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Program Notes: May 29, 2005
The triumphant premiere of Beethoven's Ninth Symphony took place in 1824, with the deaf composer looking on, poignantly oblivious to both the sound of his music and the enthusiastic response of his audience. While the work has maintained an extraordinary popularity with audiences over the course of nearly two centuries, and while its finale theme has been used prominently and often as a political anthem (most recently as the international anthem of Europe), its status as a masterpiece has nevertheless been frequently questioned. Perhaps the greatest controversy centers on Beethoven's introduction of voices in the last movement, which after three purely instrumental movements creates the impression that he has somehow "changed the subject." Moreover, there are passages in the work that seem to support the once widespread belief that the aging, deaf Beethoven had lost touch with the realities of music-making. And, finally, Beethoven's choice of Schiller's ode To Joy as his text has sometimes seemed unfortunate; no matter how sympathetic one might be to its promise of brotherhood and universal joy, the text can easily seem too sentimental, with its Cherubs, ecstatic worms, and undiscriminating "kiss for the whole world." Nietzsche and Sir Francis Tovey, among others, argued that the text does not matter, that the glorious sound of voices raised in song drowns out the actual words; certainly the way that performances of the Ninth can function as community-building events depends partly on that dimension. Yet, for Beethoven, Schiller's ode was vitally important. It had been a lifelong ambition for him to set the poem to music, and it seems impossible not to hear in his setting, in his powerful projection of a universal Brotherhood seeking the guidance of a loving Father, a poignant reflection of his own intense need to connect with his fellow creatures, and to transcend the cruelty of his personal fate. Ultimately, we are compelled, by our shared humanity and the power of Beethoven's music, to embrace the work in its totality.
Richard Wagner's opera Die Meistersinger von Nürnberg ("The Mastersingers of Nuremberg," premiered 1868) is ostensibly a comedy, but is - as one might expect from Wagner - mostly a rather serious affair. Its theme is core to an important strand of German nationalist thought, which places an affinity for music at the center of what it means to be German. The Prelude, naturally enough, has song as its centerpiece, grandly mounted between the processional "Mastersingers" music with which it opens and closes, but the comic side of the opera also shows up, in a rather self-important "fugue" about two thirds of the way through. The Prelude to Act III begins somberly, but the act also includes - in the excerpts included in tonight's arrangement - a rare Wagnerian waltz (the "Dance of the Apprentices") and another return to the Mastersingers' processional music.
Oh friends, not these sounds! Rather let us turn to sounds more pleasant and more joyful.Joy, beautiful divine spark, daughter of Elysium,
We enter your sanctuary, intoxicated with fire.
Your magic power reunites what custom has divided;
All men become brothers under your gentle wings.
He who has had the good fortune to find a true friend,
He who has won a loving wife, let him join in our rejoicing!
Yes, if there is but one soul he can call his on the whole earth!
And he who could never achieve this, let him steal weeping from this company!
All creatures drink joy at Nature's breasts;
Good and evil alike follow in her path of roses.
She gives us kisses and the fruit of the vine, and a friend tried in death;
Ecstasy is granted even to the worm, and the Cherub stands before God!
Joyfully, as His suns speed through the glorious expanse of heaven,
Brothers, run your course, joyously, like a hero towards victory!
Be embraced, you millions! This kiss for the whole world!
Brothers, above the starry canopy a loving Father must surely dwell!
Do you prostrate yourself, you millions? Do you sense your Creator, world?
Seek him above the starry canopy; above the stars He must surely dwell!
Elin Carlson, soprano
Elin Carlson returned to her native California in 1993 after living five years in Europe, where she performed opera and musical theater in Bielefeld, Weikersheim, Vienna, Innsbruck, and a year starring in Cats in Hamburg. She has also been recently heard to critical acclaim in the roles of Violetta in La Traviata, Elvira in Ernani, Gilda in Rigoletto, Constanza in Yanked From the Harem (The Abduction from the Seraglio), Lucia in Lucia di Lammermoor, Amalia in I Masnadieri, Musetta in La Boheme, and Donna Anna in Mozart's Don Giovanni. She has appeared regularly in Southern California as a soloist with the L.A. Master Chorale, I Cantori, the LA Mozart Orchestra, Zephyr, OperaWorks, the LA Jazz Choir, and at various churches and temples. She is a founding member of the a cappella jazz group, Sixth Wave, which won the 2001 National Harmony Sweepstakes Championship. Ms. Carlson spent a month (October 1996) in Japan as a soloist with the Roger Wagner Chorale. As an oratorio soloist, Ms. Carlson's performances include Handel's Messiah, Bach's B Minor Mass, Vivaldi's Gloria, and Rossini's Stabat Mater. She has extensive experience performing choral and oratorio literature, from the earliest composed works on the North American continent to works of current composers such as Morton Lauridsen, Ed Cansino, Paul Gibson, and John Biggs. Ms. Carlson received her Bachelor of Music Degree in theory and composition at the University of Arizona, Tucson, and is a published composer. Her marimba concerto and her song cycle for voice and marimba have been performed in Arizona and New York, and her vocal arrangements have been performed by various groups in Los Angeles.
Tracy Van Fleet, mezzo-soprano
Tracy Van Fleet's rich and warm Mezzo Soprano voice has been heard nationally as a soloist with the Los Angeles Master Chorale and Orchestra, San Diego Chamber Orchestra, Pasadena Pops Orchestra, Colorado Philharmonic, Los Angeles Bach Festival and others. She has also appeared with the Los Angeles Music Center Opera and the Los Angeles Philharmonic, including the gala opening concert for the Walt Disney Concert Hall. In addition, she has performed with the Pacific Symphony, Hollywood Bowl Orchestra, Opera Pacific, San Diego Opera and Opera Colorado. Among many operatic roles, Ms. Van Fleet has sung both the Witch and Mother in Humperdinck's Hansel and Gretel, Flora in Verdi's La Traviata, Tisbe in Rossini's Cenerentola, and Lola in Mascagni's Cavalleria Rusticana. Gilbert and Sullivan audiences across the country have enjoyed her singing Ruth in Pirates of Penzance, Katisha in The Mikado, and Buttercup in HMS Pinafore, all for Opera A La Carte. In addition, she has sung these and other roles for the Colorado Gilbert & Sullivan Festival, as well as San Diego Comic Opera. Ms. Van Fleet received her Bachelor of Music in Vocal Performance from the University of Southern California. She is currently enrolled in USCÄôs Master of Music program in Vocal Performance.
Jonathan Mack, tenor
Jonathan Mack "is a musician of remarkable refinement and the owner of an extraordinarily pliant, sweet, and ever-growing tenor," writes Martin Bernheimer of the Los Angeles Times. Mr. Mack returns as soloist with the Santa Monica Symphony, having performed in 2000 Mahler's Das Lied von der Erde. Mr. Mack's expanding international career proves this opinion correct. Now in his thirteenth season with the Los Angeles Music Center Opera, Jonathan Mack has performed over thirty leading roles with major opera companies around the world. His concert appearances include engagements with the London Symphony, the LA Philharmonic, and the Minnesota Orchestra, as well as on the stages of the Chatauqua and Carmel Bach Festivals. Mr. Mack recently returns from a tour of Quebec, performing Beethoven's powerful Ninth Symphony with the Montreal Metropolitan. He is featured as soloist on recordings with the William Hall Chorale, the Los Angeles Vocal Arts Ensemble, and the LA Philharmonic. A versatile performer, Mr. Mack can also be heard on such popular soundtracks as Jurassic Park, Amistad, Men in Black and Anastasia. Jonathan Mack has performed solo recitals throughout the country, sponsored by the National Federation of Music Clubs, the National Association of Teachers of Singing, and a Martha Baird Rockefeller Grant for advanced study. A graduate of the University of Southern California, he is now a member of their faculty, as well as that of Chapman University.
Jinyoung Jang, bass-baritone
Bass Jinyoung Jang, a native of Seoul Korea, is a Resident Artist with Los Angeles Opera Company where his appearances include Frere Jean in Romeo et Juliette, Colline in La Boheme for Student Matinee, Lackey in Ariadne auf Naxos, Trojan Soldier in Idomeneo, Commissioner in Madama Butterfly, Night Watchman in Die Frau Ohne Schatten, and an Old Gypsy in Il Trovatore. Mr. Jang made his debut as Polydorus in L'Enfance du Christ with Los Angeles Philharmonic. He appeared as a bass soloist with the Los Angeles Master Choral in Handelís Messiah-Sing Along, Mozart Requiem, and Israel in Egypt. He performed in an Opera Buffs concert and he appeared with the Bakersfield Symphony, Pasadena Symphony, Knoxville Opera, Chattanooga Symphony, Oak Ridge Symphony, and the Pacific Music Festival in Japan. Jinyoung Jang was a winner in the Pasadena Opera Guild, second place in the Los Angeles Chapter in the NATS competition in a Career Division, Nunzio Crisci Opera Scholarship Audition, a Mid-South Regional Finalist in the Metropolitan Opera National Council Auditions and first place in the NATS competition in Houston. He earned a Bachelor's degree at Seoul National University, Artist Certificate at Southern Methodist University, Master's Degree at University of Tennessee and Advanced Studies at University of Southern California.
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