Living

After Hours: Rising star returns to Macon

In 2005, Keitaro Harada was a student at Mercer University, where he earned his bachelor of music degree in saxophone and stayed to complete a master of music in conducting in 2008.

Harada transferred from the University of Illinois-Urbana Champaign after spending two summers in St. Petersburg, Russia, participating in conducting workshops, where he met Adrian Gnam, at the time conductor of the Macon Symphony Orchestra.

In recognition of his talent, Harada became conductor of the Mercer/Macon Symphony Youth Orchestra and assistant conductor for the Macon Symphony Orchestra. So, last weekend was a much anticipated homecoming for a young man familiar to symphony patrons for his boundless energy at the podium and boyish enthusiasm.

The vigorous Harada was in his element as guest conductor for the last performance of the MSO season April 25. The symphony performed selections from movie and stage favorites for “Cinematic Celebration,” a program that took the audience on marathon runs with “Forrest Gump,” inside the world of a lovable alien with John Williams’ “Flying Music” from “E.T.,” down a melancholy path with the “Hymn to the Fallen” from “Saving Private Ryan” and marching in lock step with “Seventy-Six Trombones.”

Although fifth graders from Bibb County’s public schools had filled the Grand Opera House for the Young People’s Concert on the previous Friday, the Saturday night concert kept the youngsters enthralled and in their seats.

GUEST STARS IN OUR MIDST

Pianist Nick Ricks, a familiar name to Macon jazz enthusiasts and one of the guest artists that Saturday night, played Scott Joplin’s “The Entertainer,” a composition forever etched in our collective memory as one of the theme songs from “Cheers.” Now everybody knows Ricks’ name! Tenor Richard Kosowski, another guest artist with an impressive resume in operatic roles and associate professor of music at Mercer’s Townsend School of Music, was accompanied by the orchestra in his evocative rendition of Puccini’s “Che Gelida Manina” from “La Boheme.”

Sihao He, who already is garnering honors for roles as soloist and chamber musician, is a sophomore cellist at Mercer’s Robert McDuffie Center for Strings and equipped himself well in the long and strenuous Dvorak’s “Cello Concerto, Movement III.” Sihao may leave Mercer one day, but like Harada, come back to share his future successes with another Macon Symphony audience.

AN OPERATIC BANQUET

The last Metropolitan Opera Live in HD broadcast for the season at the Douglass Theatre was a feast for opera lovers April 25 with a double feature -- “Cavellaria Rusticana”/“Pagliacci,” really a play and flashback to similar circumstances for actors who live the drama they portray on stage.

In the first part, set in the 1890s, there are heated and wildly emotional quarrels between lovers and enemies, which ultimately end in violence and despair.

The second half is a lesson in human nature, which has not changed. In the mid 1800s a bedraggled cast arrives in Calabria to stage “Pagliacco e Colombina,” which thrills the villagers whose ordinary lives revolve around wine, the church and a rather humdrum existence.

Unknown to the audience is the sub-plot of jealousy and rage among the actors -- unknown to all but Tonio, the hunchback laughing stock of the town who takes a shine to the female lead, Nedda, wife of the male lead, Canio, only to be angrily rebuffed in favor of her secret lover.

The lead actors, locked in a duel of deceit, cannot hide the raw emotions of betrayal and insane suspicion in their real life melodrama, incited by Tonio seeking revenge for his treatment at the hands of the beautiful Nedda.

What was billed as a comedy comes to a predictable end in an opera set against the sensual, passionate backdrop of a small Italian village and the desperation of those who live there.

INFORMING THE UNINITIATED

Fortunately for the uninitiated and intimidated, the supporters of the opera at the Douglass ask one of their members to give an opera chat prior to each performance to give an overview of the opera and to interpret what is usually performed in a foreign language.

Last Saturday, Dianne Brannen was tasked with informing the audience about rudimentary elements of opera and how to let the action speak for the words they cannot translate. If you are interested in learning more about opera, visit the Douglass’ website, www.douglasstheatre.org, to see the schedule for next season.

Each performance is preceded by champagne and hors d’oeuvres in the lobby of the Douglass, also home to the Macon Film Guild, which features classic movies you may have missed or were not screened in other theaters in Macon.

Katherine Walden is a freelance writer and interior designer in Macon. Contact her at 478-742-2224 or kwaldenint@aol.com.

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