Monday, April 1, 2013

2013 Easter concert at the Notre Dame Center, Jerusalem

Maestro Paolo Olmi (photo:Lidia Bagnara)
On March 23rd  2013, under the High Patronage of the Pontificium Consilium De Cultura and  the auspices of the Most Reverend Giuseppe Lazzarotto, Francesco Maria Talo and the Italian Cultural Center (Tel Aviv), the Notre Dame Pontifical Institute of Jerusalem hosted a “Concerto di Pasqua 2013” (Easter concert) in the Chapel of Our Lady of Peace of Notre Dame. A new joint artistic project between the Jerusalem Academy of Music and Dance and Italian artists, the concert was broadcast on the Italian RAI channel in a special Easter program.  Conducted by Maestro Paolo Olmi (Italy), members of the Jerusalem Academy String Ensemble of the Younis and Soraya Nazarian Outstanding Ensemble Program of the Jerusalem Academy of Music and Dance (director: Jonathan Spandorf) were joined by local harpsichordist Netta Ladar and Italian soloists - soprano Mariangela Sicilia and mezzo-soprano Adriana Di Paola. The concert was the joint production of the Instituto Italiano di Cultura, Carmela Callea, Emilia Romagna Concerti, Ravenna and Shamir & Shiffmann (Tel Aviv).

Having studied piano from a young age, Paolo Olmi (b.1954) was a student of Massimo Pradella and Franco Ferrara in Rome, beginning his conducting career in 1979. Maestro Olmi has conducted in concert halls and opera houses in Europe, North- and South America, Australia and Asia. He was musical director of the Opera National de Nancy et de Lorraine (France) from 2006 to 2011.

Mariangela Sicilia (b.1986) studied piano and voice in her native Consenza, later attending the Scuola dell’Opera Italiana (Bologna) and the Mozart Academy in Aix en Provence (France). Ms. Sicilia’s busy performing schedule takes her to opera houses throughout Europe. Born in Palermo, Adriano Di Paola studied singing at the Trapani Conservatory, the Accademia Musicale Chigiana (Siena) and the Perfeccionament Plácido Domingo. Ms. Di Paolo is both a concert artist and opera singer.

Jerusalem-born Netta Ladar has an Artist’s Diploma cum laude in harpsichord from the Jerusalem Academy of Music and Dance and a BA in Musicology from the Hebrew University of Jerusalem; she has also studied with Laurette Goldberg (San Francisco) and Emilia Fadini (Milan). Ms. Ladar performs  with ensembles, does much accompanying and coaches students in Baroque performance at the Jerusalem Academy of Music and Dance.

The event opened with words of welcome and discussion of the message of music from Ms. Carmela Callea – director of the Italian Institute of Culture (Tel Aviv), Mr. Francesco Maria Talò – ambassador for Italy in Israel and from Archbishop Giuseppe Lazzarotto - Apostolic Delegate to Israel and Palestine.

The concert opened with Georg Frideric Händel’s (1685-1759) Concerto Grosso in d minor opus 6, no.10. Händel’s twelve opus 6 Concerti Grossi (also referred to as Twelve Grand Concertos), composed during a few hectic weeks in the Autumn of 1739, were created to reinforce his reputation as an instrumental composer and served as orchestral interludes in operatic- and oratorio performances; they exhibit a great variety of musical thought. Olmi and the JAMD players’ playing of the d minor Concerto Grosso was alert, fresh and invigorating, buoyant and majestic, with lively interaction between instrumentalists. The third movement – Air - was slow in tempo, its first violin solo and seriousness graced with poetic chord spreads on the harpsichord (Ladar). Allegro movements were punctuated and crisp. Vivacious and Italienate, the performance made for a congenial start to the evening.

We then heard soprano Mariangela Sicilia in Desdemona’s aria “Ave Maria” from Act IV of Giuseppe Verdi’s (1813-1901) opera “Otello” (libretto: Arrigo Boïto). In the aria, the pivotal moment of this last act, Desdemona prays for all the people who suffer as she does. Her prayers, however, do not stop the jealous Otello from later murdering her in her bed. Taking her cue from the mysterious opening notes, Sicilia’s singing of the aria was magical in its fresh, velvety textures, dynamic changes and dramatic flair. Hers is a reedy voice of all colors. Cicilia’s superbly controlled pianissimo moments were as stirring as those in the aria’s engaging high points.

Associated with the Easter theme, the artists performed Giovanni Battista Pergolesi’s (1710-1736) “Stabat Mater” for two high voices and string accompaniment. Probably composed in the Franciscan monastery near Pozzuoli on the bay of Naples, where Pergolesi sought respite from the debilitating effects of tuberculosis from which he was suffering, the work depicts the image of Mary grieving at the foot of the cross. The sequence of Latin verses, from which the twelve solos and duets are constructed, were written by the 13th century Franciscan friar Jacobus de Benedictus. Following Pergolesi’s death, his “Stabat Mater” became one of the most widely circulated and frequently printed manuscripts of the 18th century. Olmi’s reading of the work gave clarity to its contrapuntal ingenuity as the artists’ singing leaned into its emotionally packed suspensions, the music referring unmistakably to Pergolesi’s operatic roots. In the duets, Sicilia and Di Paola presented the work’s emotional content, twisting its melodic strands around each other with fine precision, indulging in the music’s tension and unusual chromatic progressions. Both singers excel in voice production of a kind that is natural, flexible and spontaneous.  Sicilia’s outstanding singing was, once again, gripping and rich in vocal colors and dynamic, at once dramatic and devout. Di Paola’s large, lush voice, mellow and creamy, rang out into the chapel, her lower range revealing interesting timbral colors. Maestro Olmi, no newcomer to the Israeli concert scene, is attentive to his players and singers, addressing the music’s emotion with involvement and Italian spirit, at the same time sensitive to creating a balance between intensity with intimacy.

With its imposing presence, its twin turrets and positioned overlooking the New Gate of Jerusalem’s Old City, the Notre Dame Center is an attractive venue for such an event, its audience reflecting Jerusalem’s cosmopolitanism. This was an exhilarating evening of music.

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