As noted in an earlier post, The Empress Theatre has reopened after two long years as a darkened venue due to the COVID pandemic. On Saturday, January 15, 2022 at 7:30 p.m., Bay Area classical music lovers will experience an electrifying evening of music by the great German composer Richard Wagner, featuring Maestro, Thomas Conlin.
In this exclusive interview, he shares some of her impressions with ferry riders who plan on attending this premier cultural event.
Cultural Currents: Can you tell us a little about the Empress Theatre’s acoustical advantages? Does its intimate scale enhance sonorities and complexity?
Thomas Conlin: In my five decades as a conductor of operas, ballets and symphony concerts, I have rarely had the joy of working in a better acoustical environment than that in Vallejo’s Empress Theatre! It’s not an exaggeration to say that there is not a bad seat in this theater. The sound is clear, warm and enveloping even in the last row. Sight lines, too, are excellent. From every seat one has a clear view of the entire stage.
CC: What particular challenges have you faced during rehearsals for this performance?
Conlin: The Vallejo Festival Orchestra’s members are among the very finest musicians in the Bay Area. The VFO debuted in February, 2020, with our sold-out and immensely successful Three Tenors! -The Next Generation. A few days later, Covid descended upon us and shut down all theaters world-wide. It has been a difficult time for all of us in the performing arts; we live for the communication with our audience. A streamed concert in an empty hall with a socially-distanced orchestra is simply not a substitute for the real thing!
CC: How do you expect the audience to respond to the emotional impact made during this pandemic?
Conlin: The tickets first sold to The Greatest Wagner Concert Ever! were snapped up by music-lovers who were aching to experience live music again. I expect a wonderful celebratory atmosphere to dominate the theater as the majestic, life-affirming music of Richard Wagner fills the hall! And how fortunate we’ll be to share the stage with the glorious soprano voice of Othalie Graham. It certainly will be an evening to remember – and an emotional one as well.
CC: How has the local arts community responded to this ongoing crisis?
Conlin: Science has shown us that humans are born with a need for music. We know, for example, that children who play musical instruments excel in many other areas owing to the “hard-wiring” of the brain that music affords. That said, I think that the best reason for children to be exposed to great music is that it’s beautiful and will stay with them for all of their lives.
CC: Finally, please share any other observations our readers (ferry riders) might appreciate.
Conlin: Whether you are already a music-lover familiar with the music of Wagner or are hearing it for the first time, you’ll revel in this program of masterworks. And all present will be blown away by the incredible sonority of the orchestra and by Ms. Graham’s stunning voice, and we’ll all be moved by the sublime yet heroic character of Wagner’s music.