The South Florida Symphony Orchestra (SFSO) continues the celebration of a quarter century of fruitful existence this year that has just begun, with a series of concerts that began in November and will last until April, in five installments with world premieres, selections of operas, concertos for various instruments, symphonies and Bruckner’s moving “Te Deum”.
The second stage of the musical saga for the XXV anniversary (Masterworks II) will be composed of Shostakovich’s “Ninth Symphony”; Gottsch’s “Ocklawaha” (world premiere); and a selection of opera arias by Verdi and Puccini with soprano Catalina Cuervo and tenor Adam Diegel, and will take place from January 24 to 28, at three venues: New World Center (NWC) on Tuesday, January 24; The Parker (Fort Lauderdale, Wednesday the 25th) and Tennessee Williams Theater at The College of the Florida Keys (Saturday the 28th) always starting at 7:30 pm
SFSO is a dream come true in 1997, when Maestra Sebrina María Alfonso founded the Key West Symphony Orchestra with the support of family, friends and civic leaders interested in making live symphonic music accessible to the community. A dedicated and intense work that materialized when 48 musicians gathered at the Tennessee Williams Theater to perform their first concert, on December 11, 1998. Since then, the group has become a superlative cultural institution with a wide sphere of action. covering Palm Beach, Miami-Dade, Broward and Monroe counties.
And who better than Maestra Sebrina Alfonso, its founder, to talk about SFSO? Born and raised in Key West, the prestigious host and composer had a great passion for music from an early age. She earned her Bachelor’s and Master’s degrees in Music from Virginia Commonwealth University, and pursued Ph.D. studies in Orchestral Conducting at the Peabody Institute at Johns Hopkins University.
“I have always had a passion for the New World Center. As we celebrate our twenty-fifth anniversary and our Miami audience continues to grow, performing in this purpose-built concert hall is a thrill and an honor,” says the SFSO director. “Our first concert at NWC last November was a very emotional event for musicians, soloists, audience, staff, and me especially. We knew it would be a beautiful experience, and it was!”
Although he was educated at universities in other states, and had the opportunity to have a successful career in the United States and abroad, Alfonso was always faithful to his native Florida. “I always wanted to bring symphonic music to the community that I didn’t have in my childhood, growing up in Key West,” he adds. “Just like that. I had the opportunity to start the orchestra, and I undertook that task with the help of the community, my family and my friends”.
The universe of orchestral conducting, like many other fields of culture and life in general, have historically been dominated by men. For a driver like Alfonso it has always been a challenge to navigate those waters, regardless of her talent. “I was certainly overlooked because there was only room for one female conductor,” she recalls. “In view of this, I founded my own orchestras, a small opera company. However, I feel that attitude is changing. Today there are more women leading orchestras around the world”.
Another important facet of Maestra Sebrina Alfonso’s work is the implementation of musical education programs, which occupies as important a place as conducting the orchestra. “Since day one, educational programs have been part of our mission,” she says. “SFSO is committed to giving the gift of music to children in all three counties (Broward, Miami-Dade and Monroe,” he adds. “In fact, our first concert at the Tennessee Williams Theater in 1998 was dedicated to the children of Monroe County Schools, who we bus to the concert hall. Today, we have served one hundred thousand South Florida children.”
But let’s go back to the formidable concert on Tuesday the 24th at the New World Center in Miami, for which the director and orchestra prepare with dedication. “Preparation is 90% of the task. It is not true? My approach to music implies a great knowledge of the time in which it was created”, explains Alfonso, referring specifically to Shostakovich’s “Ninth Symphony”. “Shostakovich’s music has such a history that we must understand what his world was like. He lived in terror of Stalin, but his works were those of a courageous man who revealed atrocities through his compositions”.
“In addition to the aforementioned work, we will perform works by Verdi and Puccini, with the soprano Catalina Cuervo and the tenor Adam Diegel”, he highlights. “We will also have the world premiere of ‘Ocklawaha’ by our composer-in-residence John Gottsch, inspired by nature and native Florida natives.”
Both the South Florida Symphony Orchestra and its conductor have a dynamic and full of activities ahead of them. “In addition to the January concert, we will return to NWC on March 22 with a program dedicated entirely to Antonin Dvořák, performed by Grammy Award-winning cellist Zuill Bailey, who also performed at our 1998 debut concert in Key West.”
But SFSO’s 25th anniversary celebration will continue at The Parker in Fort Lauderdale; and in the Tennessee Williams of Key West, which has so much historical significance for the group. “Among the works that we will present in February will be Brahms’ ‘Double Concerto’, his last symphonic work; together with the ‘Fifth Symphony’ by the famous Finnish composer Jan Sibelius; and the energetic overture ‘Béatrice et Bénédict’ by Berlioz”.
“The grand finale of our commemorative season will be in April, with Rachmaninoff’s “Piano Concerto No. 3,” performed by crowd favorite Svetlana Smolina; and Bruckner’s “Te Deum”, a choral masterpiece, which will be performed by the South Florida Symphony Chorus, at The Parker”, adds Maestra Sebrina Alfonso.
The celebration of 25 years of the SFSO is a great achievement for such a dedicated group. This is stated by Jacqueline Lorber, its President and CEO. “We are thrilled to bring these masterpieces to our audience. Following the festive sold-out presentation of ‘The Messiah’ at The Parker, we have the energy to perform these works at the renowned New World Center, and look forward to kicking off our season at Key West’s iconic Tennessee Williams Theatre, where it was formed. initially the orchestra.
The South Florida Symphony Orchestra concert, as part of the Masterworks II series, will take place on Tuesday, January 24 at 7:30 pm at the New World Center, 500 17th Street Miami Beach. Tickets for this and the other concerts of the season can be purchased on the website southfloridasymphony.org/2022-23-season or by calling the telephone number (954) 522-8445. For more information visit southfloridasymphony.orgcall (954) 522-8445 or send a message to the email address email@example.com.
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South Florida Symphony Orchestra continues to celebrate 25 years at the New World Center