Tuesday, April 10, 2012

The 311th good thing about Lagos: an Italian musical evening

We've been very fortunate here on a number of occasions to have enjoyed some very fine musical evenings courtesy of  the diplomatic patronage from a variety of countries.  The most recent concert, a week ago Saturday, was sponsored by the Italian Consulate and the Saipem construction company, which was celebrating its many years of working in Nigeria.  These evenings where musicians are brought in from other countries are almost always of an excellent quality of performance, and generally without any ticket charge to us, the appreciative audience.  The other interesting thing is that most often there isn't much information given out beforehand about what will be on the program.  I was given an invitation to this "gala concert" and when I asked what was on the program, the woman sharing the invitation had no idea, only that performers were being brought in from Europe.  But we went, hoping for a fine musical evening and that is certainly what we got.   The other thing typical of these evenings is that they start later than scheduled (this one was an hour late, which is not unusual), and then there are generally some dignitaries giving speeches at the beginning.  The Italian Consul General gave a fairly lengthy speech in Italian, after which a translation was read by the emcee (actually there were two speeches given in Italian during the evening -- at the beginning and near the end -- and when the emcee announced she would translate the  2nd speech there were audible sighs from the audience).  So the price paid is the patience to wait for the musical portion of the evening to actually begin.It was an evening of "popular" classical and operatic music, along with a bit of jazz.  The featured musicians included the "Quintetto Dell'Opera Di Milano," which (for those non-Italian speakers) was a brass quintet ensemble from the Milan "La Scala" Opera House.  They were fabulous musicians and we really enjoyed their versatility in performing a large range of music.  They were joined by an accomplished percussionist, a performer and teacher and also active jazz vibraphonist, Andrea Dulbecco.  He was really fabulous.  Here is a clip with him performing a bit of Joe Green's "Xylophonia."

Also on the program was an operatic tenor, also from La Scala,  Giuseppe Veneziano.  He was very upright and stuffed shirt and proper -- he almost seemed to me to be a caricature of an opera star.   I loved him -- loved his voice, his operatic mannerisms and his performance.  Maybe in the video clips below you'll see what I mean.

 He had obviously been doing some teaching and mentoring of some of the music students here at the Muson Centre, and I think it's so great for them to have this opportunity.  A couple of the more accomplished students were introduced to sing solos that were not on the program.  He seemed almost paternal and very proud of them as they performed.
The featured performers were joined by the Muson choir which sang a few things on their own, accompanied by the brass and were joined by the tenor on a very unusual performance of segments from the 4th movement of Beethoven's Ninth Symphony, the "Ode to Joy," which was accompanied by the brass quintet, instead of the normal full symphony orchestra.  Lacking the quartet of soloists,  just with the tenor, and just with the brass accompaniment, it proved quite a bit less thrilling than it should be.
This little clip is from the ending of one of the encore pieces, where the tenor invited the Nigerian soloists to join with them.  The final note shows his great breath and vocal control.


This last clip is soloists, choir and brass joining in an impromptu encore of the Italian classic "Funiculi, Funicula" which is a really great response song.  This song was composed in 1880 to commemorate the opening of the funicular rail car on Mt. Vesuvius (which was later destroyed in the eruption of the volcano in 1944).  Bet you didn't know you'd learn that by reading my blog! It was clear that the tenor soloist had spent a bit of time rehearsing this with them and they had fun with it.

I had "Nessun dorma" running through my head for days after this concert, but I have had more annoying ear worms in the past.

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