SASO musicians to play in Mexican opera festival

For the fourth consecutive year, members of the Southern Arizona Symphony Orchestra are going to Mexico to participate in an opera festival. In 2013, 2014 and 2015, SASO players performed in the Oaxaca Opera Festival. This year, the destination is the first Opera Festival of San Luis, to be held in San Luis Potosí, Mexico, July 31 to August 14, 2016. The SASO players will be departing Tucson on August 6.

Considered one of the best places to live in Mexico, San Luis Potosí is an old colonial city of about 1 million inhabitants and is located about 250 miles north of Mexico City at an altitude of 6000 feet. Festival events will take place in El Centro de Las Artes de San Luis Potosí, an excellent newly remodeled facility that was formerly a prison.

The festival will be held in conjunction with the Linus Lerner Voice Competition, which has attracted entries from young singers throughout Mexico, and also from South and North America and Europe. Linus Lerner, an internationally known vocal coach and conductor, is the Music Director of SASO.

Three fully staged operas will be presented in the festival. Two of the operas are by Mozart, The Magic Flute and Don Giovanni. The third opera is Suor Angelica by Puccini. Also, a special concert of operatic arias will feature the winners of the voice competition. Members of the San Luis Potosí Symphony Orchestra will participate in the festival and share the orchestral parts with SASO.

Major financial support for the festival has been provided by several Tucson friends of SASO, including Irving Olson, Dorothy Vanek and Larry Leung.

In recent years, Mexico has become the source for some of the best emerging opera singers in the world. Linus Lerner was quick to recognize this trend. The series of opera festivals in Mexico that he has organized is designed to showcase these emerging talents and to nurture their development through workshops and individual coaching. This year, the international group of coaches includes Kristin Dauphinais, a member of the voice faculty at the University of Arizona.

For information on the opera festival and voice competition, visit this site.

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SASO’s Story

Our most famous alumnus is Rico Saccani, associate conductor of SASO our inaugural year and piano soloist for the second concert. He later conducted opera companies and orchestras around the world and was music director of the Budapest Philharmonic Orchestra from 1985 to 2005.
Alan Schultz became music director in Year 2 and continued leading SASO for 15 seasons. He frequently conducted from the keyboard—organ or harpsichord. He also composed several works premiered by SASO.
Early audiences had to be loyal followers of this itinerant orchestra, which performed all over the city, frequently in churches. In the 1980s SASO rented the Temple of Music and Art for a concert. The City of Tucson condemned the building the morning of the dress rehearsal and the concert was canceled.
Adam Boyles was the music director for three seasons, bringing bountiful youthful energy and a passion to serve the music. Then the Tucson native moved East to brave the snow and conduct the orchestra at MIT in Boston.
The largest event SASO has produced was Berlioz Te Deum, presented at the Tucson Community Center Music Hall with the Tucson Civic Orchestra, Tucson Masterworks Chorale, Tucson Arizona Boys Chorus and Pima College Singers.
In December 1995 SASO was the first to present a concert at SaddleBrooke. This was the brainstorm of concertmaster Sam Kreiling. The concert sold out, as did a four-concert series the following year. SASO has performed there ever since.
SaddleBrooke is home to many of our loyal donors and the place where we’ve held our gala celebrations—first a black-tie dinner with music from "Phantom of the Opera" and later our annual StarStruck Gala evenings from 2008 through 2013.
The visionary founders of SASO were Barbara and Bill Chinworth, Scott Bracher and Janet Lombard. Barbara has played with SASO through its entire history, originally in the horn section, now on bass.
The first concert was Oct. 28, 1979, conducted by former University of Arizona music professor Henry Johnson, featuring Jonathan Kramer in a Boccherini cello concerto.
One spring SASO proved it has animal attraction. When it played at the Reid Park Zoo, some of the critters sang along with the music
The most colorful performance was a Halloween concert in Nogales—a ghoulish event where the conductor was a clown and all the musicians were in costume.
Composer, pianist and conductor Warren Cohen served as music director for eight seasons, routinely commuting from his home in Phoenix, but one year all the way from Hawaii. His wife, coloratura Carolyn Whitacre, was a favorite soloist.
Turkish maestro Orhan Salliel, after guest-conducting SASO in the fall of 2012, wrote to us, "The time in Tucson I shared with you in SASO for me was so special. I felt the real love of music from the bottom of everyone's hearts. It was something I do not feel often—never, ever in the professional world anymore. Please keep it, save it, try to build everything from this power of love for music."
Brazilian-born Linus Lerner, in his first year as music director, challenged the orchestra to learn his native Latin rhythms by playing Villa-Lobos. This proved surprisingly hard to do. We finally got it, but not until the week of the concert.