CARY — Two long-established performing groups in the Triangle joined forces to present an unusual program in two cities.
The Concert Singers of Cary, now in its 22nd year, and The Chamber Orchestra of the Triangle, celebrating its 30th season, held the first concert at the Cary Arts Center on Saturday night and repeats the program again Sunday afternoon in Durham’ Carolina Theatre.
The concert’s title, “The Human and the Spiritual,” refers to Samuel Barber’s earthy one-act opera, “A Hand of Bridge,” and Franz Schubert’s heavenly Mass No. 5 in A flat major.
The program’s major work is the Schubert, considered the finest of his six Latin masses. This 45-minute work offers romantic lyricism balanced with dramatic outbursts. The writing is full of surprises, from hunting horn calls and martial cadences to song-like melodies and jaunty dance figures.
Conductor Lorenzo Muti demanded every nuance of dynamics, syncopation and pacing from the orchestra and chorus during Saturday afternoon’s final rehearsal at the Cary Arts Center, making the listener constantly marvel at Schubert’s inventiveness as well as the performers’ precision. Muti’s high-level energy kept the performance vibrant without sacrificing any moment of quiet contemplation or glorious expansiveness.
The solo quartet made for an intriguing alternation between small forces and large. Soprano Andrea Moore and tenor Andrew Crane supplied many soaring phrases and thrilling climaxes, while mezzo Mary Gayle Green and baritone Lawrence Speakman (director of the Concert Singers) added weight to the concerted passages.
The program opens with Barber’s clever ten-minute opera, in which he creates four bridge players with distinct characterizations, their mundane bidding masking inner fears and desires, from wanting to buy a hat to dreaming of wealth and debauchery.
Here, with the same soloists in front of music stands and singing from scores, the effect is greatly diminished.
The orchestration, which includes piano and a lot of percussion, often overpowered the singers. The static staging did not allow the relationships and the private thoughts to really register. Muti communicated all the jazzy moods and humor, but the piece didn’t really seem right for balancing out the program.