Puccini by the Virginia Beach Symphony Orchestra and Chorus

      David Kunkel led the Virginia Beach Symphony in a wonderful selection of music on Sunday, February 20, 2005 at the Pavilion theater. This was the next-to-last performance (April 24 is the last) before the theater is razed to make room for a parking lot for the new convention center, which will have no theater.

      The overture to Nabucco by Giuseppe Verdi (1813-1901) was followed by Claude Debussy's (1862-1918) Trois Nocturnes with the women's chorus Bellissima , led by Deborah Carr, singing the textless vocalise of the third movement, Sirénes. The exotic, eastern sound of these moody pieces sparkled and there was a nice balance of voices and orchestra making a seamless whole.

      The piece de resistance of this concert was Giacomo Puccini's (1858-1924) Messa di Gloria, only discovered in 1951 by an American priest who was working on a book about Puccini. Written when he was eighteen years old, much of what we love about his music was already here. In the Gloria the tenor solo Gratias agimus tibi is orchestrated for strings and woodwinds with the transparent orchestral textures of chamber music and smashingly well sung by local tenor robusto Jeffrey Easter with more glorious singing in the Credo that followed. In duet with the 160 voice chorus, Easter's big powerful voice blooms. The baritone solo comes later in the Credo, embedded in the male choral section and sung by Walter Swan who has a beautiful lyrical voice which shines forth in the solo Benedictus. The tenor opens the Agnus Dei which moved to the finale, a duet for tenor and bass, with Paul Danaher joining Easter. The piece closes with dona pacem sung by the choir.

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