Oct. 2, 2003 – The Forum is bringing the Puerto Rico Symphony Orchestra to St. Thomas this fall for the fifth successive year, but this time to a new venue.
Because the Reichhold Center for the Arts is closed for renovations, the concert, set for Nov. 1, will be held in the Mark C. Marin Center on the Antilles School campus.
No one need be concerned that the image of the center has to date mainly been that of a sports arena and commencement auditorium. Forum board member Ricardo Charaf and representatives of the symphony orchestra did a site visit before plans were finalized, and the orchestra personnel were "very favorably impressed" with the space and, especially, the acoustics, according to an Antilles staff member.
The center will have seating for about a thousand persons — 200 fewer than the Reichhold Center can accommodate — and will offer something that the Reichhold Center cannot: air conditioning.
Upholstered seats will be brought in by The Forum, as will a sound system meeting the orchestra's needs, according to Forum board member Brian Squires.
This year's program has a special cachet: It's the one to be performed 17 days later in the orchestra's debut at New York's Carnegie Hall, featuring lyric soprano Ana Maria Martinez as guest artist.
About 80 members of the orchestra will be traveling to St. Thomas, Squires said. They will perform under the baton of music director Guillermo Figueroa, who also conducted the 2001 and 2002 performances at the Reichhold Center.
The concert will open with Mozart's Overture from the opera "La clemenza di Tito."
Next, Martinez, accompanied by the orchestra, will sing a new cycle of tone poems in English set to music by Roberto Sierra, collectively titled "Beyond the Silence of Sorrow."
Following intermission, the orchestra will perform the "Symphonie Fantastique" by Berlioz.
The Puerto Rico Symphony Orchestra was founded in 1956 at the encouragement of legendary cellist Pablo Casals, who held the first Casals Festival on the island, his mother's birthplace, that year. The festival management was given the task of organizing and managing the orchestra, which made its debut in 1958.
Guillermo Figueroa, the first native Puerto Rican to be named director of the orchestra, is in his third year in that position.
Ana Maria Martinez, herself a puertorriqueña, received her bachelor's and master's degrees from the Juilliard School and made her professional debut in 1996 at the Casals Festival. Her acclaimed debuts in Florence, Italy, and with the Stuttgart Opera and New York City Opera propelled her into the limelight. She has performed in recital with Plácido Domingo throughout the world and with Andreas Bocelli across the United States.
Her world premiere recording with Domingo of Isaac Albeniz' opera "Merlin" won the 2001 Latin Grammy for best classical album. With Bocelli she recorded "I Pagliacci."
Martinez made her debut in London's Covent Garden in 2002 and with the Hamburg Opera last season. This season, she made her debut with the Santa Fe Opera in June and the San Francisco Opera in September; she also will be performing with the Deutsche Oper Berlin, the Houston Grand Opera and the Casals Festival.
The online ConcertoNet said that Martinez in her performance as Liu in "Turandot" at the Kennedy Center in Washington, D.C., "was simply superb … Her sense of the lyric line is well defined and her control in absolute pianissimo delivery is wonderful."
The Sunday Times of London hailed Martinez as having "a fascinating voice, full of velvety mezzoish half-tints in the middle and bottom ranges, with a gleaming top."
"La clemenza di Tito" was Mozart's last opera, commissioned to celebrate the coronation of Emperor Leopold II as King of Bohemia in 1791 and first performed three months before the composer's death at the age of 35. It's set in Rome in A.D. 79, and the title means "The clemency of Titus," he being the popular and benevolent emperor of the day.
The plot of the opera seria,, not that it has much to do with the overture, is that Vitellia loves Titus, even though his father killed her father, but he doesn't love her, so she plots to get Sextus, who does love her, to assassinate Titus, his best friend. The plot fails, and Sextus confesses but doesn't implicate Vitellia. Titus, unaware of her duplicity, decides he wants to wed Vitellia after all; she, learning that Sextus has been condemned to death, admits her role in the plot. Titus, moved by their honesty and repentance, grants them both clemency. The end. P.S. — It's in Italian, so the hero is named Tito.
The opera is a relatively unknown work today, compared to "The Magic Flute," "The Marriage of Figaro" and "Cosi Fan Tutte," but the overture continues to be performed and has been recorded by numerous orchestras.
Roberto Sierra, born in Puerto Rico, is an internationally prominent contemporary composer. After studying in England and Germany, he returned home eventually to become chancellor of the Puerto Rico Conservatory of Music. For the 2000-01 season, he was composer in residence with the Philadelphia Orchestra. He received the American Academy of Arts and Letters 2003 Award in Music.
"Beyond the Silence of Sorrow," written for soprano and orchestra, uses as text six poems of N. Scott Momaday: "Prayer to the Land," "About Me Like a Robe," "To Tell You of My Love," "A Cradle for This Child," "Little Newborn, Sleep" and "The Woman Who Walked Here."
"Having lived through the second half of the 20th century and now entering the 21st," Sierra says, he found that Momaday's "plea 'Forever land, O heal my heart' seemed to be the appropriate words in these troubled times. I tried in my settings to portray the vivid imagery of the words, ranging from the playfulness of 'About Me Like a Robe' to the tragic tone of 'A Cradle for This Child.'
"The orchestra is used in the cycle to add color and to enhance the emotional shades of my harmonic language. The cycle ends wondering about a long gone woman: 'Where is the woman who walked here?' I feel that this question is about our past and our present; about the many cultures and peoples that are with us, and that preceded us: some forgotten and some in a fragile state of existence."
Berlioz' "Fantastic Symphony," composed in 1830, but not published until 15 years later and further revised after that, was once described by Leonard Bernstein as the first psychedelic musical trip. It's also been called a revolutionary masterpiece that helped usher in the Romantic era of individualistic expression that would characterize much of 19th century artistic expression in music, art and literature.
The work has five movements: "Reveries and Passions," "A Ball," "In the Country," "March to the Scaffold" and "Dream of the Witches' Sabbath." The obsession of Berlioz' self-modeled protagonist, beset by loneliness and despair, with the woman of his dreams is a recurring theme.
"Reveries and Passions" spans a gamut of emotions. In "A Ball," the young man's yearnings are expressed in musical sighs and melodic leaps. The last two movements derive from the protagonist's attempted suicide by opium overdose. The haunting, often chaotic "March to the Scaffold" and "Dream of the Witches' Sabbath" are a drug-induced nightmare of his lover's tragic death and his own falling victim to the hedonistic desires of a coven of witches.
Logistics and specifics
"The Reichhold is providing us with technical advice, particularly as far as the sound system, but we have to
bring the system in," Squires said. The theater also is donating its risers, music stands and chairs for the orchestra. "Reichhold technicians will be working with us on the Friday before the concert and all day on Saturday, including during the rehearsal, to fine tune the acoustics," he said.
He said The Forum will be renting the seats from several local venues.
The regular Marin Center refreshment concession will be open before the concert and at intermission, he said, noting that the center as a part of the school is an alcohol-free facility.
As far as parking, Squires said there are at least 350 spaces on the Antilles campus. "There will be parking attendants looking after people, and the police will be providing security," he said.
Concert time is 8 p.m. Tickets are $65 for orchestra seating, $35 for stall seats and $10 for students only with I.D. for the back rows. Orchestra and stall tickets are being sold at the Reichhold box office, Modern Music in Nisky Center, Parrot Fish Music, Dockside Bookshop, Interiors and Home Again. The student tickets must be purchased at the Reichhold box office.
The regular Reichhold ushers and students from Antilles School will see patrons to their seats, which will be arranged in a curved configuration, Squires said, with 450 orchestra seats at the front, 450 stall seats behind them, and 100 students seats at the rear.
"Having to create our own symphony environment" for this year's concert is going to be "enormously complex and expensive for The Forum," Squires said. The organization is soliciting sponsorships, ranging from platinum ($12,000) to bronze ($1,500) levels and is producing the program booklet for the concert, which has advertising space available. For sponsorship and advertising details, call Squires or Charlene Kehoe at Austin Advertising, 776-7828.
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