ASO: Robert Spano with a Battalion of Guests

The Atlanta Symphony Orchestra crammed a lot of people onto their stage for last night’s performance of Mahler’s Symphony no. 8 under the baton of Robert Spano. They had to angle the sides of the acoustic shell so they sloped outward downstage to fit everyone in. The ASO Chorus mixed with the Morehouse College Glee Club were in the regular chorus seats up-stage. Just below them were the Gwinnett Young Singers flanked on either side by some of the women of the ASOC and the Spelman College Glee Club. The rest of the women were on risers flanking the stage, with their backs to the walls of the acoustic shell, facing inward and slightly downstage. The on-stage soloists occupied the sliver of space left downstage of the orchestra musicians. The lineup included sopranos Evelina Dobračeva and Erin Wall, mezzo-sopranos Michelle DeYoung and Kelly O’Connor, tenor Toby Spence, Baritone Russel Braun, and bass Morris Robinson. Mater Gloriosa was sung by Nicole Cabell from the stairs of the left mezzanine loge and some brass played from the feet of both loges in the mezzanine to surround us with sound during certain dramatic scenes in the Goethe section.

The performance got off to a rough start. The various sections of sound just didn’t mesh well for Veni creator spiritus. Sometimes it got unpleasantly cacophonous. I was wondering if the issue was that they couldn’t hear each other because of the configuration of the stage or if the acoustics were just so screwed up that I couldn’t hear it correctly, but then Part II began and everything began to gel nicely. The two people flanking me agreed with me that the Faust was amazing and totally worth trying to sit still for 80ish minutes. It was pretty easy to ignore the weaknesses in Part I with such a strong conclusion.

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