Classical Music

Music In The Making: 2016 Overture

Musical beginnings to celebrate the beginning of a new year.

On this week’s episode of Music in the Making, we welcome the new year with overtures: pieces of music that open operas, plays, and perhaps even concerts themselves!

Mikhail Glinka – Overture to Ruslan and Ludmila (1842)
Shepherd School Symphony Orchestra; Larry Rachleff, conductor
Stude Concert Hall
9/30/2005

We begin with a tale of sorcery, epic battles, and love. This opera was inspired by the epic fairy tale poem of the same name by Alexander Pushkin, where the brave hero Ruslan sets out to rescue his beloved Ludmila from the clutches of an evil wizard.

1905 set designed for Ruslan and Ludmilla by Ivan Bilibin
1905 set designed for Ruslan and Ludmilla by Ivan Bilibin

Johann Strauss II – Overture to Die Fledermaus (1874)
Shepherd School Symphony Orchestra; Larry Rachleff, conductor
Stude Concert Hall
11/4/2006

This classic is one of Strauss’ commonly performed operettas. While it has all the trappings of Viennese high society with a great masquerade ball for a foreign prince (in a “pants role” for a female singer), this work is full of humor and farce. 

Bedřich Smetana – Overture to The Bartered Bride (1866)
Shepherd School Symphony Orchestra; Larry Rachleff, conductor
Stude Concert Hall
11/6/2010

Considered one of the great Czech nationalist composers, Smetana wrote The Bartered Bride to be part of a uniquely Czech opera genre, featuring popular Bohemian dance music like the polka and furiant to connect to his audience. 

Felix Mendelssohn-Bartholdy – Overture to A Midsummer Night’s Dream (1826)
Shepherd School Chamber Orchestra; Larry Rachleff, conductor
Stude Concert Hall
2/9/2008

Mendelssohn actually wrote this overture at the age of 17, many years before composing more incidental music for this famous Shakespeare play. Like Mozart from the century before, Mendelssohn is regarded as one of the great child prodigies of the Romantic era, and the endurance of this relatively early piece in his career indicates as much.

Giuseppe Verdi – Overture to La forza del destino (1862)
Shepherd School Symphony Orchestra; Larry Rachleff, conductor
Stude Concert Hall
3/16/2013

Translated as The Force of Destiny, and sometimes reworded as The Power of Fate, one might expect that this is not a wholly happy opera. In fact, many superstitious singers thought that it might be cursed, including the famous Luciano Pavarotti. 

Antonín Dvořák – Carnival Overture (1891)
Shepherd School Symphony Orchestra; Larry Rachleff, conductor
Stude Concert Hall
11/3/2012

This concert overture, not intended for any kind of show like a play or opera, is part of a trilogy, referred to as “Nature, Life, and Love.” The other two pieces are In Nature’s Realm and Othello, both of which represent nature and love, respectively, whereas this work represents “life.”

This episode originally aired Sunday, January 3rd, 2016. Catch Music in the Making every Sunday at 7:06 PM on Classical 91.7.

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