By Alfonso C. Hernandez
“Music to hear, why hear’st thou music sadly?” says Shakespeare in his Sonnet 8 alluding to a sense of nostalgia while hearing music that heightens the sense of memory in the brain of the artists singing and in the listeners.
The Sierra Vocal Arts Ensemble of Porterville, directed by Fred Knutson, presented a concert at the Veterans Memorial Auditorium in Springville on Sept. 28 as a gala concert with delicious hors d’oeuvres and wine on tables inspiring the social conviviality of the attendants.
The audience was in the best mood hearing well-known melodies from movies such as “As Time Goes By,” “Moon River,” “Cheek to Cheek” and “Singin’ in the Rain.” The vocal quality of the ensemble really shone brightly while singing the complete scores of “Paint your Wagon,” music by Lowe and lyrics by Lerner, and “The Wizard of Oz,” arranged by Greg Gilpin. The traditional gala concert energized and inspired the public to a standing ovation, and the “feel good mood” continued since practically every person left with a winning prize, a good buy from the silent auction and a free photo taken as they entered.
The next day, at the First Congregational Church in Tulare, the Ursula Bisconer Memorial Chamber concert, in its 53rd annual presentation, entertained the audience with pieces for organ, piano, harp, tuba and voice. Terry Estabrook, soprano, with Matt Horton at the piano, took us to a seductive past with her perfect renditions of “I Got Rhythm,” “They Can’t Take That Away from Me” and “Summertime” by George and Ira Gershwin.
Gina Fazio and Matt Horton played an unforgettable “Fantasia in F Minor, Op. 103” by Franz Schubert” and “Wizard of Oz Fantasy” with arrangement by William Hirtz. Eric, tuba, and Jennifer Farrenkopf, harp, played an unusual “Six Studies in English Folk Song” by Ralph Vaughan Williams, and Scott Horton at the organ played J.S. Bach’s “Toccata in F Major, BWV 540.”
The Direct from the Met broadcasts began on Oct. 5 with “Eugene Onegin” by P. I. Tchaikovsky, conducted by Valery Gergiev and sung with the perfect voices of Anna Netrebko as Tatiana, Oksana Volkova as Olga, Piotr Beczala as Lenski and Mariusz Kwiecin in the title role.
“Eugene Onegin,” based on the novel in verse by Pushkin, is a tragic love melodrama that rises to tragedy at two points. Onegin and Lanski, lifelong friends, are driven to a duel where Lanski dies because Onegin flirts with Olga at a ball and Lenski becomes furiously jealous. At the end, Onegin realizes that he loves Tatiana with passion, in a reversal situation since he dismissed her love when they were young.
After a life of travel and many women, Onegin finds Tatiana again, now a married princess, a most desirable woman in his eyes. But Tatiana will never be unfaithful and become another Madame Bovary. Onegin’s fall and tragic suffering was realistically acted by Kwiecin.
The perfection of production and direction at the Met is legendary. However, in “Eugene Onegin” there are two obvious flaws. One is the setting of the “Letter” aria, marvelously sung and acted by Netrebko, in the working area of the Larin estate, and the unchanging visual aspect of Kwiecin’s Onegin as a younger man and as a desperate older man at the end.
This fall, the Valley is bursting with cultural activities: concerts, theater, fund-raisers, movies, opera, a rainbow of experiences and emotions, from nostalgia, tragedy and comedy. Shakespeare had it right: “Sweets with sweets war not, joy delights in joy.”
If we could just forget for a moment about the suffering caused by the shutting down of the government, seeing empty motels and restaurants around Three Rivers, the different wars being waged by our government or the violence from organized criminals, then perhaps the hours listening to music would be just as Shakespeare said.
Alfonso C. Hernandez is a writer and poet from Three Rivers, Calif. Contact him at email@example.com.