Giuseppi Verdi and Richard Wagner dominated the musical world of 19th century Europe, particularly the opera world. The two composers never met, and they couldn't have been more different as people or as musicians. Nevertheless, they had one thing in common -- they were born in the same year, 1813.
Classical music directors the world over having been waiting -- impatiently -- for 2013 to arrive so they could do the unthinkable: program Verdi's and Wagner's music on the same concert program to celebrate both composers' bicentennial birthdays.
"They are the alpha and omega of musical expression," said Bakersfield Symphony Orchestra conductor John Farrer.
The BSO is joining the party, with a program dedicated to both composers' music Saturday evening at the Rabobank Theater.
"There was very vigorous debate among musical people during the 19th century whether Verdi was 'the one' or Wagner was 'the one,'" Farrer said.
Each composer was heralded as the exponent of his national art and character. Verdi and Wagner were both associated, at least symbolically, in the unification movements of their respective countries.
Verdi, whose operas were considered the ultimate expression of the Italian style, was noted for his deeply emotional romances, expressive orchestration, beautiful melodies and immediately accessible, memorable arias, or solo songs, that soon became part of the popular culture.
Wagner sought to create a new art form for German-speaking people, his own amalgamation of music and drama that would help create a new German spirit, even a new mythology for the newly united German-speaking people. His operas were noted for their deep psychological component, epic proportions and endless melodies that eradicated the lines between arias, recitatives and ensemble pieces.
"In Verdi's operas, and most operas, once those arias are over, (the music) stops, there is a clear demarcation," Farrer said.
Farrer said Wagner's approach, to let the music unfold without rest, was radical.
"You can imagine the effect that had on the audience the first time they heard it," Farrer said. "It was just revolutionary."
The first half of the concert program will be dedicated to Verdi, with excerpts from three of his operas -- "La Forza del Destino" ("The Force of Destiny"), "Aida," and "Luisa Miller."
The second half of the concert, dedicated to Wagner, includes the prelude to "Lohengrin" and excerpts from Wagner's famed "Ring Cycle" -- Wotan's farewell from "Die Walkure" ("The Valkyries") and the "Entrance of the Gods into Valhalla" from "Das Rheingold" ("The Rhein Gold").
The performance will feature a number of soloists active in the Los Angeles area. Soprano Teresa Brown will perform the roles of Leonora and Aida; mezzo-soprano Peabody Southwell will perform the roles of Amneris and Fricka. Baritone Roberto Gomez will perform the role of Wotan; tenor Gabrielo Reoyo-Pazos will sing the role of Loge. Sopranos Susan Mohini Kane and Shannon Kauble, and mezzo-soprano Geeta Novotny will sing the roles of the war maidens Woglinde and Wellgunde and Flosshulde.
"The whole point is to celebrate their birthdays, and by putting them on the same program, to let the audiences see how genius expresses itself," Farrer said.
Jerome Kleinsasser will deliver a lecture about the two composers and the music on the program at 7 p.m. The lecture is free, but seating is limited, so early arrival is recommended.