Concert Review: RPO's "Exquisite Puccini"


Thursday night at Kodak Hall the Rochester Philharmonic Orchestra presented a lovely evening of the music of love by Rossini, Puccini, Respighi, and Verdi, led by guest conductor Neil Varon. Soloists Karin Wolverton, soprano, and Dinyar Vania, tenor, gave exquisite performances from "La Boheme" and "Madama Butterfly." The program will be repeated Saturday; it's a not-to-be missed concert.

Maestro Varon brought out the best in the RPO. He balanced sections and soloists, drew out subtleties, and shaped the dynamic range from the quietest moments in the strings to the most rousing portions of the full orchestra. In particular, his interpretation of "Le Fontane di Roma" by Ottorino Respighi was just beautiful. The work has four movements, each depicting a different fountain in Rome at different times of the day, from dawn to sunset. The composition was a gem and Varon brought it forward as a truly memorable experience.

Varon appeared last night as a guest conductor to the RPO. He is on faculty at the Eastman School of Music, where he leads the Eastman Philharmonia, the Eastman School Symphony Orchestra, and the Eastman Chamber Orchestra. Previous positions include principal conductor at the Deutsche Oper am Rhein Duesseldorf-Duisburg and general music director of the Musiktheater im Revier in Gelsenkirchen.

The show-stopper of the night was tenor Dinyar Vania, singing excerpts from "La Boheme" by Giacomo Puccini. Vania's voice is sensational. Vania filled the entire hall in a seemingly effortless manner, while communicating the depth of the emotion called for by the score. How can we not have heard of him before? He is young. He is working his way along. But do not underestimate his potential. I recommend that you get to hear him on Saturday night, as it is only a matter of time before his career carries him into plum roles and venues in the world of opera.

The Rochester Philharmonic Orchestra repeats the program Saturday, March 2, at 8 p.m. at Kodak Hall at Eastman Theatre. For more information visit the website.