Choirs and string orchestra present Opera Gala

Kristi Ruff

Got plans this weekend? If they do not include going to the Grand Opera Gala Saturday night at 8 p.m., you will really be missing out. The Lawrence University choirs and the Lawrence Symphony Orchestra invite you to join them and, as one vocalist put it, “take a travel through all the famous operas.”
Not familiar with many of them? That is all right – the choirs will educate you. Their repertoire for this concert ranges from the major works of Wagner, Verdi and Bizet to those of less well-known but equally amazing composers such as Puccini, Mascagni, and Mussorgsky. The performance will include selections from “Aida,” “Macbeth,” and “Carmen,” to name but a few.
Lawrence’s Concert Choir, Cantala and Viking Chorale are collaborating with the LSO on this performance, and the result “is going to be amazing,” as Lawrence freshman Xiang Li put it.
The repertoire is quite difficult in terms of learning the proper pronunciations of different languages, but the vocalists have worked hard to overcome this hurdle. “The wide variety of literature presented in the program poses unique language and musical challenges,” commented Associate Director of Choral Studies Philip Swan, the director of Cantala.
The choirs participated in a workshop from an Italian expert and brushed up on Russian accents in order to prepare pieces by Verdi and Tchaikovsky. “It was really challenging to try new things like singing in Italian and Russian,” said Li, who hails from China.
While the linguistic aspect was tough, members grew to enjoy it. “Singing in Italian is so passionate,” said another Viking Chorale member of his favorite work, the “Triumphal Scene” from “Aida.” “The soloists are amazing, and it’s powerful music,” he added.
Mark Schnaible, a professional performer who maintains international acclaim, will join the Lawrence choirs Saturday as a guest and perform with them in pieces from “Tosca,” “Carmen,” and “Boris Godunov.”
While many of the pieces do feature soloists, the emphasis of the concert is really “more focused on large ensembles,” said Concert Choir member Alex Johnson. “It’s all really, really, really powerful,” said Johnson of the repertoire’s emotive force.
“Working with LSO has been amazing as well,” said another member of the group, “They are so good!”
This united front between the choirs and LSO happens every year for a grand opera weekend; however, this year the show is slightly different. The opera gala this year will feature familiar selections from a vast collection of operas, whereas in the past the show has focused more centrally on a singular work. While the vocalists have been preparing, LSO has been working doubly hard to prepare the repertoire since LSO plays every piece. While the singers faced language obstacles, the orchestra was challenged with a huge amount of difficult repertoire. According to many impressed vocalists, the orchestra has performed this feat with gusto.
The choirs and LSO have worked extremely diligently to bring this varied bouquet of opera works to our campus, and it would be a shame to miss out on this opportunity to see the “opera version of the ‘Messiah’ concert,” since, as one vocalist described it, “It’s going to be epic.”
This whirlwind sampling of opera works is certain to impress all viewers, and it will be well worth the admission price for all who buy tickets. As Johnson so deftly expressed, it’s bound to be a “slam-bang show.