletto…Cortigiani, vil razza dannata.” The courteriers think they’ve pranked Rigoletto, their jester, by kidnapping the young woman they assume is his mistress. Rigoletto hurls his fury down at them revealing that the young woman is his daughter and demands, and then pleads and begs, for her return.

LA TRAVIATA

Next we’re in Paris for the famous drinking song “Libiamo ne’ lieti calici” from the opening scene of La Traviata, the tragic story of the courtesan Violetta who gives up everything in the hopes of finding love with the ardent young Alfredo.  Still uncertain she muses on her new found romance and proclaims herself always free to follow her heart “E strano!,... Ah, fors’ e lui…Sempre libera.”

At the party in Act II the guests are enjoying an entertainment with Spanish dancers and men dressed as matadors “Noi siamo zingarelle venute da lontanoDi Madride noi siam mattadori.” Violetta has left Alfredo, unbeknownst to him, to protect his family from shame at his father’s request. Alfredo denounces her in front of everyone present and throws his gambling winnings at her in payment for her services. Alfredo’s father Giorgio Germont suddenly appears and angrily chastises his son for publicly offending Violetta. As the great concertante finale builds, with the help of the chorus, Violetta forgives Alfredo for not knowing what’s truly in her heart.

TURANDOT

Our second half opens with the Act I chorus from Giacomo Puccini’s unfinished masterpiece Turandot which premiered at La Scala in 1926.  The Chinese Princess of the title has set a series of riddles for any man who wishes her hand in marriage. The punishment for not solving the riddles is death. The opera begins with the people of Beijing cheering on the Executioner and his next victim, the Prince of Persia, ”Gira la cote…O testa mozza!”.  Suddenly the moon rises and the Prince is paraded before the crowd. They call for compassion from the Princess for the young man, but she has none and gives the fatal signal.

LA BOHÈME

Next we’re on the rooftops of Paris for the Act I finale of La Bohème. The poor aspiring writer Rodolfo has just met his seamstress neighbor Mimi. Bathed in the moonlight of a magical Christmas Eve they both proclaim their love for one another within moments of meeting, “O soave fanciulla.”  Skipping forward to Act IV and Mimi and Rodolfo have broken up (you knew that was never going to last) and Rodolfo and his roommate Marcello, the aspiring painter, pour their broken hearts out to one another “En un coupe?...O Mimì, tu più non torni”  in a forlorn duet.

SUOR ANGELICA

Puccini considered Suor Angelica the favorite of his compositions. His family not only had a long history of composing liturgical music in their hometown of Lucca, but his own sister was a nun. Angelica is a young noblewoman who is forced to take the veil after having a child out of wedlock. Her Aunt comes to the convent to have Angelica sign her dowry over to her sister who is now engaged. During the interview her Aunt tells her that her young son was taken ill and died two years prior. In her heartbreaking aria, “Senza mamma,” Angelica imagines her son as an angel and sings of wanting to join him in heaven. At the conclusion her fellow sisters gather around her to offer comfort.

TOSCA

We have two highlights from Tosca next.  In the first the Baron Scarpia is searching for a political prisoner who has just escaped who he believes may be connected to the painter Mario Cavarodossi, the lover of Floria Tosca. Having found the evidence he needs he sends his henchman out to scour Rome while he waits like a spider in the middle of a web, “Tre sbirri…una carrozza.”  The Baron’s desire for Tosca also motivates him as he plots to recapture his prisoner, baiting Tosca and Cavaradossi against each other to his devious ends. 

In the last act, Cavaradossi, condemned to the firing squad, sings “E lucevan le stelle” of his love for Tosca and his life with her as the light of a new day breaks over Rome.

LA FANCIULLA DEL WEST

Puccini never stopped experimenting both dramatically and musically and one of his next works had its first world premiere at the Metropolitan Opera in 1910. La Fanciulla del West tells the story of miners in a camp during the California Gold Rush. During the opening scene the miner’s receive their mail and listen to a song of loss sung by the town minstrel Jake Wallace, “Che faranno i vecchi miei.”

LA RONDINE

As so often happens in the world of opera, a single aria gains so much popularity it rekindles interest, and an entire work gains new attention and stature.  Such is the case with Puccini’s La Rondine which is the story of Magda who is a courtesan in Paris in the mid-19th century. In the opening scene she has friends at a soirée, and one is playing with a melody for a song about falling in love as a young student, “Che il bel sogno di Doretta.” Madga takes up the yearning melody and finishes the song herself to stunning effect.

The second act takes place in a popular night spot in Paris and the crowd sings of their enjoyment, “Nelle dolce carezza.” Magda has come in disguise only to discover her maid, Lisette with her beau, the poet Prunier, out as well. Magda reacquaints herself with Ruggero, a young man she has been flirting with earlier at her soirée. Together they all drink a toast to love,”Bevo al tua fresco sorriso,” and celebrate their lives together.

Notes by Patrick Mack
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