Germantown maestro conducts comic masterpiece ‘Don Pasquale’ at AVA

by Michael Caruso
Posted 2/9/23

Longtime Germantown resident Richard Raub will conduct the Academy of Vocal Arts’ production of Gaetano Donizetti’s comic masterpiece, “Don Pasquale,” Feb. 16 to 23.

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Germantown maestro conducts comic masterpiece ‘Don Pasquale’ at AVA


Longtime Germantown resident Richard Raub will conduct the Academy of Vocal Arts’ production of Gaetano Donizetti’s comic masterpiece, “Don Pasquale,” Feb. 16 to 23, at the AVA’s Warden Theater, 1920 Spruce St. in Center City.

Raub, who has lived in Germantown for the past 25 years, was born in Quakertown. He began taking piano lessons when he was in second grade.

 “I also took harp lessons from a junior high school music teacher,” he continued. “I enjoyed it, but it was difficult. First, you get calluses on your fingers and second, I am color blind – the strings are cream except for Cs and Fs. One is blue and one is red. When stretched, they looked the same to me. I would have needed to count the number of strings in between. At the same time, I started organ lessons with the church organist. The deal was that I would substitute for her when she went on vacation.”

Raub’s interest in singing began when he started accompanying the chorus in elementary school. “My high school had a fabulous music program,” he explained. “Musicals, concerts, tours were available to me. I was even able to conduct a performance.”

Raub attended West Chester University and earned a bachelor’s degree in music education and then a master’s degree in piano performance/accompanying.

 “In college,” he said, “I played for many of the better voice students, learning a wide variety of repertoire. I met Martin Katz in my junior year and began studying privately with him. I was much more interested in songs than in opera, but he told me that having a career just accompanying songs was not realistic.”

After playing for a friend’s audition at AVA, Raub was offered a position by the school’s music director, Christofer Macatsoris. He started in 1984. Since then, he has conducted “Hansel and Gretel,” “Dido and Aenaes,” “Cosi fan tutte,” “L’italiana in Algeri,” “Le villi,” “Die Fledermaus,” the world premiere of Margaret Garwood’s “The Scarlet Letter” and Donizetti’s “La favorite.”

Speaking about “Don Pasquale,” Raub said, “Although it might sound like a youthful work and is often done in college summer music festivals, it’s a very sophisticated opera. He composed it near the end of his life, specifically for three of the world’s four best singing actors.”

 Raud added, “It’s a comedy. It has both obvious and subtle characteristics, both dramatically and vocally. Simply regurgitating what you see on the page is not good enough. Because of the plot, the singers have to act and sound like different people: one second, thin and weak; the next, young and robust.”

Raub explained that he and the cast have been working on “Pasquale” since September. “The singers study on their own and then come to me and we work together. Eventually, we start combining characters who sing with each other, and finally the four leads together. I have two different casts. I generally like to see them individually first in order to encourage them to bring their own approach rather than listening to each other. We have three weeks of staging and one week of orchestral and dress rehearsals.”

It's this time-honored schedule of preparation that makes AVA’s productions almost unique in the modern world of opera, where many mountings are presented with little serious preparation. For ticket information call 215-735-1685 or visit

Local duo-pianists

Local duo-pianists Laura and Jeffrey Brillhart performed an all-French recital on Jan. 29 in Bryn Mawr Presbyterian Church. Despite it taking place on the very afternoon that the Eagles won their conference championship, the concert drew an audience of nearly 400 music lovers. Their reward was a bevy of spectacular renditions of compelling and challenging music.

Ward is a Chestnut Hill resident with an international reputation as a peerless accompanist; Brillhart is the director of music and fine arts at Bryn Mawr Presbyterian, one of the largest congregations in the denomination.

Their program featured Jean-Philippe Rameau’s “Gavotte and Six Doubles” in an arrangement for two pianos, Joseph Jongen’s “Pages Intimes,” Maurice Ravel’s “Habanera” and “Entre Cloches,” and Francis Poulenc’s “Sonata for Two Pianos.”  They played on a splendidly matched pair of concert grands, one a Baldwin (the church’s instrument) and the other a Yamaha. The two pianists and their two instruments formed a whole far more powerful and expressive than the sum of their two parts.

The duo caught the splendor of the French Baroque in the Rameau, the broad palette of emotions in the Jongen, the seductiveness of the Ravel, and the sassy humor and scintillating sophistication of the Poulenc.

Future events

St. Paul’s Episcopal Church will follow a beautifully-sung Choral Evensong Jan. 29 with a “Festival of Sacred Song” Saturday, Feb. 11, at 7 p.m.; “Five Fridays” featuring classical banjo player Markus Compton, Feb. 17, at 7:30 p.m.; and Choral Evensong Sunday, Feb. 19, at 5 p.m.

The Episcopal Church of St. Martin-in-the-Fields will host a “Celebration of Black History” Wednesday, Feb. 15, at 7 p.m. featuring music, poetry and prose performed by its Adult and Children’s Choirs.

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