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Romance and Revolution Concert Will Open 2013-14 Season for Baroque Orchestra As It Observes 200th Birthday of Verdi and Wagner

Diane Klaif, The Alternative Press

Tuesday, October 8, 2013 • 11:01pm

The Baroque Orchestra of New Jersey, under the direction of its conductor, Dr. Robert W. Butts, will open its 2013-14 season at 3 p.m., Sunday, November 10, with a program that salutes the 200th birthdays of two immortal music giants, Giuseppe Verdi and Richard Wagner.

Featured on the program will be selections from La Traviata, Otello, Nabucco, Don Carlos, Il Trovatore (all composed by Verdi) and Die Walkure (by Wagner).

An elaborate and star-studded cast will perform these selections.  They include international recording artist Boiko Zvetanov, a soloist at the Zurich Opera House; Maryann Mootos, who has performed with the Spoleto Arts Symposia in Italy and has received praises for recent performances with the Miami Lyric Opera; Maria Alu, who has performed several times with the Orchestra, and has also appeared with opera companies throughout the United States; and Don Sheasley, a favorite with opera audiences in New Jersey for more than 30 years. 

Complementing this talented array will be the Sussex County Oratorio Society under the baton of Director Al Kopacka, who performed the magnificent choral parts for the 2012 BONJ performance of Beethoven’s Symphony #9.

Tenor Boiko Zvetanov might be new for BONJ audiences, but he has been a star on European opera stages for several decades.  Boiko, a leading tenor with the Zurich Opera House, has sung all the major tenor roles of Verdi, Puccini, Rossini and others—most notably Rudolfo in  La Boehem, Gustavo in Ballo in maschera, Canio in I Pagliacci and Pinkerton in Madama Butterfly.

Soprano Maryann Mootos is also new to BONJ audiences, although she has been making a name around the world with the beauty and dramatic nature of her voice.  She has won acclaim for her portrayals of Donna Anna in Le nozze di Figaro; Violetta in La Traviata; Suor Angelica  and Tosca, in the operas of the same name;  Mimi in La Boheme and Cio-Cio San in Madama Butterfly.

Soprano Maria Alu’s most recent appearance with the Baroque Orchestra was during the Summer 2012 Music Festival when she portrayed the role of The Queen of the Night in Mozart’s Magic Flute, a production that earned Maestro Butts a citation from The American Prize for excellence in opera conducting.  She has appeared in solo roles with Lake George Opera, Annapolis Opera, Utah Symphony & Opera, City Center Opera, Opera San Jose and the Bronx Opera.  She is a graduate of New York University and the New England Conservatory of Music.

Baritone Don Sheasley recently performed roles with BONJ Summer Festival, Opera at Florham, the Little Opera Company, New Jersey Concert Opera and The Opera Project.  He sang the bass solo in Beethoven’s Symphony #9 with the New Jersey Symphony in Blairstown and the Baroque Orchestra at Dolan Hall.

The Sussex County Oratorio Society, under the baton of Director Al Kopacka, has performed major choral literature since its founding in 1952. They will sing two numbers on their own, Verdi’s Gypsy Chorus from Il Trovatore and Va Pensiero from Nabucco.  They will join Boiko Zvetanov for performances of Puccini’s Nessun Dorma (from Turandot) and Libbiamo (from La Traviata). 

In titling this concert Romance and Revolution, Maestro Butts said: “The November concert is really exciting to me as a chance to feature music by the two great composers of the 19th century—Verdi and Wagner.  Both were major figures in what has been called the romantic era and both composers were at the heart of the romantic aesthetic—which referred to not only the modern idea of romantic, relating to love and romance, but also to the romantic ideas of myth and legend, of fantasy and of olden times, of passion and emotionality.  At the same time, both composers were major revolutionaries in their approach to the operatic art form.  In different ways, both Verdi and Wagner strove to change opera from a story with a bunch of hit songs to fully-realized music drama, all within the context of deep romanticism.”

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