Lara Secord-Haid is a fast-rising opera star of immense talent
Internationally, soprano Lara Secord-Haid’s performances are praised by the New York Times and Opera Today. Locally she’s known to Winnipeg for her stunning appearances with the Manitoba Opera and Winnipeg Symphony Orchestra.
James Ehnes, Jan Lisiecki, Measha Brueggergosman — the MCO is always performing with major Canadian talents before they blow up globally. If you haven’t already seen her perform, trust us when we tell you she’ll knock your socks off. She’ll treat us to stupendous performances of two works by Sid Robinovitch , Canciones Sefaradies and Shir Hashirim.
This concert marks the second in a row that we perform Arvo Pärt, in this case the complete Tabula Rasa — truly a ‘megahit’ of new classical music. It may seem a wonder that this religious Estonian composer rivals Philip Glass in terms of his impact on popular culture. After all, his most famous works were written under a censorious Soviet Union hostile to sacred art like his. But Pärt’s unmistakable fusion of a newfangled American minimalism with old Eastern Orthodox and Medieval influences seems well suited to cinema’s eclectic musical language. Few contemporary pieces reach Tabula Rasa’s emotional heights; it’s gorgeous and breath-breaking from beginning to end.
The concert begins at 7.30pm on Wednesday, March 20th, in Crescent Arts Centre, 525 Wardlaw Avenue. Casual tickets will be available 7 July 2023 here and on MCO’s Ticketline at 204-783-7377.
Manitoba Chamber Orchestra
Anne Manson, Music Director
Karl Stobbe, Concertmaster
Crescent Arts Centre, 525 Wardlaw Avenue
7.30pm, Wednesday, 20 March 2024
Anne Manson, conductor
Lara Secord-Haid, soprano
Special thanks to the Government of Manitoba for their generous support in the presentation of this concert
Guest artist sponsors / Dr. Bill Pope & Elizabeth Tippett Pope
Praised by Opera Today and the New York Times, soprano Lara Secord-Haid is enjoying a diverse and dynamic international career. Recent performances include Governess in Turn of the Screw with Nashville Opera, Sophie in Werther with Manitoba Opera, a concert in the Jeonju International Sori Festival in Korea and a concert at Opera Helikon in Moscow, a 15-city operatic concert tour throughout China, Cendrillon in Cendrillon (New York Lyric Opera), a solo concert with Opera San Miguel (San Miguel, Mexico), Marsinah in Kismet (Little Opera Winnipeg), Miss Jessel in The Turn of the Screw (Opera on the Avalon) Marzelline in Fidelio (Manitoba Opera), Three Settings of Celan by Harrison Birtwistle with the AXIOM Ensemble at Lincoln Center, Miss Silverpeal in The Impresario (North Shore Music Festival), and Tytania in A Midsummer Night’s Dream (Opera on the Avalon). Additional appearances include roles with the Manhattan Opera Studio, Banff Centre, and Juilliard. On the concert stage, Ms Secord-Haid has delved with keen interest into the study and performance of contemporary works. She performed an Alice Tully Hall premier of Ritual by Alessandro Iglesias Rossi and works of John Cage with both The New Juilliard Ensemble and Banff Centre with the resident new music ensemble conducted by Joel Sachs.
Ms. Secord-Haid is the 2017 winner of the prestigious George London Award. She was also 1st place winner of the Upper Midwest Regional Metropolitan Opera National Council Auditions, advancing to the upper midwest regional finals to win third place.
Additionally, she was named a Jeune Ambassadeur Lyriquein 2015 and 2016 by Théâtre Lyrichorégra 20 and was awarded the top Canadian Prize of Jeune Espoire Lyric Canadien as well as the Mexican, Austrian, Korean, Russian and the Chinese Lyric Bursaries and the Opera San Miguel Prize “for outstanding Artistic potential.” Ms Secord-Haid recently took a top prize in the Orvieto International Singing Competition, was a finalist in the Benjamin Matthews Vocal Competition and has received awards from the Giulio Gari Foundation, the George London Foundation, the Manitoba Arts Council and the Winnipeg Arts Council. She has been a two-time finalist in the Canadian Opera Company’s Center Stage competition.
She holds a Master of Music from The Juilliard School and a Bachelor of Music from The New England Conservatory of Music. She was a fellow at the Internationale Meistersinger Akademie, attended Highlands Opera Studio, the Banff Center, the Conservatoire de Nice summer academy and the Spoleto Vocal Arts Symposium.
Sid Robinovitch is one of Canada’s most versatile and popular composers. Frequently broadcast on CBC radio, his works have been featured by a large number of musical ensembles including the Winnipeg, Toronto and Montreal Symphony Orchestras, the Elmer Iseler Singers, and the Vancouver Chamber Choir. In addition to his concert music Robinovitch has written for film, radio and TV, where he is probably best known for his theme for the satirical comedy series, The Newsroom.
A native of Manitoba, Robinovitch received a PhD in Communications from the University of Illinois and taught social sciences at York University in Toronto. Since 1977 he has devoted himself to musical composition, studying at Indiana University and the Royal Conservatory of Toronto. He presently lives in Winnipeg, Canada, where he works as a composer and teacher.
While many of Robinovitch’s works are rooted in traditional or folk material, they often have a distinctly contemporary flavour as well. Dreaming Lolita, for example, is a dramatic retelling in poetic form of the famous Nabokov novel, while in Psalms of Experience the choral textures are infused with elements of Balinese music and rhythmic chanting.
Robinovitch has received three Juno nominations for his recorded work. In 2002, Klezmer Suite, a recording devoted entirely to his music and performed by the Winnipeg Symphony Orchestra under the direction of Bramwell Tovey, received a Prairie Music Award for outstanding classical recording. Sefarad, a CD featuring his music for guitar, was released in 2008 on the Marquis label and received a Western Canadian Music Award nomination for classical recording of the year. His latest CD, Choral Odyssey, was released in 2012 and features the Winnipeg Singers under the direction of Yuri Klaz.
Osvaldo Golijov is an Argentine composer and classical music professor, known for his vocal and orchestral work. He was born in La Plata, Argentina, and lived in Jerusalem before immigrating to the US in 1986. Golijov’s works include the St. Mark Passion; the opera Ainadamar; Azul, a cello concerto; The Dreams and Prayers of Isaac the Blind, for clarinet and string quartet; the song cycles Ayre and Falling Out of Time; and the soundtracks for Francis Ford Coppola’s Tetro and Youth Without Youth. His two most recent works are Um Dia Bom, premiered by Brooklyn Rider, and Ever Yours, premiered by the St. Lawrence String Quartet and the Telegraph Quartet. He is currently working on the soundtrack for Coppola’s upcoming film Megalopolis. He is the Composer-in-Residence at The College of the Holy Cross.
Up to the mid-1970s, Estonian composer Pärt adopted a chilly, intellectual modern style. Dissatisfied with that approach, and having been deeply impressed by his first exposure to the church music of the Middle Ages, he virtually withdrew from composing. After spending eight years on an intense study of medieval music, he emerged with a radically different creative style emphasizing beauty and eloquent simplicity. He calls it “ttintnnabuli/intinnabulation.” He has written, “I work with very few elements—with one voice, with two voices. I build with the most primitive materials—with the triad, with one specific tonality. The three notes of a triad are like bells. And that is why I call it tintinnabulation. I have discovered that it is enough when a single note is beautifully played. This one note, or a moment of silence, comforts me.” This style has made him the most frequently performed of all contemporary classical composers.
Musicologist Jeffers Engelhardt has written, in regards to the composition you will hear at this concert, “The central work in Pärt’s instrumental music, the double concerto Tabula rasa, has become one of the foremost ‘cult’ pieces in the music world. It has prompted many composers and musicians, as well as concert audiences, to listen to and understand music in a completely new way. It also ushered in a transitional period in Arvo Pärt’s career, from contemporary brutality to timeless beauty and serenity. It did so by introducing the expressive possibilities of the tintinnabuli style for the first time in a large-scale composition.”
The phrase Tabula rasa comes from ancient philosophy and is directly translated as ‘blank slate’ or ‘erased slate.’ Although the term has acquired somewhat different meanings and interpretations over the centuries in Western culture, it is mostly associated with the Aristotelian notion of a human soul that is born into this world as pure and empty of all experiences or ideas, at the same time having a special potential in the anticipation of these ideas and experiences. Such was Arvo Pärt at that moment in time, as he left his past behind (cleaned his slate, as one might say) and ushered in a radically different phase of his career.
In 1977, violinists Gidon Kremer and Tatian Grindenko commissioned the eminent Russian composer Alfred Schnittke to create a work for chamber orchestra (it eventually came to be called Concerto grosso No. 1) After it was launched successfully, they asked Pärt to write a piece, with identical instrumentation, to be toured together with Schnittke’s composition. Thus was Tabula rasa set in motion.
During rehearsals, the apparently simple music bewildered the performers. Accustomed to producing virtuosity and artistry, they were suddenly face to face with the basic elements of music in Pärt’s score: triads and scales. This required a completely different approach, both interpretatively and psychologically.
Gidon Kremer admitted that he was surprised by the reduced musical language of the piece and it took him a long time before he finally realised the subtlety and intelligence hidden in these sounds. Nora Pärt, the composer’s wife, has recalled that even after additional rehearsals the musicians felt powerless before the composition. However, when they started playing it at the concert, all the pieces miraculously fell into place. It was premiered on 30 September 1977 at the Tallinn Polytechnic Institute by the chamber orchestra of the Estonia State Academic Theatre, conducted by Eri Klas. Kremer and Grindenko were the violin soloists and Schnittke played the ‘prepared’ piano part (not heard in this performance).
The two movements of Tabula rasa are utterly different from each other, both in terms of mood and speed. The first, Ludus (Latin for ‘game’) consists of eight variations and a forceful cadenza. Silentium (Latin for ‘silence’), the slow second movement, trades upon stillness and requires the utmost concentration from the musicians.
The main focus of the piece consists in the need to listen to the silence and find its colours, delve into every single note and approach the music in a completely selfless, humble way. Conductor Andreas Peer Kähler has compared Silentium with a lie detector which, as if making the musician stand completely naked on the stage, leaves no chance to hide behind anything. At the premiere, the quiet, ambiguous close left the audience speechless, unwilling to move and disturb the silence, unsure if it had really ended at all. “The silence was so stunning,” Pärt said,” that people were almost afraid to breathe!”
Manfred Eicher, the head of the jazz record label ECM, has recalled the first time he heard Tabula rasa: driving in a car, without knowing what it was. This experience inspired the ECM New Series in 1984. Tabula rasa was the first record in the series and brought Pärt to a broad, international audience for the first time.
Words from the composer: “Before one says something, perhaps it is better to say nothing. My music has emerged only after I have been silent for quite some time, literally silent. For me, ‘silent’ means ‘nothing’ from which God created the world. Ideally, a silent pause is something sacred… If someone approaches silence with love, then this might give birth to music. A composer must often wait a long time for his music. This kind of sublime anticipation is exactly the kind of pause that I value so much.”
Arrangement for MCO: Tad Bernacki
This is a set of six original songs on traditional Judeo-Spanish texts. The language of these songs is a version of Spanish which was spoken by the Jewish inhabitants of Spain during medieval times, and taken with them to the various countries of the Mediterranean after their expulsion in 1492. In addition to Spanish, there are words from Hebrew, Turkish, French, and Greek. Many of the songs are influenced by traditional Iberian folk-lore, but often have a distinctive Jewish twist as well.
I. Una Muchacha en Selanica
—tells the story of a young Jewish girl who couldn’t cook “yapraquitos” (stuffed vegetables) properly and as a result was forced to convert to Islam!
II. Ir Me Quero La Mi Madre
“I will go wandering and will listen to the woes of my fellow men. If theirs are greater, I will be at peace. If mine are greater, I will end my life!”
III. Mi Padre Era de Francia
“My father is from France, my mother from Aragon. I am married to a Franc from Istanbul who treats me miserably, but dream of my true love. If my husband found out, he would surely kill me!”
IV. Alta, alta es la luna
“High, high, is the moon. My eyes are swollen from looking for love as the boats come and go. Birds chirp in the flowering trees. Those who suffer from love will take shelter in their shade.”
“Rucu wants a French bed with cushions of silk. Rucu wants bread and cheese. But even a loaf and a half wouldn’t satisfy her!”
VI. Tres Hermanicas
“There were three pretty sisters. The youngest was in disgrace and was imprisoned by her father in a tower. She fell in love with a young man who passed her way and let down her tresses for him to climb up. Her father, learning of this, sentenced her to die, but the lad ran to save her. Her father was overcome with pity and blessed the two of them as they took each other’s hand to repose in their love.”
Golijov’s genre-bending style has won him considerable international success. His many prestigious commissioners, for example, include the Boston Symphony Orchestra and Lincoln Centre for the Performing Arts, New York.
He was born in and grew up in La Plata, Argentina, into a Jewish family that had immigrated to Argentina from Romania. His mother was a piano teacher, and his father was a physician. He grew up listening to chamber music, Jewish liturgical and klezmer music, and the nuevo tango (new tango) of Ástor Piazzolla. All these elements play roles in his style.
In 1983, he immigrated to Israel. Three years later, he studied with George Crumb at the University of Pennsylvania, where he earned his Doctor of Philosophy degree. In 1991, he joined the faculty of the College of the Holy Cross in Worcester, Massachusetts, where he was named Loyola Professor of Music in 2007. During the 2012-13 concert season, he occupied the Richard and Barbara Debs Composer’s Chair at Carnegie Hall.
He composed La Pasión según San Marcos (St. Mark Passion) for the Passion 2000 project in commemoration of the two hundred-and-fiftieth anniversary of the death of Johann Sebastian Bach. At the premiere, it received a twenty-five minute standing ovation and the New York Times called it “a work of genius.” In 2010, Golijov composed Sidereus for a consortium of thirty-five American orchestras, to commemorate Galileo. His folio includes several film scores, created together with such noted film-makers as Oscar-winner Francis Ford Coppola (Youth without Youth, 2007).
Wikipedia defines Tenebrae as “a church service observed during the final part of Holy Week commemorating the sufferings and death of Christ.” Osvaldo Golijov has provided the following note. “I wrote Tenebrae (in 2022) as a consequence of witnessing two contrasting realities in a short period of time in September 2000. I was in Israel at the start of the new wave of violence that is still continuing today, and a week later I took my son to the new planetarium in New York, where we could see the Earth as a beautiful blue dot in space. I wanted to write a piece that could be listened to from different perspectives. That is, if one chooses to listen to it “from afar,” the music would probably offer a “beautiful” surface but, from a metaphorically closer distance, one could hear that, beneath that surface, the music is full of pain. I lifted some of the haunting melismas from (French Baroque composer François) Couperin’s Troisième Leçon de Tenebrae, using them as sources for loops, and wrote new interludes between them, always within a pulsating, vibrating, aerial texture.
“The compositional challenge was to write music that would sound as an orbiting spaceship that never touches ground. After finishing the composition, I realized that Tenebrae could be heard as the slow, quiet reading of an illuminated medieval manuscript in which the appearances of the voice singing the letters of the Hebrew Alphabet (from Yod to Nun, as in Couperin) signal the beginning of new chapters, leading to the ending section, built around a single, repeated word: Jerusalem.”
Shir Hashirim (Song of Songs)
Arrangement for MCO: Tad Bernacki
The texts for these songs are taken from the biblical Song of Solomon. They are sung in the original Hebrew with occasional interpolations in English. The lovers dwell on each other’s physical beauty and on their sexual enjoyment which is likened to delightful sensations of taste and smell. But this is done with the naive and natural candor of youth. Even though the lovers are tantalized by each other’s beauty, they are advised to demure and not to arouse love until it is pleasing to both.
I. Kiss me with the kisses of your lips,
for your love is better than wine.
II. My beloved is mine, and I am his.
III. On my bed at night I longed
for my one true love.
IV. I hear the voice of my love
as he comes bounding over the hills.
V. Bind me as a seal upon your heart,
a sign upon your arm.
VI. Until the King returns I give off
sweet fragrance—a cluster of myrrh,
between my breasts he will lie.