Vibrant Voices

Opera, symphony and choral concerts bring vital vocals

Dieter Hennings and Molly Barth of Duo Damiana
Dieter Hennings and Molly Barth of Duo Damiana

We usually hear one dimension of Peter Tchaikovsky: his melody-drenched ballet scores, especially that one that cracks up every Christmas.

But along with famous concertos and symphonies, the great Russian Romantic composer also wrote operas, and this Friday and Saturday, March 11-12, Eugene Opera presents one of the most popular, Eugene Onegin, at the Hult Center. Based on Pushkin’s novel of romantic reversals — girl wants boy, boy rejects girl, then changes his mind, with tragic consequences — Tchaikovsky’s 1888 lyric opera has everything fans cherish in his music: sumptuous melodies, emotional drama, even dance in all three acts, choreographed here by Antonio Anacan and performed by a half-dozen Eugene Ballet dancers. Led by Russian-born baritone Anton Belov, the cast also features several rising stars and sturdy Eugene Opera veterans.

The Eugene Symphony brings another pair of dramatic 19th-century classics to its March 17 concert at the Hult when superstar pianist Andre Watts returns to perform Beethoven’s mighty Emperor, his fifth and final piano concerto, as well as Mahler’s shimmering Symphony No. 4, whose closing movement soprano solo (sung here by the rising American soprano Alexandra Schoeny) is one of the most ravishing of all symphonic songs.

Beautiful voices distinguish The Ensemble’s March 19 concert at Central Lutheran Church (1857 Potter St.). Made up of Portland’s finest classical singers, the ensemble joins a string quartet to perform music by one of the world’s greatest living composers, Arvo Pärt. The Estonian master, who turned 80 last September, has won millions of fans beyond the core contemporary classical/choral audience. An ideal intro for newbies as well as compelling for fans, the show features a wide range of Pärt’s music: the yearning Stabat Mater, the a cappella quartet Most Holy Mother of God, his famous Fratres and more.

Pärt’s music owes plenty to pre-Classical forms, and you can hear some this Thursday, March 10, in a free show at the UO’s lovely Collier House when historically informed students perform music by Baroque composers Vivaldi, Lotti, Stradella, Marais, Arne and more, all on instruments from the era. On March 13 at United Lutheran Church (2230 Washington), Musica Eugenia performs Spanish music from the Renaissance to the present.

The UO also hosts some fine vocal music Friday, March 11, when four of the school’s choirs sing music by Pärt, Poulenc, Brahms and much more at Beall Concert Hall. Still more songs resound when Beall hosts the school’s ever popular term-ending Gospel Choirs concert March 13 and Central Lutheran brings UO voice students March 14 to sing Bernstein, Mozart and more.

UO faculty member Molly Barth brings her Duo Damiana to Broadway House (911 W. Broadway) on March 13. They’ll play new music by the great contemporary Chinese American composer Chen Yi and other 21st-century sounds. For reservations, email UO sax prof Idit Shner’s students play new music by UO composers in a free show at Beall March 15.

Yet another vocal tradition hits The Shedd on March 12 when fifth-generation Mexican trumpet legend Jóse Hernàndez continues his 35-year revival of the traditional voice and band music, leading a baker’s dozen of Mexican mariachi music masters, Mariachi Sol de Mexico. The next afternoon and evening, The Shedd presents the American stage musical tradition in Hammerstein!

Finally, voices even intrude on the otherwise instrumental jazz of the warmly lyrical jazz flugelhornist and composer Dmitri Matheny’s Jazz Noir CD, which he brings to The Jazz Station March 12. The inventive, cinematic show features famous film noir movie themes, original and classic jazz tunes and even spoken-word narration and poetry inspired by masters like Raymond Chandler and Dashiell Hammett.

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