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Published: Wednesday, 5/10/2006

Symphony and opera will do more with less

BY STEVEN CORNELIUS
BLADE MUSIC CRITIC
Cuban trumpeter Arturo Sandoval wraps up the Toledo Symphony s Pops Series with a performance next May 5 in the Stranahan Theater. Cuban trumpeter Arturo Sandoval wraps up the Toledo Symphony s Pops Series with a performance next May 5 in the Stranahan Theater.
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Classical balance is the emerging theme as area performing-arts organizations unveil their 2006-07 seasons.

Featured are upcoming and established performers, from the piano-playing Brown siblings, set to appear in Bowling Green State University's Festival Series, to luminaries such as pianist Andre Watts, violinist Gidon Kremer, and singer/songwriter Kenny Rogers, all of whom are slated to appear in various Toledo Symphony series.

Toledo Opera will offer a musical platter seasoned with all the operatic requisites: heartbreak, humor, and vengeance.

The season will shine, despite significant financial challenges for both Toledo Symphony and Toledo Opera. Government support at the state, county, and city levels generally has been reduced or eliminated. Toledo Opera has cut its staff and is set to report a significant annual deficit. Neither organization is compromising on quality, however.

Thanks to forceful leadership, these lean times have also been strong times artistically. Toledo Symphony's principal conductor, Stefan Sanderling, has brought discipline and clarity to the orchestra's voice. As quality has risen, so has attendance. Over the past three years, Toledo Symphony has experienced a nearly 30 percent increase in ticket sales for its Classics Series.

For Toledo Symphony's upcoming nine-program Classics Series, one keyword is "super-sized," as evidenced by repertoire that includes Gustav Holst's "The Planets" (Jan. 19 and 20), Stravinsky's "The Rite of Spring" (March 2 and 3), and Beethoven's Ninth Symphony with the Cleveland Orchestra Chorus (May 18 and 19).

Stefan Sanderling leads the Toledo Symphony. Stefan Sanderling leads the Toledo Symphony.
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The Peristyle-based series opens Sept. 29 and 30 when the iconic pianist Leon Fleisher joins Sanderling in a program featuring Mozart's concise Piano Concerto No. 12 and Shostakovich's massive "Leningrad Symphony."

Contrast is the season's second major theme. The Oct. 20 and 21 concerts feature Sanderling leading the orchestra in the 20th-century German experimentalist Hans Werner Henze's warm look back at the Baroque era with "Telemanniana," an arrangement for orchestra of a Telemann quartet. Henze is paired with works by Beethoven and Brahms.

Other season highlights include violinist Anne Akiko Meyers performing the Mendelssohn concerto (Nov. 10 and 11) and pianist William Eddins performing Ravel's Concerto in G (March 30 and 31). Area soloists include Toledo Symphony principal flutist Joel Tse performing Nielsen (Feb. 2 and 3) and former Toledoan organist Todd Wilson (April 20 and 21).

Classics Series subscribers receive a complimentary concert featuring violinist Nadja Salerno-Sonnenberg (Feb. 21 in the Stranahan Theater).

The four-event Peristyle Series presents lighter fare than most years. The series opens Dec. 1 with organist James Christie presenting a holiday program on the hall's recently rebuilt Skinner organ. On Feb. 4, the Eroica Trio presents a relatively easy-listening program of works by Gershwin and others. Sounds become more serious April 4 when the Cleveland-based early music ensemble Apollo's Fire performs Bach's "St. John's Passion." Closing the series on April 15 is violin virtuoso Kremer leading his ensemble Kremerata Baltica in music from the 19th and 20th centuries.

Subscribers to the Peristyle Series receive a bonus performance: pianist Watts on Jan. 25.

An evening with country star Rogers (Feb. 24) is the bonus for those who subscribe to the Toledo Symphony's Stranahan Theater-based Pops Series. That series opens Sept. 16 with the Motown sound of The Contours. Rounding out the fall is "An Evening of Andrew Lloyd Webber" (Oct. 26) and the "Sandi Patty Holiday Show" (Nov. 25). Tenor Robert White helps celebrate St. Patrick's Day on March 17 and Cuban trumpet legend Arturo Sandoval completes the series on May 5.

A strong focus on repertoire from the Classical Era has been the rule with the Mozart & More Series since the departure of longtime music director Andrew Massey. That trend continues next season, when only two works from the 20th century, both by Ravel, are programmed. Mozart is featured on five of the season's 14 works. The final program (April 14), which will be performed without conductor, features concertmaster Kirk Toth in a concerto by Baroque composer Antonio Vivaldi.

Finally, there is the orchestra's four-program Family Series, now based in the Peristyle with most performances on Saturday mornings. The popular Halloween Spooktacular (3 p.m. Oct. 29) features the Magic Circle Mime Co. The remaining programs are devoted to the symphonic music that tells a story (Jan. 27), sports (March 24), and Beethoven, featuring Classical Kids (April 28).

Toledo Opera's Valentine Theatre-based season begins Oct. 7 with a three-performance run of Frenchman Charles Gounod's melodious Romeo and Juliet, arguably the composer's finest opera as well as a singer favorite for nearly 140 years. With the season's second production (Nov. 17-19), the dramatic movement goes from tragic to ridiculous. Gaetano Donizetti's comic Don Pasquale mines the story of the foolish old man silly enough to marry a sensuous vixen.

Murder and revenge are the keywords for the season's finale, Giacomo Puccini's Tosca (April 28, May 4 and 6). This is the same work that Toledo Opera chose in 1999 to open the newly renovated Valentine Theatre.

Uniting each of the productions are the "strong female protagonists," said Toledo Opera general director Renay Conlin.

"Juliet may be young, but she is determined, headstrong but innocent. Don Pasquale's Norina is sulky, willful, and determined to have her way. Tosca is the epitome of the operatic prima donna, self-assured and passionate. All three will capture the audience's imagination," she said.

For its 2007 Opera Gala (Feb. 10), the company follows up on this season's successful Wagner extravaganza with an evening dedicated to Russian composers. Featured will be operatic excerpts by Tchaikovsky, Mussorgsky, and others, much of it from operas rarely staged today.

The eclectic Festival Series at Bowling Green State University features four classical music programs. The piano-playing siblings the 5 Browns perform Oct. 12. The Pacifica Quartet, which recently won an Avery Fisher Career Grant, performs Dec. 1. Composer and satirist Peter Schickele presents a program titled "P.D.Q. Bach and Peter Schickele: The Jekyll and Hyde Tour" on Feb. 2, and Canadian soprano Measha Brueggergosman performs April 15.

Also featured on the BGSU series will be the Latin jazz band Tiempo Libre (Sept. 23) and the FLY Dance Company (March 22).

For ticket information, call the Toledo Symphony at 419-241-1272, Toledo Opera at 419-255-7464, and BGSU at 1-800-589-2224. Or check www.toledosymphony.com, www.toledo-opera.com, or www.bgsu.edu/colleges/music/events/festival.html.

Contact Steven Cornelius at:

scornelius@theblade.com

or 419-724-6152.



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