The Well-Tempered Ear

Classical music: The annual showcase benefit for University Opera, with student performers and famed bass-baritone alumnus Sam Handley, is this Sunday afternoon

September 23, 2017
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By Jacob Stockinger

Students in the University of Wisconsin-Madison’s opera program will present the annual “Showcase Concert” of songs and arias this Sunday, Sept. 24, at 3 p.m. at the First Unitarian Society of Madison’s Meeting House, 900 University Bay Drive.

They will be joined by bass-baritone Sam Handley (below top), a well-known alumnus now living in Chicago, and accompanist Daniel Fung (below bottom).

The program includes:

Samuel Handley in the “Calumny” aria from Rossini’s “Barber of Seville” and the song “Her Face” from Merrill’s show “Carnival”

John McHugh in “Donne mie” (Mozart’s “Cosi fan tutte”)

Shaddai Solidum in “The Jewel Song” (Gounod’s “Faust”)

Grace Subat in “Far From the Home I Love” (Bock’s “Fiddler on the Roof“)

Sarah Kendall in “Mi chiamano Mimì” (Puccini’s “La Bohème“)

Benjamin Liupaogo (below) in the “Flower Song” (Bizet’s “Carmen”)

Liza Shapin in “I Walked in the Path Where Jesus Walked”

Matthew Chastain in “Questo amor” (Puccini’s “Edgar”)

Yanzelmalee Rivera in “Dondi lieta” (Puccini’s “La Bohème”)

Also the trio “Soave sia il vento” (from Mozart’s “Così fan tutti”) will be sung by Solidum, Subat and Handley; and the duet “Libiamo” (from Verdi’s “La Traviata“) will be sung by Rivera and Liupaogo.

Sam Handley has been praised for “his rich, burnished” voice and the “genuine emotional depth of his characterizations.” The Houston Chronicle has described his “vivid and polished singing” as “leaving the audience panting.”) You can hear him in the YouTube video at the bottom, where he sings the “Calumny” aria that he will also perform at this event.

A contribution of $30 at the door ($10 for students) is requested for this benefit concert.

A reception of chocolate, cheese, wine and punch will follow the concert and is included in the donation. (Below are the participants from last year with David Ronis, third from left in the back row, who is the director of the University Opera.)

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Classical music: Broadcasts of operas from the Met and string quartets by the UW-Madison’s Pro Arte Quartet are featured on old media and new media this Saturday and Sunday. Plus, the 89th Edgewood college Christmas Concert is tonight and tomorrow afternoon.

December 2, 2016
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ALERT: Edgewood College will present its 89th Annual Christmas Concerts tonight at 7 p.m. and Saturday afternoon at 2:30 p.m. in the St. Joseph Chapel, 1000 Edgewood College Drive.

Now expanded to two performances, the holiday concert features the Edgewood College choirs and Concert Band, along with audience sing-alongs, prelude music by the Guitar Ensemble, and a post-concert reception featuring the Jazz Ensemble.

Tickets are $10, and seating is limited for this very popular annual event. Tickets should be purchased online in advance.

By Jacob Stockinger

Classical music meets old media and new media this weekend through opera and chamber music.

SATURDAY

This Saturday marks the beginning of the LIVE RADIO broadcasts of operas from the Metropolitan Opera (below) in New York City. This will be the 86th season for the radio broadcasts, which educated and entertained generations of opera lovers before there were DVDs, streaming and the “Live in HD From the Met” broadcasts to movie theaters.

Metropolitan Opera outdoors use Victor J. Blue NYT

Met from stage over pit

The performances will be carried locally on Wisconsin Public Radio, WERN-FM 88.7. This Saturday, the starting time for Puccini’s “Manon Lescaut” with Russian superstar soprano Anna Netrebko (below, in a photo by Richard Termine for The New York Times), is 11:30 CST. Other operas will have different starting times, depending their length.

This season runs from Dec. 3-May 15.

Radio has certain strengths, The Ear thinks. For one, it allows the listeners to focus on the music, to be less distracted or less enriched – depending on your point of view – by sets, costumes, lighting, the physicality of the acting and other stagecraft that is left to the imagination.

This season, there will be lots of standard fare including: Verdi’s “La Traviata” and “Aida”; Puccini’s “La Boheme”; Bizet’s “Carmen”; Beethoven’s “Fidelio”; Wagner’s “Tristan und Isolde” and “The Flying Dutchman”; Richard Strauss’ “Der Rosenkavalier” and “Salome”; and Mozart’s “Idomeneo.”

But you can also hear the new music and less frequently staged operas. They include the 2000 opera “L’amour de loin” (Love From Afar) by Finnish composer Kaija Saariaho, which will receive its Metropolitan Opera premiere next week, on Dec. 10.

Here is a link to the complete season along with links to information about the various productions. Starting times are Eastern Standard Time, so deduct an hour for Central Standard Time or a different amount for your time zone:

http://www.metopera.org/Season/Radio/Saturday-Matinee-Broadcasts/

met-manon-lescaut-anna-netrebko-cr-richard-termine-nyt

SUNDAY

On this Sunday afternoon, the Pro Arte Quartet (below, in a photo by Rick Langer), longtime artists-in-residence at the University of Wisconsin-Madison School of Music, will wrap up the first semester of “Sunday Afternoon Live From the Chazen,” which used to air weekly on Wisconsin Public Radio but now is presented once a month, on the first Sunday of the month, directly by the museum.

The program this Sunday features the “Italian Serenade” by Hugo Wolf; the String Quartet No. 3 in F Major by Dmitri Shostakovich; and the String Quartet in A-Flat Major, Op. 105, by Antonin Dvorak.

Pro Arte Quartet new 2 Rick Langer

The FREE concert takes place from 12:30 to 2 p.m. in Brittingham Gallery No. 3 of the Chazen Museum of Art and the University of Wisconsin-Madison.

Donors to the museum can reserve seats. Concerts by the Pro Arte Quartet, kind of the house quartet of the museum, are usually “sold out.”

But the concert can also be streamed live via computer or smart phone by clicking on the arrow in the photo and using the portal on the following website:

https://www.chazen.wisc.edu/index.php?/events-calendar-demo/event/sunday-afternoon-live-at-the-chazen-12-4-16/

sal-pro-arte-12-4-16

You might also want to arrive early or stay late to see the historic and rare First Folio edition (below) of the plays by William Shakespeare that is on display at the Chazen Museum through Dec. 11 to mark the 400th anniversary of the death of the Bard.

First Folio


Classical music: It’s easy but wrong to underestimate Offenbach’s “Tales of Hoffmann.” It is literally fantastic but NOT light. It will be performed by Madison Opera on Friday night and Sunday afternoon. Part 2 of 2.

April 13, 2016
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ALERT: This week’s FREE Friday Noon Musicale, to be held from 12:15 to 1 p.m. in the historic Landmark Auditorium of the Frank Lloyd Wright-designed Meeting House of the First Unitarian Society of Madison, 900 University Bay Drive, will feature music for baroque and modern flute and strings  with Iva Ugrcic, Thalia Combs, Biffa Kwok, Joshua Dierigner, Mikko Rankin Utevsky, Andrew Briggs and Satoko Hayami. They will play music by Georg Philipp Telemann, Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart, Carl Philipp Emmanuel Bach, Salvatore Sciarrino and Andre Jolivet.

By Jacob Stockinger

As The Ear posted yesterday, the Madison Opera will present Jacques Offenbach’s “The Tales of Hoffmann” this weekend.

The production will be performed twice in Overture Hall of the Overture Center: on Friday at 8 p.m.; and on 
Sunday at 2:30 p.m. It will be sung in French with projected English translations

Tickets are $18-$129. Student and group discounts are available. Tickets can be purchased at the Overture Box Office, 201 State St., Madison, and by calling (608) 258-4141 or visiting www.madisonopera.org

For more information, here is a link to yesterday’s post with a plot synopsis and information about the cast:

https://welltempered.wordpress.com/2016/04/12/classical-music-jacques-offenbachs-fantastical-masterpiece-the-tales-of-hoffmann-will-be-performed-by-madison-opera-performs-friday-night-and-sunday-afternoon-here-is-part/

Today, The Ear asked the same questions to the two main figures in the production: Artistic and music director John DeMain and guest stage director Kristine McIntyre.

Here are their answers:

JOHN DeMAIN (below)

DeMainOpera

“Tales of Hoffmann” has the reputation of being a “lighter” opera. How justified and accurate is that opinion in your view, and what do you think explains it?

Hoffmann is Offenbach’s grand opus. I’ve never thought of this work as a light opera. To me, light opera has spoken dialogue and the music is distinctly lighter in nature, like operetta.

Where the confusion lies here is, for me, no different than with George Gershwin’s Porgy and Bess. Both composers use popular resources, at times, to tell the story.

Hoffmann is a serious themed piece. Two people are literally murdered, and the mechanical doll is also destroyed. Hoffmann’s soul is condemned to hell, as his pursuit of love is rebuffed at every term. The devil is present throughout as well.

What Hoffmann is, however, is highly theatrical. Magic is present, as well as the supernatural. It is at times ghoulish and macabre, but always entertaining. The Olympia scene with party guests and a mechanical doll — at bottom in a YouTube video — is the lightest scene in nature, as Hoffmann is being duped at a social gathering.

Move into Antonia, and from the beginning the music is serious and profound with two thrilling trios. Giulietta, which has always been the sketchiest act, because of missing music and an incomplete libretto, nevertheless is thrillingly operatic in scope.

Hoffmann is very much like Giuseppe Verdi’s La Traviata in design, particularly in the progression of Hoffmann’s loves, as embodied in the sopranos who sings all four roles. Olympia is coloratura, just like Violetta in the first act singing “Sempre libera.” Antonia is lyric, corresponding to Violetta in the second act, and Giulietta is the most dramatic, just as in the third act of the Verdi.

The beautiful final ensemble at the end of the Epilogue is also not the stuff of light opera. Offenbach, as a composer, is true to his musical style, but achieves the greatest depth of his writing in this wonderful grand opera.

Madison Opera Hoffmann set 1

What would you like the public to know about the opera and about the musical aspects of the Madison Opera production including the singers, the orchestra and the score?

The orchestra highlights the drama at every given turn, literally changing tempos on a dime. Leitmotifs are used throughout the piece.

The music is wonderfully melodic, with the entire cast having beautiful arias, duets and trios. It has long been a favorite opera of mine because it so accurately portrays the story in vivid and unmistakable musical terms.

John DeMain and MSO from the stage Greg Anderson

KRISTINE MCINTYRE (below)

Kristine McIntyre 2016

Jacques Offenbach’s “Tales of Hoffmann” has the reputation of being a “lighter” opera? How justified and accurate is that opinion in your view, and what do you think explains it?

Well, “lighter” compared to what? Than Jake Heggie’s Dead Man Walking or Leos Janacek’s Jenufa, certainly. But it’s not a comedy either, and certainly any of the classic operatic comedies, such as Gioacchino Rossini‘s The Barber of Seville, feels perfectly frothy in comparison.

I think this is an easy opera to underestimate because the piece is so theatrical in its storytelling. But Offenbach (below) is actually exploring some very dark themes, as was E.T.A. Hoffmann before him.

E.T.A. Hoffmann’s original tales are fantastical and highly imaginative, but they are also vivid and insightful examinations of human psychology. He exposes our darkest fears and how that darkness intrudes into our everyday lives and our attempts to find love and happiness. I think E.T.A. Hoffmann is particularly insightful at revealing the fragility of his male protagonists and their insecurities where women and love are concerned.

The Olympia act, for instance, is really about a young man’s fear that he has been deceived, that he’s been made a fool of — that he can’t trust the girl he loves and doesn’t know what’s real or what’s not.

The story on which it is based, “The Sandman,” is even more horrifying than Offenbach’s setting: the young man simply can’t get over having fallen in love with the automaton, believes his very human fiancée is actually a machine, tries to kill her and eventually commits suicide by throwing himself from a balcony.

Jacques Offenbach seated

So one should not confuse creativity in storytelling with a lack of seriousness. There is a great tradition, stretching back to the early 19th century, of writers of fantastical literature and science fiction asking some of the hardest questions about human nature and providing some of the most compelling insights.

That tradition now extends to film and we’ve spent some time in rehearsal talking about how movies like Blade Runner and Ex Machina explore some of the same issues.

Offenbach is a man of the theater and gives us music that is just as compelling and theatrical as the tales themselves. This music is fun to stage and listen to, but while Offenbach is entertaining us with his delightful French melodies, his main character, Hoffmann, has his heart broken three times, causes the death of his fiancée, becomes an alcoholic, murders a rival and loses his soul. So the opera definitely has its tragic side.

And we shouldn’t forget that Offenbach balances the fantasy of the tales with the framework of the Prologue and Epilogue and the completely recognizable, human story of Hoffmann’s doomed relationship with his girlfriend Stella. They’ve had a fight and he’s terrified of losing her. In the tales, he is actually telling us Stella’s story over and over again as he tries to make sense of what has happened.

The opera could easily end in tragedy and despair, but instead Offenbach offers us a glass of champagne and a balm for the human condition. (Below is the Roaring 20s set.)

Madison Opera Hoffmann set 3

What would you like the public to know about the opera and about the theatrical aspects of the Madison Opera production including acting, costumes, sets, etc.?

Almost everyone in our cast is doing their roles for the first time, so we’re having a great time in rehearsal exploring every moment of the piece.

This will be a very high-energy, inventive and creative telling of the opera. The production is updated to the 1920s, which is great fun – beautiful costumes and lots of wonderful inspiration from art and cinema of the period.

For instance, we’ve been looking at the paintings of Otto Dix, which capture the élan and decadence of the 1920s, and classic horror films like The Cabinet of Dr. Caligari and Nosferatu to find the darker side of things for the Antonia act. It’s a very rich period visually and offers us a great deal of style as well as the chance to make something that feels very alive and fresh.

I think it will be very entertaining and also very moving.

Madison Opera Hoffmann set 2


Classical music: UW alumna and opera diva Brenda Rae returns to wow the crowd with her virtuosic singing while the UW Symphony Orchestra puts its strengths on display.

September 29, 2015
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By Jacob Stockinger

Here is a special posting, a review written by frequent guest critic and writer for this blog, John W. Barker. Barker (below) is an emeritus professor of Medieval history at the University of Wisconsin-Madison. He also is a well-known classical music critic who writes for Isthmus and the American Record Guide, and who for 12 years hosted an early music show every other Sunday morning on WORT FM 89.9 FM. He serves on the Board of Advisors for the Madison Early Music Festival and frequently gives pre-concert lectures in Madison.

John-Barker

By John W. Barker

The concert by the UW Symphony Orchestra on Sunday evening night was hyped largely for the appearance of the brilliant young soprano Brenda Rae (née Kinkert in Appleton, Wisconsin).

Soprano Brenda Rae

An undergraduate in the UW-Madison School of Music, and participant in University Opera productions a few years back, she has since moved on, through the Juilliard School, to a burgeoning career in German opera houses. This concert was the climax of her weekend return here to help promote the funding of the UW voice and opera program.

To her considerable credit, she chose as her scheduled vehicle Reinhold Gliere’s Concerto for Coloratura Soprano and Orchestra, a rarely heard work that is quite fascinating.

Gliere uses the solo part in instrumental terms, as a vocalise, without words. The work might be described as a concerto for vowels and orchestra. It is meant to explore the sheer sound of the soprano voice, in all its possible colors.

The soloist (below) is heard in the slow first movement blending into a handsomely melodious Late Romantic orchestral sound, while the second movement tests a coloratura’s virtuosity in suggesting meaning through inflection rather than words.

Brenda Rae in Gliere

It is an extraordinary work, both lovely and clever, and too few sopranos have opportunities to try it out. Inevitably, though, there was the big-hit opera aria as an encore, no less than Violetta’s grand effusions in Act One of Giuseppe Verdi’s “La traviata.”

Brenda Rae (below) sang it as a true diva, to tonal and dramatic perfection. But it also served to point up the kind of operatic style that Gliere was suggesting, and affectionately spoofing, in his concerto.

Brenda Rae in Verdi

There was far more than just vocal display to this concert, however.

The opening item was no less than Claude Debussy’s challenging tone poem La Mer. The work calls for both skilled playing and artful leadership. Conductor James Smith gave another demonstration of his capacity to draw wonders from his student players — unfolding and blending the kaleidoscope of instrumental colors that Debussy manipulates variously in each of the three movements.

UW Symphony violins 2015

Though some of the audience (mostly students, I think) walked out at the intermission — more interested in performers than in music, I fear — the bulk of the audience that remained was treated to another of maestro Smith’s wonders, if not miracles. Sergei Rachmaninoff’s Symphonic Dances, his last completed work, is a fiercely difficult and draining affair.

Smith and his students sounded like confident pros in a probing, powerful performance of this piece, one of the truly great orchestral scores of the 20th century. I think this performance will be found to stand up well against impending competition, when the Madison Symphony Orchestra plays the same work in its October program. (Don’t miss that!)

UW Symphony cellos 2015

Here we have “Madison’s third orchestra” – the Madison Symphony Orchestra and the Wisconsin Chamber Orchestra being the other two — making a blazing trail of its own in the direct wake this past weekend of the MSO’s own magnificent September concerts.

Oh, how blessed musically is Madison for those who take the trouble to benefit from it all!


Classical music: Here is music to greet Fall, which arrives today. Plus, up-and-coming coloratura soprano Brenda Rae returns to her alma mater UW-Madison from this Friday through Sunday to raise money for University Opera.

September 23, 2015
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ALERT: Autumn is here. The Fall equinox arrives today at 3:31 a.m. CDT. If you are looking for some appropriate music to listen to, here is a good selection — complete with audio samples – from Minnesota Public Radio:

http://www.classicalmpr.org/story/2014/09/23/classical-music-for-fall-autumn

Plus: The long-term weather prediction is for a warm Fall , according to the Web site Accuweather. Here is a link:

http://www.accuweather.com/en/weather-news/warmth-to-continue-in-midwest/52475030

By Jacob Stockinger

Attention all opera fans!

Here is a press release for you from the University of Wisconsin–Madison School of Music, written by concert manager and publicity director Kathy Esposito:

“Gazing at herself in a bewitched mirror, she is obsessed with her radiant beauty; she caresses her own face and simpers at an imagined lover.”

“That would be the Appleton, Wisconsin coloratura soprano Brenda Rae (below) in the Seattle Opera’s February production of George Frideric Handel’s “Semele,” in which she was described by Opera News as “sensual,” “dazzling” and “moving.” (You can see a clip in a YouTube video at the bottom.)

Soprano Brenda Rae

Brenda will be on the UW-Madison campus September 25-27 as part of a larger three-day fund drive to put University Opera -– which has existed at UW-Madison for 57 years, but which relies mostly on ticket sales and donations to finance productions -– on a secure financial footing.

For a more detailed biography of Benda Rae, go to:

http://www.music.wisc.edu/event/soprano-brenda-rae-with-the-uw-symphony-orchestra/

Here is a link to a story about Brenda Rae and the University Opera written  by Gayle Worland in The Wisconsin State Journal:

http://host.madison.com/entertainment/music/dollars-bring-new-era-to-university-opera/article_677707d4-fbd6-5dfd-acf6-f50525ae73c4.html

On Friday, there will be a FREE and PUBLIC master class in Music Hall from 5 to 7 p.m.

On Saturday, two special donor events are planned: the first, a VIP dress rehearsal followed by a private University Club reception for event sponsors.

For more about level of sponsorship and the fundraising drive visit:

https://uwmadisonschoolofmusic.wordpress.com

And on Sunday at 7:30 p.m. in Mills Hall, a ticketed public concert ($25 for adults) will feature Brenda Rae singing Reinhold Gliere’s rarely heard Concerto for Coloratura Soprano, accompanied by the UW Symphony Orchestra, conducted by James Smith. Also on the program are scenes and an aria from Giuseppe Verdi’s opera “La Traviata” and “Symphonic Dances” by Sergei Rachmaninoff.

The two events are part of a fund-raising drive that honors opera alumna Karen K. Bishop, who passed away in January. We hope you will consider becoming a supporter of University Opera by sponsoring this event and attending one or more performances.


Classical music education: The University of Wisconsin-Madison School of Music has lined up its schedule of events for the 2015-16 season. Here it is in two parts. Today is Semester 1.

August 13, 2015
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By Jacob Stockinger

Get out your datebooks.

The final schedules for the upcoming season by most major classical music groups in the area are now available.

Last but not least is the biggest of them all: The University of Wisconsin-Madison School of Music, which offers some 300 events in a season, most of them FREE to the public.

UW logos

Some things are new. For example, you will note that the UW Choral Union has gone to just ONE performance instead of two, as in the past for many years.

Concert manager and public relations director Kathy Esposito (below) writes:

Katherine Esposito

The UW-Madison School of Music is jazzed about its upcoming season and we’d like the world to know. Please make plans to attend!

Here is a link to the online calendar, which is now complete except for specific pieces on programs and last-minute changes: http://www.music.wisc.edu/events/

Our events of 2015-2016 range from performances by a vocal dynamo (soprano Brenda Rae, Sept. 27) to a in-demand LA jazz woodwind musician (Bob Sheppard in April) plus an enterprising young brass quintet (Axiom Brass, October) and a dollop of world music in March (duoJalal). In addition, we offer ever-popular opera productions, faculty concerts and student ensembles ranging from classical to jazz to percussion.

Full concert calendar link: http://www.music.wisc.edu/events/

Other social media connections include:

http://www.music.wisc.edu/

https://www.facebook.com/UWMadisonSchoolOfMusic

https://twitter.com/UWSOM

Our Newsletter, A Tempo!

https://uwmadisonschoolofmusic.wordpress.com/

Hear our sound: https://soundcloud.com/uw-madisonsom

Here’s a partial list with highlights (Semester 1 is posted today; Semester 2 will be posted tomorrow):

SEMESTER 1 

August 30: “Performing the Jewish Archive”: Shining a Spotlight on Forgotten Jewish Performance Works. Various venues and times; click link for details.

The U.S. component of an international research project led by the University of Leeds, England, with UW-Madison leadership provided by Teryl Dobbs, chair of music education. Featuring a Sound Salon with Sherry Mayrent and Henry Sapoznik (below) of the Mayrent Institute; Chamber Music with the Bach Dancing and Dynamite Society; and a Cabaret Performance with Mark Nadler. Events continue in May, 2016. All events are free.

Link to event: http://www.music.wisc.edu/event/performing-the-jewish-archive/

BDDS Henry Saposnik

September 7: 37th Annual Karp Family Concert. Mills Hall, 7:30 PM.

Chamber music of the 19th and 20th centuries for piano and strings. Pianist and patriarch Howard Karp (below center) passed away last summer, but the family continues with a long-standing tradition. With Suzanne Beia, Violin; Katrin Talbot, Viola; Parry Karp, Violoncello; Frances Karp, Piano; Christopher Karp, Piano. Free.

http://www.music.wisc.edu/event/37th-annual-karp-family-concert/

karps 2008 - 13

September 26: Soprano Brenda Rae with the UW-Madison Symphony Orchestra. Mills Hall, 7:30 PM.

On the program: Reinhold Gliere’s Concerto for Coloratura Soprano. A benefit for University Opera.

Brenda Rae (below) is a 2004 graduate of the School of Music, and has been impressing audiences and critics all over Europe for many years. Her 2013 U.S. debut as Violetta in Verdi’s “La Traviata” won her praise from James R. Oestreich of The New York Times: “Ms. Rae soared beautifully in the early going, but it was in her pianissimo singing that she really shone.”

Tickets $25.

Master class: Friday, September 25, Music Hall, 5-7 PM.

http://www.music.wisc.edu/event/soprano-brenda-rae-with-the-uw-symphony-orchestra/

Soprano Brenda Rae

October 7: Pro Arte Quartet (below top, in a photo by Rick Langer) with Violist Nobuko Imai (below bottom, in a photo by Marco Borggreve). Mills Hall, 7:30 PM.

Nobuko Imai is considered to be one of the most outstanding viola players of our time. After finishing her studies at the Toho School of Music, Yale University and the Juilliard School, she won the highest prizes at both the Munich and the Geneva international competitions.

http://www.music.wisc.edu/event/pro-arte-quartet-with-violist-nobuko-imai/

Master class: October 6, 7:30 PM, Mills Hall. Both events are free.

Pro Arte 3 Rick Langer copy

Imai Nobuko 018.jpg

October 9-10-11:  BRASS FEST II!

Last year’s Celebrate Brass festival was so much fun, we decided to program another. Three days of exhilarating music from leading brass players and ensembles, including the award-winning Axiom Brass Quintet (below, now in residence at the Tanglewood Music Festival) and trumpeter Adam Rapa. With the Wisconsin Brass Quintet and students from the UW-Madison School of Music. 

October 9: Axiom Brass, Mills Hall, 8 PM. Tickets $15.

October 10: Festival Brass Choir with Axiom Brass, the Wisconsin Brass Quintet and trumpeter Adam Rapa. Tickets $15.

October 11: Trumpeter Adam Rapa and vocalist Elizabeth Vik. Classical and jazz. Free concert.

http://www.music.wisc.edu/event/brass-fest-2/

Buy tickets for both concerts for $25.

Axiom Brass Quintet

October 23-24-25-27: University Opera presents Mozart’s “The Marriage of Figaro.” Mozart and da Ponte’s masterpiece of comedy and intrigue, shows the two geniuses at the height of their powers. Directed by David Ronis (below, in a photo by Luke De Lalio); music conducted by James Smith.

Music Hall. Tickets $25/$20/$10.

http://www.music.wisc.edu/event/university-opera-the-marriage-of-figaro/

David Ronis color CR Luke DeLalio

November 5-6: Celebrating Alumni Composers. UW-Madison prize-winning alumni composers of new music Andrew Rindfleisch (below), Paula Matthusen, Jeffrey Stadelman, Bill Rhoads and Kevin Ernste return for a two-day event featuring their acoustic and electronic music.

November 5, Mills Hall, 7:30 PM: Performances by the Wisconsin Brass Quintet, the Wingra Woodwind Quintet, and smaller ensembles of faculty and students.

November 6, 7:30 PM: Performance with the UW Wind Ensemble, Scott Teeple, conductor.

Both concerts are free.

http://www.music.wisc.edu/event/celebrating-alumni-composers-two-free-concerts/

Andrew Rindfleisch portrait

November 13: Debut Faculty Concert with Violinist Soh-Hyun Park Altino (below in a photo by Caroline Bittencourt). Altino takes the stage as the newest member of the school’s string faculty. With pianist Martha Fischer.

Mills Hall, 8 PM.

Tickets $12. Students free

http://www.music.wisc.edu/event/debut-faculty-concert-soh-hyun-park-altino-violin/

Soh-Hyun Park Altino Carroline Bittencourt

December 10: Wingra Woodwind Quintet (below, in a photo by Michael Anderson). With Stephanie Jutt, flute; Marc Vallon, bassoon; Kostas Tiliakos, oboe; and welcoming new members Wesley Warnhoff, clarinet; and Joanna Schulz, horn. 

Morphy Hall, 7:30 PM. Free.

http://www.music.wisc.edu/event/wingra-woodwind-quintet/

Wingra Woodwind Quintet 2013 Michael Anderson

December 12: UW Choral Union & UW Symphony Orchestra with Beverly Taylor, conductor. Presenting “Gloria” of Francis Poulenc and “Symphony of Psalms” by Igor Stravinsky.

Mills Hall, 8 PM.

Tickets $15/$8.

http://www.music.wisc.edu/event/uw-choral-union1/

UW Choral Union and Symphony Nov. 2014

Tomorrow: Highlights of Semester 2

 


Classical music: Let Us Now Praise – and rediscover — pianist and teacher extraordinaire Seymour Bernstein. The Ear wants his books about amateur music-making reprinted affordably and made into e-books. Plus, this morning at 11 a.m. you can hear and see, live and for FREE, UW-Madison alumna Brenda Rae Klinkert sing in a Richard Strauss opera in Munich.

October 5, 2014
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ALERT: Some local-related news came in too late to include yesterday.

This morning, UW-Madison School of Music alumna and Appleton native Brenda Rae Klinkert (BA, 2004 and seen below in costume) is singing with the Bavarian State Opera in Munich in Richard Strauss’ opera “Die Schweigsame Frau” (The Silent Woman, 1935) and the performance is being broadcast LIVE on the Internet. You can watch the free audio-visual transmission at 11 a.m. via http://www.staatsoper.de/en/staatsopertv.html (Staatsoper.TV).

Please pass the word to any students and professors, friends and fans who might be interested in this opera and this performer. Adds local opera fan Dan Shea: “Brenda Rae currently is continuing a series of major breakthroughs in her operatic career, an amazing arc of success in Europe and the U.S. with  major roles in major operas. Just take a look at her schedule at brendarae.com

“Personally, I’ve seen a lot of “Traviatas” all over the world, but hers at Santa Fe in the summer of 2013 was especially wonderful, and in a class by itself — as the reviews attested.”

Brenda Rae Klinkert in costume

By Jacob Stockinger

Yesterday I wrote about violinist Joshua Bell — a superstar who is both a renowned performer and a devoted teacher, all at the same time.

Today I want to write about someone who established a big performing career when he was young – but then walked away from it all at the same age Joshua Bell is right now, about 50, in order to devote himself to teaching, writing books and composing.

Chances are you haven’t heard about pianist Seymour Bernstein (below), or heard only a little bit if anything. 

Seymour bernstein 1

But it turns out that might all change, thanks to the movie star Ethan Hawke (below left with Bernstein on the right), who met Bernstein at a dinner party and ended up directing a documentary about Seymour Bernstein, who is now 87 years old and still active.

It happened especially after Bernstein help the screen-veteran Hawke to overcome his stage fright, which itself is a fascinating story.

It was also fascinating to read that Bernstein doesn’t think the concert world is the way for classical music to go today. He wants instead to recapture the joy of amateur music-making.

I read a great story about the movie and how it came about in The New York Times. Here is a link:

http://www.nytimes.com/2014/09/27/arts/ethan-hawke-films-seymour-an-introduction.html?_r=0

Ethan Hawke and Seymour Bernstein

I got so intrigued that I tried to order some of his books by going to Amazon.com.

It turns out they are all out of print and some go for hundreds of dollars as rarities.

PLEASE NOTE A MISTAKE AND A CORRECTION: The Ear just got a post-posting correction to this error, for which he apologizes. If you go to a Reader Comment by Pru Palachek, you will find out that Seymour Bernstein’s books are indeed available — for a higher price — from a small music publisher, Manduca, in Portland, Maine. You can also visit Bernstein’s own website for more information. Just Google “Seymour Bernstein.”

Well, there is always the library. But being an avid amateur pianist, I would like my own copies to mark up and keep near the keyboard.

So I am hoping somebody can persuade Amazon to reissue them as both regular books and especially e-books. Maybe the success of the movie will help. Maybe Hawke’s fame will help.

And what I read isn’t hype.

It turns out The Ear knows someone who herself took some piano lessons from Seymour Bernstein and played for him. This pianist says Bernstein is all he is cracked up to be -– a cordial and kind man, an excellent teacher and an outstanding performer.

Seymour Bernstein playing piano

I did find some YouTube videos based on his books “With Your Own Two Hands.” At the bottom is the second of several that are all good and all whet your appetite for more:

In the meantime let us hope for two things:

1. That the movie, which might win some awards and garner a big audience, gets wide circulation.

2. That Amazon, or some other publisher, agrees to reprint the books in regular and e-book formats.

What do you know about Seymour Bernstein?

Did you ever heard him live or in recording?

Did you ever read his books or use his methods?

What did you think?

The Ear wants to hear.


Classical music: Why is opera composer Giuseppe Verdi so important on his 200th birthday? Ask NPR.

October 12, 2013
2 Comments

By Jacob Stockinger

This past Thursday marked the 200th anniversary of the birth of Giuseppe Verdi, the great 19th-century Italian opera composer (below, in a photo).

Verdi Giuseppe

During this bicentennial year, you will probably get to hear and read many different evaluations of Verdi and why his contributions to opera, and to classical music and drama in general, remain so important after two centuries.

But I don’t think I have ever come across better or more accessible and convincing explanations than I found – and heard – this week on NPR’s terrific blog “Deceptive Cadence.”

Below are various links plus, at the bottom, a long and popular YouTube of highlights from Verdi’s enormous body of work.

Here is a link to a story about how Verdi managed to incorporate controversial and socially problematic plots – such as his sympathetic treatment of a prostitute in”La Traviata” — into his operas, and how brave it was of him to do so. Acclaimed conductor John Mauceri spoke with “All Things Considered” co-host Robert Siegel.

http://www.npr.org/blogs/deceptivecadence/2013/10/08/230467124/verdis-gift-wringing-catchy-music-from-touchy-subjects

verdi drawing

Here is another link to a story about how Verdi’s subject matter still touches on human nature today and our contemporary psyche. It uses “Rigoletto” as an example:

http://www.npr.org/blogs/deceptivecadence/2013/10/10/231015862/verdis-operas-a-vigorous-soundtrack-to-human-nature

And finally, here is a quiz with which you can test your own knowledge about Verdi:

http://www.npr.org/blogs/deceptivecadence/2013/10/09/230068774/act-like-you-know-giuseppe-verdi

verdi caricature

What do you think is Verdi’s most enduring legacy?

Which is your favorite Verdi opera and why?

The Ear wants to hear.


Classical music: The Madison Symphony Orchestra’s series of three FREE organ concerts on Farmers’ Market Saturdays starts this Saturday at 11 a.m. in Overture Hall with Ripon native Jared Stellmacher and Chicago’s Gargoyle Brass. Plus, The Ear will publish mini-reviews you send me of classical concerts held during today’s citywide Make Music Madison festival.

June 21, 2013
2 Comments

ALERT: Today, Friday, June 21, is the Summer Solstice. That means it is also the inaugural FREE Make Music Madison festival. Live music will be made citywide outdoors and indoors by individuals and groups. The Ear can’t be everywhere. So send me your mini-reviews of classical music performances, and of the festival in general, and I will publish them together in a separate posting. Just leave your remarks in the COMMENT section. If you want to know more, here is a link to the festival’s website where you will find listings for performers and times: http://www.makemusicmadison.org

Make Music Madison logo square

By Jacob Stockinger

FREE performances of the Overture Concert Organ will be hosted by the Madison Symphony Orchestra during Dane County Farmers’ Market on three Saturdays this summer – this Saturday, June 22, plus July 20 and August 17. Concerts last 45 minutes and are held at 11 a.m. at Overture Hall in the Overture Center, 201 State Street.

Overture Concert Organ overview

No tickets or reservations are needed for these 45-minute concerts that feature Jared Stellmacher, the Gargoyle Brass, Wyatt Smith, Sam Hutchison and 14-year-old newcomer Adrian Binkley.

A complete list of Overture Concert Organ performances, with complete program of works to be performed, is at madisonsymphony.org/organperformances.

Here is a schedule of specific concerts:

This Saturday, June 22:  A native of Ripon, Wis., organist Jared Stellmacher (below) returns with the Gargoyle Brass at 11 a.m. to solo in three pieces for organ by Marcel Dupré, Carlyle Sharpe and Johann Sebastian Bach.

Jared Stellmacher 2

Stellmacher will be joined by the Gargoyle Brass (below) — an ensemble from Chicago named after the many gargoyles on the campus of the University of Illinois — in special arrangements for organ and brass of a polka and fugue by Jaromir Weinberger, two movements from Gustav Mahler’s Symphony No. 2, and the “Drinking Song” from Giuseppe Verdi’s “La Traviata.”

You can hear brief audio samples of both Jared Stellmacher and the Gargoyle Brass in YouTube videos at the bottom.

Gargoyle Brass

Saturday, July 20: Award-winning organist Wyatt Smith (below) returns to the stage at 11 a.m. with J. S. Bach’s Toccata in F and an intriguing selection of virtuosic movements from Kurt Knecht’s Missouri Sonata and Louis Vierne’s popular work, the Symphony in D.

Wyatt Smith

Saturday, Aug. 17: Audiences will receive a special treat at 11 a.m. with the debut of a young rising star from Waunakee, Wis. Fourteen-year-old organist Adrian Binkley (below top) is a student of MSO Principal Organist Samuel Hutchison (below bottom).

Adrian is already an experienced recital artist and plans to study organ performance at the Interlochen Center for the Arts in Michigan next fall. Both he and Samuel Hutchison will perform at this concert.

Adrian Binkley

MSamuelHutchison

The Free Farmers’ Market Concerts are generously sponsored by Pleasant T. Rowland Foundation and are presented in partnership with Overture Center for the Arts and 77 Square. Support for all Overture Concert Organ programs is provided by the Diane Endres Ballweg Fund with additional support from Friends of the Overture Concert Organ.

With a gift from the Pleasant T. Rowland Foundation, the Madison Symphony Orchestra commissioned the Overture Concert Organ, which is the stunning backdrop of all MSO concerts. MSO Principal Organist, Samuel Hutchison, programs and curates it. In addition to the Free Farmers’ Market Concerts, the instrument is featured in the MSO Christmas and April 2014 concerts along with three Free Community Hymn Sings and a Christmas Carol Sing. See details for all organ performances at www.madisonsymphony.org/organperformances.

Learn more at www.madisonsymphony.org.


Classical music: Some big American symphony orchestras are in deep financial trouble, while others are not. What makes the difference? asks a story on NPR. And what solutions or reforms do you suggest?

January 5, 2013
8 Comments

By Jacob Stockinger

2012 was generally not a good year for symphony orchestras in the US. It featured lockouts and bankruptcies in some surprising places like the Twin Cities, Detroit, Atlanta, Pittsburgh, St. Louis and Philadelphia.

On all sorts of year-end short lists, the financial woes and labor disputes of symphony orchestras ranked among the top stories.

And on New Year’s Day, NPR featured an insightful report on the overall state of the American symphony orchestra. It included some orchestras that are doing badly and others that are doing well. (Below are some locked out players from the Minnesota Orchestra in Minneapolis.)

Here is a link to the NPR stories. Be sure to read and respond to the reader comments, either here in COMMENTS or on the NPR site:

http://www.npr.org/blogs/deceptivecadence/2013/01/01/168369013/was-2012-the-year-that-american-orchestras-hit-the-wall

minn-musicians

It is enough to make one grateful to be living in a relatively prosperous and insulated place like Madison where the part-time Madison Symphony Orchestra (below top) and the part-time Wisconsin Chamber Orchestra (below bottom) seem relatively secure — as do so many other thriving local classical music organizations — if not totally immune, from the really troubling trends that their sister organizations face in other cities.

MSO-HALL

WCO lobby

Will the problems be solved? The Ear wonders and suspects yes.

After all, it wasn’t too long ago that chamber music seemed to be in crisis. But now it is thriving. And that is a good thing too – especially in times of economic strife. Chamber music, which Madison has in abundance, is certainly cheaper to support than a symphony. (The UW Pro Arte String Quartet, in a photo y Rick Langer, is below.)

PAQ-8BIT03

And even while big budget symphonies are having trouble, a lot of even bigger budget opera companies are thriving, in part because they appeal to the “screen” generation” that grew up on TV and likes to have pictures, characters and dramatic or romantic stories along with its music. (Below is a photo by James Gill of the Madison Opera‘s production of Verdi’s “La Traviata.)

Traviata bed Madison Opera James Gill

Add in other outreach and educational efforts, including free pre-concert lectures and concerts for children and young people. Then add in the efforts of groups like Chamber Music Revolution and New MUSE (New Music Everywhere) to reach non-traditional audiences (read young people) in traditional venues (below, the Brink Lounge). Some new music might help, but so might some old reliable classics and some one-composer concerts or concerts with a theme. And then one can hope finally that an economic upswing will put orchestras will soon be on the rebound and more solid footing.

brink lounge

Of course, The Ear has a few others suggestions. They include performing programs that are shorter (about 90 minutes) with no intermission and providing some kind of short post-concert reception with snacks where audience members can mix with the performers and other audience members.

In short, reinvent the whole format to make a symphony concert more fun to attend, more like a community event that is fun to participate actively, not just passively, in. I think that the Middleton Community Orchestra concerts (below) provides some hints of what could work. Maybe it wouldn’t work, but it might be worth a try.

Middleton Community Orchestra reception

But you are the audience members. Why don’t you tell The Ear — and the managers of symphony orchestras — what you would like to see done to make symphony orchestras concert more popular and fun.


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