The Well-Tempered Ear

Classical music: Tickets to superstar soprano Renée Fleming’s recital at the Wisconsin Union Theater on Saturday, May 2, go on sale at 10 a.m. on Monday, Feb. 3 — unless you buy a $150 reception ticket before then | January 25, 2020

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By Jacob Stockinger

Tickets for reserved seats at the 6 p.m. concert on Saturday, May 2, by superstar soprano Renée Fleming (below) in Shannon Hall at the Wisconsin Union Theater are $120 per person, with information about student tickets coming later.

Fleming will perform a variety of musical styles and genres, and will be accompanied by pianist Inon Barnatan (below).

General admission tickets for the 8 p.m. reception with food, music and an appearance by Fleming in the Great Hall – all in honor of the centennial anniversary of the WUT’s Concert Series — are separate and cost $150 per person.

Tickets to both events are available at Campus Arts Ticketing website where you can also find biographical details about Fleming.

But there is a catch.

If you buy a ticket to the reception now, you can also buy a ticket to the concert.

But if you want only a ticket to the concert, you must wait until they go on sale to the general public at 10 a.m. on Monday, Feb. 3.

You can call 608 265-ARTS (2787).

You can also go online to make reservations and buy tickets to both events:

What do you think of the ticket prices for the concert and the reception?

And what do you think of the marketing strategy?

The Ear wants to hear.


  1. It appears that Pablo Casals appeared at UW Madison (at the Armory Building) as early as 1922 and again in 1923. His performances were broadcast by WHA Radio.

    See Randall Davidson, 9XM Talking: WHA Radio and the Wisconsin Idea at 79.

    Comment by fflambeau — January 27, 2020 @ 12:29 am

  2. From the “Ask Abe” feature at the WAA:

    “Sergei Rachmaninoff did indeed visit Madison, though long before your time. The great Russian composer and pianist played on campus as part of the seventh Concert Series in 1926–27. The concert was sponsored by the Wisconsin Union Theater but did not take place in the Union or Union Theater, since neither was built then.”

    Comment by fflambeau — January 27, 2020 @ 12:20 am

  3. I seem to have found an answer to my question in the official history of the university, The University of Wisconsin: A History, Vol. 3, p. 590 written by
    E. David Cronon and John W. Jenkins (1994) (earlier works were by Merle Curti and Vernon Carstenson). It is available digitally. All these people, especially Curti, were famous historians.

    It indicates that there was a predecessor to the Wisconsin Union (the union building was not built until the late 1920’s, around 1928) called the “Union Vodvill show” which “played to sold out houses” first at the Armory and then downtown at the Fuller Opera House. “Gradually the Wisconsin Union Concert Series gained the patronage of faculty and townspeople as well as students, and by the 1920s, it was bringing nationally prominent concert artists, major symphony orchestras, touring theatrical companies, and famous lecturers to Madison.” In 1927-28, a year before the opening of the Union building, according to Cronon and Jenkins, “the Union sponsored six concerts” including the Ukranian National Chorus, Pablo Casals, Serge Rachmaninoff, and Fritz Kreisler to the univerisity. Before the Union was built, many activities were held downtown or at Lathrop Hall, the Stock Pavilion, the Armory and so on.

    See Id., Vol. 3, Page 590 at

    Perhaps the Wisconsin Union itself will present more historical information from its own records during the celebratory concerts.

    Comment by fflambeau — January 26, 2020 @ 10:50 pm

  4. fflambeau – no idea why the discrepancy. Maybe some of the early concerts were held in another location? Does it really matter?

    Comment by Kathleen H Otterson — January 26, 2020 @ 6:43 am

    • I think it does matter, Kathleen. Either it is the 100th anniversary or it is a fake marketing tool. Ask yourself if you or your close loved ones anniversaries mean nothing to them.

      The Union building is not 100 years old and it is older than the music hall; maybe you are right that concerts were held in other places in the very early days but that info is not available on the Union’s own website.

      Comment by fflambeau — January 26, 2020 @ 9:36 pm

  5. Here’s an opportunity to the blogger to actually do some investigative work and find out why these prices are so high and why they were released before student prices. It’s easy to regurgitate press releases; but one would hope for far more from a blogger covering this issue. Clearly, it is a pressing issue to your audience.

    Comment by fflambeau — January 25, 2020 @ 7:35 pm

  6. Guess they don’t want students attending. Would have been nice if they could have done a master class or something for vocal/music students. Great opportunity for those who can afford it. Glad my student has already the opportunity to sit in on a Fleming masterclass.

    Comment by kck10 (@kck10) — January 25, 2020 @ 11:28 am

    • Well, the notice does indicate that student ticket prices will be forthcoming. Hopefully, they will be much, much lower than the general prices.

      Effectively pricing students (and much of the general population) out of the concert was a poor idea as was the idea to release these general prices before the student prices were announced. As I recall, the Union was built solely with student funds and so was the rennovation of the hall. That is not reflected here.

      I like your idea of a masterclass which should be free and open to everyone.

      Comment by fflambeau — January 25, 2020 @ 7:30 pm

      • Oh good – glad I missed this! I have a VP student at UW and I’d love for those students to have the chance. Thanks for the update!

        Comment by kck10 (@kck10) — January 28, 2020 @ 9:38 am

  7. I’d like to know the program before buying a ticket. Will it be operatic arias or Schumann songs or broadway numbers? That’d make a difference to me.

    Comment by Larry Wells — January 25, 2020 @ 8:30 am

  8. $120 for a ticket to hear an artist of Fleming’s stature doesn’t surprise me, but $150 to attend the reception?? That’s ridiculous and way out of line.

    Comment by Kathleen H Otterson — January 25, 2020 @ 7:50 am

  9. What’s with the sky-high prices?
    Is it the high fee Fleming is demanding? A money-raiser for the Music Department? A prestige thing? One wonders. I’m glad I heard Fleming live several times when she was at the top of her game, some years ago. Now she’s the Grand Dame of opera.

    Comment by Ann Boyer — January 25, 2020 @ 7:31 am

    • $120 for a concert ticket for an artist of Fleming’s stature doesn’t surprise me, but $150 to attend the reception?? That’s ridiculous.

      Comment by Kathleen H Otterson — January 25, 2020 @ 7:47 am

      • I think Ann Boyer’s comment about “sky high” prices is spot on. Maybe, the Union should have waited until student prices have been announced. Hopefully, they will be MUCH lower; if not, subsidized student tickets will be a must as I doubt that music students (and others) can afford the listed prices.

        Comment by fflambeau — January 25, 2020 @ 7:24 pm

  10. Note that the concert is being marketed as the 100th anniversary of the Union. However, the Wisconsin Union Theatre was opened on October 9, 1939; See: The Union building itself is older and dates from the late 1920’s.

    Perhaps someone can explain this inconsistency?

    Comment by fflambeau — January 25, 2020 @ 3:01 am

    • 1919-1920 marked the first season of Union Theatre concerts, thus this season marks its 100th anniversary.

      Comment by Kathleen H Otterson — January 25, 2020 @ 7:40 am

      • Thank you Kathleen Otterson.

        But the Union Theatre was not built and only opened on October 9, 1939 (see my source above). The union building was completed in something like 1928. So how could this be? Your link doesn’t explain the discrepancy.

        Comment by fflambeau — January 25, 2020 @ 7:21 pm

  11. Note that these prices are not terribly expensive for the usual Renee Fleming performance which can cost around $200. But these prices for the Union are for students and faculty and not your regular opera goers. I think the way to go would be to subsidize student and faculty tickets and give a nice discount to seniors too.

    Comment by fflambeau — January 25, 2020 @ 2:20 am

  12. For a student union building the prices are excessive. I can understand the drawing power of a ‘superstar’ and the publicity that comes with it but the Union at its best consists of students and should be for and about them.

    I think the union might have used a more local star talent, perhaps an alumnus, and priced tickets much lower. Another idea is this one: Perhaps the university needs to engage with some local sponsors/benefactors who would be willing to buy (and resell to students only) tickets at a special price or to subsidize the high costs of tickets to students.

    This comment should not be perceived as a knock on Renée Fleming who is a legitimate, international superstar.

    Comment by fflambeau — January 25, 2020 @ 1:08 am

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