Indianapolis Symphony Orchestra 

Can lightning strike twice? Yes it can - and did - in last weekend's Mario Venzago-conducted Indianapolis Symphony Orchestra concert, ending with Maurice Ravel's La Valse - as in a February 2006 program. One of the few conductors who successfully reveals Ravel's intent in satirizing the Viennese waltz from a post WWI view, Venzago honed his players into a rigid, articulate, never-ending pace - the outstanding work of an evening dominated by Benjamin Britten and Ravel. The program opened with Britten's all-instrumental Sinfonia da Requiem, Op. 20 - pulling the "Lacrymosa," "Dies Irae" and "Requiem Aeternum" from the Catholic Mass for the Dead. Though fairly well executed, I found the piece boring, admittedly not being a Britten fan. Next came the British composer's Les Illuminations, Op. 18 for soprano and string orchestra, cast in nine short numbers, and featuring the welcome return of young soprano Nicole Cabell. Possessing an exquisitely beautiful voice, Cabell's diction seemed to lose all its consonant sounds in making its way up to the mezzanine, rendering her French lyrics inaudible. The same held true for Ravel's ensuing three-song Shéhérazade, all the while admitting that the sounds Cabell's voice puts out compare favorably with almost any diva presently working. In like manner, the composer's following Pavane for a Dead Princess was nicely wrought by our maestro and the orchestra. But then we had ... La Valse.

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