By Jacob Stockinger
The Opera Guy filed this review, with photos by Michael R. Anderson, for The Ear:
By Larry Wells
It was a completely satisfying theatrical experience of a complexly organized musical work.
The libretto is based on Henry James’ serial novella of the same name. Whereas the James work is an ambiguous, psychological tale, Britten’s opera is an eerie ghost story laden with suggestions of psychosexual mischief.
Musically the opera is based on a 12-tone theme with each of its scenes preceded by a variation of the theme. There are further structural complexities in this highly organized work, but the music is very accessible and was admirably performed by 13 musicians ably led by conductor Kyle Knox. Particular praise goes to the percussionist Garrett Mendlow.
The beautiful, minimalistic set and stunning lighting enhanced the creepiness of the tale.
As for the singing, the cast tackled the complex vocal lines with aplomb, and there were several exceptional performances.
Particular praise goes to Anna Polum for her outstanding portrayal of the ghostly Miss Jessell. She sang beautifully and acted convincingly. (Below, from left, are Katie Anderson as the Governess and Anna Polum as Miss Jessell.)
Likewise Emily Vandenberg as Flora was realistic in the role of a young girl. I have seen performances of this opera that were brought down by unconvincing portrayals of this difficult child role, but Vandenberg acted naturally and sang beautifully.
The other child role, Miles, was capably performed by Simon Johnson, a middle school student. Cayla Rosché adeptly performed Mrs. Grose, the enigmatic housekeeper. (Below are Amitabha Shatdal as Miles, Cayla Rosché as Mrs. Grose and Elisheva Pront as Flora.)
The two major roles are The Governess and the spectral Peter Quint. Erin Bryan was convincing as the increasingly confused and hysteric governess, and she played off Rosché’s Mrs. Grose to great effect. At one point I was thinking that these were two extremely flighty women. (Below, from left, are Cayla Rosché as Mrs. Grose; Elisheva Pront as Flora; Katie Anderson as the Governess; and Amitabha Shatdal as Miles.)
Alec Brown (below) as Quint had the unenviable task of following in the footsteps of singers like Peter Pears who made Quint an evil, threatening, nasty fellow. Brown’s Quint came off as slightly laid back, and his perfectly fine tenor voice was just not a Britten voice in the style of Pears, Philip Langridge or Ian Bostridge.
I had a couple of minor problems with the evening. First, I did not understand why the doors to Music Hall didn’t open until 7:20 for a 7:30 performance, which then actually started at 7:45. And, I was disappointed that the piano, which is a major contributor to the music’s sonority, was swapped for an electronic keyboard.
Yet I left feeling once again that Britten was a true musical genius of the 20th century and that I was eager to go to the 3 p.m. performance this afternoon to experience it all over again.
“The Turn of the Screw” will also be performed one last time on Tuesday at 7:30 p.m.
For more information about the opera, including how to buy tickets — admission is $25 with $20 for seniors and $10 for students, go to:
ALERT: Edgewood College will present its 89th Annual Christmas Concerts tonight at 7 p.m. and Saturday afternoon at 2:30 p.m. in the St. Joseph Chapel, 1000 Edgewood College Drive.
Now expanded to two performances, the holiday concert features the Edgewood College choirs and Concert Band, along with audience sing-alongs, prelude music by the Guitar Ensemble, and a post-concert reception featuring the Jazz Ensemble.
By Jacob Stockinger
Classical music meets old media and new media this weekend through opera and chamber music.
This Saturday marks the beginning of the LIVE RADIO broadcasts of operas from the Metropolitan Opera (below) in New York City. This will be the 86th season for the radio broadcasts, which educated and entertained generations of opera lovers before there were DVDs, streaming and the “Live in HD From the Met” broadcasts to movie theaters.
The performances will be carried locally on Wisconsin Public Radio, WERN-FM 88.7. This Saturday, the starting time for Puccini’s “Manon Lescaut” with Russian superstar soprano Anna Netrebko (below, in a photo by Richard Termine for The New York Times), is 11:30 CST. Other operas will have different starting times, depending their length.
This season runs from Dec. 3-May 15.
Radio has certain strengths, The Ear thinks. For one, it allows the listeners to focus on the music, to be less distracted or less enriched – depending on your point of view – by sets, costumes, lighting, the physicality of the acting and other stagecraft that is left to the imagination.
This season, there will be lots of standard fare including: Verdi’s “La Traviata” and “Aida”; Puccini’s “La Boheme”; Bizet’s “Carmen”; Beethoven’s “Fidelio”; Wagner’s “Tristan und Isolde” and “The Flying Dutchman”; Richard Strauss’ “Der Rosenkavalier” and “Salome”; and Mozart’s “Idomeneo.”
But you can also hear the new music and less frequently staged operas. They include the 2000 opera “L’amour de loin” (Love From Afar) by Finnish composer Kaija Saariaho, which will receive its Metropolitan Opera premiere next week, on Dec. 10.
Here is a link to the complete season along with links to information about the various productions. Starting times are Eastern Standard Time, so deduct an hour for Central Standard Time or a different amount for your time zone:
On this Sunday afternoon, the Pro Arte Quartet (below, in a photo by Rick Langer), longtime artists-in-residence at the University of Wisconsin-Madison School of Music, will wrap up the first semester of “Sunday Afternoon Live From the Chazen,” which used to air weekly on Wisconsin Public Radio but now is presented once a month, on the first Sunday of the month, directly by the museum.
The program this Sunday features the “Italian Serenade” by Hugo Wolf; the String Quartet No. 3 in F Major by Dmitri Shostakovich; and the String Quartet in A-Flat Major, Op. 105, by Antonin Dvorak.
The FREE concert takes place from 12:30 to 2 p.m. in Brittingham Gallery No. 3 of the Chazen Museum of Art and the University of Wisconsin-Madison.
Donors to the museum can reserve seats. Concerts by the Pro Arte Quartet, kind of the house quartet of the museum, are usually “sold out.”
But the concert can also be streamed live via computer or smart phone by clicking on the arrow in the photo and using the portal on the following website:
You might also want to arrive early or stay late to see the historic and rare First Folio edition (below) of the plays by William Shakespeare that is on display at the Chazen Museum through Dec. 11 to mark the 400th anniversary of the death of the Bard.
By Jacob Stockinger
The Oakwood Chamber Players will kick off their 2016-2017 season with a concert entitled “Looking Across the Table: Can We Find Common Ground?” on this coming Saturday night, Sept. 10, at 7 p.m. and Sunday afternoon, Sept. 11, at 2 p.m.
The concerts will both be held in the Oakwood Village University Woods Center for Arts and Education, 6209 Mineral Point Road, on Madison’s far west side.
Tickets can be purchased with cash or personal checks at the door: $20 for general admission, $15 for seniors and $5 for students.
Visit www.oakwoodchamberplayers.com or call (608) 230-4316 for more information.
The season’s theme of “Perspective” is full of interesting viewpoints on life and relationships; the blended use of diverse musical styles with film and theater will help the audience see things from another’s point of view.
Here is a link to a preview of the entire season:
This weekend’s program concert will begin Cafe Music for piano trio by the Michigan-based composer Paul Schoenfield. The work draws inspiration from a range of styles including 20th-century American, Viennese, gypsy and Broadway. (You can hear the catchy music in the YouTube video at the bottom.)
Cuban composer Paul Colina’s “Stairway to Midnight Café” has a delightful current of dance influence and is dedicated to his friends in the First Coast Chamber Ensemble.
The Oakwood Chamber Players will welcome guests to the stage for the charming Dixtuor by French composer Jean Françaix (below). The engaging interplay of strings and winds creates an atmosphere of instrumental commentary parallel to an upbeat social gathering.
Guest musicians include Maureen McCarty, violin; Katrin Talbot, viola; Brad Townsend, string bass; Jennifer Morgan, oboe; and Juliana Mesa-Jaramillo, bassoon.
Famed British composer Sir Edward Elgar (below) wrote Elegy, a poignant adagio, when processing the untimely loss of a friend and colleague. He created a piece that tugs at the heartstrings of both listeners and performers.
This is the first of five concerts in the Oakwood Chamber Players’ 2016-2017 concert season. Remaining concerts include “Looking Back and Forward” on Nov. 27; “Looking Within” on Jan. 21 and 22”: “Looking Through the Lens” on March 18 and 19; and “Looking Closely at the Score” on May 13 and 14.
The Oakwood Chamber Players are a group of Madison-area professional musicians who have rehearsed and performed at Oakwood Village for over 30 years. They have experience with the Madison Symphony Orchestra, the Wisconsin Chamber Orchestra, the University of Wisconsin-Madison School of Music and other groups and institutions.
The Oakwood Chamber Players are a professional music ensemble proudly supported by Oakwood Lutheran Senior Ministries and the Oakwood Foundation.
By Jacob Stockinger
Fresco Opera Theatre has justifiably developed a reputation for quality quirkiness.
Little wonder, then, that it has also developed a loyal following.
There will be five afternoon performances, at 2 p.m., starting this Sunday afternoon and running through Aug. 28. All performances take place at different addresses.
You are advised to bring lawn chairs and blankets.
Here is what was Fresco Opera Theatre posted on Facebook:
COMING THIS SUMMER…
TO A NEIGHBORHOOD GARAGE NEAR YOU…
NO! IT’S THEATER!
NO – IT’S GARAGE OPERA!
Our 16/17 season starts with a BANG! by bringing Garage Opera out to the suburbs again!
This year, Snow White will be the story set to some of the most beautiful music the world has ever heard.
BUT WAIT! There is a twist in this tale…
While this is the story of Snow White you are familiar with, in true Fresco fashion we have added a few twists, including a mild-mannered “dwarf” of a man who befriends Snow White. And who will save her after the Evil Queen has poisoned her?
Come to Fresco’s GARAGE OPERA – SNOW WHITE to find out!
NOTE: You can hear Melanie Cain and Jeff Turk discuss with the local NBC affiliate Channel 15 Fresco’ s past production of Smackdown – which mixed high-brow opera with low-brow professional wrestling — in the YouTube video at the bottom.
For more information, visit:
By Jacob Stockinger
The Ear has received the following press release to share:
The Madison Savoyards presents The Gondoliers (or The King of Barataria) by Gilbert and Sullivan (below), starting this Friday night, July 29, at 7:30 p.m. and running through Sunday, Aug. 7, at Music Hall, at the base of Bascom Hill on the campus of the University of Wisconsin-Madison.
There will be six performances: Friday, July 29, at 7:30 p.m.; Saturday, July 30, at 7:30 p.m.; Sunday, July 31, at 3 p.m.; Friday, August 5, at 7:30 p.m.; Saturday, Aug. 6, at 7:30 pm; Sunday, Aug. 7, at 3 p.m. UW-Madison conducting student Kyle Knox will make his Madison Savoyards debut as Music Director for The Gondoliers.
Gilbert and Sullivan fans will not want to miss this tale of romantic complication, silliness and wonderful music, set in beautiful 18th-century Italy.
Upon arrival, however, she finds that his identity is in question. As an infant, the young prince was entrusted to a drunken gondolier, who promptly mixed up the baby with his own son.
Thus, in the wake of the king’s recent death, both gondolier brothers must jointly rule the kingdom until the prince’s nurse can be brought in to correctly identify him.
To further complicate the matter, both gondoliers have recently married their loves, and Casilda is, in fact, in love with another man. The story plays out and eventually resolves in typical Gilbert and Sullivan fashion, with hilarious circumstances intertwined with poignant, relatable moments.
Stage Director Audrey Lauren Wax has her artistic eye on the set design to help bring this story to life. “I am truly excited to work with a functional Gondola in this production,” says Wax, who most recently directed Princess Ida with the Savoyards in 2014.
“Our design and stage management team have gone above and beyond discussing and collaborating on the logistics of it.” Wax says. “I do think the audience will be quite pleased and excited the moment it hits the stage. And in the fashion of my directing approach, it has been designed with the idea of a puzzle in mind. You’ll just have to see the show in order to see this fabulous creation.”
Puzzle-like stage pieces aside, no Gilbert and Sullivan show would be complete without the trademark hummable tunes and patter songs, and The Gondoliers does not disappoint in either realm. You can hear a sample in the YouTube video at the bottom.
In a historic move for the Savoyards, all roles and some chorus positions will be paid. This has drawn a larger mix of current students and recent grads from University of Wisconsin-Madison and Edgewood College, as well as local youth and adult performers.
One such local favorite is Bill Rosholt, playing the Duke of Plaza-Toro in his 11th principal role with the Savoyards. Anmol Gupta appears with Rosholt as Luiz, the Duke’s assistant, and UW-Madison graduate student Becky Buechel (below) portrays the Duchess of Plaza-Toro, along with Deanna Martinez as her daughter, Casilda.
Christopher Smith (below) and Brian Schneider play the handsome gondoliers Marco and Giuseppe, flanked by Gavin Waid (Antonio), Nicholas Kaplewski (Francesco), Coltan Bratland (Giorgio), and Sara Wojtak (Annibale) as the brothers’ Venetian gondolier friends.
Contadine (peasant farmers) Gianetta and Tessa are portrayed by Lauren Welch (below) and Alaina Carlson, and Julia Ludwiczack plays all three contadine Fiametta, Giulia and Vittoria.
Natalie Falconer portrays Inez, the King’s Foster-mother, and the cast is rounded out by a chorus of Gondoliers, Men-at-Arms, Heralds, Pages, and Contadine from the greater Madison area.
Tickets for The Gondoliers are $30 and $40, and can be purchased through the Campus Arts Ticketing Box Office, by phone at (608) 265-ARTS, or online at www.arts.wisc.edu
The Children’s Pre-Show is Sunday, August 7 from 1 to 2 p.m., and is free for any ticket holder age six to 12. Limited spots are available, so please contact Krystal Lonsdale at email@example.com to reserve a space for your child.
For more information about the opera and the production, visit: www.madisonsavoyards.org
The Madison Savoyards, Ltd. has been presenting Gilbert and Sullivan’s comic operas for 53 years and strives to make each presentation come alive by knowing and respecting the special gifts of the authors and gathering a gifted and enthusiastic cast and crew.
The Savoyards first presented “The Gondoliers” in 1974, and most recently in 2003.
By Jacob Stockinger
The Ear has received the following press release about one of the fun cultural highlights of the summer, which was started by the late Ann Stanke 15 years ago.
In The Ear’s experience, the whole event is a kind of light opera in itself, with food and amusements as well as community social interactions and of course great music that is beautifully performed.
Madison Opera’s FREE Opera in the Park will celebrate its 15th year on this Saturday, July 23, at 8 p.m. in Garner Park on Madison’s far west side.
The annual free concert of opera and Broadway favorites closes the company’s fantastic 2015-16 season and provides an enticing preview of the upcoming 2016-17 season.
A Madison summer tradition that attracts over 15,000 people every year, Opera in the Park brings the best of opera and Broadway to the community, creating an enchanting evening of music under the stars.
Opera in the Park 2016 stars soprano Emily Birsan (below top), soprano Angela Brown (below second), tenor Scott Quinn (below third) and baritone Sidney Outlaw (below fourth).
They are joined by the Madison Opera Chorus and Madison Symphony Orchestra, conducted by the returning Gary Thor Wedow (below) instead of John DeMain, who is spending the summer guest conducting at the acclaimed Glimmerglass Festival in upper New York State.
The evening is hosted by Madison Opera’s General Director Kathryn Smith and WKOW TV’s 27 News Wake-Up Wisconsin anchor Brandon Taylor.
“Opera in the Park is without question my favorite night of the year,” says Smith (below, in a photo by James Gill). “When you combine a live performance of beautiful music with thousands of people from across our community, all under a gorgeous night sky, you get the most important performance Madison Opera gives.
“I often brag to my colleagues around the country about our Opera in the Park, as it is so distinctly important in our community – not to mention having the highest per capita attendance of any such concert in the U.S.
“I am so proud that we are celebrating our 15th summer of this incredible event, and grateful to all who make it possible.”
Opera in the Park 2016 features arias and ensembles from Charles Gounod’s Romeo and Juliet, which opens the 2016-17 season in November; Daniel Schnyder’s jazz-inspired Charlie Parker’s Yardbird, which will be performed in February; and Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart’s The Magic Flute, which will be performed in April.
In celebration of the 400th anniversary of William Shakespeare’s death, the concert will also offer selections from Shakespeare-based operas and musicals such as Hamlet, The Boys from Syracuse and Kiss Me, Kate.
Classic selections from Aida and Rigoletto by Giuseppe Verdi, The Pearl Fishers by Georges Bizet; Porgy and Bess by George Gershwin and more round out this spectacular evening, which always includes one number conducted by the audience with light sticks (below).
Garner Park is located at 333 South Rosa Road in Madison’s far west side. Parking is available in the CUNA Mutual Group and University Research Park lots.
Attendees are encouraged to bring picnics, blankets and chairs.
Alcohol is permitted but not sold in the park.
On the day of the concert, Garner Park will open at 7 a.m. Audience members may NOT leave items in the park prior to this time.
The rain date for Opera in the Park is Sunday, July 24, at 8 p.m.
Madison Opera is grateful to the major sustaining donors who support Opera in the Park not only this year, but have done so for many years, enabling the concert to reach this 15th anniversary: CUNA Mutual, the Berbeewalsh Foundation, the John and Carolyn Peterson Charitable Foundation, Full Compass Systems, University Research Park, Colony Brands, the MGE Foundation, and an Anonymous Friend.
Opera in the Park 2016 is also generously sponsored by the Richard B. Anderson Family Foundation, BMO Harris Bank, Starion Financial, Wisconsin Bank & Trust, National Endowment for the Arts Wisconsin Arts Board, Dane Arts, the Evjue Foundation, and the Madison Arts Commission. WKOW, Isthmus, Madison Magazine, Wisconsin Public Radio, Triple M, Mix 105.1, and WOLX are media sponsors for this community event.
RELATED EVENT: PRELUDE DINNER AND FUNDRAISER
The Prelude Dinner (below) at Opera in the Park 2016 is at 6 p.m.
This annual fundraiser to benefit Opera in the Park helps support Madison Opera’s free gift to the community.
The event includes dinner catered by Upstairs Downstairs, VIP seating at the concert, a complimentary light stick and a reception with the artists following the performance.
Tickets are $135 per person or $1,000 for a table of eight. More information is available at www.madisonopera.org
By Jacob Stockinger
You can check out all the details of the festival at: http://www.madisonearlymusic.org
The co-directors of the festival – the wife-and-husband team of singers Cheryl Bensman Rowe and Paul Rowe (below, in a photo by Katrin Talbot and signaled in the answers by the initials CBR and PR) took time out from the hectic preparations to answer an email Q&A with The Ear.
Here is a link to Part 1 that appeared yesterday:
Today is the last of two parts:
Why was the theme of the “Shakespeare 400: An Elizabethan Celebration” chosen for this year’s festival? What composers and works will be highlighted?l
CBR: We chose the theme to honor the 400th anniversary of the death of William Shakespeare and the musical connections in his plays and sonnets, which also reflect the world of Queen Elizabeth I.
How does Elizabethan music differ from its counterparts in, say, Italy, France and Spain. What is the historical origin and role of the music from that era?
PR: The most familiar music from this time, the madrigal, is “borrowed” from the Italians. There were several Italian composers who came to England to instruct the English in their music. The most famous collection of these pieces is called “Musica transalpine” or Italian madrigals “Englished.”
The lute song also originated in Italy but was taken to new poetic heights by John Dowland and his compatriots.
The English composers did create a unique style of sacred music with William Byrd (below top) and Thomas Tallis (below bottom) as the greatest of these Elizabethan composers.
What music and composers of the era have been most neglected and least neglected by historians and performers? What big things should the public know about Elizabethan music?
PR: Audience members may be less familiar with the vocal and instrumental consort music of this era. Many of these pieces were not intended for public performance, but were played as home or parlor entertainment. The pieces were designed to be very flexible and could be played with a variety of voices and instruments.
The reign of Queen Elizabeth I (below) with her active encouragement of the arts was a peak of artistic achievement in the long history of the British Empire. Music, poetry, dance and theater all thrived for more than 20 years and produced some of the greatest masterworks of Western culture, including the plays of Shakespeare.
Can you tell us about the All-Festival concert program on Saturday night, July 16?
CBR: The All-Festival Concert will feature MEMF students and faculty performing a new program created exclusively for MEMF by Grant Herried (below), “Shakespeare’s Musical World: A Day in the Life of Elizabethan London.
The program is organized by times of the day with speeches from different plays of Shakespeare. Musical reflections include several wonderful pieces by Orlando Gibbons including “The Cries of London,” “O Come Let Us Sing Unto the Lord” and a setting of the “Magnificat” by Orlando Gibbons, “Music Divine” by Thomas Tomkins, a motet by Thomas Tallis, and other works by Thomas Weelkes, Thomas Morely, John Coperario and John Dowland.
Retired UW-Madison history professor John W. Barker will be giving the 6:30 p.m. pre-concert lecture on “Queen Elizabeth I: The Politician” in the Elvehjem Building of the Chazen Museum of Art.
Are there other sessions, guest lectures and certain performers or performances that you especially recommend for the general public?
PR: We would like to encourage everyone to see all the concerts and experience the entire week. It’s like stepping back in time to a different era—a living history lesson complete with an authentic sound track.
Is there anything else you would like to add?
CBR and PR: Check out our website for more details about everything. There is a lot to hear, see, and experience! You can purchase tickets: online; at the Vilas Hall Box Office; at the Wisconsin Union Theater Box Office (Memorial Union); by calling 608-265-ARTS (2787); or the door. For more information about the MEMF concert series and workshop, please visit our website: http://www.madisonearlymusic.org
By Jacob Stockinger
Starting this Friday night and over the next three weekends, the Bach Dancing and Dynamite Society (below top and bottom), marking its 25th anniversary season, will perform dozens of chamber music works, some familiar and some unfamiliar.
See for yourself:
Do you like to listen to the same work ahead of time before going to hear it live at a concert?
Some people urge listeners to do just that.
In fact the Madison Symphony Orchestra often has links to the same works it will perform, and conductor John DeMain has urged listeners to familiarize themselves with the music to appreciate it better.
The Madison Symphony Orchestra is not alone in taking that approach.
But The Ear disagrees.
He generally avoids listening to the same music that he is about to hear live.
He prefers to go into the live event with no preconceptions or comparisons so that it can stand on its own terms.
He prefers to let the music and the performance of it take him fresh – if they are capable of doing that.
It is more like hearing the music anew.
And he does the same with drama. He prefers to see a Shakespeare play at, say, American Players Theater in Spring Green or at the University of Wisconsin-Madison, with no preparation except perhaps some program notes. So he doesn’t read the play before going to the performance.
It seems kind of like eating the same food at home before you go to the restaurant, or watching the same movie before you go to the cinema.
Yet good cases can be made for both approaches.
So The Ear wants to know: What do you like doing and why?
Leave a comment.
The Ear wants hear.
ALERT: This afternoon at 2:30 p.m. in Overture Hall is your last chance to hear the Madison Symphony Orchestra and Chorus in “Carmina Burana” in the MSO’s spectacular season-closing program. Read three rave reviews by local critics:
Here is what John W. Barker wrote for Isthmus:
Here is what Greg Hettmansberger wrote for Madison Magazine and his blog WhatGregSays:
And here is what Jessica Courtier wrote for The Capital Times:
By Jacob Stockinger
Who says you can’t mix art and current events?
Especially if the current events also count as history, which has often been an inspiration for fiction and art.
But not all of the news has to do with politics, suicide bombings, increased troop commitments and fierce fighting in a civil war.
It also has to do with art.
Specifically, opera — that potent combination of theater and music.
The Long Beach Opera commissioned and recently premiered a new chamber opera based on the Iraq War and PTSD (Posttraumatic Stress Disorder), and us based on the life and work of U.S. Marine Christian Ellis . It is called “Fallujah” and it is the first such opera to be written. (A photo below is by Keith Ian Polakoff for the Long Beach Opera.)
It makes The Ear wonder if it might find its way into an upcoming season of the Madison Opera, which tends to use its smaller winter productions to stage works that are newer, smaller, more adventurous and more exploratory.
Or maybe the University Opera at the University of Wisconsin-Madison School of Music might find it a good choice for a student production?