Slatkin's program also included a lively run-through of Samuel Barber's First Symphony, which Sawallisch and the Philadelphia had also pecked at in Costa Mesa the week before. I was delighted to read Paul Griffiths' program note for the Philharmonic performance, in which he pretty much ticks off the work as imitation movie music. Hurrah for free thinking!
Meanwhile, back at Royce, there was Verdi's Falstaff, produced by the UCLA Department of Music, sung by an almost entirely student cast (save for John Del Carlo's Falstaff), conducted by the L.A. Opera's William Vendice with the school orchestra, directed by the University of Indiana's Vincent Liotta, and funded by the Maxwell H. Gluck and Gladys M. Turk foundations to test the possibility of an ongoing opera program at the school. Some distance must still be covered; at the moment UCLA has only two full-time vocal coaches and about 30 voice majors. All the more remarkable, then: Galvanized by Del Carlo's "Immenso Falstaff," and created with wonderful wit and energy by both Vendice and Liotta, this turned out to be the brainiest, most stimulating and beautifully produced operatic performance of the entire season. Yes, the entire season.