“Strangers in Paradise” with Irina Tikhonenko, Mezzo-Soprano

Sirin and Alkonost5:00 pm • Saturday, September 23rd 2017
Emmanuel Baptist Church • Albany, NY

5:00 pm • Sunday, October 1st 2017
New Russia Cultural Center, Rensselaer NY

While chamber music abounds this weekend, it should be noted that the Glens Falls Symphony opens it 2017-18 season with a French program featuring Debussy, Berlioz, and Bizet on Sunday afternoon (click here for details). One concert in particular caught my attention, so I point you to the late Saturday afternoon performance of Capital Region mezzo-soprano Irina Tikhonenko and pianist Michael Clement at Albany’s Emmanuel Baptist Church and the repeat performance at the New Russia Cultural Center in Rensselaer on Sunday, October 1st.

Those who are fans of the choral arts in the region may be familiar with the Russian-American vocalist. Tikhonenko has sung with Albany Pro Musica and Octavo Singers, as well as with Mosaic Arts and Hubbard Hall Opera Theatre. She is also a member of the more recently formed vocal ensemble Auriel Camerata. She had her opera debut aMezzo-soprano Irina Tikhonenkos Cornelia in Handel’s Giulio Cesare in Egitto, which was directed by Michael Clement, with Upstate Chamber Opera in September 2014. Her solo appearances have included the Obukhova Classical Voice Competitions (3rd place in 2014), alto solo in Paulus by Mendelssohn with Octavo Singers, Russian Winter Festival, Mosaic Arts and Octavo Singers Concert Series, Festival of Nations, National Association of Teachers of Singing Art Song Festival and duets recital “Just Duet!!”

For Saturday’s concert, Irina Tikhonenko has curated a program of works ranging from Purcell to Rachmaninoff to the contemporary with works by regional composer Steve Murray. With the program entitled “Strangers in Paradise,” it is not surprising that it also includes a nod to the American Broadway stage.

The program is to include:

  • Alexander Borodin Polovtsian Dances
  • Anton ArenskySleep, my darling dear
  • Benjamin Britten — “The Highland Balou” from Charm of Lullabies
  • Russian folk song, XIX century — Tell me, my Beauty
  • Henry PurcellThere’s not a Swain
  • Pyotr I. TchaikovskyNot a Word, my Friend Op. 6, No. 2
  • Sir Edward Elgar — “In Haven” from Sea Pictures, Op. 37
  • Nikolai Rimsky-Korsakov — Not a wind from above, Op. 43, No. 2
  • Steve MurrayWhen you are singing
  • Pyotr I. TchaikovskyBy the window
  • Steve MurrayThe Middle of the Night
  • Sergei RachmaninoffLilacs, Op. 21, No.5
  • Henry PurcellSweeter than Roses
  • Mikhail GlinkaDisenchantment
  • Sir Edward Elgar — “Where Corals Lie” from Sea Pictures, Op. 37
  • Robert Wright & George Forrest — “Stranger in Paradise” from Kismet

As you peruse the program, you’ll notice it is a mix of Russian and English classics with one exception. Tikhonenko has collaborated with composer Steve Murray and presents their new song with her lyrics set to music by. The recital begins and ends with the same familiar tune, a nostalgic call for the past from the 19th century Russian opera transformed into a hopeful hymn to love in “Stranger in Paradise” from the 1953 Broadway hit Kismet, which draws extensively on Borodin’s music.

In correspondence with Irina Tikhonenko about the program, she comments:

I came to Albany from Russia many years ago with my scientist husband and our son. It was a long journey, but we are happy to call this beautiful land home. Like many people who came from afar, we brought a treasury of memories with us. In this program I want to open my soul and share some of my favorite Russian songs, those that I remember from my childhood. I will also perform several British and American pieces. They are all about love: love for the homeland, for the family, people, art, all that makes us human.”

The artwork she provided (above) is “Sirin and Alkonost The Birds of Joy and Sorrow” by Viktor Vanetsov, 1896. The Birds of Paradise from Russian folklore.

If you are looking for an intriguing concert, I encourage you to take in what promises to be an hour of magical Russian and splendid works. Given the concert time, you can enjoy an afternoon tea before or a sumptuous supper after in one of the various eateries Albany (and Rensselaer) has to offer.

Happy musicking this weekend!

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