The Well-Tempered Ear

Classical music: Here are the winners of Friday night’s sixth annual Handel Aria Competition

June 11, 2018

By Jacob Stockinger

The sixth annual Handel Aria Competition took place Friday night in Mills Hall on the UW-Madison campus at the Mead Witter School of Music.

It was, as usual, much fun.

Such serious fun deserved a bigger audience. But The Ear suspects that the opening night of the Bach Dancing and Dynamite Society at the Overture Center and the aria competition cut into each other’s audience. Maybe that scheduling conflict can be avoided in the future.

Everyone seems to agree that every year, as word of the competition continues to spread far and wide, the singers get better. This year, the seven finalists – five sopranos and three mezzo-sopranos chosen from 113 international applicants — were all terrific.

Special thanks should also go to the Madison Bach Musicians, who in a short amount of rehearsal time turned in outstanding accompaniment in music that can be hard to follow because or ornaments and embellishments as well as subjective interpretations and the Baroque singing style.

The wide repertoire included recitatives and arias from “Semele,” “Giulio Cesare,” “Rodelinda,” “Theodora,” “Hercules,” “Ariodante,” “Judas Maccabeus” and “Ricardo Primo, re d’Inghilterra” (Richard the First, King of England).

The biggest disappointment – in truth not very big — was that the competition had no male voices. There were no tenors, countertenor, baritones or basses to add to the variety. (You can hear the 2017 Audience Favorite, tenor Gene Stenger, in the YouTube video at the bottom.)

But that is how judging on merit works, so who can argue?

Once again, The Ear and many of his voice-savvy friends disagreed with the three professional judges. That seems to happen every year. But there will be more about that, as well as some other observations, another time.

In the meantime, let us celebrate the results.

Here, from left to right in a photo by David Peterson, are this year’s winners: soprano Sarah Hayashi, Second Prize; soprano Suzanne Karpov, First Prize; mezzo-soprano Lindsay Metzger, Audience Favorite; and mezzo-soprano Sarah Coit, Third Prize.

All of the performances will be posted on YouTube at a later date, which The Ear will announce when it happens.

For more information about the seven finalists and the three professional judges, as well as updated news and how you can support the ever-expanding competition, go to:

Classical music: Four UW-Madison concerto competition winners and a student composer will be featured in a special concert and reception this coming Sunday night at 7.

February 3, 2015
1 Comment

By Jacob Stockinger

The big event at the University of Wisconsin-Madison School of Music this week, is the “Symphony Showcase” concert on Sunday evening at 7 p.m. in Mills Hall.

The concert will spotlight the annual concerto competition winners plus a new work by a student composer.

It is a special ticketed event that includes a post-concert reception in the lobby outside Mills Hall. Tickets cost $10; students get in for free.

The competition winners (below from left to right, in a photo by Michael R. Anderson) are: Keisuke Yamamoto; Ivana Ugrcic; Jason Kutz; and Anna Whiteway.

2014 Concerto Winners

Here are brief profiles including the works they will perform and the teachers they study with:

Jason Kutz, piano, a master’s candidate studying with collaborative pianist Martha Fischer. Kutz, who also performs and composes jazz music, is a native of Kiel, Wisconsin, and studied recording technology and piano at UW-Oshkosh. He will perform “Rhapsody on a Theme of Paganini,” Op. 43, by Sergei Rachmaninoff, which contains the famous 18th Variation (which you can hear at the bottom in a popular YouTube video as performed by Arthur Rubinstein and the Chicago Symphony Orchestra under Fritz Reiner.)

Ivana Ugrcic, flute, a doctoral student and Collins Fellow studying with flutist Stephanie Jutt. A native of Serbia, Ugrcic has performed as a soloist and chamber musician all over Europe, and received her undergraduate and master’s degrees from University of Belgrade School of Music. She will perform “Fantaisie Brillante” (on Themes from Bizet’s Carmen) by Francois Borne.

Keisuke Yamamoto, violin, an undergraduate student of Pro Arte violinist David Perry, earning a double degree in music performance and microbiology. Keisuke, born in Japan but raised in Madison, received a tuition remission scholarship through UW-Madison’s Summer Music Clinic, and also won honors in Madison Symphony Orchestra’s Bolz Competition, among others. He will perform “Poème,” Op. 25 by Ernest Chausson.

Anna Whiteway, an undergraduate voice student, studying with Elizabeth Hagedorn, visiting professor of voice. Whiteway is a recipient of a Stamps Family Charitable Foundation scholarship as well as the Harker Scholarship for opera. Whiteway, who was praised in 2013 for her singing in University Opera’s production of “Ariodante” by George Frideric Handel, will star in the The Magic Flute by Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart this spring. For this night’s performance, she will sing Je veux vivre (Juliette’s Aria) by Charles Gounod.

The composition winner this year is graduate student Adam Betz (below), a Two Rivers native who wrote a work titled Obscuration. Betz received his undergraduate degree from UW-Oshkosh, where he was named Outstanding Senior Composer. He also holds a master’s degree from Butler University in Indianapolis.

Here is a link to Betz’s website:

adam betz

The opening work, the curtain-raiser so to speak, is advertised to be Capriccio Italienne by Peter Ilyich Tchaikovsky. But an orchestra player says it will be the Overture to the operetta “Die Fledermaus” by Johann Strauss, Jr.

The concert will also feature the UW Symphony Orchestra under chief conductor James Smith (below top) and graduate student conductor Kyle Knox (below bottom).


Kyle Knox 2


Classical music: The Handel Aria Competition fundraiser for the 15th annual Madison Early Music Festival next summer will be held this coming Saturday night.

November 5, 2013

By Jacob Stockinger

One of the highlights of last summer’s 14th annual Madison Early Music Festival was the smack down-type contest of arias from the Baroque operas by George Frideric Handel (below), which are enjoying a renewed popularity.

Handel etching

The first annual Handel Aria Competition was sponsored by long-time early music patrons and local businesspeople Dean and Orange Schroeder. They own and operate Orange Tree Imports on Monroe Street. Moreover, Dean Schroeder studies voice and sings Handel arias.

Carol %22Orange%22 and Dean Schroeder

In case you missed it or have forgotten about it– below is picture of all the contestants on the stage at the end of the competition — here are links to posts with a preview interview with Dean Schroeder and a review of the actual competition.

Handel arias all applaud

The competition last July also was turned into CDs and DVDs. Say the Schroeders: “We have a good supply of the double CD sets from the Handel Aria Competition (not so many DVDs), so we’re happy to make them available to the public for $20 each.

Anyone who wants one could e-mail us at, and we’d put one on hold at the store.  If someone wanted to call or write, the contact info is below. Any proceeds will help defray the cost of the professional recording of the concert, and the creation of videos for the finalists to use to promote their careers.

This is all by way of introduction to a fundraiser this weekend to help support next summer’s Handel Aria Competition (last summer’s was even featured and linked to on Metropolitan Opera soprano and Handel enthusiast Natalie Dessay’s website.)

The Schroeders write:

“The Handel Aria Competition is sponsoring “An Evening of Handel, With Flare” on Saturday as a fundraiser for next year’s competition, which will be held in conjunction with the Madison Early Music Festival on July 17, 2014.

“It is our hope that we will be able to offer travel grants to finalists who have to fly to Madison in order to compete, and also to fund the recording of the 2014 Handel Aria Competition next July.

“The 2013 first prize winner, mezzo-soprano Elisa Sutherland (below), is returning to Madison to perform inAn Evening of Handel, With Flare” on Saturday, November 9 at First Unitarian Society, 900 University Bay Drive, in the Landmark Auditorium, designed by Frank Lloyd Wright, at 7:30 p.m.

elise sutherland

She will be joined by many singers with UW-Madison and Madison ties –: Mimmi Fulmer, Melanie Cain, Rachel Edie Warrick, Rachel Eve Holmes, Susanna Beerheide and Christina Kay — for a concert of Handel arias and duets (with a bit of Monteverdi thrown in for good measure).

The singers will be accompanied by Kirstin Ihde (below top) on harpsichord and Anton TenWolde (below bottom) on cello.

Kirsten Ihde

anton tenwolde

Tickets are $25 each, and are available at Orange Tree Imports in advance or at the door the evening of the concert.  For more information, go to: or call (608) 255-8211.

The program, with timings, includes:

  1. Elisa Sutherland, mezzo-soprano: Dopo Notte from Ariodante                   6:30
  2. Elisa Sutherland, mezzo-soprano: Cara speme from Giulio Cesare           6:00
  3. Melanie Cain, soprano and Rachel Eve Holmes, soprano: Oh Lovely Peace from the oratorio Judas Maccabaeus            4:00
  4. Melanie Cain, soprano: Ombra mai fu from Serse                                       3:30
  5. Rachel Eve Holmes, soprano: O Sleep Why Dost Thou Leave Me from Semele 3:30
  6. Rachel Edie Warrick, soprano:  Piangero la sorte mia from Giulio Cesare 6:30
  7. Rachel Edie Warrick, soprano: Oh, Had I Jubal’s Lyre from the oratorio Joshua 3:00
  8. Christina Kay,  soprano: Neghittosi, or voi che fate? from Ariodante         3:30
  9. Mimmi Fulmer, soprano and Susanna Beerheide, mezzo-soprano, singing the final duet from L’incoronazione di Poppea (by Monteverdi)                            4:30
  10. Susanna Beerheide, mezzo-soprano, Scherza infida from Ariodante       10:00

Encore: Elisa Sutherland: As with rosy steps the dawn from Theodora          6:00 

Below is a You Tube video of the encore piece, which helped Elisa Sutherland win the First Prize at last summer’s Handel Aria Conpetition:

Classical music: Handel operas are hot again and his “Ariodante” opens University Opera’s fall season this Friday and Sunday, and next Tuesday.

October 22, 2013

By Jacob Stockinger

Here is a terrifically informative press release about the opening production — with three performances — this coming weekend of the new season at University Opera, an opening that features George Frideric Handel, the famous and prolific Baroque composer who has undergone a major revival and is perhaps the hottest opera composer being performed these days.

“One of the most virtuosic operas by George Frideric Handel (below) takes the stage in University Opera’s fall production of Ariodante. (Editor’s note: At bottom is a YouTube video with an aria from the opera “Ariodante” sung by Anne Sophie von Otter.)

Handel etching

“Sung in Italian with English surtitles by Christine Seitz, the work will be given three performances — Friday, October 25 at 7:30 p.m., Sunday, October 27 at 3: p.m. and Tuesday, October 29 at 7:30 p.m.  All shows will be presented at the Carol Rennebohm Auditorium in Music Hall (below) on the University of Wisconsin-Madison campus at the base of Bascom Hill.


“Although Ariodante has a happy ending it is a complex, dark work,” says director William Farlow (below, in a photo by Kathy Esposito), who will retire at the end of this season. “Stunningly beautiful music accompanies the characters as they search for the truth. It is a captivating story of betrayal and reconciliation.”

William Farlow by Kathy Esposito

“Farlow’s cast includes undergraduate and graduate students from the University of Wisconsin-Madison School of Music, supported by the UW Chamber Orchestra under the direction of James Smith (below).


“The role of Ariodante is shared by Lindsay Metzger (October 25 and October 29) and Susanna Beerheide (October 27). The role of Ginevra is also double cast with Anna Whiteway (October 25 and October 29) and Caitlin Ruby Miller (October 27), as is the role of Dalinda, performed by Christina Kay (October 25 and October 29) and Lydia Rose Eiche (October 27). Spencer Schumann (October 25 and October 29) and guest artist and IW alumnus countertenor Gerrod Pagenkopf (below bottom, October 27) share the role of Polinesso. Other cast members include Daniel López-Matthews as Lurcanio, Erik Larson as the King, and William Ottow as Odoardo.

Gerrod Pagenkopf

“Production and music staff includes assistant conductor Kyle Knox (below), costume designers Sydney Krieger and Hyewon Park, technical director Greg Silver, lighting designer Steven M. Peterson, set designer and scenic artist Liz Rathke, vocal coach and musical preparation Thomas Kasdorf, and chorus master Susan Goeres.

Kyle Knox 2

“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  Tickets may 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. (Below is a photo by Brent Nicastro of singers in title roles in the opera. They are Lindsay Metzger as Ariodante, Anna Whiteway as Ginevra, and Spencer Schumann as Polinesso.)

Ariodante photo Brent Nicastro 1

“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, at the foot of Bascom Hill on Park Street.

“In an effort to help patrons find parking on campus, the Campus Arts Ticketing office is offering prepaid parking permits for a guaranteed parking spot on the evenings of ticketed UW arts events for $5.  Preorder your permit online at (5 days or more in advance; $1 handling fee) or call (608)-265-ARTS (3 days or more in advance; $1 handling fee). “

For more information, including links to interviews, background stories and samples, visit Public Relations Director and Concert Manager Kathy Esposito’s outstanding blog “Fanfare” at the UW School of Music. Look for the Oct, 10 posting.

Here is a link:

University Opera is a cultural service of the School of Music at the University of Wisconsin-Madison.  Its mission is to promote professional training and practical performing experience for student singers, conductors and pianists and, when possible, provide opportunities for student designers, actors and dancers.  For more information, please contact Benjamin Schultz at or (414) 899-9570.  Or visit the School of Music’s web site at

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