The Well-Tempered Ear

Classical music: The University Opera performs an unusual and original Kurt Weill cabaret this coming Friday night and Sunday afternoon and next Tuesday night

October 23, 2017
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By Jacob Stockinger

This fall, University Opera is taking a short break from strictly operatic offerings – in the spring it will stage Puccini’s “La Bohème” — as it turns to the music of Kurt Weill (1900-1950).

No ordinary medley, A KURT WEILL CABARET is an organized pastiche of 21 solos and ensembles from many diverse works by Kurt Weill (below, in a photo from the German Federal Archive), and will be presented at Music Hall on the UW-Madison campus at the foot of Bascom Hill.

(One of the most famous and popular Kurt Weill songs to be performed, “Alabama Song,” once covered by the rock band The Doors in the 1960s, can be heard performed by Lotte Lenya in the YouTube video at the bottom.)

Performances are this Friday, Oct. 27, at 7:30 p.m.; this coming Sunday, Oct. 29, at 3 p.m.; and next Tuesday night, Oct. 31, at 7:30 p.m.

University Opera director David Ronis (below, in a photo by Luke Delalio)  will direct the show.

Chad Hutchinson (below), adjunct professor of orchestras, will conduct.

Musical preparation will be by UW-Madison collaborative pianist and vocal coach, Daniel Fung (below bottom).

Tickets are $25 for the general public; $20 for seniors; and $10 for UW students.

Here is a link to a full-length press release from the Mead Witter School of Music at the University of Wisconsin-Madison. It has information about the performers and the program as well as historical background about Kurt Weill and how to purchase tickets.

http://www.music.wisc.edu/2017/09/27/university-opera-presents-a-kurt-weill-cabaret/

For more information in general about University Opera, got to:

http://www.music.wisc.edu/opera/

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Classical music: Tonight is the opening of the Madison Savoyards’ production of Gilbert and Sullivan’s operatic satire “H.M.S. Pinafore.” Seven performances will run through Aug. 6

July 28, 2017
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By Jacob Stockinger

Tonight at 7:30 p.m. in UW Music Hall, on Bascom Hill, the Madison Savoyards will give the opening performance of their latest production of the popular operetta “H.M.S. Pinafore” by Gilbert and Sullivan (below).

The production, including two Sunday matinees at 3 p.m., will be performed on July 28, 29, 30 and August 3, 4, 5 and 6.

According to a press release, the production promises to be “visually stunning.”

Audrey Wax (below top), of Edgewood College, is the stage director, and Kyle Knox (below bottom), who studied at UW-Madison and has conducted for the Madison Opera, the University Opera and the Middleton Community Orchestra, is the music director.

The orchestra and cast are local.

SYNOPSIS

“Pinafore is the story of a lowly sailor in love with his Captain’s daughter, but she is betrothed to a wealthy officer of her own social class.

Political satire of the time (and today) permeates the story, making light-hearted fun of patriotism, party politics, and unqualified people reaching positions of power.

“Even though Pinafore premiered in 1878 skewering the “one percent” of its day, the class conflicts and romantic rivalry resonate with audiences of any generation. Rich orchestration and challenging vocal work make the music a joy to perform and to hear.” (You can hear the funny and popular song “I Am the Monarch of the Sea” in the YouTube video at the bottom.)

ADDITIONAL OPPORTUNITIES

Grant funding supports the artists and underwrites the Children’s Pre-Show (1 p.m. on this Sunday, July 30, at UW Music Hall).

Children will meet members of the cast and crew, and learn about the show and its music, tour the theater, and create a show-centric craft for free.

American Sign Language service is available, by request, for the July 29 performance.

TICKETS

Tickets cost $40 for premium seats; $30 for general admission; $28 for seniors; $15 for students and young people under 18; and $5 for children 6 and under. Tickets can be purchased through UW Box Office at (608) 265-2787, www.arts.wisc.edu, or in person at the door.  Group sales of 10 or more available by telephone only. Some disocunts are available.

ABOUT MADISON SAVOYARDS LTD.

Since 1963, it has been the mission of the Madison Savoyards, Ltd. to preserve the works of Gilbert and Sullivan and other light opera by producing and promoting live performances; to develop the skills and talent of cast, crew and musicians of all ages; and to inspire, entertain, and educate the community through performances and other initiatives.

“More information can be found on our Facebook page along with behind the scenes insights to the production.”

For full information about the production and the cast, and for clips from other Savoyard productions, go to: http://madisonsavoyards.org


Classical music: The Madison Savoyards will begin paying singers in its summer productions of Gilbert and Sullivan operas. Plus a FREE performance of a rarely heard work by Couperin is on Good Friday at noon.

March 23, 2016
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ALERT: UW-Madison professor and baritone Paul Rowe has sent in the following note: “There is a great, free “concert” or performance on this Friday at Luther Memorial Church, 1021 University Avenue, from noon to 3 p.m. Singers Chelsie Propst and Christina Kay with organist Bruce Bengtson will be performing François Couperin’s “Leçons de ténèbres” or “Lessons in Darkness.” This work is rarely heard in performance at all, much less in this complete form. It is a fabulous piece and a great way to spend a Good Friday afternoon before Easter with its contemplative mood and its beautiful solos and duets. There will also be appropriate readings and some other music as part of the service. It is definitely worth hearing.” 

By Jacob Stockinger

Here is some good news for amateurs and semi-professionals who participate in community music-making and community theater.

For the first time in its 53-year history, the Madison Savoyards, Ltd. will pay its singers. (Below is a photo of the Three Little Maids from last summer’s production of “The Mikado.”)

Madison Savoyards The Mikado 2015

“It is an exciting next step for the organization, and will help us attract the best possible talent,” says newly installed Savoyards board president Shane Magargal. “For over 50 years, the Savoyards has kept these comic operas by Gilbert and Sullivan alive in Madison. This move will help us continue to remain a vibrant part of the local theatrical community for years to come.” (Below, are photos of W.S. Gilbert on the left and Arthur Sullivan on the right.)

Gilbert and Sullivan

Auditions for the Savoyards’ summer production, The Gondoliers, will be held at Edgewood College on Monday, April 4 from 5:30 p.m. to 9:30 p.m. (Room Regina R5), and on Saturday, April 9 from 1:30 p.m. to 5:30 p.m. (Mazzuchelli Hall, Room 208).

To schedule a time, send your request via email to audition@madisonsavoyards.org

Information about what to prepare can be found at www.madisonsavoyards.org on the “Auditions” page.

The Gondoliers will run at Music Hall, in the UW-Madison campus at the base of Bascom Hill, on July 29, July 30, August 5 and August 6 at 7:30 p.m.; and July 31 and August 7 at 3 p.m.

There will be pre-performance dinners both Fridays at the University Club.

The Madison Savoyards, Ltd. has been presenting Gilbert and Sullivan’s operettas to Madison audiences since 1963, and is pleased to offer The Gondoliers for the fourth time in its production history. (At bottom is YouTube video with a brief excerpt from “The Gondoliers.”)


Classical music: The New Hyperion Jazz Babies perform Sunday to raise funds for The Karlos and Melinda Moser Opera Ticket Fund and to mark 35 years of Opera Props

November 4, 2015
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ALERT: This week’s FREE Friday Noon Musicale, from 12:15 to 1 p.m. at the First Unitarian Society of Madison, 900 University Bay Drive, features S. Christian Collins and Alyssa Smith, piano and harpsichord, performing music by Johann Sebastian Bach, Domenico Scarlatti, Ludwig van Beethoven, Claude Debussy and S. Christian Collins.

By Jacob Stockinger 

A friend writes:

The New Hyperion Orchestra, the New Hyperion Jazz Babies and friends celebrate the 35th anniversary of Opera Props — the supporting group for University Opera at the University of Wisconsin-Madison School of Music — with a benefit fundraiser to support the Karlos and Melinda Moser Opera Ticket Fund.

The concert, entitled, “What’s Wrong with Me? Love, Phobias and other Ailments,” will take place on this Sunday, Nov. 8, at 7:30 p.m. in Music Hall, and will feature show tunes about maladies that have plagued the human race for centuries. (The Carol Rennebohm Auditorium is located in Music Hall, below, at the foot of Bascom Hill on North Park Street.)

MusicHall2

Karlos Moser (below left), who founded Opera Props and saw five renovations of Music Hall during his 36 years as UW-Madison’s Opera Director, celebrates his 85th birthday this year. But age is no matter to a seasoned performer. Moser will head the concert as lead vocalist, crooning about everything from Spoonerisms to Arachnophobia.

Joining him are his wife, Melinda Moser (below right), on the piano, clarinetist Eric Ellis, violinist Rebecca Mackie, and bassist Ben Ferris. Together, they create the New Hyperion Jazz Babies, an offshoot of the Original Hyperion Oriental Fox Trot Orchestra.

Karlos and Melinda Moser

“Last year, we celebrated the 40th year reunion of the founding of the OHOFTO with some of the original members,” says Moser. “We now want to pass on this rich tradition to a new generation.”

The Original Hyperion, founded in Madison in 1974 by Rick Mackie and Moser, began with a mix of students and professional musicians, who quickly established their standing in this jazz-influenced style.

In the spirit of passing the baton, the Sunday concert will conclude with a number of student musicians, including three opera ticket fund recipients and students from Sun Prairie High School, along with their musical director, Steve Sveum.

Also making special appearances are tenor Fabian Qamar and soprano Nicole Heinen, both Opera Props recipients in the graduate music program, as well as a mystery guest from Fleet, England, who was a ticket fund recipient.

Tickets are $25 for general admission, with students receiving two tickets for the price of one. In honor of Karlos Moser’s 85th birthday, every $85 donation to the Opera Fund will be met with one free ticket.

Please send donations of any amount directly to the UW Foundation online at supportuw.org/giveto/operatickets, or by mail at US Bank Lockbox, Box 78807, Milwaukee, 53278 (memo: “Moser Fund for Opera Tickets”). $85 gifts may be confirmed at kmoser@wisc.edu or 608-274-1150.

General admission tickets are available in advance through the Campus Arts Ticketing Box 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. Beginning one hour before the performance, tickets can be purchased at the door.

All proceeds will go to the Karlos and Melinda Moser Opera Ticket Fund, which buys expensive opera tickets for UW-Madison music students.

 

 

 


Classical music: The Oakwood Chamber Players will perform “Remix! Christmas Lights Memories” twice this coming weekend at Oakwood Village West in Madison. Plus, UW-Madison voice students perform a FREE workshop of opera highlights TONIGHT at 7:30.

November 25, 2014
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ALERT: TONIGHT at 7:30 p.m. in Old Music Hall (below) at the foot of Bascom Hill, student singers in the University of Wisconsin-Madison School of Music opera department, under the direction of UW-Madison professors Mimmi Fulmer and David Ronis, will perform a FREE Opera Workshop. Sorry, The Ear has no word on the specific program — and it is not on the UW-Madison School of Music website at http://www.music.wisc.edu/events/uw-opera-workshop/  But it usually features popular arias and familiar scenes from popular operas, all done with piano accompaniment. (JUST IN: The program includes excerpts from: Ludwig van Beethoven‘s “Fidelio,” Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart’s “Le nozze di Figaro” and “Cosi fan tutte”; Claudio Monteverdi’s “L’incoronazione di Poppea”;  Gioachino Rossini’s “Il barbiere di Siviglia“; Gaetano Donizetti’s “Don Pasquale”; Jules Massenet’s “Cendrillon”; Johann Strauss’ “Die Fledermaus”; Vincenzo Bellini’s “I Capuleti ed i Montecchi“; and Stephen Sondheim‘s “A Little Night Music.”)

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By Jacob Stockinger

The holiday season, in music as well as in shopping malls, has arrived.

Our friends at the Oakwood Chamber Players, known for the quality of its performance and its unusual repertoire, send us the following information:

The Oakwood Chamber Players (below) continues to celebrate its 30th anniversary season when the ensemble presents “Remix! Christmas Lights Memories” this coming Friday afternoon  and Sunday afternoon.

Oakwood Chamber Players 2011 photo Bill Arthur

The two concerts this coming weekend continue the group’s tradition of kicking off the holiday season over Thanksgiving weekend with Christmas-themed music. The concerts will revisit favorite holiday music from the past 30 years.

Guest musicians include Heather Thorpe, soprano, Mary Ann Harr, harp (below top), Jennifer Morgan, oboe (below bottom), and Mike Sczyzs, horn.

Mary Ann Harr

real Jennifer Morgan Oakwood USE photo

The concerts are on Friday, November 28, at 1 p.m. and Sunday, November 30, at 1:30 p.m. Both concerts will be held at the Oakwood Center for Arts and Education, 6209 Mineral Point Road, on the far west side of Madison.

Oakwood Village Auditorium and Stage

This is the second concert in their celebratory 30th anniversary season series titled “Reprise! Looking Back Over 30 Years

Upcoming concerts include:

  • Recapitulate! – January 17 and January 18
  • Replay! – March 14 and March 15
  • Reissue! – May 23 and May 24

The Oakwood Chamber Players is a group of Madison-area professional musicians who have been affiliated with the Madison Symphony Orchestra, the Wisconsin Chamber Orchestra and the University of Wisconsin-Madison School of Music. They have rehearsed and performed at Oakwood Village for 30 years.

Tickets are available at the door. Admission is $20 for the general public, $15 for seniors and $5 for students.

Visit www.oakwoodchamberplayers.com for more information.

The Oakwood Chamber Players are a professional music ensemble proudly supported by Oakwood Lutheran Senior Ministries and the Oakwood Foundation.

 


Classical music: Farley’s Salon Piano Series starts a new season this coming Sunday afternoon with the prize-winning Varshavski-Shapiro piano duo. Plus, tonight is your last chance to hear and see the University Opera’s production of Benjamin Britten’s “Albert Herring.”

October 28, 2014
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ALERT: Tonight at 7:30 p.m. in Music Hall on Bascom Hill, is your last chance to hear the University Opera’s production of Benjamin Britten’s comic chamber opera “Albert Herring,” which is based on a short story by the 19th-century French writer Guy de Maupassant. (Below, in a photo by Michael R. Anderson, is a crucial scene.)

Tickets are available at the door. They are $22 for the public, $18 for seniors and $10 for students.

Here is a link with more information:

http://www.music.wisc.edu/events/brittens-albert-herring-3/

And here is a link to a review by John W. Barker of Isthmus. The Ear, who saw the Sunday afternoon performance instead of the opening on Friday night, agrees with Barker on the major points:

http://www.isthmus.com/daily/article.php?article=43859&sid=bd26396e522b7c37c6f143f5598af822

University Opera Albert Herring Michael R. Anderson

By Jacob Stockinger

Farley’s House of Pianos will host five concerts in the Salon Piano Series’ 2014-15 season, which starts this coming Sunday:

The Varshavski-Shapiro Piano Duo (below), this Sunday, November 2, at 4 p.m., in music by Schubert, Ravel, Milhaud, Saint-Saens and Poulenc.

varshavski shapiro duet

Pianist Ilya Yakushev (below), Sunday, January 25, 2015, at 4 p.m. in music by Beethoven, Prokofiev and Schumann.

ilya yakushev 3

Pianist Marco Grieco (below), Friday, March 13, 2015 at 7:30 p.m. in music by Johann Sebatsian Bach-Feruccio Busoni, Beethoven, Chopin and Liszt.

marco grieco

Pianist Martin Kasík (below), Saturday, April 18, 2015, at 7:30 p.m. in music by Beethoven, Ravel and Prokofiev.

martin kasik

A spring jazz concert, still to be announced

These concerts constitute the second season of the Salon Piano Series, a 501(c)(3) non-profit founded by Tim and Renée Farley to continue the tradition of intimate salon concerts at Farley’s House of Pianos.

The setting replicates that experienced by audiences throughout the 18th and 19th centuries, and enhances collaboration between performer and audience.

The Series offers audiences the chance to hear upcoming and well-known artists whose inspiring performances are enhanced by the setting and the fine pianos. Some performances are preceded by free lectures. An artists’ reception with light food and beverages follows each concert and is included in the ticket price.

VARSHAVSKI AND SHAPIRO

Here is more about the opening concert:

The program features: “Variations on a French Song”, D. 624, one piano-four hands, by Franz Schubert; “La Valse” for one piano-four hands by Maurice Ravel; the exciting and lyrical Brazil-inspired “Scaramouche” suite by Darius Milhaud (heard at the bottom played by piano superstars Martha Argerich and Evgeny Kissin in a YouTube video); “Variation on a Theme by Beethoven” for two pianos by Camille Saint-Saens; and the Sonata for Two Pianos by Francis Poulenc.

Ukrainian Stanislava Varshavski and Russian Diana Shapiro’s partnership began in 1998, while the two were students at the Jerusalem Rubin Academy in Israel. One year later, they won first prize at the International Piano Duo Competition in Bialystok, Poland.

Stanislava Varshavski-Diana Shapiro

Since then, the ensemble has participated in international festivals and performed solo recitals in at least eight different countries, and has appeared with a number of well-known orchestras, such as the Jerusalem Symphony Orchestra, Warsaw Philharmonic Orchestra, and the New World Symphony Orchestra of Miami.

In 2005, they placed first in the prestigious Murray Dranoff International Two Piano Competition. Varshavski and Shapiro both hold doctorates in Musical Arts from University of Wisconsin-Madison School of Music, where they studied under Martha Fischer. The duo appeared together at Farley’s in 2012 when they premiered the Villa Louis Steinway Centennial grand (below) that was rebuilt in the Farley workshop. Learn more about the Varshavski-Shapiro Piano Duo at www.piano-4-hands.com.

Farley 1877 piano

SALON PIANO SERIES

Visit http://salonpianoseries.org/concerts.html for complete concert programs, and artist information. Tickets are $35 for each concert and can be purchased online at www.brownpapertickets.com

Tickets are also available at Farley’s House of Pianos and Orange Tree Imports.

Farley’s House of Pianos is located at 6522 Seybold Road on Madison’s far west side near the Beltline and West Towne. Plenty of free parking is available at Farley’s House of Pianos, and it is easy to reach by bicycle or Madison Metro.

 

 


Classical music: A new early music vocal group — “Voces aestatis” (Summer Voices) — makes its debut this Friday night with early music by Byrd, Palestrina, Lasso and others. Also, the Madison Area Youth Orchestra (MAYCO) performs Barber, Shostakovich and Mozart on Friday night. Plus, the Wisconsin State Music Honors air on Wisconsin Public Television on Thursday night at 7.

August 20, 2014
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ALERT: If you want to hear some wonderful young musicians performing, be sure to tune into the Wisconsin State Music Honors concert, which spotlights young musicians in middle and high school.  The orchestral and vocal performances took place in Overture Hall at the Overture Center for the Arts and will air on Wisconsin Public Television (WPT) this Thursday night, Aug. 21, at 7 p.m.

The Ear promises you: Tune in and listen and you will be impressed. And kudos to WPT for giving student artists the kind of public recognition that is usually lavished on student athletes.

Here is a link to the schedule blurb:

http://wptschedule.org/episodes/44717914/2013-State-Honors-Concerts/

wpt state honors concert 2014

By Jacob Stockinger

The Latin name means “Summer Voices.”

That’s not surprising. The leader of the new early music vocal group “Voces aestatis” (below top) is Ben Luedcke, the church music director who for years has also led the Madison Summer Choir (below bottom), which usually performs later repertoire.

Voces aestratis 1

Summer Choir 2011 orchestraI

Here is an official announcement:

“VOCES AESTATIS” TO GIVE DEBUT CONCERT IN MADISON

Voces Aestatis (pronounced VOH-ches eh-STAH-tees) is a new early music choral ensemble, and Madison’s only professional choir specializing in 16th-century repertoire.

This ensemble features 12 voices, striving for a clarity of tone and pure blending, with expressive singing in an intimate setting.

Director Ben Luedcke (below) has selected several well-known Renaissance favorites for the debut concert, as well as a few surprises.

Ben Luedcke conducts voces aestratis

The first half features sacred pieces exploring Christ’s birth, death and legacy. It features works by William Byrd, Michael Praetorius, Tomas Luis de Victoria, Giovanni da Palestrina, Orlando di Lasso (below), Antonio Lotti, Johannes Ockeghem, Thomas Tallis, Orlando Gibbons, and Heinrich Schütz.

The second half of the concert focuses primarily on the pinnacle genre of secular Renaissance repertoire — Italian and English Madrigals. It features works by Carlo Gesualdo, Claudio Monteverdi, Thomas Weelkes, Michael Cavendish and John Wilbye.

Orlando di Lasso

The one-time-only performance is this Friday night, August 22, at 7:30 p.m. in St. Andrew’s Episcopal Church (below), 1833 Regent Street, on Madison’s near west side near Randall Elementary School.

General admission tickets are $10, and are available at the door.

St. Andrew's Episcopal Madison Front

MAYCO PERFORMS LAST CONCERT THIS SUMMER

“Train wrecks,” as The Wise Critic calls them when he refers to excellent but conflicting events, are happening more and more frequently in classical music around Madison.

Even the summer doesn’t take us away from them.

Take, for one example, the conflict between the closing concert of the Token Creek Chamber Music Festival at 4 p.m. on Sunday afternoon, Aug. 31, and the University of Wisconsin-Madison School of Music memorial for longtime pianist Howard Karp, which is slated for the same approximate time, 3 p.m. to 5 p.m., with a reception following.

Another such “train wreck” is this Friday night.

In addition to the vocal concert previewed above, the Madison Area Youth Chamber Orchestra (MAYCO, below) will perform its second and last concert of this summer.

MAYCO playing

The concert is under the baton of MAYCO’s founder and UW-Madison student violist Mikko Rankin Utevsky (below top), and will take place at 7:30 p.m. in Music Hall (below bottom), on the UW-Madison campus at the foot of Bascom Hill.

Admission is $7; by donation for students.

new Mikko Utevsky baton profile USE

MusicHall2

The program includes: Overture to “The Magic Flute” by Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart; “Knoxville, Summer 1915” (at bottom in a YouTube video with the ravishing voice and clear diction of Dawn Upshaw) by Samuel Barber with text by James Agee, and featuring soprano soloist Caitlin Ruby Miller; and Dmitri Shostakovich’s Symphony No. 9 in E Minor.

caitlin ruby miller

Here is a link to MAYCO’s website and to a previous story and review from earlier this summer:

http://www.madisonareayouthchamberorchestra.org

https://welltempered.wordpress.com/2014/07/28/classical-music-the-ear-does-some-more-catching-up-this-time-he-takes-in-the-madison-area-youth-chamber-orchestra-mayco-plus-here-is-more-news-from-day-4-of-wysos-tour-in-argentina/

 

 

 


Classical music: Guest music director Grant Harville talks about the Madison Savoyards productions of Gilbert and Sullivan’s “Princess Ida.” The show opens this Friday night and runs for six more performances through Aug. 3.

July 24, 2014
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By Jacob Stockinger

To loyal and even devout fans, they are known simply as “G&S.”

And since 1963, a devoted group of Madison singers, musicians and stage crafters have produced the operettas of Gilbert and Sullivan.

This summer’s production is “Princess Ida,” one of the later G&S shows by the dynamic duo of satirists who were so entertainingly portrayed in the 1999 film “Topsy-Turvy.” “Princess Ida” opens this Friday night at 7:30 p.m. in Music Hall. (It was previously performed by the Savoyards in 1967, 1980 and 1999.)

Savoyards Ida poster

The seven performances, including two SUNDAY (not Saturday, as erroneously first stated) matinees at 3 p.m., take place at the University of Wisconsin-Madison School of Music. The hall is located on the UW-Madison campus at the foot of Bascom Hill.

MusicHall2

Here is a link to the home web page of The Madison Savoyards. You can find more information including: directions and connections to purchase tickets; the dates and times of performances; background about the Savoyards and about Gilbert and Sullivan; reviews of past productions; videos and recordings; pre-performance dinners; information about how to support and participate in the group; and even a newsletter.

http://www.madisonsavoyards.org

Tickets for “Princess Ida” can be purchased at the Wisconsin Union Theater Box Office, by phone at (608) 265-ARTS, or online at www.uniontheater.wisc.edu

The story, adapted from Alfred Lord Tennyson’s epic poem, “The Princess,” is set in Medieval Europe. Princess Ida, betrothed in infancy to Prince Hilarion, has forsworn men and is now head of a women’s school that teaches philosophy, science and the fickleness of men. Intent on winning her heart, Hilarion and his friends set out on a quest that involves sneaking into Ida’s school disguised as women, and culminates in an epic sword-wielding battle.

“It’s just good old Gilbert and Sullivan fun,” says stage director Audrey Lauren Wax (below), who works with StageQ in Madison. “Who doesn’t love the fact that there are three siblings who look nothing alike and the only real connection they have is that it takes three of them to equal one full brain!”

Audrey Lauren Wax

Music director Grant Harville assures audiences that “fans of Sullivan’s contributions to these collaborations will hear exactly the sorts of features that attract them to these works.” Musical numbers run the gamut, from silly patter songs including, “Whene’er I Spoke” and “If You Give Me Your Attention,” to more poignant, lyrical numbers such as, “I Built Upon a Rock.”

Action, plot twists and the generous doses of humor sprinkled throughout Princess Ida will certainly keep audience members on their toes.

The cast includes some veterans of the stage, with Milwaukee native Naiza Delica (below left in a photo by Jane Wegenke) as Princess Ida, Donald Dexter (middle) as King Gama and UW-Madison senior William Ottow (below right) as her romantic counterpart, Prince Hilarion.

Ida preview 2

William Rosholt and Donald Dexter appear as the dueling kings Hildebrand and Gama, and Patrick Chounet and Steven Groth play Hilarion’s two loyal friends, Cyril and Florian.

Gama’s three sons are played by Jim Chiolino, Alec Moeser and Matt White, and Rachel Bishop, Ann Baltes and Tiffany Orr appear as Lady Blanche, Lady Psyche and Melissa.

The cast includes over 30 members from the Madison area, including four families.

Music director Grant Harville (below) agreed to a Q&A with The Ear:

Grant Harville conducting 2

Can you briefly introduce yourself to readers?

I received my doctorate at the UW-Madison School of Music. This is my fourth Madison Savoyards production, and my fifth Gilbert and Sullivan show overall. I’m currently the Music Director and conductor for the Idaho State-Civic Symphony, and I teach at Idaho State University. But my ties to Madison go back a good 20 years now, and The Savoyards have been a rewarding way to stay active during the summer.

How does “Princess Ida” fit into the overall work of Gilbert and Sullivan, especially compared to such famous works as “The Pirates of Penzance,” “The Mikado” and “HMS Pinafore”? What does it share with the others and what separates it from them?

It’s a testament to the astonishing success of Gilbert and Sullivan’s collaboration that “Ida” was considered a failure, running for a “mere” 246 performances.

A lot of the characteristics found in their other projects are present here: punny, silly, clever, occasionally slapstick humor; ridiculous, buffoonish characters; and a lifetime’s worth of good tunes. Some of my favorites from “Ida” are “Gently, Gently,” “I Am a Maiden” and “The World Is But a Broken Toy.” (You can hear the opening of “Princess Ida” in a YouTube video at the bottom.)

Sullivan is — and was in his own day — criticized for writing music that was “beneath him,” but I’ve never found that criticism fair. The melodies are perfectly constructed and brilliantly apt text settings; and there are plenty of traps for the company that underestimates the complexities of these scores.

G&S had a formula, to be sure, but there’s enough generic music out there for us to recognize that this is better than that.  There’s a reason the duo has found a permanent place in the repertory while countless other works have gone by the wayside.

What do you find so appealing about the stream of William Gilbert and Arthur Sullivan (below)? Do you find any relevance in “Princess Ida” to society and politics today? Can you elaborate?

I think what keeps bringing me back as a music director is how much I fall in love with the music each summer.  No matter how good the drama is, or how funny the dialogue is, it’s the music that attracts me.

Because of its parody of feminism, “Ida” is perhaps more controversial than others of the operas. The parody that today’s audiences will recognize most readily is probably Lady Blanche, a university professor whose thinking has become so abstract that it no longer makes any sense.

Gilbert and Sullivan

What would you like the public to know about this particular production -– the cast, the musicians, the sets and costumes, whatever?

The Madison Savoyards expects, though certainly doesn’t require, a very high level of familiarity from some of its audience — to the degree that if a few words are transposed in the dialogue, there are people who will notice.  (Not that such familiarity is required; G&S is extremely accessible.)

Because the company is dedicated to this repertoire, they devote all their resources to making the productions as polished as possible. That means beautiful sets and costumes, full orchestra accompaniment, outstanding staff support.

I’m proud of our cast and crew; they make a remarkable commitment to be in the show, and I think audiences will see it manifested on stage.

 

 

 


Classical music: The Madison Early Music Festival turns 15 with a perfect opening concert by the Toronto Consort that explored the Italian Renaissance and the musical legacy of Leonardo da Vinci.

July 15, 2014
1 Comment

By Jacob Stockinger

The Madison Early Music Festival started as an idea.

So, what better way to mark its 15th anniversary than by exploring perhaps history’s greatest Man of Ideas -– Leonardo da Vinci?

Leonardo da Vinci

And that is exactly what happened during the opening concert last Saturday  night by MEMF, which this year is exploring Italian music from 1300 to 1600.

memf banner 2014

The festival — complete with workshops, lectures and concerts -– is held each summer at the University of Wisconsin-Madison School of Music.

It started as a way to help fill the summertime void of classical music. But now summer is its own season when it comes to classical music in Madison, and much of that success is due to MEMF’s success.

Co-founders and co-artistic directors UW-Madison baritone Paul Rowe and his soprano wife Cheryl Bensman Rowe (below) had every reason to be proud and moved -– and they were, visibly and audibly.

Paul Rowe, Cheryl Bensman Rowe MEMF 2014

This summer, because Mills Hall is under construction, MEMF has had to turn to other venues, chiefly the nearby Luther Memorial Church at 1021 University Avenue and Music Hall on Bascom Hill.

The opening concert “The Da Vinci Codex” was held at Luther Memorial, and the church seemed close to full, meaning almost 400 listeners attended. This alternative venue actually seemed an improvement in that it offered a warm and acoustically superior environment with sets and a building that complemented the religious beliefs and art of that era’s music and culture.

MEMF 2014 Luther Memorial

MEMF 2014 Luther Memorial audience

The program was set up by a fine and well-attended lecture and slide show given by UW-Madison art professor Gail Geiger (below). She examined the heretofore underestimated role of music in Leonardo’s life and career as a painter, drawing master, poet, engineer, inventor and all-round genius.

MEMF 2014 Gail Geiger

MEMF Gail Geiger slide show Leonardo

What the audience then heard was a two-hour concert in which no false note was sounded, no false step was taken.

The performer was the Toronto Consort, making its Madison debut. It proved an outstanding and thoroughly professional group of eight persons (below) who are multi-talented in their ability to sing, to play instruments and to recite narration dramatically, expressively and convincingly. They were not afraid to entertain and as well as to inform. (You can hear a sample of similar music performed by the Toronto Consort in a YouTube video at the bottom.)

Toronto Consort MEMF 2014

The Ear was especially impressed by the tightness of the scissors-and-paste presentation and the uncanny way the Toronto Consort spoke to and engaged with the audience, who laughed and applauded thunderously.

MEMF 2014 Luther Memorial audience Toronto Consort

The program’s effectiveness came from the terrifically seamless and smooth narrative thread, the story that centered on the life and works of Leonardo da Vinci. It was unifying and used primary sources (Leonardo’s notebooks and letters) and secondary sources like the proto-art historian Giorgio Vasari’s “Lives” and other historians or critics. (Below is David Fallis, the artistic director, tenor and narrator.)

MEMF 2014 Luther Memorial Toronto Consort David Fallis, artistic director, tenor, narrator

The performers moved easily from historical accounts of Leonardo in Florence, Milan and France to contextual music that illustrated Leonardo –- the ultimate Renaissance Man — from birth to death. And it proved thoroughly enjoyable and often deeply moving. You did not have to be a fan of early music to be taken in by the contagious melodies and harmonies, the catchy inflections and rhythms, the facts of an amazing life and career.

Just watching these complete professionals perform took us into their world because they are full-body performers who used hands, feet and facial expressions to convey the emotional meaning of the music and get the audience to connect with the music and with them. It felt like Renaissance jazz, so free and yet also so disciplined and practiced was the performance. It is what The Ear likes to call “the well-rehearsed surprise” and is a hallmark of all great performances that are virtuosic and make what is hard seem easy or effortless. (Below is Katherine Hall, viola da gamba player and soprano, singing.)

MEMF 2014 Toronto Consort Katherine Hill soprano and viola da gamba

There is much more left of the 15th Madison Early Music Festival to hear, including “Songs of Love” by the instrumentalists and vocal ensemble Ex Umbris in Music Hall tonight at 7:30 p.m. tonight; plus other concerts including the second annual Handel Aria Competition in Music Hall on Thursday night at 7:30 p.m. (NOT 7 p.m., as the MEMF home website mistakenly said at first, and the always impressive All-Festival Concert, which focuses this year on the Trionfi of the poet Petrarch, on Saturday night at 7:30 p.m. in Luther Memorial Church. FREE pre-concert lectures by experts in art, music and history take place at 6:30 p.m.

Here is a link to a schedule and descriptions of events, with times, places and participants:

http://continuingstudies.wisc.edu/conferences/madison-early-music-festival/index.html?source=madisonearlymusic.org

Unlike many of Leonardo’s ideas, which were adventurous and even prophetic if uncompleted, MEMF has moved from idea to reality.

The Ear has no doubt, and every hope, that it is here to stay, and that it will continue to evolve and grow.


Classical music: This year’s second annual Handel Aria Competition is Thursday night at 7:30 p.m in Music Hall with anpre-concert lecture at 6:30 p.m. in Room 2650 at the nearby Mosse Humanitites Building — and is almost guaranteed to be a sellout.

July 14, 2014
2 Comments

By Jacob Stockinger

This week, in conjunction with the 15th annual Madison Early Music Festival that is running from Saturday, July 12, to Saturday, July 19, the second annual Handel Aria Competition will take place this Thursday, July 17, at 7:30 p.m. in Music Hall, 925 Bascom Mall, at the foot of Bascom Hill on the campus of the University of Wisconsin-Madison. A free pre-concert lecture will be given at 6:30 p.m. in Room 2650 of the nearby UW-Madison Mosse Humanities Building by John W. Barker, who writes music criticism for Isthmus and for this blog and who is a big and longtime Handel enthusiast.

MusicHall2

NOTE: The Handel Smack-Down will NOT take place in Mills Hall, as it did last summer, because Mills Hall at the UW-Madison School of Music, is closed while it undergoes an upgrading of its electrical system.

The Handel Aria Competition was established in 2013 to encourage emerging singers to explore the repertoire of Handel. Founders Dean and Orange Schroeder (below bottom), who own Orange Tree Imports on Monroe Street, are  enthusiasts of the vocal repertoire of George Frideric Handel (below top) and are lifelong supporters of the arts.

Here is a link to the Q&A Dean Schroeder gave The Ear last summer:

https://welltempered.wordpress.com/2013/07/05/classical-music-qa-organizer-dean-schroeder-talks-about-the-inaugural-handel-aria-competition-at-this-years-madison-early-music-festival-on-monday-night-july-8/

Handel etching

Carol %22Orange%22 and Dean Schroeder

An ongoing partnership with the Madison Early Music Festival has helped to continue the program, which is not actually part of MEMF.

This year over 60 singers applied. Seven were selected as finalists who were then invited to compete for scholarship awards to be used toward their professional development as young artists. That number, by the way, is fewer than last year, which should make the concert more manageable and enjoyable for both the public and the performers.

Handel arias Winnie Nieh

Handel arias all applaud

The live competition of the final round is what is being held Thursday.

The finalists for the 2014 Handel Aria Competition are: Nan Li, Sarah Brailey, Daniel Moody, Chelsea Morris, Michael Roemer, Yukie Sato, and Daniel Shirley. (At bottom is a YouTube video of Elisa Sutherland, who won last year’s competition. You can also hear other competitors on YouTube.)

Full biographies are available on the Handel Aria Competition website. Here is a link:

www.handelariacompetition.com.

This year’s competition is “new and improved,” it seems. Last year, just a solo harpsichord – finely played by two early music keyboard players — accompanied the singers. This time, they will be accompanied by a consort that includes a harpsichord, two violins, a viol and a viola da gamba.

Judges include faculty members and performers from the Madison Early Music Festival: Kristina Boerger, Drew Minter, Ian Pritchard, and Nell Snaidas. (Below are last year’s judges taking notes.)

Handel judges MEMF 14

Tickets are $10 and are available in advance through Brown Paper Tickets and are online at www.handelariacompetition.com.

You can also phone 1-800-838-3006.

On the day of the show, tickets go on sale in person at Music Hall at 6 p.m. – CASH ONLY — with doors to the theater opening at 7 p.m.

Please note: As the event is in Music Hall this year due to renovations taking place in Mills Hall, seating is limited to 375 audience members. Last year nearly 500 people attended the concert. Advance purchase is highly recommended.

For complete information, including performer biographies and qualifications of the judges, visit www.handelariacompetition.com

 


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