Berlioz' 'Romeo Et Juliette' A La Muti

Posted: January 24, 1986

Hector Berlioz' "Romeo et Juliette" is a dramatic symphony, neither opera nor cantata, with soloists as narrators, the chorus as participants and the orchestra exploding with passion.

The work, which was first performed in 1839 (only 15 years after the first symphony with chorus, Beethoven's Ninth), has Wagner-like supreme orchestral moments between the singing. The famous sections are the Love Scene (Berlioz' favorite of all his music) and the mercurial Queen Mab scherzo, elfin music both whispered and swirling.

The Philadelphia Orchestra performed the work in 1982, but has reprogrammed it so it can be recorded. Under Riccardo Muti (and with the benefit of that

flaming warmup three years ago), the orchestra's performance should be exceptional, particularly with heavyweight soloists like soprano Jessye Norman, tenor John Aler and bass Simon Estes, and the Westminster Choir. It'll be performed tonight and tomorrow at 8:30 and Tuesday at, at the Academy, Broad and Locust.

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The Opera Company of Philadelphia has paired an unusual combination of two one-acters, Gian-Carlo Menotti's "The Medium" and Puccini's "Suor Angelica," to be performed Monday and next Friday at 8 p.m., at the Academy. Gianfranco Masini will conduct both works, and Roman Terleckyj will direct.

Menotti's 1947 work was his first big success, meshing his gifts at creating music, libretto and theatre. Between melodic music and English text, his works are very accessible to audiences. This haunting two-scene tale is macabre, with a few light moments that offer a curious contrast.

"The Medium" is Mme. Flora (sung by the noted French mezzo-soprano Regine Crespin) who gives fake seances with the help of her daughter and a mute boy until something unexplainable grips her with fear and leads to a tragic ending.

"Suor Angelica" was Puccini's favorite of the three operas that made up his 1918 "Il Trittico." The story of a nun (portrayed by Bulgarian soprano Stefka Evstatieva) tormented by the guilt of having had a son born out of wedlock seethes with ecstatic melancholy, leading to a crucial confrontation with her aunt (Diane Curry in Puccini's only major mezzo-soprano role) and with fate.

Sung by only women's voices, it has a tender, ethereal quality that is moving when not exaggerated.

Although they may not seem to have much in common, the two women share experiences of faith in something - be it the supernatural or the everlasting - and end up as victims of reality or redemption. The pair may seem like two downers, but a light touch and avoidance of the possible maudlin traps would make it a special evening. Tickets range from $11 to $55, with a better selection on Monday. Info: 893-1930.

Sunday afternoon is a busy time for concerts. At 2:30 p.m., at the Church of the Holy Trinity, 1904 Walnut Street, Max Rudolf conducts the Concerto Soloists Chamber Orchestra and the Philadelphia Singers in Schubert's fervent Mass in G. The orchestra will also perform a Vivaldi cello concerto, K.P.E. Bach's Sinfonia, and another of athe series of concerti grossi by Marcello. Tickets are $9; info at 735-0202.

Settlement Music School's Diva series, which began with Wilhelmenia Fernandez, continues on Sunday with a concert by soprano Gwendolyn Bradley at the Academy of Music Recital Hall, 1420 Locust, at 3 p.m. on Sunday.

This native South Carolinian studied at Curtis (as did the celebrated graduate Menotti) as well as at the Academy of Vocal Arts, and has done some marvelous singing as a member of the Met for the last five seasons.

Bradley, accompanied by pianist Warren Jones, will sing three Handel songs, a five-song Schubert group, Debussy's Four Songs of Childhood and songs by Richard Strauss and Joaquin Rodrigo. Tickets are $15. Info: 336-0400.

Violinist Shlomo Mintz, familiar here through many concerto appearances, will be performing at the Academy on Sunday at 3 p.m. Mintz has been a marvelous technician since his teens, and his interpretations continue to grow warmer as the years go by. His all-Schubert recital, accompanied by pianist Paul Ostrovsky, will include the Duo in A, Fantasy in C, and Introduction and Variations on a theme from "Die Schone Mullerin." Tickets range from $9.50 to $25; info at 893-1930.

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