Young musicians take on opera

Performance: The Chesapeake Youth Symphony Orchestra will accompany opera singers for the first time.

Arundel Live


March 04, 2004|By Phil Greenfield | Phil Greenfield,SPECIAL TO THE SUN

A program of opera favorites being performed on the Maryland Hall stage is hardly news.

What is out of the ordinary is that the accompanying ensemble will be the talented young musicians of the Chesapeake Youth Symphony Orchestra.

For the first time, the CYSO will be an opera orchestra, says Julien Benichou, the French-born, Baltimore-based conductor in his first year as music director of one of Maryland's premiere youth orchestras.

"I think it's very nice for kids to accompany singers," Benichou says. "To encourage the suppleness and fluidity conductors will want to hear in their playing, there's no better way than to follow the voice."

The youngsters will have two first-class operatic soloists with whom to collaborate at the "Awesome Opera Gala" Saturday evening in Annapolis.

Elizabeth Racheva, a New York-based soprano who has performed with the Lyric Opera of New York and the Baltimore Opera, will sing arias by Dvorak and Mozart.

She'll be joined by Israel Lozano, an up-and-coming tenor with Placido Domingo's Washington Opera, who will deliver arias by Verdi, plus a sampling of Zarzuela, the Spanish theatrical songs popularized by the ubiquitous Domingo.

Tenor and soprano will come together for a love duet from Puccini's La Boheme and for the joyous "Libiamo!" that opens Verdi's La Traviata with tuneful energy.

Also contributing to the festivities will be members of the Arundel Vocal Arts Society and the choir of the Unitarian Universalist Church of Towson. In addition to "Libiamo!" the choir will perform "Va, pensiero," the chorus of the Hebrew slaves, from Verdi's Nabucco.

Benichou's players will fly solo for Mozart's effervescent Overture to The Marriage of Figaro, the 1st Carmen Suite by Bizet and the majestic Prelude to Wagner's Die Meistersinger.

"It's a wonderful program," says CYSO executive director Kathy Swekel. "We're very excited about it."

Benichou came to Maryland to join the conducting studio of Gustav Meier, the legendary teacher who helped make the Peabody Institute one of the world's elite training grounds for aspiring conductors.

One of the most promising of Meier's Baltimore proteges, Benichou is the assistant conductor of the Johns Hopkins Symphony and the Columbia Orchestra. On the international scene, he spent last summer as the assistant conductor at Italy's Palermo Opera. He has developed orchestras and choirs in France as well.

Chesapeake Youth Symphony Orchestra under the direction of Julien Benichou presents an evening of opera highlights Saturday at 8 p.m. at Maryland Hall for the Creative Arts, 801 Chase St., Annapolis. Tickets are $25 for adults and $10 for students. A silent auction to benefit the orchestra will be held at 7 p.m. A champagne and dessert reception will be offered after the performance. To reserve tickets, call 410-263-2664.

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