Mendelssohn’s majestic Elijah will be performed Friday, May 4, at 8 p.m. in Kodak Hall at Eastman Theatre with the combined talents of the Eastman-Rochester Chorus (ERC), Eastman Chorale, and the Eastman School Symphony Orchestra (ESSO). Conducted by William Weinert, Professor of Conducting and Ensembles at Eastman School of Music, the title role will be sung by Associate Professor of Voice Jan Opalach. The ERC, ESSO, and Eastman Chorale will be joined by the East High School Chorus for the number “Lift Thine Eyes”, with Jodi Zajkowski conducting. This performance also features ten Eastman student soloists: Virginia Sheffield, Claire Caverly, and Lauren Nash Silberstein, sopranos; Mariya Vasilevskaya, Kayleigh Sutula, Maire Carmack, and Kathie Kane, mezzo-sopranos; Marcus Jefferson and Kevin Bryant, tenors; Mark Hosseini, baritone.
Sung in two parts, Mendelssohn’s popular oratorio depicts events in the life of the Biblical prophet Elijah, taken from the Old Testament books of First and Second. “Mendelssohn’s Elijah could not be more shockingly relevant to today,” William Weinert, Eastman’s Director of Choral Activities, explains. “A prophet risks his life by standing up to say: ‘No; what we are doing as a society is evil, and has been for a long time. We are living under a curse because of it. We need to change it right away, and I am not going to be quiet until we do, even as you threaten to kill me.’ Who can miss the connection to brave Americans of today standing up against prejudice and violence and the false gods of our time?”
“There is a challenge for me in singing the title role: the simple elegance and power of Mendelssohn’s music and the clear enunciation of his English translation,” shares Jan Opalach, who takes on the challenge of singing the leading role in this incredible piece. He continued, “The program notes for the San Francisco Choral Society said it beautifully: ‘Mendelssohn was committed to creating program music in which the instrumentation is the vehicle for conveying the meaning of words for expressing what those words cannot.’”
The Eastman-Rochester Chorus is a 150-voice symphonic chorus comprised of Eastman students and members of the Rochester community, presenting choral masterworks in collaboration with the orchestras of the Eastman School of Music and the Rochester Philharmonic Orchestra.
Eastman Chorale is a select ensemble of singers from the Eastman School of Music performing a variety of the finest choral repertoire from the past five centuries, ranging from Renaissance masterworks to first performances of compositions from the 21st century. The choir tours annually, and has performed at major US conferences.
First and second-year undergraduates comprise the Eastman School Symphony Orchestra (ESSO), performing a rigorous schedule of classic orchestral repertoire. ESSO presents four concerts per semester, collaborating with the Eastman-Rochester Chorus for one concert per year. Most concerts include a concerto performed by an award-winning Eastman student.
This performance is free and open to the public.
# # #
About Eastman School of Music:
The Eastman School of Music was founded in 1921 by industrialist and philanthropist George Eastman (1854-1932), founder of Eastman Kodak Company. It was the first professional school of the University of Rochester. Mr. Eastman’s dream was that his school would provide a broad education in the liberal arts as well as superb musical training. The current dean is Jamal Rossi, appointed in 2014.
About 900 students are enrolled in Eastman’s Collegiate Division—about 500 undergraduate and 400 graduate students. Students come from almost every state, and approximately 20 percent are from other countries. They are guided by more than 95 full-time faculty members. Six alumni and three faculty members have been awarded the Pulitzer Prize for Music, as have numerous GRAMMYÒ Awards. Each year, Eastman’s students, faculty members, and guest artists present more than 700 concerts to the Rochester community.