With the future of the Colorado Springs Symphony still uncertain, this weekend's presentation of Gian Carlo Menotti's opera Martin's Lie offers a welcome feast for hungry music fans. Thomas Wilson, former associate music director of the CSSO, will conduct the Chamber Orchestra of the Springs as they join forces with students from the Colorado Springs Conservatory to present the short opera.
Originally commissioned by CBS television in 1964, Martin's Lie tells the tragic story of a young boy growing up in a convent converted to a home for orphaned boys as he struggles to find love and grapples with sin in the fiercely religious environment of the 14th century.
The Italian-born Menotti is one of the most successful composers of American opera, known for his haunting melodies and evocative harmonies.
Maestro Wilson is passionate about the opera, describing it as incredibly listenable -- "a piece that somehow interests people even if they don't have a musical background." He first heard the work three years ago and immediately called Linda Weise at the Colorado Springs Conservatory. Because there are only four adult roles in the piece, the Conservatory had to wait for just the right group of students to begin to think about performing the piece. Wilson describes 10-year-old soloist Justin Murray (who plays Martin) as "a miracle of a boy soprano; a little tiny kid with incredible pitch."
Other soloists from the Colorado Springs Conservatory include Andrew Fountain and Barrett Duff who will be joined on stage by 25 other young students. Word has it that several local celebrities, including Channel 13's own Antoinne Glover, will make "evil" cameo appearances.
Just as the Chamber Orchestra of the Springs is composed of talented volunteer musicians who play because they love music, the Colorado Springs Conservatory aims to encourage young people to foster a love and appreciation for the performing arts. And working collaboratively with these students, says Wilson, has been invaluable.
"Collaboration is incredibly important for the arts because it increases exposure and brings audiences together," he said.
Weise agrees, adding that the difficulty of the piece has kept the students inspired. "It's a very hard piece, but it is incredibly rewarding for these young people to recognize the fruits of their labors."
The orchestra will also play Franz Joseph Haydn's Symphony No. 99 in E flat major. Symphony No. 99 is one of the "London Symphonies" written during Haydn's triumphant sojourn to England. Although not as famous as the "Surprise" symphony written during the same period, Symphony No. 99 is known in part because of its innovative and surprisingly effective use of trumpets in the slow movement. Die-hard classical fans will be happy to hear this alongside the contemporary Menotti opera.
This program exemplifies the Chamber Orchestra of the Springs' mission of presenting great chamber music alongside forgotten or little-known works. Purists, adventurists or those who simply like to sit back and enjoy beautiful music will be thrilled to have such a lucky reminder of the purpose of playing music and supporting the arts. And it couldn't come at a more opportune time.