Hidden Gem: Rossini, medium rare

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ArteMusica brings us an ancient story of mama-love and the crucifixion, set with operatic passion

When opera composers dive into sacred material, the results are often spectacular: Verdi’s very operatic Requiem is probably the best example, requiring no less than standout soloists and a hefty chorus and orchestra, and his ‘Dies irae’, when done well, is no less than terrifying.  Of course, opera has proven over centuries that the fairly straightforward themes of death and the threat of hell can make for some pretty earth-shaking entertainment.

Rossini early-later
These two portraits of composer Giacchino Rossini share the same twinkle of ‘Barber’-esque mischief!

Rossini’s well-recognized but rarely performed* Stabat Mater, however, deals with rather subtler themes, but is no less packed with emotion.  The text is intended for Lent and tied specifically to Good Friday, as it tells of Mary’s complex grief and pain over losing her son at the crucifixion, but the work transcends faith, language and season.  The most often heard version is the sublime treatment by Pergolesi (known in his time primarily for operas), which is more scalable than its grand, Romantic sisters, and can be performed with just two singers and organ, and is, therefore a very budget-conscious programming option as well as a perennial crowd-pleaser. Rossini’s version, however, requires a quartet of soloists with serious chops and gumption to match, as well as a good-sized chorus, orchestra and conductor possessing passion as well as talent and understanding.  It’s no work for the meek.

ArteMusica, one of the newer choral organizations on the scene (they started in 2011), has taken up the charge, and under the baton of Maestro Ermanno Zotti, has gathered choir, orchestra, and a quartet of Italian soloists, to offer three performances starting Thursday next week, in San Pedro, Santa Monica, and Pasadena, with a reception planned after the last of the three.  We haven’t heard this group yet, but this is a great place to start.

ArteMusica presents
Rossini’s Stabat Mater
 Thursday, Oct 3, 7pm
Mary Star of the Sea Church
San Pedro

Friday, Oct 4, 8:30pm
Saint Monica Church
Santa Monica

Saturday, Oct 5, 8:30pm
Pasadena Presbyterian Church
(After Party follows)

Tickets from $24

* aka “medium rare”, in some rather pithy circles

Originally published in Next 7 — Vocal events thru 10/3/13

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