The Well-Tempered Ear

Classical music: Madison Opera’s annual FREE Opera in the Park returns this Saturday night, July 20, in Garner Park and celebrates 18 years plus a glimpse of the upcoming season

July 15, 2019
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By Jacob Stockinger

The Ear has received the following announcement to post about one of the most highly anticipated musical events of summer, one that offers lots of family-friendly fun and serious musical enjoyment:

Madison Opera’s Opera in the Park (below, in a photo by James Gill) celebrates its 18th year on this coming Saturday night, July 20, at 8 p.m. in Garner Park, on Madison’s far west side at the intersection of Rosa Road and Mineral Point Road.

The annual free concert of opera and Broadway favorites closes the company’s 2018-19 season and provides a preview of the 2019-20 season. (You can hear a sample of past years in the YouTube video at the bottom.)

A Madison summer tradition that often attracts over 14,000 people, Opera in the Park is an enchanting evening of music under the stars, featuring selections from opera and Broadway.

Opera in the Park 2019 features soprano Jeni Houser, soprano Michelle Johnson, tenor David Blalock and baritone Ben Edquist.

Jeni Houser (below) has sung many roles with Madison Opera, most recently in Sondheim’s A Little Night Music, and she returns next season as Eurydice in Offenbach’s Orpheus in the Underworld.

Michelle Johnson (below) scored a major success with Madison Opera as Santuzza in Mascagni’s Cavalleria Rusticana last season.

David Blalock (below) debuted with Madison Opera in 2014 and returns this season as Orpheus in Orpheus in the Underworld.

Ben Edquist (below) is making his debut, and will return to the company as Hawkins Fuller in Gregory Spears’ Fellow Travelers, about the Lavender Scare against LGBTQ peoplein February.

The four soloists are joined by the Madison Opera Chorus and Madison Symphony Orchestra, conducted by John DeMain (below, in a photo by Greg Anderson).

The evening is hosted by Madison Opera’s General Director Kathryn Smith and WKOW TV’s 27 News co-anchor George Smith (below, in a photo by Simon Fowler).

Opera in the Park is the greatest performance in Madison Opera’s season,” says Smith (below, in a photo by James Gill). “It offers a truly magical blend of beautiful voices, music from many centuries, and thousands of members of our community relaxing together under the same night sky. I am grateful to all of our supporters who share our belief in the community-building power of music and help us produce this concert every summer.”

Opera in the Park 2019 features arias and ensembles from Verdi’s La Traviata, which opens the 2019-20 season in November; Spears’ Fellow Travelers, which will be performed in February; and Offenbach’s Orpheus in the Underworld, which will be performed in April.

The program also includes selections from Verdi’s Rigoletto and La Forza del Destino (The Force of Destiny); Donizetti’s The Elixir of Love and Don Pasquale; Korngold’s Die Tote Stadt (The Dead City); Romberg’s The Student Prince; Funny Girl; Rodgers and Hammerstein’s Carousel; and more. As always, this spectacular evening will include one number conducted by the audience with light sticks (below).

Garner Park is located at 333 South Rosa Road. Parking is available in the CUNA Mutual Group and University Research Park lots. Attendees are encouraged to bring picnics, blankets and chairs. Alcohol is permitted but not sold in the park.

On the day of the concert, Garner Park will open at 7 a.m. Audience members may not leave items in the park prior to this time. Lots of porta potties will be provided. Transportation via golf carts is available for those who have limited mobility.

The rain date for Opera in the Park is Sunday, July 21, at 8 p.m.

For more details about attending Opera in the Park and for more extensive biographies of the singers, go to:

While Opera in the Park is free to attend, it would not be possible without the generous support of many foundations, corporations, and individuals who believe in the importance of music in the community.

Madison Opera is grateful to the sponsors of Opera in the Park 2019.The Presenting Sponsor is the BerbeeWalsh Foundation. Other sponsors are the John and Carolyn Peterson Charitable Foundation; Full Compass Systems; the Raymond B. Preston Family Foundation; University Research Park; Colony Brands; the Evjue Foundation; Johnson Financial Group; MGE Foundation; National Guardian Life; the Wisconsin Arts Board; Dane Arts; and the Madison Arts Commission.

WKOW, Madison Magazine, Wisconsin Public Radio, Magic 98, and La Movida are media sponsors for this community event.


The Prelude Dinner at Opera in the Park 2019 is at 6 p.m.
This annual fundraiser to benefit Opera in the Park helps support Madison Opera’s free gift to the community.

The event includes dinner catered by Upstairs Downstairs, VIP seating at the concert, and a reception with the artists following the performance. Tickets are $150 per person or $1,150 for a table of eight.

More information about Opera in the Park and about the 2019-20 season, including subscriptions, is available at Madison’s Opera’s home website

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Classical music education: Wisconsin Youth Symphony Orchestras (WYSO) needs YOUR HELP as it presents its annual Art of Note gala on May 4 in Madison in order to help hundreds of music students from all around south-central Wisconsin. Plus, the UW-Madison’s national Stamps Scholars give their debut concert on Sunday afternoon.

April 27, 2013
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ALERT: You might want to catch the FREE debut performance by UW-Madison’s first class of Stamps Scholars (below in a photo) this Sunday, April 28, at 5 p.m. in Morphy Hall. Stamps Scholarships are competitive, four-year merit scholarships given by the Stamps Family Foundation of Atlanta. At the UW School of Music, Stamp Scholars include Renee Brechtel, violin; Alex Charland, clarinet; Kyle Pompei, horn; Cobrun Sells, piano & percussion, and Anna Whitaway, soprano. The program includes Igor Stravinsky‘s “L’Histoire du Soldat (The Soldier’s Tale); Franz  Schubert‘s “Der Hirt auf dem Felsen (The Shepherd on the Rock); Jarmo Sermila’s “Das Geblase”; and a piece written by Stamps Scholar Alex Charland, titled “Caricatures for Stamps Quintet.” For more information about the Stamps scholarships, check out these links: 

Stamps Scholarships 2013 Kathy Esposito

By Jacob Stockinger

Nobody quite knows what the cause is — maybe competing events, maybe the late cold, wet and overcast spring, maybe less public exposure.

But one fact is not in question: So far this year fewer than half the places that were sold last year have been sold to the annual Art of Note fundraiser for the Wisconsin Youth Symphony Orchestras on a week from today, at 6 p.m. on next Saturday, May 4, at the headquarters of CUNA Mutual on Mineral Point Road.

Art of Note logo copy

And WYSO simply needs to do better if it is to carry on the important and inspiring work it has been doing so successfully since it was founded in 1965, when it began educating more than 5,000 students from more than 100 communities throughout south-central Wisconsin.

wyso violas

Bluntly put: WYSI needs your help.

As The Ear has often said, there is no better cause or organization in the area to support if you care about the future of classical music, both the music-makers and the audiences, and about the role that music education plays in the lives of young people.

WYSO Youth Orchestra Violins

The gala will feature an evening of live music, gourmet cuisine, wine, locally brewed beer, and live and silent auctions, including a wine auction and bidding on violins that have been transformed into works of art (Below is the front and back of a violin by artist Michael Velliquette.).

Velliquette Violin Front & Back

The Art of Note gala will be held on Saturday, May 4, 2013, starting at 6 p.m. at the CUNA Mutual Conference Center, 5810 Mineral Point Rd., on the far west side of Madison.

Tickets are $100 per person in advance, $110 at the door. $70 of each ticket is tax-deductible. Guests can also purchase a table for 8 for $750.

Those who attend will enjoy hors d’oeuvres and dessert, served buffet-style, while they bid on fine dining, event tickets (including Badger football tickets), travel packages and many other items at the live or silent auctions.

You can preview many of these auction items at WYSO’s newly redesigned website:

The gala will include performances by the young musicians of WYSO’s Percussion Ensemble (below), Brass Choirs and Chamber Music Ensembles.

WYSO percussion Ensemble 2013

Proceeds of the gala will help support all aspects of the WYSO program for young people, including high-quality orchestral training, performance opportunities, student scholarships, orchestra tours -– major international tours every two years are on the works (below is a photo of WYSO performing in Vienna last year) — and master classes with professional musicians.

WYSO tour Playing George Cao

The outstanding results of WYSO training -– which has helped professional musicians and people in many other fields all over the world –- can be experienced first-hand when WYSO’s groups perform at several concerts during the year. Just listen to the performance of the last movement of Shostakovich‘s Symphony No. 5 in the YouTube video at the bottom.

WYSO Logo blue

The next upcoming examples of WYSO’s impressive achievement will be the Bolz Spring Concerts on Saturday and Sunday, May 18 and May 19, in Mills Hall on the UW-Madison campus. (Below is a photo by Cheng-Wei Wu of the WYSO Philharmonia Orchestra performing under retiring conductor and WYSO associate music director Thomas Buchhauser.)

Thomas Buchhauser  conducting WYSO Philharmonia Cheng-Wei Wu

Here is a link about the concerts and, at the home page, more about WYSO’s history and mission. Read them and see if you don’t agree that WYSO deserves support – YOUR support:

And speaking of support, let us acknowledge and praise the business and institutional help donated by the Art of Note sponsors: Boardman Clark Law Firm, The Century House, C.K. Chang, CUNA Mutual Group, Custer Financial Services/Lincoln Financial Group, EnRich Financial Partners, Goodman’s Jewelers, Tetrad, Inc., Susan Hoeft Vandewalle (WYSO Charter Concertmaster), and Wallman Investment Counsel.

Call (608) 263-3320 x 11 for more information or to RSVP.

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