The Well-Tempered Ear

Classical music: The Madison Symphony Orchestra’s popular Christmas concert celebrates the holiday with guest soloists and community choirs this coming weekend.

December 1, 2015
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By Jacob Stockinger

The Ear’s friends at the Madison Symphony Orchestra write:

National vocalists, Madison community chorus members and the audience – all will get a chance to shine when Conductor John DeMain and the Madison Symphony Orchestra (both are below) kick off the holiday season with the much-loved tradition of the Madison Symphony Christmas concerts this coming weekend.

DeMain Santa Bob Rashid

John DeMain and MSO from the stage Greg Anderson

The concerts will celebrate the holidays with a range of music from Johann Sebastian Bach, Irving Berlin, George Frideric Handel, Felix Mendelssohn, John Rutter, Ralph Vaughan Williams (his “Magnificat,” which you can hear performed at the La Scala opera house in Milan, Italy in the YouTube video at the bottom) and Franz Schubert to holiday favorites and rocking Gospel selections – topped off with the audience adding its voice to carols at the end.

The concerts are in Overture Hall of the Overture Center on Friday at 7:30 p.m.; Saturday at 8 p.m.; and Sunday at 2:30 p.m.

Single Tickets are $16 to $85 each, available at www.madisonsymphony.org/singletickets and through the Overture Center Box Office at 201 State Street or call the Box Office at (608) 258-4141.

Groups of 15 or more can save 25% by calling the MSO office at (608) 257-3734. For more information visit, www.madisonsymphony.org/groups

Student rush tickets can be purchased in person on the day of the concert at the Overture Box Office at 201 State Street. Students must show a valid student ID and can receive up to two $12 or $15 tickets. More information is at: www.madisonsymphony.org/studentrush. Students can receive 20% savings on seats in select areas of the hall on advance ticket purchases.

Seniors age 62 and up receive 20% savings on advance and day-of-concert ticket purchases in select areas of the hall.

Discounted seats are subject to availability, and discounts may not be combined.

Highlights of the concert include:

Soloists mezzo-soprano Emily Fons (below top) and bass-baritone David Govertsen (below bottom), who are accomplished national operatic singers.

Emily Fons

david govertsen

Madison Symphony Chorus (below top), directed by Beverly Taylor (below bottom), with 165 members, who come from all walks of life to combine their artistic talent.

MSO Chorus CR Greg Anderson

Beverly Taylor MSO portrait COLOR USE

Madison Youth Choirs (below), directed by Michael Ross, which combines young voices for a memorable experience;

Madiosn Youth Choirs 2014

Mt. Zion Gospel Choir (below), directed by Tamera and Leotha Stanley, which uses jazz, blues and gospel harmonies to “raise the roof” in creating captivating music;

Mt. Zion Gospel Choir

And Audience members who join in the singing.

Concertgoers are encouraged to arrive at the Overture Hall lobby 45 minutes before the concert, so they can be moved by the Madison Symphony Chorus leading carols in the festively lit lobby.

The festivities are sure to brighten spirits for all ages, and many families attend in groups of two or three generations.

PLEASE NOTE: These concerts typically sell out, so purchasing tickets early is encouraged.

Major funding for the December concerts is provided by American Printing, Nedrebo’s Formalwear, John W. Thompson and Jane A. Bartell, BMO Private Bank, Maurice and Arlene Reese Family Foundation, Hooper Foundation/General Heating & Air Conditioning, and Two Anonymous Friends. Additional funding is provided by National Guardian Life Insurance Company, Reinhart Boerner Van Deuren s.c., Hans and Mary Lang Sollinger, and the Wisconsin Arts Board with funds from the State of Wisconsin and the National Endowment for the Arts.

 


Classical music: Madison’s maestro John DeMain and others preview and review the world premiere by the Santa Fe Opera’s production of Jennifer Higdon’s opera “Cold Mountain.”

August 10, 2015
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By Jacob Stockinger

First it was a best-selling and prize-winning novel.

Then it became a popular Oscar-winning Hollywood movie.

Now it is an opera that received its world premiere at the Santa Fe Opera this past week and is proving so popular with audiences that an extra performance has been added and regional premieres are already booked around the country. (The Minnesota Opera will give the Midwest premiere.)

It is “Cold Mountain,” a Civil War story about a Confederate soldier’s return home that is loosely based on Homer’s epic poem “The Odyssey.”

cold mountain cast and set

Here is a review, posted on Facebook, by our own John DeMain, the music director and conductor of the Madison Symphony Orchestra and the artistic director of the Madison Opera, who attended the world premiere performance. DeMain came to Madison, by the way, from his post as director of the Houston Grand Opera, where he gave the world premiere of John Adams’ “Nixon in China.” So he is a fan of new operas.

DeMain (below, in a photo by Prasad) writes:

“How wonderful “Cold Mountain” was last night at its world premiere in Santa Fe. Jennifer Higdon is simply a wonderful composer and her piece with Gene Scheer‘s compelling libretto, soared to great heights. Great directing from Leonard Foglia, with a brilliant design concept, and a great cast. Emily Fons was magnificent as Ruby. Fabulous orchestral writing, beautiful choral work, and compelling duets and ensembles. A very sad, grim piece given a dynamic treatment by all involved.”

John DeMain full face by Prasad

Such discerning enthusiasm makes you wonder if DeMain and the Madison Opera’s general director Kathryn Smith might not be looking to bring “Cold Mountain” to Madison in a couple of seasons. (The male lead Nathan Gunn has already sung in Madison at the Wisconsin Union Theater and  with the Madison Symphony Orchestra, by the way.) One can hope! (Below are the leads mezzo-soprano Isabel Leonard as Ada and baritone Nathan Gunn as Inman in a photo by Ken Howard for the Santa Fe Opera.)

Cold Mountain Nathan Gunn as Inman and Isabel Leonard as Ada CR Ken Howard for Santa Fe Opera

You can hear the creators of the opera discuss it in a YouTube video at the bottom.

Here are some other sources for previews and reviews:

Here is a story from NPR or National Public Radio:

http://www.npr.org/sections/deceptivecadence/2015/08/05/429370329/cold-mountain-takes-civil-war-odyssey-to-the-opera-stage

cold mountain by ken howard

The PBS NewsHour aired a lengthy feature by Jeffrey Brown that includes lots of video and interviews with the cast; with Charles Frazier (below right), who wrote the best-selling novel; and with Jennifer Higdon (below left), the composer of the opera who teaches at the Curtis Institute of Music in Philadelphia:

http://www.pbs.org/newshour/bb/civil-war-tragedy-cold-mountain-inspires-opera/

Jennifer Higdon and Charles Frazier

And here is a short news story and a longer, more negative or critical review from Zachary Woolfe of The New York Times:

http://artsbeat.blogs.nytimes.com/2015/07/16/santa-fe-opera-adds-performance-of-cold-mountain/?_r=0

http://www.nytimes.com/2015/08/07/arts/music/review-cold-mountain-at-santa-fe-opera-recounts-a-separated-lovers-arduous-journey-only-one-half-makes-the-journey.html


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