The Well-Tempered Ear

Classical music: Madison Opera names new general director. Which is Verdi’s best opera? His most popular opera? The hardest or most difficult opera to stage? What is your favorite Verdi opera? The Ear wants to hear. | April 29, 2011

NEWS FLASH: Last night, the Madison Opera named a new general director to succeed Allan Naplan, who left in February to head the Minnesota Opera. She is Kathryn Smith (below, in a photo by James Gill), the current general director of Tacoma Opera and former assistant artistic administrator at the Metropolitan Opera, and she will begin her duties with Madison Opera on July 1, 2011. “We are thrilled to announce Kathryn Smith as the new general director of Madison Opera,” said Madison Opera Board President Fran Klos. “Kathryn brings an impressive wealth of experience to the table, but it is her passion, creativity, and deep knowledge of producing opera that we know makes her the perfect fit for our company and for the community.”  For more information, visit:

By Jacob Stockinger

The big event this weekend is the Madison Opera’s two performances of Verdi’s operaLa Traviata” (below).

The performances, which close out the company’s 50th anniversary season, take place tonight at 8 p.m. and Sunday at 2:30 p.m. in Overture Hall.

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, where you will also find more information about the production and the cast (below, with Elizabeth Caballero as Violetta and Giuseppe Varano, in his American debut, as Alfredo in a photo by James Gill).

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:

Want to know more about Giuseppe Verdi (below)? Try this link to Wikipedia:

But here is what The Ear wants to know.

Verdi is only one of two primarily opera composers that New York Times critic Anthony Tommasini recently listed among the Top 10 composers of all time (Wagner was the other).

Sure, it’s a silly game. But let’s play along for a bit.

So what I want to ask is:

What is Verdi’s most popular opera?

“La Traviata”?

or “Aida”?

What is his best opera?


Or maybe the Shakespeare-based “Falstaff”

or “Otello”?

What is the most difficult Verdi opera to stage and produce?

“The Sicilian Vespers”?

Maybe “Nabucco”?

And what is your favorite Verdi opera and your favorite scene or musical moment from that opera?

The Ear wants to hear.

Posted in Classical music


  1. I don’t know if it can be quantified, but I always felt that “Rigoletto” was Verdi’s most popular. My favorite, from the time I first heard it, is “Otello.” Part of the reason may be that the first time I saw it live was at the Met, when a young soprano named Kiri Te Kanawa was making her debut in the spring of 1974. My favorite scene is the love duet that closes Act I.

    I think the hardest to stage is “Don Carlo.” There are problems in reconciling two large performing versions, but the drama is so powerful, with an inexorable build-up to the final act.

    Comment by Greg Hettmansberger — April 30, 2011 @ 11:41 am

  2. Favorite Verdi opera: “Falstaff,” followed by “Otello” and (one you didn’t mention) “Don Carlo.”

    Favorite scene actually is from my second-favorite opera, “Otello” – the last scene, from Desdemona’s “Willow Song” until the end.

    Comment by Jay Gold — April 29, 2011 @ 12:56 pm

    • Hi Jay,
      Thank you for reading and replying.
      You have made excellent choices, I would say.
      Let’s see what other readers choose and whether they agree with you.
      I didn’t mention “Don Carlo” because … well, Verdi wrote too many great operas to mention in my brief set up.
      Sorry about that.
      But thank you for bringing that masterwork into the discussion and under consideration.
      Happy watching and listening.

      Comment by welltemperedear — April 29, 2011 @ 2:20 pm

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