“Our own” Texas-born, TCU-trained lyric coloratura soprano Ava Pine, who continues to make ever bigger waves in the operatic world, returned to Dallas Saturday night for an all-Handel concert. Plus, the Dallas Symphony nails Stucky.

The Classical Note: A Rising Star Returns to Her Roots

“Our own” Texas-born, TCU-trained lyric coloratura soprano Ava Pine, who continues to make ever bigger waves in the operatic world, returned to Dallas Saturday night for an all-Handel concert at the Church of the Incarnation with the Dallas Bach Society. (The Bach Society was one of Pine’s early launching pads, and she obviously has not forgotten old friends.)

As expected, and based on past experience, Pine and a small orchestra led from the harpsichord by Bach Society artistic director James Richman proved that Handel’s genius extends beyond Messiah. Pine, who triumphed last spring in Fort Worth in the music of the twenty-first century in the title role in Mark Adamo’s Lysistrata, is equally at home in the music of the early eighteenth century. In particular, during the second half of the concert, devoted to Italian arias from Handel’s middle, operatic phase, she found the perfect balance of passion and intellect in a demanding, highly specialized repertoire. The fortunate audience members were not only engaged by a voice of incredible natural beauty and flexibility, but were likewise given a rare insight into the eighteenth century’s fascination with myth and metaphor.

Upcoming appearances by Pine in the Dallas-Fort Worth area include a solo recital at Texas Wesleyan University in Fort Worth on March 19 and appearances as Marie in Donizetti’s The Daughter of the Regiment with the Fort Worth Opera in April and May.

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In 2008, the Dallas Symphony premiered contemporary American composer Steven Stucky’s oratorio August 4, 1964, commissioned in commemoration of the centennial of the birth of Lyndon Johnson. Last weekend, the orchestra and music director Jaap van Zweden reprised a seven-minute interlude titled Elegy from the larger work on a program otherwise devoted to an all-German repertoire of Beethoven, Wagner, and Richard Strauss. Resonant, hauntingly evocative, and both unmistakably American and transcendently cosmopolitan, Elegy clearly deserves a permanent place in the repertoire on its own. This fine performance on a season otherwise depressingly lacking in performances of contemporary music by the orchestra reminded that contemporary music can—and should—be presented by the Dallas Symphony.

The recently announced 2013-14 season will be equally weak in the category of contemporary music. Given the orchestra’s obvious ability to perform contemporary music on a high level, as demonstrated by the performance of Stucky’s Elegy, we hope that Van Zweden will consider bringing the orchestra back into the twenty-first century in a meaningful way for the 2014-15 season.

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The Dallas Chamber Symphony, meanwhile, continues its worthy and intriguing exploration of newly-composed live accompaniment for silent film scores this week when that ensemble and music director Richard McKay present the premiere of Austin-based composer Brian Satterwhite’s score for Robert Weine’s 1919 horror classic The Cabinet of Dr. Caligeri, Tuesday night at the Dallas City Performance Hall.

Image by Ellen Appel via