Hudson Valley Singers Bring Two Modern Classics to NYC 5/22

True to their reputation as Westchester's "most ambitious" chorus, the Hudson Valley Singers bring two modern masterpieces known for their immense power and beauty: Arthur Honegger's 1938 oratorio La Danse des Morts and Zoltan Kodaly's 1923 Psalmus Hungaricus, to Manhattan this spring. Directed by Eugene Sirotkine and accompanied by the New York Metamorphoses Orchestra, these compelling works are brought to the stage as they were meant to be heard, with internationally acclaimed guest soloists and rising stars in the opera world, a full children's chorus, and a popular narrator. At once deeply moving and celebratory, this rousing concert takes place on Saturday, May 22 at 7:00 pm in the newly renovated Concert Hall at The New York Society for Ethical Culture, 2 West 64th Street at Central Park West, New York.

The program begins with Honegger's oratorio, written in collaboration with playwright Paul Claudel. "The Honegger piece is great theatre. There is thunder and great wonderful hope, great sorrow," says Sirotkine. "It carries a very humanistic message of hope and rebirth."

The second piece, Kodaly's Psalmus Hungaricus, was a major public success when it was first performed to celebrate the reunion of Buda and Pest. "Many believe it is his best work," says Sirotkine. Kodaly traveled throughout Eastern Europe with his close friend Bela Bartok to study and preserve folk music. The Psalmus Hungaricus blends the influence of that folk music with the post-romantic and expressionist music of the early 20th century into a work that is original and affecting.

The piece is a rondo in three movements requiring a large chorus, a large orchestra, and a dramatic tenor. It is just over twenty minutes long-"it has to be short because you cannot keep that intensity for long," says Sirotkine. Betrayal and redemption are the overriding themes: "It so strongly expresses the overall mood at that time. Hungary considered itself the protector of Europe and felt betrayed when it was partitioned. There is a ray of hope in the second movement and great hope in third movement. The children's chorus always makes the concert more festive-more exciting," Sirotkine said.

Of the tenor Viktor Antipenko, a recent émigré from Russia and Sirotkine's former student, he says, "I can't believe my luck that he is performing with us. A voice of this kind doesn't come along very often; he could be a major artist in the next several years." An honors graduate of The St. Petersburg Conservatory and former member of the Mariinsky Opera Chorus, London's Intermezzo echoed Sirotkine's forecast for this rising young star, praising his 2009 performance in The Queen of Spades: "Many opera houses would be happy to have a clear big voiced tenor like that singing their leads."

"My mezzo is out of this world-she has this laser-like clarity in her voice," says Sirotkine. Internationally acclaimed mezzo-soprano Mary Ann McCormick has performed numerous roles throughout the United States and Europe including Nefertiti in Philip Glass' Akhnaten with the Atlanta Opera, Grimgerde with James Levine and the Metropolitan Opera in Otto Schenk's Die Walküre, Isabella in L'italiana in Algeri at La Scala, and Carmen with Theater St. Gallen, Switzerland, Teatro dell'Opera di Roma, Teatro Regio di Torino, and the Staatsoper Stuttgart.

Praised for her acting and her "shining soprano," Beverly O'Regan Thiele has graced the stage of concert halls and opera houses across the US and Europe. Her roles include Magda Sorel in The Consul, which she sang with both Washington National Opera and Berkshire Opera, and recorded on the Newport Classics Label, Blanche in André Previn's A Streetcar Named Desire (Washington National Opera) and Erste Dame in Die Zauber Flote, with New York City Opera, Lyric Opera of Chicago, and Badisches Staatstheater, Karlsruhe, Germany. She created the leading soprano roles in two world premieres with the Badisches Staatstheater and sang the role of Tobias Picker's Thérèse Raquin in its East Coast premiere.

Baritone Robert Garner recently recorded a DVD of Schumann's Das Paradies und die Peri with the Hudson Valley Singers. "I get goose bumps listening to him," says Sirotkine. Garner, a member of the Metropolitan Opera extra chorus, has appeared in Die Meistersinger von Nuremberg, Orfeo ed Euridice, Aida, War and Peace, and Peter Grimes. He debuted at Carnegie Hall as soloist in Fauré's Requiem and has sung with Mississippi Opera, Opera Colorado, Opera Carolina, Connecticut Opera, and Opera New Jersey.

The Psalmus Hungaricus will be sung in the English translation while Honegger's La Danse des Morts will be sung in French with an English narrator, the actor Nathan Kaufman, who has performed in theatres across the country as well as in film. "He is a wonderful narrator," says Sirotkine. "He is very easy to listen to and has a wistful way of speaking but also a strong voice that is perfect for this role. He is God, a prophet and human at different times."

Eugene Sirotkine, a St. Petersburg-born conductor who debuted with the Latvian Philharmonic in St. Petersburg in 1989 and was an assistant conductor and assistant chorus master with the New York Metropolitan Opera from 1999 through 2008, is the founder and director of the New York Metamorphoses Orchestra. Over the past two decades he has conducted orchestras and choruses across the globe, including the Hong Kong Philharmonic with Olga Borodina; the Orquesta Sinfónica UNCuyo in Argentina; Conductor and Vocal Coach at Israeli Vocal Arts Institute; Assistant Conductor, Glyndebourne Opera Festival, England; the Orquestra Sinfônica Nacional in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil; and the Cape Philharmonic and the Cape Town Opera in South Africa, and with the New York Metamorphoses Orchestra in collaboration with the Paul Taylor Dance Company at New York City Center and the Kennedy Center Orchestra at Kennedy Center, Washington, D.C.

Praised by The New York Times as Westchester's "most ambitious" chorus, the Hudson Valley Singers, an amateur ensemble under the professional direction of Eugene Sirotkine, has been enriching the cultural life of Westchester and Manhattan since 1951. The 80-member chorus has performed in Budapest and Costa Rica during the last few seasons. The Masters School Middle School Chorus is directed by Jennifer Carnavale.

Tickets are $35 at the door. Senior, student and advance purchase tickets are $30 and may be purchased by calling (914) 674-2865 or online at www.HudsonValleySingers.org

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