December 2013

Season's Greetings!
Rehearsal Highlights
Dvorak's "The Cunning Peasant"

Member Profile: Kathy Wnuk
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Dear Friends,

First things first: A big THANK YOU to all who attended our September performance of Elgar’s The Kingdom. We’re proud to announce that the auction and raffle at this concert raised more than $900, and we’re grateful for your support! A collection of photos from the concert, courtesy of Sarah Dorman, is available now on the Calliope Facebook page.

The holiday season is here, spreading celebratory music all over the Boston area. Among these joyful sounds, we turn the page for our next concert — from oratorio to comic opera — as we prepare a semi-staged performance of Antonín Dvorák’s Šelma Sedlák (The Cunning Peasant) in February. This will be the United States premiere of this work, and our performance will benefit the Boston Czech & Slovak Association. For more about our progress in rehearsals thus far, and for an in-depth look at the opera itself, read on!

The holidays also mean gift shopping for loved ones, and there's an easy way to support Calliope while you shop! Simply click through to through our web site, and Calliope will receive a percentage of your purchase at NO cost to you. Use the Amazon link on the Calliope Links page. We thank you in advance for your support. Happy shopping, and enjoy the holiday season!

Rehearsal Highlights

Although winter is upon us, we're warming up our voices and fingers as we rehearse for February's benefit concert. The first rehearsal of the season was a table-read for the vocal soloists. There was quite a bit of laughter, as expected for a comic opera! Though this initial read-through was in English, the piece will be performed in German, so the soloists and chorus are focusing on the language's nuances, to allow the audience to follow the plot and appreciate the story's humor. The instrumentalists and singers have individually rehearsed the piece, and from this point onward, rehearsals will bring the fun (and the challenges!) of all voices and instruments rehearsing together. We are looking forward to seeing our semi-staged version of this opera come together, as the soloists work to bring their characters to life!
Antonín Dvorák

Šelma Sedlák — Der Bauer ein Schelm — The Cunning Peasant

Antonín Dvořák composed in almost every genre. He wrote songs and duets, chamber music of all sizes and combinations, incidental music, choral works, orchestral works, piano music, and opera. A major contributor to the establishment of Czech opera, having composed 10 operas in all, his best known is Rusalka — made famous by “Song to the Moon.” Šelma Sedlák was Dvořák’s fifth opera.

Šelma Sedlák (which translates most literally to “The Beast Farmer”) reveals how Dvořák created a successful musical drama based on caste hierarchy and division, using comedy as a framework. He often championed the underdog (Bohemians, Native Americans, African Americans) with his compositions as his personal residue from the Czech people’s history of struggle. In Šelma Sedlák, the composer chooses humor and wit to elevate the lower-class peasants, as evidenced in the musical setting.

Šelma Sedlák is no longer performed in major opera houses; its last performance was in Prague in 1954. But the opera exhibits an entertaining story, clever use of musical devices and dance, a combination of fun and beautiful music, and is a logistically manageable size for regular production. It has even been compared to Mozart’s Le Nozze di Figaro (The Marriage of Figaro). By associating and distancing characters with dance steps and thematic material, Dvořák maintains the necessary external ordered structure while cleverly removing the internal social hierarchy between individuals. He violates the prescribed sophistication of specific dances, and blends musical motives, ultimately positioning the key peasant figure, Veruna, as the “farmer of all the beasts.”

Calliope will present a concert performance of the opera, in German. Audience members can look forward to slapstick humor, romantic love themes, spirited dances, colorful costumes, and the opportunity to experience the U.S. premiere of this important work. We will also present a pre-concert lecture outlining the story, the history of the opera, and highlighting themes.


Member Profile: Kathy Wnuk

Soprano Kathy Wnuk’s musical background is extensive — a Bachelor of Music degree from Boston University and a Master of Music degree from the Manhattan School of Music — but work and family responsibilities had kept her from doing anything musical for some time. She joined Calliope in the summer of 2011, having searched online for Boston singing groups “on a whim” and finding the music from previous concerts and the then-upcoming program (September 2011’s “Fairy Tales and Fables”) very inviting. Stenhammer’s Snöfrid, from that September 2011 concert, is one of the pieces she’s enjoyed performing most with Calliope.
Growing up, Kathy performed in her high school’s musicals and in her hometown’s summer theater productions. Her first lead role was in Hello, Dolly! at age 14, and she later sang the leads in Camelot, Mame, Annie Get Your Gun, and My Fair Lady. Of a more recent performing experience, she says, “I am especially fond of a concert my friend Brian and I did many years ago at the Bruno Walter Auditorium at Lincoln Center. We sang some Verdi duets, and I had the chutzpah to sing the Liebestod [the final, dramatic aria from Wagner’s Tristan und Isolde]. Good times!”
Kathy is one of the featured soloists in Calliope’s upcoming performance of Dvorák’s Šelma Sedlák (The Cunning Peasant), playing the role of Berta, the Princess’s chambermaid. She sees Berta as a classic take on the royal chambermaid in the Zerlina/Rosina tradition. “She’s a servant, but not a peasant,” Kathy explains. “I think she knows this, and considers herself a step above farm girls, no matter how young or pretty they may be. Her confidence and closeness to royalty are what keep Jean [her partner, the Prince’s valet] coming home, even though he might stray — often. But when Jean strays again, she’s had enough. She can be good humored and patient, but don’t push her to her limit!”
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Calliope's Mission Statement
Calliope shares the joy of music through passionate collaboration between singers and instrumentalists. It is our mission that audiences benefit from collaboration between instrumentalists and singers, resulting in deeper understanding and performance of the music. We pursue this goal by:
  •  Providing excellent music to the community of Greater Boston via a new, more inclusive method of rehearsal and performance
  • Capitalizing on the power of music to contribute toward social improvement via one benefit concert each season for an organization whose mission is reflected in our programming for that performance
  • Cultivating artists and their supporters for the future through our mentoring scholarship program.
 Julia O'Toole, Artistic Director
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