Merola singers dive into masterpieces in Spanish

Manuel de Falla; the opening scene of his opera The brief life start the gig

This year’s class of Merolini — participants in the Merola Opera Young Professionals Program – have implemented a wide range of performance challenges. Led by San Francisco Opera Center Artistic Director Carrie-Ann Matheson, the singers and accompanists first worked on standards from The Great American Songbook, in a recital hosted by Grammy-winning pianist Craig Terry (performed last weekend).

And then Schwabacher Summer Concert (July 14 and 16), they tackle masterpieces from the Spanish operatic repertoire, guided by Opera Hispánica artistic director Jorge Parodi and a familiar face, director Jose Maria Condemi. “I’m a good friend of Carrie-Ann, and my partner, [pianist and coach] Howard Watkins, was a classmate of hers at the Metropolitan Opera House, so I’ve known Carrie-Ann for a very long time,” Parodi said, explaining how he got involved.

Condemi, now the Carol Franc Buck Endowed Chair in the Opera and Musical Theater Program at the San Francisco Conservatory of Music, has conducted numerous shows for SF Opera, Opera San José, and Festival Opera, in addition to having a long list of credits across the United States. Condemi, originally from Argentina, regularly conducts operas in the Spanish language.

Jorge Parodi

Instead of short scenes and numbers from various operas, Parodi and Condemi decided to work on longer sections of a few operas, so that singers and audiences would get a sense of the dramatic impact of each work and its characters. . “We thought we should include [Manuel] de Falla because de Falla is perhaps the most emblematic of all Hispanic composers, and The brief life is probably the most performed opera in Spanish and the one that has been in the repertoire for the longest time. The complete opening scene of Brief video opens the concert, followed by the entire second act of Daniel Catán Florencia in the Amazonsstill perhaps the only magical realist opera in the repertoire, inspired by characters from Gabriel García Márquez’s novel Love in the Time of Cholera.

Parodi is clearly a promoter of zarzuela, Spain’s own form of opera. He says that, looking for something lighter, to contrast with the serious drama of the rest of the evening, he and Condemi turned to Amadeo Vives’ comedic masterpiece. Dona Francisquita (1923). “He’s got wonderful sets, so he’s got a fantastic quintet that’s bright, active and fun. There’s a great text frame that matches the character’s intentions and with clear dramatic content,” Parodi said.

The exciting and innovative Ainadamar (music by Osvaldo Golijov, libretto by David Henry Hwang) anchors the program. Golijov’s broad stylistic reach requires special handling, but his dramatic payoff is intense.

The conductor has boundless enthusiasm for this repertoire, which makes him a perfect candidate for young Merola artists, and he certainly has the experience. ” I did maria [de Buenos Aires, by Astor Piazzolla] five times. I did Frida [by Robert Xavier Rodríguez] with Atlanta Opera, and I was going to do it with El Paso, until they changed the dates. After Opera Hispánica was “mothballed” during the pandemic, Parodi revived it (with the help of dedicated board members) and premiered a season last year. He sees it as a national organization, which will work at the Williamsburg Opera, where Parodi is musical director, and also in the San Antonio missions, in addition to its second season (post-revival) in New York next year. .

Of his singers in this production, Parodi reports that they approach the new repertoire like fish to water. “They love it. Some of them have Hispanic heritage, but most of them don’t. Spanish is like Italian, and so the transition from Italian to Spanish is very smooth.When the play is great, the theatrical work is great, and the music is high quality, you love it no matter what it is.

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