Warren Gerds/Critic at Large: Review: ‘Festival di Musica Italiana’ embraces variety in Green Bay

Critic At Large

Civic Symphony of Green Bay

Civic Symphony of Green Bay warming up prior to concert Saturday at Meyer Theatre. (Warren Gerds)


The Civic Symphony of Green Bay and artistic director Seong-Kyung Graham kept action coming Saturday in an Italian-themed evening.

Some concertgoers dined first as part of an offering of the organization and then joined many others in Meyer Theatre for a program that included music by legends, dancers and lustrous guest vocalists.

High and ??? points on the evening:

High: The programming, large in scale. “Festival di Musica Italiana’ included plenty of riches in Italian-related music – flowing, clever, colorful, graceful and exuberant selections by masterful composers. Host Stuart Smith expanded on the color with his often-playful introductions about the music and personas of the creators. The orchestra matched the beauty, finesse and power woven into the scores. The musicians were “on.”

High: Dance. “Ancient Airs and Dances” by Ottorino Respighi spans four basic moods, gentle to invigorating. The music was interpreted by Northeastern Wisconsin Dance Organization artistic director Timothy Josephs and 19 girl and young women dancers. Created was an elaborate display of patterns and sometimes symbolic interpretations. The music is substantial, and so was the choreography and its physical and memory demands on the dancers. Major work went into this presentation that came down to this: Nifty.

High: The vocal soloists. Yi-Lan Niu arrived to cheers from students of St. Norbert College, where she teaches, and then filled the hall in one of the most famous of all arias from “La Bohéme.” Home-grown Scott Ramsay arrived like he meant business and grabbed hold of the drama of an aria from “Turandot.” The two returned later to share the stage and sing/enact portions of the story of “La Traviata,” always with flair in voice and characterizations.

High: Vocal soloists with choir. In a sense, this was a flashback to a heyday in Green Bay music, when the local Pamiro Opera presented big professional/community operatic productions (and inspired Scott Ramsay to do what he does today). “La Traviata” scenes included 38 singers from the St. Norbert College Chamber Singers directed by Sarah Parks. There was a certain joy in the performance, helped by the enthusiasm of the students and vigor of the orchestra.

??? Sound for Stuart Smith. It certainly did not carry well to the last row of the orchestra section where I was seated. The sound was vague and hollow, with words seeming like they came from a 55-gallon drum. Perhaps the sound was fine in other parts of the auditorium. Perhaps.

High. A conductor thingie. For “Capriccio Italien” Seong-Kyung Graham dispensed with the score. Conductors do this when they know – and probably love – the score so well that want to be free to concentrate fully on the music. This music is tricky, from all the stealth in opening sequences to its changing and building to a festive finale. Seong-Kyung Graham scored a success.

??? Wireless headsets. For the final selection, a good bye song, Yi-Lan Niu and Scott Ramsay wore head microphones. Operatic singers usually let fly without amplification, their voices being so strong. In this case, a hollow effect was introduced to their singing that diminished quality.

High. The teaming. The orchestra, the dancers and the soloists worked well together. Visually, that came together in a final moment from “La Traviata,” when Yi-Lan Niu and Scott Ramsay, in character, embraced in a kind of tableau with sensitive music.


Program: “Festival di Musica Italiana”

Conductor and artistic director: Seong-Kyung Graham

Host: Stuart Smith

Part I

+ “La forza del destino (‘The force of destiny’)” – Giuseppe Verdi

+ “Quando me n vo” from “La Bohéme” – Giacomo Puccini

       Yi-Lan Niu, soprano

+ “Nessum dorma” from “Turandot” – Giacomo Puccini

      Scott Ramsay, tenor

+ “Capriccio Italien, Opus 45,” Peter Illych Tchaikovsky

Part II

+ “Ancient Airs and Dances, Suite No. 2” – Ottorino Respighi

   “Laura soave: balletto con gagliarda, saltarello e canario” (Fabritio Coroso)

   “Danza rustica” (Jean-Baptiste Besard)

   “Campanae parisienses” (anonymous) and “Aria” (attributed to Marin Mersenne)

   “Bergamasca” (Bernarno Gianoncelli, 1650)

      Dancing and Choreography by Northeastern Wisconsin Dance Organization, Timothy                      Joseph, artistic director

+ Selections from “La Traviata” – Giuseppe Verdi

   “Brindisi (‘Toast’)”

   “Che e cio? (‘What is that?’)”

   “Si ridesta in ciel l’aurora (‘The dawn is breaking in the sky’)”

      Yi-Lan Niu, soprano

      Scott Ramsay, tenor

      St. Norbert College Chamber Singers, Sarah Parks, director

+ “Con te partiro (‘Time to say Good Bye’)” – Francesco Sartori

      Yi-Lan Niu, soprano

      Scott Ramsay, tenor


NEXT: “Spring is in the Aire,” 3 p.m. April 19, Walter Theatre, St. Norbert College.

THE VENUE: Stop and look around the place. Meyer Theatre’s auditorium is an eye full. Located at 117 S. Washington St. in downtown Green Bay, the Meyer is one of the state’s colorful historic theaters. In its current form, the Robert T. Meyer Theatre opened Feb. 27, 2002. It seats approximately 1,000. The building dates back much farther. It opened Feb. 14, 1930, as one of the palatial Fox movie houses. The place is picturesque. The theater’s interior aura was its saving grace toward the end of the 20th century, when the building was faced an uncertain fate. The architectural/decorative style is defined as Spanish Atmospheric. The auditorium is designed in the manner of a Moorish courtyard of old. The eclectic mix of architectural styles and colors carries throughout the lobbies.

THE PEOPLE: Robert Meyer was president and chief executive officer of Tape Inc. of Green Bay. The theater took his name at the behest of his wife, Betty (Janet Elizabeth) Rose Meyer, whose financial contribution at a crucial time helped revitalize the building. The Rose family has a history of deep commitment to and involvement in the well-being of Green Bay. Robert Meyer died in 1984, Betty Rose Meyer in 2008.

Copyright 2020 Nexstar Broadcasting, Inc. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.

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