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Musical feasts mark classical season finales

El Paso Inc.

By Betty Ligon

El Paso Symphony’s final concert this season was a riot – a riot of song, change, youth and a riot of energetic appreciation from the audience. Music director Sarah Ioannides was absent due to family matters, as she and husband Scott Hartman welcomed twins Elsa Ysobel and Karl Alexander April 22, joining their 2-year-old, Audrey Rose.

Beating the baton in this concert was native New Yorker, charming, easy-going Tito Munoz, 26, Cleveland Orchestra’s assistant conductor. Players we spoke to said they enjoyed his vigorous conducting as much as did the audience. Keep an eye on this guy! He’s got all the right stuff for future fame.

The guest tenor was no less appreciated. Diego Silva, just 21, a Mexico City native and student at the Curtis Institute of Music, was found by Ioannides, also a Curtis alumna. His performance experience is confined to orchestras in Mexico, Curtis Opera Theater and Montreal International Vocal Arts Institute in 2007.

After hearing Silva’s strong, beautiful voice, I was reminded of a tenor from Mexico City hired by El Paso Arts Council in 1971: Placido Domingo! I think he was paid $6,000 to perform with the symphony in Liberty Hall.
I got the impression that the handsome and ringlet-haired Silva has the innate talent to follow Domingo’s tracks, if he has wise teachers who don’t allow him to push his voice until it matures.

Munoz tinkered with the program and traded Tchaikovsky’s “Romeo and Juliet Overture” from first to last, began with a somewhat ponderous Verdi “Nabucco Overture” and turned over the next two spine-tingling favorites, Verdi’s “La donna e mobile” and Puccini’s “Che gelida manina” to Silva’s spine-tingling sound.
He sang Tchaikovsky’s “Lensky’s Aria” without much depth of feeling. The “Polonaise” from the same opera, “Eugene Onegin,” carried the strength of its beauty in the orchestra, as was the case with Puccini’s “Intermezzo” from “Manon Lescaut.”

After intermission, Wagner’s prayerful “Prelude” from “Lohengrin” was given a glorious reading with Munoz’s careful conducting. Silva put his heart and velvety voice into two Spanish arias from zarzuelas “La dolorosa” by Serrrano and “No puede ser!” from “La tabermera del Puerto” by Sorozabal.

Silva’s dashing presentation of “No puede ser!” received such thunderous ovation from the audience, he sang it again as the encore. But not before “Romeo and Juliet” spread a romantic mantle of love music into the theater. Each section in the orchestra contributed an embellished rendition of Tchaikovsky’s richly melodic overture.

No one went away hungry after this music feast.