The Well-Tempered Ear

Classical music: Madison Symphony Orchestra’s John DeMain is praised by The New York Times for his conducting in two productions at the acclaimed Glimmerglass Opera Festival in New York State. Highlights are an updated version of Verdi’s “Aida” that uses waterboarding; and Kurt Weill’s “Lost in the Stars.”

August 9, 2012

By Jacob Stockinger

Madison musicians don’t make great music only in Madison.

If you didn’t already know it, the Madison Symphony Orchestra’s music director and conductor John DeMain (below top, in a photo by James Gill) is spending the entire summer at the acclaimed Glimmerglass Opera Festival (at bottom) in upstate New York in Cooperstown, where the Baseball Hall of Fame is also located.

That is, in fact, the reason why DeMain could not conduct the Madison Opera’s record-breaking “Opera in the Park” concert last month. DeMain is the artistic director of the Madison Opera.

His wife Barbara is also there, as is their daughter Jennifer, who is studying singing with soprano Julia Faulkner at the University of Wisconsin-Madison School of Music and who got a job in the Glimmerglass Opera chorus for the summer.

On Tuesday, a review by senior music critic Anthony Tommasini of the updated version of Giuseppe Verdi’s popular opera “Aida,” staged by Glimmerglass’ general director and artistic director Francesca Zambello with waterboarding and other contemporary references, got a front page laudatory review in the Arts section of The New York Times. (Below, in a photo by Kari Cadel of the Glimmerglass Festival, is Michelle Johnson as “Aida” and Noah Stewart as Radames.)

Tommasini also praised the production of Kurt Weill’s “Lost in the Stars” as “powerful” and reviewed a third opera, the baroque “Armide” by Lully, which had a different conductor.

Tommasini singled out DeMain — who also conducted an unamplified version of the popular musical “The Music Man” — especially for his “lush and urgent conducting” of the Weill opera, which is based on the Alan Paton’s anti-apartheid novel “Cry, the Beloved Country.” (He also praised the artist-in-residence bass-baritone Eric Owen, who played to raves as the evil dwarf Alberich (below) in the Metropolitan Opera’s new “Ring” cycle of Richard Wagner by Robert Lepage. The review is a great read.)

Here is a link:

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