Coming Soon: Mozart & Salieri

Photo by Karl Hugh. Utah Shakespeare Festival 2015.

Pacific Symphony audiences will enjoy Mozart & Salieri, a creative collaboration between South Coast Repertory (SCR), Pacific Chorale and the Symphony, May 19-21, 2022.

Adapted from the Tony Award-winning play and Oscar-winning movie Amadeus by Peter Shaffer, Mozart & Salieri includes a complete performance of Mozart’s Requiem, Don Giovanni Overture and other selections. The incredible story of genius musician Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart, is told in flashback by his peer and secret rival Antonio Salieri—now confined to an insane asylum. SCR Artistic Director David Ivers stars as Salieri. James Sullivan, who conducted Ivers when he appeared as Salieri in the Utah Shakespeare Festival’s 2015 production of Amadeus, is directing this production as well. He wrote a director’s note sharing his thoughts about the program.

Director’s Note

“Mozart is the expression of eternal truth.” The renowned conductor Josef Krips said this, in an interview recorded in 1964. “Beethoven maybe reaches heaven, but Mozart comes from there…. What he wrote was written for Eternity.”

The Antonio Salieri of Peter Shaffer’s great play Amadeus could hardly disagree. What else could explain this astounding talent? But when Wolfgang Mozart blazed comet-like across the firmament of the 18th-century European sky and landed with ground-shaking force in Salieri’s Vienna, Antonio perhaps could only seethe with envy—and plot an upstart rival’s demise. Mozart’s offense was essentially nothing less than his own breathtaking brilliance. Salieri can see himself as nothing more than a middling mediocrity. Envy becomes treachery. Such is the story of Amadeus that is excerpted in this performance with the mighty presence of the Pacific Symphony as led by Carl St. Clair utterly enveloping David Ivers’ Antonio Salieri with the sublime music that is “of heaven.”

But is the story true? We can never know. Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart died in deep poverty and was buried – no one knows just where—in a pauper’s grave. Mozart—divinely inspired Mozart— failed to gain in Vienna the patronage he so desperately sought. Salieri, competent but unremarkable Salieri, prospered there; the same Salieri who held several influential music posts at the Viennese Court, the same Salieri who certainly could have lifted young Mozart into a position of employment, if not prominence. That we know. But whispers, gossip, and then legend had it that Salieri literally poisoned Mozart—the scandalously sensational tale getting its boost from an 1830 drama by Alexander Pushkin—and furthered by Mozart and Salieri, an 1890s Rimsky-Korsakov opera based on the Pushkin tragedy of treachery. And then, of course, came Peter Shaffer’s international dramatic sensation, later the Oscar-winning film, Amadeus. But whatever happened, if any of this perfidy did, seems almost inconsequential to what is popularly believed. According to whisper, gossip, and legend Antonio Salieri stands in the villainous company of the Borgias, of Richard III, of Lady Macbeth.

There is one stirring thought to contemplate, a poignance that could surely have been the case for Salieri; and that, the agony of encountering the very brilliance he so desperately prayed to have in himself. Salieri’s own skills were in fact considerable. He must have easily heard and understood that Mozart was a miracle beyond explanation, a genius not of this earthly realm but of heaven itself. Amadeus. The sublime beauty of the music may have broken his heart.

It is an extraordinary privilege and pleasure to work on this project, especially with my longtime friend, David Ivers of South Coast Rep, and a new friend, Carl St. Clair of Pacific Symphony. And, of course, and especially this magnificent orchestra. To watch and to hear as these heavenly threads of sound surround and suffuse Salieri’s mind, heart and soul is a rare experience and true delight. With full orchestral force, it is—as Josef Krips had said—Eternal Truth told in the dramatic and heard in transcendence. 

—J.R. Sullivan

For more information about Mozart & Salieri or to buy tickets, please click here.

Pacific Symphony Announces 2022-23 Pops Season

Pacific Symphony announces its highly anticipated 2022-23 Pops Season led by Principal Pops Conductor Laureate Richard Kaufman and underwritten by the Sharon and Tom Malloy Family.  

As a Season Special, Pacific Symphony will perform Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone™ in Concert, Oct. 28-29 in the Renée and Henry Segerstrom Concert Hall. The concert will feature John Jesensky conducting Pacific Symphony in performing live, to picture, every note from Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone™. Audiences will be able to relive the magic of the entire film in high-definition on a 40-foot screen while hearing Pacific Symphony perform John Williams’ unforgettable score live.

The 2022-23 Pops Season officially begins Nov. 4-5, 2022, with a tribute to legendary film composer Maestro John Williams in honor of his 90th birthday. Five other blockbuster shows in the Pops series include renowned artists across jazz, pop, disco, Broadway and rock: The Manhattan Transfer, Kristin Chenoweth, Gloria Gaynor, The Music of The Rolling Stones and Renée Elise Goldsberry. The finale of the 2022-23 Pops Season will close June 9-10, 2023, with Hamilton: An American Musical alumna and Girls5eva star Renée Elise Goldsberry. One additional concert to be announced

All concerts begin at 8 p.m. and take place at the Renée and Henry Segerstrom Concert Hall in Costa Mesa, CA. Subscriptions for the seven-concert series are now available and start at $245. Single ticket sales begin in August and start at $35. Lobby doors open approximately one hour before curtain. For more information or to purchase tickets, please contact our Patron Services team at (714) 755-5799, Monday through Friday from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m., or learn more at PacificSymphony.org.

Programs, artists, prices and dates are subject to change.

PACIFIC SYMPHONY 2022-23 POPS SEASON

HARRY POTTER AND THE SORCERER’S STONE™ IN CONCERT (Season Special)
Oct. 28 • 8 p.m.; Oct. 29 • 3 & 8 p.m.
John Jesensky, conductor

In Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone™ Harry Potter learns on his 11th birthday that he is the orphaned son of two wizards and possesses magical powers of his own. At Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardy, he leans the high-flying sport of Quidditch and plays a ‘live’ chess game en route to facing a Dark Wizard bent on destroying him.

Relive the film that started it all. Watch the wand choose the wizard, a troll run amok and magic mirrors in high-definition while Pacific Symphony performs John Williams’ iconic score. Don’t miss this once-in-a-lifetime event as Harry, Ron, Hermione and all your favorite characters return to the screen and enchant the world all over again.

WIZARDING WORLD and all related trademarks, characters, names, and indicia are © & ™ Warner Bros. Entertainment Inc. Publishing Rights © JKR. (s22)

JOHN WILLIAMS: A 90th BIRTHDAY CELEBRATION
Nov. 4-5 • 8 p.m.
Richard Kaufman, conductor 

Pacific Symphony’s history wouldn’t be the same without Maestro John Williams. After all, it was Williams who encouraged his Boston Symphony colleague Carl St.Clair to apply for the music director position opening at Pacific Symphony after a trip in the late 1980s. The rest as they say, is history. The music of John Williams has transported us beyond our imagination. To new worlds. Through heart-pounding adventures. Be there as Pacific Symphony performs all your John Williams favorites: Superman, Indiana Jones, Jurassic Park, and of course, Star Wars. The force is with you for this 90th birthday celebration of cinema’s symphonic master.

HOLIDAY POPS WITH THE MANHATTAN TRANSFER
Dec. 16-17 • 8 p.m.
Evan Roider, conductor

Warmth, joy and magic are only some of the words that can be used to describe the holiday season. Those are also the same words that can be used to describe jazz vocal group The Manhattan Transfer’s The Christmas Album and An Acapella Christmas albums. Founded by Tim Hauser in 1969, the group has gone on to receive both critical praise and commercial success ever since. Both holiday-themed albums include standards such as “Happy Holiday,” “Let It Snow,” “Christmas Time Is Here,” “Jingle Bells” and more. Celebrate the season with family and friends with Pacific Symphony in the holiday-decked Renée and Henry Segerstrom Concert Hall. Sparkling classics and favorites for the season—even a visit from Santa!

KRISTIN CHENOWETH
Mar. 10-11, 2023 • 8 p.m.
Mary-Mitchell Campbell, conductor

You may know her as Sally Brown from You’re a Good Man Charlie Brown, Glinda the Good Witch from Wicked or Mildred Layton from Apple TV+’s Schmigadoon! but Emmy and Tony Award winner Kristin Chenoweth also has a rival solo career and has become a concert hall favorite. Her latest album, For the Girls, was released in 2019 and features hits such as “Desperado,” “The Man That Got Away” and “It Doesn’t Matter Any More.” Kristin Chenoweth joins Pacific Symphony for this spectacular concert of classic songs of love and empowerment. Entertainment Weekly raves: “her set-list spans so many different genres, there’s something for everyone to enjoy.”

GLORIA GAYNOR – THE QUEEN OF DISCO
Apr. 14-15, 2023 • 8 p.m.
Sarah Hicks, conductor

There is no doubt that Grammy-award winner and Dance Music Hall of Famer Gloria Gaynor is one of disco’s greatest icons. Before she became a solo artist, Gaynor started singing with the Soul Satisfiers in the 1960s. It wasn’t until the 70s when she really began doing things on her own. Since the release of her first studio album Never Can Say Goodbye in 1975, she has gone on to record more than 15 studio albums. Her latest album, Testimony, was released in 2019. She also won the first and only Grammy for Best Disco Recording for “I Will Survive” in 1980.

THE MUSIC OF THE ROLLING STONES
May 5-6, 2023 • 8 p.m.
Enrico Lopez-Yañez, conductor

Since their first live production of classic rock music with orchestra in 1995, Windborne Productions, Inc. have gone on to create several memorable tribute shows. The Music of the Rolling Stones features Mick Adams on lead vocals. Let’s spend the night together, when Pacific Symphony, backed by a full rock band, presents “The Music of the Rolling Stones.” A celebration of nearly 60 years of Stone’s hits. It’s a gas, gas, gas!

RENÉE ELISE GOLDSBERRY
June 9-10, 2023 • 8 p.m.
Richard Kaufman, conductor

Drama Desk and Tony Award winner Renée Elise Goldsberry made her debut as Nala in Disney’s The Lion King on Broadway and was the last Mimi in Jonathan Larson’s Rent, but it was her role as Angelica Schuyler in Lin-Manuel Miranda’s Hamilton: An American Musical that recently made her become a household name. Principal Pops Conductor Laureate Richard Kaufman leads Goldsberry and the Symphony for an evening of renditions of some of her favorite songs and maybe even a few selections from Hamilton! Hear her golden voice fill the Renée and Henry Segerstrom Concert Hall in a collection of showstoppers as only she can sing them.

Pacific Symphony Announces 2022-23 Family Musical Mornings Series Presented By Farmers & Merchants Bank

Pacific Symphony today announced the 2022-23 Family Musical Mornings series presented by Farmers & Merchants Bank. The series includes 45-minute, kid-friendly concerts that engage and entertain young audiences, setting them on the path to a lifelong love of music. The Family Musical Mornings series comprises ten Saturday morning concerts, consisting of five programs with two performances each day at 10:00 a.m. and 11:30 a.m.

Tailored for children and their families, each program explores a different theme and is designed to be interactive, engaging and participatory. Pacific Symphony, led by Dr. Jacob Sustaita, Assistant Conductor (and Music Director for the Pacific Symphony Youth Orchestra), is joined by singers, actors and dancers to take audiences on a musical journey through the secrets and inner workings of the orchestra with a captivating, multimedia format.

The Symphony gratefully acknowledges Farmers & Merchants Bank for its strong support as the presenting sponsor of the Family Musical Mornings series. Pacific Symphony’s President and CEO John Forsyte commented, “We are proud to be in partnership with Farmers & Merchants Bank, and we are deeply grateful for their past support and continuing commitment. Pacific Symphony can continue music education and family programming only because of wonderful investors like Farmers & Merchants.”

Tickets go on sale beginning May 2 and are priced starting at just $60 for five magical musical experiences. Subscriptions can be purchased by calling the Symphony Box Office at (714) 755-5799, going online at PacificSymphony.org or by mailing Pacific Symphony at 17620 Fitch, Suite 100, Irvine, CA 92614.

2022-23 FAMILY MUSICAL MORNINGS SERIES

THE SORCERER’S APPRENTICE
Oct. 22 • 10 a.m. and 11:30 a.m.

Learn about the magical, mystical powers of the orchestra through the eyes of a wizard’s young apprentice. You’ll hear selections from A Young Person’s Guide to the Orchestra, The Sorcerer’s Apprentice and even Harry Potter. Don’t forget to wear your Halloween costume!

NUTCRACKER FOR KIDS!
Dec. 3 • 10 a.m. and 11:30 a.m.
Festival Ballet Theatre – Salwa Rizkalla, Artistic Director

Visions of sugarplums and beautiful ballerinas will dance in your head after seeing Tchaikovsky’s delightful Christmas ballet, performed in a condensed version created just for kids. This annual favorite finishes with a jolly visit from Santa Claus himself!

GREAT MUSIC IN THE GREAT OUTDOORS
Feb. 22, 2023 • 10 a.m. and 11:30 a.m.

Experience the sweeping sounds of the great outdoors brought to life in the concert hall when Pacific Symphony Youth Orchestra joins forces with Pacific Symphony for this side-by-side performance. You’ll hear the sound of swirling waters and majestic scenes from nature as painted by the musical pen of famous composers.

WALT DISNEY ANIMATION STUDIOS, A DECADE IN CONCERT
Mar. 18, 2023 • 10 a.m. and 11:30 a.m.

Celebrating iconic musical moments from favorite films released over the last decade, this melodic journey explores Disney Animation’s latest stories through unforgettable film clips and scores performed live by a symphony orchestra. This thrilling performance includes music from Moana (2016), Academy Award-winning Frozen (2013), Academy Award-winning Big Hero 6 (2014) and Tangled (2010). Come dressed as your favorite Disney character!

HANSEL & GRETEL—OPERA FOR KIDS!
Jun. 3, 2023 • 10 a.m. and 11:30 a.m.

This fairytale adventure tells the story of two hungry children lost in an enchanted forest, an inviting gingerbread house and a wicked witch. This kid-friendly production features spoken narration and acting, as well as the most charming and catchy tunes from the original opera, sung by talented opera singers.

All programs and artists subject to change.

Pacific Symphony Announces SummerFest 2022

Presented By City of Hope Orange County

Exciting New Location: FivePoint Amphitheatre in Irvine

Lineup includes The Music of Queen; Star Wars: The Empire Strikes Back in Concert;
and the annual Tchaikovsky Spectacular with fireworks

Pacific Symphony has once again put together an entertaining SummerFest program for 2022. For this summer’s programming, all three concerts will be held in the beautiful setting of FivePoint Amphitheatre (located in the heart of Orange County) in Irvine. This attractive venue offers ticket buyers an opportunity to sit at tables directly in front of the stage, along with grandstand seating for a panoramic view. Prior to concerts, gourmet food trucks with a diverse array of offerings are available for picnicking. Sip some champagne, kick back, relax and enjoy the perfect soundtrack for summer evenings under the stars.

This season features the high-energy pop rock of Windborne’s The Music of Queen (July 4); John Williams’ thrilling soundtrack of Star Wars: The Empire Strikes Back in Concert performed live to film (Aug. 20); and everyone’s favorite summer finale: Tchaikovsky Spectacular (Sept. 4), featuring a medalist from the Sixteenth Van Cliburn International Piano Competition, who will make an important debut with Pacific Symphony. The combination of music under the stars, friendship, food and a relaxing atmosphere has attracted thousands of fans each summer to hear Pacific Symphony’s brilliant musicians, led by outstanding conductors like Music Director Carl St.Clair.

City of Hope Orange County is the lead sponsor of the series, and a new partner of Pacific Symphony. President and CEO John Forsyte commented, “City of Hope is building a comprehensive campus of the future in Irvine intentionally built around the needs of patients and their families. Pacific Symphony applauds City of Hope’s commitment to Orange County and we are proud to partner on the concert offerings this summer.” Annette Walker, president of City of Hope Orange County, added, “A healthy community needs advanced medicine to heal the body and the arts to replenish the soul. City of Hope Orange County is delighted to sponsor SummerFest and looks forward to seeing Orange County residents coming together once again to enjoy beautiful music.”

Tickets for SummerFest 2022 are now on sale. Subscriptions for the three-concert series range from $99-$299, with boxes and front-row packages available. Single ticket sales begin Tuesday, May 31 starting at just $39. All concerts take place at 8 p.m. Concessions are diverse and bountiful including food trucks selling Mediterranean, Korean and Mexican food. A wide variety of wine, beer and cocktails are available for purchase. Gates open at 6 p.m. for picnicking. For more information or to purchase tickets call Pacific Symphony Patron Services at (714) 755-5799, Monday through Friday from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m., or visit us online at PacificSymphony.org.

The SummerFest 2022 Season is generously presented by City of Hope Orange County. Additional sponsors include PBS SoCal, K-Earth 101, KPCC 89.3 FM and Classical California KUSC 91.5. Avenue of the Arts Hotel in Costa Mesa is the official hotel of Pacific Symphony.

Programs, artists, prices and dates are subject to change.

SUMMERFEST 2022 SERIES

JULY 4 SPECTACULAR: THE MUSIC OF QUEEN
Monday • July 4 • 8 p.m.

Albert-George Schram, conductor

Salute the Fourth with the ultimate celebration of one of the greatest bands ever. You’ll enjoy a night filled with the classic hits of Queen performed as you’ve never heard them before. The sonic power of Pacific Symphony joins forces with a full rock band to perform Queen classic songs in a brilliant combination of passion and power. Joined by high-energy band and vocalists Windborne, the orchestra performs hits such as “Bohemian Rhapsody,” “We Are the Champions,” “Killer Queen,” “Crazy Little Thing Called Love,” “Another One Bites the Dust” and many more. A memorable evening complete with a sizzling Fourth of July fireworks show!

STAR WARS: THE EMPIRE STRIKES BACK IN CONCERT
Saturday • Aug. 20 • 8 p.m.

Richard Kaufman, conductor
WILLIAMS: The Empire Strikes Back (live music to film)

“You must feel the Force around you…”
The battle for the galaxy intensifies in this thrilling fifth episode of the unfolding saga. As Imperial Forces launch an all-out attack on the Rebel Alliance, Han Solo (Harrison Ford) and Princess Leia (Carrie Fisher) flee to Cloud City where they are captured by Darth Vader. Luke Skywalker (Mark Hamill) journeys to the mysterious, marshy planet of Dagobah, where the wise Jedi Master Yoda teaches the young hero the ways of the Force. Little does Luke know that all his Jedi training will be called upon so soon. A stunning revelation—and a seeming life-or-death duel with Darth Vader—await.

© 1980 & TM Lucasfilm Ltd.
Presentation licensed by Disney Concerts in association with 20th Century Fox
Film Corp, Lucasfilm and Warner/Chappell Music. © All rights reserved.

TCHAIKOVSKY SPECTACULAR
Sunday • Sept. 4 • 8 p.m.

Carl St.Clair, conductor
Medal Winner of 2022 Van Cliburn International Piano Competition
(To be announced in June)

DVOŘÁK: Symphony No. 9, “From the New World”
TCHAIKOVSKY: Piano Concerto No. 1
TCHAIKOVSKY: “1812” Overture

No SummerFest is complete without Pacific Symphony performing Tchaikovsky’s thrilling “1812” overture, complete with brilliant fireworks. You’ll enjoy this famous romantic composer’s memorable First Piano Concerto, performed by a prizewinner of the 2022 Van Cliburn International Piano Competition.

REVIEW: Pacific Symphony Mounts a Surefire Production of Verdi’s ‘Otello’

This photo features tenor Carl Tanner as Otello (left) and soprano Kelebogile Besong in her role debut as Desdemona (right). Photo by Doug Gifford. April 2022.

This review was originally written by Timothy Mangan, a contributing writer for Arts & Culture at Voice of OC.

It was time once again for the Pacific Symphony’s annual opera performance, Thursday night in Segerstrom Concert Hall. This was the 10th anniversary of the orchestra’s opera initiative, undertaken (in part) to fill a need for grand opera in Orange County after the closing of Opera Pacific. Thursday’s effort (scheduled for repeat Saturday and Tuesday) was ambitiously devoted to Verdi’s penultimate opera, “Otello.”

As with past productions, this one was semi-staged. The orchestra is placed onstage and the action and singing unwind mostly in front of it, with minimal sets, but in costume. Conductor Carl St.Clair, in keeping with the plan, always chooses operas that have an integral role for the orchestra, not just accompaniment.   

The company of Verdi’s “Otello.” Baritone Stephen Powell as iago (top left), tenor Eric Barry as Lodovico (top right) and tenor Norman Shankle as Cassio (stage). Photo by Doug Gifford. April 2022.

In his director’s note, Robert Neu (who worked with the orchestra previously in “The Magic Flute” and “La Traviata”) indicated he took a less-is-more approach with “Otello.” “There are times that a director needs to get out of the way and completely trust the material,” he wrote. Wise man.

Based closely on Shakespeare’s “Othello,” Verdi’s opera seemed to take on new relevance here, though not necessarily because of the production. “Othello” is a story about the destructive power of jealousy (you will remember), but here there was another layer of meaning in it. The ensign Iago instills jealousy in Otello for his faithful wife Desdemona with the use of fake news, even going so far as to stage fraudulent scenes in front of Otello. Iago’s fake news eventually leads to where fake news often does: violence and murder.

Not that Neu or anyone brought this out, or should have. It was just there for the viewer’s taking, as such things often are in old masterpieces.

As promised, Neu kept his apparent contributions to a minimum, moving the singers efficiently around the stage among simple wooden block forms. The costumes by Katie Wilson quietly put us in the mood of the Renaissance era.

This helped put the emphasis squarely on the music itself. It’s luxury casting to have a full symphony orchestra play this music and St.Clair and the Pacific musicians sounded ready for it. The opening storm scene revealed the group in fine form, rich and luxuriant in the strings, warm and clear in the woodwinds, the brass in easy balance. The orchestra performed without the usual risers and it sounds better on this stage, both more blended and lucid.

Positioned in the loft above the orchestra, the recently Grammy-winning Pacific Chorale gave a fit and trim account of the extensive parts for chorus. St.Clair led a steady and considered reading of the score, keeping the large forces easily together (the opening storm scene made its usual impression) and not forcing expressive issues. An occasional lack of Italianate style mattered little.

Tenor Carl Tanner, veteran of Opera Pacific and of this role at the Metropolitan Opera under Gustavo Dudamel, gave a commanding portrayal of the title character. Its strenuous vocal demands, high, low, loud, soft and lots of it, were met with relentless verve and power. His tone remained firm and focussed, despite fortissimo demands. It was a confident performance, through and through.

This photo features Southern California Children’s Chorus (left) with soprano Kelebogile Besong as Desdemona (back center) and mezzo-soprano Margaret Lattimore as Emilia (right). Photo by Doug Gifford. April 2022.

Baritone Stephen Powell clearly enjoyed singing Iago, not with a villainous twirling of mustaches or overplaying, but by savoring the words and phrases as if they were evil chocolate morsels. And he stood toe to toe with Tanner in their duets.

Making her debut in the role, soprano Kelebogile Besong provided a fragile and vulnerable account of the doomed Desdemona. Her tones shimmered, her phrases filigreed. An occasional unevenness in color and a tendency not to start notes squarely on pitch should disappear when she settles into the part.

Ironically, Otello was played by a white singer (Tanner) and Desdemona, a white woman in the Shakespeare play, was played by a Black singer (Besong). This is not that unusual in opera these days.

Margaret Lattimore (Emilia), Norman Shankle (Cassio), and Eric Barry (Roderigo) were proficient in their smaller, crucial roles. The Southern California Children’s Chorus made a crisp contribution.

Finally, a couple of purely personal observations. The average operagoing Italian of the 19th century must have loved protracted death scenes, such as in “Otello.” They no longer play so well, especially on a weeknight after a long day at work. Some judicious cutting (sacrilege!) would help many of them.

The Pacific Symphony is to be commended for presenting an opera a year in semi-staged productions this last decade. But now that it is clear that Opera Pacific will never come back, or that any other company comparable in size will be established, it is time for the orchestra to consider performing fully-staged opera, in the original Segerstrom Hall, once a year. Difficult? Yes. Unfeasible? No. Where there’s a will there’s a way.

What’s Happening This Month: April 2022

April is upon us and that means we’ll be in Verdi mode for the next couple of weeks until April 12. Even though Otello wasn’t Verdi’s last work, people in his life still tried to find ways to encourage him to come out of retirement to work on this fate tempting project. All it took was Boito’s compelling first draft and a mutual love of Shakespeare prevailed.

Later in the month, the magic of cirque comes to the concert hall with Cirque de la Symphonie, April 22-23. There will also be two performances of Cirque for Kids on Saturday, April 23. We’re honored to be a part of the North American Premiere of Danny Elfman’s Percussion Concerto featuring British percussionist Colin Currie at Soka Performing Arts Center on Sunday, April 24. The month closes off with Yang Plays Rachmaninoff Apr. 28-30 and Pacific Symphony Santiago Strings wraps up their 2021-22 season with It’s All About Strings! on Saturday, Apr. 30.

Thank you for joining us! Here’s your monthly update.

Verdi’s Otello • April 7, 9 & 12 at 8 p.m. PDT

Love, betrayal and jealousy – all trademarks of great tragic opera – Otello embraces these themes to the fullest. Written decades after going into retirement, Verdi’s interpretation of Shakespeare’s tale takes you on a journey through a passionate romance destroyed by one of opera’s most loathsome villains. This will be a semi-staged opera in four acts, sung in Italian with English supertitles. There will also be an intermission after Act II.

Our cast includes tenor Carl Tanner as Otello, soprano Kelebogile Besong as Desdemona and baritone Stephen Powell as Iago. Pacific Symphony will be under the baton of Maestro Carl St.Clair.

To learn more, please click here.

Cirque de la Symphonie • April 22-23 at 8 p.m. PDT

Beauty, thrills and majesty! This popular troupe returns with a show featuring a jaw-dropping fusion of fliers, acrobats, contortionists, dancers, jugglers and strongmen who perform their cirque acts while Pacific Symphony provides a soundtrack of classical masterpieces and contemporary favorites. They’ll be performing to selections from Chicago, Flight to Neverland, Swan Lake and more! Pacific Symphony will be under the baton of Dr. Jacob Sustaita.

To learn more, please click here.

Cirque for Kids • April 23 at 10 and 11:30 a.m. PDT

Symphony + Circus = a spectacular show, created especially for kids! Experience a jaw-dropping fusion of fliers, acrobats, contortionists, dancers, jugglers and strongmen who perform their cirque acts while Pacific Symphony provides a soundtrack of classical masterpieces and contemporary favorites. This fun and fascinating 45-minute concert designed especially for children 5-11. Pacific Symphony will be under the baton of Dr. Jacob Sustaita.

To learn more, please click here.

This video was produced by the London Philharmonic Orchestra.

Sundays at Soka: Percussion Concerto by Danny Elfman • April 24 at 3 p.m. PDT

Danny Elfman brings to Aliso Viejo the North American Premiere of a brand new percussion concerto, co-commissioned by Soka Performing Arts Center at Soka University and the London Philharmonic, performed by Colin Currie – as one critic put it, ‘surely the world’s finest and most daring percussionist’. Additional pieces include Golijov’s Last Round and Wineglass’ Alone Together. Pacific Symphony will be under the baton of Maestro Carl St.Clair.

The Percussion Concerto is co-commissioned by Soka University and the London Philharmonic.

To learn more, please click here.

Yang Plays Rachmaninoff • April 28-30 at 8 p.m. PDT

Schumann’s Symphony No. 4 is a work that leads you from gorgeous melodies to unforgettable themes, all without pause. Earlier in the evening, piano phenom Joyce Yang dazzles with Rachmaninoff’s tour-de-force of the keyboard, Rhapsody on a Theme of Paganini. April is also a big month. Not only are we acknowledging Rachmaninoff’s birthday on April 1, Yang’s birthday is also on April 11. Pacific Symphony will be under the baton of guest conductor Maestro José Luis Gomez.

To learn more, please click here.

PSSS: It’s All About Strings! • April 30 at 1 p.m. PDT

Pacific Symphony Santiago Strings wraps up their 2021-22 season with a program of rousing and engaging works from many eras. From the ethereal beauty of Gerald Finzi to the brilliance and drama of Tchaikovsky, this program is sure to provide new and exciting musical vistas for all to enjoy! Admission is free, but tickets are required. Seating is general admission. Pacific Symphony Santiago Strings will be under the baton of Maestra Irene Kroesen.

To learn more, please click here.

What concert are you looking forward to? Let us know in the comments below!

Tenor Carl Tanner Tackles Otello

Photo Credit: Ken Howard | The Metropolitan Opera

From trucker and bounty hunter to world-class tenor, Carl Tanner’s backstory reads like a movie script. In fact, there were even plans for Michael Keaton to direct and Stan Chervin (Moneyball) to write the script for a biopic at one point. Tanner has had an interesting past and an even more exciting present. As a singer, he’s always been a natural. After a neighbor heard him singing the shower, Tanner decided to try out for high school choir. He went on to Shenandoah Conservatory of Music, graduating in 1985 without any aspirations to sing professionally. After college, he got his commercial driver’s license and became a trucker. A friend got Tanner into bounty-hunting for a while where he made 172 arrests in 190 pursuits.

Fate intervened when he was driving his big rig in Washington, D.C. singing along to opera on the radio. A woman in a convertible pulled up alongside him and asked if what she heard was him or the radio. “Because if it’s you,” she said, “you’re missing your calling.” His boss had been telling him the same thing, so he decided to go to New York to try his luck. He took voice lessons and got a telemarketing job to pay for them.

During that time, he wandered into a restaurant where he had heard opera music playing. The proprietor asked Tanner if he could sing. When he did, the force of destiny struck again. Two customers in the restaurant were top administrators at Santa Fe Opera. They offered him a summer apprenticeship in Santa Fe in 1992, and the trucker-turned-tenor was on his way.

Tanner has established an international performance career and appears regularly at the world’s most prestigious opera houses including Teatro alla Scala, The Royal Opera House Covent Garden, Opéra National de Paris, Washington National Opera, the New National Theatre of Tokyo, Deutsche Oper in Berlin, Maggio Musicale Fiorentino, Teatro Real de Madrid and Liceu de Barcelona, among others.

Tanner first performed Otello at the Metropolitan Opera in 2018 to rave reviews. And now Orange County audiences will have a chance to hear him in Pacific Symphony’s semi-staged production of Verdi’s greatest masterpiece (April 7, 9 & 12).

Verdi and Three Degrees of Separation

This photo features Tenor Carl Tanner as Otello. Photo Credit: Ken Howard | The Metropolitan Opera.

It’s hard to imagine that Verdi’s Otello might almost have never existed. The opera came about after a depressed Verdi was coaxed out of retirement by celebrity singers, genius librettists, socialites and even Verdi’s own wife. They hunted for tempting subject matter, planned “chance” encounters and even tried to make Verdi believe that the salvation of theater lay in his hands. All plots failed.

What finally did the trick was a night of wining, dining and sneaking Shakespeare—whom Verdi worshiped—into the conversation. The characters of one particular tragedy…Othello with the Moor’s jealous anguish and Iago’s malevolent schemes… proved too tempting for Verdi to resist.

The audience at the 1887 premiere at Teatro alla Scala in Milan had demanded 20 curtain calls. What they didn’t know yet was that the one who would carry on the magic of that performance to future generations was a cellist in the orchestra pit—the now legendary Arturo Toscanini.

The phenomenal career of this conductor began in a serendipitous way. A few months before the Otello premiere, Toscanini had been the principal cellist of an opera company whose South American tour erupted into chaos.

The company was set to perform Verdi’s Aida in Rio de Janeiro, but the local conductor had such a poor grasp of the score that the singers and musicians threatened to strike. The conductor resigned just hours before the performance, and both men who tried to replace him that night were chased off the podium by the audience. In desperation, someone remembered that Toscanini—a kid so young he had needed parental permission to join the tour—knew Verdi’s score by heart. Although he had no experience conducting, a 19-year-old Toscanini picked up the baton and became an overnight sensation.

Toscanini’s understanding of Verdi’s music was unmatched—an opinion held not just by audiences. The composer was notorious for grumbling at conductors for misinterpreting his scores. Toscanini was one of the few Verdi had praised.

Fast forward to the apocalyptic madness of World War II when Toscanini’s Swiss-born assistant Walter Ducloux pauses his career to become the personal interpreter for General Patton. Throughout campaigns that claimed countless lives, Ducloux did far more than just survive. He won five battle stars and a Bronze Star from the US Army and was awarded the Bronze Medal from the Italian government for his productions of Verdi operas.

Ducloux became a professor and music director at the University of Texas in Austin. When he advertised for an assistant, another bit of serendipity fell into place. You might even call it the force of destiny.

That’s because the person Ducloux hired wasn’t originally interested in becoming a conductor. He was a trumpet student looking for an apprenticeship that would pay for his studies so he applied to the only one he could find. But Ducloux needed only five minutes to recognize something special in the student, and so Carl St.Clair got the job.

St.Clair emerged from his years of study with Ducloux as a polished conductor. His final task before receiving his Master’s degree was to conduct Otello.

The final twist of destiny came into play when St.Clair and Pacific Symphony brought back opera to Orange County. In 2008, Opera Pacific fell victim to a wave of opera company closures that was sweeping the nation. But members of the opera-loving community rallied alongside St.Clair and worked tirelessly to fill that void with unique concert stagings of opera with Pacific Symphony.

The Symphony’s performances of Otello in April will mark the 10-year anniversary of opera’s return to Orange County. Good tickets are still available. You can find them here. And as you experience Verdi’s operatic masterpiece, keep in mind that Carl St.Clair conducts the work as someone who is only three degrees of separation from the great composer himself.

Guest blogger Sonia Levitin is a freelance writer and opera enthusiast based in Orange County.

Upcoming Sundays at Soka Events and a Danny Elfman Premiere

There are three more Sundays at Soka with Pacific Symphony events of the 2021-22 season left. From Beethoven & Mozart later this month to Beethoven’s Violin Concerto in May, you won’t want to miss these very special moments. Located on the beautiful hilltop campus of Soka University in Aliso Viejo, Soka Performing Arts Center is the proud home of the Pacific Symphony Chamber Orchestra.

Sundays at Soka: Beethoven & Mozart • March 20, 2022 at 3 p.m.

A native of Los Angeles, Norman Krieger is one of the most acclaimed pianists of his generation and is highly regarded as an artist of depth, sensitivity and virtuosic flair. Krieger joins the Pacific Symphony Chamber Orchestra and Maestro Carl St.Clair in a program that includes Beethoven’s Overture to The Creatures of Prometheus, Op. 34 and Mozart’s Piano Concert No. 24 in C Minor, K. 491.

To learn more, please click here.

Sundays at Soka: Percussion Concerto by Danny Elfman • April 24, 2022 at 3 p.m.

Danny Elfman brings to Aliso Viejo the United States premiere of a brand new percussion concerto, co-commissioned by Soka Performing Arts Center at Soka University and the London Philharmonic, performed by Colin Currie – as one critic put it, “surely the world’s finest and most daring percussionist.” The concerto will be performed with Pacific Symphony, under the baton of Music Director Carl St.Clair.

To learn more, please click here.

Sundays at Soka: Beethoven’s Violin Concerto • May 1, 2022 at 3 p.m.

Two-time GRAMMY nominee and Avery Fisher career grant recipient Jennifer Frautschi has garnered worldwide acclaim as a deeply expressive and musically adventurous violinist with impeccable technique and a wide-ranging repertoire. The program includes Frank Ticheli’s moving Rest for String Orchestra and and Beethoven’s only concerto for one of the most popular instruments of his day: the violin.

To learn more, please click here.

What events are you looking forward? Let us know in the comments below!

What’s Happening This Month: March 2022

March has arrived and with it, the return of spring. Just in time for the season of new beginnings, we have also officially announced our 2022-23 Hal and Jeanette Segerstrom Family Foundation Classical Season. For those of you going to some of our events this month, you may see our subscription tables in the orchestra lobby at the Renée and Henry Segerstrom Concert Hall.

From our Beethoven & Boléro concerts in September to our Cathedrals of Sound grand finale concerts in June, we’re looking forward to entering a new era of discovery and exploring new musical experiences with you soon. Don’t forget to come by and say hi!

Here’s what’s happening at Pacific Symphony this month.

PSYO: Dancing in the Dark • March 7, 2022 at 7 p.m.

Pacific Symphony Youth Orchestra explores the brilliant and romantic influences of early and late twentieth century musical masterworks, with a mix of lush and dramatic themes. The program includes three pieces: John Adam’s The Chairman Dances: Foxtrot for Orchestra, Barber’s Adagio for Strings, Op. 11 and Richard Strauss’ Der Rosenkavalier Suite, Op. 59. They will be under the baton of Dr. Jacob Sustaita. Admission is free, but tickets are required. Seating is general admission.

To learn more, please click here.

Saint-Saëns’ Organ Symphony • March 10-12, 2022 at 8 p.m.

Hailed by The London Times as a “violinist in a class of his own,” James Ehnes joins legendary conductor Edo de Waart with Prokofiev’s Spanish-inspired second violin concerto; a work that perfectly blends drama with technical virtuosity. On the second half, revel in the majestic power of the William J. Gillespie Concert organ in Saint-Saëns’ most popular symphony featuring a melody that was later adapted for film and the 1977 hit song “If I Had Words.”

To learn more, please click here.

PSYWE: People, Places & Things • March 13, 2022 at 3 p.m.

Pacific Symphony Youth Wind Ensemble welcomes special guests artists Dr. Dustin Barr, Dr. James Tapia and tenor Yngwie Slassh Zamarippa in a program that features an exciting array of 20th and 21st century works by John Mackey, Alex Shapiro, Percy Grainger, David Biedendender and David Maslanka. They are led by Music Director Dr. Gregory X. Whitmore. Admission is free, but tickets are required. Seating is general admission.

To learn more, please click here.

Boz Scaggs • March 18-19, 2022 at 8 p.m.

In an acclaimed career spanning nearly five decades, singer-songwriter and guitarist Boz Scaggs has explored the realms of soft rock, blues, R&B and jazz to produce instantly recognizable hits such as “Lowdown,” “Lido Shuffle” and “Look What You’ve Done to Me.” Pacific Symphony will be under the baton of guest conductor Enrico Lopez-Yañez.

To learn more, please click here.

Sundays at Soka: Beethoven & Mozart • March 20, 2022 at 3 p.m.

A native of Los Angeles, Norman Krieger is one of the most acclaimed pianists of his generation and is highly regarded as an artist of depth, sensitIvity and virtuosic flair. Krieger joins the Pacific Symphony Chamber Orchestra and Maestro Carl St.Clair in a program that includes Beethoven’s Overture to The Creatures of Prometheus, Op. 43 and Mozart’s Piano Concerto No. 24 in C Minor, K. 491.

**This performance will take place at Soka Performing Arts Center.**

To learn more, please click here.

Nowruz: Iranian New Year • March 26, 2022 at 8 p.m.

Celebrate Nowruz, the Iranian New Year, with the Farhang Foundation and Pacific Symphony! A traditional festival that marks the beginning of spring, Nowruz is a time to celebrate the “rebirth of nature” and wash away the past. Joining the Symphony for this festive celebration are vocalist Alireza Ghorbani, guest conductor Shardad Rohani, vocalist Mojgan Shajarian and guitarist Lily Afshar. Pre-concert festivities include traditional musicians and dancers and a grand Haft Sîn display.

To learn more, please click here.

What events are you looking forward? Let us know in the comments below!