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BWW Interviews: O'Hara & Reineke Talk Rodgers & Hammerstein

On Friday, Kelli O’Hara will partner once again with her South Pacific co-star Paulo Szot for a one-night only concert of Rodgers & Hammerstein songs, backed by the New York Pops under the baton of Steven Reineke. And while the combination of O’Hara, Szot and Rodgers & Hammerstein has already been proven effective (to the tune of 996 performances at Lincoln Center), the concert will mark a different kind of reunion: The singers, the conductor and the orchestra previously collaborated on a concert of Lerner & Loewe songs two years ago. caught up with O’Hara and Reineke to discuss the concert, and what brought the team back together again. “What's not attractive about Paulo Szot, Aaron Lazar and Steven Reineke at Carnegie Hall?”O’Hara asked rhetorically, then quipped, “And Rogers & Hammerstein aren't bad, either.”

“I wanted to do another program that would feature Kelli and Paulo, and the R&H Songbook was an obvious choice,” Reineke says, noting that he also wanted to get rising Broadway performer Aaron Lazar to perform with the Pops as well. “All three are tremendous artists who have been very generous to The New York Pops.”

A year after the 2010 Lerner & Loewe concert, the Pops approached the three singers about a reunion. “Fortunately, I performed the same program last year to open the NSO’s season at The Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts, so I’ve had a lot of time to dig deep into these scores,” Reineke adds. While Lazar was featured in the NSO concerts, October 12 will be the first time all three perform this program together, making the concert unique and new for everyone involved.

O’Hara, for her part, says that she is looking forward to singing songs she has never sung before, including “June Is Bustin' Out All Over” from Carousel. “But all the songs are all riddled with such memories and emotion for me, that I can only hope that shines through me…My personal experience with these songs will hopefully color them in a special way,” she says. “They are so versatile. Think about how many times they have been recorded, rearranged, reinterpreted.  They are magical this way, and their subject matter is usually entirely universal.  Love never gets old.  Loss never gets easier.  And some melodies just make you feel at home.”

Reineke feels that the Rodgers & Hammerstein Songbook is “more widely known to the general public” than Lerner & Loewe’s. “So from that standpoint, I think the audience is going to get a night full of music that they know and love,” he says.

And while concerts of the Great American Songbook will always be popular, O’Hara and Reineke both look forward to exploring other music with the Pops. “To hear more new work with this magnificent orchestra would be my goal, because today's composers deserve that sound just as much as yesterday's,” O’Hara says.  “Unfortunately, it seems instrumental music is often pared down because of financial limitations.  So, maybe a whole evening of today's genius composers/lyricists with the Pops is in order?” Her first solo concert included songs from The Light in the Piazza by Adam Guettel and My Life with Albertine by Ricky Ian Gordon, she notes, and adds that Gordon was the guest pianist on his own song for that concert. “Wouldn't it be cool if it was happening more today, while they are alive to actually be a guest on that stage in front of that orchestra?  We may all be there in 50 years, but I want to be able to hear it and see it, too.”

And Reineke is already planning another major Pops concert: “On Friday, April 12, 2013 we're doing a program titled The Wizard and I: The Musical Journey of Stephen Schwartz. I've already been meeting with Stephen to start assembling the program.  It coincides with the 10th anniversary of Wicked as well as Stephen's 65th birthday.”

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