GBS Gala 60th Anniversary Concert
GBS ends 60th season on a high note
Joseph Pronechen, The Connecticut Post - Tuesday, April 25, 2006
Putting together the Greater Bridgeport Symphony and The Mendelssohn Choir of
Connecticut at The Klein Saturday evening proved to be a powerhouse pairing.
They turned the end of the GBS 60th anniversary season into one of the top
concerts the GBS has presented over the years.
For this "Italian Opera Gala," Maestro Gustav Meier leaned heavily on the Verdi
with a soupcon of Puccini and a generous measure of Mascagni flavoring the
mixture. Choosing all-chorus selections without resorting to the
usual soloists for arias and duets proved to be a brilliant move for the
What's more, the impeccable balance achieved by the GBS under Meier and The
Mendelssohn Choir under its artistic director Carole Ann Maxwell took each
selection to flawless levels of meaning and dramatic emotion.
Rarely can a concert version of a single opera, let alone various selections
from several operas that usually turn into a disjoined jumble, achieve the kind
of imaginative color and drama that makes the scenes come alive in the mind.
But as Meier set the scene before some selections with a few broad strokes of
detail, and through the exquisite blend of orchestra and chorus, the mind's eye
could easily picture the crowds, their excitement or calm, the setting and the
For those who had any memory of the way thrilling radio shows could stir
listeners' imaginations into picturing epic productions, this GBS concert was
the classic equivalent.
That started from the moment Meier raised the baton for the opener from
"Otello." The crashing thunder, the fury of the sea, the tension of the
crowds gathered to welcome a victorious Otello to Cyprus only to see his ship
sink in the storm, and their final moment of victory when he's saved were like a
musical and imaginative C.B. DeMille production.
Every time the orchestra flexed its dramatic musical muscles, such as in the
selections from "macbeth" and especially from "Aida," the chorus matched the GBS
with its own emotional intensity. With each selection the partnership
became firmer and the concert ever finer.
Even before "Aida's" "Triumphal March" and "Gloria" came around, GBS and
Mendelssohn were singing and playing from atop Everest. The heavy brasses, by
the way, were never clearer and more triumphant.
Because opera is full of embellished emotions, the GBS and The Mendelssohn Choir
gave us full courses of each, including gentler, calmer selections whose
standouts included the heavenly and serene "Regina Coeli" (Queen of Heaven) from
"Cavalleria Rusticana" and the heartfelt "Va Pensiero" (chorus of Exiled Jews)
Under Meier's leadership, the GBS was nothing short of inspired with the
composers' lush melodies. I can't recall ever hearing a more
emotion-packed, heartfelt Intermezzo from "Cavalleria Rusticana."
Even those not familiar with opera could recognize these, and other selections
too. Someone might not have heard Verdi's "Il Trovatore," but they sure
recognized the "Anvil Chorus" from it. The choices added another touch of
If there's any quibble with such a standout concert it's this: it ended too
quickly. Would that it had been an hour longer.