The Well-Tempered Ear

Classical music: University Opera’s exotic East-West production of Mozart’s “The Magic Flute” opens this Friday night and runs for four performances.

March 10, 2015
2 Comments

ALERT: The new season of the Madison Symphony Orchestra will be announced here starting at midnight tonight.

By Jacob Stockinger

The University Opera and University of Wisconsin-Madison School of Music have sent out the following announcement about an upcoming production.

From March 13 to 17, University Opera will present the beloved masterpiece of fantasy, The Magic Flute, by Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart (below) in a family-friendly, exotic East-West staging.

Mozart old 1782

In a departure, the opera will run for four performances instead of the usual three, adding a Saturday evening show that will allow lead roles will be split evenly among singers. The show will involve over 80 singers, instrumentalists and stage crew members.

Performances are Friday, March 13, 7:30 p.m.; Saturday, March 14, 7:30 p.m.; Sunday, March 15, 3 p.m.; and Tuesday, March 17, 7:30 p.m.

Tickets are $22 for the general public, $18 for senior citizens and $10 for UW-Madison students, available in advance through the Campus Arts Ticketing office at (608) 265-ARTS and online at http://www.arts.wisc.edu/ (click “box office”).

Tickets can also be purchased in person at the Wisconsin Union Theater Box Office Monday-Friday, 11:30 a.m.-5:30 p.m. and Saturdays, noon-5 p.m. and the Vilas Hall Box Office, Monday-Friday, 11:30 a.m.-5:30 p.m., and after 5:30 p.m. on University Theatre performance evenings.

Because shows often sell out, advance purchase is recommended. If unsold tickets remain, they may be purchased at the door beginning one hour before the performance.

The Carol Rennebohm Auditorium is located in Music Hall (below), at the foot of Bascom Hill on Park Street.

MusicHall2

The Magic Flute marks the second production by Interim Opera Director David Ronis (below top, in a photo by Luke DeLalio) at the University of Wisconsin-Madison.  Ronis recently earned distinction when his 2014 production of Dialogues of the Carmelites by Francis Poulenc at Queens College in New York was awarded third prize in the National Opera Association’s Opera Production Competition. James Smith (below bottom), conducting the UW Symphony Orchestra.

David Ronis color CR  Luke DeLalio

Smith_Jim_conduct07_3130

Full of surprises and delights, The Magic Flute is a treat for both seasoned opera lovers and those new to opera.

The familiar plot centers on Prince Tamino, sent by the Queen of the Night to rescue her daughter, Pamina, from the Sorcerer, Sarastro.

As the opera unfolds, Tamino’s quest for love evolves into one in which self-actualization becomes equally important.  Along for the ride are Papageno, his comic sidekick, searching for his own soul mate; the Queen’s Three Ladies; Three Spirits who serve as guides; and an assortment of other memorable characters. 

Ronis comments about his concept for The Magic Flute: “When planning the production, I kept seeing Sarastro and his Masonic principles as being related to those of Eastern philosophy.  So, in order to create the polarity between the opposing forces of Sarastro and the Queen of the Night, I characterized Sarastro as coming from the East vs. the Queen of the Night, coming from the cultural West.

“Thus, the Queen and her Ladies wear Victorian bustle dresses, while the basic costume for Sarastro’s followers is the shalwar kameez, the traditional garment of South and Central Asia.

“To complement this, the scenic design combines pan-Asian, Victorian, and surreal elements with a few contemporary comedic references thrown in.  This works nicely, framing the story as well as creating an exotic environment in which the fantasy can take place.”

UW Magic Flute poster

The large cast of The Magic Flute includes Thomas Leighton and William Ottow, who will split the performances as Tamino, Nicole Heinen and Anna Whiteway (below) as Pamina, and Joel Rathmann and Brian Schneider as Papageno.  The Queen of the Night will be played by Sarah Richardson and alumna Olivia Pogodzinski, and the role of Sarastro will be taken by alum Thomas Weis. (You can hear the Queen of the Night’s famously difficult and haunting aria, performed by Natalie Dessay, in a YouTube video at the bottom.)

Cello Choir 2014 Anna Whiteway

The six singers playing the Three Ladies will be Susanna Beerheide, Tia Cleveland, Jessica Kasinski, Kirsten Larson, Heather Richardson, and Sheila Wilhelmi.  Rounding out the cast will be Alaina Carlson, Eileen Peterson, and Emily Weaver as the Three Spirits; Emi Chen and Gaby Klugman as Papagena; Nathaniel Greenhill and Michael Hoke as Monostatos; alum Benjamin Li as the Speaker; conductor and violist Mikko Utevsky (below) as the Second Priest; and Evan Esslinger and Fabian Qamar as the Armored Men.  Assisting Maestro Smith will be Kyle Knox, assistant conductor; Seungwha Baek and Chan Mi Jean, musical preparation; and Dennis Gotkowski, chorus master.

new Mikko Utevsky baton profile USE

The physical production will be based on designs by Charles “Jen” Trieloff II and realized by Joseph Varga, Greg Silver, and Liz Rathke.  Costume design is by Sydney Krieger, Hyewon Park and Sam Fleming, lighting design by Rob Stepek, props design by Dana Fralick, and the production stage manager will be Erin McDermott.  Student staff include Emi Chen, costume assistant; Fabian Qamar, props assistant; Emily Hake and Melanie Treuhaft, scenic painters; Briana Miller, master electrician; and Kyle Baldauf, assistant carpenter.

This production of The Magic Flute is dedicated to the memories of Karen K. Bishop and Charles Jennings Trieloff II.  Bishop was an UW-Madison alumna who performed in a number of University Opera productions between 2007 and 2011. Trieloff was the original set designer for the production.

University Opera is a cultural service of the School of Music at the University of Wisconsin-Madison. Its mission is to provide comprehensive operatic training and performance opportunities for students and operatic programming to the community. For more information, contact opera@music.wisc.edu or visit the School of Music’s web site at music.wisc.edu.


Classical music: The Handel Aria Competition fundraiser for the 15th annual Madison Early Music Festival next summer will be held this coming Saturday night.

November 5, 2013
4 Comments

By Jacob Stockinger

One of the highlights of last summer’s 14th annual Madison Early Music Festival was the smack down-type contest of arias from the Baroque operas by George Frideric Handel (below), which are enjoying a renewed popularity.

Handel etching

The first annual Handel Aria Competition was sponsored by long-time early music patrons and local businesspeople Dean and Orange Schroeder. They own and operate Orange Tree Imports on Monroe Street. Moreover, Dean Schroeder studies voice and sings Handel arias.

Carol %22Orange%22 and Dean Schroeder

In case you missed it or have forgotten about it– below is picture of all the contestants on the stage at the end of the competition — here are links to posts with a preview interview with Dean Schroeder and a review of the actual competition.

https://welltempered.wordpress.com/2013/07/05/classical-music-qa-organizer-dean-schroeder-talks-about-the-inaugural-handel-aria-competition-at-this-years-madison-early-music-festival-on-monday-night-july-8/

https://welltempered.wordpress.com/2013/07/10/classical-music-the-ear-finds-himself-in-handel-himmel-and-enjoys-the-first-handel-aria-competition-at-the-14th-annual-madison-early-music-festival/

Handel arias all applaud

The competition last July also was turned into CDs and DVDs. Say the Schroeders: “We have a good supply of the double CD sets from the Handel Aria Competition (not so many DVDs), so we’re happy to make them available to the public for $20 each.

Anyone who wants one could e-mail us at orangetreeimports@mac.com, and we’d put one on hold at the store.  If someone wanted to call or write, the contact info is below. Any proceeds will help defray the cost of the professional recording of the concert, and the creation of videos for the finalists to use to promote their careers.

This is all by way of introduction to a fundraiser this weekend to help support next summer’s Handel Aria Competition (last summer’s was even featured and linked to on Metropolitan Opera soprano and Handel enthusiast Natalie Dessay’s website.)

The Schroeders write:

“The Handel Aria Competition is sponsoring “An Evening of Handel, With Flare” on Saturday as a fundraiser for next year’s competition, which will be held in conjunction with the Madison Early Music Festival on July 17, 2014.

“It is our hope that we will be able to offer travel grants to finalists who have to fly to Madison in order to compete, and also to fund the recording of the 2014 Handel Aria Competition next July.

“The 2013 first prize winner, mezzo-soprano Elisa Sutherland (below), is returning to Madison to perform inAn Evening of Handel, With Flare” on Saturday, November 9 at First Unitarian Society, 900 University Bay Drive, in the Landmark Auditorium, designed by Frank Lloyd Wright, at 7:30 p.m.

elise sutherland

She will be joined by many singers with UW-Madison and Madison ties –: Mimmi Fulmer, Melanie Cain, Rachel Edie Warrick, Rachel Eve Holmes, Susanna Beerheide and Christina Kay — for a concert of Handel arias and duets (with a bit of Monteverdi thrown in for good measure).

The singers will be accompanied by Kirstin Ihde (below top) on harpsichord and Anton TenWolde (below bottom) on cello.

Kirsten Ihde

anton tenwolde

Tickets are $25 each, and are available at Orange Tree Imports in advance or at the door the evening of the concert.  For more information, go to:

www.handelariacompetition.com or call (608) 255-8211.

The program, with timings, includes:

  1. Elisa Sutherland, mezzo-soprano: Dopo Notte from Ariodante                   6:30
  2. Elisa Sutherland, mezzo-soprano: Cara speme from Giulio Cesare           6:00
  3. Melanie Cain, soprano and Rachel Eve Holmes, soprano: Oh Lovely Peace from the oratorio Judas Maccabaeus            4:00
  4. Melanie Cain, soprano: Ombra mai fu from Serse                                       3:30
  5. Rachel Eve Holmes, soprano: O Sleep Why Dost Thou Leave Me from Semele 3:30
  6. Rachel Edie Warrick, soprano:  Piangero la sorte mia from Giulio Cesare 6:30
  7. Rachel Edie Warrick, soprano: Oh, Had I Jubal’s Lyre from the oratorio Joshua 3:00
  8. Christina Kay,  soprano: Neghittosi, or voi che fate? from Ariodante         3:30
  9. Mimmi Fulmer, soprano and Susanna Beerheide, mezzo-soprano, singing the final duet from L’incoronazione di Poppea (by Monteverdi)                            4:30
  10. Susanna Beerheide, mezzo-soprano, Scherza infida from Ariodante       10:00

Encore: Elisa Sutherland: As with rosy steps the dawn from Theodora          6:00 

Below is a You Tube video of the encore piece, which helped Elisa Sutherland win the First Prize at last summer’s Handel Aria Conpetition:


Classical music Q&A: Founder Dean Schroeder talks about the inaugural Handel Aria Competition at this year’s Madison Early Music Festival on Monday night, July 8.

July 5, 2013
11 Comments

By Jacob Stockinger

Dean Schroeder is known primarily as a knowledgeable, helpful and amiable local businessman who, with his wife Carol “Orange” Schroeder, owns and runs Orange Tree Imports on Monroe Street.

But the Schroeders are also serious fans of classical music. They attend, participate in and sponsor many events, including the Bach Dancing and Dynamite Society and the Madison Bach Musicians.

Their latest venture, though, is especially interesting: they founded the first annual Handel Aria Competition, which they hope will become an annual event at the Madison Early Music Festival that starts tomorrow, on Saturday, and runs through Friday, July 12. Given the global Handel revival in the past decade, the timing couldn’t be more perfect to build audiences for Handel and audiences for the festival.

memf 14 logo

The final round of the competition will be held on Monday night, July 8, at 7 p.m. in Mills Hall as part of the 14th annual Madison Early Music Festival. Admission is FREE and open to the public.

Handel etching

Here are links to a previous blog post about the festival overall, and to the festival’s own website and to a special website about the Handel aria competition:

https://welltempered.wordpress.com/2013/07/02/classical-music-qa-co-artistic-directors-paul-rowe-and-cheryl-bensman-rowe-discuss-the-14th-annual-madison-early-music-festival-that-begins-this-saturday-and-ends-next-friday-it-will-explore-th/

http://continuingstudies.wisc.edu/lsa/memf/

http://www.handelariacompetition.com/Handel_Aria_Competition/Welcome_to_the_Handel_Aria_Competition.html

Dean Schroeder (seen below with his wife Orange) recently talked with The Ear in an e-mail about the Handel aria contest:

Carol %22Orange%22 and Dean Schroeder

How and when did you come up with the idea for the Handel aria competition?

Over the past few years, I have realized my strong affinity to Handel’s vocal music, especially the arias and duets from his many operas and oratorios.

I previously had no appreciation for opera, but one day I was driving down Monroe Street and heard, on Wisconisn Public Radio’s WERN (88.7 FM), an aria that was so delightfully melodic and lively that I had to pull over and listen. It was “Tornami a vagheggiar,” sung by Natalie Dessay (below in a different live performance in a YouTube video) on William Christie’s recording of “Alcina,” also featuring Renee Fleming and Susan Graham.

In that life-changing moment I knew I had to seek it out, and eventually found great pleasure in discovering dozens of other arias from Handel’s works. We are lucky to be in a period of revival of Handel’s music, and I’d recommend YouTube for its countless selection of arias to explore.

How will the contest be run and judged?

The judges will be tenor William Hudson (below top), soprano Ellen Hargis (below middle) and the local music critic, retired UW-Madison medieval history professor and choral singer John W. Barker (below bottom).

The first two are regulars on the Madison Early Music Festival’s faculty, and will be performing in the week’s concerts as well.

The three will have to coordinate on the criteria, applying their expertise to determine the standards they will use to judge. They will determine the top three prizes, which are cash.

The audience will get to vote via ballot for their favorite.  This winner will get a free ticket for tuition to the Early Music Festival next year.

William Hudson

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

John-Barker

Why did you want to create such a contest? Do you think it will expand the audience for the Madison Early music Festival?

About a year ago, I learned of the annual Handel aria competition in London, which is part of a month-long celebration of Handel (below). Thanks to Paul and Cheryl Rowe, we have been able to create our own competition to encourage young singers as part of the annual Madison Early Music Festival.

They have generously welcomed the idea and worked to make it happen, and I believe it will result in additional interest and enthusiasm for the Festival in the coming years. We were delighted to have almost 50 singers audition this year, and anticipate an increase in future years.

handel big 2

Do you yourselves have a favorite Handel aria or favorite Handel arias? Do you have favorite performers of those arias you could recommend recordings of?

A few years back I was lucky to attend the Lyric Opera’s production of Handel’s “Hercules,” conducted by Harry Bicket.  He brought with him a soprano, for a supporting role, who stunned the audience with her gorgeous voice:  Lucy Crowe (below).

Her latest recording project, Handel’s “Il pastor fido,” is one that I am highly recommending for the talent of the young singers and musicians, as well as the sonic beauty of the performance space: the Temple Church in London.  (There is also an interesting YouTube video of the making of the recording:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=CVRZzt90SNw

lucy crowe

In addition to those singers mentioned, I really enjoy hearing Joyce DiDonato, David Daniels (below), Ian Bostridge, Andreas Scholl, Mark Padmore, Lorraine Hunt-Lieberson, Sandrine Piau, Maite Beaumont … the list is long and growing larger!  A good starting CD might be Harmonia Mundi’s CD box “Handel: Famous Arias.”

David Daniels

Is there anything else you would like to say or add?

I’ve been taking singing lessons from Ben Luedcke (below) for about four years, and have been in all three of his choirs: Madison Choral Arts Society, UW Men’s Choir and Madison Summer Choir (the latter two he founded).

Ben Luedcke.1jpg

I’m a tenor, and the Handel I’ve attempted includes: “As Steals the Morn” (a gorgeous duet, sung by Ian Bostridge and Lynne Dawson in a YouTube video at the bottom); “Waft Her, Angels” (a plaintive aria from the oratorio “Jeptha,” which we just saw in Boston by the Handel and Haydn Society and which will be sung by our tenor on Monday); AND I’ve sung the soprano part an octave down in these duets: “Io t’abbraccio” and “Son nata a lagrimar” (the lament from “Giulio Cesare”) … I love the duets, and it works surprisingly well to “flip” parts!

Handel was a master of every voice range and expresses a wide range of emotions.  His arias are very approachable and engaging, and many are extremely moving.  It is so good to see the increase in appreciation for Handel’s genius, beyond just “Messiah,” (which everyone knows and loves).  I loved the Madison Opera’s and John DeMain’s production of “Acis and Galatea,” and look forward to more local productions of Handel, including the University Opera’s upcoming presentation of “Ariodante” on  October 25–29.

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

Along with hearing more Handel, I hope more people will try singing his gorgeous arias and duets.  I’ve only been singing a few years, but have attempted a few of them with credible results. They are not beyond the average singer, and they are greatly satisfying to sing.

 


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