14 Shows to Hear this April on WVIA Radio
Saturday, April 1, 1pm
Verdi’s glorious Shakespearean comedy features a brilliant ensemble cast in Robert Carsen’s celebrated staging. Baritone Michael Volle sings his first Verdi role at the Met as the caddish knight Falstaff, gleefully tormented by a trio of clever women who deliver his comeuppance. Reuniting after their acclaimed turns in the production’s 2019 run are soprano Ailyn Pérez as Alice Ford, mezzo-soprano Jennifer Johnson Cano as Meg Page, and contralto Marie-Nicole Lemieux as Mistress Quickly. Soprano Hera Hyesang Park and tenor Bogdan Volkov are the young couple Nannetta and Fenton, and Maestro Daniele Rustioni conducts.
A deeply human comedy full of humor and genuine emotion, Verdi’s last opera, premiered at La Scala in 1893, is a splendid finale to an unparalleled career in the theater. The story is an amalgamation of scenes from Shakespeare, primarily drawn from the comedy “The Merry Wives of Windsor”. It centers on the remarkable personality of Sir John Falstaff, one of literature’s most compelling characters. With a supremely well-crafted score, which has long commanded the respect even of Verdi’s critics, it is an astounding work and among the greatest operatic comedies of all time.
Falstaff marks a stylistic departure for Verdi and occupies a category of its own, without parallels in the history of the genre. The musical ideas come fast and abundantly, moving from one to the next organically and without discernible breaks. The orchestra carries the story and occasionally makes literal comments on the action. At other times, it represents the overall spirit of the proceedings, such as in the remarkable prelude to Act III, which contains all the sweeping crescendo of a Rossini overture in less than a minute.
Deutsche Welle Festival Concert
Sunday, April 2, 2pm
It's an absolute thrill for any Bach fan to hear his St. Matthew Passion in the place he premiered it: the St. Thomas Church in Leipzig. And this is exactly the setting for the work's performance at the 2022 Leipzig Bach Festival. The new St. Thomas music director Andreas Reize conducts the St. Thomas boys' choir and Academy for Early Music Berlin in selections from that passion, bringing out the mature, emotional nature of the composition and highlighting the humanity of the story. In addition to being one of Bach's most frequently performed pieces of church music, it's also one of his best-known works overall.
Saturday, April 8, 1pm
Sparks are sure to fly as some of opera’s most electrifying artists light up Puccini’s classic thriller. Soprano Angela Gheorghiu takes on the title role of the desperate diva, opposite tenor Matthew Polenzani as the ardent painter-revolutionary Cavaradossi. Baritone Željko Lučić is the merciless, lustful Baron Scarpia. Domingo Hindoyan conducts.
Puccini’s melodrama about a volatile diva, a sadistic police chief, and an idealistic artist has offended and thrilled audiences for more than a century. Critics, for their part, have often had problems with Tosca’s rather grungy subject matter, the directness and intensity of its score, and the crowd-pleasing dramatic opportunities it provides for its lead roles. But these same aspects have made Tosca one of a handful of iconic works that seem to represent opera as a specific genre in the public imagination. Tosca’s popularity is further secured by a superb and exhilarating dramatic sweep, a driving score of abundant melody and theatrical shrewdness, and a career-defining title role.
No opera is more tied to its setting than Tosca, which takes place in Rome on the morning of June 17, 1800, through dawn the following day. The specified settings for each of the three acts—the Church of Sant’Andrea della Valle, Palazzo Farnese, and Castel Sant’Angelo—are familiar monuments in the city and can still be visited today. While the libretto takes some liberties with the facts, historical issues form a basis for the opera: The people of Rome are awaiting news of the Battle of Marengo in northern Italy, which will decide the fate of their symbolically powerful city.
The Easter Connection
Sunday, April 9, 2pm
The Easter season, and the music it inspires, combine tragedy and triumph, sorrow and celebration—joining with the coming of spring as a symbol of hope, renewal, and new life. Join host Stephen Peithman for orchestral and vocal works by Bach, Handel, Wagner and Rimsky-Korsakov.
Easter 2014 - Wind & Rhythm
Sunday, April 9, 3pm
Ever since the Council of Nicea in the year 325, the celebration of Easter has been referred to as a movable feast. So, the celebration of the resurrection of Jesus happens each year on a day formulated by a set of guidelines that has not been universally agreed upon. That was a tumultuous century and the council of Nicea was only one of the councils that formed the core of Christian practices. I only mention this because the music of Easter is less uncertain. In fact, to believers the core of the Christian faith rests with no doubt or this resurrection event. The music we’ll hear is confident.
Saturday, April 15, 1pm
A dream cast assembles for Strauss’s grand Viennese comedy. Soprano Lise Davidsen is the aging Marschallin, opposite mezzo-soprano Samantha Hankey as her lover Octavian and soprano Erin Morley as Sophie, the beautiful younger woman who steals his heart. Bass Günther Groissböck returns as the churlish Baron Ochs, and Brian Mulligan is Sophie’s wealthy father, Faninal. Maestro Simone Young takes the Met podium.
This 1911 opera is set in an idealized Vienna of the past, Strauss’s most popular opera concerns a wise woman of the world who is involved with a much younger lover but ultimately forced to accept the laws of time, giving him up to a pretty young heiress. Hofmannsthal’s fascinating libretto deftly combines comedy, dreamy nostalgic fantasy, genuine human drama, and light but striking touches of philosophy and social commentary. Strauss’s magnificent score, likewise, works on several levels, combining the refinement of Mozart with the epic grandeur of Wagner.
Spring – From Wind & Rhythm
Sunday, April 16, 2pm
Which feelings does Spring evoke? On this episode of Wind & Rhythm, we run the gamut of emotions with compositions inspired by Spring, with music by Jack Stamp, John Mackey, and Igor Stravinsky, right here at the gathering place for people who love band music. Spring has always been a symbol of hope, rebirth and new beginnings, and this year that metaphor seems especially apt as vaccines are distributed and we optimistically look forward to an end to social distancing and masks. We’ll celebrate renewal with John Mackey, listen to the snow and ice melt with Jack Stamp, smell the air after a fresh Spring rain with Jonathan Newman, sing about love with Alfred Reed, and dance across the Appalachians with Aaron Copland. So, for the moment, let’s take some comfort in hope for our future and enjoy these selections right here, at the gathering place for people who love band music, Wind & Rhythm.
Spring is in the Air – From The Score
Sunday, April 16, 3pm
The Score we’re celebrating all things Spring with films about the season. From classics like Easter Parade to the contemporary romantic comedy Crazy Rich Asians, and a bout of baseball, too, with Field of Dreams. It’s all things Spring on the next edition of The Score.
Saturday, April 22, 1pm
The opera that announced the young Mozart’s genius to the world returns to the Met stage, with acclaimed maestro Manfred Honeck making a notable company debut on the podium. A distinguished cast of leading Mozarteans comes together to bring the moving drama and dazzling arias to life, with tenor Michael Spyres in the title role of the ancient Cretan king, alongside mezzo-soprano Kate Lindsey as the noble prince Idamante and soprano Ying Fang as his conflicted beloved, Ilia. Soprano Federica Lombardi is the jealous Elettra, who loses her senses in a mad scene of virtuosic rage.
Like many stories from Greek myth, Idomeneo explores the motivations and emotions of humans whose fates seem beyond their own control. The opera casts these issues within the framework of the opera seria genre, a stylized format popular in the 18th century that is characterized by a succession of arias and recitatives and a cast of noble characters. Long neglected along with other works of this era, Idomeneo now holds a firm place in the repertoire as the first of Mozart’s operatic masterpieces.
The opera is set on the island of Crete in the aftermath of the Trojan War. The tales of this time have provided fertile grounds for creators of opera, from Monteverdi (Il Ritorno d’Ulisse in Patria, 1640) to Berlioz (Les Troyens, 1863), to Richard Strauss (Die Ägyptische Helena, 1928), to Martin David Levy (Mourning Becomes Electra, 1967). The era is evocative, reflecting the confusion of a post-traumatic historical moment.
Poetry in Music - Wind & Rhythm
Sunday, April 23, 2pm
Roses are red, notes can be blue, can poetry inspire wind composers, too? On this episode of Wind & Rhythm we listen to music tied to poems with works by Eric Whitacre, David Gillingham, and Vincent Persichetti, and more, right here at the gathering place for people who love band music.
Music & Poetry: Poetry & Music
Sunday, April 23, 3pm
In honor of National Poetry Month, we're going to listen to some Lawrence Ferlinghetti, who passed away in February. Included in this remembrance are some other poetic songs, word play, and a short interview with poet, Ray McNiece.
Saturday, April 29, 1pm
A work of subtle beauty, Benjamin Britten’s masterpiece delivers a tragically realistic rendering of the mistrust, misunderstandings, and dark secrets that lurk within even the closest communities. Tenor Allan Clayton, following his 2022 Met debut in the title role of Brett Dean’s Hamlet, takes on another complex protagonist as Peter Grimes, the enigmatic fisherman accused of the death of two apprentices. Nicholas Carter conducts the performance, which also features soprano Nicole Car as the empathetic Ellen Orford and baritone Adam Plachetka as the retired captain Balstrode, whose condemnation seals Grimes’s fate.
One of the greatest masterpieces in the English operatic canon, Peter Grimes has been beloved by both audiences and critics since its first performance. Its popularity is due to several factors: an evocative score, a powerful use of chorus and orchestra, and a monumental title role of such dramatic potential that it can be explored over and over again by any tenor prepared to face its challenges.
One of the most appealing facets of this opera is that the score is neither strictly traditional nor self-consciously radical. It strikes a dramatically convincing balance between lyricism and dissonance. The celebrated orchestral “Sea Interludes” that connect several of the scenes are beautiful and powerful when heard on their own, but within the opera they are, as is the rest of the score, supreme examples of opera’s ability to create a connection between external events and characters’ inner lives.
Black, Brown and Beige - Duke Ellington’s Historic Jazz Symphony
Sunday, April 30, 2pm
In 1943, Duke Ellington debuted a landmark 43-minute musical portrayal of the African-American experience at Carnegie Hall. We'll hear music from it as well as commentary from Wynton Marsalis, Ellington biographer Harvey Cohen, and Ellington himself.
The Last: Final Recordings of Jazz Greats
Sunday, April 30, 3pm
"The Last: Final Recordings of Jazz Greats" features both studio and live performances made by musicians who passed away shortly thereafter. Many-but not all-of these artists had struggled with substance abuse or other issues that took a toll on their health. Some knew on some level that their lives were ending; others died quite suddenly and unexpectedly. Whether they were aware or not that they might not live much longer, their final recordings often have a special poignancy to then-sometimes from being steeped in the experience of a lifetime, sometimes because of the way we, the listeners, hear them as well, knowing that these musical voices would soon be stilled forever.