A `fortunate' reminder of life's ups and downs

Soloists' versatility, youth singers' delicacy shine in final vocal performance of season


May 04, 2007|By Mary Johnson | Mary Johnson,Special to The Sun

The Annapolis Chorale and Chamber Orchestra capped another stellar season last weekend with Carl Orff's Carmina Burana - the choice of subscribers who voted at the start of the season - featuring four soloists and members of the Annapolis Youth Chorus.

The program opened with Ralph Vaughan Williams' Serenade to Music, a melodic work set to Shakespeare's words, written for orchestra and vocal soloists plus choir.

Chorale members brought their distinctive beautiful sound to this piece. Featured soprano Ashleigh Rabbitt, appearing for the second time this season, filled Maryland Hall for the Creative Arts with a gorgeous sound, made more so when joined by tenor Andre Bierman. Baritone soloists Shouvik Mondle and Christopher Rhodovi added their lustrous sonority. A lush orchestra supported the four soloists.

This concert also introduced the innovative sounds of American composer Thomas Schnauber, an assistant performing arts professor at Emmanuel College in Boston. He wrote Alba and Ostinato in 2006 on commission for contra bassist Jeffrey Weisner and the Annapolis Chamber Orchestra, a commission that shows a courageous appreciation of new musical concepts.

This fresh, often seemingly deconstructed music was often surprisingly melodic, revealing fascinating orchestral colors, echoed by Weisner of the National Symphony in a virtuoso performance that seemed filled with joy.

The main event, which featured nearly 200 choristers, 50 Annapolis Chamber Orchestra musicians, four soloists and at least 50 children's choristers delivered a momentous Carmina Burana.

Music director J. Ernest Green balanced the sound levels between the large chorus and orchestra, delivering a reading filled with dynamic contrasts, pulsing raw energy and emotion that swept the audience along.

The opening O Fortuna is so familiar that it requires extra drama to convey the wheel of fortune: some at the top and others at the bottom in life's cycles. Green took the work beyond the obvious.

The sopranos sang of spring in "Ecce gratum," and the men sang "In the Tavern" drinking songs. Youth Chorus members entered from the back of Maryland Hall, rushed down the aisles, and stood at the outer edges of the base of the stage where they added their own sweet light sound.

The full orchestra was alternately robust and dynamically awesome when creating Bacchanalian drama. The musicians were unfailingly supportive of the soloists. Baritone Mondle contributed an operatically flawless negotiation of an intensely demanding aria. In addition to displaying remarkable vocal technique, soprano Rabbitt produced a beautiful sound that seemed to emanate naturally without any suggestion of force. Bierman's solo initially seemed almost counter-tenor, so comfortable did he appear in this high tessitura. Bierman's challenging aria, where he conveyed his indignation at becoming a roasted swan, was invested with humor and drama. Baritone Rhodovi skillfully delivered the romantic arias with the required ardor.

Together these four soloists comprised what can be described as a dream quartet that would add luster to any operatic performance.

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