Artosphere Orchestra says farewell with fan favorites

Artosphere Orchestra says farewell with fan favorites

“When I first imagined Arkansas, I did not know what to expect,” Corrado Rovaris admitted in a 2017 interview. “Being from Italy, Northwest Arkansas was completely unknown. Now … I tell everyone that this part of the world is truly a hidden treasure!”

As he has since the event’s inception, Rovaris will be in town for the Walton Arts Center’s Artosphere festival. What’s different is that this will be his last year to lead the Festival Orchestra, which is — after 12 seasons and more than 35 performances — playing its final Artosphere this May.

Rovaris was born into a “music family” in Bergamo, Italy, and graduated from the Conservatory of Milan with degrees in composition, organ and harpsichord.

“In my musical life, I always divided my time between opera and concerts, so when we had our idea for the Artosphere Festival Orchestra, it was very natural for me to imagine an orchestra with talented musicians coming from around the United States and the world,” he said in a previous interview with What’s Up! “What surprises me most is how much our musicians love this orchestra and the festival. It is rare to find … musicians that are so committed to making beautiful music together in such a special way.”

Rovaris answered these questions prior to this year’s festival.

Q. How did your association with Artosphere come to pass?

A. I became friends with Peter Lane when he lived in Philadelphia, and after he began his position with Walton Arts Center, we met in Philadelphia for lunch. He asked me about the possibility of bringing my Italian orchestra to Arkansas, and I immediately thought, ‘Why would I do that?’ I told him I would much prefer to create something new, fresh, and exciting, and in that moment the seed was planted that would grow into the Artosphere Festival Orchestra.

Q. With your extensive background in opera, what opportunities excited you about forming and guiding the Artosphere Festival Orchestra?

A. I decided early on in the planning process that I wanted to create something special and feature a wonderful string quartet as the principal strings in the orchestra. At the time, the Old City String Quartet, now named Dover Quartet, were performing in Philadelphia and were about to graduate from Curtis Institute of Music. I … asked them to join our project. They said yes, and we had hired our first musicians for the orchestra. I knew that they would bring with them the special sense of connection and musicianship you experience in their chamber music performances … which they did and have done ever since.

Q. What goes into your process for selecting music for the festival, particularly this grand finale?

A. I wanted the music for this season to connect to the past successes of the Artosphere Festival Orchestra, so I went back to our first season for inspiration. For our very first program in 2011 we performed Aaron Copland’s Four Dance Episodes from “Rodeo” and Antonin Dvorak’s New World Symphony. We will perform those works again this season. We also have a tradition of honoring members of the orchestra by inviting them to perform as soloists. This year we will feature our principal percussionists performing a new work with the orchestra, the Double Percussion Concerto by Nicholas Diberardino.

The second concert of our very first season was titled “Italian Soundscapes” and featured a program of all Italian composers opening with an overture by Guiseppe Verdi. In our current season we will also feature an Italian program as our second concert, but this year we will perform an entire program by Verdi. For this season’s Italian concert, the orchestra is partnering with the Tulsa Opera Chorus, SoNA Singers, University of Arkansas’ premier chorus Schola Cantorum and operatic soloists from all around North America to perform Verdi’s Requiem.

For our Mozart in the Museum Concert, we will perform two of the musicians’ and audiences’ favorite works from years past and will feature a young new international award-winning pianist and student of our very first and most recent piano soloist, Benedetto Lupo. Canadian pianist Jaeden Izik-Dzurko will join us from Europe to perform in the same room on the same piano as his teacher before him.



Artosphere Festival Orchestra

American Soundscapes — 7 p.m. May 14, Walton Arts Center. $10.

Verdi’s Requiem — 8 p.m. May 18, Walton Arts Center. $15-$50.

Mozart in the Museum — 7 p.m. May 22, Crystal Bridges Museum. $54.


Categories: Music