It is a measure of his artistic integrity that, even when
Brooklyn Philharmonic music director Robert Spano is compelled
to change his programs due to financial constraints, it does
not faze him: he still presents audiences with compelling, enthralling
After the Sept. 11 tragedy and the recession, the Brooklyn Philharmonic was among the financially hard-hit arts organizations, and some reshuffling was needed if the orchestra was to play its concerts at all. So Spano canceled the February concerts, replacing them with the young pianist Stewart Goodyear in his New York recital debut.
For the upcoming March 15-16 concerts, Spano has replaced the original program with a performance of the wondrous oratorio "King David" by Arthur Honegger, a Swiss composer (he is thought of as French because he spent most of his life in his adopted country) who is universally respected but far too infrequently heard in our concert halls. Honegger is best known for his symphonies and the short orchestral work "Pacific 231," all of which show off his considerable skill at composing music whose color and shading are thrilling to any listener. But it is his vocal works that are the true proof of his many-sided genius.
"King David" recounts the legendary Biblical story of the ruler who defeated Saul, reigned over Israel after overwhelming Goliath and lost his kingdom due to hubris. Honegger brilliantly juxtaposes choruses of sheerly gripping force with many tender passages of lyrical beauty for the soloists.
For the Brooklyn Philharmonic’s performances - which will be of the original 1921 version sans strings - the soloists are soprano Jan Giering DeHaan, mezzo Mary Nessinger, tenor Clifton Forbis and narrator-speaker Lambert Wilson. The New York Virtuoso Singers under the direction of Harold Rosenbaum sing the choral parts; the work will be performed in an English translation of the original French.
In a deserving case of nepotism, the Swiss music label Musique Suisse has recordings of several of Honegger’s vocal works, as it also has for the Masses, Requiem and "Mysteries of the Nativity" of Frank Martin, another Swiss contemporary of Honegger, who added his own cerebral style to the composer’s expressive musicality. In addition to "King David" and his other classic oratorio, "Joan of Arc at the Stake," Honegger’s rarely heard operetta, "The Adventures of King Pausole" and his "dramatic legend" titled "Nicholas de Flue" have been preserved in sterling Musique Suisse recordings.
But such glorious music deserves to be heard live, and for the chance of hearing "King David" in its entirety, we can thank Robert Spano.
Luckily for the Regina Opera company, their planned productions were unaffected by the events of Sept. 11. And so its presentation of Giacomo Puccini’s classic tragedy "Tosca" remains on the schedule, with performances at Regina Hall on March 9, March 10 and March 16.
Puccini’s most lucid opera, "Tosca" is filled with double-crossings, backstabbings and fatal passions that populate most Italian verismo ("realism," or common life) operas. The title heroine is a fatally flawed lover: her jealousy is so extreme that she allows the sadistic police chief Scarpia to convince her that her current lover, the painter Cavaradossi, is unfaithful to her. It all ends tragically, of course.
For this production, director Linda Lehr, a Regina Opera vet who also serves as set and lighting designer has adhered to Puccini’s own stage directions, making this is as familiar-looking and sounding a "Tosca" (it’s sung in Italian) as opera-goers can get outside the Met.
On March 10 and March 16, Carroll Gardens resident Deborah Anne Faw sings the passionate soprano role of Tosca, baritone Hak Joon Kim (most recently heard at Regina Opera as Don Jose in "Carmen" and Rodolfo in "La Boheme") is her lover Cavaradossi, and tenor Eugene Green takes on the role of Scarpia. Long-time Brooklyn resident Jose Alejandro Guzman, principal conductor of Regina Opera, leads the orchestra.
The Brooklyn Philharmonic Orchestra
performs Honegger’s "King David" at the BAM Howard
Gilman Opera House (30 Lafayette Ave. at Ashland Place) on March
15 and March 16 at 8 pm. Tickets are $20-$50. For more information,
call (718) 622-5838 or visit www.brookl
The Regina Opera Company performs Puccini’s "Tosca" March 9 and March 16 at 7 pm and March 10 at 4 pm at Regina Hall, corner of 12th Avenue and 65th Street. General admission tickets are $12; $8 senior citizens and college students. For more information, visit www.reginaopera.org or call (718) 232-3555.