Remember the Opera, Forget the King

by Gerald Carpenter

THE ACADEMY IS … : In addition to the regular schedule of masterclasses, the Music Academy will offer up the Academy Young Artists in a free Community Concert at 2 p.m. today, Thursday, August 3, at the Santa Barbara Museum of Art. As usual for these affairs, the program is potluck. The Academy Young Artists — a k a students — will also offer a Picnic Concert this evening at 7:30 p.m. in Abravanel Hall.

The big ticket item this weekend is, of course, the opera Il Viaggio a Reims (The Journey to Reims), with music by Gioacchino Rossini and libretto by Luigi Balocchi. This opera, written for the coronation of Charles X as King of France, was quite successful but withdrawn by Rossini after three performances, mainly because he wanted to use some of the best bits in other operas. It disappeared for about 150 years and was only rediscovered in 1977, re-premiered in 1984. At Marilyn Horne’s urging, it was performed at the Music Academy in 1997, when it was conducted by Randall Behr, who conducted every Music Academy opera thereafter, through last year’s magical Così fan tutte. This year, both performances of Il Viaggio are dedicated to the memory of Behr, who died in fall 2005 at age 53. This year’s production will star the best and the brightest of the Academy young vocal artists, with the Festival Orchestra conducted by Christopher Larkin and the stage action directed by Casey Stangl. Sets are designed by Allan Moyer, costumes by James Scott, and lighting by Nancy Shertler. There will be two performances in the Lobero Theatre: one at 7:30 p.m., Friday, August 4, and the other at 2:30 p.m., Sunday, August 6. For tickets call the Music Academy box office (969-8787), or the Lobero box office (963-0761).

At 8 p.m. Saturday, August 5, in Our Lady of Mt. Carmel Church, an all-new ensemble, the Academy Chamber Orchestra, will make its debut with a dream of a concert, conducted by Julian Wachner, with Paul Merkelo on trumpet. This is an idea whose time has definitely come. The program consists of Antonio Vivaldi’s Concerto for Strings in G Major, RV 151, “Alla Rustica”; Igor Stravinsky’s gorgeous tribute to the baroque, and especially to Bach, the Concerto in E-flat Major, “Dumbarton Oaks”; Vivaldi’s Concerto in C Major for Two Trumpets; and Piotr Tchaikovsky’s Serenade for Strings in C Major, Opus 48. For tickets call the Music Academy box office (969-8787).

The last Tuesdays at 8 faculty chamber concert (so soon?) will take place in the Lobero, at 8 p.m., Tuesday, August 8.

The program includes Georges Bizet’s delightful Jeux d’enfants (Children’s Games), performed by those reliably sensational collaborators, Anne Epperson and Warren Jones on piano, and Olivier Messiaen’s Thème et Variations for Violin and Piano, with Kathleen Winkler and Epperson. Then we’ll hear a work you may not know, but will sweep you off your feet: Camille Saint-Saëns’s Septet in E-flat Major, Opus 65, played by Paul Merkelo, trumpet; Peter Salaff and Donald Weilerstein, violins; Donald McInnes, viola; David Geber, cello; Nico Abondolo, double bass; and Jerome Lowenthal, piano. The evening and series will conclude with Antonín Dvorˇák’s Piano Trio No. 2 in G Minor, B. 56, Opus 26, performed by The Weilerstein Trio. For tickets call the Music Academy box office (969‑8787) or the Lobero box office (963-0761).

Finally, the Academy Young Artists will present another Picnic Concert at 7:30 p.m. next Wednesday, in Abravanel Hall. For tickets to and information about this and all Academy events, call the Music Academy box office, at 969‑8787.

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