An Irish Tenor spins off

MUSIC

Kearns' `Irish Ring' comes to Baltimore

September 17, 2002|By Tim Smith | Tim Smith,SUN MUSIC CRITIC

After the phenomenon known as the Three Tenors burst on the scene a decade or so ago, it was inevitable that variations on that lucrative theme would appear. One of them, the Three Irish Tenors, has proven a big hit in concert and on PBS fundraisers. Now comes the spinoff, and it looks like another winner.

"The Irish Ring," featuring Anthony Kearns, one of the original Three Irish Tenors seen on PBS in 1998, provides perhaps the most substantive dose of Irish opera to be found outside of Ireland. The show, coming to Baltimore next week, focuses on three once-very-popular 19th century works.

Kearns will be joined by soprano Kathryn Smith, mezzo Miriam Blennerhasset, baritone Patrick Doherty and bass Derek Ryan in extensive excerpts from Michael Balfe's The Bohemian Girl (1844), Vincent Wallace's Maritana (1845) and Julius Benedict's The Lily of Killarney (1862).

Folks of a certain age, or who have a fondness for sweet, long-ago music, will know some of this material, especially the Dublin-born Balfe's Bohemian Girl, which boasted the hit I Dreamt That I Dwelt in Marble Halls. That gentle ballad remained a parlor favorite well into the 1900s. The opera's plot - a tale of gypsies and mistaken identity in an Austrian setting - is not its strong suit, making it a great candidate for this type of highlights program.

Wallace joined the ranks of notable Irish composers largely through Maritana (even though its plot involves intrigues at the Spanish court). The aria Yes! Let Me Like a Soldier Fall particularly pleased the opera's first audiences.

The German-born Benedict became a noted British composer and conductor who led the London premieres of both Bohemian Girl and Maritana. The most successful of his own works turned out to be The Lily of Killarney, the only one of the three operas in "The Irish Ring" actually set in Ireland; it's about a peasant girl's love above her station. The score includes the memorable ballad The Moon Has Raised Her Lamp Above.

Joining the soloists and orchestra will be the New York-based Hibernian Festival Singers, conducted by Fergus Sheil.

"The Irish Ring" will be presented at 8 p.m. Sept. 23 at the Lyric Opera House, 140 W. Mt. Royal Ave. Tickets are $35 to $85; the concert's promoters announced a two-for-one ticket special yesterday. Call 410-481-7328.

More tenors

Speaking of tenors, Jerry Hadley has come up with some exceptionally enticing items for his recital tomorrow night in College Park, presented by the voice/opera division of the University of Maryland's School of Music. The noted tenor, who created the title role in John Harbison's The Great Gatsby at the Metropolitan Opera, will sing three recently uncovered songs by monumental conductor Arturo Toscanini.

The songs, written while Toscanini was still a student in Italy, deal with subjects he knew well - love and passion. (As a just-published collection of Toscanini's letters makes plain, Bill Clinton could have taken a few pointers from the maestro.) Hadley has chosen more familiar fare by Mascagni and Tosti to complement these rare items.

The tenor's wide-ranging program also includes songs by Strauss, Bernstein and Vincent Youmans; arias by Tchaikovsky, Massenet, Puccini, Barber, Copland, Harbison and others.

The recital is at 8 p.m. tomorrow at the Clarice Smith Performing Arts Center, University of Maryland, University Boulevard and Stadium Drive, College Park. Admission is free. Call 310-405-2787.

Hadley will also give a public master class at 7:30 p.m. Thursday at the center. Admission is free.

Organ recitals

The recently installed Schoenstein organ at Towson Presbyterian Church will get a workout Sunday when John Weaver, director of music and organist at New York's Madison Avenue Presbyterian Church, gives an adventuresome recital.

Weaver's program includes Charles Ives' delightfully wacky Variations on "America,'" Gian Carlo Menotti's Ricercare, and the Sonata on the 94th Psalm by Liszt pupil Julius Reubke. There will also be a work by Weaver himself, a Peabody Institute alum who is now chair of the organ department at the Juilliard School in New York.

The recital is at 7 p.m. Sunday at Towson Presbyterian, 400 W. Chesapeake Ave. Tickets are $10. Call 410-823-6500.

Another organ recital coming up, this one sponsored by the Baltimore chapter of the American Guild of Organists, features Christian Lane, a student at the Eastman School of Music in Rochester who has already won a slew of organ competitions.

Lane, too, has cast a wide net for his program. In addition to works by such mainstream organ composers as Liszt, Franck, Dupre and Vierne, there will be pieces by Frank Bridge, William Bolcom and even jazz great George Shearing.

The recital is at 4 p.m. Sept. 29 at Grace United Methodist Church, 5407 N. Charles St. Admission is free. For more information, call 410-675-3112.

One more detail

For those readers who have wondered if I know my right hand from my left, allow me to clarify a detail in my Sept. 8 story about the Baltimore Symphony Orchestra's new concertmaster, Jonathan Carney.

In the passage about technical details of violin playing, the descriptions of "up bow" and "down bow" inadvertently read the same. A violinist's arm moves from right to left for an up bow, from left to right for a down bow.

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