By Jacob Stockinger
It will be sung in French with English subtitles and will last about three hours with one intermission.
Tickets are $18-$130.
With soaring arias, impassioned scenes and plenty of sword fights, Gounod’s gorgeous opera brings the famous tragic tale of young love to vivid life.
Set in 14th century Verona, Italy, the opera follows the story of Shakespeare’s legendary star-crossed lovers. The Montague and Capulet families are caught in a centuries-old feud.
One evening, Romeo Montague and his friends attend a Capulet ball in disguise. The moment Romeo spots Juliet Capulet, he falls in love, and she returns his feelings. Believing they are meant for one another, they proclaim their love, setting in motion a chain of events that will change both their families.
“Romeo and Juliet is one of the most famous love stories in Western literature,” says Kathryn Smith (below, in a photo by James Gill), the general director of Madison Opera. “Gounod’s operatic version of it is equally beloved, and it’s exciting to present an amazing cast that brings such vocal and dramatic depth to their story.
“I’m also delighted that we are performing the opera the same weekend that Shakespeare’s First Folio goes on display at the University of Wisconsin-Madison‘s Chazen Museum of Art, enabling our community to enjoy a very Shakespearean weekend.”
Gounod’s operatic adaption of the tragedy of “Romeo & Juliet” premiered in 1867 at the Théâtre Lyrique in Paris. While Gounod is now better known for “Faust,” “Romeo and Juliet” was a bigger success at its premiere, and has stayed in the repertoire for 150 years due to its beautiful music, genuine passion mingled with wit, and exciting fight scenes.
“Having conducted Gounod’s Faust so often, I’m thrilled to finally have the opportunity to conduct his romantic masterpiece,” says John DeMain (below, in a photo by Prasad), the artistic director of Madison Opera who will conduct the two performances.
“The vocal and orchestral writing is lyrical and downright gorgeous,” DeMain adds. “We have a glorious cast, the Madison Opera Chorus and the Madison Symphony. What more could a conductor ask for!” (You can hear Anna Netrebko sing Juliet’s famous aria “Je veux vivre” — “I want to live” – in the popular YouTube video at the bottom.)
Madison Opera’s cast features both returning artists and debuts.
John Irvin (below top) and Emily Birsan (below bottom) return to sing the title roles of Romeo and Juliet. Irvin sang Count Almaviva in the 2015 production of The Barber of Seville, while Birsan returns from singing at Opera in the Park 2016 and Musetta in last season’s La Bohème.
Sidney Outlaw, who sang at this past summer’s Opera in the Park, makes his mainstage debut as Romeo’s friend, Mercutio. Liam Moran, who sang Colline in last season’s La Bohème, sings Frère Laurent, who unites the two lovers in the hope of uniting their families. Madisonian Allisanne Apple (below) returns as Gertrude, Juliet’s nurse.
Making their debuts are Stephanie Lauricella as Romeo’s page, Stephano; Chris Carr as Tybalt, Juliet’s cousin; Philip Skinner as Lord Capulet; and Benjamin Sieverding as the Duke of Verona. Former Madison Opera Studio Artist Nathaniel Hill returns as Gregorio, while current Studio Artist James Held sings the role of Paris.
Directing this traditional staging is Doug Scholz-Carlson (below), who directed Gioaccchino Rossini’s “The Barber of Seville,” Aaron Copland’s “The Tender Land” and Benjamin Britten‘s “The Turn of the Screw” for Madison Opera. Scholz-Carlson is the artistic director of the Great River Shakespeare Festival and has directed the original “Romeo and Juliet,” among many Shakespeare plays.
He will discuss the differences between staging “Romeo and Juliet” as a play and as an opera in another posting tomorrow.
For more information about the production, the cast and tickets, go to:
By Jacob Stockinger
For tenors, High C’s are the brass ring on the carousel of opera.
The late great Italian tenor Luciano Pavarotti and the very busy Peruvian tenor Juan Diego Florez both earned fame and fortune with their singing of the astonishing nine high C’s in Gaetano Donizetti’s bel canto opera “La Fille du Regiment.”
In fact, Florez repeated the same nine high C’s as an encore and it brought down the house.
But it seems there may be another King of the High C’s in the making.
He is a native of New Orleans (isn’t that fitting?) and he is America tenor Bryan Hymel (below, in a photo by Dario Acosta for Warner Classics), who was recently featured on the terrific blog “Deceptive Cadence” for NPR (National Public Radio).
You will surely be hearing more about him. The 35-year-old Hymel has already made his debut at the famed Metropolitan Opera, where he has sung in “Les Troyens” by Hector Berlioz — a role he also sang at the Royal Opera House in London. And he will open the Met’s 2018 season in “Samson and Delilah” by Camille Saint-Saens.
Here is a link to that story by Tom Huizenga. It is complete with sound samples from Hymel’s debut album “Héroïque” — in particular the difficult aria “Asile héréditaire” from the opera “William Tell” by Giachino Rossini — and the CD features a total of 19 high C’s. That led Huizenga to proclaim: “This is why we listen to opera!”
The Amazon.com reader reviews of the new all-French album (below, with an audiovisual clip of the behind-the-scenes recording process) not only praise Hymel for his high C’s – and C-sharps and even D’s — but single out the quality of his singing.
You can hear that strong, pitch-accurate and seemingly effortless quality in one of The Ear’s favorite tenor arias: “Nessun dorma” from “Turandot” by Giacomo Puccini, which Hymel signs with the Jerusalem Symphony Orchestra in a YouTube video at the bottom.
By Jacob Stockinger
FIRST, SOME LOCAL NEWS:
1. The Madison Symphony Orchestra has scored a SOLD-OUT HOUSE with its inaugural “Beyond the Score” performance of the “New World” Symphony by Antonin Dvorak (below) this Sunday afternoon at 2:30 p.m. in Overture Hall at the Overture Center. The official word comes from MSO marketing director Teri Venker.
That sellout –- the first in a while for the MSO, I think — bodes well for future success and repeat performances of the “Beyond the Score” format applied to different symphonic works.
Here are two other links to posts I did about the concert.
The first post describes what happens during the multi-media “Beyond the Score” format that was pioneered by the Chicago Symphony Orchestra,
The second link is to a Q&A with MSO music director and conductor John DeMain (below, in a photo by Prasad) who discusses how the “Beyond the Score” format came about and how likely it is that future such concerts will be programmed by the MSO:
All in all, The Ear is impressed with what seems a smart marketing move that will benefit the MSO (below), but will also attract new listeners and younger, inexperienced audiences. As for seasoned, symphony loyalists, the multi-media format sounds as if it will deepen anyone’s appreciation of the iconic work — or so DeMain promises.
But WHAT DO YOU THINK? Leave a comment that tells The Ear and the MSO.
2. A week ago Friday, the Wisconsin Chamber Orchestra (below top), under the baton of music director and conductor Andrew Sewell, (below bottom) turned in a superb performance as it opened the second half of the current season. I offered a review of my own and linked to a review by John W. Barker of Isthmus.
Here are links to those reviews:
But unfortunately, I overlooked another very positive and very perceptive review by Madison Magazine’s experienced classical music blogger Greg Hettmansberger (below top). Here is his review of the WCO with its guest guitar soloist Ana Vidovic (below bottom) and its program of music by Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart, Mario Castelnuovo-Tedesco and Anton Bruckner.
Finally, as you may have already heard, Italian conductor Claudio Abbado (below) died this past week at the age of 80.
Earlier, I provided some links to stories in The New York Times and The Washington Post. Here they are.
But the best summary of Claudio Abbado’s career – which also included recommended recordings and even sounds clips from some of those recordings (include a symphony by Gustav Mahler and an opera by Giacchino Rossini – came later, as it often does, on NPR’s outstanding classical blog “Deceptive Cadence.”
Here is a link that you how Abbado developed from a young man into a world-class star complete with compelling professional and personal information, including testimonials from musicians who loved performing under his direction of this refreshingly and even surprisingly humble and self-effacing master maestro.
And here – to mark his passing — is Claudio Abbado’s memorial video on YouTube. He is conducting the Lucerne Festival Orchestra is the lovely, bittersweet and pensive Adagietto movement from Mahler’s Symphony no. 5, the same piece of music that was memorably used as the soundtrack to the film of Thomas Mann’s famous novella “Death in Venice.”
If you have a favorite Abbado performance – operatic or symphonic – leave a comment to direct the rest of us:
ALERT: A new season of Grace Presents gets underway this Saturday at noon with a FREE hour-long concert at Grace Episcopal Church, 116 West Washington Avenue, downtown on the Capitol Square. The Kat Trio (below, with a different pianist) has a long history in Madison and consists of violinist Victoria Gorbich, clarinetist Vladislav Gorbich and pianist Justin Snyder. The program includes works by Aram Khachaturian, Johannes Brahms, Alexander Glazunov, Jean Sibelius, Peter Tchaikovsky and Dmitri Shostakovich as well as unique Russian arrangements and transpositions of classical works, well-known inspirational songs, and even American pop standards (from “Fiddler on the Roof”) and rags by Scott Joplin. For more, visit: www.thekattrio.net
Next Up at Grace Presents: On Saturday, October 26, at noon, tenor Daniel O’Dea and soprano Marie McNamara will perform. Support for Grace Presents comes from donations, Dane Arts and the W. Jerome Frautschi Foundation.
By Jacob Stockinger
As I said earlier this week, even though the concert season officially started with chamber music many classical music fans wait for big groups, bigger pieces and bigger audiences to see that the season is really underway.
Symphonies orchestras are well represented this weekend, what with three performances by the Madison Symphony Orchestra plus the University of Wisconsin Symphony Orchestra’s centennial homage to Igor Stravinsky’s “Rite of Spring” on Sunday night.
But two other notable events add to the dynamic.
One is the first opera of the new season.
It is “Paranormal Playhouse,” to be presented Friday, Saturday and Sunday on the Playhouse at the Overture Center.
Here is more from an official press release:
“Fresco Opera Theatre has transformed the Overture Center Playhouse into a shell of its former self. The space is haunted by spirits of operas past, including performers who have met untimely deaths, evil spirits who sabotage those who get in their way and mysterious souls who are untraceable.
Patrons are being scared to death. The Overture Center needs help, and who are they going to call?
“Fresco has the answer. A.R.I.A. (Apparition Removal Investigation Association) will find the spirits and the stories behind their inhabiting the Playhouse.
“Fresco knows you will be moved by the stories of these unfortunate souls as they sing to the audience they long for. But be warned. As you are drawn in to these beautiful spiritual voices, something else evil is lurking…
“Opera shouldn’t be scary. No one knows this better than Fresco Opera Theatre.”
Sorry, I have no specifics about arias and other specific works and composers to be sung. For more information about this production and past productions as well as photos of the Fresco Opera Theatre, visit:
The “Paranormal Playhouse” project is made possible with support from the Dane County Cultural Affairs Commission (Dane Arts), Madison Arts Commission, and its generous donors.
ALSO: At Edgewood College this Sunday afternoon at 2:30 p.m. in the St. Joseph Chapel, 1000 Edgewood College Drive, the Edgewood Chamber Orchestra (below top) will perform under the direction of Blake Walter (below bottom).
Admission is $5, or free with an Edgewood College ID.