The Well-Tempered Ear

Classical music: The Madison Opera’s premiere production of Donizetti’s “La Fille du Regiment” (The Daughter of the Regiment) hits all the high notes, figuratively and literally. And other local critics also give it raves.

February 9, 2014
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By Jacob Stockinger

Loyal readers of this blog know very well the name of Mikko Utevsky. The young violist and conductor is a sophomore at the University of Wisconsin-Madison School of Music, where he studies the viola with Pro Arte Quartet violist Sally Chisholm and plays in the UW Symphony Orchestra.

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, which will perform its fourth season next summer. He has was recently named the new Music Director of a local community orchestra, The Studio Orchestra. The ensemble has an out-of-date website here (www.disso.org).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 review of this weekend’s two performances on Friday night and Sunday afternoon of Gaetano Donizetti’s light “bel canto” opera “La Fille du Regiment” (The Daughter of the Regiment) by the Madison Opera in the Capitol Theater of the Overture Center. The production, a first for the Madison Opera, sounded very promising from the preview I posted earlier this week, which was an interview with tenor Javier Abreu. Here is a link:

https://welltempered.wordpress.com/2014/02/03/classical-music-how-hard-is-it-to-sing-nine-high-cs-tenor-javier-abreu-talks-about-the-feat-he-will-perform-in-the-madison-operas-premiere-production-of-donizettis/

I immediately took Mikko up on the offer. After all, he is a fine and perceptive writer who, you may recall, blogged for this post when he was on tour two summers ago with the Wisconsin Youth Symphony Orchestras (WYSO) tour to Vienna, Prague and Budapest.

Here is the review by Mikko Utevsky (below):

Mikko Utevsky with baton

By Mikko Utevsky

Drumroll, please!

Gaetano Donizetti’s popular “Daughter of the Regiment” is classic “bel canto” opera — a simple, almost corny plot, improbable love, show-stopping arias and high notes, lots of high notes.

And in the hands of the Madison Opera, it is a rousing success. (Production photos are by James Gill for the Madison Opera.)

madison opera 5 witness party set Virginia Opera CR James GIll

The romantic plot is simple enough.

Marie, an orphaned girl raised by the 21st Regiment of the French army, meets and falls in love with a civilian, Tonio, who joins the regiment to marry her.

Their romance seems thwarted by her long-lost “aunt,” the Marquise of Berkenfeld, who sweeps her away to be married to a noble Duke, but her regiment swoops in (below, played by the Madison Symphony Chorus) at the last second to intervene, and she and Tonio are reunited at last.

Everyone ends up happy in this tale.

madison opera daughter 6 chorus, abreu, cislin, apple, Douglss Swenson as Hortensius James Gill

The production marches merrily along, buoyed by brilliant singing from Appleton-native and UW-Madison-educated Caitlin Cisler (below left) in the title role as Marie. Cisler’s sparkling sound and agile coloratura make her ideal for the part, a tremendously difficult one replete with high Cs and beyond (several Ds and more than one F!).

Caitlin Cisler 2

Her girlish demeanor in the first act is both charming and entirely suited to the character. There is no profound depth to the role, but a great deal of fun, and Cisler certainly seems to enjoy it — as do we!

Singing opposite her is one of the best tenors the Madison Opera has hosted in recent years, Puerto Rican-born Javier Abreu (below).

Javier Abreu color mug 1

As Tonio, he boasts a light, lyric voice capable of the necessary acrobatics for such a famously challenging role – in particular, his Act 1 aria “Ah, mes amis!” (which demands no less than NINE high Cs in the space of about a minute and a half, as demonstrated by Juan Diego Florez in a YouTube video at the bottom). Below, Tonio steals kiss from Marie.

madison opera Daughter 1 Javier Abreu (Tonio) and Caitlin Cislin (Marie) CR James Gill

As the commander of Marie’s regiment of adoptive fathers, Nathan Stark (below, recently heard as the Commendatore in 2013’s Don Giovanni) is excellent as well. His acting is at least as solid as his powerful bass voice, both of which are again wonderfully suited to the role.

He is compelling as the most fatherly of the soldiers, moved to support his daughter’s romantic aspirations by his own. The comic chemistry he and Cisler have enlivens the whole show, making their early scenes possibly my favorite part of the whole evening.

madison opera daughter 2 Nathan Stark (Sulpice) CR James Gill

Also appearing is Madison contralto Alisanne Apple (below), alternately and appropriately outraged by Marie’s antics and embarrassed at her own as the Marquise (and whose true contralto guts are displayed early in the opera, to great amusement).

Alisanne Apple BW mug

madison opera daughter 4 allisanne apple marquise CR James Gill

As her butler Hortensius, bass Douglas Swenson (below) projects a hilariously palpable air of self-importance at every moment.

Douglas Swenson

Director David Lefkowich’s blocking is frequently hilarious (though the silly shuffling “quick march” of the soldiers was distracting and absurd), and helps bring the characters to life admirably.

David Lefkowich 2013

The sets by the Virginia Opera and the costumes from the Opera Theatre of St. Louis Opera livened up the stage, particularly in the first act where the soldiers’ bright red uniforms stood out sharply against distant hills and misty mountains.

As always, John DeMain (below, in a photo by Prasad) leads musicians of the Madison Symphony Orchestra in a capable and flexible pit ensemble, with good attention to balance.  The Madison Opera Chorus, solidly prepared by Chorus Master Anthony Cao, also featured two small, well-sung solo spots for Robert Goderich and Christopher Apfelbach.

John DeMain full face by Prasad

The production is sung in French with projected English supertitles, with a small amount of (sensibly) English dialogue. The running time is 2 hours and 15 minutes including one 20-minutes intermission.

The last performance is today, Sunday, Feb. 9 at 2:30 p.m. the Capitol Theater of the Overture Center. Tickets are $25-$107. Call the Overture Center box office at (608) 258-4141.

And maybe you would like to see what other reviewers had to say:

Here is a link to the rave review by John W. Barker (below) rave review for Isthmus:

http://www.thedailypage.com/daily/article.php?article=42027&sid=ee9c4f61ce09fdf1d9cc5e1c40f29f2c

John-Barker

Here is a link to the very favorable review by Greg Hettmansberger (bel0w) for Madison Magazine’s blog “Classically Speaking”:

http://www.madisonmagazine.com/Blogs/Classically-Speaking/February-2014/A-Daughter-We-Can-All-Adopt/

greg hettmansberger mug

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Classical music: Local and national stars — plus the audience — will shine at the Madison Symphony Orchestra’s three Christmas concerts this weekend.

December 3, 2013
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By Jacob Stockinger

As it does every holiday season, the Madison Symphony Orchestra (below, in a photo by Greg Anderson) has placed a lot of gifts under its Christmas tree — its musical offerings, so to speak, borrowing from the works of Johann Sebastian Bach. Some will be expected old favorites, some will will be welcome surprises — and they will all get unwrapped this weekend.

John DeMain and MSO from the stage Greg Anderson

National vocalists and Madison community chorus members – as well as the audience – will all get a chance to shine when Conductor John DeMain (below, in his Santa hat in a photo by Bob Rashid) and the Madison Symphony Orchestra (MSO) kick off the holiday season with the much-loved tradition of the Madison Symphony Christmas concerts this weekend.

DeMain Santa Bob Rashid

The concerts are in Overture Hall on Friday, Dec. 6, at 7:30 p.m.; Saturday, Dec. 7, at 8 p.m.; and Sunday, Dec. 8, at 2:30 p.m. in Overture Hall.

Tickets are $16.50 to $82.50 each, available at www.madisonsymphony.org/singletickets and through the Overture Center Box Office at 201 State Street or call the Box Office at (608) 258-4141.

Student rush tickets can be purchased in person on the day of the concerts at the Overture Box Office at 201 State Street. Full-time students must show a valid student ID and can receive up to two $12 or $15 tickets. More information is at:  www.madisonsymphony.org/studentrush  On advance ticket purchases, students can receive 20% savings on seats in select areas of the hall.

Seniors age 62 and up receive 20% savings on advance and day-of-concert ticket purchases in select areas of the hall.

Discounted seats are subject to availability, and discounts may not be combined.

The concerts will celebrate the holidays with a banquet of “main courses” – music by Felix Mendelssohn, Nikolai Rimsky-Korsakov and George Frideric Handel.

But like any good feast, lighter fare will as be served – from holiday favorites to rocking Gospel selections – topped off with the audience adding its voice to carols at the end. Concert highlights include:

Soloists Melody Moore (soprano. below top) and Nathan Stark (bass, below bottom in a photo by Paul Sirouchman), who are accomplished national operatic singers, and principal cellist Karl Lavine. Moore recently sang the role of Tosca in the Madison Opera production of the same name.

Melody Moore NoCredit

Nathan Stark  CR Paul Sirouchman

Madison Symphony Chorus (below in a photo by Greg Anderson), directed by Beverly Taylor, with its 125 members, who come from all walks of life to combine their artistic talent;

MSO Chorus CR Greg Anderson

Madison Youth Choirs (below), directed by Michael Ross, which combines young voices for a memorable experience;

madison youth choirs

Mt.  Zion Gospel Choir (below), directed by Leotha Stanley, which uses jazz, blues and gospel harmonies to “raise the roof” in creating captivating music;

Mt. Zion Gospel Choir

And as a finale, audience members will join in the singing of carols.                                                    

The Madison Symphony Orchestra is marking its 88th concert season in 2013-2014 by celebrating John DeMain’s 20th anniversary as music director. The Symphony engages audiences of all ages and backgrounds in live classical music through a full season of concerts with established and emerging soloists of international renown, an organ series that includes free concerts, and widely respected education and community engagement programs.

In addition, Club 201 has a reservation deadline of tomorrow, Wednesday, Dec. 4, for the Christmas concert on Friday night. Club 201 is a premier cultural outing for young professionals in Madison and is meant to meet people with similar interests in a friendly and fun environment.  Our next event is on Friday, Dec. 6 and the evening starts with a concert that has become a yearly Madison tradition, “A Madison Symphony Christmas” at 7:30pm in Overture Hall.  This is followed by a post-concert party at Fresco with Triple MMM radio’s Jonathan Suttin, members of the orchestra, hors d’oeuvres, desserts and holiday drink specials.  Only $30 covers the concert and party and the deadline for reservations is Wednesday, Dec. 4.  Tickets can be purchased atwww.madisonsymphony.org/201tickets or by calling (608) 258-4141.

Club 201

For more information, visit: www.madisonsymphony.org. You can also listen to Maestro John DeMain discuss the concert in an interview, at the bottom posted in a YouTube video, that he did for the local TV station and NBC affiliate, WMTV Channel 15

Major funding for this holiday concert is provided by American Printing Company, Nedrebo’s Formalwear, John W. Thompson and Jane A. Bartell, BMO Private Bank, Hooper Foundation/General Heating & Air Conditioning in celebration of Hooper Corporation’s 100th Anniversary, Maurice and Arlene Reese, and an Anonymous Friend with additional funds from Colony Brands, Inc., Hans and Mary Lang Sollinger, and the Wisconsin Arts Board.


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