Teatro alla Scala, I due Foscari

Teatro alla Scala, I due Foscari

Friday, May 25, 2012

Vera Musica Workshops    presents
Recitativo and Aria

A workshop with internationally known tenor Francisco Casanova, on the preparation of the form recitativo and aria.

Tuesday November 6th, from 7 PM to 10 PM, at Yeoryia Megremis Studios, Otello Studio on the 5th Floor of 2067 Broadway, between 71st and 72nd streets, (next to Trader Joe's and across from 72nd Street Subway station). Maestro Brian Holman will be assisting Mr Casanova.

Workshop fee: $ 60.00 for participants, $30.00 for auditors.

Space is limited, please reserve a place in advance by writing to us at info@veramusicaltd.com. 

www.veramusicaltd.com dedicated to excellence

Sunday, May 6, 2012

VeraMusica Productions  presents highlights of the opera Aïda. 
A group of talented young singers will be performing highlights of Verdi’s Aïda, 
on May 9th and 12th. 
Performances will take place at:

Milbank Memorial Chapel, 
Teacher’s College / Columbia University
525 West 120th Street in Manhattan, between Broadway and Amsterdam

Aïda  - Sandra Mercado
Amneris  - Sara Murphy
Radames  - Byron Singleton (5/9) / Ubaldo Feliciano (5/12)
Amonasro  - Gregory Freilino (5/9) / Stefanos Koroneos (5/12)
Ramfis  - Thomas Clifford 
King  - Jorge Ocasio (5/9) / David Wadden (5/12)
Messenger  - Georgios Argeratos
Priestess  - Jennifer Furst

Accompanied by the two piano ensemble of Gordon Schermer
and Laetitia Ruccolo, under the direction of 
Maestro Brian Holman.

Both performances will start at 7:20 PM.
Tickets for sale at the door $20.00.

VM Productions 4th..
Giuseppe Verdi
Dear Friend:
Welcome to one more concert of the VM Productions Concert Series that began last December. This is our fourth production since.
Thank you for coming, and with your presence and the purchase of this ticket, supporting the work of these young American singers.
I have personally worked with each one of them for a period that goes anywhere from a year to three years.
They have become a very strong reason for me to live, because they are talented, they are hard working and they want to learn.
Rare thing.
Wanting to learn means to put yourself aside and hear and see things on their own terms, not through our preconception of what they should be according to our fears... generally. This attitude requires tremendous courage, and because of this alone, these singers merit your applause. This sort of standing is what truly builds harmony and peace: listening without prejudging.
If you like what we do, and would like to be on our mailing list, leave us your card with your e-mail address, and we will be happy to inform you of our activities. Also... tel your friends.
Thank you for choosing us tonight. 
Francisco Chahín-Casanova
THE OPERA AÏDA -Brief notes and synopsis-
The opera Aida was premiered on the 24th of December 1871, at the Khedivial Opera House in Cairo, Egypt. It was commissioned by Ishmail Pasha, Khedive of Egypt. The libretto of Aïda, in four acts, was written by Antonio Ghislanzoni.
In my years in “the business” I have heard the opera Aïda referred to as a grand opera but also as a chamber opera of great magnitude. I have also heard it being  called a perfect opera. But my favorite is what I heard someone say in Parma (Italy), that Aïda is like the pig, because one does not throw away even the slightest part of that animal when processing it for food. When performing the opera Aïda, due to its perfection in form, construction, musical richness, and depth, one does not have to make any cuts to it in order to have a performance that is effective musically and theatrically.
This opera (like most great operas) requires a cast of true singers to make it effective musically.
Act I
  1. Sì, corre voce / Se quel guerrier io fossi ... Yes, the word is that.../ I wish the I were that warrior (Ramfis Radames)
Radames, a young General of the Egyptian Army, is having a conversation with Ramfis, the High Priest of Egypt. In it, the High Priest tells the young man that Isis has chosen the leader of the Egyptian Army that is to confront the invading Ethiopian Army.
Ramfis leaves and when alone, Radames daydreams about his desire to be chosen and his love for Aïda, a young Ethiopian slave in the service of Princess Amneris. Because he will fight inspired by her love, he plans to offer Aïda his triumph.
  1. Quale insolita gioia nel tuo sguardo / Such an unexpected look of joy in your eyes (Amneris and Radames, then Aïda)
Princess Amneris enters and catches Radames in his mussing. She asks him what the reason for his ecstasy might be. To the best of his ability having been surprised in such an intimate moment, he fumbles an answer explaining that he hopes the Goddess chose him as the leader of the Egyptian Army. She asks him if that is all: “Don’t you have hopes of a more intimate sort in Memphis?”
Radames is between a rock and a hard place. At that point, Aïda enters. The look in Radames’ face tells Amneris the entire story. She, however, receives Aïda in a very amiable way, asking her for the reason of her tears. Aïda says she cannot suppress them as she is worried not only for her own country, but for Egypt as well. All three ensue into a very frenzied trio, each character expressing their own secret concerns, which in arriving into its climax, explodes into a trumpet call to the Royal Hall.
  1. Alta cagion v’aduna o fidi Egizii al vostro Re d’intorno / A most serious reason brings you all, faithful Egyptians to surround your King  (King of Egypt, Messenger, Radames, Ramfis, Ministers, Priests, Army People, Aïda and Amneris)
The King has called all to the Royal Hall to announce that Egypt is in state of war with its southern neighbor, Ethiopia. With great gravitas he introduces a messenger who has come directly from the frontier who speaks of the surprising attacks of the barbarous Ethiopians, who are lead by a ferocious and indomitable General: Amonasro, the King. Aïda trembles when she hears her father’s name. The messenger continues saying that, encouraged by their easy victory against farmers, the enemy armies have already arrived to Thebes, of the Hundred Doors, which heroically defends herself.
Lead by the King, they all burst into cries of WAR TO THE INVADER. Then, the King announces the leader of the Egyptian Army: Radames. All applaud the decision of the Goddess in choosing the young General. The King then sends him to Vulcan’s Temple to pray and bless the weapons that he is to use in the war. The High Priest Ramfis, reminds everyone with a special prayer that all is up to the Gods, who conduct the events of human lives, to decide the results in human affairs. Amneris gives Radames, with pomp and ceremony, a flag which is to serve him as guide an inspiration in battle. Aïda counters and raises above all this ceremony with a syncopated counterpoint, expressing the anguish she feels just in thinking of what could be the outcome of this war.
They all, including her, exhort Radames with a final scream of Ritorna vincitor!, Come back having conquered!
  1. Ritorna vincitor / Come back as a conqueror (Aïda)
Aïda, alone, wonders at the wisdom of having wished Radames well. What about her father and brothers who fight to free her and return her to her country, free? She screams against the Egyptian armies, may they be destroyed by her father. But what about her beloved? In this moment of desperation, she can only do oner thing: in a beautiful prayer, simple, like only Verdi can produce, she begs the Gods for mercy.
5) Mortal diletto ai Numi / Nume custode e vindice di questa sacra terra (Ramfis, Radames, Priestess; Priests)
In the most sacred room of Vulcan’s Temple, the High Priest Ramfis reminds Radames of his duty to Egypt, and how the God should give strength to his arm in the fight agains the enemy. Then, he turns to the God and implores that He may protect the Sacred Land of Egypt. Radames in turn asks that He, the God, be the protecter and defender of Egypt. Both are joined by the Priests, Priestesses and the High Priestesses, which in intervals is heard alone chanting her prayers.
At the end, all join in a powerful invocation “Inmenso Pthà!”, Incommensurable Pthà!
Act II
In this act, victorious over the Southern invader, Egypt celebrates its victory over them.
But before the pomp of the Triumphal March in the streets of Memphis, we find ourselves in Princess Amneris’ quarters, where she is being entertained by dances and songs as she prepares to make her appearance at March. At some point, Aïda enters and Amneris asks the rest of the slaves to leave her alone with Aïda: “Her pain...” she declares “about the victory of our army over her people’s, is sacred to me.”
But internally, Amneris has decided to find out once and for all the truth. Does Aïda  love Radames or not?
  1. Fu la sorte dell’armi ai tuoi funesta, povera Aïda. / Destiny was unfriendly to your people, dearest Aïda. (Amneris and Aïda)
Amneris begins by expressing concern for Aïda and her people, then she adds that nonetheless, Aïda could be happy in Egypt as she, Amneris, considers her a friend. Aïda counters by saying: “How could I be happy away from all I love, not knowing what could have happened to my father and siblings...” Amneris assures her that her words are true and that she sympathizes with her and that time cures all, especially when there is love.
Aïda, in a highly charged emotional response says that love is joy and torment, soft intoxication and cruel anxiety.
Amneris sees her opportunity and asks Aïda to trust her with news of her losses, and asks indirectly if she lost someone she loves. Aïda is confused but manages to recover and guards herself. Then Amneris delivers the final stroke when she says to Aïda that the Goddess of Fortune delivered ill equally on both sides: “Our fearless leader was killed in the battle field...”, tricking Aïda into thinking Radames is dead.
Aïda reacts explosively. Amneris, still keeping control of herself says to her: “Dear Aïda, don’t you see that the Gods have avenged you with the death of your people’s enemy?”
To which Aïda replies that the Gods have always decreed against her.
Amneris seizes her opportunity. She tells her: “Look me in the eyes... Radames IS ALIVE!”
At Aïda’s explosion of joy, Amneris reminds her of who she is: “You love him, but so do I, do you understand? I am your rival, the Daughter of Pharaoh!” Not thinking and filled with rage, from the months suffered in slavery and now seeing herself being manipulated, Aïda almost gives away a war secret when she addresses Amneris as an equal and saying so to her. Realizing her unpardonable strategic mistake, Aïda throws herself at Amneris’ feet begs forgiveness. It is true, she tells Amenris, that she loves Radames, but Amneris has many reasons to he happy as she is powerful, while all Aìda has is this love. Amneris reminds her once more of her place and tells her that the two of them will assist to the public ceremony, Aïda as a slave at her feet while she, Amneris will be sitting on the throne next to the King.
Aïda is left in desperation. We hear again the prayer that closed the aria Ritorna vincitor / Come back a conqueror.
  1. Salvator della Patria, Io ti saluto / Savior of the Homeland, I salute you. (The King, Radames, Ramfis, Priests, Aïda, Amneris, the crowd, and Amonasro)
The King of Egypt greets the leader of his Army, Radames, who returns as a conqueror of the invading forces. The King asks Radames to ask for whatever he wants, for nothing shall be denied to him this day.
Following the protocol, Radames asks that the prisoners be brought before the King first.
Aïda, who is standing in waiting at Amneris’ side, recognizes her father amongst the prisoners.
She runs to him. All are in shock.
The King commands the man embracing Aïda to come forward and reveal who he is. Amonasro, astutely, answers directly: “I am her Father”.
“I too fought, we were defeated. In vain I looked for an honorable death.”
“This uniform I wear will tell you that my King and my country I have defended. The Fates did not smile to our Army, and the efforts of the brave were in vain. At my feet, laying on the dust I saw my King wounded many times. If the love of country is a crime, then we are all ready to pay with our lives...
But you, powerful Lord, you are a clement King and and you will be moved to pity by our plight”
On hearing this,the crowd splits in two: those who beg for pardon for the prisoners, and those who want them executed immediately.
Radames, holding the King to his word, asks the King to spare the lives of all the prisoners.
The voice of reason is heard in Ramfis when he addresses the King and the young hero saying: “They are our enemies, and they are courageous, in their hearts they want revenge. This pardon will only make them more audacious they will run to their weapons and attack us once more.” Radames, having heard the words of the High Priest, responds that the conquered have no fight left now that they belive their King Amonasro to be dead. But Ramfis, suspicious, asks that in the very least Aïda and her father should stay behind.
The King agrees to the wise counsel of the High Priest. Then turning to Radames declares that Egypt owes him everything: Amneris’ hand in marriage will be his prize and with her one day he will govern Egypt.
General jubilation. Aïda remains in sadness and Radames dumbfounded. Amonasro plots as the second Act closes in this most fantastic music.
This act is often called the Nile scene, because it takes place in the banks of the river Nile.
1) Amneris enters the Temple of Isis with the High Priest to pray for the love of Radames on the vigil of her wedding to him.
2) Qui Radames verrà!... che vorrà dirmi? Io tremo. / Radames will meet me here! What may he want to tell me? I shudder. (Aïda, alone)
Radames has asked Aïda to meet him that night by the river. Aïda contemplates death in the Nile if what he wants to do is to break their relationship.
She remembers her country which she might never see again, its beauty, its fresh valleys...
3) O ciel!, mio padre! / Heavens, my father! (Aïda and Amonasro)
Amonasro who has been following Aïda, finds her by the river’s bank. First he reminds her of all they have lost because of the ill will of the Egyptians.
Aïda agrees.
But Amonasro has a plan to turn it all around. He needs to enlist Aïda’s help.
He insinuates that Aïda can help him by learning war secrets from Radames, the general of the Egyptian army.
Aïda refuses to help him and Amonasro launches in a tirade calling upon the Egyptian armies to destroy their cities. Then he describes the destruction and how the dead accuse her of Ethiopia’s destruction. Finally he invokes the ghostly appearance of her mother that shows over them and curses her. He then tells her, “You are not my daughter... you are the slave of Pharaoh...”
She, crying at his feet begs for forgiveness. She will do as he asks, but “ do not curse me. I am still your daughter and I will be worthy of my country...”
4) Pur ti riveggo, mia dolce Aïda / I see you at last, my sweet Aïda (Radames and Aïda; then Amonasro, Amneris and Ramfis)
Arriving for their planned meeting, Radames asks Aïda to hear his plan. Aïda accuses him of unfaithfulness as he is to marry Amneris. “I loved in you the hero that you were, not the liar that you are now”
Radames asks to be heard, his plan is simple: The Ethiopians are at the border and are going to attack again. He will be leading the armies again. For sure it will be another triumph. Then he will kneel in front of the King and reveal his heart. The King will be moved and surely they will be happy for ever after.
Aïda is not convinced and tells him the there is another way out: to escape. After a little resistance, she convinces him to escape. When they are about to leave the scene, she stops him asking what is the way they are to follow to escape, and he tells her they would have to follow the same route of the Army, which will be departing the next morning. “Where is it”, she insists and he finally tells her that the route is through the Napata Gorges. 
Amonasro, who has been eavesdropping the entire conversation, reveals himself.
Radames is in absolute shock; he can’t believe that before him is the hated Amonasro and that he is Aïda’s father.
Aïda and Amonasro try to calm him down and encourage him flee with them, but Radames realizes that he has betrayed his code of honor and his loyalty to his homeland. Amneris, who overhears the last part of the conversation, appears and accuses Radames of treason. Amonasro tries to kill Amneris, but is stopped by Radames. In the confusion, Amonasro and Aïda manage to flee. Radames gives himself up to the High Priest.
Act IV 
The fourth act begins with a short, agitated prelude. We are in Amneris chambers’ were  she is consumed with her feelings of hatred, desperation, anger and frustration.
  1. L’abborrita rivale a me sfuggìa... Già i sacerdoti adunansi arbitri del tuo fato/  That hated woman escaped from my hands... The priests are gathering to judge your betrayal. (Amneris, then Radames)
After a few moments of indecision, debating between strong hatred and the most passionate  love, Amneris has her guards bring Radames to her.
She asks him to exculpate himself in front of the Priests promising to intercede for his life to the King.
Radames refuses: there is no way that he is going to ask for mercy for a crime he did commit. He prefers to die. Amneris now begs, confessing her love for him and how she has suffered for this love. Radames answers that he has also suffered for love, and because of love he even betrayed their homeland. Amneris refuses to hear anything related to Aïda, to which Radames answers: “Do you expect me to live in infamy?!, You have made me miserable, you took Aída from me, perhaps even killed her, and in exchange you offer me my life?!”
Amneris tells him that Aïda is not dead, only that her father died in the scuffle with the guards while Aïda managed to flee. Radames thanks the Gods for this and wishes she may reach her homeland where she will be saved.
Once more Amneris insists that he declares himself innocent and asks for mercy. Radames refuses angrily and is taken away by the guards.
  1. Ohimé! morir mi sento /  I feel as if I were dying (Amneris, alone)
Now, alone, Amneris feels so grief stricken by the scene with Radames, that she curses her jealousy which has caused Radames to find himself in the impasse in which he is. She see the “ministers of Death” -as she calls the Priests-, gathering to pass judgement on Radames for his crimes of spying for the enemy, deserting, and perjury against the homeland, the King and his own honor. Every time Ramfis accuses Radames, the latter is given a moment to exculpate himself. He does not. All the priests yell “Traitor!”. Amneris, in desperation, hurls herself against the doors that close the Judgement Hall beggin for mercy. She hears the sentence: Radames is condemned to be buried alive.
The Priests, headed by Ramfis, exit. Amneris confronts them with all sorts of arguments, from their own guilt at punishing an innocent man to her own love for Radames. Race of bastards, she calls them, and invokes a curse upon all of them for having broken her heart.
  1. La fatal pietra sovra me si chiuse / The deadly stone has been sealed above me. (Radames, Aïda, Priestess of Pthà, then Amneris)
Radames, alone in the tomb, in his last moments of life, remembers his beloved Aïda and wishes that, having escaped, she may find happiness in total ignorance of his fate. He is startled by a whimpering and realizes that with him in the tomb is Aïda. She tells him that she felt he would be condemned to such fate and she came back to die with him. Radames, moved by her purity and her loveliness, laments that such a being, who was created to be loved... has to die because of his love for her.
Aïda is dying... she sees a benign angel who comes to open the doors of heaven for them, where they will enjoy eternal bliss.
The songs of the dead chanted by the Priestess of Pthà are heard beyond the walls of the tomb.
Radames, in one last impetus, desiring to save Aïda, throws himself against the stone that seals the tomb, but not even his strong arms can move it.
They resign themselves to their fate in one of the most beautiful melodies composed by the genius of Busseto, “O terra addio, addio valle di pianti, sogno di gaudio che in dolor svanì, a noi si shoude il ciel e l’alme erranti volano al raggio dell’eterno dì...”
The chanting of the Priestess is heard in the distance, the last consolation of the believer, prayer.
Amneris’ tortured heart implores peace for the days that remain for her on Earth.
Notes by Francisco Chahín-Casanova
VM Productions
 © 2012

Our interpreters

Brian Holman Music Director of New York Metro Vocal Arts (The Old Maid and the Thief, Coffee Cantata, The Art of Eating), Conductor for the New Rochelle Opera (Hansel and Gretel), Regina Opera (Rigoletto, Lucia di Lammermoor), DETOUR Musical Ensemble, Claremont Orchestra, Assistant Conductor/Repetiteur for Opera Africa (Carmen), Treasure Coast Opera (Oklahoma), Montclair State University (Albert Herring).

This season appears in concert with Francisco Casanova and in Masterclasses with Ira Siff (Met Opera Guild).
Studied at Arizona State University and Manhattan School of Music. Faculty at Montclair State University.
American Musical and Dramatic Academy, Westchester Summer Vocal Arts Institute. Upcoming Appearances La Traviata (Valley Lyric Opera).

This February Puerto Rican soprano Sandra Mercado made her debut at the Teatro Nacional in the Dominican Republic where she sang excerpts of Aida, Butterfly and Trovatore’s Leonora. The country’s national newspaper El Nacional described her voice as “a beautifully clear and strong voice”. Last April she sang Aida with Valley Lyric Opera and will make her debut as Leonora in Trovatore with  the same company next year. Ms. Mercado has a bachelor’s degree from the University of Puerto Rico and is a graduate of Temple University.

The New York Times has hailed Sara Murphy's -Amneris-, as a voice that "soared with a lovely musicality.” Later this month, Sara will be a soloist in Beethoven’s Mass in C Major with Pro Arte Chorale and the Westfield Symphony in New Jersey. Earlier in 2012, Sara appeared as Amneris with Valley Lyric Opera (PA) and as a soloist in Rossini’s Petite Messe Solennelle with Pro Arte Chorale. She also performed  excerpts of Azucena, Amneris and Suzuki at the Teatro Nacional in the Dominican Republic. El Nacional reported of the performance, "the American Sara Murphy [was] absolutely unforgettable for her versatility and ability to conquer any sensitive soul." Sara holds a bachelor's degree from Oberlin College and a master's degree from the Catholic University of America. Visit www.saramurphymezzo.com for more information.
A Chicago native, tenor Byron Singleton -Radames -May 9th- is becoming widely known for his interpretations of the romantic tenor repertoire.
He has sung with Caramoor Opera, Di Capo Opera Theater, Opera New Jersey, Opera company of Astoria and the Metropolitan Opera(chorus).
Some roles performed include Rodolfo(La Boheme), B.F. Pinkerton( Madama Butterfly), Rinuccio (Gianni Schicchi), Faust(Faust) and Tamino (Die Zauberflote) among others.
He was recently a guest artist with The German Forum and performed concerts at the Hungarian Consulate and the Czech Cultural center.
The  soul of Gregory Freilino, Amonasro (May 9th) resides at Sacred Heart Church in Stamford, Ct., where he serves as Music Director.
He has l already lived many musical lives, from Sacred, to Broadway, and as a cabaret pianist/singer.   But after an  eighteen year hiatus, Aida calls him back to where his heart always has been....the opera.
Stefanos Koroneos, Amonasro (May 12th) made his debut in La Bohème at the Staatsoper in Freiburg, Germany. He has since then performed in theatres in Italy, Germany, Russia, Greece, Korea, Spain, Malta, Norway and Japan. Theatre appearances include Teatro alla Scala, the Rossini Opera Festival (Pesaro, Italy), The Bolshoi Theatre (Moscow),Palm Beach Opera, Teatro Reggio di Parma,Opera Orchestra of NY, Den Nye Opera, Giglio Lucca, Verdi Busetto, Sociale Rovigo, Livorno, Ravenna, Pisa (Italy), and the Athens Concert Hall (Greece).

With his “deep, warm bass voice and an informed musicality”. Jorge Ocasio born in San Juan, Puerto Rico, is quickly becoming a favorite of audiences and critics. Most recently he received glowing reviews for his Dulcamara, have sung major roles throughout the United States, Puerto Rico and Central America and made his Carnegie Hall debut in 2008 with Distinguished Concerts International,

David Wadden, The King, recent roles include Colline in Longwood Opera’s Boheme and Bermiata in Lowell House Opera’s Snow Maiden. He looks forward to playing Bertran later this month in Boston Vocal Arts Studio’s Iolanta. Dave studies with tenor Francisco Casanova and coaches with composer / pianist Jeffrey Brody.
Jennifer Furst, Priestess, appeared most recently in a concert program at Valley Lyric Opera in Sharpsville, PA where she will return next season to debut the role of Violetta in La Traviata.  She has also sung the Mother in Hansel and Gretel with NY Lyric Opera, the soprano solo in the Liebeslieder Waltzer at Trail Mix Concerts of New York with renowned pianists Ami Hakuno and Pascal Rogé and covered the role of Micaela in Carmen at Opera Company of Brooklyn.  She will appear at the Tribeca Performing Arts Center in a new work by composer Susan Oetgen as well as in recital at Saint Anne's Church in Hoboken this summer.  Other roles in her repertoire include Fiordiligi (Cosi fan Tutte), Nedda (I Pagliacci), the title role in Suor Angelica, and Musetta (La Bohème).
Born in France, Laetitia Ruccolo, pianist, graduated from the Ecole Normale de Musique de Paris, the University Mozarteum of Salzburg, and the Mannes College of Music in Piano Performance and Collaborative Piano. 
She performs extensively in Europe and the United States as a soloist, in chamber music, with singers or with orchestra.

www.veramusicaltd.com dedicated to excellence