Fort Worth Civic Orchestra
Kurt Sprenger, Music Director
Saturday, March 7 at 7:30 p.m.
Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary
2001 West Seminary Drive, Fort Worth, TX
The vocal collaboration of Patricia Caya and Lynda Poston-Smith began with a journey. In September, 2019, Lynda and her husband pianist Robert Carl Smith journeyed to Campobello Island, New Brunswick for a conference. This is where she met Patricia. After many chats during breaks, they were amazed how parallel their career journeys had been. At the end of only five days, after never having heard the other sing, the two pledged to sing together. They selected duet literature by email and video chats, and sang together for the first time – four months after meeting!
Lynda’s singing journey began with studies at the Manhattan School of Music in New York. The journey continued to Germany, where her love and experience with art song and oratorio deepened. Her favorite performing has been the recitals with husband Robert, the many oratorio opportunities she has had, and the six CDs she has recorded. She has also taught at university and graduate school level and currently maintains a private studio in Ft. Worth. And now, at a time when many singers turn to retirement, Lynda’s journey has led to an exciting new chapter of duet literature.
Patricia’s path to becoming a classical singer was an unexpected and surprising journey which began after she graduated from college with an BA in English. Soon afterwards, she had the opportunity to live in Helsinki, Finland, where she began her vocal studies at the Helsinki Conservatory. A few years later she moved to Vienna, Austria, where she completed two degrees at the Vienna Academy of Music and Dramatic Arts. While in Vienna, Patricia honed her craft of ensemble singing as a member and featured soloist with the Austrian Radio (ORF) Choir. At the same time, she enjoyed many opportunities as a soloist in Opera, Oratorio, and Recital work. After nine years soaking up the culture and rich musical traditions of Vienna, she returned to the US where she continued following her love of singing in performances with various groups in the Baltimore/Washington DC area. Patricia also taught at the university level, and maintains a private voice studio in Athens, GA, where she currently resides with her husband and two dogs. She is thrilled and inspired by having found a kindred singing spirit in Lynda Poston-Smith, and the collaboration that is to continue.
Wendy is a recent transplant from Minnesota. She was raised in a family of classical musicians and has been playing violin from a young age. Upon the death of her father when she was 12, she taught herself to read the viola clef. This began her love of playing the viola. She still performs on her father’s viola. Wendy has 4 children and has recently become a Nana, with 5 grandchildren. While she enjoys playing in various ensembles, her full-time job is as a kindergarten teacher. When she has some free time, she enjoys reading, working in her flower gardens and being with her family.
“The Old Man and the Sea” is a tone poem based on Ernest Hemmingway’s heroic novella. The piece begins with eight ship’s bells, which means “end of watch, or the loss of a sailor.” The introduction of “the old man” is given in the bassoon. Next, we are introduced to the calm, deep ocean and the multitude of sea life that lives within. The man spends a good part of the day fishing as the ocean swells around him. The sea begins to get rough, then suddenly becomes eerily calm. The great storm begins quietly and builds slowly and relentlessly, becoming more chaotic as the the waves get higher and higher. The boat crests a huge wave and then another. The waves come quicker and closer together until finally the storm breaks, the waves begin to calm and everything disrupted by the storm sinks back to the ocean floor. The old man regroups and secures his boat. The day is calm again, and as a steady wind begins to blow, he unfurls the sails and with a laugh of joy and triumph, shoots across the sea. Later, as the wind is spent and all is calm, he reflects on his day as the eight ship’s bells once again signal the end of watch. This work is dedicated to to Debbie Neighbors and the memory of her grandfather, Kirb Whatley, who was a deep sea fisherman off the coast of Oregon.
Tim Swanger was born and raised in Modesto California. He earned a Bachelor of Music degree from California State University Stanislaus and a Master's degree in Business Organizational Behavior at the California School of Professional Psychology. He was a high school band and choir director from 1990-2004 and Timpanist for the Merced Symphony Orchestra from 1996-2003. He returned to school to earn a degree in Respiratory Therapy and has been a respiratory therapist since 2005. He has performed with the Mansfield Wind Symphony since 2008 and the Fort Worth Civic Orchestra since 2015 and lives in Keller TX with his girlfriend Debbie, their dog and cats.
Wendy Daugherty, Viola
In summer 2019 I arranged Clara Schumann’s piano solo, Notturno, op. 6, no. 2, for viola and orchestra. The impetus for this creative project was the influence of two women I take as inspiration. The first, naturally, is Clara Schumann, the brilliant and multi-faceted composer and pianist whose bicentennial (1819-2019) was celebrated last year. The second is Wendy Daugherty, soloist this evening and my long-time stand partner in the viola section of the Fort Worth Civic Orchestra. Her kindness and generosity of spirit have encouraged me to continue applying my modest talents on the instrument, and in doing so, to share in the joyful community of music-making with friends.
I am so very grateful to Wendy, for her voice in this project; to Dr. Kurt Sprenger, conductor of the Fort Worth Civic Orchestra, for his dedication to new music; as well as to the members of the Civic Orchestra, who have generously invested their time and talent in this and other works of mine.
The storyline screams out for it to be called “Cleopatra,” but Handel’s sixteenth opera was a star vehicle for his favorite castrato, Senesino. So, despite the stormy professional relationship between composer and singer, the 1724 opera was called “Giulio Cesare in Egitto” – or just “Julius Caesar.” Then, too, Handel had fought a duel over Johann Mattheson’s “Cleopatra” 20 years prior. At that performance, its composer sang the role of Anthony while Handel conducted. When Mattheson finished singing, he demanded to take Handel’s place, Handel refused, and swords were drawn the next morning. Both lived to retell the story.
There were no known performances of his operas in the 1800s, but the early 1920s marked the start of a Handel opera revival. It was New York City Opera’s 1966 production of “Julius Caesar” starring Beverly Sills and Norman Treigle that firmly established it in the current repertoire. In Act 2 of the opera, Caesar is summoned to Cleopatra’s palace and is immediately bewitched by the sound of a young woman’s voice. He listens intently as the beautiful ‘Lidia’ (the Egyptian queen in disguise) sings her seductive aria “V’adoro pupille” in praise of Cupid’s arrows. In the final act, Ptolemy crushes Cleopatra’s army and takes her in chains, but Caesar rallies his forces for one final assault. Returning victorious after Ptolemy’s death, the lovers are reunited in the lively march-like duet “Caro! Bella!”
Offenbach wrote 100 works for the stage whose chirpy tunes were the soundtrack of Second Empire France. All but his last were burlesque operettas. “The Tales of Hoffmann” was his only grand opera and his adieu; Offenbach died while the production was in rehearsal at the Paris Opéra-Comique.
What he left behind was a nightmare of jumbled sketches and ungainly story lines that might have been at home in 20th century expressionist theater, but its uncut length – and its many pared down editions –challenge the sanity of stage directors. The tales follow the adventurer/storyteller E.T.A. Hoffmann on a hallucinatory search for the elusive woman of his dreams, chasing imaginary figments across Europe: the lifeless mechanical doll Olympia in Paris, the fragile singer Antonia in Munich and the faithless courtesan Giulietta in Venice. As Act 3 opens, Hoffmann’s companion Nicklausse (a trouser role for mezzo soprano) and Giulietta ride a gondola on the Grand Canal. Together, they sing the barcarolle whose melody had been a song for elves and forest sprites that Offenbach lifted from his 1864 light opera “Die Rheinnixen.” Here, the words were recast as:
Beautiful night, oh night of love,
Smile at our intoxication!
Night is sweeter than day!
O beautiful night of love!
It’s astonishing that, even half a century after a certain pop balladeer’s heyday, the original Engelbert Humperdinck doesn’t turn up in a Google search until Page 6. Humperdinck the composer was a disciple of Richard Wagner, an ardent nationalist who publicly denied Germany’s atrocities against Belgium in the First World War and author of the most beloved children’s opera in the literature.
He had been Wagner’s hand-picked assistant at the 1882 Bayreuth premiere of “Parsifal,” so when his sister, Adelheid, asked Humperdinck to compose some songs to accompany her childrens’ Christmas puppet show in 1889, he may have felt grossly underused. However, he approached the task with seriousness, and the show and music were so well-received that he expanded it into a singspiel with 16 songs to piano accompaniment, later scoring it for a Wagnerian orchestra. Richard Strauss was so taken with it, he led the Weimar premiere in December 1893, and “Hänsel und Gretel” has been a Christmas tradition ever since.
Tonight’s selections are from the end of Act 2 when the children find themselves alone in the dark forest. They sing the “Evening Prayer,” whose lyrics are from the poem Abendgebet in the collection Des Knaben Wunderhorn:
In the evening,
When I go to sleep,
Fourteen angels are at my side,
Two to my right,
Two to my left,
Two at my head,
Two at my feet,
Two to cover me,
Two to wake me,
Two who point me to sweet Paradise.
Humperdinck uses this childlike melody several times in the Prelude so that when Hansel and Gretel – tired, hungry and afraid – sing it here, the audience already knows it intimately. As they drift to sleep, the guardian angels of the poem descend from a staircase in the sky to watch over them in the purely instrumental tableau vivant of the “Dream Pantomime.”
Orpheus has been singing to us for millennia. He was the subject of the very earliest operas by Jacopo Peri and Claudio Monteverdi and the latest ones from Philip Glass and Ricky Ian Gordon. In the centuries between, his arias have been spun out by Charpentier, Telemann, Haydn, Offenbach, Milhaud, Krenek, Henze, Birtwistle and plenty more.
Probably the best-known music from Gluck’s “Orpheus” isn’t a song but an instrumental danced by the Blessed Sprits of Act 3. But it’s in Act 4 that the psychology surrenders to the mind games of an O. Henry story. Orfeo has already braved the monsters and furies of his descent to the underworld, and now he leads his Euridice back to the land of the living. She’s amazed to be reunited with him, but he refuses to look at her. Has his love faded? Has he rejected her? She asks why he’s indifferent, but he won’t say. She begs him for a glance, but he looks ahead. Both are suffering, and each prays to the gods for strength. When Orfeo feels her fading back into the underworld, he breaks his vow of abstinence and turns around. She dies again, and he laments how he can go on without her in his sorrowful “Che farò senza mi Euridice.” But before he can take his own life and return to the underworld, the spirit of Amore arrives to declare the power of his love has vanquished death and reunites Orfeo with his Euridice.
There’s no clearer sign that “The Bartered Bride” is the essential Czech national opera than the fact that it’s always in production at the National Theatre in Prague.
Smetana’s opera wasn’t high concept, but it combined Czech language with idiomatically Czech music (original tunes that could pass for folk melodies) and a campy tale of village life and young love. The parents of a young maiden, Mařenka, have contracted to marry her off to Vašek, the rube son of wealthy Tobias Micha. But she has promised her hand to a handsome young stranger, Jeník. Meanwhile, Vašek has fallen hard for a circus dancer, Esmeralda, and joins her troupe as a dancing bear. A few plot turns later, when all seems lost for Mařenka, Jeník reveals his true identity as Micha’s long-lost oldest son, and the young lovers – along with their entire village – can now rejoice in a preposterous happy ending. The opera is peppered with Smetana’s folk dances, notably, the spirited Polka that ends Act I after Mařenka – peeved at her parents' meddling in her love life – knocks the contract out of the marriage broker's hand.
“I wanted to sing the praise of the Swedish character and the beauty of Swedish nature at Midsummer, write a hymn of joy in the idealizing language of music. I set to work as in a dream.” – Hugo Alfvén
Midsummer festival, coinciding with St. John’s Day on June 23, inspired Shakespeare’s “A Midsummer Night’s Dream,” and it was celebrated musically in Wagner’s “Die Meistersinger,” Falla’s “The Three-Cornered Hat” and this 1903 picture postcard from Sweden. At 31, Alvén was already cementing his reputation as a serious composer of dramatic symphonies – the exotic Fourth (“From the seaward skerries”) is considered his masterpiece – so this frisky little dance rhapsody was a delightful surprise to his public. Basking in the warmth of a summer romance with Danish painter Marie Krøyer, wife of the celebrated Skagen painter Peder Severin Krøyer, Alvén set about to capture the cheerful carousing of “Midsummer Vigil” in music that was both folkish and erotic.
The opening clarinet solo finds a group of carefree young people on their way to the barn dance where beer is already flowing. A croaky singer (bassoon) and a tone-deaf crone (English horn) try to jumpstart the ‘Pointing Dance,’ but the revelers laugh them down. Soon the fiddlers take up the cadence, but drunk intruders start a brawl, and order is only restored after they’re booted out. Two young lovers leave the gaiety behind and steal away to the woods where they’re serenaded by a distant shepherd on his reed. A gust of wind brings the forest alive in the ecstasy of love. As the first rays of sun pierce the horizon, the pair return to the dance where the whirling Jössehärad Polska (with Alfvén’s signature gnarly fiddling, like a tongue-twister for violinists), brings the rhapsody to a buoyant close.