CSO and Artisti Affamati partner for ‘Opera Faves and Raves’ at the VW Center
Starving artists. A fearsome warship named for a girl’s frock. A twagical wabbit. The Chattanooga Symphony Orchestra and special guests combine elements of all these—and so much more—in the “Opera Faves and Raves” program this Sunday, Mar. 15, at 3 p.m. at the Volkswagen Conference Center.
The starving artists? In a literal translation from Italian, Artisti Affamati, a redoubtable group of local songsters, performs vocal selections from both classical and light opera in concert with the CSO.
“I believe all of their singers have performed with us at one time or another, in our chorus or as individuals,” says Molly Sasse, executive director of the CSO. “But this is the first time we’ve collaborated with them as a group. We’re glad to be working with them.”
The afternoon includes popular selections from classical opera, including Cosi fan tutte, La Traviata, and Carmen, sure to set feet tapping and heads bobbing.
The warship? For lovers of lighter fare, Gilbert and Sullivan’s HMS Pinafore, the duo’s first international smash hit, fires a salvo of quick-witted verbosity.
And the wabbit…uh, rabbit? This requires some explanation.
“The program features many of opera’s greatest hits and best-known arias,” explains Sasse. “Our singers are performing two choruses from Wagner’s Tannhäuser, which we would most likely never produce as an opera because of its length. One is a tune from Tannhäuser that was used in the famous Bugs Bunny cartoon spoof, you know, ‘Kill da wabbit,’—”
(At this point the writer and the interviewee both involuntarily hum the irresistible, stirring tune, as the Valkyries ride in our imagination.)
“The music is wonderful,” Sasse says, “and it’s exciting to do some Wagner as well as the Verdi and Puccini hits that people know and love.”
Several years have passed since the CSO presented a fully staged grand opera (2009’s La Bohème), but the orchestra seeks to keep the opera flame alive. “We did offer the hour-long holiday opera, Amahl and the Night Visitors, in a fully staged production in 2012 and 2013,” Sasse says. “Unfortunately, both forms have proven too costly to continue so we have moved to offering a concert of opera arias and ensembles as part of our Volkswagen concert series.
“There’s an intimacy at the Volkswagen Conference Center that we really like. We’ve had as many as 600 people in attendance, and at a Family Concert on the first Sunday in February, there must have been 450 in the audience,” Sasse continues. The area near Volkswagen is the fastest growing section of Hamilton County, and we really want to bring music to all segments of the community.”
In more good news for opera lovers, “People’s Diva” Renée Fleming will perform with the CSO at the Tivoli next season in October 2015, singing a diverse program of classical and opera, Broadway show tunes, and American Songbook favorites. The CSO also presented a semi-staged version of Gilbert and Sullivan’s The Pirates of Penzance in November 2014, and a semi-staged version of The Tabasco Opera is planned for fall 2015 in the Volkswagen Series.
The final program of the Volkswagen Series brings Mozart’s Symphony No. 1 (written when the composer was 8!), Flute Concerto, and Symphony No. 36 to the VW Conference Center on Sunday, Apr. 12, also at 3 p.m. In addition, free lunchtime concerts are available at 11:30 a.m. in the Warehouse Row Food Court at 1110 Market St. on Mar. 19, Apr. 16, and May 21.
Tickets for “Opera Faves and Raves” are $25 for adults, $15 for students, available online at chattanoogasymphony.org or at the door. Directions to the Volkswagen Conference Center are also available at the website.