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:

If you want to Maestro John a message of congratulations, leave a it in the COMMENT section.


  1. […] Classical music: Madison Symphony Orchestra’s John DeMain is praised by The New York Times for… ( […]

    Pingback by Two Days to Launch | A Reasonable Good Ear — August 15, 2012 @ 6:51 am

  2. Thanks for posting, Jake! As I read it, though, the “lush and urgent” comment referred to the Weill, not Verdi. The other production conducted by DeMain was the musical “The Music Man” – the overall production of which was praised as “lively and colorful”. The Verdi was described as “sensitively conducted by Nader Abbassi”.

    Comment by MT — August 9, 2012 @ 8:58 am

    • Hi MT,
      Thanks for reading and writing, and for your kind words.
      You are absolutely right.
      I jumbled stuff on my first reading and ended up creating confusion
      I have fixed and clarified the post.
      Thank you much for your eagle eye and prompt help.

      Comment by welltemperedear — August 9, 2012 @ 9:09 am

  3. Congratulations Maestro DeMain! Madison is so lucky to have you.

    Comment by Genie Ogden — August 9, 2012 @ 3:14 am

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