Rienzi Takes Avery Fisher Hall Under Eve Queler

Opera Orchestra of New York Demolishes Rome

By: - Jan 30, 2012

queler queler queler queler queler

By Richard Wagner based on the Bulwer-Lytton novel.
The Opera Orchestra of New York

Eve Queler, Conductor
Avery Fisher Hall
January 29, 2012
Cast: Ian Storey (Rienzi), Elisabeta Matos (Irene), Geraldine Chauvet (Adriano), Philip Horst (Colonna),  Brandon Cedel (Raimondo), Ricardo Rivera (Paolo Orsini), Shannon DeVine (Cecco del Vecchio), Emily Duncan-Brown (Messenger of Peace)

Summering in Blasewitz in 1837, Richard Wagner selected Baron Edward Bulwer-Lytton’s novel on Rienzi as a fit subject for opera.  Bulwer imagined the many trumpets we hear in the score, which realizes the dream he dreamed for Rienzi.  He did not emphasize the developed relationship between this opera’s Romeo and Juliet, Adriano and Irene.  That was left to Mary Russell Mitford.

Byron also had written about Rienzi in Child Harold, “Redeemer of dark centuries of shame…the friend of Petrarch – hope of Italy, Rienzi, last of the Romans.  The forum’s champion and the people’s chief…” 

Historian Edward Gibbon wrote “Amid indulgence and eloquence, Petrarch, Italy and Europe were astonished by a revolution which realized for a moment his (Rienzi's) most splendid visions.”  

Giacomo Meyerbeer was a star in Paris when Wagner arrived, Rienzi in process. Meyerbeer paved the path for a premier in Dresden.  The performance lasted more than the six hours allotted to each of three segments of the Ring (of course, 18 hours altogether) and the audience went wild. The work has been presented on two evenings and also in an abbreviated form condensed by the composer.  

An authoritative edition of the original was last known to be in Hitler’s hands and has not been found.  Among opera buffs who feel Wagner is the greatest composer in the form, what is often called the Rienzi melody, prominent in the overture and reprised in the beautiful prayer of Act V, is considered the very finest.

That Adolf Hitler agreed has sensibly failed to erase this piece from the repertoire.  After all, Bulwer-Lytton wrote in his Rienzi novel: "May Lucifer double damn those German cutthroats."  Although documentary films on Fuhrer rallies often feature the melody, this early Italian opera of Wagner’s continues to be mounted and its grandeur makes for grand theater, even in concert form.  Eve Queler brought forward the glorious music as she conducted a performance which she designed to maximize the score and singing.

Ian Storey, who recently sang Siegfried to acclaim in San Francisco, is an unusually dramatic heldentenor, who at appropriate moments elicits the lyricism of love and caring, and at others a soft, pensive quality.  When his voice comes through the head in classic heldentenor form, it easily pierces a large orchestra and chorus.

Elisabete Matos caused a sensation as Minnie in Girl of the Golden West at the Metropolitan Opera in fall 2010 when she was scheduled for one performance and then subbed for the ailing Deborah Voight.  She sang in Nabucco too.   Matos’ repertoire is wide ranging, but in this dramatic role, she hit high notes with clarity and brilliance.  Ringing out at the top in this, the highest of Wagner’s soprano roles, she pulled back for quieter moments with remarkable dramatic control.

Geraldine Chauvet, a French mezzo-soprano, made her American debut as Adriano.  She started tentatively, but soon warmed to the occasion. Her rich, yet delicately etched interpretation of the role brought the house down, as she made the most of her famous aria, Gerechter Gott. 

Calling young singers to our attention is a mission of the OONY’s, and in presenting Chauvet, Eve Queler yet again served us.  So too with the short but arresting appearance of lush soprano Emily Duncan-Brown as the Messenger of Peace.  Queler is committed to filling at least one role with a cover from the previous season.  At intermission, Duncan-Brown roamed the lobby, bathed in well-deserved praise for a beautiful performance. 

All the smaller roles were filled by singers of the first order.  Shannon DeVine, who we noted in the Encompass New Opera production of I Tre Compagni, was a standout. 

Most striking was the natural surround sound Queler provided to give us an even fuller sense of the opera's grandness.  Vox Nova of the Special Music School under Emily John, dip-stepped down one aisle singing, positioned itself at orchestra level in front of the stage and then returned.  Later they were followed by a group of men substituting for the West Point Glee Club who had bowed out due to a ‘recent military ruling.’  They patterned the same way as the young people, but were positively military in their bearing. 

Musicians played from the rear of the orchestra and from the balconies.  It was easy to imagine yourself present at the implosion of all Rome into a funeral pyre of the last Roman tribune.

Wagner would go on to a different concept of opera composition, but Queler has repeatedly made a marvelous case that Rienzi deserves preservation in the repertoire.  The Times had heralded a 1886 at the Metropolitan Opera House.  James Levine has included the overture with its most beautiful of beautiful Wagner melodies in galas.  What an opportunity for a wild staging the score offers.  Like Moses and Pharoah presented by the Collegiate Chorale late last year, the burning of Moscow in War and Peace pales by comparison with the end of Rome and the parting of the seas.  We are encouraging musically ept productions like Queler’s, however. 

Wagner conceived Rienzi as grand opera, on an extravagant and unprecedented scale. As part of a move into the future, Bayreuth will stage Rienzi for the first time in 2013.  Included also will be a rap based on one of Wagner’s librettos. 

Instead of driving us away after saturating our eyes and ears, Wagner provokes.  In this presidential election year in the US, Rienzi raises an important question: who is most likely to bring down the US with him as he makes a populist appeal?  


Note: West Point gave the following citation for the cancellation.  I was glad to see that it was not on the grounds of having fun off campus!


Chapter 7 Use of Military Assets for Public Affairs

7-1. Musical, aerial, ceremonial, and troop units— general.

a. Army commanders at all levels are encouraged to provide Army marching units, bands, color guards, drill teams, ceremonial units, other personnel formations or units, aerial demonstrations, static displays, exhibits and similar support for functions conducted in the public domain. Such units shall be used to maximize the number of public events that can be supported.

b. Requests for support that require DOD and/or DA approval will be forwarded through command channels to OCPA, or to HQDA (NGB-PAM) for ARNG units.

c. Requests for military support to public events will be submitted on DD Form 2535 (Request for Military Aerial Support) or DD Form 2536 (Request for Armed Forces Participation in Public Events (Non-Aviation)).

d. Requests from local event sponsors will be addressed to the nearest military installation and forwarded, if required, through command channels to the appropriate approval authority with local command recommendations.

7-2. Authorized participation for Army musical, ceremonial, and troop unit support

Army musical, ceremonial, and troop unit support participation is authorized for—

a. Official military functions whether on or off military installations.

b. Official civil ceremonies and functions sponsored and conducted by Federal, State, county, and municipal governments. This includes those conducted in overseas areas with corresponding authorities of the host nation. Official civil ceremonies include inaugurals, dedications of public buildings and projects, ceremonies for officially invited governmental visitors, and convening of legislative bodies.

c. Civilian-sponsored public events such as parades, rallies, and concerts intended to stimulate interest in the Armed Forces, support the Army recruiting mission, stimulate patriotism, or celebrate a national holiday.

d. Civilian-sponsored social, civic, and cultural events such as community concerts, banquets, dinners, receptions, carnivals, festivals, sports season openings, and anniversaries, if the musical participation includes patriotic music as opposed to pure entertainment and clearly establishes the support as an appearance by an Army unit. The patriotic portion of an Army presentation normally consists of military or patriotic songs, honors, and/or music to accompany the presentation of the colors.

e. Ceremonies, demonstrations and other public activities to support military recruiting; ROTC training programs, including military balls conducted for cadets and their guests; and physical fitness programs.

f. Military-sponsored social and entertainment activities held on or off military installations. Such functions are authorized solely for the benefit of military personnel and their guests.

(1) These activities are internal functions rather than public events. They may include a charge levied to defray expenses for food, beverages, and other incidentals.

(2) Using bands and other ceremonial unit support at military-sponsored social functions held off military installations is authorized only if a suitable military facility is not available.

g. Sports events/games, when possible, to provide maximum support to recruiting programs. Activities other than those described below require the approval of OASD(PA). Forward requests, using DD Form 2536, through channels to OCPA. Army participation in sports events is authorized under the following conditions:

(1) The game is a scheduled regular season event in which a military team competes and when such participation is in the best interests of the Army.

(2) The game is an amateur regular season event, even though admission is charged, and neither of the competing teams is military. Participation must be incidental to the event and in the best interest of DA. In addition, the event must be strictly local or regional.

(3) Local commanders may authorize color guards and Army musical units to participate in pregame activities at professional sports events and preseason or postseason collegiate events at no additional cost to the Government only when the following two conditions exist.

(a) The game is not being televised nationally.

(b) Such participation is confined to pregame or halftime activities associated with rendering proper honors to the colors, including a patriotic musical program.

h. Activities in shopping centers and malls to support recruiting. Local commanders must authorize such participation. The following guidelines must be met:

(1) All musicians must be in uniform.

(2) Community relations support must not be advertised or presented as a promotion for the shopping center or mall or for special business activities such as promotional sales.

(3) The primary purpose of the musical activity must be to gain attention and attract visitors to the recruiting display.

(4) The relationship between the location or event and the band members will not impact unfavorably on the Army and such appearance is not otherwise contrary to this regulation.

7-3. Prohibited participation by Army musicians

a. Army musicians on official duty are prohibited from providing background, dinner, or dance music at events sponsored by other than military or official Government personnel. The sponsor's charter or objective will not be grounds for exception.

b. Army bands and musicians on official duty are prohibited from receiving remuneration for furnishing music away from an installation in competition with local civilian musicians.

c. Unless specifically authorized by law or by DOD directive/instruction, no Army band, band member, or Army performer may receive pay in any form for official performance of duty in support of public events.

d. Generally, off-duty Army officers, warrant officers, and enlisted personnel are not barred from receiving pay for performing music outside the limits of a military installation, unless a complaint is received and verified by subsequent investigation that they are competing with local civilian musicians. Once a complaint is received and verified, the person may not return to that specific place of employment. Complaints of competing with local civilian musicians will be verified by facts on a case-by-case basis.

e. All Army band personnel are subject to the provisions of 10 USC 973 and 3634; DOD 5500.7-R; this regulation; and other local regulations governing off-duty employment.

f. Army participation and support is not authorized for the following:

(1) Motion picture premieres or regular movie presentations, fashion shows, or similar events sponsored or conducted solely for commercial interests.

(2) Parades sponsored solely to support commercial or promotional aspects of a holiday or event. Participating in a parade sponsored by the community as a whole may be authorized if the orientation of the parade is civic or patriotic rather than commercial. Regardless of sponsorship, certain events (such as Christmas parades) attract crowds in the local business district. When evaluating requests for support to such events, commanders must determine if the sponsor is cooperating with the spirit and intent of the foregoing policy and if the event will benefit the Army.

(3) Beauty contests, pageants, and similar events sponsored by civilians.

g. The duration of Army band and musician participation will not exceed three days per event. This is to ensure proper use of Army personnel and resources.

h. Policy on the impact of adverse weather on band activities is in AR 220-90.

7-4. Bands and other musical units

a. Tour procedures.

(1) All Army Bands (including special bands) in CONUS participating in public events that requires travel outside their normal PA area will coordinate through channels with OCPA in advance.

(2) All Army musical units in CONUS desiring to conduct concert tours must obtain prior approval from OCPA.

(3) All military service touring bands are assigned touring areas by OASD(PA). Tour areas are coordinated among the Services biannually (1 Jan-15 Jul and 16 Jul-3l Dec). Any tour by a band outside its assigned area requires the approval of OASD(PA) and the military department to which that area is assigned.

(4) Band tours outside continental United States (OCONUS) will not exceed 15 days without OASD(PA) approval. Tours to single locations will not exceed 7 days.

b. Guidelines.

(1) Musical support includes, but is not limited to, parades, concerts, choral presentations, patriotic openers or presentations, and other events where a band or band detachment performs.

(2) No event will receive the support of more than one band and/or choral group from any service without prior OASD(PA) approval. Commands receiving requests for such support will ensure that other DOD musical units are not scheduled to support the same event.

(3) Musical support of events sponsored by non-Federal entities is limited to patriotic, military, and other musical selections clearly demonstrating the professionalism of the performers and focusing attention on the performance as an Army music presentation. Authorized programs include concerts, parade participation, and patriotic presentations. Dinner music, background music, and dance music are not authorized at civilian sponsored events.

(4) Military musicians may attend music conferences or seminars for professional development and may perform nontraditional music as part of these programs.

(5) Background, dinner, or other social music programs are authorized for official DOD events on a military installation.

(6) Background, dinner, or other social music programs may be authorized for events held away from a military installation when the performance is in support of an official DOD event. When official DOD events are held away from a military installation, the appropriate commander must certify that suitable facility criteria, such as having authorized occupancy limits to meet an expected attendance size or being able to meet protocol considerations involving distinguished guests, are not available on a military installation.

(7) Musical units will only support memorial services if the deceased is authorized a state funeral, customary military honors, or is OASD(PA) approved. Additional restrictions on supporting non-Federal events are contained in DOD 5500.7-R, Section 3-211.

(8) Musical units may not perform back-up support for other entertainers at public programs held away from military installations unless the military musical unit performs as a featured participant and, if a band, it has received a waiver from the American Federation of Musicians.

(9) United States-based Army musical units may perform OCONUS only with the prior approval of OASD(PA), the appropriate OCONUS Commander, and the host nation. Refer all requests for OCONUS musical support to OCPA. Requests for OCONUS musical support may be approved only if—

(a) The event sponsor sends the request for support to the unified combatant commander or OASD(PA), as appropriate.

(b) The unified combatant command determines no in-theater assets are available and the event is sufficiently important to warrant CONUS assets.

(c) The OASD(PA) evaluates the request and, if approved, forwards it to the appropriate military service for action.