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SPECIAL COMBINES MANY TALENTS IN ONE PROGRAM

SHARE SPECIAL COMBINES MANY TALENTS IN ONE PROGRAM

Take a world-renowned soprano, the nation's most famous choir, an acclaimed conductor and one of the country's best symphonies, put them all together and you end up with An Easter Gift of Music.

The program combines the talents of Dame Kiri Te Kanawa, the Mormon Tabernacle choir, conductor Julius Rudel and the Utah Symphony. Produced by KUED, it will be broadcast Friday at 8:30 p.m. and Sunday, April 15 at 8 p.m. on Channel 7 - and around the country on various PBS stations.KUED pulled off a coup when it secured Te Kanawa for the production. "We talked about a number of people, people like (Luciano) Pavarotti," said Fred Esplin, general manager at KUED and executive producer of the program. "But we wanted her if it was possible. She was the first choice."

Te Kanawa has starred with the Royal Opera House, Covent Garden and the Metropolitan Opera, and has appeared at the Paris Opera, San Francisco Opera, La Scala, Vienna Staatsoper, Salzburg Festival, Munich Opera and Cologne Opera.

Deseret New music critic Dorothy Stowe, who attended the performance when it was recorded in February, 1989, said this of the soprano:

`The charming Te Kanawa quickly showed why she's a star . . . . Her presence, beauty and communicative powers, coupled with a beguiling, shimmering tone quality and easy delivery, made her every appearance a small occasion. Her control is admirable, and she's as likely to climax a song with a floating pianissimo as with a fortissimo - a much harder thing to do. The voice carries well and filled the hall, even when she sang softly."

Rudel, who headed the New York City Opera from 1956 to 1978, has also been music director of the Buffalo Philharmonic and the Kennedy Center. He ". . . brought a dramatic dimension to music for orchestra alone and for choir and orchestra," Stowe wrote.

Among the selections performed are Gounod's "Oh Divine Redeemer," the Bach-Gounod "Ave Maria," the Hallelujah Chorus from Beethoven's "Mount of Olives," the overture to Verdi's "La Forza Del Destino, and the Easter Hymnn from "Cavaleria Rusticana" by Mascagni.

Not that it's all classical. Te Kanawa, the choir and the symphony also join for Rogers and Hammerstein's "You'll Never Walk Alone" and a rendition of "Climb Every Mountain" that will thrill even non-opera fans.

Rudel wasn't the only famous director who worked on the show. KUED brought in Kurt Browning, who has directed the PBS series "Live from Lincoln Center" and "Live from the Met."

"To watch him direct a program like this is really something," said KUED's Colleen Casto, one of the show's producers. "He's sitting in front of all these television monitors _ seven of them. It's like conducting a symphony. He's an artist."

"He's in his 70s, but you'd never know it. I don't have half that energy."

Although the finished product makes the whole production look awfully easy, it was several years in the making. Esplin said that the planning began almost as soon as the Christmas special featuring Shirley Verrett and the Tabernacle Choir was completed in 1985.

"That was enormously popular all around the country," Esplin said. "PBS loved it so much we started talking about doing another special with the choir."

In addition to the hundreds of people in front of the camera, hundreds were involved behind the scenes.

It's a major undertaking. So many details have to come together," Casto said. "It's one of those things where you have to coordinate everything. Fortunately, it went quite smoothly."

Not that everything came together flawlessly.

"It's a three-ring circus," Esplin said. "You've got so many interests to balance and coordinate between Bonneville (International), the Tabernacle Choir, the Symphony, ourselves.

"Even agreement on what numbers to use wasn't easy. We couldn't get them all on the program."

And there was some question whether Te Kanawa would be able to perform at all.

"We were a little worried because just prior to this she had the flu," Casto said. "She was guarding her voice and we had to be careful not to stress her. That could have thrown a wrench in the whole works."

Funding for the show _ about $275,000 _ came from O.C. Tanner and Bonneville International.

"That's a lot of money for us, but it's about average for this type of production," Esplin said.

Now that this special is completed, KUED is already looking ahead.

"I don't want to give anything away, because we're still just talking about it," Esplin said. "But we'd love to do another one."