Posted Online: Nov. 29, 2012, 1:45 pm

The QCSO sings the Bard this weekend

Comment on this story

By Jonathan Turner,

More photos from this shoot
Photo: Todd Welvaert
Mark Russell Smith conducts the Quad City Symphony Orchestra.
The master of language meets three masters of music in this weekend's Masterworks concerts by the Quad City Symphony Orchestra, as it presents worksinspired by the plays of William Shakespeare.

The program is comprised of thefamous Wedding March from Mendelssohn's "Midsummer Night's Dream," Tchaikovsky's romantic "Romeo and Juliet," and a fully costumed performance of Verdi's "Falstaff" (Act III), in celebration of the composer's 200th birthday in 2013.

Felix Mendelssohn wrote a concert overture to Shakespeare's "A Midsummer Night's Dream" in 1826 and was asked by the Prussian king 17 years later to write more based on the comedy, one of his favorite plays. Mendelssohnwrote an additional 12 movements and interludes to complement the overture -- all depicting specific scenes or characters in the play, "and many have become as widely familiar as the overture," according to the QCSO program notes.

The Wedding March is "surely the most frequently heard of all of Mendelssohn's works," the program said. "Its opening trumpet fanfares have heralded countless numbers of bridal couples throughout the world."

Peter Tchaikovsky's fantasy overture to "Romeo and Juliet" is "filled with drama and tumult portrays the feuding Capulet and Montague families," according to the program. "The intensity of their rivalry gradually gives way to the private world of the two lovers, who are portrayed by intertwining themes by the English horn and viola."

Even though the great Italian opera master Giuseppe Verdi won't have the bicentennial of his birth for another 10-plus months (he was born Oct. 10, 1813), the QCSO is marking the 200th this weekend in part because the University of Minnesota Opera Theatre just performed "Falstaff" Nov. 15-18.

QCSO music director and conductor Mark Russell Smith conducted the university opera, where he is director of orchestral studies, and is bringing his cast here to present the opera finale, with Quad City Choral Arts. "Falstaff" was Verdi's last of 26 operas (and just the second to be a comedy), premiering when the composer was 79, in February 1893.

At 74, Verdi had triumphed with his setting of Shakespeare's "Othello," with a libretto by Arrigo Boito, who also adapted "Falstaff" for opera.

For "Falstaff" (based on Shakespeare's "The Merry Wives of Windsor" and bits from other plays) the "result is a larger-than-life overwhelming man, one who is gross, drunken, thieving, vain, and yet still an insightful philosopher of life," the program said. In the opera, Falstaff is joined by a diverse cast of characters of four women and five men.

In the story, Sir John Falstaff pilfers or finagles money from his acquaintances and woos two married women -- Mrs. Alice Ford and Mrs. Meg Page -- each of whom controls her husband's bank account. Act III shows how they triumph over Falstaff and the other men.

Mark Russell Smith will speak at Kai Swanson's Concert Conversations, held in the concert hall an hour before each of the weekend's concerts. At Concert Conversations, audience members will be given a quick tour of highlights from the program they are about to experience.

After the Saturday-night performance, the audience is invited to mingle with the musicians, guest soloists from the University of Minnesota Opera Theatre, and Mr. Smith in the lobby of the Hotel Blackhawk at Afterglow. The evening includes free hors d'oeuvres and a cash bar.

Today at 5 p.m. will be theQCSO's second annual Chili and Celli event at the River Music Experience, 2nd and Main streets, Davenport. Cellists from around the Quad-Cities are invited to join Mr. Smith (who's also a cellist) and Q-C Youth Symphony Orchestra music director and cellist Kevin Price-Brenner for a night of music making and merriment.

Chili will be available at 5 p.m., with the program beginning at 5:30. Last year, more than 30 cellists participated.The free chili will be provided by Volunteers for Symphony and drinks will be for sale at the RME Cafe. This event is free to the public.

If you go

-- What: Quad City Symphony Orchestra "Shakespeare in Concert."
-- When: Saturday at 7:30 p.m. and Sunday at 2 p.m.
-- Where: Adler Theatre (Sat.), 136 E. 3rd St., Davenport; Centennial Hall (Sun.), 3703 7th Ave., Rock Island.
-- Tickets: $8-$51 Saturday and $15-$32 Sunday, available at the QCSO box office, 327 Brady St., Davenport, at (800) 745-3000, or at