Symphony Orchestra Augusta is wrapping up the season’s Georgia Health Sciences Symphony Series with Dramatic Voices on April 28.
The performance begins at 7:30 p.m. at First Baptist Church of Augusta and will feature the classic works of Beethoven, the beauty of Brahms’ Symphony No. 1, Mozart’s Dove Sono from Le Nozze di Fagaro and Verdi’s Taccea la Notte from Il Trovatore.
Symphony Orchestra Augusta will also perform Knoxville: Summer of 1915, a work for voice and orchestra by Samuel Barber. Soprano Laquita Mitchell will be the featured singer for the piece, said executive director Sandra Self.
“When Z heard her a couple of years ago at an opera gala, he was just really impressed and loves her voice. He’s been looking forward to working with her for some time now,” Self said. “Barber’s Knoxville: Summer of 1915 is one of the finest contemporary works written. It really shows off her beautiful voice. It’s a great way to end the season because you have Beethoven, Brahms and wonderful vocal music in the middle.”
The text for Knoxville: Summer of 1915 was taken from a 1938 short prose by James Agee, and the work was commissioned by soprano Eleanor Steber, who premiered it in 1948.
“I feel very blessed to have the opportunity to sing with the orchestra and also to work with Maestro Z,” Mitchell said. “I’ve never worked with him before, and I’m at a point in my career where I’m really, really looking forward to building relationships with young conductors.”
Knoxville: Summer of 1915 was made famous by soprano Leontyne Price. The piece is 15 minutes long and is “an incredible piece of American symphonic literature,” she said.
“It is done virtually by every major orchestra in the world. This piece is significant of American culture as we know it,” Mitchell said.
Mitchell will also sing with the symphony for the operatic pieces Dove Sono from Le Nozze di Fagaro by Mozart and Taccea la Notte from Il Trovatore by Verdi.
Born and raised in Brooklyn, N.Y., Mitchell lives in both New York City and Augusta. She studied music at Westminster Choir College and Manhattan School of Music and travels the world singing opera. After her performance with Symphony Orchestra Augusta, she will fly to New York and then South Africa.
“I’ve grown to really love the city (Augusta) and the people that are here. I feel that the musical culture here is at a very high level. I’m really pleased and blessed to have the opportunity to work with the symphony,” she said.
Augusta’s Jessye Norman influenced Mitchell to become an opera singer, and they have stayed in touch over the years, she said. Mitchell said that when she was 14 she met Norman in New York City, and Norman purchased her first opera CD and ticket to The Metropolitan Opera, where Norman was performing.
“It was quite something for me to see an African-American woman on this huge stage. It was a sight to see, and there I guess that thing arose in me to say that was actually an option. It’s about exposing our children to different kinds of music. That exposure really helped me to push forward,” Mitchell said.
Norman recently attended Mitchell’s performance at New York City Opera.
“She has been quite amazing to me. I’m blessed to have her in my life and to have her guidance,” she said.
Mitchell said she hopes people will come out and support the arts in Augusta. There are many local groups making quality music, from the Harry Jacobs Chamber Music Society, Augusta Choral Society, The Augusta Opera and The Augusta Chorale.
“There is a lot going on here in this city that promotes classical music and training for young people. It’s quite amazing for a town this size to have that. That’s unheard of in a lot of smaller cities,” she said.
Tickets for the performance are $10-$45 from www.soaugusta.org or by calling (706) 826-4705.