Music can wear many faces. It can be inspiring, depressing, romantic, calming, and many more things.
Reportedly our intelligence agencies have even learned it can be used as a method of torture.
Fortunately, many people still love music which is beautiful. Fredonia's 1891 Opera House invites you to attend tonight, when they will offer a full evening of beautiful music.
Husband and wife team John and Stephanie Sikora will be singing a full evening of music which they have titled ''From Boheme to Broadway.'' Their accompanist will be pianist Elenora Seib.
The evening begins with works from ''Don Giovanni'' and ''Faust'' among other operas, then steps back to present lighter works from ''The Merry Widow'' and ''Street Scene,'' and then finally rolls out favorites from Lerner and Lowe, Rogers and Hammerstein, and George and Ira Gershwin.
The evening will begin at 8 p.m. Tickets are $15 for the general public, $13 for members of the Opera House, and $6 for students. You may purchase them by phone, if you call today between 2 and 5 p.m., or in person at the door, assuming there are any unsold. You may also purchase them on line, by going to www.fredopera.org.
The Opera House is located in the Fredonia Village Hall, which is located on Barker Plaza, which is the small green at the very heart of the village.
I'd like to tell you some thing about the coming concert, then about a very different production which has recently opened in the Village of Fredonia, and then, since I have some extra space, to share some views of some recordings I have recently received.
Stephanie Sikora is well known throughout Ohio and the Midwest. She has sung more than 100 performances with Cleveland Opera on Tour, and has had principal roles in ''The Merry Widow,'' ''Hansel and Gretel,'' ''Mikado'' and ''Die Fledermaus.''
She has been guest soloist on four occasions with the Cleveland Orchestra, including performances of ''An Evening of Gilbert and Sullivan,'' under the baton of Robert Page, ''Bernstein's Broadway,'' conducted by Leonard Slatkin, and the world premiere of ''Song in Sorrow,'' by Augusta Reed Thomas, conducted by Jahjah Ling. She has been soloist in a great many concert performances of vocal works, including the Mozart ''Requiem,'' the Beethoven ''Choral Fantasy'' and ''Spring Forward for Opera,'' at Artpark, in Lewiston.
She has returned in the past year from a sabbatical leave to study opera as presented in Germany. While there, she was invited to present master classes in the cities of Bielefeld, Muenster, Detmold, Kassel, and Bonn.
Among the works she will be performing in Fredonia, this evening, will be the sultry ''Barcarolle'' from ''Tales of Hoffmann,'' the elegant ''The Merry Widow Waltz,'' from the operetta of the same name, and the exquisite ''Summertime'' from ''Porgy and Bess.''
John Sikora has sung more than 20 leading roles with regional opera companies around the country. These include both Figaro and Dr. Bartolo in''The Marriage of Figaro,'' Rocco in ''Fidelio,'' Leporello in ''Don Giovanni,'' and Osmin in ''The Abduction from the Seraglio.''
Among his co-stars have been Rohn Reardon, Carol Neblett, Vernon Hartman, and Diana Soviero. Among the directors whose productions he has headlined have been Boris Goldovsky, John DeMain, Anton Guardagno, and Bruno Aprea.
He sang the world premiere of ''Holy Blood and Crescent Moon,'' at Cleveland Opera, and was featured in the American premiere of Martinu's ''War Requiem.''
He is currently Director of Opera at Kent State University, in Ohio, where he often serves as stage director of productions ranging from ''La Traviata'' to ''Die Fledermaus.''
As previously stated, the piano accompanist for the evening will be Buffalo resident Elenora Seib. Ms. Seib is currently music associate at Westminster Presbyterian Church of Buffalo.
The has been organist at a number of Buffalo area churches, and has served as musical director and/or accompanist for SUNY Buffalo Opera Studio, Western New York Opera Theatre, Greater Buffalo Opera Company, Opera Sacra, ArtPark, and at The Chautauqua Institution School of Music.
She has given concerts in Stratford-upon-Avon, England; Paris' Edinburgh, Dublin, Killarney, and in Hawaii. She is a member of the faculty of Niagara University, where she teaches voice classes in the Theatre and Fine Arts Department.
It sounds like an outstanding concert, and should make the drive to Fredonia tonight, well worth the effort.
Last evening, the Department of Theater and Dance at SUNY Fredonia, opened a production of the recent smash Broadway show, ''Urinetown: The Musical.'' It will play tonight and Feb. 26-28 at 8 p.m. There will be a matinee performance tomorrow at 2 p.m. The performances are in the Bartlett Theater, in the Rockefeller Arts Center, on the Fredonia campus.
The show debuted at the beginning of this decade, and rapidly won a huge following with its parodies of traditional Broadway favorites and its setting in a period of economic depression, sometime in the near future.
Isn't that ironic.
The release I have doesn't contain ticket prices. You can inquire by phoning 673-3501, or toll free, (866) 441-4928. You may also investigate at www.fredonia.edu/tickets. The Bartlett is a very small theater, so I advise obtaining tickets in advance, before driving to Fredonia.
Speaking of the differing types of music, the compositions of Anton Grigoryevich Rubinstein tend to be popular with listeners all across the spectrum of tastes and interests.
Trained and experienced listeners then to love them for their complexity and structural excellence. More casual listeners tend to love their strong melodies and their passionate evocation of human emotions.
Rubinstein was born in Russia, in 1829, and died in 1893. During his life, he was best known as a virtuoso pianist, who was often considered the only rival for the talents of Franz Liszt. Since his death, his compositions have come forward to receive recognition. He wrote 17 operas, six symphonies, five piano concerti, plus numerous concerti for cello and violin, and a great deal of chamber music.
Rubinstein was born in Moscow, but made his career all over Europe, performing often in Paris, the Netherlands and Great Britain. In the last years of his life, he was increasingly criticized because of his beliefs that music exists outside the forces of nationalism. As the first World War approached and enormous social pressures were brought to bear on composers to add nationalistic folk music and even national anthems to their works, Rubinstein held out for his belief that excellent music could be representative of anyone, regardless of citizenship.
In recent years, the composer's music has enjoyed a renaissance, as listeners tend to enjoy them for themselves and not because they evoke Russia or Germany or any particular nationality.
Two beautiful young musicians have recently released a recording of two of Rubinstein's sonatas. Nokuthula Ngwenyama performs viola in ''Sonata for Viola and Piano, Op. 49,'' and the violin part for ''Sonata No. 1 in G Major for Violin and Piano, Op. 13.''
Jennifer Lim is pianist for both works.
Both works are passionate and very dramatic. The viola sonata is one of the very earliest works from the composer's mature period. It does still betray some quotation of Russian folk melodies.
Those who are used to the more frequently-used violin may be startled by the darker, richer sound of the viola. It has many qualities which resemble the cello, and a friend who heard me playing the recording asked ''Who is the cellist?''
The sound reproduction of the recording is true and pleasing. The variety of tone colors and sonorities is accurately reproduced.
The sweet tautness of the violin, from the second recording, is appealing in itself, as well as serving as a stark contrast from the earlier work.
The violinist displays excellent technique, while both performing and illustrating the romanticism which is the soul all of Rubinstein's creations.
Ms. Lim is a sensitive and intelligent accompanist, always highlighting and serving as the platform from which the string instruments can launch their songs, their tirades, their storms.
It is a very fine recording and a welcome addition to any classical library. It's on the Edi label, and bears the catalog number EDI0241. Purchase it through your favorite classical music store, or from any number of on line sellers, with a sale price in the neighborhood of $13.50.
The next recording seems as though it should be confessed, like a guilty secret.
It is commonly believed that when someone creates a work of genius, he has the right to expect that it will be performed or exhibited in the way in which he has created it. On the other hand, sometimes an interpretive genius can cast a totally new light on the work of a creative genius.
The liner notes for ''Stokowski Transcriptions'' suggests that it cannot be denied that when Johann Sebastian Bach composed his wonderful compositions, he couldn't possibly have heard in his ear the music being performed on a baroque organ while tired choir boys tried to pump fast enough to keep the organ's bellows full of air. No doubt, it claims, he heard to power and the versatility of a full symphony orchestra.
Frankly, I think that's hogwash. Bach never heard a symphony orchestra in his life, so he is not likely to have had one ringing in his ears, while he wrote his music.
Most music lovers are familiar with the fact that famed conductor Leopold Stokowski played fast and loose with a number of Bach's compositions. He took the basic music and transcribed it for a full orchestra. While he was at it, he added romantic qualities such as passionate crescendos, emotionally lengthened pauses, and the like.
If you've ever seen Walt Disney's wonderful cartoon tribute to classical music, ''Fantasia,'' you've heard Stokowski's transcription of Bach's ''Toccata and Fugue in D minor, BWV 565.'' Musical purists shudder at the thought and decry how it isn't what it should be.
It turns out the Stokowski transcribed a great many other Bach works for a full orchestra, plus the works of a number of other composers, as well. England's Bournemouth Symphony, under the baton of Jose Serebrier, has recently released a collection of 17 of these giant confections.
In fact, 10 of the transcriptions on the CD have never been published.
Bach composed 11 of the works on the album, of which four were previously unpublished. The remaining transcriptions are by Palestrina, Byrd, Jeremiah Clarke, Boccherini, Mattheson, and Haydn.
Interestingly, the Bach works seem to have made the most successful leaps from solo organ or small, baroque ensemble to full, modern symphony orchestras. The widely diverse sound qualities of the different instruments highlights to power and the skillful inter-mingling of themes and sub-themes which is sometimes masked by the less diverse ranks of the organ.
Other works on the disc are less successful. I especially found that true with Jeremiah Clarke's ''The Prince of Denmark's March,'' which for many years was believed to have been composed by William Purcell, and to the sounds of which many modern brides make their majestic tramp down the aisle.
Like a diamond, resting on a mirror, the brilliance of the solo trumpet and the brilliance of the accompaniment which Stokowski has created for the orchestra, seem to cancel one another out.
Still, for me, the album was like seeing a beloved friend of many years in an unexpected and uncharacteristic role. It doesn't take the place of fine performances of the original compositions, yet I enjoy listening to the album very much, even though I know all the reasons why I probably shouldn't.
If you want to give it a try, the CD can be ordered through any number of sellers of classical music. It was just released in January of 2009, on the Naxos label, and bears the catalog number 8.572050. I found it for sale at $7.99.