The Well-Tempered Ear

Classical music: The Opera Student Showcase concert this Sunday afternoon will introduce David Ronis as the new director of University Opera and spotlight University of Wisconsin-Madison graduate soprano Shannon Prickett.

September 12, 2014
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By Jacob Stockinger

Here is a the press release for the University Opera’s Student Showcase that will take place this coming Sunday afternoon and will preview the talent and productions of the upcoming season:

“A concert of favorite melodies by Vincenzo Bellini, Giuseppe Verdi and others -– mostly operatic but one clearly comic -– will be presented by students from the University of Wisconsin-Madison School of Music’s opera program.

The concert will take place this Sunday afternoon, September 14, at 3 p.m. in the First Unitarian Society of Madison’s Landmark Auditorium (below) at 900 University Bay Drive.

FUS1jake

Directing the concert and this year’s University Opera program will be David Ronis (below, in a photo by Luke DeLalio), currently on leave from the Aaron Copland School of Music at City University of New York, and Hofstra University. He is serving as the interim successor to longtime director William Farlow, who retired from the University of Wisconsin-Madison last spring. (At bottom is a YouTube video of the work that the versatile Ronis recently did at Queens College with an early music version of Luigi Rossi’s opera “Orfeo.”)

Here is a link to a press release, issued by the UW-Madison School of Music when David Ronis was chosen from a nationwide search last spring, with Ronis’ impressive background:

http://www.music.wisc.edu/2014/07/11/school-of-music-announces-david-ronis-as-visiting-director-of-opera/

David Ronis color CR  Luke DeLalio

Most of the singers will appear in this year’s productions of Benjamin Britten’s Albert Herring this fall and Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart’s The Magic Flute in the spring.

Here is a link to information about the upcoming season of the University Opera:

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

But one singer -– soprano Shannon Prickett (below top) – is an alumna returning from her current work as Resident Artist at the Minnesota Opera.

While in Madison from 2011 to 2013 and working on her Master’s of Music degree, Prickett performed lead parts in Puccini’s La Bohème, Mozart’s Don Giovanni, Luigi Cherubini’s Medea, Pietro Mascagni’s L’amico Fritz, and Verdi’s Requiem.

In the Showcase concert, she will sing arias from Verdi’s I Lombardi, Giacomo Puccini’s Manon Lescaut, and a dramatic duet from Verdi’s Aïda with new mezzo-soprano doctoral student Jessica Kasinski, below bottom. (The Ear has no word on specific works to be performed.)

Shannon Prickett head shot

Jessica Kasinski

Other singers will take on arias by Mozart, Donizetti, Bellini, Richard Strauss and even Flanders and Swann: That number requires good humor as well as pianistic skill from the accompanist, and will provide a treat for fans of the multi-talented and critically acclaimed Thomas Kasdorf (below), another graduate of the UW-Madison.

Thomas Kasdorf

The concert is a benefit for the University Opera that sponsored by Opera Props, which supports the University Opera. Admission is a contribution of $25 per person, $10 for students. A reception follows.


Classical music: Fresco Opera Theatre lands a body slam and puts a submission hold on opera and wrestling this Friday and Saturday in its production of “Opera Smackdown” at the Overture Center. And the audience will get to choose the winner!

March 13, 2014
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By Jacob Stockinger

Opera is rarely just opera when the creative talents behind Fresco Opera Theatre decide to do it. Invariably, the Fresco folks come up with some creative and new or unexpected take that combines self-deprecating humor with serious singing and acting talent.

Take the latest project.

Is professional wrestling real competition? Or is it a staged, even faked, competition? And what does real opera’s theatrical qualities have in common with professional wrestling?

But then what does it really matter as long as the participants and fans have fun?

To launch its fourth season, Fresco Opera Theatre’s latest production — called “Opera SmackDown” –- is this coming weekend. It will be held on Friday, March 14, at 8 p.m. and on Saturday, March 15, at 2 p.m. and 8 p.m. in the Promenade Hall in the Overture Center. 

Fresco Opera Theatre logo

Here is one description from the preview video that sounds exactly like a Ring Announcer’s hype if you read it out loud:

From all over the country, from all “fachs” (that’s opera lingo for voice categories such as Coloratura, Lyric, Dramatic Soprano), bringing a fresh take on opera for a good portion of the 21st century, Fresco Opera, the worldwide leader in live entertainment brings you Opera SmackDown.

“The SmackDown Champion is the most coveted title in the opera world. There is no parallel, no bigger accolade in the genre. It is the dream of every competitor who ever stepped out on stage. From young artists to seasoned vets, eight singers will endure vocal battles they have trained years to prepare for.

“Who will outperform to seize the spotlight in this collision course with destiny? ONLY the studio audience can, and will, decide. Their vote determines the winner in this live internet broadcast, spanning the globe for all to see!

“These singers will battle each other, sacrifice their bodies, betray colleagues, and embrace the soulless ally that is desperation. To the victor goes the spoils. To the winner, a once in a lifetime chance to become the next heir apparent to the Fresco Opera SmackDown throne!”

Does the winner get to wear one of those really outrageously big and blingy belt buckles too?

wrestling belt

Here is how Jeff Turk, the president of the group’s board of directors who can be heard in a YouTube video at the bottom, describes the production and its novel concept:

“SmackDown is a take on the traditional vocal competition, with elements of pro-wrestling thrown in. We came upon this concept given the cut-throat nature and over-the-top presentations of both competitions and wrestling.

“Another twist is that the AUDIENCE will choose the winner. And the winner will receive a cash prize!

“Our goal here is to introduce the masses to opera. We have demonstrated over the years that performing classical music using familiar pop culture references makes it less intimidating for people who may not have any experience in the concert hall.

“I am proud of the fact our organization has inspired countless numbers of people who have had no experience with classical music to embrace it — which is good for all classical performers and organizations in the Madison area.

Tickets are $20.

Here are some links.

To the Fresco Website and preview video:

http://www.frescooperatheatre.com

http://www.frescooperatheatre.com/upcoming-productions.html

To the Overture Center for tickets:

http://overturecenter.com/production/opera-smackdown

And here are mini-bios of the contestants, with their nom-de-wrestling, vying for the championship:

Fresco Opera Theatre cast for Opera SmackDown

Mezzo Soprano Allison Waggener (Primal) recently won praise from reviewers for her “fine legato” and “strength and vocal beauty” as Annio in dell’Arte Opera Ensemble’s New York production of Mozart’s “La Clemenza di Tito.”   Other highlights from her 2012-2013 season include the roles of Miss Pooder in the Texas premiere of “The Hotel Casablanca” with Abilene Opera and Hansel in Humperdinck’s “Hansel and Gretel” with Opera Oggi.

Diana Kelly Eiler (The Valkyrie) majored in vocal performance at Heidelberg College, where she received the Ohl Prize and Hoernemann academic awards, as well as making her professional debuts with the Toledo Opera in “Babes in Toyland” and Findlay Light Opera in “The Gondoliers” and “Die Fledermaus” while still a student. She was a N.A.T.S. Great Lakes Regional winner, Jessye Norman Award recipient, and semi-finalist in the Friedrich Schorr Opera Star Search.

George Abbott (Canto Libre) has 20 years of singing performance experience starting with the Children’s Chorus of San Antonio at age nine. His credits include singing with: Madison Bach Musicians, Fresco Opera Theater, University Theater, Music Theater of Madison, Middleton Players Theater, Madison Opera Chorus, and Madison Choral Project.

J. Adam Shelton (The Gladiator), lyric tenor, recently performed as the Leading Man Ghost in Fresco Opera’s Paranormal Playhouse. During this season, he will finish his doctorate at the University of Wisconsin where his dissertation, “The Singing Dream: A 21st Century Critical Edition of Tauberlieder”, explores the compositions of the great Austrian tenor, Richard Tauber.

Madison native Rachel Edie Warrick (Vox) is thrilled to be singing her second show with Fresco Opera. Rachel is a versatile performer who has sung with Madison Opera, Opera for the Young, Madison Choral Project and the Madison Bach Musicians. Rachel has also been a soloist throughout the Midwest in Handel’s “Messiah” and “Alexander’s Feast,” J. S. Bach’s B Minor Mass, Magnificat, and “St. Matthew Passion,” the Mozart Vespers, and Haydn’s “The Creation.”

Soprano Erin Sura (Toxin) has recently been seen performing the role of Donna Elvira in “Don Giovanni” with East Side Chamber Players, and in the Skylight Opera Theatre’s production of Beethoven’s “Fidelio,” in addition to appearing as a soprano soloist in Beethoven’s Ninth Symphony with the Concord Chamber Orchestra, and Vivaldi’s Gloria with the South Shore Chorale.

Soprano CatieLeigh Laszewski(Asylum) is currently completing a Master of Music degree at the University of Wisconsin – Madison. With UW Opera, she has performed the role of Caterina in Mascagni’s “L’amico Fritz” and scenes from “Die Fledermaus” (Rosalinda), Bizet’s “Carmen” (Frasquita), “Hansel and Gretel” (Gretal), and Debussy’s “Pelleas et Melisande” (Melisande) in Opera Workshop.

Caroline Wright (The Boss), Soprano, received her vocal training at Illinois Wesleyan University and the University of Wisconsin – Madison. While studying, Caroline performed roles such as Lauretta from Puccini’s “Gianni Schicchi,” the title role from Carlisle Floyd’s “Susannah,” and Donna Anna from Mozart’s “Don Giovanni.”

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=J37IEOXiRGI

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Classical music: Allan Naplan, the former general director of the Madison Opera, has been named as executive director of the Arizona Musicfest based in Carefree (don’t you love that name), near Phoenix.

March 17, 2013
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ALERT: If you want to know about whether you should attend the performances today (at 3 p.m.) and Tuesday night (7:30) p.m. in Music Hall of University Opera’s production of Mascagni’s “L’Amico Fritz” (with Shannon Prickett and Aldo Perelli, below in a photo by Brent Nicastro), here is a review by John W. Barker written for Isthmus:

http://www.thedailypage.com/daily/article.php?article=39412&sid=d5dd06c8fbafef9a2cb026b18818c449

And here is a link to a Q&A with director William Farlow and some background, including which UW-Madison student sings what roles on what day:

https://welltempered.wordpress.com/2013/03/14/classical-music-qa-university-opera-director-william-farlow-talks-about-why-he-likes-mascagnis-rarely-staged-opera-lamico-fritz-which-will-get-three-performances-on-friday-night-sunday/

L'Amico Fritz 3 Also Perrelli and Shannon Prickett CR Brent Nicastro

By Jacob Stockinger

Last we heard of Allan Naplan (below), he had left his big new job with the Minnesota Opera just a year or so after taking it and leaving the Madison Opera after five years. That was two years ago.

Allan Naplan 2

Rumors said his departure had to do with artistic differences, but no reasons or specifics were ever publicly given.

Then many people wondered what would happen to Naplan’s promising career, and The Ear heard nothing.

Until now.

A friendly source tells me that the talented and amiable Naplan has, not unexpectedly, landed on his feet – even if it is not in the field of opera. True, the news comes a little late — but it is still news to me and maybe news to you too!

Here is the press release:

Arizona Musicfest 
appoints
 Allan E. Naplan as Executive Director

“Wednesday, January 23, 2013 Carefree, Arizona – Ann Wallenmeyer, Chairman of the Board of Directors of Arizona Musicfest, today announced the appointment of Allan E. Naplan as Executive Director, effective February 1, 2013.

“Allan Naplan has enjoyed a 20-year career as a performing artist, composer, educator and arts administrator. Most recently, he served as President and General Director of Minnesota Opera.

“In making the announcement, Wallenmeyer said, “Speaking for the Board and our Artistic Director, Robert Moody, I am delighted that Allan Naplan will join Arizona Musicfest as our Executive Director. We are especially pleased that he will be able to be a part of our 2013 Festival and we look forward to introducing him to our patrons, partners, and audiences throughout the community.”

“Wallenmeyer thanked the members of the Arizona Musicfest Search Committee, led by Chuck Goldthwaite, former Chairman of the Board, for the excellent outcome of a national search.

arizona musicfest logo

“Robert Moody, Artistic Director of Arizona Musicfest, added, “I am thrilled that Allan Naplan is joining the Arizona Musicfest team as our new Executive Director. I’ve spent a good deal of time with him during the search process, and as a result I can’t wait to begin ‘scheming’ with him as we plan the next great chapter of the Festival. The future is incredibly bright for Arizona Musicfest with Allan Naplan at the administrative helm.”

“In accepting the position, Allan Naplan said, “I am honored to have been chosen to lead Arizona Musicfest and am excited by the breadth of musical experiences the Festival offers, as well as the excellence it achieves through its acclaimed performances and important education and youth programs.” (See the YouTube video at the bottom of the  “Music Minutes” the festival provides to public schools.)

“Naplan continued, “I look forward to forging important relationships with the Festival’s audience, dedicated volunteers and the community at large, as well as to working with the Arizona Musicfest Board, staff, artists and especially Maestro Moody in developing and enhancing the Festival.”

Arizona Musicfest cactus

“Arizona Musicfest 2013 (Jan. 28 – March 4) presents top artists of classical, chamber, jazz, blues, country, rock n’ roll and opera, such as Denyce Graves, Keb’ Mo’ and Parker Quartet, in exceptional programs (created especially for Arizona Musicfest) at venues throughout the scenic desert foothills of Scottsdale and Carefree.

“At the heart of the Festival is the 60-member Arizona Musicfest Orchestra (below), comprised of musicians from the nation’s finest orchestras, the 100-voice Arizona Musicfest Chorus, and the Arizona Musicfest Chamber Players.

arizona musicfest orchestra

“Allan Naplan began his career as an opera singer and transitioned to administration as a member of the staff of Houston Grand Opera. He served as Director of Artistic Administration of Pittsburgh Opera before being appointed General Director of Madison Opera, where he transformed the company through his leadership in fundraising, audience development, and financial management as well as repertoire and productions, educational programs, and community engagement.

“At Minnesota Opera, Naplan enhanced the company’s community engagement and education activities, oversaw major gift cultivation, and introduced enhancements to the company’s marketing and public profile. During his time with the company, the organization produced the world premiere of the Pulitzer Prize-winning opera by Kevin Puts, “Silent Night” (below).

Kevin Puts "Silent Night" Michal Daniel for Minnesorta Opera

“As a published composer, Naplan’s works, which are standard repertoire for children’s choirs, have been performed and recorded in over 40 countries, and have been featured at Carnegie Hall, the Kennedy Center, the White House, and aboard the Space Shuttle Columbia.

“Naplan has a Bachelor of Music Degree from Ithaca College where he majored in vocal performance and music education. He and his wife Christina Harrop have two young sons, Jonah (age 4) and Elliot (age 2).”

For more information about Naplan and the southwest festival, here is a link:

www.azmusicfest.org

 


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.)


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