The Well-Tempered Ear

Classical music Q&A: University Opera director William Farlow talks about why he likes Mascagni’s rarely staged opera “L’Amico Fritz,” which will get three performances on Friday night, Sunday afternoon and Tuesday night. Plus, the acclaimed Wisconsin Brass Quintet marks 40 years with a LIVE-STREAMED concert on Friday night.

March 14, 2013
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ALERT: The 40th Anniversary Season Finale Concert by the UW-Madison‘s Wisconsin Brass Quintet will take place Friday night at 8 p.m. in Mills Hall. Admission is FREE and open to the public. (Members of the Wisconsin Brass Quintet, shown below in a photo by Katrin Talbot, are, from left, Jessica Jensen on trumpet, Daniel Grabois on horn, John Stevens on tuba, John Aley on trumpet, and Mark Hetzler on trombone.) The program is a serious and challenging one. As trombonist Mark Hetzler told the Wisconsin State Journal, “This [brass] music, while it is virtuosic and exciting, is also quite intellectual and cerebral. Imagine modern music for string quartet. This kind of music branches into those deeper places like that sort of music would.” On the program are: “Gravikord,” written for the quintet’s 40th birthday by UW horn professor Daniel Grabois; “Magnum Mysterium,” by local celebrity composer John Harbison; “Suite of Madrigals,” by Carlo Gesualdo, arranged for brass quintet by Mark Hetzler; and “Adam’s Rib,” by James MacMillan. And here is another first: If you cannot attend in person, consider watching it LIVE on your computer via streaming! It starts at 8 p.m. CDT; subtract or add hours as your time zone requires.

Livestream webcast link

Read a story by Gayle Worland in last Sunday’s Wisconsin State Journal:

“A milestone of note for Wisconsin Brass Quintet”

Wisconsin Brass Quintet Cr Katrin Talbot

By Jacob Stockinger

William Farlow, the director of University Opera at the UW-Madison, has done it again: He is offering listeners the chance to see and hear a rarely staged opera.

This time it is “L’Amico Fritz” (My Friend Fritz) by Pietro Mascagni (below), best known for the popular “Cavalleria rusticana.”

Pietro Mascagni

The UW Symphony Orchestra will accompany the student singers and be conducted by James Smith.

The opera will be sung in Italian with English surtitles by Christine Seitz.

The opera, according to director Farlow, “is a vibrant, youthful love story.” The opera takes place in the idyllic pastoral setting of Alsace-Lorraine, and Farlow has elected to set it in 1891, the year the opera premiered. 

Three performances will be given in Music Hall (below): Friday night at 7:30 p.m.; Sunday afternoon at 3 p.m.; and Tuesday night at 7:30 p.m.

MusicHall2

Farlow’s casts include undergraduate and graduate students from the University of Wisconsin-Madison School of Music.

Most roles are multiple cast for this opera. The title role of wealthy landowner Fritz will be shared by Alex Gmeinder (March 15 and 19) and Aldo Perelli (March 17). Cassie Glaeser (15) and Shannon Prickett (17 and 19) will sing opposite them as Suzel, the peasant girl Fritz comes to love. The rabbi David, Fritz’s matchmaking friend, will be sung by Jordan Wilson at all three performances. Bethany Hickman (15) and Lindsay Metzger (17 and 19) will share the role of Beppe, a gypsy. Erik Larson in the role of Hanezò, Josh Sanders as Federico, and Catie Leigh Laszewski as Catarina complete the cast. (Below is a photo by Brent nicastro of Shannon Prickett, Also Perelli and Lindsay Metzger.)

L'Amico Fritz 1 Brent Nicastro, back Lindsay Metzger; fore Shannon Prickett and Aldo Perrelli CR Brent Nicastro

Production staff includes costume designers Sydney Krieger and Hyewon Park, technical director/set designer Greg Silver, lighting designer Steven M. Peterson, scenic artist/set designer Liz Rathke, guest vocal coach Thomas Kasdorf and chorus master Susan Goeres. This production is made possible by a gift from an anonymous donor, as well as additional funding from Opera Props.

Single tickets are $22 general, $18 senior/student and $10 UW-Madison students. Tickets can be ordered at www.uniontheater.wisc.edu/boxoffice or by calling (608) 265-ARTS.

Director William Farlow recently gave an email Q&A to The Ear:

Farlowweb

Can you briefly tell us something about the origin and story of “L’amico Fritz” and why it is so rarely performed or heard?

It is based on the novel “L’ami Fritz” by Emile Erkmann and Alexandre Chatrian. I believe that most companies are reluctant to produce the opera because they feel, wrongly, that is must be coupled with another short opera.

Why did you pick it for the University Opera 

For the same reason I pick all my operas at UW –- to give my singers the best roles suited to their individual voices.

What do you think of Mascagni as a composer? How do you compare this music and libretto to his much more famous opera “Cavalleria rusticana”? 

Mascagni is an excellent composer.  As much as I love “Cavalleria,” “Fritz” shows many other dimensions of his talent -– lyricism and inventive orchestration.

Is the opera’s libretto metaphorically relevant to the world situation today? Or is it just a simple rustic love story?

Yes, a simple love story, but very relevant.  It concerns our response to feeling love for another person.

What else would you like to say or have the public know about either the opera or this production? 

Such a lovely, sadly neglected piece – with so much gorgeous music! (Listen to the YouTube video of the famous “Cherry Duet” with Luciano Pavarotti and Renee Fleming at the bottom.)


Classical music: New contemporary percussion group Clocks in Motion will makes its FREE concert debut this Saturday night. The famed Saint Thomas Choir sings at Overture Friday night.

September 26, 2012
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REMINDER:  The 2012-13 season of the Overture Concert Organ opens Friday night at 7:30 p.m. in Overture Hall with the Saint Thomas Choir (below) from New York City. at 7:30 p.m. in Overture Hall. The Saint Thomas Choir of Men and Boys is considered to be the premiere choral ensemble of the Anglican music tradition in the United States and among the finest in the world. The program will include a variety of styles from the 16th century to the present day by composers including Thomas Tallis, J.S. Bach, William Byrd, James MacMillan, Benjamin Britten, Charles Parry, among others. Two organ solos by J.S. Bach and Dan Locklair complete the program.

Tickets are $19.50 at http://www.madisonsymphony.org and the Overture Center box office at (608) 258-4141. For more information, visit www.madisonsymphony.org/thomas or the the choir’s website, http://www.saintthomaschurch.org/music/choir where you can listen to performance videos.

 This season the Overture Concert Organ Series also includes The Westminster Choir on Sat., Jan. 12, at 7:30 p.m.; Felix Hell, organist and Madison native and Baltimore Symphony principal trumpet Andrew Balio on Feb. 23 at 7:30 p.m.; and David Briggs on Sat., Mar. 23, at 7:30 p.m.

By Jacob Stockinger

Madison’s new contemporary percussion ensemble, Clocks in Motion (below, rehearing a work by Steve Reich in a photo by James McKenzie, is kicking off its 2012-13 season this Saturday night, Sept. 29, at 8 p.m. in Mills Music Hall on the UW-Madison campus.

Consisting of current music students and recent graduates of UW-Madison, Clocks in Motion is dedicated to the performance of modern repertoire and the commissioning of new works for percussion ensemble. Members (below, from left, in a photo by Megan Aley) are: Joseph Murfin, Brett Walter, Neil Sisauyhoat, Dave Alcorn, Elena Wittneben, Michael Koszewski and Sean Kleve.  James McKenzie is also a member.

Not only a group of exclusively percussionists, Clocks in Motion also includes pianist Jennifer Hedstrom (below top, in a photo by Dean Santarinala and conductor Matt Schlomer (below bottom, in a photo by Laura Zastrow). Scholmer, now at the Interlochen Academy, has previously worked at the UW-Madison and Edgewood College.

This FREE concert entitled “New Beginnings” features some early pieces of Steve Reich, a look towards the future with the world premiere performance of a new composition by Madison composer John Jeffrey Gibbens  entitled “Allhallows” (Prelude), and the unveiling of a new instrument, the quarimba.

Composer Gibbens (below, in a photo by Milt Leidman) wrote the following program notes:

“Allhallows (Prelude) for three Percussion is scored for Marimba supplemented by a second Marimba tuned a quarter-step flat, or Quarimba, Vibraphone, and seven tuned Gongs.  It was composed in July and August 2012 at the request of Clocks in Motion for performance in the fall of 2012.

“The title is an archaic synonym for the feast of All Saints on November 1, and for me evokes associations with the onset of winter in Wisconsin, including the commercial holiday of Halloween, the beginning of the new year in the Celtic calendar, the liturgical function of All Saints, elections, and Armistice, now Veterans’ Day.  These occasions address our sense of the closeness of uncanny events to everyday life.

“Each section of the Prelude is like a number in the program of an imaginary ceremony.  Each player gets an opportunity to address the crowd in a solo, before joining together and filing out.  I invented a nonsymmetrical pitch shape which in combination with the scoring goes beyond the limitations of both the equal tempered scale and its quarter-tone double.”

This program also features a unique composition written by Herbert Brun called “At Loose Ends.”  Written in 1974, this piece uses a large orchestra of percussion instruments including timpani, tuned cowbells, quarimba, xylophone, 12 snare drums, tam-tams, cymbals, piano, celesta, and chimes.  

With a passion for instrument building, the ensemble has constructed micro-tonal aluminium keyboards called sixxen for Xenakis’ “Pleiades” and continues to look for more opportunities to discover new expressive sounds within the percussion world.

Future concerts this season – all FREE –  by Clocks in Motion include (posters are by Dave Alcorn):

Saturday, Oct. 5, at 7 p.m.: Live at the Lobby of the Madison Museum of Contemporary Art in the Overture Center.

Sunday, Oct. 21, 2 p.m. in Mills Music Hall: George Crumb‘s “American Songbook VI: Voices from the Morning of the Earth.”  FEATURING vocal soloists Jamie Van Eyck (below top) and Paul Rowe (below bottom, in a photo by Katrin Talbot).

Saturday, Dec. 8, at 7 p.m. in Music Hall: “A Dream of Darkness” featuring the music of Karlheinz Stockhausen, Franco Donatoni, and a world premiere of a new piece by Filippo Santoro.

For a complete list of upcoming concerts, events, media, and detailed performer biographies, please visit clocksinmotionpercussion.com.

Here is a video previewing the upcoming season of Clocks in Motion:

 


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