The College-Conservatory of Music’s (CCM) Chamber Choir, Chorale, Philharmonia Orchestra and Cincinnati Children’s Choir combine for an unforgettable performance of the grand and romantic The Damnation of Faust. Hector Berlioz’s imaginative work will be presented at Corbett Auditorium at 8 p.m. on Saturday, Feb. 25, featuring cinematic visual elements that are the result of collaboration with CCM’s Division of Electronic Media.
Not easily categorized as either an opera or an oratorio, Berlioz coined the term “légende dramatique,” or dramatic legend, for the The Damnation of Faust in an effort to categorize the hybrid style. Based on Johann Wolfgang von Goethe’s play, the dream-like work is one of Berlioz’s “biggest and baddest,” as described by CCM’s Director of Choral Studies and conductor Earl Rivers, which “caught fire with the Romantic generation.” Berlioz’s affective treatment of Faust presents a man at his intellectual prime tormented by a lack of fulfillment in his life, as he succumbs to the enticing promises made to him by Méphistophélès, ultimately resulting in his descent into hell.
CCM’s production of The Damnation of Faust is an exciting undertaking for the collaborating ensembles and will be sung in French with English surtitles. As Rivers explains, “This is Berlioz at his most mature, and it is full of so many challenges,” and the Choral, Orchestral, Voice and Opera faculty chose to program the work because “we recognize that we have some very talented students capable of singing these demanding roles.” The chorus also enjoys an unusually dynamic part, characterized in many different ways throughout the légende dramatique. “They are peasants, they are gnomes and spirits, they are soldiers, they are guys in a bar having a good time, they are demons in hell after Méphistophélès leads Faust to that place, and they are angels in heaven for Marguerite’s apotheosis,” says Rivers. Soloists include students Daniel Ross, tenor, as Faust; Deborah Nansteel, mezzo-soprano, as Marguerite; Will Tvrdik, bass, as Brander; and Associate Professor of Voice Kenneth Shaw, bass-baritone, will be singing the role of Méphistophélès.
The challenges do not end with what is printed in the particularly virtuosic musical score. Rivers also focused on finding innovative ways to make this cinematic work visually stimulating, so CCM’s production of The Damnation of Faust will also include bright and engaging visuals by documentary filmmaker and Assistant Professor of Electronic Media Raul Barcelona. Rather than portraying a literal representation of the story, the visuals center on a theme Barcelona describes as “the conflict between human progress and nature,” and include “documentary footage of urban wildlife and flora, shot both in New York and Cincinnati, complimented by more experimental footage.”
Honoring a Tradition of Philanthropy and Support
CCM’s production of Berlioz’s The Damnation of Faust is dedicated to Mrs. Louise Dieterle Nippert, a devoted patron, fan, volunteer and alumna of the University of Cincinnati. Through her generous support, the Dieterle Vocal Arts Center opened in January 1995 and is home to CCM’s Voice, Opera, Choral and Accompanying Departments. In addition to her and her late husband’s significant contributions to the renovation and creation of the CCM Village, Mr. and Mrs. Nippert have endowed a number of chairs at CCM, including the Thomas James Kelly Chair, the Dieterle Chair of Music in Memory of George Andreas and Elsa Fischer Dieterle and the Dieterle Chair of Voice. They have also been influential in the transformation of countless students’ lives by creating and donating to numerous scholarship funds at CCM. This unique production of Berlioz’s grand légende dramatique is presented in her honor.
About Earl Rivers
Earl Rivers’ graduate conducting program at CCM has been recognized by U.S. News and World Report as among the top five programs in the USA, and CCM’s Choral Program holds the Dale Warland Singers Score Library and Archives, the most significant collection of contemporary choral music in the country.
Music director and conductor of the professional chamber choir Vocal Arts Ensemble of Cincinnati (VAE) from 1988-2008, Rivers and VAE received two ASCAP-Chorus America Awards for “Adventuresome Programming of Contemporary Music.” With VAE he championed new works, hosted visiting composers and developed ongoing partnerships with regional children’s, high school and youth choirs. Rivers has also conducted CCM’s choral and orchestral forces in acclaimed university and regional premieres of John Adams’s On the Transmigration of Souls, Tan Dun’s Water Passion after St. Matthew, Philip Glass’s Symphony No. 5, Penderecki’s Credo and Bastian Clevé’s film, The Sound of Eternity (with J.S. Bach’s Mass in B Minor).
Earlier this season, Rivers conducted J.S. Bach’s St. Matthew Passion in a unique staged performance at St. Peter in Chains Cathedral in collaboration with CCM’s Opera Department and the complete Bach Christmas Oratorio at Knox Presbyterian Church. Rivers has led the CCM Chamber Choir and Philharmonia Orchestra in the cycle of J.S. Bach’s choral/orchestral masterworks—Mass in B Minor, Christmas Oratorio, St. John Passion, and St. Matthew Passion—on a concert tour of Portugal and before National and Central Division Conventions of ACDA (American Choral Directors Association).
His recent guest conducting engagements include the Festival of the Aegean in Syros, Greece; the Korean premiere of Arvo Pärt's Berliner Mass with South Korea's Incheon City Chorale; Haydn’s Nelson Mass; Mozart's Coronation Mass and John Rutter’s Requiem in Carnegie Hall, as well as a residency (including a concert and teaching engagement) at the Sichuan Conservatory in Chengdu, China.
Rivers has taught conducting and led master classes at the Taipei International Choral Festival in Taiwan, in Seoul, South Korea and at The Juilliard School. He was an Adjudicator and Lecturer at the World Choir Games in Shaoxing, China in 2010 and currently serves as Artistic Director USA for the World Choir Games Cincinnati 2011. Rivers is a recipient of Choral America’s “Michael Korn Founders Award for Development of the Choral Art,” honoring a lifetime of significant contributions to the professional choral art. Rivers is a long-time member of the Board of Directors of Chorus America, the national service organization to develop and promote professional, volunteer and youth choruses.
About Raul Barcelona
Raul Barcelona is an award-winning documentary filmmaker and a member of CCM’s Electronic Media faculty since 2010. His 2009 documentary, The Promise of New York, earned the “Best Documentary – Audience Choice Award” at the Big Muddy Film Festival. His recent work has also been recognized at the Sundance Film Festival and the Berlin Film Festival. Barcelona’s bachelor’s degree is in electrical engineering from Rensselear Polytechnic Institute. He holds a master’s degree is in digital imaging and design from New York University. He has taught multimedia, video production and graphic design at the Art Institute of Pittsburgh Online Division and at the Art Institute of Houston.
Saturday, Feb. 25, 8 p.m.
Corbett Auditorium, College-Conservatory of Music, University of Cincinnati
Tickets are $12 general admission $5 non-UC students and UC students are free. Tickets can be purchased by contacting the CCM Box Office (online at http:// ccm.uc.edu or 513-556-4183).
CCM Season Presenting Sponsor: The Otto M. Budig Family Foundation