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Farmer, Cline, & Campbell

Classically Speaking

Classical music in West Virginia and Beyond

Met in HD: Aida

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By Dr. Larry Stickler
 · December 14, 2012

Glorious music is integrated into the dramatic action of another love triangle, this time set in ancient Egypt during the age of the pharaohs. 

Part of the Met: Live in HD series, Aida will be shown at 12:55 pm, Saturday, December 15, in four movie theaters in West Virginia: Cinemark at the Huntington Mall in Barboursville; Great Escape in Nitro; Hollywood Stadium 12 in Granville/Morgantown; and Greenbrier Valley Theatre in Lewisburg; as well as Cinemark Theater in Ashland, Kentucky.

Aida, the enslaved princess from Ethiopia, is caught in a love triangle with the Egyptian princess Amneris and the heroic captain Radames. Love and patriotic loyalty is in the center of the conflict.

From the orchestrated prelude to the dramatic closing scene, the music is emotional and captivating. In Act one Radames sings a beautiful romanza about his love for Aida (Celeste Aida).

Torn between her love for Radames, who will lead the Egytian army against Ethiopia, and her love for her native land and her father, the Ethiopian king, Aida sings Ritorna Vincitor.

In Act two the Egyptian army is victorious and returns with many Ethiopian captives, one of who is Amonasro, unrecognized as the king of Ethiopia and Aida's father. The triumphal scene is a grand spectacle indeed. In this production at the Metropolitan Opera horse-drawn carriages will lead the exuberabt conquering heroes and their captives in a procession into Thebes. Besides the major characters and the chorus, this scene will require supernumeraries (extras) to participate in the festivities. The Grand March played by the orchestra adds pomp and dignity to the drama and has become a popular melody even today, being used as one of the marches in some university commencement ceremonies.

Verdi chose Antonio Ghislanzoni to write the libretto (script) for Aida and carefully supervised the development of the musical drama. The libretto was based on Camille du Locle’s French version of a storyline by French Egyptologist Auguste Mariette.

Aida, a grand opera in four acts was premiered on Christmas Eve in 1871, at the Opera House in Cairo, Egypt. The Khedive of Egypt and his harem were part of the audience at the first performance. Aida was an instant success and soon made it way to major opera houses around the world.



Masked Ball

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By Larry Stickler
 · December 6, 2012

King of Sweden Gustave III was assassinated at a masquerade ball in Stockholm in 1792. This event is the basis for the plot for Un Ballo in Maschera ( The Masked Ball) by the Italian composer Giuseppe Verdi (1813-1901).

Un Ballo in Maschera, a melodrama in three acts, will be the live in high definition transmission from the stage of the Metropolitan Opera at 12:55 pm this Saturday, December 8. The opera will be shown in four theaters in West Virginia: Cinemark at the Huntington Mall in Barboursville; Great Escape in Nitro; Hollywood Stadium 12 in Granville/Morgantown; and Greenbrier Valley Theater in Lewisburg, as well as the Cinemark Theater in Ashland, Kentucky.

Tenor Marcelo Alvarez will sing the role of Gustavo III, King of Sweden. The role of Count Anckarstrom, aide to and close friend of King Gustavo, will be sung by baritone Dimitri Hvorostovsky. Soprano Sondra Radvanovsky will sing the role of Amelia, Anckarstrom's wife. The role of the fortune teller Madame Ulrica Arvidsson will be sung by mezzo-soprano Stephanie Blythe. Lyric coloratura soprano Kathleen Kim will sing the role of the page Oscar, a trouser role unusual for Verdi.

Because the censors said that the assassination of a monarch could not be presented on an Italian stage, the historical setting was changed to colonial Boston, Massachusetts. The new production at the Metropolitan Opera, however, follows the original intent, and places the action in Sweden.

Stage director David Alden and his team, including longtime collaborators Paul Steinberg (sets) and Brigitte Reiffenstuel (costumes), developed an aesthetic that is clearly Swedish, but different from the bewigged baroque background traditional for this choice (William Berger).

We've made a dreamlike, slightly nightmarish early 20th century environment, a very correct buttoned-up Swedish court. It's closer to Strindberg and Igmar Bergman than to a Swedish Versailles,” explains Alden.

A work of great sophistication, Un Ballo will be sung in Italian with English subtitles. An encore performance will be shown on Wednesday, January 9, 2013 at 6:30 pm.

Verdi had a talent for composing unforgettable melodies to match high points of drama. Dramatic and lyrical music express love, betrayal and death. The tension between darkness and levity is emphasized throughout the opera (Berger).

Larry Stickler
Professor of Music
Marshall University 

MET in HD: Why Not Go?

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By Jim Lange
 · December 4, 2012

Marcelo Álvarez
Tenor Marcelo Álvarez.

LISTEN during the noon hour TODAY (Tuesday, Dec.4) of Classical Music to win a FREE pair of tickets to one of three WV theaters.

Verdi’s Un Ballo in Maschera ( A Masked Ball) —New Production

 December 8, 2012, 12:55 pm ET

Sondra Radvanovsky, Marcelo Álvarez, and Dmitri Hvorostovsky lead an “excellent cast who bring all the emotion, tenderness, and tension to a score that is both exciting and haunting.” (Huffington Post)

As the conflicted king, Marcelo Álvarez delivers one of his most dramatically charged and refined performances at the Met, [singing] with subtlety, shadings and soaring lyricism. Dmitri Hvorostovsky’s “trademark dark sound and supple phrasing… poignantly brought to life” the pain of the betrayed Count Anckarström. (New York Times)

Sondra Radvanovsky “was a special triumph, her powerful, penetrating voice filling the house with refulgent sound” in the role of Amelia. (AP)

Alden’s production is an “intriguing fresh look at one of the essential works of the repertory.” (AP)

Approximate runtime: 3:54

Learn more  here.

Watch a video.


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