By Jacob Stockinger
This coming week, the Madison Symphony Orchestra (MSO) will present organist Samuel Hutchison (below) and acclaimed singers Andrew Bidlack and Kyle Ketelsen performing as a trio in vocal and instrumental music from oratorios and operas.
The concert is Tuesday night, Feb. 21, at 7:30 p.m. in Overture Hall of the Overture Center, 201 State Street.
Principal Organist and Curator for the Madison Symphony Orchestra Samuel Hutchison joins forces with two outstanding singers in the first half to perform a program of favorite arias and overtures from Handel’s Messiah, Mendelssohn’s Elijah, and Rossini’s Stabat Mater.
Opera will be the focus of the second half, featuring arias and selections from Bizet’s Carmen, Tchaikovsky’s Eugene Onegin and Gounod’s Faust.
For the full program, go to: http://www.madisonsymphony.org/organopera
Featured by Opera News as one of their top 25 brilliant young artists, tenor Andrew Bidlack (below) — who is replacing David Portillo — makes his debut in Overture Hall following performances at The Metropolitan Opera, Lyric Opera of Chicago, the Welsh National Opera and London’s Covent Garden.
Bass-baritone Kyle Ketelsen (below, in a photo by Dario Acosta), who lives in nearby Sun Prairie, has sung with major opera companies throughout the world including The Metropolitan Opera, the Lyric Opera of Chicago and the State Opera of Berlin. He is praised for his vibrant stage presence and his distinctive vocalism.
In the YouTube video at the bottom, you can hear Kyle Ketelsen sing the role of Don Escamillo in a Barcelona, Spain, production of Bizet’s “Carmen.” He is singing the same role in the Metropolitan Opera’s current production of “Carmen.”
General Admission for each Overture Concert Organ performance is $20. Tickets can be purchased at madisonsymphony.org/organopera, (608) 258-4141 or the Overture Center Box Office.
Student Rush tickets can be purchased in person on the day of the concert at the Overture Center Box Office at 201 State Street. Students must show a valid student ID and can receive up to two $10 tickets.
This performance is sponsored by the Pleasant T. Rowland Foundation. Support for all Overture Concert Organ programs is provided by the Diane Endres Ballweg Fund.
With a gift from Pleasant T. Rowland, the Madison Symphony Orchestra (MSO) commissioned the Overture Concert Organ, which is the stunning backdrop of all MSO concerts.
By Jacob Stockinger
The Ear has received the following announcement from UW Opera Props, the support organization for University Opera at the University of Wisconsin-Madison School of Music.
We invite you to attend a benefit concert showcasing the University of Wisconsin-Madison opera program’s talented students, along with special guest artist, distinguished alumna and mezzo-soprano, Lindsay Metzger (below top) who will be accompanied by pianist Daniel Fung (below bottom).
Please join us for a program of songs and arias, followed by a reception. Enjoy conversation with the singers, faculty and other musical friends, along with light refreshments including artisanal cheeses, fruit, wine, juices and chocolatier Gail Ambrosius’s delicious creations.
The concert is this Sunday, Sept. 18, at 3 p.m. followed by light refreshments and conversation. Sorry, no word about the composers or works to be sung.
The concert will take place in the Landmark Auditorium at the Frank Lloyd Wright-designed First Unitarian Society of Madison Meeting House, 900 University Bay Drive, Madison
Admission is a contribution of $25 in advance ($30 at the door), and $10 for students. All proceeds go to UW Opera student scholarships.
For more information, visit:
Lindsay Metzger (below) hails from Mundelein, Illinois. She spent two summers as an apprentice artist with Des Moines Metro Opera and was a studio artist in 2014-15 with Milwaukee’s Florentine Opera (Gannett in Donizetti’s L’elisir d’amore).
Among her other recent portrayals have been Daphne/Marc-Antoine Charpentier’s La descente d’Orphée aux enfers (Chicago’s Haymarket Opera Company), Cherubino in Mozart’s Le nozze di Figaro (La Musica Lirica in Novafeltria, Italy), Nella in Puccini’s Gianni Schicchi (DuPage Opera Theatre), the title role in Handel’s Ariodante, Béatrice in Berlioz’ Béatrice et Bénédict, and Beppe in Mascagni’s L’amico Fritz (all at the University of Wisconsin-Madison).
With Lyric Unlimited’s community-engagement program “Opera in the Neighborhoods,” Metzger was heard in the title role in Rossini’s La Cenerentola.
A soloist featured frequently in numerous Chicago-area venues, Metzger debuted with the Grant Park Symphony singing the soprano solo in Gabriel Fauré’s Requiem.
She was awarded the Paul Collins Fellowship from University of Wisconsin-Madison, the Virginia Cooper Meier Award from the Musicians’ Club of Women, and an Encouragement Award from the Metropolitan Opera National Council District Auditions.
Metzger is an alumna of the University of Wisconsin-Madison and DePaul University. Last season at Lyric she was featured in Mozart’s Le nozze di Figaro (debut) and Richard Strauss’ Der Rosenkavalier. In the 2016-17 season the mezzo-soprano will perform in Massenet’s Don Quichotte and Bizet’s Carmen.
By Jacob Stockinger
The Ear’s good friend, Sarah Schaffer, who works with composer John Harbison, writes:
Many Madisonians were among those who travelled to New York City in 1999 for the world premiere of John Harbison’s opera, “The Great Gatsby,” which is based on the iconic novel by F. Scott Fitzgerald and which was commissioned by the Metropolitan Opera in celebration of renowned conductor James Levine’s 25th anniversary there. (Below, from the original production, are the late tenor Jerry Hadley as Jay Gatsby and soprano Dawn Upshaw as Daisy Buchanan.)
The work has since been presented by Lyric Opera of Chicago, in Boston and at Tanglewood by Emmanuel Music, and, in a reduced orchestra chamber version, by Opera Parallele in San Francisco and at the Aspen Music Festival.
And of course, John Harbison and his wife, violinist Rose Mary Harbison, are best known in Madison as the artistic directors of the fiercely imaginative annual Token Creek Chamber Music Festival, held in their refurbished barn near Sun Prairie just before Labor Day each summer.
Now, the first European performance of “The Great Gatsby” will take place at Semperoper (below) in Dresden, Germany from this Sunday, Dec. 6, through Dec. 21. It will be presented in English, with German surtitles.
Preceding the first performance, Semperoper is offering a preview event where two film versions of “The Great Gatsby” will be shown: the 1974 version with Robert Redford and Mia Farrow; and the 2013 Baz Luhrman version with Leonardo DiCaprio and Carey Mulligan.
According to Semperoper, “The opera blends modern classical music with jazz and swing to paint a thrilling portrait of a debauched and decadent society, where double standards clash with idealism. European audiences can now enjoy this work for the first time.”
Wayne Marshall is music director, Keith Warner stage director, with dramaturgy by Stefan Ulrich, and set design by the late John Engels, whose stunning and evocative work was seen last spring in the Lyric Opera of Chicago’s production of The Passenger, Mieczyslaw Weinberg’s powerful opera about how the horrors of Auschwitz impact people’s lives in the present.
In making a new production of The Great Gatsby, Director Keith Warner does not adopt an “update” strategy, often seen in recent European productions. Instead he goes directly to the period, the American mid-1920s, making its excesses, its excitements, and its cloak of impending doom the essential color of the opera. (below is the party scene.)
In the upcoming Dresden production, tenor Peter Lodahl makes his Semperoper debut in the role of Jay Gatsby. For more information, visit: www.peterlodahl.co
Daisy Buchanan will be performed by soprano Maria Bengtsson. For more information, visit: www.mariabengtsson.com
A complete cast list and production personnel can be found at https://www.semperoper.de/en/whats-on/schedule/stid/Gatsby/60545.html
A brief video regarding the launching of Gatsby at Semperopera can be found at:
While not without its detractors, over the years and through its many productions Gatsby has garnered significant praise from some of the most respected critics and publications.
With such an iconic and thoroughly American novel, story and music as its origin and soundscape, it will be fascinating to see what kind of reception Gatsby’s eagerly anticipated European premiere will garner across the pond.
Europeans, very conversant with the Fitzgerald novel, tend to emphasize the role of class more than American readers. Warner uses a number of theatrical devices to starkly outline the attitudes and surroundings of the Wilsons, the working-class couple so crucial to conflicts within the story.
The racist and elitist rants of Tom Buchanan, perhaps more comfortably folded into his familiar character by American fans of the book, emerge in stark outline in Warner’s conception.
By Jacob Stockinger
Loyal readers of this blog know very well the name of Mikko Rankin Utevsky. The young violist, baritone and conductor is a senior at the University of Wisconsin School of Music, where he studies with Pro Arte Quartet violist Sally Chisholm, plays in the UW Symphony Orchestra, and sings with the University Opera.
Utevsky, who has won awards and impressive reviews for his work in music education since his days at Madison’s East High School, is the founder and conductor of the Madison Area Youth Chamber Orchestra (MAYCO – www.MAYCO.org), which will perform its sixth season this summer. He also directs a local community orchestra, The Studio Orchestra (www.disso.org).
You can check out his many honors and projects by typing his name into the search engine on this blog site.
Utevsky offered The Ear a guest preview review of this past weekend’s performance of “La Bohème” by the Madison Opera.
I immediately took him up on the offer. After all, he is a fine and perceptive writer who, you may recall, has done other opera reviews and who blogged for this post when he was on tour with the Wisconsin Youth Symphony Orchestras (WYSO) tour to Vienna, Prague and Budapest.
Here is the review by Mikko Utevsky (below):
By Mikko Rankin Utevsky
Giacomo Puccini’s “La Bohème” is perhaps the most beloved of all operas, adored by newcomers and veterans alike for its richly Romantic melodies, subtly shaded score and sheer vocal magnetism. (Performance photos are by James Gill for the Madison Opera.)
This weekend’s production anchors Madison Opera’s writer-themed season, which continues with Mark Adamo‘s “Little Women” in February and Jacques Offenbach’s “Les Contes d’Hoffman” (The Tales of Hoffmann) in April.
The famous numbers in “La Boheme” — the first-act arias “Che gelida manina” by the poet Rodolfo (Mackenzie Whitney) and “Si, mi chiamano Mimi” by Mimi (Eleni Calanos), and the following duet “O soave fanciulla” in particular — are familiar showstoppers, and were well sung Friday night. (You can hear Jussi Bjorling and Renata Tebaldi sing the arias and duets in the YouTube video at the bottom. Can you not be moved?)
But the indisputable star of this production was Maestro John DeMain (below in a photo by Prasad), whose flexible leadership in conducting united a remarkably even cast and the Madison Symphony Orchestra, whose lush, supple sound filled Overture Hall to the rafters with a powerful reading of Puccini’s rich and colorful score.
One was struck by the tightness of composition. For a composer often accused of pandering to popular tastes, sacrificing musical integrity for cheap emotional tricks, the score to “La Bohème” is densely motivic and self-referential.
As in Mozart or Verdi, the orchestra often represents the subtext or the emotional undercurrents of the scene, with snatches of remembered melody drifting throughout the drama. The only complaint must be that we sometimes heard a bit too much of this lovely orchestra, to the detriment of balance with the singers.
Among the cast, the sense of camaraderie between the members of the male quartet — Marcello, Rodolfo, Colline and Schaunard — was palpable, by turns rowdy and rambunctious and in the fourth act deeply moving.
Whether this was the result of some special chemistry between the singers (Dan Kempson, Mackenzie Whitney, Liam Moran, and Alan Dunbar) or something drawn out by director David Lefkowich (below), it brought the ensemble scenes to life marvelously, and drew the audience into the lives of the four friends quite powerfully.
Dan Kempson (below) deserves special praise as the painter Marcello, a somewhat unsympathetic role, both for humanizing the jealous lover and for his rich and warm singing throughout the evening.
Tenor Mackenzie Whitney brought a clear and smooth tone to the role of Rodolfo, shining brightest in ensemble singing.
Evan Ross, in the buffo roles of Benoit and Alcindoro, brought humor, but not enough sound to be consistently heard over the orchestra, leaving the audience chuckling at his mannerisms and the supertitles rather than what he actually sang.
Soprano Emily Birsan (below), a favorite of local audiences and a UW-Madison graduate, who recently graduated out of the Ryan Center at the Lyric Opera of Chicago, made an excellent showing as the flirtatious Musetta, whose gentle side in the fourth act was extraordinarily poignant.
And Eleni Calenos’ Mimi (below, second from right) was both credibly fragile and vocally excellent, with warmth to spare and the ability to draw the audience into the intimate final moments of her life.
Sets from the Lyric Opera of Kansas City made subtle but evocative use of perspective, drawing the eye where it needed to be without drawing attention away from the action. (I was particularly fond of the Cafe Momus.)
The city beyond the garret was subtly shaded by Connie Yun’s lighting design. And Anthony Cao’s chorus, together with the Madison Youth Choirs, brought the necessary sense of spectacle to the outdoor scenes in Act II.
All in all, despite some balance issues early on, the gorgeous playing of the orchestra alone makes this a production worth hearing, and the largely young cast brings Puccini’s “verismo” (realistic) masterpiece vividly to life.
It’s another feather in the caps of artistic director John DeMain and general director Kathryn Smith of the Madison Opera.
It is sung in Italian with projected English supertitles. The final performance, with two intermissions, will be this afternoon at 2:30 p.m. in Overture Hall of the Overture Center.
By Jacob Stockinger
Every year, the Madison-based Bach Dancing and Dynamite Society chooses a theme to unify their three-weekend season.
This year’s theme is “Guilty as Charged” and you can read about its rationale in a previous post:
But of course the theme is really just a pretext.
What really matters is the fine and eclectic repertoire that the BDDS chooses to perform and the undeniably first-rate performances they consistently turn in by using outstanding local and guest performers.
And boy, did the BDDS ever deliver the goods!
So here, in a series of mini-reviews — one-liners or maybe two-liners — are five reasons why The Ear loved the opening concert and is looking forward to the second series of concerts in Madison, Stoughton and Spring Green this coming weekend, which you can check out at the following link:
WHAT THE EAR LOVED
I was not alone in my enthusiasm.
The audience in The Playhouse at the Overture Center jumped to its feet as soon as the Mendelssohn cello sonata ended.
And here is the rave review that veteran critic John W. Barker wrote for Isthmus:
By Jacob Stockinger
Our friends in Door County write:
Sister Bay, Wis. – Door County’s Midsummer’s Music Festival kicks off with a gala opening night concert and celebration on this Friday night, June 12, at 7 p.m. in Juniper Hall at the Birch Creek Music Performance Center (below) in Egg Harbor.
For this special 25th anniversary season opener, the festival will welcome to the stage the talented Preucil family (below) whose story is deeply entwined in the history of Midsummer’s Music Festival.
After a special pre-concert performance by the Preucils, the renowned musicians of Midsummer’s Music will perform lovely chamber works — including the Piano Quartet by Robert Schumann that they played on their very first concert in 1991 — to celebrate the opening of this year’s Midsummer’s Music concert season. (You can hear the heartbreaking slow movement of Schumann’s Piano Quartet, played by the Beaux Arts Trio, in a YouTube video at the bottom.)
Twenty-five years ago, festival founders Jim and Jean Berkenstock invited a young couple, along with other top-flight musicians from the Midwest, to join them for the first season of the Midsummer’s Music Festival.
Walter Preucil was a cellist with the Lyric Opera of Chicago and his wife Stephanie was an accomplished violinist. Stephanie gave birth to the couple’s first child eight months before the start of the first season. Over the next several years, the couple had two more sons – Anthony and James. And the apple did not fall far from the tree. Each of the Preucil boys shared the family’s musical talent.
Walter and Stephanie have spent every summer in Door County performing with the Midsummer’s Music Festival, and their boys have become favorites of Door County audiences who have essentially watched them grow up.
Now Zachary is an accomplished cellist at age 24 and is on the cello faculty of the renowned Music Institute of Chicago. He holds a degree from the New England Conservatory of Music and recently graduated with a masters degree from the Eastman School of Music.
Eighteen-year-old Anthony has been concertmaster for the Schaumburg Youth Symphony Orchestra as well as the District 211 Honors Orchestra. Anthony was also Principal Viola for Illinois All-State Honors Orchestra. He will be attending Pennsylvania State University in the fall where he will pursue a double degree in meteorology and violin performance.
And 13-year-old James is a skilled violinist who also is the youngest member to have been accepted into the Schaumburg Youth Symphony Orchestra.
To showcase the story of a very important part of the Midsummer’s Music family, all five Preucils will take the stage and captivate the audience with a performance of the slow “Andante con moto” movement from the String Quintet in E-flat Major by Max Bruch (below).
After the special performance by the Preucils, the prestigious ensemble known as Midsummer’s Music will take the stage to present works in a program entitled “Romantic Legacy.”
The group will perform the Piano Trio by Nino Rota, famous for his film scores for Italian director Federico Fellini, with Jean Berkenstock, flute; UW-Madison professor and Pro Arte Quartet member David Perry, violin; and William Koehler, piano.
Next will be the Quintet in C Minor, Op. 54, by Robert Kahn with Elizandro Garcia-Montoya, clarinet; John Fairfield, horn, David Perry, violin; Walter Preucil, cello; and William Koehler, piano.
Closing out the program will be the Piano Quartet in E-flat, Opus 47, by Robert Schumann with William Koehler, piano; David Perry, violin (below top); UW-professor and Pro Arte Quartet member Sally Chisholm, viola (below bottom); and Walter Preucil, cello.
Following the concert, guests will have the opportunity to mingle with the Preucils, the Berkenstocks and all of the Midsummer’s Music performers at a special reception of wine and hors d’oeurves.
A selection of large photos showcasing the Midsummer’s Music Festival’s family over the 25 years will be on display.
During the reception portion of the evening, Midsummer’s Music will unveil a brand new artwork designed by Door County artist Charles “Chick” Peterson to celebrate the festival’s 25th anniversary season. Peterson is best known for his watercolor paintings and has established a world-class reputation for his maritime works. Many of his pieces depict fond memories of everyday life.
The painting will capture the collegial spirit of the Midsummer’s Music ensemble. Patrons can purchase matted copies of the limited edition print beginning June 12 and continuing through the Big Top Door County event on July 12. Proceeds will support the Midsummer’s Music mission of bringing exceptional classical music to Door County audiences at affordable prices.
Midsummer’s Music Festival features world-class musicians from organizations such as the Lyric Opera of Chicago, Pro Arte Quartet (below, in a photo by Rick Langer), Aspen Music Festival, the Chicago Philharmonic Orchestra and artist faculty from major universities.
The festival presents a series of more than 30 classical music concerts in a host of unique venues ranging from a 120-year old bay side warehouse, to a quaint community church from the 1850s, to luxury homes of private residents. Each venue exudes character and offers a distinct musical experience for the listener.
This year’s festival runs June 12 through July 14, with an additional concert series of 10 performances during the week and a half leading up to Labor Day.
Tickets for the opening night gala are $60.
For more information on the opening night gala or any of the Midsummer’s Music concerts, visit www.midsummersmusic.com or call 920-854-7088.
The Birch Creek Performance Center is located at 3821 County Road E, Egg Harbor, WI 54209.
By Jacob Stockinger
The Ear has received the following announcement about the summer classical music festival in Door County:
The Pro Arte Quartet, at the University of Wisconsin-Madison School of Music, is often praised for its energy, precision and intensity. Comprised of four world-class musicians, the group consistently delivers delightfully balanced and elegantly executed performances.
For this concert, the group will perform works by Beethoven, Mozart and Kirchner. And to celebrate the centennial anniversary of the Pro Arte Quartet, every guest in attendance will receive an elegant coffee table book about the group’s rich history.
This concert takes place on Friday, May 15 at 7:30 p.m. at the Ephraim Moravian Church (below).
Tickets to the Pro Arte Quartet performance are $30 for adults and $10 for students. Ephraim Moravian Church is located at 9970 Moravia St, in Ephraim. (Below top is a photo on the exterior, below bottom of the interior.)
First on the program is the String Quartet in C minor, Op. 18, No. 4, by Ludwig van Beethoven (below). It is one of six early quartets in the Opus 18 group dedicated to Prince Lobkowitz. It is the only one of the six to be written in a minor key that is often considered Beethoven’s most typical and expressive key.)
Its composition dates from 1800 and is contemporaneous with his First Symphony and his Third Piano Concerto, both also in the key of C, plus the Septet for Winds and Strings in E-flat Major, which endured as one of his most beloved compositions during his lifetime.
This quartet also comes from a time in Beethoven’s life when the 30-year-old composer fell deeply in love with a younger woman, Countess Giulietta Guicciardi — only to be rejected, perhaps because she had higher social status than he did. (You can hear the dramatic opening movement in a YouTube video at the bottom.)
Following the Beethoven will be the String Quartet No. 4 by Leon Kirchner (below). Kirchner is one of America’s finest composers. He died in 2009 at the age of 90, only three years after completing his String Quartet No. 4, which was composed for the Orion Quartet.
His musical style has been described as linear, chromatic and rhapsodic, but also rhythmically irregular with contrasting textures and tempos. Kirchner waited nearly 40 years to write this last of his string quartets after winning the Pulitzer Prize for his Third Quartet in 1966.
Concluding the program will be the Quartet in A Major, K. 464, by Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart. It is one of the six string quartets by Mozart known as “The Haydn Quartets.” Mozart had recently met the older and revered composer Joseph Haydn, who had already made a significant name for himself as a composer of string quartet music.
In 1784, Mozart was invited to join Haydn, and two other well-established composers, Dittersdorf and Vanhal, in a private evening of chamber music playing. Another such meeting took place the next year, which Mozart’s father, Leopold, was invited to attend.
This is where Haydn is reported to have told Leopold, “Before God, and as an honest man, I tell you that your son is the greatest composer known to me in person or by name. He has taste, and, what is more, the greatest knowledge of composition.”
The younger Mozart returned the esteem by dedicating this group of six quartets to Haydn, “From his friend, W. A. Mozart.” Written in 1785, it comes from one of Mozart’s most prolific periods that saw several masterpieces come to fruition including not only this quartet but three of Mozart’s most beloved piano concertos.
The original Pro Arte Quartet (below) was founded in 1911 by students at the Brussels Conservatory. The group was known for performing new works by composers such as Bela Bartók, Darius Milhaud, Arnold Schoenberg and Vitorrio Rieti. They made their American debut in 1926 at the Library of Congress and went on to tour the country 30 times.
While on tour in 1940, the group became stranded in Madison when Hitler invaded Belgium. The University of Wisconsin came to their aid by offering them permanent residency. In the 1950s, Pro Arte became the University of Wisconsin’s faculty string quartet. Over the years, there have been a total of 26 musicians who were official members of the Pro Arte Quartet. The current four members have performed together since 1995.
Members (below, in a photo by Rick Langer) David Perry, violin; Suzanne Beia, violin; Sally Chisholm, viola; and Parry Karp, violoncello have performed together for over 20 years. They perform every year as part of Midsummer’s Music Festival.
Midsummer’s Music is known for hosting superb chamber concerts at unique venues throughout Door County’s many charming communities. Midsummer’s Music Festival features top-tier musicians from the Lyric Opera of Chicago, the Chicago Philharmonic and the Aspen Music Festival.
Performances take place in a variety of unusual spaces ranging from a quaint community church, to a 120-year old lakeside warehouse to an elegant private home of an area resident.
The main festival is comprised of 23 concerts and runs June 12 through July 14. There is also a Labor Day series that made up of 10 concerts that take place Aug. 28 through Sept. 7.
For more information, visit the newly designed Midsummer’s Music website at www.midsummersmusic.com or call 920-854-7088.
EDITOR’S NOTE: An earlier version of this post made the error of calling Will LIVERMAN by the wrong name of Livermore. I apologize for the inaccuracy.
By Jacob Stockinger
For the first time in 12 years and the first time in Overture Hall, the Madison Opera will present “The Barber of Seville” by Gioachino Rossini (below) at 8 p.m. on this Friday, April 24, and at 2:30 p.m. on this Sunday, April 26, in Overture Hall.
The opera will be sung in Italian with English surtitles.
Tickets are $18-$125. Student and group discounts are available. For tickets and more information, call the Overture Center box office at 201 State St., Madison, at (608) 258-4141 or go to www.madisonopera.org
One of the earliest romantic comedies, “The Barber of Seville” tells how Figaro, the title character, helps Count Almaviva and Rosina outwit the latter’s guardian, bringing about a wedding in the final scene.
Multiple disguises, love notes passed in secret, and even a music lesson are used to bring the young couple together. Since its first performance in 1816, Barber has been an international hit, with Figaro’s aria “Largo al factotum” becoming perhaps the most famous opera aria of all time.
“The Barber of Seville” was one of the first operas I fell in love with,” says Kathryn Smith (below, in a photo by James Gill), general director of the Madison Opera. “Rossini’s musical brilliance is unique, and the way the music literally sparkles is one of its most enduring characteristics. It’s a genuine pleasure to share one of the all-time great operas with our community.”
This will be the first time John DeMain, the artistic director of the Madison Opera and music director of the Madison Symphony Orchestra, has conducted “The Barber of Seville” in Madison, and he considers it a perfect conclusion to the company’s 10th anniversary in Overture Hall.
“The effervescent strains of Rossini’s scintillating score should be especially vibrant in the glorious acoustics of Overture Hall,” says DeMain (below in a photo by Prasad). “It will be like drinking musical champagne.”
A dynamic young cast brings this witty comedy to life. Emily Fons, a Wisconsin native who debuted with Madison Opera at Opera in the Park 2012, returns for her first main stage role with the company. These will be her first performances of Rosina, a role she sings later this summer at Opera Theatre of St. Louis and next season at Pittsburgh Opera.
Making his debut opposite Fons is tenor John Irvin, a recent graduate of the Ryan Opera Center at Lyric Opera of Chicago — which is now headed by former UW-Madison School of Music professor and professional soprano Julia Faulkner. Irwin also sang Count Almaviva for Lyric Opera’s family performance.
Another recent Ryan Opera Center graduate, baritone Will Liverman, makes his Madison Opera debut as the illustrious barber Figaro, a role he has previously sung at the Utah Opera and in Lyric Opera of Chicago’s family performance.
Two Madison Opera favorites return in key roles. Alan Dunbar, whose most recent appearances were in “Dead Man Walking” (below, third from right) and the Overture 10th Anniversary Celebration, sings Rosina’s guardian, Dr. Bartolo. Thomas Forde, who sang Judge Turpin in Madison Opera’s recent “Sweeney Todd,” sings Don Basilio, the music teacher and purveyor of gossip.
Madison Opera Studio Artist soprano Chelsea Morris (below) sings her first principal role as Berta, and baritone Trevor Martin makes his debut as Fiorello. Directing this traditional staging is Doug Scholz-Carlson, who directed “The Tender Land” and “The Turn of the Screw” for Madison Opera.
“I am thrilled with this cast,” says Smith. “Rossini requires a lot of vocal teamwork, and it’s exciting to produce the opera with singers who are perfectly matched to their roles and to each other.”
Will Liverman (below) recently agreed to a Q&A with The Ear:
Can you briefly introduce yourself to readers?
My name is Will Liverman, and I hail from beautiful Virginia Beach, Virginia. I graduated from Wheaton College in Illinois for my undergraduate degree and finished with a Master’s degree at the Juilliard School. I recently completed the Ryan Opera Center program at the Lyric Opera of Chicago.
Have you sung the role of Figaro before? How have you changed or developed it? If the role is new to you, what do you find most appealing and most challenging about it?
I have only sung this role twice before. The more that I sit with this role, the more that I think it’s imperative to show that Figaro is a man with a good heart. There’s more to Figaro than just wanting money from the Count Almaviva and only looking after himself. I think he really enjoys helping people and he takes pride in that.
Is it fun to play Figaro?
Figaro is a TON of fun. First of all, comedy is my favorite thing to do onstage and The Barber of Seville is the essence of an opera comedy. It’s fun because there are so many different comedic bits to play in each scene. The music is exciting to sing, and it’s a satisfying show to perform.
What do you think explains the popularity and longevity of Rossini’s opera ever since it was first performed in 1816 in Rome? Why should the public today go see and hear it?
Each production has the potential to be something completely different in terms of how it’s staged and who’s singing in the cast. That can be said about other operas as well but The Barber of Seville is essentially a showcase for singers and you get to laugh out of your chair while you’re at it! In addition to Barber being one of the most well-known operas to the general public, it has endless amounts of comedic moments that a director can use.
In your interpretation, what aspects of Figaro’s character do you emphasize and why?
Figaro is three steps ahead of everyone in this piece and in Mozart’s Le Nozze di Figaro. It’s important that comes through in every way, because being a cunning man with a plan is simply what he does and how he is able to help everyone.
What would you like to say about the famous showstopping “Largo al factotum” aria in terms of singing it and its universal appeal? (NOTE: You can hear it sung by Dmitri Hvorostovsky with Charles Dutoit conducting the Montreal Symphony in a popular YouTube video at the bottom.)
There isn’t much to be said about it. The aria speaks for itself, and it’s the most famous aria tune out there. My job is to not mess it up and at the same time make it my own!
What else would you like to say about your role, about the opera or about this production?
This production is going to be fantastic! I say that because when you’re able to laugh a lot in rehearsal at how funny the staging is -– and you’re one of the folks performing –- you know the audience is going to enjoy it even more. At least, I hope they do!
By Jacob Stockinger
Many of us remember when, more than a decade ago, soprano Julia Faulkner returned from her noteworthy career in Europe, which included many major opera and orchestral appearances as well as recordings on the Naxos and Deutsche Grammophon labels, to her native Wisconsin.
Then, once settled at home, she started teaching at the University of Wisconsin-Madison School of Music as an instructor, as adjunct academic staff. Eventually, she joined the department as a junior faculty member.
Two years ago, Faulkner went to do a guest teaching stint at the Ryan Opera School, an adjunct educational and professional development institution at the famous Lyric Opera of Chicago. Superstar diva Renée Fleming is an advisor to the school.
Now Faulkner is staying.
The gig is permanent and Faulkner is getting promoted.
This past week, Julia Faulkner was named Director of Vocal Studies at the school at the Lyric Opera of Chicago (below).
Here is a link to the story:
What can The Ear say?
Only: “Brava, bravissima!”
Plus, one can hope that Julia Faulkner’s departure is NOT a harbinger of things to come with other faculty and staff members under Wisconsin Governor Scott Walker‘s newly announced plan to implement huge cuts to the UW-Madison budget in exchange for more independence.