Jan. 25, 2004 – Last February, The Forum presented a classical music program consisting of excerpts from the works of Shakespeare set to music — and showcasing the recent compositions of Joseph Summer, who lived on St. Thomas in the 1990s and still spends part of each year on the island.
The pieces were performed under Summer's direction by soprano Maria Ferrante, tenor Alan Schneider and pianist Miroslav Sekera. (See "It's 'Shakespeare: The Concert' Friday night".)
On Friday, all four will be back on St. Thomas for "The Shakespeare Concerts Second Season," another program presented by The Forum of works by various composers including new pieces by Summer. And this time, added to the mix will be the artistry of harpist Anna Reinersman. The performance will take place, as did last year's, in the Great Bay Ballroom of the Ritz-Carlton Resort.
And then, on Saturday evening, Sekera will present a solo piano recital at the home of Margot McDonald Bachman in Estate Nazareth.
Friday's program consists of "entirely new works, none of the works that we did last year," says Summer, the composer of seven operas and "The Oxford Songs," more than 50 pieces based on Shakespearean plays and sonnets that he began working on in 1991.
Summer was working on St. Thomas over the yearend holidays but returned to his home in Worcester, Mass., a couple of weeks ago to prepare for two performances this past weekend: Saturday in Worcester and Sunday in Boston. For these programs, Summer utilized an expanded ensemble of seven vocalists, two horns, piano and harp. He'll be taking the ensemble to London to perform at several venues under the auspices of Opera Unlimited in September and October.
The Worcester and Boston programs "were all Shakespeare," Summer says. "On St. Thomas, about a third to a half are Shakespeare The others are opera highlights and favorite arias that everybody is going to know."
Friday's program opens with two of his compositions, "Full fathom five" (both vocalists and piano accompaniment) and "If by Your Art" (Ferrante and Reinersman), with text in both cases taken from Shakespeare's "The Tempest." Summer said he opted to include the pieces since Shakespeare's play "takes place on an island."
The concert also includes these pieces by Summer: "He took me by the wrist" from "Hamlet" (Ferrante and Sekera); Shakespeare's Sonnet CXXX (Schneider and Reinersman) and Sonnet CIV (Ferrante and Reinersman); and "You may think of art" from the opera "The Tenor's Suite" — his text is based on "The Tenor," an opera by Benjamin Franklin Wedekind (Schneider and Sekera).
Also on the program are arias from Puccini's opera "Gianni Schicci" (Ferrante and Sekera) and Verdi's "Rigoletto" (Schneider and Sekera) and "La Traviata" (both vocalists and Sekera), along with the song "Villanelle" by Eva Dell'Acqua (Ferrante and Sekera) and a solo for harp, "Petite Suite" by David Watkins.
"If by your art" is spoken by Miranda, Prospero's daughter, in the play "The Tempest," asking her father to stop a storm because a ship is sinking. And the song "was about my daughter," Summer said. "She got angry with me one day because it was raining, and she and her friends had some party planned at the beach. 'You do think I don't control the rain?' I said. She said 'yes.' 'Do you think it's appropriate for you to be angry with me because it's raining?' I asked, and she said 'yes.' So I wrote this aria for soprano and harp, in March 1995 when we were living on St. Thomas."
The piece was recorded in Prague, he said, "but this is the performance premiere," in Massachusetts and on St. Thomas.
Summer wrote "He took me by the wrist," based on the words of Ophelia in "Hamlet" as she talks to her father about Hamlet, last year and dedicated it to his daughter, Eve, who lives on St. Thomas. Eve "tells everything that happened to her at least twice," he said, as does Ophelia.
He chose to include Sonnet CXXX "because it has oceanic imagery. Lisa, my wife, and Eve and I all love to snorkel. The opening line is 'My mistress' eyes are nothing like the sun; Coral is far more red than her lips' red."
And in "Full fathom five," a spirit sings to a young man, Ferdinand, that his father is dead, although this is a lie. But it's all about the ocean, oceanic imagery," Summer says: "Full fathom five thy father lies; Of his bones are coral made."
In the Saturday recital, Sekera will perform the Sonata "I.X. 1905" by Leo Janácek; the Third Sonata in F minor (Op. 5) by Brahms; six short sonatas by Scarlatti; "The Dumbshow" by Summer; and two works by Liszt — Concert Etude No. 3 ("Un Sospiro") and Transcendental Etude No. 12 ("Chasse-neige").
About the artists
Sekera at the age of 6 played the role of Mozart as a boy in the film "Amadeus." In 2002 he won first place in piano in the 9th International Johannes Brahms Competition in Pörtschach, Austria, "and he's going to interpret Brahms on Saturday," Summer says. "He won a Czech competition for Janácek interpretation, and will be playing Janácek as well." Summer adds of the pianist, who resides in Prague: "What's remarkable about Mirek [Sekera's nickname] is he can play heavy Brahms and win an award for it, and then he can play the light Scarlatti with such charm."
Ferrante, a native of Worcester, was a winner of the Mario Lanza voice competition. Her opera credits include Cio-Cio-San in "Madama Butterfly," Violetta in "La Traviata," Desdemona in "Otello," Liù in "Turandot," Mimi in "La Bohème," Rosalinda in "Die Fledermaus," Despina in "Così Fan Tutte," and Oscar in "Un Ballo in Maschera." On the concert stage, she has sung with the Boston Ballet in the world premiere of Daniel Pelzig's "Bachianai" and with the Charleston Symphony in "Carmina Burana."
Schneider earlier this month was named the head of Commonwealth Opera, based in Northhampton, Mass. A native of western Massachusetts, he was the 2002 recipient of Boston Lyric Opera's Stephen Shrestinian Award for Excellence. His performances in 2000 and 2001 with Boston's Bel Canto Opera won him plaudits from The Boston Globe for a "robust" and "bright-toned tenor." He sang with the Chautauqua Opera in Upstate New York last summer and received its Shoshanna Foundation Richard F. Gold Career Grant.
Reinersman has performed with the Metropolitan Opera Orchestra, the New York Chamber Symphony, the Mostly Mozart Music Festival, the Boston Pops and the Grand Teton Music Festival. She is the harpist for "The Producers" on Broadway and is a member of the Boston-based Chameleon Arts Ensemble, the Locrian Chamber Players, the Ariel Duo and the Sensus Ensemble. She was principal harp with the Rocky Mountain Symphony in Utah at the age of 14 and majored in Renaissance studies as an undergraduate at Yale University.
Source review Roger Lakins wrote of last year's program that "Joseph Summer is a composer who knows what he wants to say and has the vocabulary to do so … Stylistically, Summer is a kindred spirit to the late Benjamin Britten, especially the operatic Britten. His works have a tonal focus and his accompaniments are highly atmospheric, borrowing technique from much more Romantic and common practice music. In this way, Summer is in the mainstream of serious composition as not
only an aesthetic rebel but also an heir."
And, Lakins wrote: "The performers gathered for the evening by the composer are all superb musicians. They approached [Summer's] works with seriousness and conviction … Miroslav Sekera is an awesome talent. As both a solo performer and accompanist, he is absolutely amazing … Tenor Alan Schneider is a very serious young musician with a wonderful, versatile voice … Maria Ferrente is a soprano whose love for singing is surpassed only by her love of communicating. Her wide vocal range is matched by the spectrum of color she is able to explore."
Friday's concert will begin at 8 p.m. at the Ritz-Carlton Resort. Tickets are $40; they are available at the Reichhold Center for the Arts box office, Dockside Bookshop, Interiors from MSI, Home Again and Red Hook Ace. They also may be purchased by charge card by calling the Reichhold box office at 693-1559.
Concertgoers have the option of dining at the Ritz-Carlton before the concert. The Great Bay Grill, Café and Iguanas restaurants all are offering a 15 percent discount that evening to concertgoers. Reservations are required and may be made by calling the hotel at 775-3333.
Saturday's recital is also at 8 p.m., following cocktails and hors d'oeuvres at 7 p.m. Tickets are $75, with seating limited to 50 persons, and they are available only from the Reichhold box office.
Coming up later this spring, The Forum has two other events: a performance on March 5 by the Vienna Piano Trio, in a collaboration with the Casals Festival of Puerto Rico; and a mini-film festival set for May, with dates and films to be announced.
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