By JIM EDWARDS Columnist Sep 15, 2010
Column: Chuck Berry wailed "Roll over Beethoven ... " in 1956, but it never came true. Ludwig von Beethoven's music continues to be popular. Check out the four-note opening theme from his Fifth Symphony backing up TV's "Judge Judy." His symphonies fill concert halls, especially the Ninth symphony, called the Choral Symphony. A Portable Press book says, "Beethoven's Ninth ... is quite possibly the greatest artistic achievement the human race may possibly achieve." It really rocks, Chuck.
You have a chance to hear one of the Met's newest opera stars, an Auroran, as one of the four soloists in the Ninth, backed up by the Elgin Symphony Orchestra and a chorus of 150 singers conducted by Maestro Robert Hanson.
Viktoria Vizin was chosen by Hanson for the mezzo solo in this massive work. Vizin sang with the Elgin Symphony as the lead in Hanson's oratorio "Hiawatha" in 2007. But this is not the first time that a world-class diva from Aurora has sung in the Beethoven Ninth.
Back in 1948 Anne McKnight, living now in Lugano, Switzerland, sang the role with Arturo Toscanini and the NBC Symphony and chorus. It was broadcast over the radio and taped for posterity. Beacon-News' critic Robert Barclay reviewed the performance in the newspaper.
Vizin describes herself as an "actor-singer." Her career was jump-started when she sang the role of Carmen several years ago at the Chicago Lyric Opera and last year at the Covent Garden Opera in London. Carmen has become her signature role.
I spoke with Vizin about her latest role:
Q. Is this your first time to sing the Ninth?
A. I sang this piece with the Bucharest Symphony Orchestra in Romania in 1999.
Q. How difficult is the mezzo part to sing?
A . The alto solo is definitely not as difficult as the soprano or tenor part. The trick, though, is that you have to sing it with a lot of agility. Otherwise its loses its joyful character.
Q. How did you go about preparing for your role?
A. I prepare as for all of my engagements: work on language pronunciation, spot the technical difficulties and work on them. I ultimately listen to several recordings to complete my ideas with others from the past.
Q. What are some of your upcoming engagements?
A. I have two new roles this season: Marguerite in "Damnation of Faust" and the lead mezzo role in Liszt's only opera, "Don Sanche." I will be singing Carmen in Beijing.
Q. When can Aurorans catch you at the Met?
A. The New York Metropolitan Opera has me appearing as Carmen in December.
The other soloists in the Elgin Ninth are Ollie Watts Davis, soprano; Kurt Link, bass; and Peder Reiff, tenor. Concert dates at the Hemmens Auditorium, Elgin, are at 1:30 p.m. Oct. 1, 8 p.m. Oct. 2, and 3:30 p.m. Oct. 3. A concert CD will be made of the performance.
Tickets for Oct. 1 range from $16 to $58. Tickets for Oct. 2-3 range from $16 to $66. Contact the ESO box office at 847-888-4000.
Jim Edwards can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.