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Pittsburgh Opera's 'Auld Lang Syne' helps ring in year

| Wednesday, Dec. 26, 2012, 8:57 p.m.
Pittsburgh Opera resident artists Juan Jose de Leon, Adam Fry and Kyle Oliver performing at the 2011 “Auld Lang Syne” concert at Carnegie Music Hall in Oakland. David Bachman

Friends old and new will gather in Oakland on Monday night to ring in the New Year at Pittsburgh Opera's “Auld Lang Syne” concert and gala.

“We're taking a lot of familiar things and putting new twists on them to make it fun and light. The goal is just for everyone to have a really good time. Everyone wants it to be effervescent,” soprano Meredith Lustig says.

“The fun thing about these concerts is that you throw on different hats, or masks, every time you walk out onstage,” she says. “It's like you're in an actor's triathlon. I think it's fun for the artists to do and fun for the audience as well.”

Antony Walker will conduct Pittsburgh Opera's resident artists, orchestra and chorus in “Auld Lang Syne IV” at Carnegie Music Hall, Oakland. Tickets are available for the concert alone, or for a VIP package which includes valet parking, pre-concert champagne reception with Walker and dinner, plus a post-concert reception.

The program includes a healthy portion of Viennese music by Johann Strauss Jr. and others traditionally performed on New Year's Eve, garnished with a bit of dance music by Peter Ilyich Tchaikovsky and topped off with popular French music by Georges Bizet and Jacques Offenbach.

“I actually love doing these sorts of concerts,” Walker says. “In a full-scale opera production during three weeks everyone gets to know everyone very well. We're thrust into this on two days. Everything gets prepared in this whirl of feverish rehearsal. I love the energy of that.”

Walker's life is a bit of whirl these days anyway. His daughter, Genevieve Helene, was born on 12/12/12. He had arrived back in Pittsburgh from Australia at 7 p.m. the night before.

The conductor enjoys the change of pace from opera to concert work, particularly for a diverse program.

“Concerts that are more of a potpourri, as far as repertoire, are, in some respects, more difficult than a two-hour opera, because you're changing styles all the time,” he says. “Each piece needs to be rehearsed very specifically and engaged with in its specific way.”

Yet, these challenges are genuinely valued in the arts.

“As an artist that's the beauty of recitals and concert work, in general,” Lustig says. “You get to play so many characters and tell so many stories. I love opera, but you're stuck with the one person all night. In its own way, it's a different kind of ride.”

Nicole Rodin is looking forward to singing at the concert. Her early background was in musical theater, but she is grateful to a voice teacher who steered her toward opera.

“We think so hard about (operatic vocal) technique, but the first thing I fell in love with was the drama. I feel there is no more dramatic way to express yourself than through operatic singing, something that involves your entire body, all in expressiveness.”

Mark Kanny is classical music critic for Trib Total Media. He can be reached at 412-320-7877 or mkanny@tribweb.com.

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