Coro-Dante’s Spring Performance Revives Rare Italian Repertoire
By Arlinda Shtuni
Spring is a time of renewal. For our choir, each spring season is a chance to revive music that has lain dormant in obscure musical archives or tucked away in musical scores, and let it be heard anew.
So, what can you expect to experience at this spring’s concert? Eclectic in its scope, our program spans across the Italian musical repertoire—from a virtuoso composition for organ and piano to highlights from a rarely-performed 19th century opera and a Baroque-inspired song for mixed voices.
We open with a concerto by Pietro Yon, who served as the organist at New York’s St. Patrick Cathedral, where the piece was first performed. The concerto is an extended counterpoint between the organ and the piano, with the organ’s impressive sonic range often seeming to suspend indefinitely in time. The last movement begins with fast repeated chords on the hands and ends with a pedal cadenza in A-minor that seems to expand and contract space.
Another transporting piece in our program is Ponchielli’s I Lituani, an almost-forgotten opera. It was last performed in the U.S. in Chicago in 1991. Inspired by an early 19th-century Polish epic poem, with a libretto by frequent Verdi collaborator Antonio Ghislanzoni, it is the work of a composer at the height of his powers. Often compared to Verdi’s Aida, the similarities extended beyond the common source of the libretto (Ghislanzoni)—from the melodic and harmonic patterns to the somber orchestration and imaginative integration of the sections. Solo sections seamlessly act as parts of the larger design, duets and trios build into choral passages, with the chorus harmonizing this rich and complex polyphony throughout the opera.
Polyphony is in full display again for Ottorino Respighi’s “L’ultimo dì di maggio,” a song whose harmonies are as intricate as its origins. The melodic source is a Baroque composition for lute by Simone Molinaro. Respighi, a consummate musicologist, quoted it in his first movement of Suite #1 of his suites for orchestra, “Ancient Airs and Dances for Lute.” American composer, Robert Sieving then paired Respighi’s orchestral arrangement with a Baroque poem, turning it into a song for mixed voices. What transforms and what remains intact during this chain translation—from lute to orchestra to choir?
Of course, the process of translation continues with each performance. Our eclectic, 50-person chorus contains and seamlessly blends together an impressive array of voices—people from different countries, fluent Italian speakers and non-speakers alike, with a 75-year age span between our youngest and oldest member.
There is just one last ingredient that we have yet to account for in the performance: you, our audience. The energy you bring to the experience fuses the harmonies and through this mysterious process, together, we make music.
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We are a classical chorus that sings music from the Italian language repertoire in order to keep this music alive within the Boston community. In doing so, we also strive to improve our individual musical skills and our knowledge of Italian language, as well as to attract more members who seek to do the same.
The Coro-Dante, New England’s all-Italian repertoire chorus of the Dante Alighieri Society, is in our tenth year. Rehearsals are Monday nights from 7:00-8:30 PM at the Dante Alighieri Society (directions). We are a four-part (Soprano/Alto/Tenor/Bass) chorus conducted by Kevin Galiè, M.M., J.D., with concerts three times a year: October 1st, Christmas and Spring. New members are always welcome. This is a fun group of about 60 persons of all ages who are interested in singing in Italian, Italian music and culture, and making friends.
If you have any questions contact Kellie Gutman at email@example.com.