Monterey Symphony – “Arabian Nights”


Soprano, Ekaterina Semenchuk

“Arabian Nights” was the theme of the Monterey Symphony’s February series of concerts, and for those of us who attended the Sunday afternoon concert at Sunset Center in Carmel, it was an exotic trip back in time to the magic of “A Thousand and One Nights.” The principal work on the program was Rimsky-Korsakov’s great tone poem “Scheherazade.” No matter how many times you have heard this work, and no matter how familiar you are with the tale that inspired it, you can never fail to be bewitched by its magic, its mystical colors and the instrumental virtuosity needed to produce a satisfying orchestral performance. Especially impressive in the performance we heard Sunday afternoon were the principal players concertmaster Christina Mok, principal cello Adelle-Akiko Kearns, flutist Dawn Walker, clarinet Erin Finkelstein (wow, what an impressive solo), bassoon Jane Orzel, harpist Karen Thielen, and several others who were unknown to me. By any standard, the Monterey Symphony under the direction of Music Director and Conductor Max Bragado-Darmen turned in a whale of performance that created a firestorm of applause at its conclusion.

Earlier in the program we had the pleasure of hearing mezzo-soprano Ekaterina Semenchuk as soloist in four selections from Les nuits d’été (Summer Nights) by Berlioz and also in Ravel’s orchestral song cycle Shéhérazde. There was a charming purity in Ms. Semenchuk’s voice that seemed flexible enough to cover the range from contralto to soprano with ease. Her control of dynamics was astonishing, for in addition to her full, rich power in climaxes, she also gave us the most exquisite pianissimos —at the end of Sur les lagunesLamento in Les nuits d’été her long decrescendo in the final phrase was pure magic. Hers is a voice we would love to hear again and again.

This concert will be repeated tomorrow night at 8 pm, also in Sunset Center. Don’t’ miss it!

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