John Frayne: Spring preview: Venetians in March
Part II of my preview of the spring concert season (start times are at 7:30 p.m., and the venue is the Foellinger Great Hall at Krannert Center for the Performing Arts unless otherwise noted):
The Venice Baroque Orchestra, conducted by Andrea Marcon, will take the stage March 1.
The composers whose works will be played range from the very familiar Antonio Vivaldi to the lesser known Francesco Geminiani.
Part of the program will be devoted to arias from the operas of Nicola Porpora, little known now but famous during his lifetime (1686-1768). The widely traveled Porpora spent some years of the 1730s in London starting up an opera company to rival George Frideric Handel's company. Porpora's group included the famous castrato Farinelli.
At this concert, the arias will be sung by countertenor Philippe Jaroussky.
On March 6, the University of Illinois School of Music's Lyric Theatre program will begin a four-day run of Jacques Offenbach's most famous operetta "Orpheus in the Underworld" in Krannert's Tryon Festival Theatre.
In Offenbach's burlesque treatment, the famous mythic characters and the Olympic Gods prove all too human in their foibles and scandals. The March 6-8 performances begin at 7:30; the March 9 show is at 3.
Dawn Harris directs, and the conductor will be Paul Vermel, UI professor emeritus of conducting and longtime maestro of the Champaign-Urbana Symphony Orchestra. The show is sung in English, in a translation by Jeremy Sams.
Also March 6, Donald Schleicher will lead the UI Chamber Orchestra in a concert featuring the world premiere of a work by Sean Harold, as well as Richard Wagner's "Siegfried Idyll" and William Walton's "Faade."
At the CUSO concert March 8, Stephen Alltop will conduct one of Danish composer Carl Nielsen's most famous works: Symphony No. 4, "The Inextinguishable."
Also on the program will be Russell Peck's "Signs of Life." This work started in 1983 as a two-movement piece, to which Peck added an opening movement in 1986. Peck (1945-2009) in this work employs an innovative "peckzicatto" technique.
Also in this concert, concertmaster Igor Kalnin will be violin soloist in Ralph Vaughan Williams' poignant "The Lark Ascending."
Maybe it's March madness, or intended as a cure for cabin fever, but the Sinfonia da Camera is also hitting the merry operetta trail on March 14 with W.S. Gilbert and Arthur Sullivan's perennial hit "The Mikado."
What Offenbach did to Greek mythology in "Orpheus in the Underworld," Gilbert and Sullivan did to picture-postcard Japan in "The Mikado." In this semi-staged performance, directed by Harris, bass-baritone Ricardo Herrera, and soprano Yvonne Redman will sing along with soprano Harris as well. Ian Hobson will conduct.
Then, the morning after, March 15, you can return to concert hall reality with an after-breakfast concert by the Jupiter Quartet. After coffee or tea and bagels in the lobby, the music begins at 10 a.m., when the Jupiter Quartet will offer two quartets by Ludwig van Beethoven that span this composer's development of this musical form. Quartet No. 2 in G of the early Op. 18 group will be followed by the Quartet No. 12 in E-Flat major, Op. 127, the first of the famous "Late Quartets."
On March 19, the Kronos Quartet will play a 7:30 p.m. concert in the Tryon festival theatre. Now celebrating its 40th year, this group has a new cellist, Sunny Jungin Yang.
To celebrate their 40th anniversary, Kronos members will play Philip Glass' new Quartet No. 6, which was co-commissioned by Krannert along with other arts organizations. The Kronos Quartet has had a long and fruitful relationship with Glass, championing his chamber works.
Other works on the Kronos program will be Canadian composer Nicole Lize's "Death to Kosmiche" (2010), described by a critic as "outergalactical," and Ukrainian composer Valentyn Silvestrov's String Quartet No. 3 (1988).
As part of the North American Saxophone Alliance Conference, Linda Moorhouse will lead the UI Wind Symphony and Schleicher will conduct the UI Symphony on March 20 in an opening/concerto concert.
Beginning at 7 p.m., the concert will feature soloists Clifford Leaman, Timothy Roberts, Eugene Rousseau, Donald Sinta, and Debra Richtmeyer.
Krannert will be on spring break March 23-30.
John Frayne hosts "Classics of the Phonograph" on Saturdays at WILL-FM and, in retirement, teaches at the University of Illinois. He can be reached at email@example.com.