The Well-Tempered Ear

Classical music news: Madison Opera founder Ann Stanke is dead at 76 | May 19, 2011

By Jacob Stockinger

Ann Stanke (below), one of the titans of classical music and the arts in Madison, has died at 76.

A funeral service will be held at CRESS FUNERAL HOME, 3610 Speedway Road, on Tuesday, May 24, 2011, at 1 p.m. Visitation will be held on Tuesday from 11 a.m. until the time of service.

Below is the news release from the Madison Opera. In coming days, I will write my own appreciation of this remarkable woman who not only led the Madison Opera but also played the piano and viola with the Madison Symphony Orchestra and the Madison Symphony Chorus. In the mean time, here are links to fine appreciations by Doug Moe of the Wisconsin State Journal:

Madison, Wis. – Ann Stanke, the general director of Madison Opera from 1984 to 2005, has passed away at the age of 76. She was diagnosed with ALS (Lou Gehrig’s Disease) in July 2009.

Stanke has been associated with Madison Opera throughout its 50 year history. A graduate of Madison West High School and the University of Wisconsin-Madison, she was listed as “prompter and accompanist” in the Madison Civic Opera program for “La Boheme” in 1963, the company’s first fully staged production.  Stanke continued as a coach and accompanist even after she assumed the position of general director in 1984, following two decades of dedication to the company.

Under Stanke’s tenure, Madison Opera’s reputation as a dynamic regional company flourished. As general director, she was known for her ability to blend the company’s visiting artists with regional talent as well as her passion for using the art form as a means of community building. Among the many projects that will shape Stanke’s legacy are the world premiere of Daron Aric Hagen’s “Shining Brow” in 1993, the founding of Opera in the Park in 2002, and the Mid-West premiere of Jake Heggie’s “The End of the Affair” in 2005. Her final season with Madison Opera in 2004-2005 was also the company’s first in the Overture Center for the Arts.

Marc A. Scorca, the president of OPERA America, released this tribute upon learning of Stanke’s passing: “Ann Stanke made a lasting contribution to the opera world from a small company in Madison, Wisconsin, that grew beyond even her wildest dreams.  In
the early 1990s, when many of the country’s largest opera companies were commissioning new works, Ann led Madison Opera dynamically into the premiere of “Shining Brown” by Daron Hagen and Paul Muldoon.  The entire project was a model of artistic integrity and community engagement – and quickly became a reference point for the entire field.  Ann left Madison Opera after boldly
ushering in a new era at the Overture Center for the Arts, where it has reached new heights of achievement as an important American opera company.”

Stanke was elected to the OPERA America Board of Directors in 1993, and was honored by the organization in 1995 for her contributions to the field. Other honors include the Madison Community Foundation Leadership Award in 1994, the Downtown Rotary Club’s Senior Service Award in 2000, and Madison Magazine’s Editor’s Choice Award in 2005. In April, OPERA America informed Stanke that she will be recognized with a plaque in the National Opera Center, scheduled to open in 2012 in New York City.

Posted in Classical music

1 Comment »

  1. So very sad. The Symphony Chorus is going to miss her. Rest in peace, Ann.

    Comment by Kathy Lewinski — May 20, 2011 @ 12:21 pm

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