The Well-Tempered Ear

Classical music: University Opera will stage Mozart’s “The Marriage of Figaro” this coming weekend and next Tuesday night. The Ear thinks it has all the makings of a Don’t Miss event. | October 19, 2015

By Jacob Stockinger

The University Opera at the University of Wisconsin-Madison School of Music will stage Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart’s ‘The Marriage of Figaro” in Music Hall (below, at the foot of Bascom Hill) this coming Friday and Saturday nights at 7 p.m., Sunday afternoon at 3 p.m. and next Tuesday night at 7 p.m.


Tickets are $25 for adults; $20 for seniors; and $10 for students with ID.

The stage director is David Ronis (below, in a photo by Luke Delalio), a guest director from the Aaron Copland School of Music at CUNY in New York City who is here at the UW-Madison for a second year in a row.

David Ronis color CR Luke DeLalio

The Ear recalls that last year’s eclectic and sold-out production by Ronis of Mozart’s “The Magic Flute” was a highlight of the season. Ronis drew incredible performances from the students and the costumes and sets, which mixed India‘s Bollywood aesthetic with a traditional Western monastic aesthetic. The opera was well sung and eye-popping in the best sense. It was Big Fun.

Dress rehearsal for The Magic Flute

So The Ear has big expectations of this opera, which he likes even more, and which will be performed by the same stage director and music director, James Smith (below, in a photo by Michael R. Anderson), conducting the UW Symphony Orchestra.

In fact, The Ear is willing to bet that once again Ronis, Smith and student performers will deliver the goods and sell out all four performances, not just the three that were typical of past productions.

UW Chamber Orchestra, James Smith, conductor

The Ear asked Ronis, who is among the national pool of candidates who have applied to fill the post of University Opera director permanently, why he chose another Mozart opera. (Last year, he also did Benjamin Britten‘s “Albert Herring.” This coming April he will do Conrad Susa’s and Ann Sexton’s “Transformations.”)

Here is his answer:

“As far as why we’re doing “Figaro” in light of just having done “The Magic Flute.”  Simple: it was the best choice for the group of students that we have this year in terms of educational value and the current talent pool.  It happened to be Mozart (below) – with absolutely nothing planned or any connection between the two.”

Mozart old 1782

If you would like to know more about the production and about the cast – and also about how to buy tickets — visit this site with the comprehensive press release from the UW-Madison:

One final word: The Ear says this Mozart opera is especially known for its sprightly Overture (below in a YouTube video featuring conductor Fabio Luisi and the Vienna Philharmonic Orchestra).

But even more importantly, The Ear says it is worth a seeing if for no other reason than hearing the sublime forgiveness quartet at the end. (You can hear it in a YouTube video at the bottom.)

The music is otherworldly and heart-wrenching in its beauty.

And as Mr. Mozart knew so well: Who doesn’t need love and isn’t moved by forgiveness?



  1. Magic Flute is wonderful and has terrifically appealing plot, but musically Figaro is even better. The plot is just incidents and characters, but the last 20 minutes of the second act is one of the best developments of Mozart’s realization that you could write an ensemble about character development–everyone is singing his/her point of view–that is unified, complementary, and musically absorbing–sublime.

    Comment by Mary Gordon — October 19, 2015 @ 9:50 am

    • It’s all to one’s taste, right?

      I just find The Flute to be far superior, a much better story, and on many different levels as well (that are still being explored today; it goes well beyond the simple tale it seems to be). And the music is sublime. It was a huge hit from the get go. Good music too in Figaro but the plot is dated and with too many comings and goings. Figaro had a more difficult time with the audiences originally.

      But who can object to any Mozart?

      Comment by fflambeau — October 19, 2015 @ 8:24 pm

      • There are even some who believe Mozart was murdered (poisoned) for giving away Masonic secrets in The flute! (and for an amorous affair).

        The suspect in this regard was Franz Hofdemel, a court official and fellow Mason with Mozart. (The Flute is indeed filled with Masonic images).

        Hofdemel, by the way, committed suicide the day after Mozart died. It has also been suggested that Mozart had an affair with Hofdemel’s wife. Before killing himself, Hofdemel brutally attacked his wife.

        Mozart, by the way, exhibited classic symptoms of antimony poisoning. See the brilliant book, “The Elements of Murder” (2005) by John Emsley, a London U. chemist and award-winning science writer.

        Comment by fflambeau — October 19, 2015 @ 8:33 pm

  2. Jake, could you write a piece about what is going on with the opera? The director position is opening, what is the timeline for filling it? How many candidates? Is this the chair that will be endowed by the Karen Bishop fund raising effort or is that a separate thing? Susan Cook and David Ronis talk about these things before the performances but it is not clear to me what is actually happening.

    Comment by Mary Gordon — October 19, 2015 @ 9:45 am

    • Hi Mary,
      Thank you for reading, replying and caring.
      You ask important questions.
      There is a search committee headed by professor of piano Martha Fischer.
      My understanding is that the process is now underway and the deadline has closed for applying. I could be wrong.
      But some of it is still being decided and some of it is not yet public record.
      I will gather whatever information I can as soon as some people return to town.
      I do think that it is indeed the position funded by the Karen Bishop Fund since the governor and legislature have made such deep cuts to the UW and frozen new positions.
      For my part, it is also hard to keep up with that is going on with so many live concerts each week and still do other trend or news pieces.
      But I will do my best to let everyone know about the state of University Opera.
      Best wishes,
      The Ear

      Comment by welltemperedear — October 19, 2015 @ 11:29 am

  3. The Marriage of Figaro isn’t as good as The Magic Flute, to my taste, and it is convoluted with many comings and goings especially in the third act (the comedy of manners for a 21st century audience may seem odd), but it is very good Mozart and one need not apologize for having 2 Mozart operas in consecutive years. Great overture and tons of lovely tunes.

    It’s an excellent choice and balanced with a modern work coming later this year. Good stuff from University Opera!

    Comment by fflambeau — October 19, 2015 @ 12:51 am

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