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Maryland Symphony Orchestra to present 'A Night at the Opera'

March 13, 2013|By KBy KATE COLEMAN | katec@herald-mail.com
  • Christopher Tiesi of the Curtis Opera Theatre will perform with the Maryland Symphony Orchestra.
Submitted photo


The Maryland Symphony Orchestra will present "A Night at the Opera" this weekend at The Maryland Theatre.

A warning label might be in order: This is not your father's "Night at the Opera."

Yes, selections from some of the most beloved and well-known operas will be performed.

These will include "La donna e mobile" from Giuseppe Verdi's "Rigoletto," "Dunque io son" from "The Barber of Seville" by Gioacchino Rossini, "Non so piu cosa son" from Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart's "The Marriage of Figaro" and "Pres: des remparts de Seville" from "Carmen" by Georges Bizet.

Four young vocalists from the Curtis Opera Theatre will join the MSO in the concerts. The Curtis Opera Theatre, under Artistic Director Mikael Eliasen, is the performing entity of the Curtis Institute of Music's Vocal Studies Department.

"For me, there's nothing more exciting than to make music with a young and brilliant artist," MSO Music Director Elizabeth Schulze wrote in an email. "Everything is new and fresh and they often come to the music without the false trappings of a calcified tradition," she added.

Twenty-four-year-old soprano Sarah Shafer came to music growing up in a family of musicians in State College, Pa.

"I can't remember a time when I didn't love singing," she said in a recent phone interview from San Francisco where she was singing in the world premiere of the San Francisco Opera's production of the newly commissioned opera "The Secret Garden."

Her mother was a choir director, and Shafer said she probably started singing in choir when she was 5. She started taking voice lessons at 13 or 14, and she took piano lessons from her father for about 15 years.

During her first three years of high school, Shafer played piano in the pit in most of the musical theater productions. When she was a senior, she auditioned — "on a fluke" — for the school production of "The Pirates of Penzance."

"I happened to get the part of Mabel," she said, adding, "so I just sort of jumped into the opera world."

While applying to colleges, Shafer considered majoring in piano as well as voice and took auditions for both.

The reason she is pursuing a career in singing is because she got into Curtis — something she was not expecting to do. "But it's been the right path for me."

That path has led Shafer to several professional operatic engagements, and she's had opportunities for recital and concert work as well.

Because the Curtis program is a professional training program, students are encouraged to take professional auditions. In the third year of her master's degree in opera, Shafer said she's been blessed to be able to work and be in school at the same time.

Baritone Sean Michael Plumb would agree.

"Curtis' philosophy is learn by doing," he said in a recent phone interview from Philadelphia, where Curtis is located.

"The head of our program, Mikael Eliasen, believes that the best way to learn to be an opera singer is to get up and actually sing opera, to sing in concerts," Plumb said. "We are constantly performing all over the place — concerts, recitals, operas. It's always something. Performing one thing and preparing for the next," he added.

The 21-year-old Los Angeles native doesn't remember when he decided he wanted to be an opera singer, but family legend has it that he was singing before he was speaking. "I would wake up my whole family singing from the crib," he said.

Plumb does recall asking his parents for singing lessons, and when he was 9 they found him a voice teacher. His parents appreciated classical music, but they were never huge fans, he said. The voice teacher they found just happened to be an opera singer.

As a boy, soprano Plumb sang in a few operas and really got involved with it. When his voice changed he stuck with it and pursued it through high school. Then, he said, "I made an opportunity to come here to Curtis and pursue it some more."

Plumb will receive his undergraduate degree next year, and as is typical of students who enter Curtis at 18, he'll stay on for a total of seven years, earning his master's degree as well.

He has placed first in several competitions and has appeared in more then 35 professional and amateur operas, musicals and plays. In 2009, Plumb was featured on the National Public Radio program "From the Top." He made his national television debut, selected personally by Renée Fleming to be featured in the HBO documentary which aired last summer: "Renée Fleming: a Young Arts MasterClass." 

The weekend concerts will be Plumb's first opportunity to work with Schulze, but he has seen recordings of her conducting. "I'm thrilled and ecstatic to be able to work with her," he said.

Curtis Opera Theatre vocalists Lauren Eberwein and Christopher Tiesi also will be on stage in "A Night at the Opera."

Eberwein, a 19-year-old mezzo-soprano, is in her second year of study at Curtis.

Tiesi, a tenor, is completing his master of music in opera degree at Curtis.

The modern perspective of young artists is refreshing and challenges us to take another look at the standard repertoire, Schulze wrote. "It's always an exciting adventure."



If you go ...       

WHAT: Maryland Symphony Orchestra Masterworks 4 concert, "A Night at the Opera"

WHEN: 8 p.m. Saturday, March 16, and 3 p.m. Sunday, March 17

WHERE: The Maryland Theatre, 21 S. Potomac St., downtown Hagerstown

COST: Adult tickets cost $15 to $49. Students in grades one through 12 are admitted free to all Masterworks concerts. Rush tickets, if available, for college students (no reservations accepted) may be picked up at The Maryland Theatre box office just before each performance for $5. Seat selection is at the discretion of box office personnel.

CONTACT: Go to www.marylandsymphony.org, call 301-797-4000, or go to the MSO office at 30 W. Washington St., downtown Hagerstown.

MORE: For this concert, an insert, with translations and synopses of the scenes, will be included in the program book.

AND MORE: Music Director Elizabeth Schulze and guest artists will talk about the program and composers one hour before Saturday and Sunday's performances during "Prelude." The half-hour presentation is free for ticket holders.

 

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