Music News & Reviews

Classical music to fill unusual venues as SPO waits for its home to be renovated

Downtown Sacramento’s 1,400-seat Cathedral of the Blessed Sacrament will be the third performance site during the SPO’s Wanderjahr.
Downtown Sacramento’s 1,400-seat Cathedral of the Blessed Sacrament will be the third performance site during the SPO’s Wanderjahr. Cathedral of the Blessed Sacrament

The 2,400-seat Community Center Theater is closed for extensive renovation, leaving the Sacramento Philharmonic and Opera without a home base for its fifth season. Fortunately for local music lovers, the SPO resolved its homeless problem with some creative substitutions, including two church-based doubleheaders.

Three new venues will be used to present the SPO’s fifth season. The Memorial Auditorium was pressed into service for October’s season opener, its generous 3,867-seat capacity more than adequate for the concert’s needs, and will also serve for performances in February (Tchaikovsky’s “1812 Overture”) and April (Rossini’s “The Barber of Seville” as the season’s opera finale). But the sought-after auditorium did not have enough open calendar dates for all of the SPO’s events.

Making a virtue of necessity, the SPO matched its programs to the alternative sites.

“We visited about 10 different venues so we could get a feel for what might be a good fit for our season,” said SPO executive director Alice Sauro. “It really made our minds think about what we would like to perform in those venues.”

Fremont Presbyterian Church on Carlson Drive near Sacramento State University will host this weekend’s Mozart event, featuring highlights from the composer’s most popular operas. The 930-seat church lacks the prodigious capacity of Memorial Auditorium, so the concert will be offered twice, both on the traditional Saturday evening and the Friday night before.

Maestro Michael Christie will return to the SPO podium to lead tenor Michael Day, soprano Ellie Dehn, bass-baritone Calvin Griffin, and bass James Hayden in the finales from “Così fan tutte” and “Le nozze di Figaro.” The event will climax with a performance of Mozart’s forty-first and final symphony, the dramatic “Jupiter.”

The SPO will return to Fremont Presbyterian in March to take advantage of the church’s magnificent organ in a performance of the thundering “Organ Symphony” by Camille Saint-Saëns.

Downtown Sacramento’s 1,400-seat Cathedral of the Blessed Sacrament will be the third performance site during the SPO’s Wanderjahr. In February “Music of the Spirit” will be another two-night event, with concertgoers choosing either Friday or Saturday performances. The concert will present the ethereal “Fantasia on a Theme by Thomas Tallis” by Ralph Vaughn-Williams, “Psalm Tunes for Archbishop Parker’s Psalter” by Tallis himself, and the poignant “Requiem” by Gabriel Fauré.

Next year the Community Center Theater will be unveiled as the upgraded SAFE Credit Union Performing Arts Center and the SPO will happily move back in for its sixth season. The renewed availability of a major capital city performance venue should reduce scheduling conflicts like last month’s collision of the opening nights of the Sacramento Philharmonic and the Sacramento Choral Society. Classical music aficionados had to choose one or the other.

Another such conflict looms this weekend, with both the SPO and the Camellia Symphony Orchestra performing Saturday. This time, however, the SPO’s two-night offering makes it possible for music lovers to attend both events.

The Camellia Symphony’s music director, Christian Baldini, hopes that people enjoy Mozart on Friday and the Brahms Requiem on Saturday.

“We are delighted to welcome two world class soloists to sing this masterpiece by Brahms,” said Baldini, “and two choral organizations that are amongst the best in our region. Brahms chose the texts for his Requiem himself, and his interpretation of the mass for the dead is not one in which judgment day will come to punish you, but one of finding solace, peace, comfort, and blessings for those suffering and left behind.”

The recently renovated auditorium at McClatchy High School offers 780 plush seats for the performance of the Brahms. Maestro Baldini and the Camellia Symphony will be joined by members of the Davis Chorale (Alison Skinner, music director) and the Cathedral Choir (Rex Rallanka, music director), together with a local favorite, soprano Carrie Hennessey, and baritone Malcolm Mackenzie.

“I feel deeply connected to this work,” said Hennessey. “We all feel grief. We all need comfort. This truly is a work of hope, a work looking to find and give comfort instead of focusing on the fire and brimstone contained in the more traditional Requiem.”

With ticket prices starting at $10 for children, the Camellia Symphony hopes to make their concerts family affairs.


Sacramento Philharmonic & Opera

What: Opera Favorites: All Mozart

When: 8 p.m. Friday, November 8, or Saturday, November 9

Where: Fremont Presbyterian Church, 5770 Carlson Drive, Sacramento

Price: $32 to $52


Camellia Symphony Orchestra

What: Brahms: “Ein deutsches requiem” (“A German Requiem”)

When: 7:30, Saturday, November 9

Where: C. K. McClatchy High School Auditorium, 3066 Freeport Blvd., Sacramento

Price: $10 (children), $20 (student), $30 (senior/military), $35 (adults)