Monday, May 09, 2011

An Evening at the Opera

Let this be musical performance week. I am catching up with my thoughts about concerts and recitals that I have hosted or attended. I'll begin with An Evening at the Opera, an annual program hosted by the Thomas Ford Memorial Library and funded by the Pauline and Elmer Kennedy Family. Each year four members of the Lyric Opera Chorus sing selections from the next season at the Lyric Opera of Chicago. This year they sang from The Magic Flute, Rinaldo, Aida, Tales of Hoffmann, Lucia di Lammermoor, Ariadne auf Naxos, and Showboat, which will be performed by the opera company in its 2011-2012 season. This was the fourteenth year that the library has hosted this preview, which is too big for any of our library meeting rooms. We assemble instead at the nearby First Congregational Church of Western Springs.

The library facilitates this event by providing publicity, printing the programs, writing the checks, and purchasing the flowers. I also serve as host, welcoming the audience and introducing the narrator. All the artistic decision making is done by Janet Mensen Reynolds, mezzo-soprano, her fellow singers, and narrator Roger Pines, dramaturg of the Lyric Opera. Janet also arranges use of the church (her church) and submits publicity to Chicago's community music calendars. We have done this so many years now that it seems easy to do our part at the library. Thomas Ford adult services librarian Anne Van de Ven set up the program with Janet and hosted the first five years. Though she now lives in Door County, Wisconsin, she always returns to Western Springs for the concert.

Many people make a habit of coming and later discussing the performance with me at the library. They are impressed by the beautiful voices, pianist Patrick Holland's accompaniment, and the gowns worn by Janet and soprano Rose Guccione. A fair number of the attendees are Lyric season ticket holders, who enjoy arias, duets, laments, and such, and they appreciate getting an idea of plots and musical styles of the operas. I particularly liked the dramatic "Qui del padre ancor respira" from Lucia di Lammermoor, sung by tenor Kenneth Donovan and bass Keven Keys. The "Barcarolle" from Tales of Hoffmann sung by Rose and Janet was perhaps the prettiest piece. What I found myself humming later was "Can't Help Lovin' Day Man" from Showboat.

Not many smallish libraries are so fortunate as to have ready access to opera singers and someone willing to fund such a program. A lot of people contribute to make this event possible. Thanks to all of them.

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