The Well-Tempered Ear

Classical music: The Madison Symphony Orchestra announces its 2017-2018 season of nine concerts of “favorites combined with firsts”

April 13, 2017
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By Jacob Stockinger

Here is the official announcement of the 2017-18 season by the Madison Symphony Orchestra:

The 2017-18 season of the Madison Symphony Orchestra (MSO, below, in a photo by Greg Anderson) presents nine programs that invite audiences to “listen with all your heart” and “feel the emotion, power and majesty” of great classical music.

Subscriptions are available now, and single tickets for all concerts go on sale to the public Saturday, Aug. 12, 2017.

For more information about tickets and ticket prices plus discounts for new subscribers and renewing subscribers, go to:

http://www.madisonsymphony.org/17-18

MSO music director John DeMain, who will be marking his 24th season with the MSO, has created an exciting season that features favorites combined with firsts.

Says DeMain (below, in a photo by Prasad): “I must point out two monumental firsts: the MSO debut of the great violinist Gil Shaham, renowned and sought after the world over, whose appearance Madison has waited for for many years; and the Madison premiere of the Glagolitic Mass by Czech composer Leos Janacek, a gargantuan work for chorus and orchestra with a prominent role for our “Colossal Klais,” the Overture Concert Organ.”

Performances are in Overture Hall of the Overture Center at 7:30 p.m. on Fridays; 8 p.m. on Saturdays; and 2:30 p.m. on Sundays.

The 2017-2018 subscription series concerts begin on Sept. 15, 16 and 17 with “Orchestral Brilliance”—proudly presenting the Madison Symphony Orchestra performing the Johann Sebastian Bach/Leopold Stokowski version of the organ Toccata and Fugue in D minor; Felix Mendelssohn’s Reformation Symphony and Hector Berlioz’s “Harold in Italy” with MSO principal viola Christopher Dozoryst (below, in a photo by Katrin Talbot) as soloist(You can hear Leopold Stokowski conduct his own transcription of the work by Bach, which was used in Walt Disney’s film “Fantasia,” in the YouTube video at the bottom.)

“From the New World” on Oct. 20, 21 and 22 features the return of beloved pianist Olga Kern (below), a gold medalist in the Van Cliburn competition, performing Samuel Barber’s Piano Concerto, and the MSO performing Antonin Dvorak’s Symphony No. 9 “From the New World” and Maurice Ravel’s Mother Goose Suite.

On Nov. 17, 18, and 19 “Troubadour: Two Faces of the Classical Guitar” features sensational guitar virtuoso Sharon Isbin (below) playing two works, one by American composer Chris Brubeck, and the other by the Spaniard Joaquin Rodrigo, with the MSO performing two Suites—Manuel DeFalla’s The Three-Cornered Hat and Aaron Copland’s Billy the Kid.

The cherished kickoff to the holiday season, “A Madison Symphony Christmas,” returns on the first weekend in December — the 1, 2, and 3. Guest artists Emily Pogorelc, soprano, and Eric Barry, tenor, join John DeMain, the MSO, the Madison Symphony Chorus (below), Madison Youth Choirs and Mount Zion Gospel Choir on stage for the family-friendly celebration.

The MSO season subscription continues in 2018 with the long awaited appearance of violinist Gil Shaham (below) with the MSO—“Gil Shaham Plays Tchaikovsky” on Jan. 19, 20 and 21. This program features works by three of the most popular Russian composers of all time— Sergei Prokofiev’s The Love for Three Oranges Suite, Sergei Rachmaninoff’s Symphony No. 3 and Peter Tchaikovsky’s Violin Concerto.

“Richly Romantic” concerts take place on Feb. 16, 17 and 18 when one of MSO’s favorite cellists, Alban Gerhardt (below), returns performing the lyrical William Walton’s Cello Concerto, and the MSO presents Johannes Brahms’ Symphony No. 1 and Gioachino Rossini’s Overture to Semiramide.

Spring arrives April 13, 14, and 15 with “String Fever” featuring Robert Schumann’s Symphony No. 1, Spring, Benjamin Britten’s Sinfonia da Requiem and Grammy Award-winning violinist Augustin Hadelich (below) performing the Antonin Dvorak’s Violin Concerto.

The season finale, “Mass Appeal,” takes place on May 4, 5 and 6. Star of NPR’s From the Top, pianist Christopher O’Riley (below), will open the program with Mozart’s Piano Concerto No. 22. The MSO premiere of the monumental Glagolitic Mass by Czech composer Leos Janacek features the Overture Concert Organ and the Madison Symphony Chorus, along with soloists Rebecca Wilson, soprano, Julie Miller, mezzo-Soprano, Roger Honeywell, tenor, and Benjamin Sieverding, bass.

The MSO’s 17-18 season includes the popular multimedia production of Beyond the Score®, “Edward Elgar: Enigma Variations,” featuring live actors and visuals in the first half, with the entire work performed in the second half. Joining the orchestra are American Players Theatre actors James Ridge (below), Colleen Madden and Brian Mani, along with Wisconsin Public Radio’s Norman Gilliland of Wisconsin Public Radio as the Narrator. This single performance takes place on Sunday, March 18, 2018*.

NOTE: *Advance tickets for Beyond the Score® are available only to MSO 17-18 season subscribers prior to single tickets going on sale to the general public on Saturday, Aug. 12, 2017. Beyond the Score® is a production of the Chicago Symphony Orchestra. Gerard McBurney, Creative Director for Beyond the Beyond the Score®

ABOUT THE MADISON SYMPHONY ORCHESTRA

The Madison Symphony Orchestra celebrates its 92nd season in 2017-2018 and its 24th season under the leadership of music director John DeMain.

The MSO has grown to be one of America’s leading regional orchestras, providing Madison and south central Wisconsin with cultural and educational opportunities to interact with great masterworks and top-tier guest artists from around the world.

Find more information at madisonsymphony.org


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Classical music: Edgewood College’s FREE Fall choral concert is this Sunday afternoon. Plus, three sopranos sing for FREE this Friday at noon

October 20, 2016
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ALERT: This week’s FREE Friday Noon Musicale, at the First Unitarian Society of Madison, 900 University Bay Drive, features sopranos Susan Savage Day, Rebekah Demure and Arianna Day in music by Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart, John Corigliano, Ottorino Respighi, Richard Strauss and others. It runs from 12:15 to 1 p.m.

By Jacob Stockinger

Edgewood College will present its Fall Choral Concert at 2:30 p.m. this Sunday in the St. Joseph Chapel, 1000 Edgewood College Drive.

Admission is FREE.

The Women’s Choir and the Chamber Singers, under the direction of Kathleen Otterson (below top) and Sergei Pavlov (below bottom), will feature a wide variety of musical selections.

Kathleen Otterson color

isSergei Pavlov

The eclectic program includes the Johann Sebastian Bach-Charles Gounod setting of “Ave Maria,” heard in the YouTube video at the bottom; Sydney Carter’s beautiful arrangement of “Lord of the Dance”; and music of Pentatonix.

The Chamber Singers is the College’s premier a cappella choral ensemble, open to students of all majors. The choir performs literature from the medieval period to the 21st century, participating in multiple concerts throughout the school year.

Edgewood College Chamber Singers

The Women’s Choir performs a wide variety of traditional and modern music specifically for women’s voices.

Edgewood College Women's Choir


Classical music: The last of this summer’s FREE Farmers’ Market organ concerts takes place this Saturday at 11 a.m. in Overture Hall

August 9, 2016
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By Jacob Stockinger

The last of the three monthly FREE organ concerts that the Madison Symphony Orchestra puts on during the summer for the Dane County Farmers’ Market on Saturdays will take place this Saturday at 11 a.m. in Overture Hall of the Overture Center.

Overture Organ close up CRE ZaneWilliams

The hour-long program will feature local musician Mark Brampton Smith (below).

Mark Brampton Smith

Brampton Smith holds degrees in organ performance from the Eastman School of Music and the University of Michigan. Past teachers have included William Watkins, Russell Saunders, and Robert Glasgow (organ); Vincent Lenti (piano); and Edward Parmentier (harpsichord).

Currently the organist at Grace Episcopal Church (below), he has served on the music staff of churches in seven states. He has won prizes in the Fort Wayne, Ann Arbor and American Guild of Organists National Competitions.

grace episcopal church ext

As a collaborative pianist, he has worked with numerous singers, instrumentalists and ensembles, including the Ann Arbor Cantata Singers, University of Michigan choirs, Colgate University Chorus, and the Wisconsin Chamber Choir.

His program includes music by Felix Mendelssohn, Jean Roger-Ducasse, Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart and others. Sorry, but specific titles of the works to be performed were not sent to The Ear. But you can hear a sample of Jean-Roger Ducasse in the YouTube video at the bottom.

For more information about this and other Farmers’ Market organ concerts, go to:

http://www.madisonsymphony.org/farmers


Classical music: The Madison Savoyards will begin paying singers in its summer productions of Gilbert and Sullivan operas. Plus a FREE performance of a rarely heard work by Couperin is on Good Friday at noon.

March 23, 2016
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ALERT: UW-Madison professor and baritone Paul Rowe has sent in the following note: “There is a great, free “concert” or performance on this Friday at Luther Memorial Church, 1021 University Avenue, from noon to 3 p.m. Singers Chelsie Propst and Christina Kay with organist Bruce Bengtson will be performing François Couperin’s “Leçons de ténèbres” or “Lessons in Darkness.” This work is rarely heard in performance at all, much less in this complete form. It is a fabulous piece and a great way to spend a Good Friday afternoon before Easter with its contemplative mood and its beautiful solos and duets. There will also be appropriate readings and some other music as part of the service. It is definitely worth hearing.” 

By Jacob Stockinger

Here is some good news for amateurs and semi-professionals who participate in community music-making and community theater.

For the first time in its 53-year history, the Madison Savoyards, Ltd. will pay its singers. (Below is a photo of the Three Little Maids from last summer’s production of “The Mikado.”)

Madison Savoyards The Mikado 2015

“It is an exciting next step for the organization, and will help us attract the best possible talent,” says newly installed Savoyards board president Shane Magargal. “For over 50 years, the Savoyards has kept these comic operas by Gilbert and Sullivan alive in Madison. This move will help us continue to remain a vibrant part of the local theatrical community for years to come.” (Below, are photos of W.S. Gilbert on the left and Arthur Sullivan on the right.)

Gilbert and Sullivan

Auditions for the Savoyards’ summer production, The Gondoliers, will be held at Edgewood College on Monday, April 4 from 5:30 p.m. to 9:30 p.m. (Room Regina R5), and on Saturday, April 9 from 1:30 p.m. to 5:30 p.m. (Mazzuchelli Hall, Room 208).

To schedule a time, send your request via email to audition@madisonsavoyards.org

Information about what to prepare can be found at www.madisonsavoyards.org on the “Auditions” page.

The Gondoliers will run at Music Hall, in the UW-Madison campus at the base of Bascom Hill, on July 29, July 30, August 5 and August 6 at 7:30 p.m.; and July 31 and August 7 at 3 p.m.

There will be pre-performance dinners both Fridays at the University Club.

The Madison Savoyards, Ltd. has been presenting Gilbert and Sullivan’s operettas to Madison audiences since 1963, and is pleased to offer The Gondoliers for the fourth time in its production history. (At bottom is YouTube video with a brief excerpt from “The Gondoliers.”)


Classical music: A FREE Intergenerational Choir concert this Saturday night will bring voices of teens and seniors together at the Capitol Lakes Retirement Community

March 11, 2016
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By Jacob Stockinger

On this Saturday night, March 12, at 7 p.m. the MYC Intergenerational Choir — composed of high school-aged singers of Madison Youth Choirs and residents of Capitol Lakes Retirement Community — will present their fourth concert performance since the ensemble’s creation in January 2015.

Intergeneration Choir

This unique artistic collaboration, led by Madison Youth Choirs conductor Lisa Kjentvet (below) — who is a graduate of the UW-Madison — and featuring performers who range from 15 to 93 years old, celebrates the power of creative expression at every age.

Lisa Kjentvet

The Intergenerational Choir will present a varied program, including works by Henry Purcell, William Billings, Bob Dylan and a selection of traditional Irish tunes.

Here are the specific works:

Welcome, Every Guest…………Traditional shape-note canon
Come, Ye Sons of Art……………Henry Purcell
When Jesus Wept………………William Billings
Danny Boy……………………….Frederic Weatherly
When Irish Eyes Are Smiling….Chauncey Olcott, George Graff, Jr. and Ernest Ball
Blessing…………………………Katie Moran Bart
Forever Young………………….Bob Dylan

The concert is in the Capitol Lakes Grand Hall (below), 333 West Main Street. Off the Capitol Square. Admission is FREE and open to the public.

Capitol Lakes Hall

The choir is supported in part by a grant from the John A. Johnson Foundation, a component fund of the Madison Community Foundation.

Here is more information about the Madison Youth Choirs (MYC): Recognized as an innovator in youth choral music education, Madison Youth Choirs (MYC) welcomes singers of all ability levels, annually serving more than 1,000 young people, ages 7-18, through a wide variety of choral programs in our community.

Cultivating a comprehensive music education philosophy that inspires self-confidence, personal responsibility, and a spirit of inquiry leading students to become “expert noticers,” MYC creates accessible, meaningful opportunities for youth to thrive in the arts and beyond.

For more information, visit www.madisonyouthchoirs.org or call (608) 238-7464.

 


Classical music education: Educator Harv Thompson receives the Rabin Youth Arts Award from the Wisconsin Youth Symphony Orchestras (WYSO)

March 7, 2016
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By Jacob Stockinger

The Ear has received the following announcement and is pleased to post it:

The Wisconsin Youth Symphony Orchestras (WYSO) Board of Directors is pleased to announce the 2016 Rabin Youth Arts Award recipient.

Harv Thompson will receive the award in the category of Artistic Achievement. The award will be presented at Arts Day on this Wednesday, March 9, at the Monona Terrace in the Hall of Ideas at 9 a.m.

Deserving individuals and organizations from across the state were nominated for their support of youth arts across all disciplines.

Harv Thompson (below) is Professor Emeritus of Theater at the UW-Madison and the UW-Extension. A firm believer in the “Wisconsin Idea,” Thompson considers the boundaries of the University System to be the boundaries of the state. His passion for arts education throughout Wisconsin is deeply rooted in his belief that the state has a commitment to bring the UW’s arts offerings to the diverse audiences found in every corner of Wisconsin.

harv thompson

Thompson’s career ran on two tracks: his theater endeavors and his administrative leadership. Harv served over 20 years as department chair for the UW-Extension’s Continuing Education in the Arts Department.

His role at the UW-Extension included maintaining a link between UW arts professors and the UW-Extension youth program of 4-H. Over 50,000 children state-wide are enrolled in 4-H and his leadership helped develop and maintain funding for 4-H arts programs including: Arts Camp, Arts Leadership lab, Showcase Singers, Drama Company and Art Team.

Thompson (below) is also founder of the Wisconsin Theater Association, which was developed to assist public schools in their theater offerings including classes and live performances of plays and musicals. Since its inception, the Wisconsin Theater Association has provided educational resources and performances to thousands of students throughout the state of Wisconsin.

Harv Thompson color

Twenty-five years ago, Thompson founded the Wisconsin High School Theater Festival (below). For every year since, hundreds of high school students attended the three-day festival to participate in a variety of educational workshops and to view live theater performances by both their high school peers and by professional theater groups. Thousands of high school students have benefited from the festival’s 25-year run, and Harv continues to remain closely involved in the planning and execution of the festival to this day.

Wisconsin High School Theater Festival

The Wisconsin Youth Symphony Orchestras, located in Madison, Wisconsin, presents the Rabin Youth Arts Awards in honor of their founding conductor, Marvin Rabin (below), as a means to honor those who follow in his footsteps.

The awards are a forum for promoting quality youth arts programs and honoring those who work diligently to provide arts opportunities for children throughout Wisconsin. They also serve as a means to elevate awareness in our community about the importance of arts education for all children.

marvin rabin BW

Now celebrating its 50th season, WYSO membership has included more than 5,000 young musicians from more than 100 communities in southern Wisconsin. WYSO, currently under the artistic direction of James Smith, includes three full orchestras, a string orchestra, a chamber music program, a percussion ensemble, a harp ensemble and a brass choir program. For more information, visit www.wysomusic.org


Classical music education: Here is the latest update on the search for a new director of University Opera.

November 7, 2015
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By Jacob Stockinger

Recently, a reader asked The Ear about the status of the nationwide search for a new artistic director of University Opera after two years of having David Ronis (below, in a photo by Luke Delalio) as a popular guest director from New York City after the retirement of William Farlow.

David Ronis color CR Luke DeLalio

That’s when word came from Martha Fischer  (below), professor of collaborative piano at the University of Wisconsin-Madison School of Music. Fischer is the head of the search committee to find a new director of the opera program.

Martha Fischer color Katrin TalbotHere is what Professor Fischer sent: her official update with the PVL (Professional Vacancy Listing) attached:

Writes Fischer as a prefatory comment: “We are incredibly fortunate, thanks to the Karen K. Bishop fund, to be able to search for a full-time tenure track Assistant Professor of Opera. At a time when the University as a whole is feeling extreme budget pressures, it is indeed something to celebrate.

“We are currently accepting applications from a broad and diverse pool of applicants with a deadline of Dec. 1, 2015.

“We are following the University of Wisconsin‘s strict guidelines about how searches are conducted to ensure a fair and equitable process.

“We are hopeful that we will be able to announce a new opera director sometime in the spring.”

The Ear notes that under Wisconsin’s open record laws, there will be no word about the dozens of individual applicants until the finalist stage of the search. That is designed to help protect the current jobs of applicants who do not make it into the pool of four or five finalists who are invited to visit the campus. (Below is a photo by Michael R. Anderson from the most recent production, “The Marriage of Figaro” by Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart.)

Marriage of Figaro dress rehearsal. Tia Cleveland (Marcellina), Joel Rathmann (Figaro), Anna Whiteway (Susanna), Thomas Weis (Bartolo).

Marriage of Figaro dress rehearsal. Tia Cleveland (Marcellina), Joel Rathmann (Figaro), Anna Whiteway (Susanna), Thomas Weis (Bartolo).

Here is the official notice for the UW-Madison School of Music Position Vacancy Listing for the Karen K. Bishop Director of Opera:

“The School of Music at the University of Wisconsin-Madison invites applications for an Artistic Director of University Opera and teacher of operatic performance, interpretation, and literature.

“This is a full-time, tenure-track appointment at the Assistant Professor level beginning August 2016. Successful candidates will demonstrate evidence of an established or emerging national/international career, along with an ability to enhance the School’s educational mission and overall commitment to teaching.

“Candidates will be expected to pursue creative activities or research interests appropriate to a tenure-track position.

“Candidates will also be expected to help recruit and teach a diverse student body of undergraduate and graduate students, to advise and mentor students, to serve on graduate degree committees, and to carry out leadership and service within the School, College, and University.

Duties:

  • Serve as Artistic Director of University Opera
    • –  Organize, administer and coordinate all facets of the program, recruiting and fundraising as necessary
    • –  Direct and supervise all facets of two major productions each year
  • Coordinate and co-teach the University Opera Workshop Course

– Prepare scenes and productions, including stage movement and character development;

  • Promote and participate in local and state outreach programs
  • Nurture relationships and serve as liaison with community and regional arts organizations
  • Teach related courses as needed and according to the candidate’s expertise
  • Supervise doctoral minors in opera/voice coaching and in opera production
  • Minimum Qualifications:
  • Master’s degree with significant professional experience
  • Proven excellence as an opera director in the professional and/or academic setting
  • Comprehensive knowledge of operatic literature, styles and traditions
  • Ability to pursue research and/or creative activity and service to the profession at the national/international 
level
  • Ability to teach effectively in the classroom and in rehearsal, at both the undergraduate and graduate levels
  • Ability to guide research and advise on the preparation of graduate documents and exams
  • Ability to work effectively and collaborate within the School of Music and with outside groups and 
community arts organizations
  • Ability to serve as advisor for doctoral minors
  • Commitment to recruitment for the School of Music
  • Ability to collaborate with the voice faculty, School of Music, and university in developing and planning for 
the opera program

Preferred Qualifications:

  • PhD/DMA/MFA completed
  • Ability to conduct/lead musical rehearsals
  • Ability to coach singers from the piano
  • Fluency in standard operatic languages (French, German, Italian, English)
  • Experience as an operatic performer
  • Salary: $65,000 (minimum)

(Below is a photo of the University Opera’s 2011 production of Giacomo Puccini‘s “La Bohème.”)

University Opera La Boheme Photo 2


Classical music: Stage Director Norma Saldivar talks about Stephen Sondheim’s “Sweeney Todd.” The Madison Opera gives three performances of it this coming weekend.

February 2, 2015
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By Jacob Stockinger

The Madison Opera will present its first-ever production of “Sweeney Todd: The Demon Barber of Fleet Street” by Stephen Sondheim (below) this coming weekend on Friday and Saturday nights and on Sunday afternoon in the Capitol Theater at the Overture Center for the Arts.

The company has built a new production of this American masterpiece — which is so popular that it was made into a 2007 film by director Tim Burton that starred Johnny Depp, Alan Rickman and Helena Bonham Carter. The powerhouse cast, Madison Opera Chorus and the Madison Symphony Orchestra all promise to bring a very operatic theater score to life.

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The show tells of the barber Sweeney Todd, who returns to the gas-lit streets of Victorian London after 15 years of unjust imprisonment to claim vengeance on those who wronged him. He is aided in his murderous activities by Mrs. Lovett, maker of some rather tasty meat pies.

One of Sondheim’s most renowned works, “Sweeney Todd” has a stunningly inventive score containing drama, macabre humor, lyrical purity and an unforgettable final scene.

“I love this piece,” says Kathryn Smith (below, in a photo by James Gill), Madison Opera’s general director. “It’s a true American classic, with a story that is simultaneously dark and comic, and music that ranges from beautifully lyrical songs like ‘Not While I’m Around’ (at bottom in a YouTube video ) to vaudevillian turns like ‘A Little Priest,’ all with some of the wittiest lyrics ever written.”

Kathryn Smith Fly Rail Vertical Madison Opera

Although it premiered on Broadway in 1979 – winning eight Tony Awards, including Best Musical – “Sweeney Todd” has been a staple of opera companies since 1984, when Houston Grand Opera first staged it, followed a few months later by New York City Opera. With a score that is almost entirely sung, it has been described by Sondheim as a “dark operetta.”

That first Houston Grand Opera production was conducted by John DeMain (below, in a photo by Prasad), the music director of the Madison Symphony Orchestra and the artistic director of the Madison Opera, who will conduct these performances.

“For me, it is a brilliantly composed work for the musical theater that has marvelous melodies, incredible lyrics, a unique and thrillingly fascinating story, and a climax that is the stuff of grand opera,” says DeMain. “I can’t wait to conduct our stunning cast in this masterwork for the lyric stage.”

John DeMain full face by Prasad

Corey Crider (below top) and Meredith Arwady (below bottom) make their Madison Opera debuts as the vengeful barber and the ever-practical Mrs. Lovett. Crider has sung leading roles with Lyric Opera of Chicago, Arizona Opera, and the Castleton Festival. Arwady has sung leading roles with San Francisco Opera, the Metropolitan Opera, Houston Grand Opera, and Santa Fe Opera.

Corey Crider

Meredith Arwady

In the role of the mysterious Beggar Woman, Emily Pulley (below) makes her Madison Opera debut after recent performances at the Metropolitan Opera, Central City Opera, and Opera Theater of St. Louis.

tEmily Pulley

Returning to Madison Opera are former Madison Opera Studio Artist Jeni Houser as Johanna, Sweeney’s daughter; Daniel Shirley as the young sailor Anthony Hope; and Thomas Forde as the evil Judge Turpin. Three tenors round out the cast. Joshua Sanders, who has been singing with Madison Opera since high school, plays the innocent Tobias Ragg. Jared Rogers makes his debut as the menacing Beadle Bamford. Robert Goderich, a local theater and opera favorite, plays Sweeney’s rival barber, Adolfo Pirelli.

Performances are on Friday, at 8 p.m.; Saturday at 8 p.m. and Sunday at 2:30 p.m. in the Capitol Theater of the Overture Center.

The production will be sung in English with projected text.

Tickets are $25-$110 with group discounts available. Contact the Overture Center Box Office,
201 State St., Madison, WI. You can also call (608) 258-4141 and email www.madisonopera.org

Madison Opera is building a new production specifically for the Capitol Theater. Stage director Norma Saldivar, set designer Joseph Varga, costume designer Karen Brown-Larimore, and lighting designer Hideaki Tsutsui are creating a world set in an Industrial Age factory, with the orchestra on stage to bring the action even closer to the audience.

“Building a new production allows us to take advantage of the Capitol Theater,” says Smith. “The gorgeous venue is ideally suited to this piece and it is exciting to create something new.”

Stage Director Norma Saldivar (below, in a photo from Madison Magazine) is Executive Director of the UW-Madison Arts Institute and a professor in the Theater Department, recently granted an email interview to The Ear:

Norma Saldivar color

Could you briefly introduce yourself to readers?

I’m Norma Saldivar, and I am the stage director for the Madison Opera’s production of “Sweeney Todd.”

How does directing an opera differ from directing a play?

I know that you’d like me to say that there is some real difference in directing opera or straight theatre productions – and there are distinct differences. However, the work of the director remains the same.

I am a storyteller, a chief creative leader of a team of people who bring the story to life and three-dimensional form. There are differences in working with music that obviously involve expressing the intention of the composer, which means working with a conductor who brings to life and secures the intention of the composer and lyricist.

But ultimately, we all work to bring the story to an audience and to engage and entertain them.

In the case of “Sweeney Todd,” how does such a grim and gory or grotesque plot – about murdering men by slitting their throats and then baking their bodies into cannibalistic meat pies –- end up being an enjoyable and entertaining opera? Does being so over the top help or offer special challenges?

The story predates Sondheim and began in “penny dreadfuls” — these stories of suspense were very popular and connected to their audience in a way that so many contemporary suspense and horror stories do now for our audience.

I think there is a great deal of suspense in the story, in that as it unfolds an audience can’t believe their eyes or ears. The audaciousness is surprising and tantalizing –- and then there is also humor, heartbreak and love in the story. It is a different take on an age-old story of revenge.

What does Stephen Sondheim do in the libretto and music to overcome that kind of inherent handicap?

I don’t see the aspects of the genre — suspense and horror – as handicaps. There are other musical pieces – “Phantom of the Opera” is one – that make for great drama.

The music is the added character to the story.

Sondheim writes in one of his books that he was inspired by the movie music of Bernard Hermann – his work in horror films by Alfred Hitchcock fueled Sondheim’s work on Sweeney. But Sondheim is so brilliant that he integrates other musical genres in the piece to create a very specific effect. There are intricate pieces that pull us momentarily away from the suspense. Like any good storyteller, his music takes the audience on an unexpected ride.

What is your approach to staging it? Are there special things in this production that you would like the audience to take notice of?

I am a very visual director. I love that Sondheim himself talks about this piece being a movie for the stage. What a great challenge for the stage director to try and interpret quick cuts and split screens, or changes in time and location on stage. We have a great design team that provides me the tools and background to work with the singers to support the musical story and to work in visual harmony. Without the design team and singers — well, I wouldn’t have much.

The challenge with this piece in particular is the length of the story. It moves quickly, spans months of time, and exists in a theatrical and psychological platform all at once. It’s a terrific challenge for a director, production team and performers. All the nuances that have to play to make the story clear is what makes the challenge really interesting.

Is there anything else you would like to add or say about this work and this production of it — the cast, the sets, the costumes — for The Madison Opera?

It has been a pleasure to work with the extraordinary John DeMain and the entire Madison Opera family. From the administration to the designers to the principal artists to the lovely chorus to the folks building the show — what more can a director ask for? Everyone is top-notch and devoted to giving everyone the best show. I feel honored to be working with them — really honored.

 


Classical music: Is Rameau the French Bach? UW-Madison faculty players and Baroque scholar Charles Dill will explore Rameau throughout this season. The first two FREE events are this Thursday and Friday nights.

November 10, 2014
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By Jacob Stockinger

For some musicologists and audiences, the French Baroque composer  Jean-Philippe Rameau (below) is wholly misunderstood, under-performed and underappreciated.  Some even see him as the French counterpart to Johann Sebastian Bach.

But a year-long project by the University of Wisconsin School of Music aims to correct that lack of knowledge and appreciation.

That effort starts with two FREE concerts this week.

Here is a link to a Q&A about Rameau done with UW-Madison musicologist Charles Dill for the UW-Madison School of Music blog:

http://www.music.wisc.edu/2014/10/16/rameau-dill/

Jean-Philippe Rameau

THURSDAY

On Thursday night, Nov. 13, at 7:30 p.m. in Room 180 of Science Hall, at the intersection of Langdon Streets and  North Park Street, the FREE program “Rameau and Musical Expression” will take place. The subject is the French composer Jean-Philippe Rameau. The 250th anniversary of his death is being marked this year around the world.

Music of the mid-18th century can strike modern audiences as stilted or dispassionate, but composers of the time, like society at large, thought about the passions a great deal — how to describe them, what their physical properties were, and how to depict them on stage for the benefit of audiences.

David Ronis (below top, in a photo by Luke Delalio), a stage director who has specialized in Baroque staging practices, and Anne Vila (below bottom), a scholar specializing in 18th-century theories of the emotions, will discuss passion in the thought of Rameau’s contemporaries, suggesting cues for listening to Rameau’s music. The evening will include a performance of  cantata Les Amants trahis by Paul Rowe, Chelsie Propst, John Chappell Stowe and Eric Miller.

David Ronis color CR  Luke DeLalio

vila_CV

FRIDAY

Then on this Friday might, Nov. 14, at 8 p.m. in Mills Hall, UW-Madison bassoonist and native Frenchman Marc Vallon  (below, in a photo by James Gill) will present a FREE all-French program that highlights his own works and arrangements as well as the music of Jean-Phillippe Rameau in one of his most well-known works, “Les Indes Galantes.”

Marc Vallon 2011 James Gill (baroque & modern)[2]

Vallon will be joined by other performers and period instruments will be used in historically informed performances.

Here is the program:

Maurice Ravel (1875-1937)   Pièce en forme de Habanera for bassoon and piano

Marc Vallon (b.1955)    Serbian Songs for viola and bassoon – Tuzbalica-Harvest Song-Trezkavica

Marc Vallon      Ami for Baroque flute

Jules Massenet (1842-1912)  (arr. M. Vallon)  La Lettre

Georges Bizet (1838-1875) (arr. M. Vallon)

Emmanuel Chabrier (1841-1894)           L’Invitation au Voyage

INTERMISSION

Jean-Philippe Rameau (1683-1764), Les Indes Galantes, a 45-minute version. Ouverture; Menuets 1 & 2; Musette en Rondeau; Air; L’Amour “Ranimez vos Flambeaux”; Ritournelle, “Le Turc Généreux,”;  Air, “Osman Il faut que l’amour s’envole”; Récit et Orage; Choeur des Matelots; Emilie; Rigaudons; Air pour les esclaves Africains; Tambourins; “Les Incas du Pérou,”  Scène 1; Air “Le calumet de la Paix”; Air et Choeur “Traversez les plus vastes mers.”

(At the bottom is a concluding movement from “Les Indes Gallantes” in a popular YouTube video that more than one million hits. It is performed by Marc Minkowski directing Les Musicians du Louvre.)

Marc Vallon has split his impressive performing career between the modern and baroque bassoons. In addition to appearances with many of Paris’ orchestras and celebrated contemporary ensembles, Vallon has played baroque bassoon with leading early music ensembles such as La Chapelle Royale, Les Arts Florissants, the Orchestra of the Age of Enlightenment, and Tafelmusik.  In this recital, Marc Vallon will bring his skill on both instruments and thorough knowledge of and feeling for baroque music to works by Jean-Philippe Rameau and J.S. Bach, two great masters of the late baroque period.

Other participants include: Thomas Kasdorf, piano; Sally Chisholm, viola; Nathan Giglierano, Ilana Schroeder, Gene Purdue, baroque violins; Micah Behr, baroque viola; Martha Vallon, Andrew Briggs, baroque cellos; Jeanne Swack and Mili Chang, baroque flute; Konstantinos Tiliakos, baroque oboe; Brian Ellingboe, baroque bassoon; John Chappell Stowe, harpsichord.

Mesdames singers: Elizabeth Hagedorn, Chelsie Propst, Christina Kay.

Messieurs singers: Paul Rowe, Dennis Gotkowski, Antonio De Souza.

There will also be an Introduction to the second half by UW-Madison School of Music musicologist Charles Dill (below, in a photo by Katrin Talbot), who has been speaking about Rameau in the U.S. and France.

Charles Dill  cr Katrin Talbot

This concert is part of the school’s year-long retrospective of the work of Rameau. Click here for more information.

 


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