The Verdi Chorus kicks off its 37th season with their Spring Concert, Opera Gets Real, for two performances only at the First United Methodist Church in Santa Monica on April 18 and 19. Led by Founding Artistic Director Anne Marie Ketchum, the Verdi Chorus is the only choral group in Southern California that focuses primarily on the dramatic and diverse music for opera chorus. This program, which Ketchum says includes “some of the most dramatic moments from some of the most powerful operatic works,” will feature selections from two Verdi operas – Ernani and Macbeth, Beethoven’s Fidelio in honor of his 250th birthday, as well as sequences from Ponchielli’s La Gioconda and Giordano’s Andrea Chénier. There will also be a special preview of Mascagni’s Cavalleria Rusticana, which, in a momentous first for the Verdi Chorus, will be presented in its entirety on May 23rd.
The program will feature three guest soloists: soprano Julie Makerov whom The Huffington Post declared “triumphant” in her performance of Senta in Wagner’s Der fliegende Holländer with Los Angeles Opera; tenor Todd Wilander, praised by The New York Times for his “brave, vocally assured portrayals” and who has returned for eight seasons thus far with The Metropolitan Opera; and renowned baritone Roberto Perlas Gómez who, with over 100 roles to his credit, has performed extensively throughout the United States.
These performances are made possible, in part, through the generous support of the Sahm Family Foundation and the Green Foundation, and by grant funding from the Los Angeles County Department of Arts and Culture, and the Santa Monica Arts Commission.
Conductor Anne Marie Ketchum says, “When I was searching for a title for this program, Opera Gets Real kept coming back to me as the obvious way to describe how we are launching our 37th season. It’s a strong and powerful program, which our three sensational guest artists, Julie Makerov, Todd Wilander, and Roberto Perlas Gómez, as well as our chorus of over fifty strong, will bring to rich and electrifying life. We will delve not only into some of the most dramatic works written for opera, but into the thrilling world of verismo opera as well. Verismo, (Italian for “realism”) was a break-away movement in literature and music in the late 19th century that focused no longer on mythological figures, or kings and queens, but on the much earthier daily struggles and emotions of men and women, on the sometimes violent situations that can result, and on the passions involved in simply living and loving.”
Ketchum continues, “Our first act, featuring selections from Verdi’s Macbeth, will range from the powerful Patria oppressa which sings of a country now lost, to a Verdi favorite for a large ensemble, Sangue a me. Our second act includes Ponchielli’s La Gioconda with Roberto Perlas Gómez leading the chorus in the rousing fisherman’s aria “Pescator,” followed by Todd Wilander’s rendition of the movingly beautiful aria “Cielo e mar.” Giordano’s Andrea Chénier will offer Julie Makerov in the sweeping and dramatic aria “La mamma morta.” We will end our program with selections from the very first verismo opera that started it all, Mascagni’s Cavalleria Rusticana. This is especially exciting, as we will present this opera in its entirety on May 23, a new landmark for the Verdi Chorus.”
The Verdi Chorus prepares for concerts with rehearsals every Monday night. There, an amazing thing happens as over 50 singers gather together from every walk of life to become the Verdi Chorus. This wide swath of people includes singers from 18 to 80 who come from a variety of professions, and yet have one thing in common: the desire to sing side-by-side each week and delve into the rich, dramatic world of opera. They, in turn, are joined by opera stars at the beginning of their careers, and college students who have just begun to realize their operatic gifts, as all of them become one under the direction of Founding Artistic Director Anne Marie Ketchum. Each rehearsal is like a vocal master class.
Raising their voices together they become everything from the eerie witches of Macbeth to the hardworking villagers of Cavalleria Rusticana.
Further demonstrating the organization’s mission to provide performance opportunities to young professional singers, fifteen highly promising singers are hired as section leaders and rehearsal coaches. Known as the Fox Singers, named in memory of long-time Chorus and Board member Walter Fox, these singers assist the Artistic Director, provide direction for their sections in rehearsals, and have opportunities to perform as featured singers in performances. The Fox Singers, who also perform on occasion independently of the full Chorus and serve as a showcase for the singers and as ambassadors for the Verdi Chorus. Performances of special arias and ensembles have been presented at venues in Southern California including the Annenberg Beach House, The Broad Stage, the Huntington Library, and the Nixon Library.
The Chorus is also proud to continue with the Apprentice Singers program that was established in 2015 in which talented vocal music students at the college level gain the opportunity to work with the Chorus in rehearsals and sing operatic music in concert. Sahm Foundation Apprentices for this session, named in honor of a generous grant from the Sahm Family Foundation, are sopranos Krista Schaeffer and Sarah Shields, mezzo Bianca Gutierrez, tenor Joshua Burke, and bass David Peterson. Each receives a scholarship to provide funds with which they can broaden their music studies. Apprentices who successfully complete the program are invited back to sing with the Chorus for subsequent sessions.
Performance times are Saturday, April 18 at 7:30 p.m., and Sunday, April 19 at 2:00 pm at the First United Methodist Church in Santa Monica, located at 1008 11th Street, Santa Monica, CA 90403.
Tickets are available for purchase at www.verdichorus.org or by calling (800) 838-3006. Priority seating is available for $40, general admission is $30, seniors are $25, and students aged 25 and under with a valid ID are $10.