The Well-Tempered Ear

Classical music review: Madison’s maestro John DeMain gets raves for conducting Verdi’s “Aida” for the Virginia Opera

October 24, 2011

By Jacob Stockinger

Whenever he is in town and conducting, a lot of attention deservedly goes to John DeMain (below, in a photo by James Gill), the music director of the Madison Symphony Orchestra and the Madison Opera.

And rightfully so.

But it is easy to forget that Madison has a musician with a national and international reputation, known especially for conducting opera.

And it is good to be reminded of the top talent we have here in our midst, for 18 years now, but which we sometimes take for granted.

So The Ear thought it would be a good idea to check in and see what the critics said about DeMain and his new production of Verdi’s iconic and popular but problematical and difficult-to-stage “Aida” that he conducted and took on tour to Norfolk and Fairfax for the Virginia Opera, based in Richmond, which also featured the Richmond Ballet.

After all, that is where the jet-setting DeMain went right after he opened the MSO season with its 9/11 commemoration featuring works by John Adams, Grieg and Beethoven; and where he was when, for the second MSO concert of the season, the St. Louis Symphony Orchestra’s Resident Conductor Ward Stare came to guest conduct the last program with Rossini, Lalo and Sibelius.

That was a fine performance. But somehow, I think we grant liberties, license and the benefit of the doubt to an out-of-town guest more than to a veteran resident.

Not to worry, DeMain will be back on the podium for the Madison Opera’s performances on Nov. 4 and 6 of Tchaikovsky’s “Eugene Onegin” and then again for the Madison Symphony Orchestra’s Nov. 11, 12 and 13 concerts with violinist Midori in the Shostakovich Violin Concerto No. 1, Haydn’s Symphony No. 104 and Ravel’s “La Valse.”

In the meantime, we have to ask: So how did Maestro DeMain do with the Virginia Opera’s “Aida”?

As they say, Read all about it:

First there is The Washington Post, critic, formerly of the New york Times, Anne Midgette, who is notoriously difficult to please – just ask superstar tenor Placido Domingo with whom Midgette recently got in an nasty spat – but who was quite pleased with this production of “Aida”:

Here are some other less prominent but no less laudatory and positive reviews:

Clearly, DeMain did himself and the Virginia Opera proud.

Which is to say he also did Madison proud.

Posted in Classical music

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