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A dazzling weekend of arts and artists

The latest composition of music professor Paul Salerni will highlight a weekend of spectacular arts programming at Lehigh. Salerni’s Saturday evening premiere of the one-act opera, Tony Caruso’s Last Broadcast, will feature a libretto by Dana Gioia, chair of the National Endowment of the Arts. Gioia also will give an informal talk on writing a libretto on Sunday afternoon.

Both events will follow a poetry reading by Yevgeny Yevtushenko, one of the best-known poets of post-Stalin Russia, on Friday evening. His poems also will be incorporated into American Visions II , a song cycle composed by Louis Karchin and performed by the Da Capo Chamber Players in the first LUVME (Lehigh University Very Modern Ensemble) concert of the new year on Saturday evening.

American Visions II follows the first American Visions concert, which was presented at Zoellner Arts Center to honor the American spirit in words and music on the second anniversary of the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks.

“This weekend offers an incredible series of events,” says Deb Sacarakis, director of programming and outreach for Zoellner. “The programming provides opportunities to come into contact with people who represent various components of the featured concert. With the Yevtushenko reading, the concert and the Gioia conversation, you have the chance to hear other work, to witness and learn about the creative process and successful collaborations, to talk with the artists.”

Fortunately for Salerni, conversations with Gioia are a frequent occurrence in a long and prosperous collaborative friendship that spans nearly 20 years. The two began working together after Salerni set a Gioia poem from The New Yorker to music. Pleased by the transformation of his words in “Garden on the Campagna,” Gioia “blessed” the arrangement and began sending him both finished and unfinished works for him to score.

Tony Caruso’s Last Broadcast tells the woeful tale of a failed tenor and eccentric radio personality who hosts a program for opera lovers until the station’s managers decide to change the format from classical to pop. During the last broadcast of his program, Caruso is visited by the ghosts of his mother, opera diva Maria Callas, and a mystery woman who offers him redemption.

“His mother makes him feel guilty for failing at his art,” Salerni says. “Then Maria Callas explains to him why he failed. Finally, his last visitor gives him an opportunity to alter his fate. It’s dramatic, it’s entertaining, and Gioia’s words are incredible.”

The Salerni opera provides an opportunity for three Lehigh students to perform on stage: music major Raina Savitsky ’04, theatre major Gelsey Bell ’04, and sociology/anthropology major Elizabeth Luber ’04.

In the orchestra pit with Salerni, who will play the keyboards, will be several Lehigh students and staff and faculty members. Students include Andrew Rakowsky ‘04, Ryan Murray ’06 and Charles Butterhof ‘07. The list of professors and staff include David Bakamjian, Michael Christianson, Chris DeSanto, David Riekenberg, Gary Rissmiller, Jim Thoma, David Diggs, Linda Ganus and Bill Warfield. Additional singers will be Deb Field and Jan Opalach.

On Friday evening, Yevtushenko will offer his poetry reading at 8 p.m. in Room 145 of Zoellner. Gioia’s informal talk titled “Words for Music: Writing a Libretto,” will be at 2 p.m. Sunday in Room 145 at Zoellner. Both events are free and open to the public.

The Lehigh Uuniversity Music Department will present the LUVME (Lehigh University Very Modern Ensemble) in AMERICAN VISIONS II at 8 p.m. Saturday. Paul Salerni premieres his unstaged one-act opera TONY CARUSO'S LAST BROADCAST, with libretto by poet and NEA Chairman Dana Gioi and AMERICAN VISIONS, Louis Karchin's setting of the poems by Russian poet Yevgeny Yevtushenko. Tickets are $15, and discounts are offered to senior citizens and students. For tickets, call 610-758-2787 or order online here.

--Linda Harbrecht

Posted on Thursday, January 22, 2004

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