Verdi Opens New SASO Season

Guest conductor Dimitar Karaminkov will lead the Southern Arizona Symphony Orchestra in the opening concert of the 2013-2014 season on October 5 and 6. The program will include Verdi’s Sinfonia(Overture) to Nabucco, Concerto for Cello by Roumi Petrova with Kalin Ivanov soloist, and Symphony No. 2 by Borodin.

Giuseppi Verdi was the dominant composer of Italian Opera in the Nineteenth Century and was a contemporary of Richard Wagner in Germany. Verdi would succeed Bellini, Donizetti, and Rossini, following in Italian Opera tradition by making few revolutionary changes, where Wagner, influenced by Beethoven, Berlioz, and Liszt would drastically change German Opera’s direction. Both had successful careers and Verdi composed 28 operas, 15 of which have regular performances to this day.

Verdi’s first opera, Oberto had some success at Milan’s La Scala and while working on a second, his two daughters and his wife died in a three month period. Being in a state of depression, he found composing most difficult and in 1840 Un giorno di regno was a flop. He was talked into going back to work and selected a historical-biblical libretto: Nabucco(English Nebuchadnezzar,) a Babylonian King who defeated and dispersed the Jews from Israel. This would be the opera that insured his career. Verdi was idolized by the average Italian and his operas were championed by Arturo Toscanini. This writer lived in New York City in the 1950’s and remember hearing Italian opera in businesses like bakers, barbers, tratorias, tailors, and countless others.

Giuseppi Verdi has an interesting name as it translates in English to Joseph Green. Joe Green is included in Agatha Christie’s play Evil Under the Sun and Victor Borge in his comedy theater routines said that Verdi’s real name was Joe Green and Giuseppi Verdi was only a stage name.

Included in his catalogue are some of the greats of all opera: Rigoletto, La Traviata, IL Trovatore, Aida, and Nabucco. Verdi also composed other nonoperatic works and the most well known and respected was his requiem which incidentally has the loudest bass drum stroke in all music.

Many operas have an orchestral only introduction prior to the curtain, called an overture. SASO will open this season opening concert with an overture, which Verdi called Sinfonia, to Nabucco. Trombones open the work with a solemn fanfare followed by a loud tutti intrusion for 6 measures then returning to the trombone statement. The second theme is a fast trot tune of five notes. Then comes the main theme in a slow 3 time that opera lovers look forward to: Va pensiero sull’ ali dorate which the orchestra repeats. In the opera this music is the Chorus of Hebrew Slaves and audiences become ecstatic, sometimes forcing the chorus to be repeated. The fast allegro second theme returns and the trot turns into a military gallop as a finale. All the themes in this overture are part of the opera. After hearing this overture, Rossini’s influence is obvious.

This concert will be presented at Desert View Performing Arts Auditorium on Saturday October 5 at 7:30 PM and on Sunday October 6 at 3:00 PM at St. Andrews Presbyterian Church in Oro Valley.

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SASO’s Story

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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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."