Thursday, July 7, 2011

February 13, 2011 - CARMEN

In the afternoon of February 13th, 2011, I attended a performance of Carmen at Allentown Symphony Hall. This was the first performance I had seen by the Allentown Symphony Orchestra. Coming from the city of bridges, Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, I had high expectations from orchestras. In Pittsburgh I had the privilege of seeing both the Pittsburgh Symphony Orchestra and the University of Pittsburgh Symphony Orchestra on a regular basis. I had resigned myself to the belief that living in a smaller area would subject me to a mediocre orchestra. This was positively not the case. Yes, it is true that the Pittsburgh Symphony Orchestra is nearly unrivaled but the Allentown Symphony Orchestra was a collection of marvelous players. They were directed by a strong and courageous conductor by the name of Diane Wittry.

The concert did not delve directly into the Carmen performance. It began with a fanfare piece by sir Larry Lipkis. Upon arrival to this new land, I sought out the local university composers to attempt to understand what they were up to musically. I had met Larry Lipkis and sang with him a bit before hearing his new piece. Needless to say (so why am I saying it???), I was anticipating this work for several weeks. “Maestranza” functioned as the name of the accomplishment. This “Maestranza” positioned some of the musicians through the concert hall to create a different spatialization effect of sound direction. Ms. Wittry would turn around to conduct the musicians standing in the seated sections (musicians often have trouble conforming to the etiquette of our society). Melodic principles in the musical speech were beautiful, timeless, new, and somehow simultaneously friendly to the ears of the audience. If I had to use one word to describe the piece it could only be shortsweetgorgeousintense. Despite what you may infer, I do not use this word frequently.

Carmen livened the audience with the very first beat (of a measure somewhere in the piece). I was more than impressed with the talent of the singers as well as the orchestra. These musicians appeared to be truly dedicated to the pieces that they were currently performing. Dedication to the repertoire is one of the most desirable traits from the perspectives (often subconscious) of the audience members. In addition to the choreography, there was a nice visual aspect to the performance with three screens set up. One screen had projected images and the other two had translated lyrics for the audience to better understand the storyline. Act II caught my attention the most in terms of the musical attributes. Overall, it was very entertaining which is saying something because Carmen is not a work that I would normally care to see.

My first experience at Allentown Symphony Hall exceeded my expectations and left me smiling. Nothing could have been better than learning that I still have the opportunity to see a great and spirited orchestra in a significantly less populated area. The design of the hall was beautiful, Diane Wittry showed great personality in her craft, and the audience had a touching reaction at the end when the gave a loud standing ovation like no other. Needless to say (nevermind)...

-THE End (not just any end)

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