UC Davis Symphony hosts soprano in wide-ranging program

By From page A15 | February 14, 2014

Lucy Shelton sopranoW

Soprano Lucy Shelton will perform a recital Sunday, Feb. 9, and join the UC Davis Symphony on Sunday, Feb. 16. Courtesy photo

The’s the ticket
What: UC Davis Symphony Orchestra, featuring soprano Lucy Shelton
When: 7 p.m. Sunday, Feb. 16
Where: Mondavi Center for the Performing Arts, UC Davis
Tickets: $12-$17 general, $8 students; www.mondaviarts.org or 530-754-2787

The UC Davis Symphony Orchestra will perform at 7 p.m. Sunday, Feb. 16, at the Mondavi Center, in a program that will feature a widely acclaimed American soprano as well as music drawing on folk songs from many lands, Finnish legends, French Impressionism and German opera. Expect variety in this wide-ranging program.

“First of all,” said conductor Christian Baldini, “I’d like to point out that having a soloist of the caliber of soprano Lucy Shelton (an artist-in-residence at the UC Davis music department this month) is a wonderful thing to share with our audiences.

“She is a true eminence when it comes to music by living composers, having premiered over 100 works by such prominent composers as Elliott Carter, Oliver Knussen, Gerard Grisey and David Del Tredici, among many others,” he continued. “She has been a collaborator with Pierre Boulez, one of the most important composers and conductors of our era.
“So, having her with us, working with our students, is really a wonderful blessing.”

Shelton will be featured in two works: Luciano Berio’s “Folk Songs” for mezzo-soprano and orhcestra, and the Jean Sibelius tone poem “Luonnotar.”

Berio put together his 23-minute set of folk songs for his wife, singer Cathy Berberian, in the 1960s. The folk songs, many of them dealing with love, come from the United States, France, Italy, Armenia, Azerbaijan and the Mediterranean islands of Sardinia and Sicily.
The soloist sings in many different languages in this unusual concert piece. Berio originally scored “Folk Songs” for soprano and chamber ensemble; he re-scored the piece for soprano and orchestra in 1973.

Sibelius is a favorite with Baldini, who has programmed music by the Finnish composer year after year. “Luonnotar” draws on a myth of the world’s creation from the Kalevala, a collection of Finnish folklore and legends. Sibelius wrote the nine-minute tone poem in 1913, and it was premiered in England, where the composer’s music has long been held in high regard.

Opening the concert will be an overture from the 1850 opera “Genoveva” — the only opera that German composer Robert Schumann wrote. The opera, based on a medieval legend, basically bombed at its premiere, though it is revived from time to time.
But the moody eight-minute overture, in the rich Germanic tradition, is programmed more often than the complete work from which it is drawn, much as Leonard Bernstein’s Broadway show “Candide” is performed much less frequently than its popular overture.

Maurice Ravel wrote about an hour of music for the ballet “Daphnis et Chloé,” which was premiered in Paris by the newly-formed Ballet Russes (led by Sergei Diaghilev) in 1912. Ravel later reshaped music from that ballet score into two orchestral suites, the second of which, about 20 minutes long,will be performed by the UCD Symphony Orchestra on Sunday.
The piece begins at “the end of night” and then depicts the gradual awakening of nature: birds sing, shepherds stir, the slowly rising sun casts brightening rays.

Baldini suggested that this is a program of contrasts.
“Each of these pieces is a completely different world. Schumann has the uniqueness of providing as much doubt and hesitancy as power and reaffirmation. Berio takes the listener around the world, portraying colors from different cultures in beautiful songs that are marvelously orchestrated.
“Sibelius describes in a really successful way the creation of the world… this is cold, and slow evolving music, but it gets rather explosive once it gets going,” he said. “And Ravel, lastly, surprises us with some of the most evocative melodies ever written.”

Tickets are $12-$17 general, $8 for students, available at www.mondaviarts.org or 530-754-2787.

Jeff Hudson

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