BONJ 2012 Summer Music Festival Receives Critical Acclaim
The 2012 Summer Music Festival was perhaps the most successful yet. In three unforgettable events, the festival featured spirited performances, outstanding soloists, winners of the 2012 Pearl & Julius Young Music Competition, great theatrical productions, exciting new collaborations, familiar and fresh faces, Japanese exhange student guests and music ranging from the 17th through the 21st centuries.
Fresh Breezes, an orchestral tour de force, opened the festival on August 19. Internationally renowned recorder soloists John Burkhalter opened the afternoon and was followed by violinist NaYoung Yang, bassist Alex Bickard (winner of the 2012 competition), guitarist Celil Refik Kaka (premiering Derwyn Holder's audience-pleasing Guitar Concerto) and clarinetist Jessica Smith closing with Mozart's great concerto.
Critic Sheila Abrams praised the concert in the August 14 review published at njartsmaven.com. In discussing the individual artists, she wrote "Bassist Alex Bickard [demonstated that] the bass can make an arresting statement as a solo instrument with the orchestra. [Jessica Smith's] fresh approach and interation with the orchestra was flawless." Sheila also wrote about the Mozart Violin Concerto movement was "played with a dazzling youthful exuberance by NaYoung Yang." A special part of the concert was the world premier of Holder's concerto. "I will admit," Abrams wrote, "that I was very pleasantly surprised" by the modern composition. "The clean precision of Kaya's playing, against the rushing sea of the orchestra, was spectacular and beautiful. It was a priveldge to have been there."
New collaborations were also a welcome part of the 2012 Festival. Preceding the Fresh Breezes concert was a charming performance of Beaumarchais's The Marriage of Figaro by The Next Stage Ensemble of The Shakespeare Theatre of New Jersey. Friday night's chamber music concert featured the early music specialists Arioso Consorte and the faculty of the Calderone School of Music.
Saturday night was cabaret/theater night. The entire evening was marked by fun and great performances. Audiences brought wine and cheese and dinner and snacks to enjoy before the performance and during intermission. The evening opened with the frolicking 6th episode of Cakes and Ale featuring an array of great actors and artists. On a serious note, the evening concluded with the premier performance of Mark Twain and the General, a chamber opera with libretto by Jewel Seehaus-Fisher and music composed by Dr. Robert W. Butts. The powerful opera tells the story of Ulysses S. Grant, Mark Twain and Julia Grant. The characters were dynamically brought to life by John Lamb, Karole Lewis and Brian Jamieson. Also featured in the opera were Ira Barth, Douglas Anderson, Anthony Shashaty and Tom Loughman. Writing in thealternativepress.com on August 24 , Jon Plaut wrote, "This highly thoughtful and stimulating work arouses the deepst thoughts about the Civil War, war in general, and Ulysses Grant's place in history. The music by Maestro butts is a mixture of modern, epic classical and Civil War extracts driving us to the dramatic conclusion."
The festival ended with a rousing concert-staged production of Mozart's beloved The Magic Flute. The festival performance featured a perfect cast of great singer/actors from top to bottom. And Mozart's opera features one of the theater's largest and most demanding casts! Performing to perfection were Karole Lewis (Pamina), Kevin Peters (Tamino), Maria Alu (Queen), Don Sheasley (Sarastro), Ted Dougherty (Papageno), Brian Jamieson (Monastatos), Jessica Esrig (Papagena), Tonia Manteneri (1st Lady), Cassandra Marie Lambros (2nd Lady), Barbara Norcia-Broms (3rd Lady), Steven Snow (1st Priest), Jason Adamo (2nd Priest) and introducing Paige Whitmore, Gianna Porfano and Samuel Szych as The Three Spirits! Writing in njartsmaven.com on August 20, Sheila Abrams exlaimed, "I've seen other versions of The Magic Flute, including one at the Metropolitan Opera. But none of those versions were as much fun as this one. Kudos, BONJ!"
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