, Newburyport, MA

October 11, 2012

A season of change

Symphony by the Sea turns more attention to Newburyport

By Victor Tine Correspondent
Newburyport Daily News

---- — Symphony by the Sea will launch its 32nd season this weekend with an eye toward increasing its presence in the Newburyport area.

The 35-member orchestra will be joined by three young singers for “An Opera Lovers Delight” Sunday afternoon at 3 in the Performing Arts Center on the campus of The Governor’s Academy on Elm Street in Byfield.

In addition to its traditional fall, winter and spring performances, the ensemble is adding a fourth concert to its program this year, a Thanksgiving weekend special family concert at Newburyport City Hall on Friday, Nov. 23, at Newburyport City Hall.

The additional concert represents the start of a stronger commitment to Newburyport, according to Symphony by the Sea spokesman and board member Matthew Sagal.

“Symphony by the Sea recognizes that we have two ‘centers of gravity’ — Marblehead and Newburyport,” Sagal said in an e-mail message. “For historical reasons, we have been somewhat ‘Marblehead-centric,’ For example, last year’s sold-out family concert was only in Marblehead. As part of an overall strategy ... we are increasing our emphasis on Newburyport.”

Sagal said the orchestra board is “actively making plans for deeper Newburyport connections, but we are not able to announce anything yet.”

Sunday’s initial concert features some of opera’s greatest hits, with instrumental pieces, such as the overtures to “The Marriage of Figaro” and “The Barber of Seville” rendered by the orchestra, and arias, duets and trios sung by soprano Sara Heaton, tenor Michael Kuhn and baritone Ross Benoliel.

Music director and conductor Donald Palma is enthusiastic about the entire upcoming season.

“All the concerts are going to be wonderful,” he said. “I like all the programs for different reasons.”

Palma will introduce programs from the podium this season, doing away with the formal pre-concert lectures of years past.

The intent is to “foster a more informal and intimate experience,” according to board president Beverly Clark.

Sunday’s diverse selections include “Una furtiva lagrima,” Nemorino’s plaintive aria from Donizetti’s “The Elixir of Love,” the saucy “Quando m’en vo,” Musetta’s waltz from Puccini’s “La Boheme,” and the hauntingly beautiful “Intermezzo” from Mascagni’s “Cavalleria Rusticana.”

After the Thanksgiving family concert, the season at The Governor’s Academy resumes on Feb. 17, with a program called “Romance is in the Hall,” featuring works by nine composers, including Brahms, George Gershwin and Tchaikovsky.

The season will conclude next April 28, with “The Apotheosis of the Dance,” which Palma said was Richard Wagner’s description of Beethoven’s Seventh Symphony, composed in 1812, the finale of the performance.

“It releases an amazing amount of energy in a different way than musicians and the public had encountered before,” Palma said.

The April concert also highlights Mendelssohn’s Violin Concerto in in E Minor, with 22-year-old soloist Robyn Bollinger.

Bollinger, who made her debut with the Philadelphia Orchestra at 12, is a student at New England Conservatory in Boston. Palma, who is on the conservatory faculty, predicts a bright future for Bollinger.

“She is really spectacular, but she’s young,” he said. “She is going to be one of the major names on the concert scene.”

Entering his fifth season as Symphony by the Sea music director, Palma said his goal for the audience doesn’t change.

“I want them to go away satisfied,” he said, “and I want them to come back for more.”


Tickets are $35 for adults, $5 for students (grades kindergarten to 12); a three-concert subscription is $90, a two-concert subscription is $60. Tickets to the Nov. 23 family concert are $20 for adults; $10 for students.

Ticket purchases may be made online at or at The Book Rack on State Street in Newburyport.