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San Gabriel Valley Choral Company Presents Classic Opera Music

The award-winning San Gabriel Valley Choral Company will conduct "a far-ranging romp through the annals of the operatic repertory" at its classically-themed concert of opera choruses, arias, and scenes on Saturday, March 21, 7:30 p.m. at St. Luke's Episcopal Church in Monrovia.

The concert will traverse nations and centuries, from Henry Purcell's intimate Baroque chamber opera Dido and Aeneas to the full-throated Romanticism of Verdi's "Va, pensiero" with a little Mozart, Gilbert & Sullivan, and Benjamin Britten thrown in for lyricism and laughs. A women's "Chorus of Peasant Girls" from Eugene Onegin by Piotr Tchaikovsky is the musical topping.

The concert will offer an historical overview from the 1600s of Henry Purcell to the WWII era of Benjamin Britten, with choruses plus solos and duets from significant operas.

Henry Purcell's Dido and Aeneas, written in 1680 and, based on the tragic love story of Dido and Aeneas immortalized by Virgil in the Aeneid, is heralded as the birth of English opera. Not quite on the heels of Purcell's operatic success was G. F. Handel's Alcina, an opera seria which entertained London's Covent Garden audiences in 1735 with it "Chorus of the Enchanted Islanders" and also featured several instrumental segments to showcase the talents of then beloved ballerina Marie Sallé. Composed nearly 50 years later during the Classical period, but with elements of Baroque opera seria, the "Voyager's Chorus" from Mozart's Idomeneo shines as his greatest chorus opera and was written in 1781 when he was only 24. Jumping ahead 60 years, enter the "Va, pensiero" from Giuseppi Verdi's beloved Nabucco. This impassioned chorus is most strongly associated with Italy's 19th century struggle for nationhood. Also by Verdi and immediately recognizable by everyone from opera buffs to fans of Looney Tunes cartoons is the "Anvil Chorus" from Il Trovatore, written in 1853. In a departure from the romantic/tragic themes of Verdi, a variety of choruses by Gilbert & Sullivan from their celebrated romp, Pirates of Penzance, will usher in some British Victorian era levity from 1879. Composed only a year earlier (1878) by Piotr Tchaikovsky, the "Chorus of Peasant Girls" from Eugene Onegin will spotlight this Russian opera based on selected passages from Alexander Pushkin's novel in verse by the same name. And finally, representing the 20th century will be Benjamin's Britten's "Old Joe Has Gone Fishing" from his opera Peter Grimes. Premiering in 1945 at Sadler's Wells Theatre in London, it was greeted with wild critical and popular acclaim. It is said Britten carried the manuscript around with him during the years of London's devastating bombing by the Nazis, nervous of leaving it unattended.

Selections will be conducted by SGVCC Artistic Director Alexandra Grabarchuk, and Associate Artistic Director David Rentz. Ukrainian-born conductor Dr. Grabarchuk is Director of Choral Activities at Whittier College. Rentz is Associate Professor of Music at Chaffey College and Adjunct Professor of Music and supervisor of the graduate conducting program at Claremont Graduate University.

Tickets are $20 for general admission, $15 for seniors and students, and $5 for children under 12. Tickets may be purchased online at, or by sending checks payable to: SGVCC, 2648 E. Workman Ave., Ste. 3001 #312, West Covina, CA 91791. Tickets purchased online by March 20 will be eligible for a $5 discount. Tickets will also be available at the door.

- Brad Haugaard

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