As called for by the audience, the Dana Point symphony is set to begin second season
By Andrea Papagianis
Last year it was a new inspiration.
This year it is destiny—a preordained, central element of Dana Point.
At least as Berenika Schmitz, the symphony’s musical director sees it.
“I believe it was the destiny of the orchestra to have another season and to remain in Dana Point as a vital member of the community,” Schmitz said.
This week, the Dana Point Symphony Orchestra’s second season gets underway, with Schmitz taking a calculated risk and pushing the limits—and expectations—of a symphony, in the traditional sense.
In shaping the season, Schmitz said she aimed to showcase the possibilities of the orchestra in order to present the audience with the “highest caliber performance.”
Through the adoption of multimedia elements and the introduction of young, passionate artists—instrumental, visual and vocal—to the public, the symphony will not only stay on the cutting edge of performance art, but will also reach out to an entirely new audience.
On Friday, February 8, conducted by music director Dean Anderson, the symphony will debut their season with the Tchaikovsky Violin Concerto, featuring classical violinist Elizabeth Pitcairn. The concerto is considered one of the “most beautiful pieces for violin ever written,” Schmitz said.
A celebrated-American soloist, Pitcairn will perform on the Red Mendelssohn violin, a nearly 300-year-old instrument made by the Italian luthier, Antonio Stradivari in 1790. The instrument, purchased at a 1990 Christie’s auction in London for $1.7 million, is said to be the inspiration for the Canadian film The Red Violin.
“I thought what would be the most compelling piece for this instrument in the hands of a master like Elizabeth,” Schmitz said, “and the natural selection was Tchaikovsky.”
Opening night will also feature a performance of Mendelssohn No. 3—also known as the “Scottish” symphony—as the historic violin once belonged to the family of German composer, Felix Mendelssohn. In addition, artist Ingrid Wolters’s paintings will be on display, with an artist’s reception immediately following the performance, as visual artists will be showcased at each of the four concerts this season.
A collaboration with the 42nd annual Dana Point Festival of Whales, on the March 8 symphony production, will bring opera and orchestra together, in a fusion highlighting Dana Point’s most expansive feature, the Pacific Ocean. Inspired by the community, this performance will meld visual, literal and musical elements to express ocean moods and celebrate the city’s landscape—where rugged cliffs meet tranquil waters.
“Everything on the program is very accessible musically,” Schmitz said. ”It is not avant garde music by any means, but it is presented in a new way.”
Young composer, Athena Adamopoulos, whose work has been performed by Yo-Yo Ma, will unveil a new commissioned work for the orchestra, pulling inspiration from the ocean.
Coincidentally, this year is the centenary of English classical composer, conductor and pianist Benjamin Britten, born in 1913. The orchestra will perform four interludes—Dawn, Sunday Morning, Moonlight and The Storm—from Britten’s first opera, “Peter Grimes” (1945) a story about a lonely fisherman.
The Sea Interludes, flow through periods of a day, expressing the disposition of the ocean at times of peace and moments of upheaval. Britten was inspired by his travels along the Californian coast in the early-1940s, Schmitz said. In keeping with the synthesis of art forms, Alisa Lapidus, production media manager with the Los Angeles Opera, will present an original, multimedia art commission capturing the movement of the ocean—during the musical performance.
Speaking of Lapidus’s commissioned work, Schmitz said, “it is something very creative and highly in the moment, and people will be moved within that moment.”
To add a verbal musical interpretation, three opera singers—Victoria Robertson, Gregorio Gonzalez and Joshua Guerrer—will perform arias relating to or having descriptions of the ocean. And the concert will feature violinist Mira Khomik with the meditation from the Jules Massenet opera “Thais.”
Pulling from the local terrain and surfing culture, Paul Carter, Michael Brindley and Heather Ritts will display surfboard visual art.
“The program has something for everybody,” Schmitz said. “If you don’t necessarily love opera, you may love the visuals, or the violin or something else.”
Returning to its roots in April, the symphony orchestra will premiere Beethoven’s Symphony No. 9. Beethoven’s final symphony, is also one of his most beloved works and one deeply engraved in the orchestra repertoire, she said, and is a piece “very much at the core of what it means to be a symphony, in a classical sense.”
Last year, the symphony performed with the women’s glee club from the Naval Academy, a collaboration that Schmitz and Anderson wanted to recreate in some way, but on a larger scale. This year’s performance will feature the choir from Church of the Master in Mission Viejo, led by John Elg, choir director.
In the final event of the season, the symphony will be at the musical whim of the audience. Over the course of the season audience members will be asked to vote on— one of three choices—what they would like the bare orchestra to play.
“Often times it is the artistic director and music director working together … and we (Schmitz and Anderson) wanted to encourage our audience to make some artistic decisions as well,” Schmitz said. “We have a diverse population, so we want to be inclusive and diverse in our programming and this gives us the opportunity, hands-on, to directly engage them (the audience).”
“This is the Dana Point Symphony, it belongs to our community,” she said.
And for one performance this season it will be just that.
Symphony performances begin at 7:30 p.m. and are held at St. Edward the Confessor Catholic Church, 33926 Calle La Primavera. Season passes for all four concerts are available for $45. Individual tickets are $15 for adults and $10 for seniors, children and members of the military. Tickets for all performances are available at the door or online at www.danapointsymphony.com.