The Verdi Chorus kicks off its 39th season with their Spring Concert, Hélas mon Coeur, for two performances only at the First Presbyterian Church in Santa Monica on May 14 and 15. Led by Founding Artistic Director Anne Marie Ketchum, the Verdi Chorus is the only choral group in Southern California that focuses primarily on the dramatic and diverse music for opera chorus.
This program, which Ketchum says includes “some of the most dramatic moments from some of the most powerful operatic works,” will feature selections from two Verdi operas – Ernani and Macbeth, Beethoven’s Fidelio, and sequences from Ponchielli’s La Gioconda and Giordano’s Andrea Chénier. There will also be selections from Offenbach’s The Tales of Hoffmann.
The program will feature three guest soloists: soprano Julie Makerov whom The Huffington Post declared “triumphant” in her performance of Senta in Wagner’s The Flying Dutchman with Los Angeles Opera; tenor Todd Wilander, praised by The New York Times for his “brave, vocally assured portrayals” and who has returned for eight seasons thus far with The Metropolitan Opera; and renowned baritone Roberto Perlas Gómez who, with over 100 roles to his credit, has performed extensively throughout the United States.
These performances are made possible, in part, through the generous support of the Sahm Family Foundation, The Green Foundation, and Colburn Foundation, and by grant funding from the Los Angeles County Board of Supervisors through the Los Angeles County Department of Arts and Culture, and the City of Santa Monica through the Santa Monica Arts Commission.
Conductor Anne Marie Ketchum says, “The title for this program, Hélas mon Coeur, feels appropriate on so many levels. Aside from being the title of one of the most beautiful ensembles from Offenbach’s The Tales of Hoffmann, the phrase itself, ‘Alas, my heart’ sums up both the losses we have all experienced over the past two years, and the bittersweet hope for what lies ahead as we launch our 39th season.It’s a strong and emotive program which our three sensational guest artists, Julie Makerov, Todd Wilander, and Roberto Perlas Gómez, as well as our chorus of over forty strong, will bring to rich and electrifying life.”
Ketchum continues, “Our first half featuring selections from Verdi’s Macbeth, will range from the powerful “Patria oppressa” which sings of a country now lost, to a powerful piece for a large ensemble, “Sangue a me.” Our second half includes Ponchielli’s La Gioconda with Roberto Perlas Gómez leading the chorus in the rousing fisherman’s aria “Pescator,” followed by Todd Wilander’s rendition of the movingly beautiful aria “Cielo e mar.” Giordano’s Andrea Chénier will offer Julie Makerov in the sweeping and dramatic aria “La mamma morta.” We will end our program with selections from Offenbach’s The Tales of Hoffmann, always an audience favorite.” In the last piece a muse implores the artist to continue to create saying ‘we are made strong through love and even stronger through our tears.'”
The Verdi Chorus prepares for concerts with rehearsals every Monday night. There, an amazing thing happens as over 40 singers gather from every walk of life to become the Verdi Chorus. This wide swath of people includes singers from 18 to 80 who come from a variety of professions, and yet have one thing in common: the desire to sing side by side each week and delve into the rich, dramatic world of opera. They in turn are joined by up-and-coming opera singers at the beginning of their careers, and college students who have just begun to realize their operatic gifts, as all of them become one under the direction of Founding Artistic Director Anne Marie Ketchum. Each rehearsal is like a vocal master class.
Raising their voices together they become everything from the eerie witches of Macbeth to the inner voices of courage in The Tales of Hoffmann.
Further demonstrating the organization’s mission to provide performance opportunities to young professional singers, sixteen highly promising singers are hired as section leaders and rehearsal coaches. Known as the Fox Singers, named in memory of long-time Chorus and Board member Walter Fox, these singers assist the Artistic Director, provide direction for their sections in rehearsals, and have opportunities to perform as featured singers in performances. The Fox Singers also perform on occasion independently of the full Chorus, serving as a showcase for the singers and as ambassadors for The Verdi Chorus. Performances of special arias and ensembles have been presented at venues in Southern California including the Annenberg Beach House, the Huntington Library, and the Nixon Library.
The Chorus is also proud to continue with the Apprentice Singers program that was established in 2015 in which talented vocal music students at the college level gain the opportunity to work with the Chorus in rehearsals and sing operatic music in concert. Each receives a scholarship to provide funds with which they can broaden their music studies. Sahm Foundation Apprentices who successfully complete the program are invited back to sing with the Chorus for subsequent sessions.
Apprentices for this session, named in honor of a generous grant from the Sahm Family Foundation, are sopranos Amelia DeCoster, Meagan Carlson and Ariana Flores, and mezzo Bianca Gutierrez.
Performance times are Saturday, May 14 at 7:30 pm, and Sunday, May 15 at 2:00 pm at the First Presbyterian Church in Santa Monica, located at 1220 2nd Street, Santa Monica, CA 90401. Tickets will go on sale April 1, 2022.