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Florestan at Fredonia

Baritone Aaron Engebreth, left, and pianist Alison d'Amato founded the Florestan Project.

Florestan at Fredonia

The Florestan Recital Project brings an evening of song to Fredonia

On Friday, February 18 at 8pm, baritone Aaron Engebreth and pianist Alison d’Amato, the founders of the Florestan Recital Project, will bring their project, with the support of the Ethos New Music Society, to the stage of the Juliet J. Rosch Recital Hall on the Fredonia State campus, for a program of contemporary songs that includes works by SUNY Fredonia composers and poets.

Western New York classical music audiences perhaps best know Alison d’Amato, a visiting assistant professor at UB, through her numerous public appearances, both as a soloist and most frequently as an accomplished accompanist. D’Amato was appointed to her post in the 2006-2007 academic year, as the result of the UB Music Department’s commitment to the development of the ability of its students to achieve professional performance competence. Her ability to encourage the development of the artistic skills necessary to develop such competency has been widely praised. Yet, as a result of the new budgetary constraints facing the entire SUNY system, d’Amato is in her final semester as a UB faculty member.

The Florestan Recital Project was founded in 2001 by d’Amato and baritone Engebreth to promote song repertoire in concerts, master classes, and educational residencies. The project has combined a roster of outstanding artists with dedicated research and programming to win new audiences with its wide range of both established and unfamiliar repertoire. The name “Florestan” is derived from one of the two imaginary characters that the composer Robert Schumann developed to convey the two very different sides of his musical personality: The revolutionary character Florestan served as a voice for the most impetuous and passionate side of his personality, while the moderate and conservative character Eusebius served as his other alter-ego.

One of Florestan’s missions is to enhance the canon of the art by the yearly commission of new song sets. As a part of that effort, The Strange Case of Dr. H. H. Holmes by Libby Larsen was premiered in March 2010 at Dickinson College in Carlisle, Pennsylvania. The song cycle is a fascinating setting of the court testimony and biographical material of the infamous serial killer from Chicago, who was the subject of the best-selling 2004 nonfiction book, The Devil in the White City: Murder, Magic, and Madness at the Fair that Changed America, by Erik Larson. Libby Larsen may be the most prolific composer of art song now working in America, and her interpretation of the incredible events that took place surrounding the 1893 Chicago World’s Fair is dramatically gripping.

“Larsen has moved in recent years from using poetry as the texts for her vocal works, to using prose sources such as diaries or even court documents, as in The Strange Case, feeling that these sources can offer insight into the lives of real people that are not available in poetry,” D’Amato says.

Like Larsen, d’Amato is also passionate about the ability of song to communicate. “What I love about art song is that an individual person is singing to you, a very personal, human-to-human experience, without all the theatrical elements inherent in opera,” she says. “Libby Larsen is also very committed, as I myself am, to the training of young musicians, from the elementary school level right through graduate school.”

The concert will also feature the premiere of five new songs by Fredonia students, as well as a unique exploration of poetry and music with audience participation: In collaboration with the new Word Song Forum in Boston, the performers and audience will read and briefly discuss Wallace Stevens’ poem “Disillusionment at Ten O’Clock,” and then hear contrasting musical settings of the poem by four different professional composers. “I love the idea of multiple setting of the same text,” D’Amato says. “Any composer who is setting a text invariably imposes an individual mood and a rhythm on it, so it’s always an interesting surprise to hear how several composers will treat the same text, as the meanings of the words are mutated by the music, a result of their different ways of looking at the same thing.”

Tickets are $5 general admission, $2 for students. For more information, visit or

Culture in Cinema Continues

The next round of events in Dipson Theatres’ Culture in Cinema series starts with a return to Shakespeare at London’s reconstructed Globe Theatre. The dizzying word-play of Love’s Labour’s Lost, the first production in the series, ended on a melancholic note: Will the pairs of lovers be reunited in a year and a day?

The fate of Romeo and Juliet, the most famous pair of star-crossed lovers in history, is all too well-known, but that will not prevent the audience from enjoying their story unfold when the taped, live production from the Globe is shown on Thursday, February 24, at 7pm.

Chief conductor Charles Dutoit leads the Philadelphia Orchestra on Saturday, February 26, at 8pm, in a simulcast of Tchaikovsky’s popular Symphony No. 5 and the US premiere of British composer James MacMillan’s Violin Concerto with Russian violin virtuoso Vadim Repin as soloist. Macmillan has won audiences worldwide with a series of brilliantly original yet accessible works—“a composer so confident of his own musical language” writes the Guardian, “that he makes it instantly communicative to his listeners.”

The opera series presents Puccini’s Tosca, in its first taped performance from the Teatro Carlo Felice in Genoa, Italy on Wednesday, March 2 at 7pm, in a production conducted by Marco Boemi, starring real-life power couple Daniela Dessí and Fabio Armiliato as the lovers Floria Tosca, the fiery diva, and Mario Cavaradossi, the painter and revolutionary.

All performances are at the Amherst Theatre (3500 Main Street across from UB South Campus), which has been specially upgraded to accommodate the Culture in Cinema series. For more information, visit

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