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Maestro leads birthday bash

Robert Vodnoy conducts Whiting Park Festival OrchestrAug. 3 during “Summer with Symphony” concert series. Vodnoy orchestrwill return Whiting Park 7:30

Robert Vodnoy conducts the Whiting Park Festival Orchestra on Aug. 3 during the “Summer with the Symphony” concert series. Vodnoy and the orchestra will return to Whiting Park at 7:30 p.m. Aug. 17 to pay homage to iconic opera composers Giuseppe Verdi and Richard Wagner. | Photo provided

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If you go

What: “A Tribute to Verdi and Wagner,” presented by the Whiting Park Festival Orchestra

Where: The pavilion at Whiting Park, 119th and Front streets

When: 7:30 p.m. Saturday

Admission: Free

Worth noting: Parking is available for $5.

More details: 659-0292 or www.whitingindiana.com/

Updated: September 15, 2013 6:18AM



There is a 200th anniversary birthday party with a classical twist set for Whiting Park.

Giuseppe Verdi and Richard Wagner — both born in 1813 — will be celebrated at a Saturday performance by the Whiting Park Festival Orchestra, conducted by Porter resident Robert Vodnoy.

“Verdi is the supreme dramatist,” Vodnoy, 65, said. “Verdi idolized Shakespeare.”

As for Wagner, 19th century opera owes much to his revolutionary works.

“I think the thing that makes Wagner so great is his deep insight into the psychology of the characters,” Vodnoy related. “It’s their interior emotional life that he sheds light on through the music.”

A violinist and viola player, Vodnoy will bring the creative grandeur of Verdi and Wagner to the free Aug. 17 concert that is part of the 20th anniversary season of Whiting’s “Summer with the Symphony” series.

Serving as music director of the Whiting Park Festival Orchestra is only one responsibility in a busy career for Vodnoy, who also is a music professor at Northern State University in Aberdeen, S.D.

The maestro manages to juggle two semesters in South Dakota with his duties as an adjunct professor in Valparaiso University’s graduate school, where he teaches arts administration.

Vodnoy also finds time to conduct the Aberdeen University/Civic Symphony, a college-community orchestra based at Northern State University.

Additionally, he conducts the Huron Symphony Orchestra, which is based in Huron, S.D.

Much of his time is, obviously, spent in South Dakota, where he uses experience that is culled from his tenure as conductor/music director of the Northwest Indiana Symphony Orchestra from 1976 to 1996. Another point of interest in Vodnoy’s background is the doctorate in orchestral conducting that was earned at Indiana University, Bloomington.

He commutes from his residence in the town of Porter to bring his expertise to outdoor performances with the Whiting Park Festival Orchestra, which presents an annual Labor Day weekend show that is packed with patriotic fare and draws several thousand concertgoers. This year’s Labor Day spectacle is set for 7:30 p.m. Sunday, Sept. 1, and includes fireworks.

Marty Dybel, general manager of the orchestra, believes the summer concert series in Whiting is popular because of “the ambience of the setting, with Lake Michigan right there” and the Chicago skyline as a backdrop.

“We vary our themes as much as we possibly can,” Dybel added as he touted musical programs that can swing from polka-flavored material, to Broadway, to stirring Wagnerian pieces such as “Ride of the Valkyries.”

That last piece of music is a Wagner composition which was prominently featured in the Vietnam War-era movie “Apocalypse Now” (1979).

“Ride of the Valkyries” also will be served up at the 7:30 p.m. Aug. 17 performance by Vodnoy’s orchestra in the Whiting Park pavilion.

Besides the vaunted “Valkyries” from the German composer, the Aug. 17 concert promises another highlight in the form of the overture to “La Forza del Destino,” one of the best known works of Verdi, an Italian pianist and organist who is legendary for composing operatic jewels such as “Otello.”

Those relaxing on lawn chairs and blankets will get a sampling of “Otello” during Vodnoy’s tribute to Verdi.

Although pops music appeals to a broader market, Vodnoy thinks the Verdi-Wagner salute will register with the public.

“I think the audience will be very interested in this program,” said the conductor, whose daughter, Alison, has likewise fashioned a life in the arts.

Alison Vodnoy Wolf, 26, is a playwright, actress and adjunct professor of theater at the University of Cincinnati College-Conservatory of Music.

Alison has helped shape her own career by writing a stage adaptation of the James Joyce novel “Ulysses,” which was performed in Cincinnati.

She noted that her parents showed an interest in theater years ago: “We saw a lot of performances when I was young.”



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