DPO’s ‘Divine Mother’ bridges old and new

A Dayton premiere is among the selections for the third Classical Series concert.

Distinct perspectives on ancient Troy from Hector Berlioz and Michael Daugherty and Gioachino Rossini’s depiction of love and grief headline “Divine Mother,” the Dayton Philharmonic Orchestra’s third Classical Series concert slated Friday and Saturday at the Schuster Center.

Rossini’s operatic “Stabat Mater,” his version of the 13th century Latin hymn examining the deep emotion felt by Mary as Jesus was crucified which translates as “the mother was standing,” will incorporate the DPO chorus (under the direction of Hank Dahlman) and four guest vocalists. Soprano Adrienne Danrich (who appeared in the Dayton Opera productions of “Don Giovanni,” “Porgy and Bess” and the 50th Anniversary Star Gala), mezzo-soprano Layna Chianakas, tenor Jason Slayden and baritone Matthew Burns (who was recently seen in the Dayton Opera’s “Lucia di Lammermoor’) will heighten this compelling, musically rich work, which showcases another side of Rossini’s artistry beyond his more familiar, entertaining pieces such as “The Barber of Seville.”

“Rossini is one of the most misunderstood composers mostly because most of us know only a very narrow segment of his musical output,” said DPO music director Neal Gittleman. “We know the ‘William Tell Overture’ and a handful of his comic operas and their overtures. So when we read something like the story of Verdi’s ‘Requiem,’ how it grew out of a project to create a grand requiem mass to be performed on the first anniversary of Rossini’s death, most people think ‘Why would Verdi bother honoring a light and fluffy composer like Rossini?’ Well, when you hear the ‘Stabat Mater’ you get a sense of why Verdi revered Rossini so. It’s amazing, powerful, dramatic music, probably the most operatic concert piece outside of the Verdi ‘Requiem.’ ”

Berlioz’s adventurous “Royal Hunt and Storm,” taken from his epic opera “Trojans,” weaves vivid imagery of lighting, water nymphs and more into an exciting whole. Gittleman considers the composition one of the greatest orchestral works and is pleased to have the DPO chorus included.

“Although ‘Royal Hunt and Storm’ is often played as a purely instrumental excerpt, in the opera there’s a brief part for chorus so the DPO chorus will (contribute),” he said. “The chorus will act as nymphs reacting to the storm. One of the cool things about the (piece) is that in the opera Berlioz was quite explicit in his stage directions so by looking at the score you know exactly what’s supposed to be happening.”

Contrasting Berlioz, the DPO will offer the local premiere of Michael Daugherty’s musical fantasy “Troyjam,” composed in 2008 for the National Symphony Orchestra. Inspired by Canadian poet Anne Carson’s look at the Trojan War, “Troyjam” depicts the Greeks bringing a symphony orchestra to Troy instead of an army, which results in a jam session instead of war. Human Race Theatre Company resident artist Michael Kenwood Lippert will provide narration.

“This is a really fun piece,” said Gittleman. “It’s a kind of fractured fairy tales retelling of the Trojan War with a hilarious yet also strangely beautiful text by Anne Carson. The basic twist of the story is that instead of fighting with weapons, the Greeks and Trojans fight with musical instruments. The ‘Troyjam’ of the title is a big battle scene with musical themes for Hektor, Achilles and so on. It’s a wonderful romp.”

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