A Night at the Opera

April 2017

Program Notes

Overture to The Barber of Seville Gioacchino Rossini arr. Daryl Runswick
  *****  
"Lasciatemi morire" from L'Arianna Claudio Monteverdi ed. Richard Cox
Dido's Lament from Dido and Aeneas Henry Purcell arr. Jonathan Miller
  *****  
The Dueling Tenors   arr. Paul Langford

"Una furtiva lagrima" from L’elisir D’amore

Gaetano Donizetti  

"La donna’e mobile" from Rigoletto

Giuseppe Verdi  

"Libiamo" from La Traviata

Verdi  
"Il dolce suono" from Lucia di Lammermoor Donizetti arr. Swingle Singers, trans. Langford
  *****  
A Wagner Fantasy Richard Wagner arr. Patrick Sinozich

"Steuermann! Laß die Wacht!" from Der Fliegende Holländer

   

"Summ und brumm" from Der Fliegende Holländer

   

“Treulich geführt” (The Bridal Chorus) from Lohengrin

   
  *****  
Overture to William Tell Rossini arr. Philip Lawson
"Au fond du temple saint" from Les Pêcheurs de Perles / "Flower Duet" from Lakmé Georges Bizet /
Léo Delibes
arr. Joe Labozetta
  *****  
“Carmen Murdered,” inspired by Bizet’s Carmen Spike Jones arr. Sinozich
  INTERMISSION  
"O Mio Babbino Caro” from Gianni Schicchi / "Seasons of Love” from Rent Puccini /
Jonathan Larson
arr. Sinozich
  *****  
“All I Ask Of You” from The Phantom of the Opera Andrew Lloyd Webber arr. Bob Chilcott
“Bohemian Rhapsody” from A Night at the Opera Freddie Mercury arr. Hoss Brock and Brian Streem
  *****  
Gilbert and Sullivan Medley W. S. Gilbert and
Arthur Sullivan
arr. Langford

“Three Little Maids” from The Mikado

   

“We're Called Gondolieri” from The Gondoliers

   

“In Sailing O'er Life's Ocean Wide” from Ruddigore

   

“Major-General’s Song” from The Pirates of Penzance

  additional verses by Ted Fishman


From the Artistic Director

It is a great joy when a talented colleague steps up and knocks something out of the park. Such is the case with this program, the brainchild of the particular genius of our longtime singer, Kathryn Kamp. “KK” (as she is known in our group) came to me several years ago with an idea for an all-opera program; luckily for us all, this was the season in which we were able to make the many puzzle pieces fit together.

Kathryn Kamp is a multitalented musician, artist, and creative force. She has been a leader within the Chicago a cappella ensemble for many years. With A Night at the Opera, she is taking wing not only with her wonderful and flexible voice but also with her own perspective as an opera director, her experience in a huge variety of musical genres, and—particularly evident in this show—a wonderful, unique, playful, and all-her-own sense of humor and fun. It has been a pleasure for me to watch this program take shape under Kathryn’s patient and thorough shepherding.

Congratulations to Kathryn, to Music Director Paul Langford, to the ensemble, and to the entire Chicago a cappella team for bringing this show to life. Enjoy.

—Jonathan Miller, Founder and Artistic Director

Notes on the Music, by Kathryn Kamp

OVERTURE

Gioacchino Rossini, arr. Daryl Runswick: Overture to The Barber of Seville
Rossini’s 1816 Il Barbiere di Siviglia (The Barber of Seville) is based on the first of three plays by Pierre Beaumarchais. The plays were written in 1775 and immediately censored by King Louis XVI who stated, “this man mocks everything that must be respected in a government.” Many private readings of the plays followed, along with revisions to skirt the censor. The King finally lifted the ban in 1784.

According to Operabase, The Barber of Seville is among the top ten most performed operas around the world annually.  Popular culture references include a 2007 episode of The Simpsons starring Plácido Domingo as himself; an entire Seinfeld episode (“The Barber”) in which the slap-bass soundtrack is replaced with music from Rossini’s opera; the opening of the film Mrs. Doubtfire; and Mel Blanc’s 1949 “The Rabbit of Seville.”

EARLY OPERA  - THE LAMENTS

Claudio Monteverdi, ed. Richard Cox: "Lasciatemi morire" from L'Arianna
L’Arianna premiered in 1608 as part of the musical festivities for a royal wedding.  It was Monteverdi’s second opera, and is one of the earliest operas ever written. The initial performance was highly praised, but unfortunately all of the music except for the extended Lamento d’Arianna recitiative - an eight scene “expressive lament” - is lost. Monteverdi was under immense pressure to complete the work in a tight timeframe, and later said that the process of composing the work nearly killed him. We are singing the first scene of this beautiful work.

Henry Purcell, arr. Jonathan Miller: Dido's Lament from Dido and Aeneas
The exact dates of composition and premiere of this opera are unknown, but they are later than July 1688.  This is Purcell’s only true opera, and the reason Dido is moved to sing this lament is quite simple: Aeneas – whom Dido has agreed to marry – believes the Gods have ordered him to go to Italy. As he goes, she dies of grief. This aria is included in the soundtrack of HBO’s Band of Brothers and has been covered by numerous artists including jazz singers Mara Carlye and Terri Templeton; a version featuring Armen Ra on the theremin; and American singer-songwriter Jeff Buckley, who counted Led Zeppelin, Queen and Pink Floyd among his musical inspirations. However he also admitted to being attracted to “really interesting harmonies, stuff that I would hear in Ravel, Ellington, Bartók.” Purcell probably more easily fits into the latter group of Buckley’s influencers than the former.

ITALAN OPERA – THE DEVOS and THE DIVAS

arr. Paul Langford: The Dueling Tenors
Paul Langford felt strongly that we needed to feature our tenor section in a medley of the most recognizable tenor arias in the repertoire. It took input from Paul, Garrett, and Ace to boil down the incredibly long list of options to something manageable, as well as to create a storyline to weave the tunes together. The end result shows off the incredible versatility, humor and charm of our tenors, while honoring the incredible writing of Donizetti, Verdi and Puccini.

Donizetti, arr. Swingle Singers, trans. Paul Langford: "Il dolce suono" from Lucia di Lammermoor
Lucia has plunged into madness after stabbing her husband in their bridal chamber on their wedding night. She proceeds to sing this aria, which is also known as the “Mad Scene.” Lucia di Lammermoor was written in 1835 and requires a powerful coloratura soprano with a solid high extension and incredible agility in the title role. We will be performing the arrangement of “Il dolce suono” used in the 1997 movie “Fifth Element,” which includes a contemporary twist.

GERMAN OPERA – A CHORISTER’S DREAM

Richard Wagner, arr. Patrick Sinozich: A Wagner Fantasy
Most of the selections on our program feature pieces written for the leading men and women of opera and presented as solos, duets or trios. We must not forget that choral numbers within operas are critical to the storyline, and provide a change in color, texture, and volume as the number of singers on stage increases. Wagner’s choral numbers are an excellent example of both German opera as well as the incredible music written for the opera chorus. In music portraying a group of sailors from Der Fliegende Holländer (1841), women who are singing as they spin (same opera), and even Lohengrin’s (1850) wedding party showing off mixed chorus, Patrick Sinozich has once again found a way to weave several great melodies into one spectacular medley. Keep your ears open for subtle (or not so subtle) references to Wagner’s Tristan und Isolde (1859) and Die Walküre (1854).

FRENCH OPERA – GRAND, INTELLECTUAL, EXOTIC

Rossini, arr. Philip Lawson: Overture to William Tell
Guillaume Tell premiered in 1829 and was the last of Rossini’s 39 operas, despite the fact that he lived nearly another 40 years beyond the premiere. We will sing the Finale, “March of the Swiss Soldiers,” which is often used in popular culture to depict a race, galloping horses, or a hero riding to the rescue, although the opera itself does not include a cavalry charge.  References to this grand opera are heard frequently in popular media, including cartoons (Bugs Bunny and The Flintstones), film (Clockwork Orange, The Princess Diaries, Charlie Chaplin’s The Circus), advertising (Reebok, Lark cigarettes), and parodies (Spike Jones with Doodle Weaver is worth a listen).

“My definition of an intellectual is someone who can listen to the William Tell Overture without thinking of the Lone Ranger.” – Billy Connolly

“Yeah, good luck with that…” – Kathryn Kamp

Georges Bizet/Léo Delibes, arr. Joe Labozetta: "Au fond du temple saint" from Les Pêcheurs de Perles/"Flower Duet" from Lakmé
In Bizet’s 1862 Les Pêcheurs de Perles (The Pearl Fishers), long-lost friends Nadir and Zuniga are reunited. They recall a time when their friendship was nearly destroyed by their love for the same woman. Rather than pursue her, they swore to remain true to each other until death, and in this duet they reaffirm that vow. The ruins of a Hindu temple form the backdrop for the duet.

Lakmé (Delibes, 1882) is set in British India, and in the Flower Duet we see Lakmé and her servant Millika gathering flowers at the river. As in other French operas of the period, the exotic locales were common.

MURDERING THE CLASSICS! SPIKE JONES SUSPECTED.

Spike Jones, arr. Patrick Sinozich: “Carmen Murdered,” inspired by Bizet’s Carmen
While he was working as a musician in a pit orchestra, Spike Jones soon became tired of playing the same music every night. He began gathering with like-minded musicians to play parodies for their own enjoyment, and recorded their weekly performances to share the fun with friends and family. At some point a few of their recordings made it into the hands of an executive at RCA Victor, and Jones was offered a contract. Spike Jones and his City Slickers released Der Fuehrer's Face in 1942, which featured a “birdaphone” and a rubber razzer. Jones thought the initial popularity of the group would soon fade, but this was not the case. Among his catalog of parodies (created between the early 1940’s to mid-1950’s) is a series called “Murdering the Classics.” Opera parodies in the series include the William Tell Overture, Leoncavallo’s Pagliacci, and Carmen Mudered! Spike Jones Suspected. Slide whistles, ridiculous vocals, cow bells, and clanging garbage can lids are just a the of the few sound effects used by Spike throughout his parodies, and Carmen Murdered is no exception. Arranger Patrick Sinozich agreed to take this bull by the horns, and somehow managed to cut the Spike Jones 13-minute version down enough to fit within our program while maintaining the storyline, humor, and most importantly the musical integrity of the Spike Jones parody.

I N T E R M I S S I O N

Puccini/Jonathan Larson, arr. Patrick Sinozich: "O Mio Babbino Caro” from Gianni Schicchi / "Seasons of Love” from Rent

“O Mio Babbino Caro” is one of the most beloved and widely recognized Puccini soprano arias, and may very well be his shortest, lasting about 3 minutes. We’ve paired it with “Seasons of Love” from American composer and playwright Jonathan Larson’s rock opera Rent, which is loosely based on Puccini’s La Bohème (1896). Rent won multiple Tony Awards in 1996, including Best Musical and Best Original Score, and that same year won a Pulitzer Prize for Drama.

Andrew Lloyd Webber, arr. Bob Chilcott: “All I Ask Of You” from The Phantom of the Opera

While technically a musical, this show requires singers who are able to approach the score with solid operatic technique and interpretation. Multiple Tony Awards (1988) include Best Musical, Best Actor, Best Director and Best Set, Costume and Lighting Designers. Phantom of the Opera is currently the longest running show in Broadway history.

Freddie Mercury, arr. Hoss Brock and Brian Streem: “Bohemian Rhapsody” from A Night at the Opera
Roger Daltrey (lead singer of The Who) called Freddie Mercury "the best virtuoso rock 'n' roll singer of all time. He could sing anything in any style. He could change his style from line to line and, God, that's an art. And he was brilliant at it." Despite an initially poor reaction by critics, his 1975 composition “Bohemian Rhapsody,” which appeared on Queen’s album A Night at the Opera, became an instant success, topping the charts in the UK, Canada, the United States, the Netherlands, Australia and New Zealand.  In a 2009 review, The Guardian’s music critic Tom Service described its popularity as “one of the strangest musical phenomena out there:

The precedents of Bohemian Rhapsody are as much in the 19th-century classical traditions of rhapsodic, quasi-improvisational reveries – like, say, the piano works of Schumann or Chopin or the tone-poems of Strauss or Liszt – as they are in prog-rock or the contemporary pop of 1975. That's because the song manages a sleight of musical hand that only a handful of real master-musicians have managed: the illusion that its huge variety of styles – from intro, to ballad, to operatic excess, to hard-rock, to reflective coda – are unified into a single statement, a drama that somehow makes sense. It's a classic example of the unity in diversity that high-minded musical commentators have heard in the symphonies of Beethoven or the operas of Mozart. And that's exactly what the piece is: a miniature operatic-rhapsodic-symphonic-tone-poem.


W. S. Gilbert and Arthur Sullivan, arr. Paul Langford: Gilbert and Sullivan Medley

Librettist W.S Gilbert and composer Arthur Sullivan wrote 14 comic operas between 1871 and 1896. Though it is set in Japan, The Mikado pokes fun at the English bureaucracy. The Gondoliers features a pair of  - you guessed it – gondoliers who, in the spirit of “republican equality,” attempt to remodel the monarchy. In Ruddigore the hero of the show becomes evil, the villian becomes good, and the virtuous maiden drops her fiancé. Pirates of Penzance premiered in New York rather than London and revisits a main theme of H.M.S. Pinafore, where unqualified people have risen to positions of authority. In the case of Pirates, the Major-General presents a patter song listing his well-rounded and impressive education but admits to having no military knowledge. However, according to him this is of no consequence: “But still, in matters vegetable, animal, and mineral, I am the very model of a modern Major-General.”