Music ó Unfinished Business

Nashua Chamber Orchestra Tackles Famous Work

by Jeff Rapsis

Like the famous Venus Di Milo statue with its missing arms, Schubertís Unfinished Symphony stands as a work of art perfect in its incompleteness.

Rather than missing a pair of arms, Schubertís masterwork is missing a pair of movements. Most traditional symphonies come in four parts, but Schubertís has only the first two.

Sketches exist for a third movement, and there are rumors that some other music of Schubertís may have originally been the missing finale.

Even so, music-lovers regard the two movements as complete on their own. Written in the early 1820s, the half-symphony (officially numbered as Schubertís No. 8) is a remarkably advanced score way ahead of its time, mixing classical form and technique with drama and effects more common in musicís later Romantic era.

No one knows why the composer never completed the work. Schubert was famous for writing great quantities of music whether it would be performed or not; he may have gotten only so far and then been distracted by a more lucrative opportunity.

As is always the case with Schubert, the whole thing is made up of unforgettable melodies.  To add some tragedy to the mix, the score languished for four decades in a drawer until its first hearing in the 1860s, long after the composerís death.

The Unfinished Symphony, with its brooding melodies and mysterious atmosphere, is a featured work in two concerts this weekend by the Nashua Chamber Orchestra.

On Saturday, Feb. 19 at 8 p.m., the group will perform at Collings Auditorium at Daniel Webster College. The program will be repeated on Sunday, Feb. 20 at 3 p.m. at Milford Town Hall. Tickets are $14, $12 for seniors, $7 for students; children under 12 admitted free.

Also on the program, conducted by Mark Latham, is Aaron Coplandís popular Appalachian Spring suite, derived from the score of a ballet he penned in the 1940s. Latham will also lead the orchestra in a pair of works by early 18th century composer George Phillip Telemann designed to showcase several musicians as soloists.

Call 673-4100 or 889-7415

 Lots of opera: So what if thereís no National Hockey League season? Fans of larger-than-life drama can enjoy two operas in the local area in the coming weeks. On Sunday, Feb. 20, a touring group will present a fully staged production of Aida at the Capitol Center for the Arts. Verdiís monumental blockbuster, set in ancient Egypt and among the grandest of grand operas, will be performed at 3 p.m. by Opera Verdi Europa, a Bulgarian group that tours the U.S. each season. (The same group presented the pair of Italian classics, Cavalleria Rusticana and I Pagliacci, last season at the Capitol Center.) This time around, the cast includes more than 100 members, though no word yet on whether the staging includes the traditional use of live elephants in the big procession scene. Tickets for the spectacle range from $25 to $45 and can be purchased online at or by calling 225-1111.

For something on the lighter side, consider the Palace Theatreís own production of H.M.S. Pinafore, the sprightly Gilbert & Sullivan operetta about the high seas that still shines like a bright new penny long after its 19th-century debut. The show will be staged on Friday, Feb. 25 at 8 p.m. and Sunday, Feb. 27 at 2 p.m. at the Palace Theatre, 80 Hanover St., Manchester. Call 668-5588 or visit

ē Looking ahead: Granite State Operaís spring production of Rigoletto, the masterful Verdi potboiler of curses, intrigue, revenge and death, has signed up another big name. Artistic Director Philip Lauriat announced earlier this month that soprano Monica Yunus of New Yorkís Metropolitan Opera will sing the role of Gilda.

Granite State Opera will perform its original fully staged production of Rigoletto at the Capitol Center for the Arts in Concord on Friday, April 29 at 8 p.m. and Sunday, May 1 at 2 p.m.

In the 2003-2004 season, Yunus made her critically acclaimed debut at the Met as Barbarina in Le Nozze di Figaro conducted by James Levine, and joined the company for productions of Die Frau Ohne Schatten, Le Rossignol, and The Queen of Spades. Following these performances she made her European operatic debut as Oscar in Verdiís Un Ballo in Maschera.

Yunus joins a cast that includes New York City Opera leading baritone Michael Corvino as Rigoletto, Eric Fennell (of Glimmerglass Opera, and La Boheme on Broadway) as the Duke, and, as Madalena, Ellen Rabiner, who sang the title role in Carmen in Granite State Operaís first season.

Both performances of Rigoletto will be sung in Italian with English text projected above the stage Tickets are available at the Capitol Center for the Arts by calling 225-1111, or by visiting their website at Ticket prices range from $18 to $58, with special pricing for seniors and students.

In other Granite State Opera news, the company recently received an anonymous gift of $50,000 to help pay for its first-ever executive director.

The donation caps a period of growth for the five-year-old group; Lauriat reports that last season, Granite State saw 20 percent growth in audience and 67 percent growth in gifts and sponsorships. In the current season, subscriptions are up 79 percent.

For more information about Granite State Opera, call 878-0539, or visit

- Jeff Rapsis

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