An Evening with Monsieur T — Tchaikovsky, that is — in Vallejo – Times-Herald

He organized the “Greatest Wagner Concert Ever!” last summer, an all-Wagner program that included excerpts from the German composer’s famous 19th-century operas and featured a pair of guest singers singing tunes.

It was an interesting concept – and certainly appealed to some Bay Area Wagner fans – and Thomas Conlin, the internationally acclaimed and Grammy-winning bandleader behind the gig, decided to stage another showcase. catalog theme of a famous composer, this time Tchaikovsky and naming it “Tchaikovsky’s Cursed Lovers.”

With excerpts from the opera “Eugene Onegin” by the Russian composer and a pair of orchestral works, “Romeo and Juliet, Overture Fantasy” and “Francesa da Rimini: Symphonic Fantasy after Dante”, the concert entirely Tchaikovsky, with Conlin at head of the Vallejo Festival Orchestra, begins at 7:30 p.m. Saturday at the Empress Theater in Vallejo.

Grammy-winning conductor Thomas Conlin will conduct the Vallejo Festival Orchestra in an all-Tchaikovsky program on Saturday at the Empress Theater in Vallejo.  (Added photo - Vallejo Center for the Arts)
Grammy-winning conductor Thomas Conlin will conduct the Vallejo Festival Orchestra in an all-Tchaikovsky program on Saturday at the Empress Theater in Vallejo. (Photo provided – Vallejo Center for the Arts)

Along with the full orchestra, the concert, hosted by the Vallejo Center for the Arts, will feature a pair of opera stars, soprano Sarah Tucker and baritone Michael Adams.

Washington, DC native and Napa resident Conlin, in response to a series of e-mailed questions earlier this week, said, “We will probably feature more single-composer programs. Personally, I like this format, which is akin to what many art museums have found very appealing: a Renoir retrospective, the middle period of Picasso, etc.

Calling Tchaikovsky, the composer of “Swan Lake”, “The Nutcracker” and the “1812 Overture”, the “most popular Russian composer of all time”, he said the high status rested on the melodious music of the composer, his sincere melodies, his rich and warm notes. harmonies and colorful orchestration, “all of which evoke a deep emotional response”.

That’s certainly true for “Onegin,” as he’s known for short, a 145-year-old chestnut notable for a psychologically penetrating, emotionally touching, and effortlessly conversational musical score.

Soprano Sarah Tucker as Donna Anna in a recent Mozart staging "Don Giovanni." (Added photo - Cory Weaver)
Soprano Sarah Tucker as Donna Anna in a recent staging of Mozart’s ‘Don Giovanni’. (Added photo – Cory Weaver)

Based on Russian poet Pushkin’s verse novel of the same name, it tells the story of a mostly callous and heartless big-city man, unhappy in the bourgeois countryside surroundings of a young woman named Tatyana .

He is best known for his act 1 “The Letter Scene”, in which she writes a long love letter to the foreigner, Onegin, whom she has just met, and Tucker will be in the spotlight to deliver one classic opera arias as the music becomes lyrical and thoughtful.

Other scenes, Conlin said, include another encounter between the two “in which she is devastated by his rejection and accusation of her immaturity. In the final scene, Onegin returns, declares her love for him, and asks his forgiveness. But Tatiana got married and tells her that she will not betray her husband.

Throughout, Tchaikovsky proves again and again – as he does in virtually all of his compositions – that he is a master of orchestration and melody, the hummed part of a song, if not other key elements of music: rhythm, tone, harmony and structure.

Tucker’s resume includes performances in San Francisco, Santa Fe, Dallas, Philadelphia, North Carolina, Virginia and Utah, the Dallas, Richmond, Lexington, Dayton and Las Colinas Symphony Orchestras, Crystal Cathedral in Orange, in California, and with New York. City Ballet at Lincoln Center.

Conlin noted that in her debut last season as Fiordiligi in Mozart’s “Cosi fan tutte” with the San Diego Opera, she was described by Opera News as a “standout” with “a height and a impeccable phrasing”. Tucker was also a semi-finalist in the Metropolitan Opera National Council Auditions.

Baritone Michael Adams, who will sing opera arias from "Eugene Onegin" with soprano Sarah Tucker during the All-Tchaikovsky program on Saturday at the Empress Theatre, is seen in the title role of a recent staging of "Don Giovanni." (Added photo -- WNO-DCYA)
Baritone Michael Adams, who will sing operatic arias from “Eugene Onegin” with soprano Sarah Tucker during Saturday’s all-Tchaikovsky program at the Empress Theatre, is seen in the title role of a recent staging of ” Don Giovanni”. (Photo added – WNO-DCYA)

Opera News magazine praised Adams for “bringing forth a beautiful, evenly produced and well-ripened sound,” said Conlin, who has led opera companies and symphony orchestras in 15 countries and 28 U.S. states. .

Adams, who sang the title role in “Eugene Onegin” with Seattle Opera, returned to his home state of Texas last season to perform Sharpless in “Madame Butterfly” with Dallas Opera and the Count in “The Marriage of Figaro” with the Austin Opera. He has recently sung with the Deutsche Oper Berlin, Utah Opera, Grand Teatre del Liceu, Grand Théâtre de Genève, Omaha Opera, Des Moines Metro Opera, Knoxville Opera and Glimmerglass Festival. He was a 2018 Laureate of the William Matheus Sullivan Music Foundation and a 2015 First Place Winner of the Gerda Lissner International Vocal Competition, among other notable awards.

Tchaikovsky’s musical arrangements of Shakespeare’s “Romeo and Juliet” and “Francesca da Rimini”, taken from Dante’s “Divine Comedy”, fit well with the theme of star-crossed lovers, “for these affairs, like that of Onegin, end tragically,” Conlin said. , who earned a Doctor of Humane Letters from West Virginia Wesleyan University and a Doctor of Music from the University of Charleston.

“Francesca da Rimini”, in E minor and lasting about 25 minutes, is the composer’s response to the story of Paolo and Francesca da Rimini, who are souls lost in hell because of their adultery. The music begins darkly, becomes choppy and somber, but halfway through develops a theme of quiet love. No surprise, the torrent of sounds from the start returns and ends, a bit chillingly, with 10 robust chords.

In the “Romeo and Juliet”, in B minor and lasting about 20 minutes, the music ranges from soft expressions that suggest the ardent love between young lovers to a rapid progression of frantic sounds, a musical image gang violence and conflict. between the Capulet and Montague families.

Russian composer Pyotr Ilyich Tchaikovsky (Added photo -- Vallejo Center for the Arts)
Russian composer Pyotr Ilyich Tchaikovsky (Photo provided – Vallejo Center for the Arts)

While the arts aren’t necessarily separate from our current national and global affairs, it’s worth realizing, Conlin said, that while Tchaikovsky was born in Russia, his paternal family was from Ukraine, so his Ukrainian background doesn’t matter. were neither celebrated by the Soviets nor by today’s Russians. On April 2, 2022, Russian missiles terrorized the city of Kremenchuk, the birthplace of Tchaikovsky’s great-grandfather, Fedor Chaika, a Cossack, who, along with many of the composer’s ancestors, fought against the Russia and other empires seeking to dominate the territory of Ukraine, he added.

Yet, Conlin said, “coincidentally with the current situation in Ukraine, I would like to point out that, although he is certainly the quintessential Russian composer, Tchaikovsky’s ancestry is Ukrainian. I am certainly not trying to make a political statement, as I firmly believe that the arts are above politics.

His curriculum vitae shows him as a frequent guest conductor of opera and ballet companies and symphony orchestras on five continents, most recently in Belgium, Brazil, Canada, Colombia, Egypt, Germany, Ireland, in Italy, Japan, Korea, Norway, Poland, Russia, Spain, Turkey and throughout the United States.

The Grammys?

Conlin conducted the Warsaw Philharmonic Orchestra on a recording of George Crumb’s “Star-Child,” which won the Grammy for Best Contemporary Classical Composition and is part of a complete edition of the American composer’s works, that ClassicsToday. com calls it “one of the most important recording projects currently underway, as well as one of the most artistically successful.

Additionally, Conlin’s 1968 performance of Mozart’s opera “Lucio Silla” in Baltimore as a student at Johns Hopkins University marked the first-ever use of projected translations, or supertitles, although d Others, including former opera impresario Lotfi Mansouri and opera star and singer Beverly Sills claimed to have invented them.

“A season of classical music anywhere in the world is unimaginable without the works of Rachmaninoff, Stravinsky, Prokofiev, Mussorgsky, Shostakovich, to name just a few on the list of great and important Russian composers,” said Conlin said. “But Piotr Ilyich Tchaikovsky is today considered everywhere as the Russian composer par excellence. What would Christmas in America be without the “Nutcracker” ballet performances that dominate theaters during the holiday season? Can anyone imagine Christmas shopping unaccompanied by “The Dance of the Sugar Fairy” or an outdoor concert on the 4th of July without the moving “1812 Overture”? »

IF YOU ARE GOING TOVallejo Festival Orchestra “Tchaikovsky’s Star-Crossed Lovers” 7:30 p.m. SaturdayEmpress Theatre330 Virginia St., VallejoTickets: $29 to $97www.empresstheatre.org(707) 552-2400

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