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Mélodies Fantastique— Mystique and Narrative in Berlioz’s Vocal Music

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Professor Melinda O’Neal, Maria Levandovskaya (piano) and Opera Prelude’s young artists.

Upon hearing Symphonie fantastique, many are surprised to discover Berlioz was more than a composer for instruments alone. In this 150th year of his passing, it’s time to celebrate the majority of his music—mélodies, arias and choruses—and how he applied his characteristically evocative bent to these beloved forms of expression. Highlights from his numerous independent choruses and songs, six cantatas, three operas, seven choral-orchestral major works and even two of his four symphonies will be featured. 

 Melinda O’Neal has been praised for her “lucid and musical understanding of the score,” “moving and satisfying interpretations,” and her “stylish and clear manner on the podium” by Hugh Macdonald, Berlioz scholar and music critic. She is currently professor emerita of music at Dartmouth College in Hanover, NH, where she revitalized the Handel Society of Dartmouth College, the first student-community choral-orchestral organization in the United States, and she founded the Dartmouth Chamber Singers, which toured internationally and inaugurated a series of performances with period instruments. Concurrently she taught courses in conducting, music theory, vocal literature and music history, and she led the department study program in London. As artistic director & conductor of Handel Choir of Baltimore MD, O’Neal led performances of early baroque to early 19th-century works with period instruments and a broad range of repertoire. Most recently she was visiting professor in the Jacobs School of Music at Indiana University as instructor of choral literature for graduate students; previously she taught and conducted at University of Georgia, Indiana University, and Towson University. She has been guest conductor of the Baltimore Chamber Orchestra, Seattle Symphony Chorale, Albany ProMusica, New Hampshire Symphony Orchestra and Vermont Symphony Orchestra, among others. Her recent collaborations have included work with Peabody Early Music and Baroque Band, Bach Sinfonia, American Opera Theatre, Baltimore Symphony Orchestra, and Baltimore Chamber Orchestra. Publication of Experiencing Berlioz: A Listener’s Companion (Rowman & Littlefield, 2018) fulfills her long-time desire to enhance accessibility to Berlioz’s music for both performers and listeners alike. O’Neal holds masters and doctoral degrees in choral-orchestral conducting from Indiana University’s Jacobs School of Music in Bloomington.