On Saturday, April 20 at 7:30 p.m. in the Helena Civic Center, the Helena Symphony’s 58th Season culminates in two popular masterpieces. The Exergy Masterworks Concert features orchestral highlights from Richard Wagner’s epic Ring Cycle and Mozart’s legendary and controversial Requiem.
Celebrating Wagner’s 200th birthday, the Helena Symphony Orchestra will perform a forty-minute compilation of orchestral highlights from one of the most operatic spectacles of all time. Wagner’s Ring Cycle takes place over four operas that together are sixteen hours of music. The Ring Cycle explores the relationship between love and power using Nordic mythology, the same stories and myths that J.R.R. Tolkien would later use in his popular Lord of the Rings trilogy.
While Tolkien created his stories decades after Wagner’s dramas, both center around a ring of power, its corrupting curse, and the attempts of various people to acquire it. Tolkien denied any connection to Wagner’s masterpiece, but both feature an all-conquering sword and the ring that is originally stolen from a dwarf and must be returned to its origin. The characters are also similar: both involve a hero who fails and dies, but whose descendant, after a period of hiding in the wilderness, returns to fulfill the quest, and both involve a romantic relationship between a human hero-knight and a demigod female.
“From a special sword, magic and fire, to themes of lust and power, courage and betrayal, Wagner’s massive Ring Cycle is one of the greatest works in human creativity,” explains Music Director Allan R. Scott. “For the first time in Montana, a musical synopsis will highlight some of the greatest moments from the sixteen hours of the four operas. Wagner’s music was so powerful and so brilliantly constructed that much of the well-loved music stands alone without the use of singers.”
“This is a rare opportunity to experience moments from Wagner’s entire Ring Cycle,” explains Interim Executive Director Pat Callbeck Harper. “The 40-minute musical adventure was compiled and created by Maestro Scott over the past year and a half, and it is one of only a few complete and continuous ‘Ring without words’.”
Wagner single-handedly changed the course of music with his “musical dramas.” In addition to being the father of conducting, he significantly increased the size of orchestras used in operas, and altered the style of singing using incredibly powerful voices. His music is still used in popular culture, especially the popular Ride of the Valkyries – even Warner Brothers made a spoof of moments from the Ring Cycle with Bugs Bunny and Elmer Fudd (“Kill the Wabbit”).
The second half of the program features Mozart’s final testament – his controversial and unfinished Requiem. The Helena Symphony Orchestra & Chorale are joined by four nationally-noted soloists: soprano Amy Little, mezzo soprano Teresa Buchholz, tenor Jeffrey Kitto, and baritone Joseph Flaxman. “Shrouded in mystery and left unfinished at the time of his death, Mozart’s Requiem still remains one of the great inspirations of music today,” says Maestro Scott. “It took decades to determine who actually completed the work as Mozart died suddenly at the age of 35 while writing the funeral mass.” Today, the work remains the most widely known and loved Requiem by audiences, and is considered one of Mozart’s finest achievements.
While Mozart was hired to compose a funeral mass for an anonymous patron (later revealed to be a wealthy amateur musician planning on passing Mozart’s work as his own), the work is generally a concert experience, and in many ways an un-staged opera. Mozart’s greatest successes were with his operas, and his Requiem employs many of his unparalleled operatic skills. The performance is part of the Exergy Masterworks Concert Series and is sponsored, in part, through the generous support of Deloitte Consulting.
For tickets or more information, contact the Helena Symphony online at helenasymphony.org anytime, or (between 10 am and 4 pm weekdays) call or visit the Symphony Box Office at 406.442.1860, located at 48 Hibbard Way.