Music for the Earth, Madame Butterfly, and a heavenly harp

BSR Classical Interludes, April 19-May 3, 2024

4 minute read
Zhang places flowers on a Geisha doll that has white, black, red paint as makeup and a ivory kimono in a studio
Artist Hua Hua Zhang creates for Opera Philadelphia. (Photo by Ray Bailey.)

Here are more April highlights—both new and returning ensembles from all over the region. There’s the debut of a new chamber series in West Chester, a big symphonic event in Wilmington, and a string quartet concert in Newark, Delaware. In Philadelphia, take a new look at a classic opera, hear works by Bach and Telemann, and feast on well-known choral music.

Listening In: Music for the Earth
Friday, April 19, 6pm
West Chester Friends Meeting House, 425 North High Street, West Chester

For this first offering of her early music chamber series, founder Karen Dekker has centered the program around Earth Day with an exploration of the "musical ground" in 17th- and 18th-century works performed on baroque instruments. Joining violinist Dekker will be tenor Jeffrey Thompson, Mark Rimple (lute), and Eve Miller (cello). Admission is by donation, and there will be a post-concert meet-the-artists reception. The next day at 4pm (also at the Meeting House), the ensemble will present a lively “no need to sit still” concert for families with children from 2-12 years old.

University of Delaware School of Music: Calidore String Quartet
Monday, April 22, 8pm
Gore Recital Hall at the Roselle Center for the Arts, 110 Orchard Road, Newark

Founded in 2010, this noted ensemble has received the 2017 Lincoln Center Emerging Artist Award and a 2018 Avery Fisher Career Grant. Its four musicians—Jeffrey Myers and Ryan Meehan (violins), Jeremy Berry (viola), and Estelle Choi (cello)—have garnered an increasingly prestigious national and international concert and recording reputation. In Fall 2021, the Quartet joined the UD School of Music, where they serve on the string faculty, concertize regularly, and direct the new Graduate String Quartet Fellowship program. They have also founded the Calidore String Quartet Seminar for college musicians, which occurs annually at UD every January.

Delaware Symphony: Amado Conducts Mahler
Friday, April 26, 7:30pm
Grand Opera House at Copeland Hall, 818 North Market Street, Wilmington

David Amado, the Delaware Symphony's music director laureate, returns to the podium to close the symphony’s season, leading the orchestra in one of the great symphonic works—and one of his favorites—Gustav Mahler’s Symphony No. 7, “Song of the Night.” In his symphony, Mahler pushed orchestral boundaries and dynamic range. He featured instruments uncommon in symphonic literature, including the tenor horn, mandolin, and guitar, to paint a musical picture of the transformative journey from night to daytime. This is the only work on the evening’s program, which runs 85 minutes without intermission.

Opera Philadelphia: Madame Butterfly
Friday, April 26, and May 3, 8pm
Sunday, April 28, and May 5, 2pm
Academy of Music, 240 South Broad Street, Philadelphia

Closing their season, Opera Philadelphia presents this perennial favorite in a new production designed by Yuki Izumihara and directed by Ethan Heard, both making company debuts. This perennial Puccini favorite (which premiered in 1904) is based on John Luther Long’s 1898 short story that American impresario David Belasco turned into a one-act play. The play premiered in New York in 1900 and then moved to London, where Puccini saw it. Madame Butterfly has been staged countless times in its century-plus history, and in this unusual interpretation, soprano Karen Chia-ling Ho (called the Spirit Cio Cio San) puppeteers a sculptural doll by Philadelphia-based puppet artist Hua Hua Zhang. Performances will be conducted by Corrado Rovaris, with Elizabeth Braden leading the Opera Philadelphia chorus.

Mendelssohn Chorus of Philadelphia: From the Echo of the Heavenly Harp
Saturday, April 27, 4pm
St. Paul’s Episcopal Church, 22 East Chestnut Hill Avenue, Philadelphia

This 150-year-old group, well-known to Philadelphia audiences, presents a program anchored by two great choral works: Benjamin Britten's 1943 cantata Rejoice in the Lamb, set to the eclectic 18th-century text Jubilate Agno by Christopher Smart, and Leonard Bernstein's Chichester Psalms in its seldom-heard chamber version for organ, harp, and percussion. The program, also featuring shorter works by Brahms, Franck, and Howells, will be conducted by artistic director Dominick DiOrio with guest artists Andy Kotylo (music director of St. Paul’s) and harpist Megan Hoeflicker.

Tempesta di Mare: Bach & Telemann
Saturday, April 27, 7:30pm
Episcopal Cathedral, 23 South 38th Street, Philadelphia

Sunday, April 28, 4pm
Presbyterian Church of Chestnut Hill, 8855 Germantown Avenue, Philadelphia

For their final full orchestra concert this season, this redoubtable baroque ensemble follows their major Vivaldi concert (Juditha Triumphans) with works by more 17th-century luminaries Johann Sebastian Bach and Georg Philippe Telemann. Featured soloists are two core Tempesta players: concertmaster Emlyn Ngai will play Bach’s Violin Concerto (BWV1042), and founder Gwyn Roberts will be featured in Telemann’s Overture in A Minor (for Recorder and Strings) and Handel’s Concerto in G Minor. Also on the program will be Spring from The Four Seasons of the Year by Giovanni Antonio Guido. Note that Saturday’s concert is sold out, but tickets are still available for Sunday.

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