Collegiate Singers, Community Chorus to Perform Rossini May 3

Thursday, April 28, 2011

The Fairmont State University Collegiate Singers and the Fairmont State University Community Chorus, directed by Dr. Sam Spears, will present a performance of Gioachino Rossini’s “Petite Messe Solennelle” at First Presbyterian Church, 301 Jackson St., Fairmont, at 8 p.m. Tuesday, May 3. Admission is free, but a freewill offering will be collected.

Performing will be John Morrison, piano, and Mary Lynne Bennett, harmonium. Featured performers will be a solo quartet composed of Mandy Spivak, soprano; Lissette L. Jimenez, contralto; Nicholas Perna, tenor; and Daryl Yoder, baritone.

Gioachino Rossini was the greatest Italian composer of the first half of the 19th century and the foremost opera composer of his day. While still at the height of his popularity, he retired in 1829 at age 37. In his 19-year career, he had written 39 operas, but he would never write another. In retirement, Rossini initially suffered from serious health problems due in part to the punishing professional schedule he had kept. He eventually recovered and settled in Paris where he pursued his love of gourmet cooking and established one of the most prominent artistic salons in the city. He resumed composing, but only when it suited him.

Rossini referred to the music of his later years as his “sins of old age.” The last and greatest of these “sins” is the “Petite Messe Solennelle.” He composed the mass in 1863 for his friends the Count and Countess Pillet-Will to be performed for the dedication of a private chapel at their estate in Paris. Rossini’s notoriously wry sense of humor can be seen in the title of the piece: the “Small Solemn Mass” is neither small nor solemn. The work takes about 75 minutes to perform. The music is by turns charming and dramatic, but never pompous or formal, and hints of the composer’s operatic past shine through.

Mandy Spivakhas found success in concert as well as on the operatic stage. She has been a featured performer at the John Duffy Composer’s Institute for Summers 2009 and 2010. Most recently, she portrayed Desdemona in the world premiere of “The Bride of the Moor” by Thomas Pasatieri with Opera Beaumont. In spring 2009 she performed the title role in Puccini’s “Tosca” with Amarillo Opera. Other roles with AO include Love Simpson in “Cold Sassy Tree” and Minnie in “Wage of Sin” for KACV television. Additional roles include Hanna Glawari in “The Merry Widow,” Adina in “The Elixir of Love” and Rosalinda in “Die Fledermaus.” Additionally, she has enjoyed performances of Handel’s “Saul” and “Messiah,” Schubert’s “Mass in C,” Mendelssohn’s “Elijah” and the “Solemn Vespers and Coronation Mass” by Mozart. Spivak received graduate degrees from the University of Houston and the University of Miami. She is currently Visiting Assistant Professor of Music at West Virginia Wesleyan College.

Lissette L. Jiménez, ABD at the University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign in Vocal Performance & Literature, has been featured as a soloist in the works of Bach, Berlioz, Handel, Machaut, Mendelssohn, Brahms and Wagner. Her operatic roles are just as varied, performing both the dramatic roles of Maddalena in “Rigoletto,” La Principessa in “Suor Angelica” and Ottavia in “L’incorronazione di Poppea” and comic roles including Rosina from “Il barbieri di Siviglia” and Mistress Page from Nicolai’s “Merry Wives of Windsor.” In addition, Jiménez serves as adjunct faculty at Florida International University, where she teaches music history, opera literature, applied voice and is actively involved in FIU’s Collegium Musicum, arranging and performing Machaut’s medieval masterpiece “Messe de Nostre Dame.” This year, in addition to a New York performance of Wagner’s “Wesendonck Lieder,” Jimenez will reprise the role of Maddalena for Miami Lyric Opera and perform Mahler’s “Kindertotenlieder” at FIU.

Tenor Nicholas Perna has performed throughout the United States in opera and oratorio. Operatic credits include leading tenor roles in “Rigoletto,” “Madame Butterfly,” “La Boheme,” “L’Elisir d’amore” and “The Magic Flute.” He has won awards from the Florida District Metropolitan Opera National Council Auditions and The Young Patronesses of the Opera/Florida Grand Opera. Concert appearances include Beethoven’s “Symphony No. 9,” Mahler’s “Das Lied von der Erde,” Schubert’s “Mass in C” and “Mass in G,” and Handel’s “Messiah.” He received the D.M.A. degree in Vocal Performance and Pedagogy from the University of Miami and the M.M. degree in Vocal Performance from the University of Houston. His teachers include tenor Joseph Evans and baritone David Alt. Perna was awarded a Presser Music Foundation award in 2007, which funded his doctoral essay Effects of Nasalance on the Acoustics of the Tenor Passaggio and Head Voice. This research was presented at the 38th Annual Voice Foundation Symposium on the Care of the Professional Voice (2009), and the 2010 National Association of Teachers of Singing (NATS) National Conference. Perna is currently Assistant Professor of Voice at West Virginia University, where he teaches studio voice and vocal pedagogy.

Baritone Daryl Yoder maintains an active career in concert and recital with repertoire ranging from the 15th century to new music premieres. Recent seasons have included the Mozart “Mass in C minor” with the Maryland Choral Society, “Messiah” at the St. Luke Festival in McLean, Va., Haydn’s “Lord Nelson Mass” at Ohio Wesleyan University, the “Fauré Requiem” with Choral Arts of Springfield. He has also appeared as soloist with Apollo’s Fire (The Cleveland Baroque Orchestra), the Columbus Bach Ensemble, Boston’s Cantata Singers, the Waltham Philharmonic, Longwood Opera, the South Coast Community Chorale and the Cincinnati Camerata, among others. An active performer of early music, he was a Fellow at Tanglewood’s Bach Cantata Institute and has been a member of such noted ensembles as the Handel & Haydn Society, Emmanuel Music and the Boston Early Music Festival. Yoder holds degrees in vocal performance from the Oberlin Conservatory and Boston University. He has recorded with Apollo’s Fire as both a soloist and ensemble member on the Koch and Avie labels.