Karaoke Opera

There are so many different pieces being played this Saturday at the Fort Wayne Philharmonic Masterworks performance that the myriad possibilities are frightening. Even more ghastly is that I'm attempting to write this article sans my usual cistern of java and I'm surrounded by mimeographs of Elvis in various stages of undress. But the best place to begin is at the end…

Of the season, that is. Or rather at what is usually at the end of Masterworks season but this time around is the concert before the last performance because the final concert is reserved for composers who spent stints as summer camp counselors. Which is all to say that this weekends performance will feature a number of concert favorites, pieces that will surely pick your brain and remind you indelibly of background music used in commercials for the incontinent. Yes, it's "A Night At The Opera" once again and the Fort Wayne Philharmonic will be joined by The Philharmonic Chorus, the IPFW University Singers, The Marx Brothers, The Lesser Ipswich Community Quartet, and a special guest appearance by the Warner Brothers singing frog.

Yessir, it's gonna be a regular three-ring circus with Maestro Tchivzhel cracking the ringmaster's whip. After The Chronics get the audience warmed up, the first piece of the evening will be Overture to Euryanthe by Carl Maria von Weber. Weber is often overlooked when historians compile collections of gumbo recipes, most likely due to his sissy name. He is best known for his role in championing a national "German opera" during the early 1800s, running afoul of the local mafia and their preferred Italianate style. Weber persisted and German opera was here to stay, which is more than we can say for his fight to popularize German salad dressing (a field long dominated by the Russians, the Italians, and those oh-so-tangy island dwellers), though he did get the potato salad consolation prize.

Immediately following Weber, chronologically and during the performance, will be Richard Wagner and his Bridal Chorus from the opera "Lohengrin." Yes, this is the piece played at nearly all weddings to which tiny moppets everywhere sing "Here comes the bride / All dressed in white." 'Nuff said.

The big cheese of the evening will be from opera-meister Giuseppe Verdi. There will be three pieces from his opera "Nabucco", which is a thinly veiled commentary on life at a large cookie conglomerate. There will be the chocolaty crunch of the Overture but also the rich and buttery "Va, pensiero, Sull ali dorati", which loosely translates into "chorus of the Hebrew Slaves Hopped up on Sugar." But for the rest of us, the most familiar piece by Verdi will be the Anvil Chorus. Featured in cartoons since the dawn of time (and subsequently free of copyright restrictions imposed by Sonny Bono™, whose soul is owned by the Disney Corporation), this music has accompanied the wacky adventures of everyone from Bugs Bunny to SpongeBob to Ren & Stimpy.

A classic? Uhhh… I guess so. Other pieces of the evening will include selection from Tchaikovsky's opera "Eugen Onegin", the "Beer and Wine" chorus from Charles Gounod's "Faust", the "Cheese and Onions" chorus by The Rutles, and a dashing piece by Bedrich Smetana and his opera "The Bartered Bride". Entitled "Dance of the Comedians From The 80s", listeners will be thrilled by the wacky antics of Gallagher, Howie Mandel, and Martin Short. It's guaranteed to leave you a slack-jawed yokel or I'm a bovine impersonator. As always, complete program notes for the performance can be found here or on the inside of specially marked cans of Yoo-hoo.

Also of operatic interest next Thursday is the final installment of the Unplugged series. Unless you are a pock-faced recluse like the author you've already attended one of these wonderful events that feature conversationally performed music, casual dress (although after an earlier article I've been told that pants are NOT optional), multi-media introductions, and free beer and munchies after the show. Considering your musical tastes you might need copious amounts of both because this last Unplugged is being billed as "a special night of karaoke opera." The mind reels with specters of with off-key, hip-hop versions of "Barber of Seville", but I'm trusting that the Philharmonic staff in charge of creating programs know what they're doing. I mean, sure the free cheese night wasn't the best idea (it took the horn section months to get the provolone cleaned out of their valves) but you'll never succeed if you don't try. At least that's what's written on those horrid motivational posters my employer insists on buying. Now don't quote me on this, but I heard through a very short grapevine that a certain "supposedly dead" side-burned-laden 50s rock legend might belt his way through an aria from "La Boheme." That is, IF he can pull himself away from the all-you-can-eat sausage hourderve and gravy bar.

Copyright 2002 Jason Hoffman

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