By Jacob Stockinger
By Larry Wells
In the past few years I’ve seen Verdi’s “La Forza del Destino” set in the Spanish Civil War, Wagner’s Ring cycle re-imagined as the history of cinema, and Puccini’s “Turandot” presented as a performance by a traveling circus.
Thus, Verdi’s ‘Falstaff’ set in 1930’s Hollywood seemed a reasonable reinterpretation, and so it proved at its final performance Tuesday evening by University Opera.
“Falstaff,” drawn from three plays by Shakespeare, is Verdi’s final opera and a rare comedy. More importantly, gone are his familiar forms of a recitative followed by an aria with lots of oom-pa-pa orchestral accompaniment, now replaced with a conversational style that to me shows Wagner’s influence. It just doesn’t sound like Verdi, but it certainly sounds good.
I felt that the whole evening was a triumph.
The sets were beautifully dressed, the costumes were excellent and the lighting was effective.
The UW Symphony Orchestra, conducted by James Smith, played wonderfully, although from where I sat the sound was occasionally muffled.
Thank goodness a new music building is being built, and I trust that there will be a theater within it that will accommodate operatic performances. The current Music Hall has its limitations, one being that much of the orchestra was playing underneath the stage and another being that for some reason the theater’s temperature cannot be controlled. It was stiflingly hot during the performance.
As for the singing and acting, the cast I saw was uniformly strong. Falstaff, performed by UW-Madison faculty member Paul Rowe (below), was very robust and was particularly affecting during his act III soliloquy. The Ear mentioned to me his Oliver Hardy mannerisms, and once I noticed that I was constantly amused.
Yanzelmalee Rivera as Alice was hilarious in her seduction scene and really came alive in Act III. Courtney Kayser as Meg was a compelling comic actress. Rebecca Buechel’s Mistress Quickly was an equally adept comic actress and had an excellent voice. Emily Weaver as Nannetta was a beautiful singer who shone in her third act moments as Queen of the Fairies. These four women had some outstanding ensemble moments, and I was constantly diverted by their antics as they outwitted the men.
Among the hapless male characters, Brian Schneider was a standout as Ford and the deep voice of Benjamin Schultz (below left, with Paul Rowe and Jiabao Zhang) made the minor character Pistola noticeable whenever he was on stage.
But the voice of the evening belonged to tenor José Daniel Muñiz (below right) as Fenton. He excelled not only in his solo moments but blended extremely well with his paramour Nannetta (Claire Powling, below left).
The outstanding ensemble work exhibited throughout the opera culminated in the grand fugue at the end of the opera, and the nearly full-house audience was blown away by those final moments. (You can hear the fugal finale, conducted by Sir George Solti, in a YouTube video at the bottom.)
The 1930’s Hollywood concept worked well. It seemed completely fitting and was undoubtedly more amusing than it would have been had the opera been set in the time of Henry IV.
“Well done” to the University Opera’s new full-time director David Ronis (below center) for his imagination and direction. I look forward to his production of Benjamin Britten’s “Turn of the Screw” in early March.
And since this University Opera production and other events are being presented to commemorate the 400th anniversary of Shakespeare’s death and the exhibition of a First Folio at the Chazen Museum of Art, I want to put in a plug for Ralph Vaughan Williams’ “Sir John in Love” which has almost exactly the same plot as “Falstaff” and is woefully underperformed.
I also want to draw your attention the FREE Opera Scenes concert by University Opera that will be presented this Tuesday night, Nov. 22, at 7:30 p.m. in Music Hall. Featured are singers, with piano accompaniment, in scenes from: Charles Gounod’s “Faust”; Claudio Monteverdi’s “The Coronation of Poppea“; Giacomo Puccini‘s “La Rondine”; Leonard Bernstein‘s “Trouble in Tahiti”; Gioacchino Rossini’s “The Barber of Seville”; Dominick Argento’s “Postcard From Morocco”; and Marc Blitzstein’s”Regina.”
The program features works by Igor Stravinsky, the Symphony No. 4 by Ludwig van Beethoven and the Concerto for Two Pianos by Francis Poulenc, with the Madison-born twin sisters Christina and Michelle Naughton as soloists.
By Jacob Stockinger
With less than a month left in the first semester’s concert schedule, the performances are really starting to pile up.
Tomorrow, on Sunday, Nov. 20, five groups will perform two FREE concerts at the University of Wisconsin-Madison School of Music:
For more information and the complete program, go to:
For more information and the full program, go to:
ALERT: Tonight at 8 p.m. in Mills Hall is a FREE concert of choral music by the UW-Madison group Chorale under its director Bruce Gladstone. Sorry, no word on the program.
By Jacob Stockinger
This afternoon at 2:30 p.m. in Overture Hall is your last chance to hear twin-sister, Madison-born pianists Christina and Michelle Naughton (below top) perform a Mozart concerto with the Madison Symphony Orchestra (below bottom). Works by Claude Debussy and Dmitri Shostakovich are also on the program conducted by MSO music director John DeMain.
The program has received fine reviews from the critics:
Here is a review written by John W. Barker for Isthmus:
Here is the review by Greg Hettmansberger for his blog “What Greg Says”:
And here is a review written by Jessica Courtier for The Capital Times:
For more information about the concert and program, go to:
NEW MSO POETRY PROGRAM “COUNTERRPOINTS” DEBUTS TODAY
In addition, as a part of its 2016-17 season offerings, the Madison Symphony Orchestra (MSO) will today launch The Counterpoint Readings, a special event series where poets will respond to a selected symphonic piece, culminating in a reading in Overture Center’s Promenade Lounge the weekend the piece is performed. It is scheduled to start after the performance, at around 4:30 p.m. today.
NOTE: There is a $10 admission charge to the poetry reading, which includes a wine and cheese reception. But because notice was given late, the original deadline of Nov. 10 for reservations will be overlooked.
The first reading focuses on Dmitri Shostakovich’s Symphony No. 5 by Soviet composer Dmitri Shostakovich (below), performed by the MSO as part of its “Paired to Perfection” concerts this weekend. (You can hear the famous finale of the Shostakovich symphony performed by Leonard Bernstein and the New York Philharmonic Orchestra in the YouTube video at the bottom.)
The Counterpoint Readings debut will happen following today’s performance, beginning at approximately 4:30 p.m. Eight poets will perform original works— world premieres for each artist.
Coordinated by MSO violist and poet Katrin Talbot (below, writing poetry in a photo by Isabel Karp), the series seeks to expand the audience’s musical experience and bring Madison’s poetry into a new light. Another such music-based poetry reading, to take place in the Madison Museum of Contemporary Art, is scheduled for March, according to Talbot.
Katrin Talbot shares her vision of the how the power of words can respond to this significant historical composition, “Stalin is trumpeting out Soviet dominance. Yet somehow, he (Shostakovich) overcame it to generate art. Deception to get his voice heard.”
Among the poets slated to appear include MSO bassist August Jirovec, former Wisconsin Poet Laureate Marilyn Taylor, former Madison Poet Laureate Sarah Busse, Richard Merelman, Eve Robillard, Timothy Walsh, Marilyn Annucci and Rita Mae Reese.
Here is a preview: August Jirovec’s inspiration leading up to the reading:
“If there be meaning in this world askew,
let toils and rhyming gripes slide—disappear
your cross of blood drawn in the dirt austere
and lavish canvases of nascent hue
with brilliant visions! Let your whimsy brew
brash, crazen potions inspired by this tier
of music hefted from chests, as time’s spear
pierces the heart that must love art—through you.”
And here is a link to a long interview with Talbot by Lindsay Christians for The Capital Times:
For more information go to:
The Counterpoint Readings, direct link: http://www.madisonsymphony.org/counterpointreadings
Paired to Perfection concerts: http://www.madisonsymphony.org/naughtons
By Jacob Stockinger
It has been a busy weekend for music, and tomorrow, Sunday, Oct. 16, it continues.
Here is the lineup:
At 1 p.m. in Mills Hall, the University Bands (below top) at the UW-Madison will perform under conductors Darin Olson (below bottom), Nathan Froebe, Justin Lindgre. Sorry, no word on the program.
At 2:30 p.m. St. Joseph Chapel, 1000 Edgewood College Drive, the Edgewood College Concert Band presents its Fall concert.
Admission is FREE with a free will offering to benefit the Luke House Community Meal Program.
The program, under the direction of Walter Rich (below, in a photo by Edgewood College) will perform music by John Williams, Leonard Bernstein and Richard Strauss.
The program combines those three legendary names with a selection of new music by three young composers: Brian Balmages, Sean O’Loughlin and the emerging American star Daniel Elder.
The Edgewood College Concert Band provides students and Madison-area community musicians with the opportunity to perform outstanding wind literature. The band has performed a variety of works, ranging from classic British band literature of the early 20th century to transcriptions, marches, and modern compositions.
The group charges no admission for concerts, but often collects a freewill offering for Luke House, a local community meal program. The group rehearses on Wednesday evenings from 7-9 p.m.
At 7:30 p.m. in Mills Hall, the University of Wisconsin-Madison School of Music will host the FREE Choral Collage Concert (its logo is below).
The concert features many groups: the Concert Choir (below top), Chorale, Madrigal Singers, Women’s Choir (below bottom), University Chorus and Master Singers.
The program, drawn from the Baroque, Classical and Modern eras, includes music by Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart (the beautiful “Ave Verum Corpus,” which you can hear with Leonard Bernstein conducting, in the YouTube video at the bottom), Benjamin Britten, Johann Schein, Arvo Part (below), Orlando di Lasso and others.
For more information and a link to the complete program, go to:
By Jacob Stockinger
The Ear has received the following announcement from the mostly amateur Middleton Community Orchestra:
The Middleton Community Orchestra (below top) is excited to open its sixth season and present its Fall Concert on Thursday, Oct. 13, at 7:30 p.m. at the Middleton Performing Arts Center (below bottom), which is located at 2100 Bristol Street and is attached to Middleton High School.
The program includes: Overture to “Candide” by Leonard Bernstein, who conducts his own work in the YouTube video at the bottom; and songs by Stephen Sondheim and George Gershwin, with mezzo-soprano Jessica Kasinski (below top) and baritone Gavin Waid (below middle). Both singers study at the UW-Madison.
Also featured is the Concerto in F by George Gershwin with piano soloist Thomas Kasdorf (below bottom). Kasdorf, a native of Middleton who graduated from the University of Wisconsin-Madison School of Music, frequently performs with the MCO .
Tickets are $10. All students are admitted free of charge.
Tickets are available at the door on the night of the concert, and in advance at the Willy St. Coop West. The box office opens at 7 p.m.
There will be an informal meet-and-greet reception after the concert.
For more information about how to support or join the MCO, go to www.middletoncommunityorchestra.org or call (608) 212-8690.
We hope to see you there!
Co-founders Mindy Taranto and Larry Bevic
By Jacob Stockinger
Sure, you know of Aaron Copland and Samuel Barber, and you hear their music performed and played often.
But what about Roy Harris, Peter Mennin, Elliott Carter, Walter Piston and William Schuman (below)? Or even the concert music of Leonard Bernstein? (You can hear Bernstein conducting one of his favorite works by William Schuman, the energetic “An American Festival Overture,” in the YouTube video at the bottom.)
You rarely hear their music.
And you rarely hear about them.
Why is that?
And how can it be fixed – if it should be fixed?
Here is Teachout’s take, which involves the focus of the programs at this summer’s Aspen Music Festival.
Read it and see what you think:
Then let us know.
The Ear wants to hear.
By Jacob Stockinger
The Ear has received the following announcement to pass along:
“This year’s event will take place this coming Wednesday, Aug. 10, from 5 to 10 p.m. at Old Sauk Trails Park, 1200 John Q. Hammons Drive on the far west side of Madison.
“For eight consecutive years, WYSO has been invited by The Gialamas Company to be a part of this spectacular event. This special FREE concert is a highlight of the summer for concertgoers young and old.
“This particular year features the Youth Orchestra (below) and will celebrate several special anniversaries: the 50th anniversary of WYSO, the 40th anniversary of The Gialamas Company, and the 15th anniversary of Concert in the Park.
“WYSO’s Youth Orchestra will begin their performance at 7 p.m. The Youth Orchestra, under the direction of WYSO Music Director James Smith, will perform: the fourth movement of Symphony No. 2 in C minor, Op. 17, by Peter Tchaikovsky; Highlights from West Side Story by Leonard Bernstein; Hungarian Rhapsody No. 2 by Franz Liszt, featuring conductor Michelle Kaebisch; the first movement of the Violin Concerto in D Major, Op. 35, by Tchaikovsky featuring Aurora Greane (below top) on violin; “Our Town” by Aaron Copland; the fifth movement of Symphony No. 9 in E flat major, Op. 70, by Dmitri Shostakovich; and an annual rendition of Over the Rainbow by Harold Arlen.
“The evening will also see performances of “A Radiant Spirit,” which was composed in honor of WYSO’s 50th anniversary by Andrew Kinney, and of a stunning arrangement of Ludwig van Beethoven’s Ode to Joy, from his Symphony No. 9 “Choral,” arranged by Donald Fraser.
“The evening will be capped off with a fireworks display.
“Before the event there will be an instrument petting zoo, face painting and an ice cream social. Tables, food and drinks are available for purchase.
“For more information, visit www.gialamas.com.
“Be sure to stay after the event for a spectacular fireworks show. Set up lawn chairs, layout blankets and put out your picnic baskets as you enjoy all of the music and activities this FREE event has to offer.
“For additional information, please contact WYSO at (608) 263-3320 or e-mail email@example.com.”
By Jacob Stockinger
The Ear has some catching up to do on several fronts.
Well, that is what happens in a city with such a busy musical life and in a year with so many news items.
And it also happens when you give priority to previews, then reviews and then trend stories, as The Ear likes to do.
Plus, there are only seven days in the week, which usually means just seven posts.
Anyway, one neglected or belated item is a generous piece — a recollection homage — that was kindly sent to The Ear by Beverly Taylor, the longtime director of choral activities at the University of Wisconsin-Madison School of Music and the assistant music director of the Madison Symphony Orchestra and Chorus.
Her remarks concern the death at 86 in late May of Swiss-born conductor Gustav Meier (below, in a photo by Doug Elbinger), who trained several other Madison-area musicians as well as her. Born in Switzerland, Meier was a quiet celebrity who trained many students at Yale University, the Eastman School of Music and the University of Michigan-Ann Arbor and who led the Lansing Symphony Orchestra for 27 years.
Taylor (below) writes:
“Did you know Gustav Meier died in this year of losing so many?
“Maybe the others were more famous, but he was my teacher, mentor and friend from 1990 on, and we visited regularly. I even coached the Beethoven Ninth with him a year ago, before our performance here.
“I wanted you to know how many people he influenced. I wouldn’t have had the life I’d had without his help. He was a GENEROUS musician and he was beloved.”
Here is a link to a fascinating obituary, one that is well worth reading, in the Lansing, Michigan newspaper that Taylor shared:
By Jacob Stockinger
That is the radio station by the way, that brings us “Exploring Music with Bill McGlaughlin,” which airs every weekday night 8-9 p.m. on Wisconsin Public Radio. The insightful McGlaughlin himself is a former conductor, and The Ear suspects he had something to do with the quiz.
WFMT is the same radio station with The Beethoven Satellite Network that brings us host Peter Van De Graaff who chooses and comments on classical music overnight. A performing baritone singer who has sung George Frideric Handel’s “Messiah” with the Wisconsin Chamber Orchestra several times, the discerning Van De Graaff might also have had something to do with figuring out different and distinctive conducting styles.
Anyway, the WFMT staff devised a quiz and put it on the radio station’s official blog.
You answer questions and then you see which great symphony orchestra conductor you would mostly likely be.
Among the names mentioned are Nikolaus Harnoncourt, Leonard Bernstein (whom The Ear was pegged as!) and the three below (from left): Marin Alsop, Pierre Boulez and Yannick Nézet-Séguin, who heads the Philadelphia Orchestra and last week was named the new music director of the Metropolitan Opera.
Here is a link to the quiz and to the comments that its results have inspired:
Take the quiz and let The Ear and other readers know the results and what you thought of the quiz.
The Ear wants to hear.