Durango’s March musical madness: Concerts, recitals, an opera

Thursday, March 8, 2018 6:14 PM
Mack Berven

Beginning tonight, music lovers have a chance to hear in one week’s time great choral works, a rarely performed Rossini opera and a full week of recitals dedicated to the music of J.S. Bach. If you plan well, you can attend everything. Here’s a chronological rundown:

“The promise of heaven is the title of our season,” Linda Mack Berven, Durango Choral Society director, said earlier this week. “And this is our signature concert.”

The thematic centerpiece is a work of the same name by Aaron Copland. It will be sung by The Durango Choral Society within a group of American songs such as “Simple Gifts” and “Sure on This Shining Night.” The other ensembles will follow with a special appearance by flutist Andreas Tischhauser in several works along with percussionist Erin Sinberg. Special guests also will include the Telluride Chamber Choir.

To cap the uplifting program, the combined choirs will sing an arrangement of “The Lord Bless You and Keep You.”

On Saturday morning, The MET Live in HD continues to stream live opera productions to Fort Lewis College. A rare performance of Rossini’s tragedy “Semiramide” will showcase an international cast in this elaborate bel canto production.

The heroine is based on the quasi historical, ninth-century BCE Queen of Babylon, Sammu-ramat. Apparently, she was a powerful woman who married and buried two Assyrian kings, bore a son, ruled the nation, led armies, and because of her beauty and accomplishments was suspected of sexual predation.

Rossini’s opera is directly based on “Semiramis,” a 1748 play by none other than Voltaire. In Dante’s “Divine Comedy,” the Queen shares a couch in the Fourth Ring of Hades with other suspicious women – Cleopatra and Jezebel. Five lesser operas have been composed about Semiramide/Semiramis. Shakespeare mentioned her in “Taming of the Shrew,” and two movies have been made about the Babylonian Queen.

The 11th annual Bach Festival will begin Sunday with two free recitals performed by area music students. Each program is different, and donations are welcome. During the week, the now famous Bach’s Lunch programs will begin at noon and combine music with a catered lunch in the Parrish Hall.

“You can hear a variety of music over the week during the noon hour,” said Scott Hagler, festival founder and 3rd Avenue Arts executive director. “The lunch-hour recitals come in fun, short bursts. This year, audiences will hear everything from flute, violin, cello, harpsichord, organ, and vocalists to a choir and trumpet ensemble.”

Two big evening concerts will anchor the festival on Wednesday and Saturday nights. These large-format programs range from works for violin, viola and flute to the Bach Festival Orchestra, directed by M. Brent Williams. He has transcribed and arranged the famous Prelude and Fugue in G minor for the Saturday concert.

Judith Reynolds is an arts journalist and member of the American Theater Critics Association.

If you go


WHAT: “The Promise of Living,” a performance by The Durango Choral Society, the Durango Women’s Choir and the Renaissance Singers from Telluride. Works by Copland, Hogan, Ellingboe and more. Linda Mack Berven, conductor.

When: 7 p.m. Friday and 2 p.m. Saturday.

WHERE: First United Methodist Church, 2917 Aspen Dr.

TICKETS: $20 adults, $5 students. Available online at or at the door.


WHAT: The MET: Live in HD presents Giachino Rossini’s “Semiramide,” based on a play by Voltaire; Angela Meade as Semiramide, Elizabeth DeShong as Arsace and Ildar Abdrazakov as Assur. A John Copley production, conducted by Maurizio Benini.

WHEN: 10:55 a.m. Saturday.

WHERE: Vallecito Room of the Fort Lewis College Student Union

TICKETS: $23 general, $21 seniors, $5 FLC students, available online at, by phone at 247-7657, at the Welcome Center at Eighth Street and Main Avenue or at the door.

MORE INFORMATION: Running time: three hours 25 minutes. Sung in Italian with English subtitles.


WHAT: Durango Bach Festival

When: March 11-17. Student recitals, 2 and 4 p.m. Sunday; Bach’s Lunch, half-hour concerts every day at noon followed by lunch March 12-16; mid-week keyboard concert at 7 p.m. Wednesday, and Grand Finale at 7 p.m. March 17 with Bach Festival Orchestra and soloists.

WHERE: St. Mark’s Episcopal Church, 910 East Third Avenue, Durango.

TICKETS: Sunday’s recitals are free, with $5 donation suggested. Noon concerts are $10; or $15 for concert and lunch. Evening concerts are $20 ($5 students and children).

MORE INFORMATION: Email, call 903-8854 or visit