very state in the union has at least one professional symphony orchestra
or opera company. In fact, maybe so many of these organizations
exist because the younger generations ignore them. In reality, there
are easier and more accessible alternatives to sitting down and
reverently listening to a symphony play a piece by a guy who’s
been dead for at least 100 years. These alternatives may include
top-40 radio, the bar scene, big rock shows, small rock shows, pirated
MP3s, pirated CDs, pirated music videos and everything else pirated.
May I pose an alternative to the alternatives: the Utah Symphony
and Opera’s 2003-04 season.
It is the second year of the infamous “merger” between
the two largest professional music organizations in the valley.
Despite the controversy, both the Utah Symphony and the Utah Opera,
now the Utah Symphony & Opera, still seem to be on queue to
provide an excellent and varied season of symphonic and operatic
Of course, everyone that is anyone knows about this organization.
Furthermore, anyone that is everyone has been to at least one symphony
or opera performance. If you don’t fit into any of the above
categories, that, of course, would make you a no one who is nobody.
Obviously, no one wants to be a nobody. So, for all of you non-classical
concert goers, there is a way to remedy your awful plight. Just
there have been some concerns as to who wields the power over
programming in the organization, Dredge says that Keith Lockhart
still has complete say over the programming for the symphony.
go, huh? OK. But why? It raises a lot of questions. Isn’t
the symphony and opera the locale for all the uppity-ups that have
season tickets just for the sake of social status? Isn’t a
night at the symphony set aside for all of the senior citizens as
their only night of the week where they stay out later than 8 p.m?
Don’t you have to be rich to go to the opera? Isn’t
it just a bunch of fat ladies singing around on stage?
Some of these questions and criticisms of the opera and symphony
are legitimate. True, members of the higher echelon of economic
status tend to attend the programs. Yes, there tend to be more gray-hairs
than not-so-gray-hairs sitting in the audience. You really don’t
have to be rich, but a lot of wealth is needed to fund the organization.
But the fat opera singers…well that is a big, fat misnomer.
Some of them are so beyond not-fat that they are foxy.
But the history of the symphony and opera pre-date present-day qualms.
In the past, there were groups with the financial power to create
a forum through which the masters came out to compose and perform.
Over centuries of social and political evolution, the orchestra
and the opera acted as a mouthpiece with which the composers could
communicate with the people of such change. One can’t help
but think of Giuseppe Verdi pleading for an Italian national identity
through his opera “Nabucco.” Or Dmitri Shostakovich,
who carefully disguised his cynical outlook on communism through
his vast body of symphonic works.
Regardless of the era or nation, the opera and the symphony have
been the forces that have not only withstood the test of time, but
have proven to be a tradition and medium where the present-day artist
can channel his or her expression.
Oliviera will perform Russian pieces with the symphony in November.
of the Utah Symphony, Keith Lockhart.
singer, Linda Eder, will grace the symphony's Pops series in
Program and its new Bells and Whistles
Hartley, public relations assistant for Utah Symphony and Opera,
indicated that in the midst of a huge season, the organization has
made some “enhancements” that will enable a greater
realization of the music. She referenced the performance of Igor
Stravinsky’s “Firebird.” The music was originally
scored for a production by Ballet Russe in the early 20th century.
While still staying true to the original intents of the composition,
the orchestra will share the stage with some choreographed dancing.
Multiple performances this year will see the orchestra sharing the
stage with dancing, puppetry or other visual material.
Another program includes the fully staged, yet rarely performed,
rendition of Stravinsky’s “L’Histoire du soldat”
(The Soldier’s Tale). Although some of these enhancements
may prove distracting or strange for the regular classical concert-goer,
those who rarely attend the concerts may find a stimulus and interest
that isn’t as obvious with the music alone.
According to Margaret Dredge, symphony artistic administrator, “This
is really the first season that we [Utah Symphony and Opera] are
working completely together on programming and production.”
Last year, the programs for both groups were decided prior to the
merger. This season will reveal how the new ideas will crystallize
and create larger audience appeal while still attracting the traditional
The true test of the organization is how well the current and potential
audiences receive the diverse programming. “I have been involved
in symphonies in the West, East Coast and Midwest, and I have noticed
that the Utah Symphony concerts attract a pretty diverse audience,”
Dredge said. This season’s programming should continue to
capitalize upon the diverse audience found at Abravanel Hall and
Although there have been some concerns as to who wields the power
over programming in the organization, Dredge says that Keith Lockhart
still has complete say over the programming for the symphony. But
the added elements of such programs stem from a bilateral effort
on the part of the administration and artistic directors.
From Stravinsky to Beethoven and Berlioz to Bernstein, this season
provides a great mix of classic and modern sounds, performed with
and without the new features.
To kick off the season, famed violinist Joshua Bell will make his
third Salt Lake City appearance playing Max Bruch’s virtuoso
Violin Concerto No. 1. Playing to sold-out crowds while appeasing
the highly snobbish classical music critics, Bell has proved to
be an up-and-coming young star in solo performance. This concert
opens the season Friday, Sept. 12 at 7:30 p.m. and Saturday, Sept.
13 at 8 p.m.
Goethe’s “Faust” appears as a running theme throughout
the season. Both the symphony and opera will play their roles in
portraying Dr. Faustus and his counterpart Mephistopheles. The beginning
of the Faust Festival is Hector Berlioz’s “La Damnation
de Faust.” Joining forces with the Utah Symphony Chorus and
featuring mezzo-soprano Molly Fillmore, tenor Raul Melo and bass-baritone
Stephen Morschek, the symphony will attempt to take the audience
into the demented world of Berlioz and Faust and hopefully allow
us to escape such mind-altering music. This will take place on Nov.
7 and 8 at 8 p.m.
The opera will perform Charles-François Gounod’s “Faust,”
another significant work done in homage to the literary monolith.
It will open Oct. 18 and run through Oct. 26. “Faust”
is a great introduction to the world of opera. All performances
are at Capitol Theater.
The Utah Symphony and Opera has made great efforts to bring a concert
series to the University of Utah. The Connoisseur Chamber Series
will start its second season at Libby Gardner Hall with “L’Histoire
du soldat” and Bela Bartók’s “Music for
Strings, Percussion and Celeste.” Further engagements include
the premiere of local violinist and composer Gerald Elias’s
“Concerto Grosso in B-flat for Violin.” The performance
will take place Jan. 15.
Although this is just a brief sampling, the season as a whole proves
to be one for all interests. It will offer a new option to the regular
alternatives that fill your life. And it won’t hurt the starving
student’s wallet. Student tickets for the Utah Symphony are
$8 and student tickets for the Utah Opera are $10. Not bad, compared
to prices for badly made films or worse-sounding bands.
So, go and be somebody. And if it the music turns out to be boring
tunes for deep-pocketed senior citizens, then at least you tried.
But from the way this season looks, it will be the youthful rock-loving
generation that will find the greatest enjoyment at Abravanel Hall
and Capitol Theater this year.