|Maestra Speranza Scappucci and soprano Felicia Moore|
Between the Verdi and the glories of Felicia Moore singing Beethoven we felt more at home at a symphonic concert than we usually do. For this commencement concert, the remarkable Juilliard Orchestra was fortunate to have Maestra Speranza Scappucci on the podium. Juilliard is indeed her home.
One could also say she was kissed by Terpsichore since she used her entire body to elicit a focused and stunning performance from the students. The overall sound was that of a professional orchestra and better than many we have heard.
The program opened with Giuseppe Verdi's overture to La forza del destino, the music of which we hold dearer than that of any other Verdi opera. Unfortunately the opera is rarely performed due to the three demanding major roles. The overture comprises the melodies from the opera itself and was added a few years after the opera premiered.
It opens with a propulsive theme conveyed by the brass but a lyrical melody follows close upon its heels. There is a wealth of melodic material and we particularly enjoyed the brass chorale. The familiar initial theme which we call the fate theme recurs several times with alterations, lending unity to the piece.
It is sad that Beethoven composed only one opera (Fidelio) so we must content ourself with a concert aria he wrote as a young man. Who better to sing "Ah! perfido...Per pietà, non dirmi addio," Op. 65 than the stunning soprano Felicia Moore.
It's the old abandoned woman story but it gives the singer an opportunity to marshal all her gifts in conveying a range of emotions from rage and revenge to self pity and pleading. We are left to imagine the opera Beethoven might have written around such a story.
Ms. Moore has uncommon talent and a huge voice that sails over the orchestral forces. We loved the range of emotion she displayed.
The final work on the program was Mendelssohn's Symphony No. 4 in A major, composed in his youth and known as The Italian Symphony. It began with a rhythmic Allegro that any lover of classical music would recognize immediately. Still, we prefer the weary minor key Andante with the basses plodding along. Even better was the third movement in waltz time with some lovely horn calls. The work ends with a Saltarello (an Italian dance form) played Presto. After a forceful introduction there were swirling figures moving through the orchestra that made us think of the music Mendelssohn wrote for Midsummer Night's Dream.
(c) meche kroop