The Well-Tempered Ear

Classical music datebook: From prophets to prostitutes — vocal music dominates this week with Mendelssohn’s “Elijah” and Verdi’s “La Traviata.”

April 27, 2011

By Jacob Stockinger

The academic year and the current concert seasons are both drawing to a close, so this week is a big and rich one in Madison for several reasons.

One is that is an alumni reunion weekend at the University of Wisconsin School of Music that place since every five years. Since there is so much else this week to cover and since this blog covered those UW events in yesterday’s posting, on Tuesday, please look there is you want to see more about various performances about wind concerts, band concerts, piano trios and the Javanese Gamelon Ensemble. Visit:’s-spring-season-culminates-with-many-reunion-concerts-on-alumni-weekend/

But also there are two important vocal performances – as well as some smaller, non-UW events — this week I want to emphasize.

Also, one of the most popular operas of all time – Verdi’s “La Traviata” (below, photo by David Bachman for the Pittsburgh Opera) will close out the Madison Opera’s 50th anniversary season in Overture Hall this Friday at 8 p.m. and Sunday at 2:30 p.m. See below for details.

Also, the UW Choral Union (below), a campus and community chorus with about 160 voices, will perform Felix Mendelssohn’s oratorio “Elijah” with the UW Symphony Orchestra and soloists, all under the direction of Beverly Taylor.

Performances will be given in Mills Hall on Saturday at 8 p.m. and Sunday at 7:30 p.m. Admission is $15 for general admission; $8 for seniors 60 and over and UW students.

For more information about both events, see below.


The free Friday Noon Musicale, from 12:15 to 1 pm. in the historic Landmark Auditorium (below) at the First Unitarian Society, 900 University Bay Drive, will feature flutist Kyle Dzapo, cellist Carol Wessler and harpist Linda Warren in trios by Debussy and Respighi. For information, call (608) 233-9774.

On Friday at 8 p.m. and Saturday at 2:30 p.m., in Overture Hall, the Madison Opera will close out its 50th anniversary season with Verdi’s “La Traviata,’ one of the most popular operas of all time.

It will be sung in Italian with projected English translations.

Tickets are $16 to $114 with student and group discounts available. Call the Overture Center box office at (608) 258-4141 or visit

A classic tragedy set amid the decadence of Parisian high society, “La Traviata” tells the story of the courtesan Violetta as she falls in love with Alfredo, only to be forced to give him up.

For more background and summary, visit:

The Madison Opera production features sets and costumes (below) by the Tony Award-winning designer Desmond Heeley, originally created for the Lyric Opera of Chicago.

Garnett Bruce (below) directs, and Madison Opera Artistic Director John DeMain conducts the Madison Opera Chorus and Madison Symphony Orchestra.

“La Traviata is Verdi at his best,” says DeMain (below, in a photo by Katrin Talbot). He continues, “The music is instantly recognizable, the story utterly moving, and the production is on a grand scale fitting for Madison Opera’s 50th anniversary celebration.”

The compelling Cuban-American soprano Elizabeth Caballero (below) stars as the infamous party girl Violetta Valery, having last appeared with Madison Opera as Micaela in Carmen in 2009.

In his U.S. debut, the Italian tenor Giuseppe Varano (below) sings Alfredo Germont, following performances of the role in Austria, Germany and Italy.

Grammy Award-winning baritone Donnie Ray Albert (below) was a hit at Opera in the Park in 2005 and returns to Madison as Alfredo’s father Giorgio Germont in La Traviata.

Pre-Opera Talks will be hosted one hour prior to each performance.

Special events surrounding the production include the April 29 launch of “Out at the Opera,” a new affinity group for Madison Opera’s LGBT fans, and the company’s Golden Anniversary Gala on April 30.

For more information about those events as well as the cast and the production, visit:


The UW Choral Union and Symphony Orchestra, directed by Beverly Taylor, perform Mendelssohn’s oratorio “Elijah” at 8 p.m. on Saturday, April 30, and at 7:30 p.m. on Sunday, May 1, in Mills Hall in the Mosse Humanities Building, 455 N. Park St.

The 160-voice choir and 66-piece orchestra will be joined by baritone soloist Paul Rowe (below, in a photo by Katrin Talbot), portraying Elijah; tenor James Doing, Obadiah; sopranos Celeste Fraser and Kristin Schwecke; and mezzo-soprano Jamie Van Eyck.

Tickets for this concert are $15 (general) and $8 (senior/student) and are available at the door or through Campus Arts Ticketing at (608) 265-ARTS or and in person during regular hours at the Wisconsin Union Theater box office, 800 Langdon St.

For more information about the oratorio, visit:

Also on Saturday night, from 8 to 10 p.m, in the gay dance bar Plan B, 924 Williamson St., the UW student group New Muse (below) will perform contemporary chamber music, along with dancers and other musicians. The cover is $5. A special essay about this event at an alternative venue, written by New Muse participant and co0founder Jonathan Kuuskoski (below middle with Jerry Hui on the left and Paola Savvidou on the right) will be featured here on this blog tomorrow, on Thursday.


For its penultimate concert of the season, “Sunday Afternoon Live from the Chazen” features the Lawrence Chamber Players from 12:30 p.m. to 2 p.m. in the Brittingham Gallery III at the Chazen Museum of Art. The free concert will be broadcast live by Wisconsin Public Radio.

The program will feature Laurie Altman’s “South of New Jersey,” Frank Proto’s Trio, and Antonin Dvorak’s Quintet, Op. 77.

The Lawrence Chamber Players is a Conservatory of Music, in Appleton, Wis., faculty string ensemble consisting of four core players Janet Anthony, Anthea Kreston, Matthew Michelic, Stephane Tran Ngoc.

The players change from concert to concert, and this week the ensemble features Samantha George, David Rubin, Matthew Michelic, Janet Anthony, Mark Urness, and Wen-Lei Gu.

Members of the Chazen Museum of Art or Wisconsin Public Radio can call ahead and reserve seats for Sunday Afternoon Live performances. Seating is limited. All reservations must be made Monday through Friday before the concert and claimed by 12:20 p.m. on the day of the performance. For more information or to learn how to become a museum member, contact the Chazen Museum at (608) 263-2246.

A reception follows the performance, with refreshments generously donated by Fresh Madison Market, Coffee Bytes and Steep & Brew. A free docent-led tour in the Chazen galleries begins every Sunday at 2 p.m.


If you are interested in helping young music students in the area, you may want to read this letter from a friend and fellow amateur musician, Sig Midlefort:

“It was good to speak to you about our program of violin and guitar instruction with Madison Music Makers, which for five years has been providing free or low-cost instruction and instruments.

“I want to follow up by inviting you to an evening of music-making at my home at 4611 Winnequah Road in Monona on Monday, May 2, at 7:30 p.m.

“This brief house concert will present wonderful music by professional players, one of whom has placed in international competitions.  There will also be a cameo appearance of several children from the Music Makers’ program.  Bonnie Greene, the executive director, will be on hand to answer any questions you may have about the organization.

“If you cannot make it (or even if you can), could you perhaps use your blog this week to introduce Madison Music Makers to the Madison community and to announce our house concert?

“Music and music instruction can become vitally important components in the lives of our Music Makers’ children.  For these young people especially, music study and performance provide an expressive voice, inspiring discipline and achievement.

“We hope you will join us for a delightful evening of music and conversation.

“Places are limited, so we would appreciate it if you and your readers would RSVP at (608) 221-0382 or

“You can check out our website:

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