The Well-Tempered Ear

Classical music: University Opera’s exotic East-West production of Mozart’s “The Magic Flute” opens this Friday night and runs for four performances.

March 10, 2015
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ALERT: The new season of the Madison Symphony Orchestra will be announced here starting at midnight tonight.

By Jacob Stockinger

The University Opera and University of Wisconsin-Madison School of Music have sent out the following announcement about an upcoming production.

From March 13 to 17, University Opera will present the beloved masterpiece of fantasy, The Magic Flute, by Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart (below) in a family-friendly, exotic East-West staging.

Mozart old 1782

In a departure, the opera will run for four performances instead of the usual three, adding a Saturday evening show that will allow lead roles will be split evenly among singers. The show will involve over 80 singers, instrumentalists and stage crew members.

Performances are Friday, March 13, 7:30 p.m.; Saturday, March 14, 7:30 p.m.; Sunday, March 15, 3 p.m.; and Tuesday, March 17, 7:30 p.m.

Tickets are $22 for the general public, $18 for senior citizens and $10 for UW-Madison students, available in advance through the Campus Arts Ticketing office at (608) 265-ARTS and online at http://www.arts.wisc.edu/ (click “box office”).

Tickets can also be purchased in person at the Wisconsin Union Theater Box Office Monday-Friday, 11:30 a.m.-5:30 p.m. and Saturdays, noon-5 p.m. and the Vilas Hall Box Office, Monday-Friday, 11:30 a.m.-5:30 p.m., and after 5:30 p.m. on University Theatre performance evenings.

Because shows often sell out, advance purchase is recommended. If unsold tickets remain, they may be purchased at the door beginning one hour before the performance.

The Carol Rennebohm Auditorium is located in Music Hall (below), at the foot of Bascom Hill on Park Street.

MusicHall2

The Magic Flute marks the second production by Interim Opera Director David Ronis (below top, in a photo by Luke DeLalio) at the University of Wisconsin-Madison.  Ronis recently earned distinction when his 2014 production of Dialogues of the Carmelites by Francis Poulenc at Queens College in New York was awarded third prize in the National Opera Association’s Opera Production Competition. James Smith (below bottom), conducting the UW Symphony Orchestra.

David Ronis color CR  Luke DeLalio

Smith_Jim_conduct07_3130

Full of surprises and delights, The Magic Flute is a treat for both seasoned opera lovers and those new to opera.

The familiar plot centers on Prince Tamino, sent by the Queen of the Night to rescue her daughter, Pamina, from the Sorcerer, Sarastro.

As the opera unfolds, Tamino’s quest for love evolves into one in which self-actualization becomes equally important.  Along for the ride are Papageno, his comic sidekick, searching for his own soul mate; the Queen’s Three Ladies; Three Spirits who serve as guides; and an assortment of other memorable characters. 

Ronis comments about his concept for The Magic Flute: “When planning the production, I kept seeing Sarastro and his Masonic principles as being related to those of Eastern philosophy.  So, in order to create the polarity between the opposing forces of Sarastro and the Queen of the Night, I characterized Sarastro as coming from the East vs. the Queen of the Night, coming from the cultural West.

“Thus, the Queen and her Ladies wear Victorian bustle dresses, while the basic costume for Sarastro’s followers is the shalwar kameez, the traditional garment of South and Central Asia.

“To complement this, the scenic design combines pan-Asian, Victorian, and surreal elements with a few contemporary comedic references thrown in.  This works nicely, framing the story as well as creating an exotic environment in which the fantasy can take place.”

UW Magic Flute poster

The large cast of The Magic Flute includes Thomas Leighton and William Ottow, who will split the performances as Tamino, Nicole Heinen and Anna Whiteway (below) as Pamina, and Joel Rathmann and Brian Schneider as Papageno.  The Queen of the Night will be played by Sarah Richardson and alumna Olivia Pogodzinski, and the role of Sarastro will be taken by alum Thomas Weis. (You can hear the Queen of the Night’s famously difficult and haunting aria, performed by Natalie Dessay, in a YouTube video at the bottom.)

Cello Choir 2014 Anna Whiteway

The six singers playing the Three Ladies will be Susanna Beerheide, Tia Cleveland, Jessica Kasinski, Kirsten Larson, Heather Richardson, and Sheila Wilhelmi.  Rounding out the cast will be Alaina Carlson, Eileen Peterson, and Emily Weaver as the Three Spirits; Emi Chen and Gaby Klugman as Papagena; Nathaniel Greenhill and Michael Hoke as Monostatos; alum Benjamin Li as the Speaker; conductor and violist Mikko Utevsky (below) as the Second Priest; and Evan Esslinger and Fabian Qamar as the Armored Men.  Assisting Maestro Smith will be Kyle Knox, assistant conductor; Seungwha Baek and Chan Mi Jean, musical preparation; and Dennis Gotkowski, chorus master.

new Mikko Utevsky baton profile USE

The physical production will be based on designs by Charles “Jen” Trieloff II and realized by Joseph Varga, Greg Silver, and Liz Rathke.  Costume design is by Sydney Krieger, Hyewon Park and Sam Fleming, lighting design by Rob Stepek, props design by Dana Fralick, and the production stage manager will be Erin McDermott.  Student staff include Emi Chen, costume assistant; Fabian Qamar, props assistant; Emily Hake and Melanie Treuhaft, scenic painters; Briana Miller, master electrician; and Kyle Baldauf, assistant carpenter.

This production of The Magic Flute is dedicated to the memories of Karen K. Bishop and Charles Jennings Trieloff II.  Bishop was an UW-Madison alumna who performed in a number of University Opera productions between 2007 and 2011. Trieloff was the original set designer for the production.

University Opera is a cultural service of the School of Music at the University of Wisconsin-Madison. Its mission is to provide comprehensive operatic training and performance opportunities for students and operatic programming to the community. For more information, contact opera@music.wisc.edu or visit the School of Music’s web site at music.wisc.edu.


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