by Michael Caruso
Hezekiah Jones performed in Chestnut Hill’s Pastorius Park Wednesday, June 27, for a crowd that filled the natural amphitheater and enjoyed the band’s eclectic blend of various styles of folk music. The sounds of acoustic guitars joined by fiddles, upright bass, keyboard and even accordion came together to both soothe and energize the audience. Vocals were cleverly arranged and harmonized while the instrumental accompaniments provided rhythmic and sultry support.
Songs such as “Agnes of the World Where Have You Landed?” featured dazzling electric fiddle riffs and old-fashioned electric organ chords, combining country and bluegrass styles within the folk music genre.
“I Postponed My Life for You” projected a lively beat despite its downbeat lyrics. “Rain Stars on My Windshield” was sweet and delicate while “Guarantees” recalled the Beatles’ era of “Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band” with its jaunty rhythms and insistent harmonies. “They Don’t Care about Us,” composed in the minor mode, offered a sly beat and trumpet solos, while “Life Is So Sweet” was actually rather touching and sad. “I’m Going and Not Comin’ Back” spiced things up with a dash of hillbilly vitality.
The Delaware Valley Opera Company continues its 2012 season of summer opera productions with Vincenzo Bellini’s “La Sonnambula” (The Sleepwalker) July 14, 18 & 21 at 8 p.m. in the Salvation Army’s Kroc Center. The East Falls facility is located at 4200 Wissahicken Ave. Tickets are price at $15, $18 & $20, and can be purchased in advance by calling 215-725-4171 or by visiting www.dvopera.org.
“La Sonnambula” received its world premiere March 6, 1831, in Milan’s Teatro Carcano. It was Bellini’s sixth professional opera. The score is based on a libretto written by Felice Romani, which itself is based on a ballet-pantomime by Eugene Scribe and J.P. Aumer.
The theme of somnambulism (sleepwalking) was a common contrivance in 19th century romantic literature, either in print or onstage. It often permitted a convenient excuse for impermissible behavior. It was also readily available for comedy.
Much of the opera is pitched very high. Rubini’s part (Elvino) was originally higher than it appears in the printed score, suggesting that Bellini never intended the original keys for anyone other than Rubini, the most acclaimed tenor of his day. He was very much like the latter day Enrico Caruso, Luciano Pavarotti and Juan Diego Florez. Rubini used a sweet head tone for the highest notes, as was common for all tenors prior to Caruso’s singing full voice all the way to a “High C.” Florez, a Peruvian native and a graduate of Philadelphia’s Curtis Institute of Music, has gone him two better, singing all the way up to a “High E” in full tone, not falsetto. Florez is the best-selling classical vocalist in the world today.
“La Sonnambula” was a success from the very start. It was presented in London July 28, 1831, and Paris Oct. 24 before returning to Italy in 1832 in Florence. The Brooklyn-born Greek-American soprano, Maria Callas, sang the lead soprano role of Amina at Milan’s Teatro alla Scala and then at the Edinburg Festival in 1957. Her indisposition at the final performance in Scotland brought forward the Italian diva Renata Scotto as a last-minute replacement, launching her career on the international stage.
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