Wagner at the Empress
Featuring Soprano Othalie Graham
The Empress Theatre has reopened after going dark two years ago due to the pandemic. On Saturday, January 15, 2022 at 7:30 p.m., the venue will feature an electrifying evening of music by the great German composer, Richard Wagner. The concert will include excerpts from Tannhaeuser, Tristan und Isolde, Die Walkuere, Lohengrin, The Flying Dutchman and Die Meistersinger von Nuremberg. Soprano Othalie Graham will be featured in the well-known Liebestod from Tristan und Isolde and in dramatic arias from Die Walkuere and Tannhaeuser.
The Vallejo Center for the Arts is billing this concert as The Greatest Wagner Concert Ever, presenting selections from masterworks by the composer that have captivated audiences through grand dramatic spectacle and evocative vocal and instrumental arrangements for centuries.
Canadian American soprano Othalie Graham consistently receives international critical acclaim and is widely known for her commitment to Wagnerian repertoire. The Boston Globe noted that Graham’s “timbre and power were thrilling – with a steely ring from top to bottom.”
Graham came to the world of opera through recognition of her sheer talent and an inspiring performance by Leontyne Price. The daughter of Jamaican immigrants who emigrated to Canada for a better life, Graham felt compelled to choose a “practical” career path in biology to help support her mother after her father passed away due to cancer. However, early on, Graham’s talents as a singer were recognized by a grade school teacher who prompted her to consider opera or solo work. Graham notes that later seeing a woman of color perform as Price did motivated her to seriously consider a career path in opera. At around the time of her father’s passing, she was accepted into the prestigious Academy of Vocal Arts (AVA) in Philadelphia, and a mentor convinced her that she could do more for her mother as an opera singer than as a biologist. This solidified her choice to attend AVA. Graham states that one of the most rewarding aspects of her career is when parents bring their children to see her perform. “I’m honored that future generations might become inspired by my singing, just as I was when I viewed Ms. Leontyne Price’s performance.”
Conductor Thomas Conlin has led symphonic and operatic performances on five continents.
His recording of American composer George Crumb’s orchestral masterpiece, Star-Child, with the Warsaw Philharmonic Orchestra, Chorus and soloists won a Grammy, and his recordings of the piano concertos of Brazilian composer Camargo Guarnieri have been highly praised in American and international publications. Conlin is the music director of The Vallejo Festival Orchestra, which debuted in 2020 at the Vallejo Center for the Arts’ presentation at the Empress Theatre of Three Tenors! – the Next Generation. He has called Vallejo’s historic art-deco Empress Theatre “perhaps the best venue in northern California for classical music.”
Wagner’s intent was to create a new kind of dramatic work, in which music, poetry, drama, acting, scenery and spectacle could be combined in a meaningful and expressive whole, and which was to be called not “opera” but “music-drama.” The music and story should not only be conceived together, Wagner felt, but should be so intimately connected and harmoniously blended as to be almost indispensable to each other. But Wagner’s theatrical innovations were matched – perhaps even surpassed – by his skill as an orchestrator. His grand conception demanded a symphonic approach rather than a traditional operatic one, and with it a greatly enlarged orchestra. Wagner’s orchestral style is brilliant and colorful, original and virtuosic. His demands for the singers are no less innovative. He makes the most extraordinary demands on the voice, which he appears to regard simply as an instrument, capable of overcoming any difficulty whatsoever. “Wagner, perhaps more than any other composer, can be counted on to deliver the ‘goosebump’ factor,” according to Maestro Conlin. “This will be an evening you won’t soon forget.”
Empress Theatre, 330 Virginia Street, Vallejo, CA 94590
Reserved seating only: $52-$98 www.EmpressTheatre.org Tel: 707.552.2400