UT Symphony produces "Voices of Music"

The performance celebrates Valentine's Day with songs of jealousy and betrayal

Is it possible to have a concert on the evening of Valentine's Day that has nothing to do with love and romance? Don't you believe it.

The University of Tennessee Symphony Orchestra's concert on Saturday evening is innocently titled "Voices of Music," its stated objective being to feature a wide variety of works that illustrate the voice in singing and speaking. Along with Maestro James Fellenbaum's orchestral forces, there will, in fact, be a multitude of voices—150 members of the UT Men's and Women's Chorales, members of the UT Opera Theatre, and music faculty sopranos Emily Douglass and Cecily Nall. But will love find a way—into the concert?

To be sure, one of the finest examples of the use of voice in a narrated orchestral work is Aaron Copland's Lincoln Portrait, which is being performed to honor the 200th birthday of Abraham Lincoln. This work's narration consists of excerpts from Lincoln's speeches and letters, and is supported by evocative orchestration that weaves in themes and flavors of American folk songs. The work, which has a long performance history of well-known narrators, will feature in that role Knoxville radio personality Hallerin Hilton Hill.

Along somewhat similar lines of Americana will be a performance of the Intermezzo from The Stainless Banner, an opera by Knoxville composer Mark Harrell. The Stainless Banner is a work inspired by historic readings of those who lived through the American Civil War. Another work by Harrell, Time Like an Ever Flowing Stream, will be given its world premiere on a Knoxville Symphony concert later this month.

The concert will conclude with John Williams' "Duel of the Fates" from Star Wars: Episode I–The Phantom Menace . This suite features not only the orchestra, but also the combined men's and women's chorales in a chant-like vocal on a Welsh poem, Cad Goddeu, in Sanskrit.

Ah, but what of love and romance on Valentine's Day? Where else but in opera can love and romance have such welcome bedfellows as jealousy, betrayal, trickery, and squandered affections? To that end, UT Opera Theatre students, under the direction of Carroll Freeman, join Fellenbaum and the orchestra for a number of operatic works. They begin with the Act II party scene from Tchaikovsky's opera Eugene Onegin, a tale of selfishness and regret for love passed by. Following the Tchaikovsky will be three selections that serve as a bit of a preview for the UT Opera Theatre production in April—Mozart's Don Giovanni. That production at the Bijou Theatre downtown will be part of Knoxville Opera's Rossini Festival. And on the subject of Gioacchino Rossini, UT Opera students will conclude the first half of the concert with the finale of Act I of Rossini's L'Italiana in Algeri (The Italian Girl in Algiers).

It goes without saying that love comes in all shapes, sizes, and often misconceptions. In Act I of Jacques Offenbach's The Tales of Hoffmann, Hoffmann has become a pupil to the inventor Spalanzani in order to be near Olympia, who he thinks to be the man's daughter. She is, in fact, a mechanical doll invention, yet Hoffmann has fallen madly and irrationally in love with her. UT faculty member Cecily Nall will sing Olympia's "Les oiseaux dans la charmille," in which the doll makes a habit of winding down at the most musically inopportune times.

With deep love can come deep loss, as at does in Erich Korngold's 1920 opera Die Tote Stadt (The Dead City), in which a young man must come to terms with his obsession over his dead wife. UT faculty soprano Emily Douglass will perform "Glück das mir verblieb" ("Marietta's Lied") from Act I.

Whether you are one who sees "music in love," or "love in music," I suggest you avoid those painful morning-after regrets and join the UT Symphony (and Voices) for their concert Saturday evening.