By Jacob Stockinger
This coming week, the Madison Symphony Orchestra (MSO) will present organist Samuel Hutchison (below) and acclaimed singers Andrew Bidlack and Kyle Ketelsen performing as a trio in vocal and instrumental music from oratorios and operas.
The concert is Tuesday night, Feb. 21, at 7:30 p.m. in Overture Hall of the Overture Center, 201 State Street.
Principal Organist and Curator for the Madison Symphony Orchestra Samuel Hutchison joins forces with two outstanding singers in the first half to perform a program of favorite arias and overtures from Handel’s Messiah, Mendelssohn’s Elijah, and Rossini’s Stabat Mater.
Opera will be the focus of the second half, featuring arias and selections from Bizet’s Carmen, Tchaikovsky’s Eugene Onegin and Gounod’s Faust.
For the full program, go to: http://www.madisonsymphony.org/organopera
Featured by Opera News as one of their top 25 brilliant young artists, tenor Andrew Bidlack (below) — who is replacing David Portillo — makes his debut in Overture Hall following performances at The Metropolitan Opera, Lyric Opera of Chicago, the Welsh National Opera and London’s Covent Garden.
Bass-baritone Kyle Ketelsen (below, in a photo by Dario Acosta), who lives in nearby Sun Prairie, has sung with major opera companies throughout the world including The Metropolitan Opera, the Lyric Opera of Chicago and the State Opera of Berlin. He is praised for his vibrant stage presence and his distinctive vocalism.
In the YouTube video at the bottom, you can hear Kyle Ketelsen sing the role of Don Escamillo in a Barcelona, Spain, production of Bizet’s “Carmen.” He is singing the same role in the Metropolitan Opera’s current production of “Carmen.”
General Admission for each Overture Concert Organ performance is $20. Tickets can be purchased at madisonsymphony.org/organopera, (608) 258-4141 or the Overture Center Box Office.
Student Rush tickets can be purchased in person on the day of the concert at the Overture Center Box Office at 201 State Street. Students must show a valid student ID and can receive up to two $10 tickets.
This performance is sponsored by the Pleasant T. Rowland Foundation. Support for all Overture Concert Organ programs is provided by the Diane Endres Ballweg Fund.
With a gift from Pleasant T. Rowland, the Madison Symphony Orchestra (MSO) commissioned the Overture Concert Organ, which is the stunning backdrop of all MSO concerts.
By Jacob Stockinger
Political prisoners and prisoners of conscience are the hot topics of an old opera that is celebrating its bicentennial this year.
When you look around the world and see the struggle in fighting terrorism, religious intolerance and political tyranny as well as the difficult and thwarted stirrings of democracy in the Middle East, Africa and Asia, “Fidelio” — the only opera composed by Ludwig van Beethoven (below) — seems a timely and even inspired choice to stage.
That is exactly what the Madison Opera will do in Overture Hall of the Overture Center this Friday night at 8 p.m. and Sunday afternoon at 2:30 p.m. The opera will be sung in German with English supertitles.
Single tickets are $18-$125. Call (608) 258-4141 or visit the Overture Center box office.
A Madison Opera staged premiere, “Fidelio” is “a passionate ode to freedom, and the triumph of love over tyranny,” according to a press release from the Madison Opera.
“To rescue her husband, a political prisoner, the noblewoman Leonore (below, played by Alexandra LoBianco) disguises herself as a man and works at the prison where she believes her husband is held. Beethoven contrasts the evil of Don Pizarro, who has ordered his enemy imprisoned and starved, with the inner strength and bravery that enables Leonore to rescue her husband.
“Ranging from breathtaking arias to stunning choral music, Beethoven’s score is truly sublime, with an ever-building dramatic intensity that leaves audiences exhilarated. The famous “Prisoners’ Chorus” is one of the most beautiful choral tributes to freedom ever written, and one of the reasons Fidelio has resonated across the centuries.
“Madison Opera performed Fidelio in concert in November 1986, but this is the first time the company has presented the opera fully-staged. Sung in German with German dialogue and projected English translations, Fidelio is the only opera Beethoven ever wrote, premiering in its final form in 1814.
“Fidelio is a truly great opera,” says Kathryn Smith (below, in a photo by James Gill), Madison Opera’s General Director. “It has both light and dark moments, with real emotion underlying the intense drama. Above all, the score is a masterpiece from one of classical music’s greatest composers.”
“Fidelio” also marks the start of Madison Opera’s 10th season in Overture Hall, whose exceptional acoustics have been a primary factor in the company’s growth and success.
“It is absolutely thrilling for me to finally have a chance to conduct Beethoven’s operatic masterpiece,” says John DeMain (below, in a photo by Prasad), the Madison Opera’s Artistic Director and conductor who is also the music director of the Madison Symphony Orchestra. “I have loved this music passionately for years, and can’t wait to perform this great work in the acoustic splendor of Overture Hall. We have a thrilling cast of singers, the Madison Opera Chorus and the Madison Symphony Orchestra, all up to the demands of the mighty Beethoven.”
Pre-opera talks will be hosted by Kathryn Smith one hour prior to each performance.
Here is a background story, with more interviews, written by Mike Muckian that appeared in the Wisconsin Gazette.
And here is an email Q&A that stage director that Tara Faircloth (below), who is making her Madison Opera debut, granted to The Ear:
Can you briefly introduce yourself, with some background and current activities as well as future projects and plans?
A Georgia native, I make my home in Houston, Texas, in a 1935 Art & Crafts bungalow that I am slowly renovating and restoring. I work primarily in opera, and take special pleasure in my work with young people: I am a semi-regular director at Wolf Trap Opera, and the dramatic coach for the fine singers in the Houston Grand Opera Studio.
Some of my most beloved projects have been a beautiful (if I do say so!) production of Igor Stravinsky’s The Rake’s Progress at Wolf Trap, a Dido & Aeneas with Houston’s Mercury Baroque in collaboration with the Dominic Walsh Dance Theater, and a very recent production of Claudio Monteverdi’s Il Ritorno di Ulisse at Rice University. I am very much looking forward to a new production of Peter Ilyich Tchaikovsky’s Eugene Onegin at the Arizona Opera, and my first Le Nozze di Figaro, by Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart, at the Atlanta Opera.
I like to create productions that are whimsical and humorous with intense moments of emotional connection.
How do you situate Beethoven’s “Fidelio” among other major opera and opera composers? What makes it special?
Fidelio is Beethoven’s only opera, a work that he re-wrote three times. It has been called a “secular oratorio,” and it is full of the passion that typifies so much of Beethoven’s work.
When listening to Beethoven’s music, I personally feel as if the score can barely contain all of the emotion he is trying to express, that it is stretched to its absolute limit, and somehow there is an underlying tension, a sense that if it were possible, he would want you to feel even more than he has been able to write down.
What is your overall concept of the opera? Do you see it as having to do with the Enlightenment and political movement toward democracy?
Fidelio has been subject to a multitude of interpretations since its inception. In many ways, the score is a blank slate: the characters are not described in great detail, there is no mention in the score of the exact political situation at hand, and even Florestan’s “crime” against Pizarro is not identified explicitly. Instead we have a story of brutal revenge versus great love: a universally appealing theme.
With its dream of a government free of tyranny, and the inherent worth of the individual man, Fidelio certainly has a very healthy dose of Enlightenment principles.
However, in many ways it may be seen as ushering in Romantic era ideals. It is full of sweeping emotional moments: perhaps the most famous is the Prisoners’ Chorus “O welche Lust” (at bottom in a YouTube video), which begins with an ecstatic appreciation of the beauty of a single breath of fresh air.
The fact that Beethoven gave the most beautiful music in the entire opera to a chorus of common prisoners shows us, I think, his belief that our connection to a higher power and our longing for freedom is inherent and universal to every man.
Does Beethoven’s opera hold lessons for today about current events?
As a director, I am not really one to look for lessons in our literature. Instead, I hope to engage our audience in a very human drama, to make them FEEL something and to connect with them. I think that experiencing music and drama in this way makes us more empathetic and open to other human beings, and that can only make the world a better place.
This is your debut in Madison. Do have impressions of the city, the opera and orchestra, either firsthand or through others?
I travel a lot for my work, and every time I have mentioned I will be in Madison, people simply gush about what a lovely place it is. In addition to the charming beauty of the city, I’ve noticed there seems to be a big focus on beer and cheese. So, basically it is heaven.
What you would you like to add or say?
Fidelio is an opera that is rarely performed. It takes massive forces: large orchestra, large chorus, and very large voices. I think we have quite a group assembled here, and hope your reading audience will take advantage of the opportunity to hear the work of one of the world’s most beloved composers.
By Jacob Stockinger
This will be a memorable and historic day, especially in New York City, for opera.
It is memorable on two counts.
It is ironic that this afternoon marks the opening of the new season, the eighth since it started in 2006, of “The Met Live in HD,” a spectacularly successful program, that will open this season of 10 Metropolitan Opera productions with soprano superstar Anna Netrebko and globe-trotting conductor Valery Gergiev in Tchaikovsky’s “Eugene Onegin.”
The very profitable “Live in HD” series helps to explain the financial success of the world-famous Metropolitan Opera. The series, show in thousands of cinemas around the world, has changed the opera scene world-wide.
Here is a story from this blog with links to other stories:
(In Madison, the live satellite broadcast starts at 11:55 a.m. at Point Cinemas and Eastgate Cinemas. Admission is $24 for adults, $18 for children.)
But by far the more memorable and historic event will no doubt be the final curtain falling on the historic 70-year-old City Opera of New York. That will come tonight at the Brooklyn Academy of Music — lately the City Opera has left its home venue in Lincoln Center and traveled around the city to perform in a vain attempt to save money and fundraise from new audiences — where the company will give a performance of the new opera “Anna Nicole” (below) by Marc-Anthony Turnage, which some critics see as a fast-food, high calorie and low nutrition, work of art that helped cause the fall of City Opera. (See the YouTube video at the bottom.)
By all accounts, the City Opera has been plagued with financial problems for a few years. But the immediate cause of the failure was the company’s inability to raise $7 million by last Monday.
The Madison Symphony Orchestra’s longtime music director and conductor, maestro John DeMain (below, in a photo buy Prasad) has had a long history with the City Opera, ever since he was a student at the Juilliard School, as he discussed in an interview last summer with The Ear:
Here are three pieces I think that will giver you a good ideas of the City Opera and the fallout from its failure.
Here is a link to the story by Jeff Lunden that aired on NPR:
Here is a background story from The New York Times:
And here is another New York Times story with recollections of the opera company by staff and performers reported by senior music critic Anthony Tommasini (below is a 1976 photo with star soprano Beverly Sills on the left, stage director Sarah Caldwell in the center and City Opera then-director Julius Rudel:
There are a lot of devoted opera fans in the Madison area an around the world and especially in New York City.
What do they think of the demise of City Opera?
I hope they will leave an observation in the COMMENT section.
The Ear wants to hear.
By Jacob Stockinger
You know the new concert season is well underway when the major opera houses rev up.
And this weekend marks the start of the new “Live From the Met in HD’ series. It features 10 new productions, including some very well-known work operas and some lesser-known one.
The opening production by the world-famous Metropolitan Opera (below, the interior seen from the stage) in New York City is Tchaikovsky’s opera “Eugene Onegin,” which the Madison Opera staged to critical acclaim last season.
The Metropolitan Opera Orchestra will be conducted by Russian globe-trotting conductor Valery Gergiev (below, in a photo from Getty Images), which is sure to give sparkling account of the tuneful Waltz, probably the most famous and popular moment in the entire opera (at bottom in a popular YouTube video) by that Melody Master of a composer.
It is a curious and sure-fire musical combination that may also be controversial, given how both Anna Netrebko and Valery Gergiev have been outspoken supporters of Macho Man Russian President Vladimir Putin (below), despite his oppositional defense of Syria’s dictator Bashar al-Assad and despite his human rights record, especially fostering the oppression of gays and lesbians in Russia. And how ironic it is that they will perform in an opera by Tchaikovsky, who was himself gay,
Here are two popular posts I recently did about that issue, posts that drew some great reader comments you should check out:
One wonders; Will the singer or conductor hear any boos or jeers as they start the production, which the Met’s general director Peter Gelb has refused to dedicate to Russia’s gays and lesbians? It could be interesting. But given the cost of seats at the Met, The Ear suspects not. Art will probably win out over politics, at least on the expensive Mother Ship – though the reception might be more vocal and dissenting in local and more affordable cinemas.
But who knows? Still, one can hope.
Anyway, the “Met LIVE in HD” shows will be screened by satellite at the Point Cinemas on Madison’s far west side and the Eastgate Cinemas on the city’s far east side. The opera starts at 11:55 a.m. CDT and runs just over four hours.
Tickets are $24 for adults, $18 for children.
Below are some links with more information about this opening production and about the full season.
Here is a link to the complete season on 10 productions so you can check for conflicts, set aside dates (encore performances are usually the following Wednesday evening) and buy tickets in advance.
Here is a useful link to the notes with a synopsis of the plot of “Eugene Onegin”:
Here is a link to some videos (below is the ball scene) that may whet your appetite to see and hear the production:
And here are links to two detailed an dwell researched stories in The New York Times that give the history of the Met Live in HD series and offers insightful critiques of what the series means for live opera and the opera scene in general in the U.S. and around the world.
Here is the link to the story with historical, demographic and economics background:
Here is the analysis and critique:
If you go, let us know what you thought of the production and whether something unusual happened -– be it a boycott or protest, jeers or boos.
The Ear wants to hear.
By Jacob Stockinger
The Metropolitan Opera has announced the next season (2013-14) of “Live From the Met in HD” broadcasts, which are shown in cinemas around the world, including at the Eastgate (below) and Point cinemas in Madison.
It is an impressive lineup for the series that, according to The Met, gets transmitted via satellite to 1,900 theaters in 64 countries and has sold more than 12 million tickets since it began in 2006.
But nobody is saying why the season has been cut back from 12 to 10 after two years of expanding, if I recall correctly. Maybe the market can only bear so much. Or maybe it is the budget.
There will be one a month except for two in October and April.
Also, if I recall correctly, the whole program has been a great moneymaker for the Met. So I am not sure why the program was cut back. Maybe it just has to do with impressive new productions and only so much time to stage them in.
Also to look forward to is the return of conductor and Met artistic director James Levine (below top) after a hiatus of two years due to ill health. He will conduct Mozart’s “Cosi fan tutte,” Verdi’s “Falstaff” and Alban Berg’s “Wozzeck.” Also, “Two Boys,” a new opera commissioned by the Met from composer Nico Muhly (below bottom), will be featured.
And there are a lot of other top-name singers and conductors who will be involved.
Here are the official announcements:
Here is a link to the series’ home website:
And here are some other stories about the regular Met season and the HD season that offer some analysis and other details:
And here is another, featuring world-famous opera (and food) expert Fred Plotkin (below), who writes the blog “Operavore” and is a 1978 graduate of the University of Wisconsin-Madison: