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The “Ninth” for Marathon Bombing Victims


All men shall become brothers
All men shall become brothers

During the manhunt for the Boston Marathon bombers and the consequent closing of downtown Boston last April, a number of important cultural events had to be cancelled. Among these collateral casualties were the final concerts of Boston Philharmonic’s season. Now rescheduled, and with an additional concert added, the Boston Philharmonic 2013-14 season will open in Symphony Hall with Beethoven’s 9th Symphony, conducted by Benjamin Zander , with the Chorus Pro Musica and soloists Michele Johnson, Sarah Heltzel, Yeghishe Manucharyan and Robert Honeysucker. The first performance on Monday September 30th in Symphony Hall will be dedicated to the victims of the Marathon bombings and their families, all of whom have been invited to attend as guests of the orchestra. Governor Patrick will be in attendance, as will be several first responders. An additional performance in Worcester’s Mechanics Hall will take place on October 3rd. As second performance in Symphony Hall will be at 8:00 pm on October 4th. Zander will precede each concert with a talk on “The Ninth,” providing guidance for those with little or no musical background.

Zander says “The Beethoven Ninth remains after two hundred year’s music’s ultimate affirmation of the indomitable human spirit. No other work delivers this particular powerful message in music that is understandable by everyone, everywhere. Perhaps its sublime message will be even more meaningful to us now that the tragedy is in the past, and we have seen, and played our own part in, the extraordinary heroism, compassion and healing that has been our city’s response to an act of terror.”

His interpretation of the Ninth from over 20-years-ago was noted for a radical approach to the tempi, taking the composer at his word as regards the metronome marks: The Music Critic of the New Yorker Magazine wrote “If Mr. Zander is right we have been hearing the music of the greatest composer only in misrepresentation.” The concert will open with Beethoven’s Overture to Coriolan. “The tragic, annihilated ending of this overture—unique in Beethoven’s works—provides a powerful counterweight to the joyous resolution of the Ninth.”

The collaborating artists are as follows:

Chorus Pro Musica, consisting of 120 singers performs works from the Renaissance to the present, with emphasis on new and rarely performed choral music, as well as major works in collaboration with other music organizations. In its long history CpM has performed with the Boston Symphony on many recordings, as well as in concerts in Symphony Hall and Carnegie Hall. With the Boston Philharmonic it has performed innumerable times over the last 35 years, including performances of Beethoven’s Ninth Symphony and Mahler’s Symphonies Nos. 2 and 8 in Carnegie Hall, and also Beethoven’s Missa Solemnis and the Requiems of Brahms and Verdi in Symphony Hall. This concert will be their first under their new music director Jamie Kirsch.

Michelle Johnson, Soprano, a Grand Prize winner of the 2011 Metropolitan Opera National Council Auditions, is a graduate of the Academy of Vocal Arts in Philadelphia. She has performed in the title role of Suor Angelica, Leonora in Oberto, Donna Anna in Don Giovanni, the Countess in Capriccio, and Alice Ford in Falstaff. During the 2012/13 season, she made her debut with Opera Santa Barbara as Aida, and she returned to Houston’s Opera in the Heights to sing Alice Ford in Falstaff. Future engagements including a return to Opera Philadelphia for Donna Anna in Don Giovanni.

Sarah Heltzel, Mezzo-Soprano is noted for her powerful stage presence and vocalism. The Houston Chronicle acclaimed, “Heltzel sets the stage ablaze with her vocal and dramatic pyrotechnics,” while the New York Times noted of her performance in The Saint of Bleecker Street, “Sarah Heltzel, vocally striking and visually appealing, walked away with the second act as Desideria.”

A 2012 grant recipient from the Wagner Society of New York, Ms. Heltzel made her Seattle Opera debut in 2005 as Siegrune and Flosshilde in Wagner’s Der Ring des Nibelungen, for which she returned in 2009 and will again in 2013.

Of tenor Yeghishe Manucharyan’s Carnegie Hall debut in December 2003 as Percy in Donizetti’s Anna Bolena with the Opera Orchestra of New York, Newsday reported, “Armenian tenor Yeghishe Manucharyan offered a winsome portrayal of Percy, his elegant and affecting voice possessing a gorgeous, veiled tone a bit reminiscent of renowned Italian tenor Giuseppe di Stefano. If this outing is any indication, Manucharyan is definitely worth keeping an eye on.”

Baritone Robert Honeysucker has inspired critical acclaim: “…powerful, passionate and plaintive….a voice that possesses great richness and warmth.” Honored as 1995 “Musician of the Year” by The Boston Globe critic Richard Dyer, Mr. Honeysucker has also been a winner of the National Opera Association Artists Competition and a recipient of the New England Opera Club Jacopo Peri Award. His many performances with the Boston Symphony Orchestra, include an appearance as soloist in Beethoven’s Ninth Symphony, in celebration of Seiji Ozawa’s twenty-fifth season as Music Director. He has most recently appeared as Second Prisoner, in Beethoven’s Fidelio, conducted by James Levine. Mr. Honeysucker is a member of Videmus, as well as member and co-founder of the Jubilee Trio, which presents American art songs, including those of under-performed African American composers.

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