The Imperial Symphony Orchestra’s musical tour of Europe in its 2018-2019 season has taken audiences through Spain and France. The orchestra still has a couple of pops concerts remaining on its schedule, but in the season’s concluding Masterworks concert, the tour ends in sunny Italy.
The orchestra will perform several works connected one way or another to Italy in the concert, at 7 p.m. Tuesday in the Youkey Theatre in the RP Funding Center in Lakeland. For ticket information, click here.
Appropriately enough for an Italian-themed concert, the featured soloist for the evening, soprano Jade Ferrell, winner of the Imperial Symphony’s annual Young Artist Competition, will sing two operatic arias. Ferrell, a senior studying vocal performance at Florida Southern College, won the competition — and a $1,000 prize — over about a dozen young artists that included pianists, instrumentalists and singers.
Although she has performed in the college’s Opera Theatre productions and had a minor role in last year’s Imperial Symphony production of Puccini’s “Gianni Schicchi,” this will be her first appearance as a vocal soloist with a full orchestra. Ferrell will sing “Verdrai Carino” from Mozart’s “Don Giovanni” and one of the most recognizable opera arias ever written, “O Mio Babbino Caro” from “Gianni Schicchi.” She says the lush Puccini aria suits her voice.
“I moved from mezzo-soprano to soprano this year. The emotion in the aria is natural for me,” she says. “There are lots of full-octave jumps, so it’s important to sing on pitch.”
Ferrell says she didn’t realize until her senior year in high school in Ohio that she was capable of being a featured singer. A friend who attended Florida Southern encouraged her to come and audition for the music program. She credits Associate Professor of Music Diane Stahl for helping her develop her talent.
“Professor Stahl has been very supportive. She believed in me,” she says. “It’s really exciting to perform as a soloist with the orchestra. This is a big step for me as a student.”
Imperial Symphony Music Director Mark Thielen says Ferrell stood out in the competition.
“With a vocalist, you’re looking for consistency in the lower and upper ranges. She just had command of the situation,” he says.
Ferrell began her studies at FSC with a dual major in psychology and music but dropped psychology to focus on her vocal studies. She has auditioned for graduate programs in voice at several schools, including Florida State University and the Chicago College of Performing Arts.
“I feel like I have far to go, but I think I have something to offer the world with my voice,” she says.
Tuesday’s program also features two works written by foreigners who were inspired by visits to Italy – Peter Tchaikovsky’s “Capriccio Italien” and Felix Mendelssohn’s Symphony No. 4 (“Italian”). Both works express the exuberance of the country and its people, Thielen says, especially in the composers’ use of the lively dance called the tarantella.
“The Mendelssohn symphony is really exciting. It’s probably the most comprehensive program we’ve had for our string section and also the woodwinds. It doesn’t hardly slow down,” he says.
Leading off the program is a piece that has become almost a caricature since its finale was borrowed for the theme of “The Lone Ranger” TV series in the 1950s – the overture to the opera “William Tell” by Gioacchino Rossini. After many years of writing comic operas, the Italian Rossini concluded his career by writing a serious opera about the medieval Swiss hero, William Tell. Thielen says apart from the famous “gallop” rescue section made famous by “The Lone Ranger,” the work actually contains beautiful music.
“It begins with a cello quintet that’s very nice. Then there’s a calm after a storm that features the English horn in a beautiful melody. Of course, it’s interrupted by a trumpet fanfare and we’re off to the races,” he says.