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.
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ASO: Thomas Søndergård with Daniel Moody, Jessica Rivera, Stephanie Lauricella, Thomas Cooley, & Andrea Mastroni

The last time that I heard Thomas Søndergård conduct the Atlanta Symphony Orchestra, I wasn’t terribly pleased with his interpretations of the French Impressionist works on the program but thought that he might actually be pretty good with a program of German works. Well…I’m not quite ready to completely write him off, but between that concert and the one I attended last night, I’m thinking that he may have a pretty narrow range and some pretty bad ideas. The concert wasn’t a disaster by any means, but it also wasn’t very good and it’s largely due to his interpretations of the pieces on the program.
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ASO: Donald Runnicles with Evelina Dobračeva, Thomas Cooley, & Russell Braun

As I was walking to my car from Memorial Hall last night, I overheard a couple of people talking about the Atlanta Symphony Orchestra’s concert. One said that she couldn’t remember his name, but that the conductor was English and she liked him.

Me: He’s Scottish and his name is Donald Runnicles.
Woman: He’s Scottish? Not English?
Me: Yep.
Woman: I like him even better!
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ASO: Robert Spano with Russell Thomas, Mary Elizabeth Williams, and Nmon Ford

I was excited when I saw that the Atlanta Symphony Orchestra was doing a semi-staged production of Verdi’s “Otello” this season. It’s among my favorite operas as much because of the wonderful orchestration as for anything sung by the soloists. The orchestra really tells the story almost as well as the libretto such that I think that you could strip the singing from it and still have the makings for a solid ballet. I suspected that a semi-staging would let me focus more on the musicality of the work than the dramatic aspects without reducing the emotional impact of the work on me. I’m happy to report, I was correct: this was a wonderful way to hear the opera.
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ASO: Donald Runnicles with Christina Smith

There were two concerts for which I originally had tickets but did not attend; one of them was canceled due to weather and the other I decided to skip: they had the poor taste to tack some obnoxious gimmicks onto the performance that were created by two artists who clearly would have nothing of interest to say about the music. That would have detracted too much from the music for me to be able to enjoy myself so I figured that I’d exchange the ticket for one of the concerts that I’d originally not planned to attend. As such, even though I wasn’t excited about the program, I found myself at this evening’s Atlanta Symphony Orchestra concert featuring all French composers under the baton of Donald Runnicles. Of the three pieces on the program, I really only wanted to hear one of them, but that one really made it worth it for me to bother with the trip to Symphony Hall.
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ASO: Robert Spano with Jessica Rivera and Nmon Ford

Spano, the Atlanta Symphony Orchestra, the ASO chorus, and the soloists, soprano Jessica Rivera and baritone Nmon Ford, were all completely on mark for this evening’s performance. The chorus has been very active this season, but mostly they have been performing works of Christian liturgical music that don’t really have much of a draw for me.
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ASO: Samson et Delila

So many beautiful voices! So much wow in Samson et Delila! When Blythe unleashed her voice, she owned the room. She really did. And Skelton voiced his part with as much character as excellence. I saw in his bio that Grimsley did Bluebeard’s Castle and I’d really love to hear that after hearing his High Priest. And the chorus! What a great sound they had tonight! Even though they are absent from the 2nd act, this opera really let them shine from the beginning and left me as impressed with them as any of the soloists. Every bit of the performance was well played by the orchestra, too. I would have loved an encore of the ballets, which I find absolutely gorgeous and the playing of which was nothing short of exceptional. Lots of wow.
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