Monday, May 4, 2009

5/26 @ 6:15 p.m.: Anne Elise Richie

Anne Elise Richie, mezzo-soprano
Bonita Sonsini Wyke, piano
With guest artist Mary Richie, piano

  • HECTOR BERLIOZ: Three songs from Les nuits d’ été
    Villanelle - Le spectre de la rose - Lîle inconnu
    Anne Elise Richie & Bonita Sonsini Wyke

  • JOSEPH HAYDN: Sonata in B minor, Hob. XVI:32
    1. Allegro Moderato - 2. Tempo di Minuetto - 3. Presto
    Mary Richie, piano

  • MICHAEL HEAD: Three Songs of Venice
    The Gondolier - St. Mark’s Square - Rain Storm
  • FRANCESCO SANTOLIQUIDO: I canti della sera
    L’assiolo canta - Alba di luna sul bosco
    Tristezza crepuscolare - L’incontro
          The Spinster of Chelsea Embankment
    (from Cabaret Songs, Vol.3)
          Two songs from Ladies of Their Nights and Days
    I Left You in Florence - The Queen Elizabeth Blues
    Anne Elise Richie & Bonita Sonsini Wyke

    Known for her warm, rich mezzo-soprano voice and gracious performing style, Anne Elise Richie has distinguished herself as an opera singer, concert artist and devoted teacher. A Metropolitan Opera District Winner, Ms. Richie has toured Italy, France and Germany in addition to her many performances in the United States. She has appeared in a wealth of diverse operas and theatrical productions including Madama Butterfly, Hansel and Gretel, The Marriage of Figaro, The Magic Flute, The Pirates of Penzance and 1776, and fine intonation and committed character portrayal are hallmarks of her performances. In addition to appearing as a soloist with the Birmingham Symphony Mozart Celebration, Cincinnati Conservatory of Music, Milwaukee Catholic Symphony Orchestra, University of Chicago Orchestra and Winston-Salem/Piedmont Triad Orchestra, Ms. Richie sang for four seasons with the New York City Opera Chorus and Opera Orchestra of New York. Upcoming local performances include a June 22nd appearance as soloist for Maurice Durufle's Requiem, part of Jacksonville Masterworks Chorale's Summer Sings choral workshop series. She was a Visiting Professor of Voice at the University of North Florida and an adjunct professor at New Jersey City University, Wagner College and Bergen Community College. In addition to maintaining a private studio, Ms. Richie was the Head of Vocal Studies at Douglas Anderson School of the Arts from August 2005 to May 2007. She received her undergraduate degree in Vocal Performance from the Cincinnati Conservatory of Music and Masters in Opera Performance from the North Carolina School of the Arts, and she is now nearing the completion of her doctoral degree in Vocal Performance with an emphasis on Vocal Pedagogy from Florida State University.

    Bonita Sonsini Wyke has been an active part of the Jacksonville music community since 1985, and in working with many of the First Coast's leading vocalists, instrumentalists and musical ensembles she has earned the reputation as a musician of unsurpassed sensitivity, technical skill and artistry. Originally from Los Angeles, California, she has performed for more than thirty years as a collaborative pianist and harpsichordist for choral groups, orchestral and instrumental ensembles, and for stage productions including opera, music theater, ballet and modern dance. In 2007, Bonita joined the Piano Department at Jacksonville University as full-time Staff Accompanist for Opera, Music Theater, Concert Choir, Chamber Singers, and student and faculty recitals. A founding member of the San Marco Chamber Music Society, Ms. Sonsini Wyke is a seasoned chamber player, and especially enjoys four-hand piano literature.

    Pianist Mary Richie has been performing since age 16, and divides her time between teaching and accompanying in Tampa, where she resides, and traveling to Orlando, Jacksonville and the Jersey Shore to be with family. Throughout her extensive career as an organist and Minister of Music in Milwaukee, Pittsburgh, Charlotte (North Carolina) and Tampa she has maintained a successful private studio, teaching aspiring pianists of all ages. A graduate of Alverno College (Milwaukee, Wisconsin), she completed Master’s level courses in accompanying and performance at Winthrop College (Charlotte, North Carolina) and is presently studying performance technique and chamber repertoire with Dr. Averill Summer at the University of South Florida in Tampa. In December 2007, the mother of five and grandmother of seven performed with the St. Timothy Catholic Church Adult Choir (Lutz, Florida) at Basilica di San Pietro in Vaticano and La chiesa di Sant'Ignazio di Loyola in Rome, Italy.

    Program Notes, by Ed Lein, Music Librarian

    The French Romantic Hector Berlioz (1803-1869) was among the most progressive composers of his era, and his original blending of symphonic forms with dramatic narrative, coupled with his keen insight into orchestration, had profound influence on the creative development of such luminaries as Richard Wagner and Franz Liszt. As a composer, Berlioz was never very popular with the French musical establishment, and despite his early successes he had difficulty getting his later works performed unless he paid for the concerts himself. But he did enjoy success as an author and music critic, and gained international fame as a conductor. In 1850 he was appointed Head Librarian of the Paris Conservatoire, which provided not only financial stability, but also something of an ironic twist to his biography. As a youth Berlioz had been sent to Paris to attend medical school, but rather than study human anatomy (which repulsed the young Hector) he preferred to study music scores, so he would sneak into—and then be kicked out of—the very library he would later manage. Especially famous for his Symphonie fantastique (1830) and Grande Messe des morts (Requiem Mass, 1837), Berlioz wrote about 50 songs with piano or guitar accompaniment, and among these the six songs from Les nuits d’ete (“The Nights of Summer”), Op. 7 (1841, orchestrated 1856) are easily the best known. Although the lyrics of all the opus 7 songs are by the influential French poet and critic Théophile Gautier (1811-1872), apparently the composer’s original intent was not that they be performed as a song cycle. Instead, he conceived them as separate songs to be performed variously by tenor, baritone, contralto, and mezzo-soprano, and was only later (but easily) convinced to orchestrate the whole set by an admiring music publisher. The selections this evening are the first, second and sixth songs from the set. Villanelle, a rustic song, joyously welcomes the returning spring with renewed hopefulness as the countryside begins to reawaken. In Le spectre de la rose (“The Ghost of the Rose”), a fading blossom at first seems to lament having been cut down in its prime, only to rejoice in its happy fate of having adorned the belle of the ball as its perfume lingers on. In the concluding barcarolle, L'île inconnue ("The Unknown Island"), a flirtatious gondolier asks his pretty young passenger to imagine which exotic shores she'd like to be whisked away to--she responds, "To the faithful shore where we're always in love!"

    Genial Austrian composer (Franz) Joseph Haydn (1732-1809) is the musician most credited with establishing the “Classical” style that his two younger contemporaries Mozart and Beethoven built upon, and by the time of his death "Papa" Haydn had become the most widely celebrated composer in Europe. Known as both “Father of the Symphony” and “Father of the String Quartet,” Haydn began his career as a choirboy and never developed into a keyboard virtuoso, so his (at least) 51 keyboard sonatas were mostly composed in the early part of his career as a court musician. His Piano Sonata No. 47 (1776) is one of only seven he wrote in a minor key, and its three-movement scheme is representative of the instrumental sonata forms he pioneered.

    British composer Michael Head (1900-1976) became famous as a classical singer who accompanied himself at the piano, so it is not surprising that the great majority of his works are for voice and piano. His three Songs of Venice (1976), on texts by his sister Nancy Bush (1907-1991), were composed for the great British mezzo-soprano Janet Baker. The songs were among Head’s very last works—sadly, the composer died before Dame Janet premiered them in 1977. Head is considered especially gifted in his ability to conjure images using music, demonstrated here as he assumes in turn the roles of biographer, travel guide, and naturalist philosopher.

    Italian composer Francesco Santoliquido (1883-1971) completed the music and lyrics of his earliest surviving songs, I canti della sera (“The Songs of the Evening”) in 1908. They were published by Ricordi in 1912, and the journal Musical America recommended them “as the finest of modern concert songs” in 1922. But in addition to composing, Santoliquido published books of verse and short stories, and in 1937 and 1938 he penned several fascist, anti-Semitic articles, and also decried musical modernism. As a result he was effectively ostracized from the progressive arts community. Ironically, his third wife, pianist Ornella Pulti Santoliquido, had been a student of Alfredo Casella (a prominent Jewish-Italian composer and a particular target of Francesco's), and she became known as an advocate of modern music. As these four evocative "evening songs" demonstrate, Santoliquido’s early style blends characteristics of Debussy and Richard Strauss (by way of Puccini!), but they do not yet show the influence of the Arabic music that colored his later works, the result of a nine-year sojourn to North Africa which began in 1912. The first song, L’assiola canta (“The Horned Owl Sings”), is an invitation to share an intimate walk through the woods on a still, starry evening, interrupted only by the mournful sigh of an owl. Alba di luna sul bosco (“Moonrise over the Woods”) artfully depicts the appearance of a red moon over the forest and it’s shimmering reflection caught on the surface of a pond; this in turn leads the poet to reflect on the surrounding vast stillness and peace, and how such a perfect sense of communion mirrors, or perhaps even inspires newly found love. As its title suggests, the mood of Tristezze crepuscolare (“Twilight Gloom”) changes from peaceful contemplation to sorrowful angst and agitation as the incessant pealing of evening church bells unearths painful memories of a lost love. The final song, L’incontro (“The Encounter”), ends the cycle on a more hopeful note as it relates the happy reunion of a couple who years before had enjoyed a similar twilight flirtation, with evening bells and sqwaking seabirds now heard in the distance, just the same as before. The accompaniment includes rhythmic patterns similar to those used in the preceding songs, perhaps suggestive of the imperfectly-recalled memories mentioned in the lyrics.


    The versatile New York pianist and composer Richard Pearson Thomas (b. 1957) is at home in both the musical theater and the concert hall. In addition to accompanying recitals with singers at major U.S. and international venues, he composes for films and the stage, including the Off-Off-Broadway shows Parallel Lines (2005) and Ladies in a Maze (1996). The Montana native is a graduate of the Eastman School of Music and the University of Southern California, was on faculty at Yale, and currently is on the faculty at Teachers College/Columbia University. He has composed more than 80 operas with students in New York City public schools as composer-in-residence of the Gold Opera Project, Young Audiences/New York. Writing the words as well as the music, Mr. Thomas began issuing collections of his Cabaret Songs in 1995. Published in 2006, The Spinster of Chelsea Embankment comes from Volume 3, and has been described as depicting “a figure apparently on intimate terms with more than a century-and-a-quarter's worth of literary luminaries, like Virginia Woolf (1882-1941), Oscar Wilde (1854-1900) and Charles Dickens (1812-1870).” Composed between 1980 and 1988 and also with texts by the composer, Ladies of Their Nights and Days is a cycle of 11 songs, subtitled “a musical tour for mezzo-soprano.” In the context of the whole cycle Windsor: The Queen Elizabeth Blues is the first song, and I Left You in Florence is the last, but each song is strong enough to be performed independently. About his cycle the composer says, “[it] is designed for a singing actress with great musical and dramatic skills. Each song is a different character in a different European setting,” and he adds, “The piano accompaniments are orchestral and challenging, but a lot of fun for an accomplished pianist."

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