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Mother was the musician in the nuclear family that cradled me – she was a good violinist and a so-so pianist who later became an organist and choir director – but Dad was the music lover. They taught me a lot. They remembered artists they'd heard, the music they'd performed, and the places where they'd heard them, and they remembered accounts of artists and places by family members from previous generations. I recall hearing about concerts – yes, concerts – in opera houses. I thought they were nuts, but sure enough, on Sunday nights at the Old Met you could often hear a whole season's-worth of great singers reeling off chestnut after chestnut – with the occasional piano-player or fiddler tossed in for good measure. Just for fun, I looked up some of these programs in the ever-useful Metropolitan Opera Annals. On February 18, 1912, the program included the Invocation from Robert le Diable, the Narrative from Lohengrin, the first scene of Act II of The Flying Dutchman, the Prologue from Mefistofele, an aria from Rusalka (almost certainly the "Song to the Moon"), and "Vissi d'arte" from Tosca. The week before, there was music from La Juive, Tannhäuser, and La bohème, a Paganini violin concerto, and songs by Robert Schumann, Grieg, and Halfdan Kjerulf, along with "Chalet Girl's Sunday" by Ole Bull(!).
Recollections of all these things came streaming back during the Chapel Hill Philharmonia's latest concert, which featured (young) stars of the UNC Department of Music's Vocal Music Division. It was a somewhat better deal than the more frequent concerts of winners of various concerto competitions, in which a whole batch of hopefuls are boiled down to just two or three or four finalists. This time, we heard a big batch of vocalists in varying stages of readiness – 17, if we haven't miscounted – in arias and duets from operas by Mozart (mostly), Offenbach, Delibes, and Puccini. Excerpts from the Carmen Suite (one of which was conducted by Vincent L. Povazsay), the Prelude to Die Meistersinger, and the Brindisi from La traviata (with the afternoon's most mature vocalists – Caroline Mason and Ryan Griffin – as the soloists and the rest of the singers as the chorus) rounded out the afternoon.
Donald L. Oehler, Music Director of the Philharmonia, conducted. Hill Hall was substantially full, despite the lousy weather and dearth of close-in parking places – people were straggling in till half past three. The crowd clapped and cheered and stood and yelled. The orchestra is large – 90 players were on the roster – and the sound sometimes overflowed the hall, but a good time was had by nearly all, for sure. It may well have been like that at the Old Met on those long-ago Sunday nights. As a showcase for UNC's vocal efforts, the program was a very positive thing. We'll await DivaFest 4 with keen anticipation.
PS There were no bios - not even any indication of who studies with whom. Next time….