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Fall Arts Celebration opens with Vienna operas

Posted on September 07, 2011

Grand Valley State University’s Fall Arts Celebration 2011 presents six enriching events, from classical compositions to a focus on contemporary issues and global arts. Each event, September 12 – December 5, is free and open to the public.

The opening night event is “A Night in Hapsburg Vienna: From the Marriage of Figaro to Fidelio as arranged for Wind Harmonie,” Monday, September 12, at 8 p.m., Louis Armstrong Theatre, Performing Arts Center, Allendale Campus.

This is a rare opportunity to hear opera compositions by Mozart, Beethoven and Rossini as they were originally heard in the many great noble houses of 18th-century Vienna — in woodwind arrangements.

“You will be able to hear these great and familiar operas with all the original melodies, the duets and trios and finales performed by a wind octet — known then as a harmonie — with two each of oboes, clarinets, horns and bassoons,” said Danny Phipps, professor and chair of the Department of Music and Dance. “This performance will include rich and wonderful arrangements from ‘Marriage of Figaro,’ ‘Magic Flute,’ ‘Don Giovanni,’ ‘Barber of Seville’ and ‘Fidelio,’ all very upbeat music, but rarely heard this way today. It is going to be really amazing.”

The nearly one-hour performance by Grand Valley’s Music Department faculty will include narration and vocal soloists taking audiences through the story line of each piece. Phipps said that all of these great operas were arranged either by the composer or the musicians.

“If you were an emperor and you commissioned an opera for the Imperial Theatre, it would only play for about a week, maybe 10 days, then it was done,” said Phipps. “But the operas got a second life as outdoor entertainment by harmonie musicians wandering the streets of Vienna or even setting the ambiance in the local taverns.”

The concert will be followed by a reception. Fall Arts Celebration is made possible, in part, through the generosity of sponsors including, Ginny Gearhart and the Gearhart Family, Liesel and Hank Meijer, Elaine and Larry Shay, Judy and Peter Theune, and media partner WOOD Radio.

For details about all Fall Arts Celebration events visit, or call (616) 331-2180.


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