Romeo and Juliet in concert

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Location: Morris Performing Arts Center

Shakespeare’s immortal tale of young love has inspired composers for more than a century. Enjoy musical settings by Tchaikovsky, Gounod, and Prokofiev with the South Bend Symphony Orchestra performing with actors from Shakespeare at Notre Dame.

- Tchaikovsky Romeo and Juliet Fantasy Overture
- Gounod Selections from Romeo and Juliet
- Prokofiev Selections from Romeo and Juliet

Tsung Yeh, Conductor

Tickets: $14.50-$68.50 (PURCHASE)


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LAURA PORTUNE (Soprano) Notre Dame alumna, Laura Portune, has sung over forty operatic roles, including three world premieres internationally and regionally.  Hailed as "simply outstanding in every way," Ms. Portune has performed as VIOLETTA in La Traviata, CUNEGONDE in Candide, GILDA in Rigoletto, JULIETTE in Romèo et Juliette, and MUSETTA in La Bohème to critical acclaim with the San Diego Opera, Dayton Opera, Indianapolis Opera, Lyric Opera San Diego, Des Moines Metro Opera, Lake George Opera, Opera Columbus, and the Southern Illinois Music Festival.  Equally at home on the concert stage, Ms. Portune has performed with the North Czech Philharmonic (Teplice, Czech Republic), Greek Orchestra (Athens, Greece) AIMS Orchestra (Graz, Austria), Dayton Philharmonic, Chicago Chamber Orchestra, Southern Illinois Symphony, Heisey Wind Ensemble (OH), and Central Ohio Symphony. Upcoming performances include JEMMY in William Tell and Auf dem Strom with the Southern Illinois Music Festival, and a world premiere with the Central Ohio Symphony.

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WESLEY DUNNAGAN (Tenor) has performed in the U.S and abroad. His opera appearances include Così fan tutte (Ferrando), Der Schauspieldirektor (Vogelsang), Gianni Schicchi (Rinuccio), Henry Cowell’s The Commission (Jonathan), and the premiere of Giancarlo Aquilanti’s First Night at the Opera. Concert appearances include Mendelssohn’s Elijah with baritone Nathan Gunn in the title role, Handel’s Messiah, La resurrezione, and Ode for St. Cecilia’s Day, Mozart’s Vesperae solennes de confessore K. 339, Coronation Mass K. 317, and Missa Brevis in C-major K. 259, Haydn’s Nelsonmesse, and Copland’s The Tender Land Opera Suite. As a recitalist, he has presented Robert Schumann’s song cycles Dichterliebe and Liederkreis, Op. 39 and other diverse art song repertoire.  Wesley received a BA in German Studies and Music from Stanford University, and spent a year as a DAAD Scholar at the Berlin University of the Arts. He is currently a graduate student at the University of Notre Dame.

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SHANARA GABRIELLE (Actor) is happy to be joining the South Bend Symphony Orchestra and returning to South Bend after playing Queen Hermione in TheWinter’s Tale at Notre Dame Shakespeare in 2015! Regional Highlights Include: Ilona in She Loves Me at the Guthrie Theater; A Christmas Carol at Actors Theatre of Louisville;​ Blithe Spirit at Great Lakes Theater/Idaho Shakespeare; Clybourne ParkThe Comedy of Errors,​ and Macbeth at The Repertory Theatre of St. Louis; Black Pearl Sings! at The Black Rep; The Love List at American Heartland Theatre; OthelloLove’s Labour’s Lost,​ and Twelfth Night at Great River Shakespeare Festival; Rime of the Ancient Mariner at Upstream Theater; Maple and Vine at HotCity Theatre, Hannah Senesh at New Jewish Theatre, and​ Guys and Dolls and Lend Me a Tenor at Northern Stage. New York Highlights ​Include: The Wild PartyThe TruthMeet Me In St. LouisThe American Girls Revue,​ and In The MoodFilm & Television Highlights ​Include: Chicago FireConvictionGuiding Light, numerous commercials and independent films. Additional Credits: B.F.A. from Webster Conservatory, Princess Grace Foundation Award, AEA, SAG-AFTRA.  shanaragabrielle.com

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NICK SANDYS (Actor) most recently appeared as Holmes in the new musical The Man Who Murdered Sherlock Holmes at The Mercury Theatre in Chicago. He is the Producing Artistic Director of Remy Bumppo Theatre Company, appearing in An Inspector Calls, The Goat Or, Who Is Sylvia? (Chicago Magazine Best Actor 2011), Les Liaisons Dangereuses, The Real Thing, Tartuffe, Arcadia, The Secret Rapture, No Man’s Land, and Hapgood, among others, as well as directing the acclaimed productions of Life of Galileo, Travesties and Our Class. Elsewhere, he has performed at First Folio (Artistic Associate), Goodman, Northlight, Light Opera Works, Next Theatre, Marriott, Lookingglass, Chicago Shakespeare, Writers' Theatre, Cleveland Play House, Syracuse Stage, Riverside Shakespeare, and Madison Repertory, among others. Nick is also a certified Fight Director with The Society of American Fight Directors, teaching at The Theatre School at DePaul since 1995, and his combat choreography has been seen all over Chicagoland, most recently in Lyric Opera’s Bel Canto, as well as on Broadway and at The Metropolitan Opera. He is the recipient of fourteen Joseph Jefferson Nominations, an After Dark Award, and a 2011 Achievement Award from The Helen Coburn Meier and Tim Meier Charitable Foundation for the Arts.             


Masterworks III Program Details

Romeo and Juliet Fantasy Overture (1880) – Piotr Tchaikovsky

Piotr Il’yich Tchiakovsy was born May 7, 1840 in Kamsko-Votkinsk, Russia and died Nov 6, 1893 in St. Petersburg. The “Fantasy Overture” Romeo and Juliet was composed in 1869 and twice revised, with the final version completed in 1880 and premiered May 1, 1886 in Tbilisi with Mikhail Ippolitov-Ivanov conducting.   It is scored for piccolo, 2 flutes, 2 oboes, English horn, 2 clarinets, 2 bassoons, 4 horns, 2 trumpets, 3 trombones, tuba, percussion, harp, and strings. The work lasts approximately 20 minutes.

The life and music of Tchaikovsky has been a source of almost constant discourse since his death. Whether focused on the merits of his composition, his conflicted personal life or, as is most common, the intersection between them, ideas have shifted depending on where and when the commentary is coming from. Yet regardless of this stormy reputation, Tchaikovsky’s music has remained immensely popular and is now firmly embedded in our culture. Like Handel’s Messiah, strains of Tchaikovsky’s Nutcracker greet us each Christmas season, and we celebrate our independence with his 1812 Overture, despite it being written to celebrate Russia’s victory over Napoleon. Tchaikovsky’s music, mixing Russian nationalism with Western European symphonic tradition, and above all imbued with a potent emotional vigor, has now been captivating audiences for over a century.

A young Tchaikovsky was encouraged to write an overture based on Romeo and Juliet by fellow Russian composer Mily Balakirev (1837-1910), his ardent supporter. Unfortunately, his first attempt at the work was poorly received at its 1870 premiere. He went about revising the work, settling on final version in 1880, including adding the dark opening clarinet and bassoon chords and the unforgiving ending in C minor. This version finally earned Tchaikovsky positive recognition and the Glinka Prize. The overture is an independent work, not written to accompany a specific dramatic work, but to represent Shakespeare’s play in, as Tchaikovsky’s title implies, a musical fantasy.

Selections from Romeo and Juliet (1867) – Charles-François Gounod

Charles-François Gounod was born June 17, 1818 in Paris, and died October 18, 1893 in Saint-Cloud, France. His opera Roméo et Juliette was begun in 1865 and went through a series of revisions, including adding a ballet scene in 1888. It was first performed April 27, 1867, at the Théâtre Lyrique in Paris, with Adolphe Deloffre conducting. The selections performed this evening last approximately 18 minutes.

Charles Gounod rose to prominence in the crowded and political Parisian musical scene after a series of well-received performances and was appointed director of the Paris Orphéon in 1851. For the next two decades he had a series of important opera premieres, though they weren’t universally popular (in Paris, nothing was without criticism).  Gounod’s fortunes turned during the tumultuous Franco-Prussian War, which caused him to flee France for England where he remained for several years. His absence from Paris, along with some rather scandalous incidents in his private life, led to him falling out of favor in the major circles and he retreated both musically and personally. Grand opera gave way to sacred choral works and solo song, and Gounod’s works stand as some of the finest French contributions to these genres.

The libretto for Romeo et Juliette was adapted from Shakespeare’s play by Jules Barbier and Michel Carré, the same authors who collaborated with Gounod on five of his previous operas. Three excerpts from the opera appear on this concert. Juliet’s introduction is her waltz-aria “Je veux vivre” from Act I, in which she sings to her nurse about the joys of being young and free, having no interest in marrying Count Paris. Later, in Act II, Romeo declares his love in “Lève-toi, soleil” while watching Juliet on the balcony. After the tragic fight between Mercutio, Tybalt, and Romeo in Act IV, the two young lovers meet on their wedding night and sing their duet “Nuit d’hyménée”.

Selections from Romeo and Juliet (1936) – Sergei Prokofiev

Sergei Prokofiev was born April 23, 1891 in Sonstovka, Ukraine, and died March 5, 1953 in Moscow.  The ballet Romeo and Juliet was composed between 1935 and 1936 and premiered in Brno on December 30, 1938.  The suites are scored for piccolo, 2 flutes, 2 oboes, English horn, 2 clarinets, bass clarinet, tenor saxophone, 2 bassoons, contrabassoon, 4 horns, 2 trumpets, cornet, 3 trombones, tuba, percussion, piano, celesta, harp, and strings. The selections performed this evening last approximately 38 minutes.

Sergei Prokofiev’s career is a profound representation of the times in which he lived. He came of age in an increasingly nationalist Russia, and enjoyed stirring up the establishment with his modern musical style. Yet the Revolution was more than he had in mind, so he left his embattled country to live and work in the United States for several years and then moved to Europe where he spent almost a decade in Paris. The exact reasons he decided to return to the Soviet Union in 1936 are unknown, but it was a fateful decision. Almost immediately the special privileges he was promised were withdrawn, and he had to fall in line with increasingly strict cultural constraints. His works from this time vary from underperformed masterpieces to droll pieces composed for official events. The final blow came when on March 5, 1953, both he and Stalin died on the same day, completely overshadowing the passing of one of the greatest 20th century composers.

Prokofiev extracted three orchestral suites from his ballet Romeo and Juliet: two at the time of composition, and a third in 1946. The excerpts are selected from each of the three suites and are performed in roughly the order they appear in the full ballet. The stormy “Montagues and Capulets” serves as a prelude, as in the play, setting up the conflict between the two noble houses. We then meet the two main characters in “Romeo at the Fountain” and “The Child Juliet”—these delightful pieces offer no hint at the tragedy about to unfold. We also hear the calming melodies of “Friar Laurence” accompanying the well-intentioned priest.  In “Masks”, the Montagues make their entrance into the Capulet’s ball before the famous balcony scene comes to life in “Romeo and Juliet”. Prokofiev’s stirring love themes emerge in full orchestral glory before receding into the night. The action then cuts to “The Death of Tybalt” depicting the duel in which Romeo kills Tybalt, sealing his and Juliet’s fate. The final two numbers: “Romeo at the Grave of Juliet” and “The Death of Juliet” need no explanation, other than to say that Prokofiev’s masterful music renders fresh and captivating one of the best-known endings in storytelling.

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