Mahler and Michael Fine mark Maestro Mann’s final MasterWorks for Arkansas Symphony Orchestra

Photo by Tatiana Roitman Mann

The Arkansas Symphony Orchestra, Philip Mann, Music Director and Conductor, present the sixth and final concert of the 2018-2019 Stella Boyle Smith Masterworks season, Mahler: Symphony No. 5, on Saturday, April 13th and Sunday, April 14th at the Robinson Center.

Maestro Philip Mann, who has been named ASO’s Music Director Laureate, is celebrated in his hand-picked program for the occasion. The concert opens with a world premiere performance of GRAMMY-winning classical producer Michael Fine’s Concerto for Oboe Section. Mahler’s Symphony No. 5, which features a greatly expanded orchestra and is known for its emotional and timbral scope, closes the concert.

All concert ticket holders are also invited to Concert Conversations, a pre-concert talk one hour before each Masterworks concert in the Upper Tier Lobby of the Robinson Center. These talks feature insights from the Maestro and guest artists, and feature musical examples to enrich the concert experience.

Tickets are $16, $36, $57, and $68; active duty military and student tickets are $10 and can be purchased online at; at the Robinson Center street-level box office beginning 90 minutes prior to a concert; or by phone at 501-666-1761, ext. 100. All Arkansas students grades K-12 are admitted to Sunday’s matinee free of charge with the purchase of an adult ticket using the Entergy Kids’ Ticket, downloadable at



Philip Mann, conductor



FINE, Michael      Concerto for Oboe Section (WORLD PREMIERE)


MAHLER              Symphony No. 5

Black History Month – Kristin Lewis & Christin-Marie Hill with Arkansas Symphony at Robinson Center

aso-mahler-soloTonight at Robinson Center, soprano Kristin Lewis and mezz-soprano Christin-Marie Hill will be soloists as the Arkansas Symphony Orchestra presents Mahler’s Resurrection Symphony.  The concert will be repeated tomorrow.  Under the baton of Music Director Philip Mann, these two ladies and the ASO will be joined by combined choirs from UA Little Rock, UCA, Lyon College, Hendrix College and the Arkansas Chamber Singers.  Yesterday the two soloists hosted a Brown Bag Lunch at Mosaic Templars Cultural Center as a way for the community to meet them.

Kristin Lewis is a native of Little Rock.  A lyrico-spinto soprano lauded for her interpretations of Verdi heroines, she began her vocal studies at the University of Central Arkansas under the guidance of Dr. Martha Antolik. After receiving her Bachelor of Arts degree, she continued with her Master of Music studies at the University of Tennessee with Ms. Kay Paschal and Mr. Andrew Wentzel. Her postgraduate instruction was led by Dr. Jonathan Retzlaff. She currently lives in Vienna, Austria, and is a student of Carol Byers.

A recipient of many honors, Ms. Lewis was recently awarded the 2015 College of Arts and Sciences Divisional Achievement Award for the Visual and Performing Arts from the University of Tennessee at Knoxville. She was awarded the Orazio Tosi Prize 2012, given by the Club Lirica Parma, at the birthplace of Giuseppe Verdi. Ms. Lewis was named the 2010 recipient of the Artist of the Year Award by the Savonlinna Opera Festival. In addition, she was voted a 2010 recipient of the coveted “Oscars of the Opera” by the Foundation of Verona for the Arena. She is a two-time National Finalist of the Metropolitan Opera National Council Competition. She has also been a finalist of the “XLVI Concours International de Chant de la Ville de Toulouse”, a winner of the “Internationalen Gesangswettbewerb Ferruccio Tagliavini” and a winner of the “Concorso Internazionale Di Musica Gian Battista Viotti”. Ms. Lewis also won the Opera Prize and the Audience Award in the “Concorso Internationale di Canto Debutto A Meran.  In 2015, she made her Carnegie Hall debut as a soloist with Mahler’s Second Symphony.

Christin-Marie Hill previously sang with the ASO in Verdi’s Messa de Requieum and Beethoven’s Symphony No. 9.  Career highlights  include singing with the Minnesota Opera, Oper Frankfurt, Carnegie Hall, Boston Symphony Orchestra, Kansas Opera Theater, Lyric Opera of Kansas City, Tanglewood Festival, and as a soloist with the Mark Morris Dance Company.  An avid concert and oratorio soloist, Ms. Hill’s extensive list of concert credits include appearances with the Memphis Symphony, Richmond Symphony, Utah Festival Opera Orchestra, and Atlanta Symphony.

A native of Evanston, Illinois, her distinctions include a fellowship in voice from the University of Illinois as well as career grants from the San Francisco Opera, the Rislov Foundation, the Kaplan Foundation, and the 2005 Elardo International Opera Competition. Ms. Hill holds bachelor’s degrees in French literature and sociology, and a master’s degree in vocal performance from the University of Illinois.

Creative Class of 2015: Stephanie Smittle

resized_99263-smittle-v_47-16964_t300A few weeks ago, within the space of a few days, Stephanie Smittle went from originating two roles in an opera to singing with a Klezmer band.  This shows not only her versatility, but also the wide range of music offerings in Little Rock.

A lyric soprano, she is a native of Cave Springs and  holds a Bachelor’s of Philosophy degree from Hendrix College. Comfortable in a variety of genres, Smittle composes and performs her original work with the jazz-Americana group “The Smittle Band,” sings with acclaimed metal band Iron Tongue, leads an Arkansas-music-based duo called “Stephen y Stephanie,” and performs traditional Yiddish music with the Meshugga Klezmer Band.  From venues of a few seats to several hundred, there are few stages in Little Rock on which she has not performed.

Smittle’s operatic roles include: Fiordiligi in Mozart’s “Cosi fan tutte” with Opera in the Ozarks, Queen Anne and Queen Elizabeth Woodville in the premiere of Karen Griebling’s “Richard III: A Crown of Roses, A Crown of Thorns,” Second Lady in Mozart’s “Magic Flute” with the Arkansas Symphony Orchestra, performances with Opera in the Rock, as well as summer study in Italy as a scholar with the Oberlin Conservatory. Her oratorio performances include Mahler’s “Das Lied von der Erde,” Rutter’s “Requiem,” and Brahms’ “Ein Deutsches Requiem.”

Robinson Redux – April

RCMH AprilWhile Robinson Center Music Hall is closed for renovations, the Culture Vulture is taking a monthly look at past performances. Today’s entry looks at Aprils from 1940 to 2010 in years that end in a “0” or “5.”

Edward Everett Horton kicked off April 1940 at Robinson Auditorium on the 1st with the comedy Springtime for Henry. The performance was marred by the sound of the new building’s air conditioning system, which was being used for the first time during a performance.  Five years later, on April 1, 1945, the auditorium was home to An Evening of Sigmund Romberg which featured the composer in person with performers singing some of his songs.  April 1945 also saw a performance of Earl Carroll Vanities (the 3rd) and Carmen featuring the Metropolitan Opera singers (the 16th.)

Tenor James Melton performed on April 25, 1950.  In April 1955, the lineup included William Bendix in The Caine Mutiny Court-Martial on the 23rd. The next night the Spring Music Festival took place. It featured school children performing.

On April 25 1960, The Coasters, Bo Diddley, LaVerne Baker and others. The month ended with a youth concert aimed at children. April 1970 included a production of Arthur Miller’s The Price (the 6th), the Southwest Regional Ballet Festival (April 11) and drummer Buddy Rich (April 18).  In April 1975 (the 6th) Hair returned to Robinson for one performance. This time there was no controversy such as had met the first visit a few years earlier.

April 1985 was very busy. On the 13th, there was a Ballet Festival Gala. April 20 & 21 featured an Arkansas Symphony Orchestra classical concert.  A touring production of the musical Gigi performed on the 22nd.  It starred Louis Jourdan (who had appeared in the Oscar winning film, albeit in a different part), Betsey Palmer and Taina Elg. The ASO was back on April 28 with a children’s music concert.

Cathy Rigby flew into Robinson Center with a tour of Peter Pan from April 10 to 12.  On April 4, 1995, the Community Concert Association brought the Russian Seasons Dance Company for a performance.  The Arkansas Symphony Orchestra performed Verdi’s Requiem Mass in Memory of Manzoni on April 8 & 9, 1995. Singer Millie Jackson wrote and appeared in the play Young Man, Older Woman, which played on April 30 of that year.

Several Contemporary Christian music acts performed on April 3. The Arkansas Symphony Orchestra closed their 1999-2000 season on April 8 & 9 with a concert featuring Carolyn Brown on flute. On April 27, 2000, President Clinton headlined a memorial service for civil rights activist Daisy Bates.

April 2005 was full of a variety of performances. Natalie Cole was in concert on April 3 with the Arkansas Symphony Orchestra.  On William Shatner narrated David Itkin’s Exodus with the Arkansas Symphony Orchestra on April 9 & 10, 2005. Arkansan Kyle Dean Massey starred in the tour of 42nd Street which started its performances at Robinson Center on April 18, 2005. In conjunction with an exhibit at the Old State House Museum, a gospel concert featuring the Racy Brothers and the Hunter Brothers closed out April 2005 on the 30th.

David Itkin bid farewell to conducting the Arkansas Symphony Orchestra in April 10 & 11, 2010, with a performance of Mahler’s Resurrection Symphony.  On April 15, the Electrify Your Strings! concert took place. Comedian Gabriel Iglasias and his Fluffy Shop Tour stopped at Robinson on April 24.

World Premiere and Mahler at ASO This Weekend

ASO_revThe Arkansas Symphony Orchestra, Philip Mann, Music Director and Conductor, presents the sixth and final concert in its 2013-2014 Stella Boyle Smith Masterworks Series: Mahler’s Fifth Symphony on April 12th at 8 p.m. and April 13th at 3 p.m. in the Robinson Center Music Hall. The Masterworks Series is sponsored by the Stella Boyle Smith Foundation.

Mahler’s Symphony No. 5 is joined on the program by a world premiere commissioned by the musicians of the ASO and written by ASO Composer of the Year, Christopher Theofanidis.

This will be the final ASO Masterworks concert in Robinson Center Music Hall before the renovations.  It is fitting that the concert features a work commissioned by the ASO musicians. It is a testament to the musicians and their supporters for the 40 years that the ASO has called Robinson home.

Adult tickets are $53, $47, $30, and $14; student tickets are $10 and can be purchased online at or by phone at (501) 666-1761. All children are free on Sunday with the Entergy Kids Ticket, downloadable at

Christopher Theofanidis, composer

THEOFANIDIS The Wind and Petit Jean


MAHLER Symphony No. 5 in C# minor
1. Trauermarsch
2. Stürmisch bewegt
3. Scherzo: Kräftig, nicht zu schnell
4. Adagietto
5. Rondo-Finale

Gustav Mahler Adagietto from the Fifth Symphony could be his most famous work, and was often performed alone before his symphonies saw widespread performance as whole works. Adagietto was written as a love song for his beloved Alma. As with many of Mahler’s symphonies, the orchestra is greatly expanded for No. 5: in addition to a full complement of strings, the work calls for 4 trumpets, 6 horns, four flutes (which at one point all double on piccolo together), along with large double-reed, clarinet, and percussion contingents.

The ASO has a great collaborative relationship between the musicians, music director, Board of Directors, and administrative staff, which is illustrated by the very existence of The Wind and Petit Jean. When the Board of Directors made a personal gift (above and beyond their requirements as Board members) to the musicians of the ASO in recognition of their sacrifice during hard financial times, the musicians elected to use the money to commission a new piece of music and dedicate it to the ASO Board of Directors. Christopher Theofanidis was chosen by the musicians to compose the commission, and he worked with the orchestra on his Rainbow Body in October of 2013 during his residency as 2013-2014 ASO Composer of the Year.

Arkansas Symphony Orchestra
The Arkansas Symphony Orchestra celebrates its 48th season in 2013-2014 under the leadership of Music Director Philip Mann. ASO is the resident orchestra of Robinson Center Music Hall, and performs more than thirty concerts each year for more than 42,000 people through its Stella Boyle Smith Masterworks Series, ACXIOM Pops LIVE! Series and Parker Lexus River Rhapsodies Chamber Series, in addition to serving central Arkansas through numerous community outreach programs and bringing live symphonic music education to over 24,000 school children and over 200 schools.