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Classical 101

The Show Must Go On for Fidelio at Ohio State

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FOUR AUDIO PIECES - ALL MUSIC   First things first. Here is the Ohio State University Men's Glee Club in the sublime Prisoner's Chorus from Beethoven's Fidelio, from a concert performance of the complete opera given at Mershon Auditorium on March 10, 2010, and broadcast live over WOSU: Marhsall Haddock conducted the performance. The Men's Glee Club is prepared and conducted by Robert Ward O welche Lust! In freir Luft, dem Atem leicht zu heben! O what joy, to breathe with ease in the open air! [audio:fidelio-prisoners-act-1.mp3] Fidelio is a musical and emotional gut punch anyway, but the days preceding this performance were not for the feint of heart. The performance was heavily promoted around the participation of a world class tenor who was busy in Australia and Italy in the weeks leading up to March 10. No problem. The guy is in demand and his presence on campus would be worth waiting for. And in every breath, uttered by me and others, it was "Fidelio at Ohio State with Joe Blow."  Comes two days before the performance when the word is out that Joe Blow ain't coming. So the opera has to go on without Blow, or more to the point without a tenor to sing Florestan, which is a role very few tenors have the cojones to sing well. I grew up hearing Jon Vickers do the role, so my standards are impossibly high, and Jon Vickers in his 80s is living a happy retirement in Bermuda. But bing-o, tenor Michael Hendrick is en route to save the show. He gets off a plane at 9 pm on March 8 while the first dress rehearsal is going on, comes in to Mershon auditorium  with his coat on and luggage in hand, gets on stage and sings...and sings...WOW! [audio:fidelio-ten-or-aria.mp3] Okay, so now we have a terrific new tenor in place, the OSU Symphony and Glee Clubs sound wonderful, conductor Marshall Haddock is in command and its all good. Isn't it? Well, second dress rehearsal Tuesday night March 9 goes okay. And then. And then. AND THEN my phone rings at 4 pm, four hours before show time letting me know that our beloved soprano who is to sing the title role, a distinguished OSU alumna with a great voice and a sweetheart to boot is ill and has CANCELLED. So on four hours notice we have no Fidelio. And the opera is called Fidelio in case you forgot. Luckily, Jennifer Whitehead is pursuing doctoral study at OSU, and is a gifted, lovely experienced soprano and she is ready to go on. Talk about "first things first." She is reported to have said, "I gotta go buy a dress." Which she did and looked glorious). So Jennifer Whitehead, who to my knowledge has had no rehearsal with orchestra, who has never sung this role before, who had a few hours notice, comes out in the snappy new dress, score in hand and the girl delivers. Here's the Act I quartet, Mir ist so wunderbar (and it bloody well was) Helen Allen (Marzelline) Jennifer Whitehead (Fidelio)  C.Andrew Blosser (Jaquino) and Calvin Griffin (Rocco) [audio:fidelio-act-1-quartet.mp3] Some very gifted singers here. I'm told Calvin Girfin is an undergrad. Write his name down. Andy Blosser is a jewel and I'm in love with Helen Allen's voice. Jenifer Whitehead saved the show and brought honor to herself and Beethoven. OSU should have at least paid for the dress. At the end,  it was a great evening for the School of Music at The Ohio State University. It was a joy for us to be involved and to have a live broadcast for OSU listeners. Don't believe me about the joy part?  Here's the finale, with our soloists and the OSU Women's and Men's Glee Clubs, Richard Schnipke and Robert Ward, conductors, all led by the man who made it happen, Marshall Haddock: [audio:fidelio-final-finale.mp3] Jennifer sings like a dream and gets a new dress and thanks to our broadcast locally and over the web, the world knows about the fine School of Music at the Ohio State University. Bravo School of Music, Bravo Beethoven and Bravo WOSU!