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Category Archive: Reviews

Choral CD Chronicles: Vol. 1 - Lorelei Ensemble Was The Best Valentine's Day Present EVER

Posted at 6:00 AM on February 20, 2014 by Tesfa Wondemagegnehu (1 Comments)
Filed under: Choral Music, Reviews

lorelei composite cropped.png On Valentine's Day I decided to attend a choral concert with friends (I know, I know...this reeks of total choral geekery). I must admit, after hearing the Lorelei Ensemble absolutely nail Steve Reich's Know What is Above You, I knew I made the right decision. I was going to sit at home, watch West Wing re-runs, cook a steak and call it a night. Instead, I got treated to a night of exhilarating music. This group of extraordinarily gifted women sing with such precision and passion that I couldn't help but be overwhelmed by their performance. Like a true choral nerd, I went home and bought their CD, Live. Know. Love. (BTW, brilliantly plugged on their part during the concert) and started my jam session.

First track I checked out was David Lang's I Live in Pain. They nailed this piece in the live performance and of course, the track on the CD was even hotter. Instead of skipping back to the beginning of the disc, I closed my eyes and I let it run...rolling the dice a bit, hoping for the best. After 25+ minutes of aural ecstasy, I found myself wanting more. They deliver eerie, breathtaking performances on every track; locking and spinning intricately woven dissonance with masterful intonation and grand artistry. This group gets my REAL DEAL stamp of approval! 

If you don't believe the hype, just check out these recordings (Concert Highlights):

This is definitely a CD worth checking out!


An 'Arabella' preview

Posted at 2:47 PM on November 8, 2013 by Julie Amacher
Filed under: Events, Opera, Reviews

Last night I sat in on the final dress rehearsal of the Minnesota Opera's production of Arabella by Richard Strauss. If you go, here are a few things you might notice. First of all, there is no overture to set the scene. Music Director Michael Christie walks into the pit, the oversized orchestra of 62 musicians plays a few notes, and the singers are off. This opera is an athletic feat of endurance, especially for Jacqueline Wagner, who plays the lead, and her betrothed Mandryka, sung by baritone Craig Irvin. These musicians are well-trained Olympians.

The composer intended this music to be a bit frenetic; however, the tension is relieved every time Arabella graces the stage. Wagner's elegance as an actor and her rich, velvety voice melts more than one suitor's heart. There is plenty of comic relief starting with Arabella's sister, Zdenka, sung by Elizabeth Futral. Zdenka was a wild child, so even as a young woman she dresses and behaves as a boy. She even proclaims, "I will be a boy until I die." However, she does discover her womanhood in Act II.

You'll also notice the detailed whitewashed set as the curtain goes up on Act I. The scene is a hotel in Vienna in the 1920s. As Arabella blossoms, so does the color on the stage, in the form of flowers, the Downton Abbey-styled costumes and the set itself.

One incredible highlight is the love duet in Act II between Arabella and Mandryka. Irvin and Wagner are beautifully matched; if you aren't moved by this duet, you don't have a pulse!

And because this was a press event, live tweeting was not only permitted, but encouraged. Here are some of the photos I live-tweeted from the rehearsal to give you a taste of the production: