By Jacob Stockinger
The Ear has received the following information to post about a local opera production that is both exciting and an inspired choice to mark February as Black History Month:
For more information about the cast and the production as well as about purchasing tickets ($25-$114), go to:
With music by Swiss composer Daniel Schnyder (below top) and a libretto by writer and poet Bridgette A. Wimberly (below bottom), the acclaimed opera “Charlie Parker’s Yardbird” tells of the legendary jazz musician and the people closest to him.
The opera, which melds jazz and opera, is set on the day that saxophone great Charlie Parker died in 1955. As his body lies unclaimed in a New York City morgue, Parker returns in spirit to the jazz club Birdland, determined to compose a final masterpiece. Family and friends blend in and out of his memories, including his three wives, his mother, his friend Dizzy Gillespie and even his drug dealer.
Charlie Parker’s Yardbird premiered in June 2015 at Opera Philadelphia (below is tenor Lawrence Brownlee, in a photo by Dominic Mercier, in the title role of Charlie Parker in the Philadelphia production) and was subsequently presented by the company at the Apollo Theater in New York City in April 2016. (You can hear an excerpt in the YouTube video at the bottom.)
The New York Times praised it for its “pulsing, jazz-infused score,” while the Wall Street Journal said, “its rhythms snap and swing, its melodies – including real arias – seize the ear, its ensembles crackle with energy.”
Madison Opera will be only the second company to present this work, which is sung in English with projected text and runs 90 minutes without an intermission.
“I saw Charlie Parker’s Yardbird when it premiered in Philadelphia and instantly knew it would be a perfect opera for Madison,” says Kathryn Smith (below, in a photo by James Gill), Madison Opera’s general director. “The very American story and the exciting jazz-inflected music fit perfectly into our ever-expanding range of repertoire.”
She adds, “It’s not a straightforward narrative of Parker’s life, but rather elements of his life as refracted through his memories and imagination, and particularly his relationships with the women in his life.”
Madison Opera’s cast includes both debuts and returning favorites, as well as a number of singers who created their roles in the world premiere.
Joshua Stewart (below), a young American tenor who has sung at La Scala, Bayerische Staatsoper, and Opera de Lausanne, debuts in the tour de force role of Charlie Parker.
Angela Brown (below) returns following her performance at Opera in the Park 2016 as Addie Parker, Charlie’s mother, a role she created in Philadelphia.
Will Liverman, who sang Figaro in Rossini’s The Barber of Seville here in 2015, sings jazz legend Dizzy Gillespie, a role he created in Philadelphia.
Krysty Swann debuts as Rebecca Parker, Charlie’s first wife. Angela Mortellaro, who sang Galatea in Handel’s Acis and Galatea in 2013, returns as Doris Parker, Charlie’s third wife, a role she created in Philadelphia.
Rachel Sterrenberg debuts as Chan Parker, his final wife, a role she created in Philadelphia. Baroness Pannonica de Koenigswarter, in whose hotel suite Parker died, is sung by Julie Miller in her Madison Opera debut.
Directing this production is Ron Daniels (below), who staged the world premiere and was the opera’s dramaturge, involved in the creation and workshop process.
John DeMain (below, in a photo by Prasad) conducts, with members of the Madison Symphony Orchestra in the pit.
DeMain says: “I am so happy to be a part of Madison Opera’s Midwest premiere of Charlie Parker’s Yardbird. Parker was consumed with music, breathing it day and night. All of us who are passionate about performing and listening to music can identify with this phenomenal musician and will not want to miss this jazz-infused opera, the perfect expression of Parker’s range and depth as a musician.”
Composer Daniel Schnyder will attend the opening night performance and join Smith for the Pre-Opera Talk that evening at 7 p.m. in the Wisconsin Studio.
In addition to the performances, Madison Opera and its community partners are hosting a series of related events, collectively known as “Extending the Stage,” which culminate in a concert of Charlie Parker’s music with composer Daniel Schnyder and the UW-Madison’s Blue Note Ensemble.
These events include Opera Novice; community previews; Opera Up Close; discussions of the life and music of Charlie Parker (below); and presentations of rare jazz films.
All events are open to the public and the majority are free of charge.
RELATED EVENTS: EXTENDING THE STAGE
Opera Novice: Jazz Opera? Friday, Jan. 20 | 6-7 p.m. The Margaret C. Winston Madison Opera Center, 335 W. Mifflin Street. FREE and open to the public
New to opera? Passionate about Puccini, but not sure about a jazz opera? Join General Director Kathryn Smith for a short, fun, and informative evening exploring the history of jazz and opera, including a live performance of an aria from Charlie Parker’s Yardbird. With plenty of time to ask questions, it’s the perfect jump-start for the opera-curious.
Community Preview of Charlie Parker’s Yardbird, Tuesday, Jan. 24 | 7-8 p.m. Capitol Lakes Retirement Community, 333 W. Main St. FREE and open to the public
Join a Madison Opera staff member for a multimedia look at Charlie Parker’s life, the history of the opera Charlie Parker’s Yardbird, and some insights into Madison Opera’s production.
Opera Up Close, Sunday, Feb. 5 | 1-3 p.m. The Margaret C. Winston Madison Opera Center, 335 West Mifflin Street. Admission: $20; free for full-season subscribers and full-time students with ID; $10 for two-show subscribers. Tickets available at the door.
Come even closer with a behind-the-scenes preview of Charlie Parker’s Yardbird. A multimedia presentation on Charlie Parker and the history of this opera will be followed by a roundtable discussion with the leading artists of Madison Opera’s production. There is no better way to get “up close” to this acclaimed new opera.
A Charlie Parker Concert and Discussion with Daniel Schnyder and the Blue Note Ensemble Thursday, Feb. 9 | 7:30 p.m. Morphy Recital Hall, UW-Madison. FREE and open to the public
Composer Daniel Schnyder joins UW-Madison’s Blue Note Ensemble for an evening featuring music by Charlie Parker, with solos performed by both Schnyder and UW-Madison saxophone students. The evening includes an aria from Charlie Parker’s Yardbird and a discussion about Parker and the opera with Schnyder, UW-Madison Professor of Saxophone Les Thimmig, and General Director Kathryn Smith.
Pre-Opera Talks: Friday, Feb. 10 |7 p.m. and Sunday, Feb. 12 | 1:30 p.m. Wisconsin Studio at Overture Center. FREE to ticket holders
Attend an entertaining introduction to Charlie Parker’s Yardbird one hour prior to curtain. On Friday night, composer Daniel Schnyder will join General Director Kathryn Smith to talk about the piece. Be sure to arrive early, as space is limited.
An Evening of Rare Jazz Films: Alicia Ashman Library. Friday, Feb. 3 | 7 p.m.; Goodman South Madison Library. Tuesday, April 11 | 6 p.m. FREE and open to the public (Below is footage of Charlie Parker playing and of people discussing the man and his artistic achievement.)
Jazz archivist Gary Alderman will present and explain films of the historically significant innovators of modern jazz, including the only two known existing videos with sound of Charlie Parker.
Among the other musicians shown will be those relevant to Parker’s music and career, including Lester Young, Coleman Hawkins, John Coltrane, Dizzy Gillespie and Miles Davis.
The Life and Music of Charlie Parker: DeForest Area Public Library: Monday, Feb. 13, 6:30 p.m.; Alicia Ashman Library: Friday, Feb. 24, 7 p.m.; Fitchburg Public Library: Sunday, Feb. 26, 2 p.m.; Oregon Public Library: Friday, March 10, 6:30 p.m. FREE and open to the public
UW-Madison Professor of Saxophone Les Thimmig (below) will talk about Charlie Parker’s life and music, as well as the history of bebop.
More information is available at www.madisonopera.org/education.
By Jacob Stockinger
The Ear has received the following announcement:
It will feature local classical and jazz musicians in the inspiring natural setting of the stately English Garden at Allen Centennial Garden at 620 Babcock Drive, on the campus of the University of Wisconsin-Madison in the heart of Madison.
The concerts will take place on every other Sunday through Sept. 18 from 4 to 5:30 p.m. They are sponsored by the Friends of Allen Centennial Garden.
Attendees are encouraged to bring a blanket or lawn chair for these free concerts.
Families are welcome.
Established in 1989, Allen Centennial Garden is situated on 2.5 acres surrounding the historic landmarked “Dean’s Residence (below),” adjacent to the Lake Mendota Lakeshore Nature Preserve and path.
This public botanical garden is open to the public free of charge 365 days a year, dawn to dusk.
Although located on the UW-Madison campus, the garden is supported entirely by private funds. In 2013, the Friends of Allen Garden formed to enhance the educational and cultural mission of the gardens and to increase awareness of this “hidden gem” by expanding programming initiatives to better serve the public.
Summer Sundays in the Garden, one of many programs developed by the Friends, is the first public concert series at Allen Centennial Gardens, now in its 26th year.
Sponsored by the Friends, the series is supported by grants from the Madison Arts Commission, with additional support from the Wisconsin Arts Board; from Dane Arts, with funds from the Overture Foundation and the Pleasant T. Rowland Foundation; and from the Evjue Foundation of The Capital Times. In the event of inclement weather, concerts will be cancelled.
For more information, please visit www.allencentennialgarden.org
Summer Sundays in the Garden. Afternoon Concerts in the English Garden. June 26 – Sept. 18. 4–5:30 p.m.
June 26 – Johannes Wallmann’s Quartet West. Known as a “remarkable pianist and composer” (Downbeat Magazine) and “a truly international kind of cat” (Midwest Record), Johannes Wallmann, Director of Jazz Studies at UW-Madison, opens SUMMER SUNDAYS with a quartet of top-notch guest artists from Los Angeles and San Francisco to offer up a high-energy, imaginative, and infectious kickoff for the new summer concert series.
July 10 – Quartessence (below). One of Madison’s most often heard society quartets, award-winning Quartessence String Quartet brings a stylish sophistication to a wide range of repertoire including jazz, golden oldies, and imaginative covers of current rock and pop hits, from Bach to the Beatles, Puccini to Pops, Classics to Covers.
July 24 – Doug Brown Group. Acoustic jazz guitarist Doug Brown brings his infectious spirit and imagination to irrepressibly joyous, finely honed swing-era jazz standards.
Aug. 7 – Willy Street Chamber Players (below). Fun and sassy chamber music by one of Madison’s newest groups, bringing a fresh, imaginative take to classical music that is appealing to both lifelong classical music fans and newcomers to the genre. Expect some serious fun!
Aug. 21 – Clocks in Motion (bel0w). Breaking down barriers of a traditional concert performance, this groundbreaking percussion ensemble serves up virtuosic performances that include theater and art and consistently offer a joyous entertainment experience.
Sept. 4 – Harmonious Wail. Smoldering vocals laced among jazzy mandolin and guitar, Harmonious Wail offers an infectious blend of continental jazz, swing, gypsy music, and melodic vocals.
Sept. 18 – Paul Muench Quartet. Now firmly established in the Madison jazz scene, Paul Muench’s group offers up imaginative improvs and creative modern arrangements of timeless jazz standards.
By Jacob Stockinger
Today at 5:34 p.m. the Summer Solstice will happen. Summer officially arrives, and the days will start getting shorter while the nights will get longer.
Can that really be happening already?
Locally, the Summer Solstice will be marked TOMORROW, Tuesday, June 21, by the third annual Make Music Madison celebration.
The city-wide event features more than 400 FREE performances in over 100 venues. It relies on volunteers and costs about $55,000 – a lot less than the cost of one new traffic light, according to the website.
Both amateurs and professionals, both adults and young students, will perform.
And all different kinds of music will be played: classical, swing, pop, rock, bluegrass, country, folk, jazz, soul, blues, reggae, world – you name it.
Want to know more?
For general background, including how to support the events, who are its major sponsors and to see photos of past events, go to:
For a map and a listing of events and artists taking place tomorrow:
To find out by location, go to:
The web site also has search engines that allow you to find specific artists and venues.
ALERT 1: Tomorrow, starting at 12:30 p.m., this month’s Sunday Afternoon Live From the Chazen will feature the Madison-based percussion group Clocks in Motion. The FREE concert in Brittingham Gallery 3 will also be streamed live. Here is a link with information about the complete program and a link to the streaming web site:
ALERT 2: Tomorrow night, on Sunday at 7 p.m. in Morphy Recital Hall, the UW-Madison‘s Wingra Wind Quintet will perform a FREE concert of modern and contemporary French music. For more information, here is a link:
By Jacob Stockinger
Ahreum Han Congdon (below), a critically acclaimed organist, will mark the end of the current Overture Concert Organ season with a recital on this Tuesday night at 7:30 p.m. in Overture Hall of the Overture Center, 201 State Street.
Now she returns for a full solo recital on the colossal Klais concert organ in a program of music by Johann Sebastian Bach, Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart, Jacques Offenbach, Louis Vierne, Max Reger and others.
Here is the complete program, which concludes the current season of organ concerts sponsored by the Madison Symphony Orchestra:
Charles-Marie Widor. Symphony V in F Minor, Op. 42, No. 1. I. Allegro Vivace
Johann Sebastian Bach. Concerto in A Minor, BWV 593 I. Untitled II. Adagio III. Allegro
Sigfrid Karg-Elert. Valse Mignonne, Op. 142, No. 2
Louis Vierne. Clair de Lune, Op. 53, No. 5
Jacques Offenbach. Orpheus in the Underworld. Transcribed by Ahreum Han Congdon
Johannes Matthias Michel. Organ, Timbrel and Dance: Three Jazz Organ Preludes I. Swing Five (Erhalt uns, Herr) II. Bossa Nova (Wunderbarer König) III. Afro-Cuban (In dir ist Freude)
Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart. Andante in F Major, K. 616
Max Reger. Chorale Fantasy on J.S. Bach’s Sleepers Awake, A Voice is Calling, Op. 52, No. 2 (You can hear it in a YouTube video at the bottom.)
Han Congdon has appeared in recital on many of the world’s major organs in addition to solo performances at national and regional conventions for the American Guild of Organists.
General admission for the concert is $20 and tickets can be purchased at www.madisonsymphony.org/han, the Overture Box Office or (608) 258-4141.
Student rush tickets are $10 day of show with a valid student ID (see http://www.madisonsymphony.org/studentrush).
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 commissioned from famous Klais Organ Works in Germany the Overture Concert Organ (below), which is the stunning backdrop of all MSO concerts.
For more Overture Concert Organ information, visit http://www.madisonsymphony.org/organseason
By Jacob Stockinger
The program includes the “Leonore” Overture No. 3 by Ludwig van Beethoven; the Clarinet Concerto by Aaron Copland with MSO principal clarinet Joseph Morris (below, in a photo by Cheryl Savan) as soloist; and the Symphony No. 4 by Peter Ilyich Tchaikovsky.
The concerts in Overture Hall in the Overture Center, 201 State St., are Friday at 7:30 p.m.; Saturday at 8 p.m.; and Sunday at 2:30 p.m.
One hour before each performance, Michael Allsen, UW-Whitewater Professor of Music, MSO Trombonist & MSO program notes annotator, will lead a 30-minute Prelude Discussion in Overture Hall to enhance concertgoers’ understanding and listening experience.
More background on the music can also be found in the Program Notes at: http://www.madisonsymphony.org/tchaikovsky
Single Tickets, $16 to $85 each, can be purchased at www.madisonsymphony.org/singletickets, through the Overture Center Box Office at 201 State Street, or by calling the Box Office at (608) 258-4141.
Groups of 15 or more can save 25 percent by calling the MSO office at (608) 257-3734.
For more information visit, www.madisonsymphony.org/groups
Student rush tickets can be purchased in person on the day of the concert at the Overture Box Office at 201 State Street. 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. Students can receive 20% savings on seats in select areas of the hall on advance ticket purchases.
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.
Find more information at http://www.madisonsymphony.org.
Clarinetist Joe Morris (below, in a photo by Jennifer Morgan) recently agreed to an email Q&A with The Ear:
Could you briefly introduce yourself to readers and give some highlights of your education and career?
I grew up in Northern California before heading to Los Angeles where I did my undergraduate degree in Clarinet Performance at the University of Southern California Thornton School of Music. It was there that I began my studies with Yehuda Gilad (below), who has been, by far, the highlight of my musical education.
After graduating I continued my studies at the Colburn Conservatory of Music, where I received a Professional Studies Certificate in 2014.
I won the MSO’s Principal Clarinet audition out of 44 applicants in 2013 when I was 22 and still studying at Colburn.
This past winter, I joined the Sarasota Opera Orchestra in Florida as their Principal Clarinetist and I have spent the past two summers at the Clarinet Faculty at the Luzerne Music Center in the Adirondack region of New York.
Other highlights of the last few years have been returning to Colburn to perform John Adams’ Gnarly Buttons for solo clarinet and chamber orchestra with Mr. Adams conducting, and competing in the fifth Carl Nielsen International Clarinet Competition in Odense, Denmark.
How have your years in Madison with the MSO been?
I have enjoyed the past two seasons in Madison very much! Madison is a wonderful city and it has been very fun to get to explore all that it has to offer.
I love the sense of community in Madison and especially how that extends to the MSO (below). My colleagues in the orchestra are fantastic players as well as wonderful people. Everyone brings out the best in one another throughout the rehearsal and performance process.
It has also been a huge honor to receive the support of the MSO audiences who never cease to amaze me with their knowledge and enthusiasm for what we do on stage.
What was your Aha! moment –- perhaps a performer or a specific performance or a piece of music — when you first knew you wanted to be a professional musician?
When I was 15, I spent a summer at the Interlochen Arts Camp (below) in Michigan. After a summer of intense study, I realized that I had to pursue music as a career. More than anything it was the shared experience with my peers, who felt the same intensity for music that I did, that brought me to that conclusion.
At the end of every summer at Interlochen the entire camp performs Franz Liszt’s Les Preludes together in an enormous musical collaboration. That specific performance will always remain in my memory as something that laid the foundation for my decision to go into music.
How do you compare the Copland Concerto to other well-known clarinet concertos by Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart, Carl Nielsen and Gerald Finzi (which you performed with the Middleton Community Orchestra). And what would you like listeners to know about the Copland Clarinet Concerto in terms of its structure, technical difficulties, melodies and harmonies, whatever?
One thing that always interests me about works for the clarinet is whom the composer had in mind when they wrote it. For Mozart, that was Anton Stadler; for Nielsen, it was Aage Oxenvad; for Johannes Brahms, it was Richard Muhlfeld; and for Copland, it was Benny Goodman. And Benny Goodman’s style, especially as a big band jazz musician, is extremely apparent in this concerto.
It opens with a first movement that is more typically Copland (below top) than Goodman (below bottom) — with huge interval leaps in the solo line over truly gorgeous string writing. It reminds me of the opening passage of his “Appalachian Spring,” which, coincidentally, was the first piece I ever performed with the MSO.
Following the lyrical “first movement” is an extended cadenza where Goodman starts to take over as the piece morphs into something much more lively and jazz based. After the cadenza the orchestra comes back in for a sort of “second movement” that eventually comes to a very frenzied and glissando-laden finish.
(You can hear the first movement played by Benny Goodman with composer Aaron Copland conducting the Los Angeles Philharmonic in a YouTube video at the bottom.)
Apart from concertos and chamber music specifically written for the clarinet, what orchestral works have your favorite clarinet parts?
I love the way the clarinet timbre can emerge from the orchestra with a sort of floating quality in a lyrical passage. For that reason two of my favorite orchestral works for the clarinet are Sergei Rachmaninoff’s Symphony No. 2 and Ottorino Respighi’s “Pines of Rome,” which the Madison Symphony Orchestra (below) will perform at its April 29-May 1 concerts.
What else would you like to say?
I’m very excited for this upcoming concerto both because of the opportunity to perform this concerto with my marvelous colleagues, and also to then get to sit in the orchestra with them all for Tchaikovsky’s Symphony No. 4.