Wednesday, February 1, 2012

Warren-Green's St. Louis 'Saga'

Christopher Warren-Green is back home with the Charlotte Symphony after a weekend with one of the country's leading orchestras.

The St. Louis Symphony brought in Warren-Green on mere days' notice after the scheduled conductor, Russia's Vassily Sinaisky, bowed out. Warren-Green had to fly directly from Maine, where he led the Portland Symphony last Tuesday, Jan. 24, to St. Louis, where the first rehearsal was the next day.

That was the easy part, compared to this: The program included a work Warren-Green had never conducted, Jan Sibelius' "En Saga." So Warren-Green had to cram -- which is no simple task when you're talking about a quarter-hour of brooding Nordic music.

"'En Saga' is one of (Sibelius') deepest pieces," Warren-Green said. "He wrote it late in life. There's more of him in it than in any other piece.

"It was not an easy piece to interpret. But it came out OK," he added, emphasizing the OK -- as if he were saying, "OK but not great."

The St. Louis Post-Dispatch was more positive. Critic Sarah Bryan Miller wrote that Sibelius' "received a deeply felt and well-played performance."

Now that Warren-Green has "En Saga" in his head, be on the lookout for it here.

"I think we should program it in Charlotte," he said. "It's a really good piece."

The St.Louis concerts climaxed with Tchaikovsky's Fourth Symphony -- which Warren-Green will also lead with the Charlotte Symphony in March.

"Warren-Green brought a sure hand to shaping the symphony, bringing out all the inherent power ... and bringing it to a thrilling conclusion," Miller wrote, adding:

"Warren-Green will be back next season: excellent news."

Warren-Green, who debuted in St. Louis a decade ago, sounds glad about that, too.

"I remember thinking what a good orchestra they were then," he said, "and they're even better now."

Another switch: Opera Carolina just had to find a replacement, too.

Anthony Dean Griffey, a High Point native and Wingate University alumnus, was scheduled to play the poet Lensky in Opera Carolina's March staging of Tchaikovsky's "Eugene Onegin." For Griffey, who has performed with some of the world's leading opera companies, this would've finally been his operatic debut in his native state.

But N.C. will have to wait. Griffey has been "forced to withdraw ... for personal reasons," Opera Carolina said in a statement.

The company signed up Yeghishe Manucharyan, a native of Armenia who has sung at New York's Metropolitan Opera and an array of other companies. With him in the picture, Opera Carolina's James Meena noted, all three of the "Onegin" leads will be Russian-speaking performers.

The performances will be March 17-25. If you'd like a foretaste, YouTube has a video of Manucharyan performing the aria Lensky sings before his fateful duel with his friend Onegin. I'd embed it, but YouTube has that blocked. Sorry!