Opera Joe Interviews the Stars of the Upcoming Verdi Chorus Concert


The Verdi Chorus Spring 2022 Concert, “Hélas mon Coeur”

Featuring arias and extended excerpts from Verdi’s Ernani and Macbeth, Beethoven’s Fidelio, Ponchielli’s La Gioconda, Giordano’s Andrea Chénier, and Offenbach’s The Tales of Hoffmann with soloistsJulie Makerov, Todd Wilander, and Roberto Perlas Gómez.

Venue:  First Presbyterian Church in Santa Monica, 1220 2nd Street, Santa Monica, CA 90401.

Performance Schedule:  Saturday, May 14 at 7:30 pm; Sunday, May 15 at 2:00 pm

Tickets are on sale now! visit: www.verdichorus.org

SANTA MONICA, CA (March 24, 2022) – The Verdi Chorus kicks off its 39th season with their Spring Concert, Hélas mon Coeur, for two performances only at the First Presbyterian Church in Santa Monica on May 14 and 15.  Led by Founding Artistic Director Anne Marie Ketchum, the Verdi Chorus is the only choral group in Southern California that focuses primarily on the dramatic and diverse music for opera chorus. This program, which Ketchum says includes “some of the most dramatic moments from some of the most powerful operatic works,” will feature selections from two Verdi operas – Ernani and Macbeth, Beethoven’s Fidelio, and sequences from Ponchielli’s La Gioconda and Giordano’s Andrea Chénier.  There will also be selections from Offenbach’s The Tales of Hoffmann. 

The program will feature three guest soloists: soprano Julie Makerov whom The Huffington Post declared “triumphant” in her performance of Senta in Wagner’s Der fliegende Holländer with Los Angeles Opera; tenor Todd Wilander, praised by The New York Times for his “brave, vocally assured portrayals” and who has returned for eight seasons thus far with The Metropolitan Opera; and renowned baritone Roberto Perlas Gómez who, with over 100 roles to his credit, has performed extensively throughout the United States.

These performances are made possible, in part, through the generous support of the Sahm Family Foundation , The Green Foundation, and Colburn Foundation, and by grant funding from the Los Angeles County Board of Supervisors through the Los Angeles County Department of Arts and Culture, and the City of Santa Monica through the Santa Monica Arts Commission.

Conductor Anne Marie Ketchum says, “The title for this program, Hélas mon Coeur,  feels appropriate on so many levels. Aside from being the title of one of the most beautiful ensembles from Offenbach’s The Tales of Hoffmann, the phrase itself, ‘Alas, my heart’ sums up both the losses we have all experienced over the past two years, and the bittersweet hope for what lies ahead as we launch our 39th season. It’s a strong and emotive program which our three sensational guest artists, Julie Makerov, Todd Wilander, and Roberto Perlas Gómez, as well as our chorus of over forty strong, will bring to rich and electrifying life.”

Ketchum continues, “Our first half featuring selections from Verdi’s Macbeth, will range from the powerful “Patria oppressa” which sings of a country now lost, to a powerful piece for a large ensemble, “Sangue a me.” Our second half includes Ponchielli’s La Gioconda with Roberto Perlas Gómez leading the chorus in the rousing fisherman’s aria “Pescator,” followed by Todd Wilander’s rendition of the movingly beautiful aria “Cielo e mar.” Giordano’s Andrea Chénier will offer Julie Makerov in the sweeping and dramatic aria “La mamma morta.” We will end our program with selections from Offenbach’s The Tales of Hoffmann, always an audience favorite.”  In the last piece a muse implores the artist to continue to create saying  ‘we are made strong through love and even stronger through our tears.’”

The Verdi Chorus prepares for concerts with rehearsals every Monday night.  There, an amazing thing happens as over 40 singers gather from every walk of life to become the Verdi Chorus.  This wide swath of people includes singers from 18 to 80 who come from a variety of professions, and yet have one thing in common: the desire to sing side by side each week and delve into the rich, dramatic world of opera.  They in turn are joined by up-and-coming opera singers at the beginning of their careers, and college students who have just begun to realize their operatic gifts, as all of them become one under the direction of Founding Artistic Director Anne Marie Ketchum. Each rehearsal is like a vocal master class.

Raising their voices together they become everything from the eerie witches of Macbeth to the inner voices of courage in The Tales of Hoffmann.

Further demonstrating the organization’s mission to provide performance opportunities to young professional singers, sixteen highly promising singers are hired as section leaders and rehearsal coaches. Known as the Fox Singers, named in memory of long-time Chorus and Board member Walter Fox, these singers assist the Artistic Director, provide direction for their sections in rehearsals, and have opportunities to perform as featured singers in performances. The Fox Singers also perform on occasion independently of the full Chorus, serving as a showcase for the singers and as ambassadors for The Verdi Chorus. Performances of special arias and ensembles have been presented at venues in Southern California including the Annenberg Beach House, the Huntington Library, and the Nixon Library.

The Chorus is also proud to continue with the Apprentice Singers program that was established in 2015 in which talented vocal music students at the college level gain the opportunity to work with the Chorus in rehearsals and sing operatic music in concert. Each receives a scholarship to provide funds with which they can broaden their music studies.  Sahm Foundation Apprentices who successfully complete the program are invited back to sing with the Chorus for subsequent sessions.

Apprentices for this session, named in honor of a generous grant from the Sahm Family Foundation, are sopranos Amelia DeCoster, Meagan Carlson and Ariana Flores, and mezzo Bianca Gutierrez.

Music Director and Founding Artistic Director ANNE MARIE KETCHUM has been the conductor of the Verdi Chorus since its beginning in 1983. Well recognized as a singer, conductor, stage director and educator, she taught on the voice faculty of Pasadena City College for 34 years until her recent retirement. During her tenure at Pasadena she directed a full opera each spring to critical acclaim.  As a singer, she has appeared internationally and is well known for her performances of contemporary art music, vocal chamber music, solo recitals and opera.  Her recordings of Morten Lauridsen’s Cuatro Canciones and of Aurelio De La Vega’s Recordatio were both honored with Grammy nominations. She has premiered numerous works by such composers as Ernst Krenek, Aurelio De La Vega, Schulamit Ran, and Hans Werner Henze.  Among Ms. Ketchum’s creative activities is This and My Heart: A Portrait of Emily Dickinson in Text and Song – a concert/theater piece which she co-wrote and performs with actress Linda Kelsey and pianist Victoria Kirsch. This was first presented as part of Grand Performances in Los Angeles and made possible by a grant from the National Endowment for the Arts and the Cultural Affairs Department of Los Angeles.  She has also served on the faculty of OperaWorks, Angels Vocal Art and at California State University Northridge.  Ms. Ketchum and the Chorus have received commendations on several occasions from the county of Los Angeles and from the city of Santa Monica.

Accompanist LARAINE ANN MADDEN has garnered acclaim as one of the most sensitive and experienced collaborating artists in the Los Angeles area. Trained in the Bay Area, she made her solo debut with the Oakland Symphony at age 13 performing Mozart’s Piano Concerto in A Major, K. 488. Ms. Madden studied Accompanying at the University of Southern California with its pioneer teacher, Gwendolyn Koldofsky and has accompanied in the master classes of Martin Katz, Geoffrey Parsons, Giorgio Tozzi, Martial Singher, Joan Dornemann and Peter Pears. She has served as “repetiteur” accompanist under conductors Simon Rattle, Christoph Perrick and Richard Buckley, and has appeared in concert with singers associated with New York City Opera, the Metropolitan Opera, and Los Angeles Opera including Alan Titus, Rod Gilfry, Erie Mills, Young Mi Kim and Ealynn Voss. Recent engagements include performing on the Jacaranda Concert Series and with the Fox Singers at the Annenberg Beach House in Santa Monica, the Huntington Library in Pasadena, and the Richard Nixon Library for the Marshall B. Ketchum University Shared Visions Gala. This is her twenty-second year as collaborator with the Verdi Chorus.

Tickets are available for purchase at www.verdichorus.org. Priority seating is available for $40, general admission is $30, seniors are $25, and students aged 25 and under with a valid ID are $10.

About The Verdi Chorus

The Verdi Chorus is a Southern California nonprofit organization dedicated to presenting opera choruses in concert and to providing career development opportunities for young professional singers.  As the only choral group in Southern California that focuses primarily on the dramatic and diverse music of the opera chorus, The Verdi Chorus gives talented amateur singers the unique opportunity to sing side-by-side with professional singers in rehearsals leading up to performances held to the highest artistic standards.  Under the direction of its remarkable Artistic Director Anne Marie Ketchum, each rehearsal is like a vocal master class.

The Verdi Chorus was founded in 1983 at the Verdi Restaurant in Santa Monica.  When the restaurant closed in 1991, The Verdi Chorus continued.  In 1999, the chorus incorporated as a 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization.  Under the continuous direction of Founding Artistic Director Anne Marie Ketchum, the Chorus presents four concerts each year as well as other collaborative events.  Its repertoire includes over 300 choruses from 81 operas in seven languages.

For more information visit: https://www.verdichorus.org