Concert Preview: Symphony Tacoma’s ‘Reconciliation’ Features World Premiere by Local Composer

Zuill Bailey

Symphony Tacoma’s February concert presents selections from Tacoma Method, a new opera by Dr. Gregory Youtz, along with celebrated works by Britten and Brahms. The concert will take place on Saturday, February 25, 2023 at 7:30 pm in Tacoma’s Pantages Theater.

Tacoma Method sheds light on perhaps the most tragic chapter of Tacoma’s history. Written by composer Gregory Youtz, a music professor at Pacific Lutheran University, and librettist Zhang Er, a Beijing born-and-raised Chinese poet now teaching at Evergreen College Tacoma, the opera shares stories from the 1885 expulsion of Chinese pioneers from Tacoma. Zhang Er thoroughly researched the incident and discovered a wealth of historical material from which to write a libretto. Her extensive knowledge of late-19th-century Chinese culture enabled her to flesh out the nature of the principal characters.

Accompanying the orchestra will be New York-based mezzo-soprano Hai-Ting Chinn and vocalists from Symphony Tacoma Voices. Historical photos will be projected on stage to help tell the story. The full Tacoma Method opera will be performed by Tacoma Opera at the Rialto Theater on March 31–April 2, 2023.

Also on the concert program is Britten’s Four Sea Interludes from the opera Peter Grimes. The story is based on an early nineteenth-century narrative poem by George Crabbe that tells the dark story of gossip and persecution. Grimes, a surly, ill-natured fisherman, is suspected of murdering his young apprentices on an isolated seaside fishing village. These excerpts bring the drama and setting of the opera into the concert hall with each piece depicting the sea in various moods—Dawn, Sunday Morning, Moonlight and Storm.

Rounding out the program is Brahms’ deeply passionate Symphony No. 4. More than any other late-19th-century composer, Brahms kept intense classical elements in his music in the height of the Romantic era. Written in the “tragic” vein, this work recalls Beethoven’s Fifth Symphony of 80 years earlier. The “triumph over tragedy” theme characterized by Tchaikovsky and Beethoven is also present, but in a more subtle tone.

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