Star-Bulletin Features

Friday, June 29, 2001


All the
Web’s a stage

By Scott Vogel

Tomorrow night's performance of Verdi's "Requiem," the closing event of this year's Hawaii International Choral Festival, may well signal a death of a different kind: that of the old-style way of planning a concert. At any rate, conductor Timothy Carney, who booked the featured soloists, certainly doesn't eschew the latest technology.

"I actually found my mezzo on the Internet," he said, referring to Linda Maguire, whom Carney had corresponded with via e-mail but had never actually spoken to until a few days ago. "She has an incredible Web site filled with all these sound clips, and because the site was so good, I was able to audition her that way."

You're probably thinking that Carney took quite a risk, but then again, you've probably never seen, an incredibly thorough guide to one woman's mezzo-soprano career. Along with the requisite audio and video clips, a discography and collection of reviews, you can post messages for Linda (sample: "I am glad to know what you look like"), even talk about the diva in a chat room on Saturday mornings from 10 to 11:30. You can also get a sense of just how exhausting, not to mention ego-punishing, the audition process can be, and how the Internet might mitigate those concerns. Of the cyber-audition, Maguire writes:

"I would expect directors to click away -- pick and choose -- cut my pieces off at any point (which would be most offensive at an audition -- auditioners have to listen through an aria at an audition -- no offense taken on a Web site!!!) I want them to see the complete kaleidoscope of my talents at their leisure ... 14 measures of Strauss here, 25 measures of Mozart there -- they can skip right to the end of a piece and check out the final high notes."

Speaking of high notes, Carney is also excited about Measha Brueggergosman, a 23-year-old soprano who recently won the Kirsten Flagstad Memorial Award for her expertise in singing Wagner. "They're comparing her to a young Leontyne Price," he said. "She's very, very special."

Brueggergosman hails from Canada but studies her craft in Germany, which is also the home of baritone Leslie "Buz" Tennent, who was raised in Hawaii, studying at the Punahou School and University of Hawaii. The fourth and final principal singer, tenor Jeffrey Springer, also has a German connection, having just recently returned to the United States after a long career in that country.

"I'm really happy with the soloists, though it's a young cast," said Carney, who in addition to leading this high-powered quartet must also conduct a 75-member orchestra and a choir of some 200. And did we mention that the entire ensemble arrived in Hawaii just a few days ago?

"There are only three piano rehearsals and four orchestral rehearsals," he explained, referring not just to his time with the soloists but also the smaller choirs that are converging on Honolulu from all over the world for the event. "This is a festival format, so people actually come from places like Australia and Japan to sing in the festival. We have 100 people coming in just for a week because they want to sing, or because they live in a place where they're not able to sing Verdi's 'Requiem' because it requires so many singers." These troops will combine forces with the hundred or so members of the Oahu Choral Society, the resultant brigade a necessity for the many rafter-raising moments Verdi's masterwork requires.

A strange hybrid of operatic and liturgical music, Carney describes the "Requiem" as "choral orchestral" and recognizes its uniqueness both within the Verdi canon and the schema of musical history. "Technically it's possible to do it as a requiem mass but no one does it anymore because it's too long, although it's nowhere near as long as an opera." It's a piece of tremendous contrasts, beginning quietly with low instruments and low voices and then building to a series of "thunderous moments" in which the composer brings all the weapons in his arsenal to bear (e.g., eight trumpets during the "Dies Irae").

It's an unlikely marriage of opera and mass, intimacy and grandeur. And yet, like the marriage between mezzos and the Internet, it works remarkably well.

Choral Festival

What: Verdi's "Requiem" at the Hawaii International Choral Festival
When: 7:30 p.m. tomorrow
Where: Neal Blaisdell Concert Hall, 777 Ward Ave.
Cost: $12.50 to $45
Call: 792-2000

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