The Well-Tempered Ear

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: The UW-Madison Symphony Strings performs a forceful all-Beethoven program. Plus, the So Percussion ensemble performs Saturday night and the Edgewood College Chamber Orchestra performs on Sunday afternoon.

November 6, 2015
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ALERTS: First, a reminder that the acclaimed and innovative So percussion ensemble performs this Saturday night at 8 p.m. in Shannon Hall at the Wisconsin Union Theater. Here is a link with information about the program, which includes the minimalism of Steve Reich, and the performers as well as tickets:

http://www.uniontheater.wisc.edu/Season15-16/so-percussion.html

The Edgewood College Chamber Orchestra will perform this Sunday afternoon at 2:30 p.m. in the St. Joseph Chapel, 1000 Edgewood College Drive. The orchestra, under the direction of Blake Walter, will perform the “Lucio Silla” Overture by Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart; the Concertino for Horn and Orchestra in D major by Michael Haydn, featuring horn soloist Dafydd Bevil; “Three Pieces in the Old Style” by Henryk Gorecki; and the Symphony No. 2 in A Minor by Camille Saint-Saëns. Admission is $5, or free with Edgewood College ID.

By Jacob Stockinger

Don’t be fooled by the name.

The UW Symphony Strings Orchestra (below) is a lot more than string players who also belong to the UW-Madison Symphony Orchestra. And it is NOT to be confused with the All-University String Orchestra, which is made up of amateur musicians and non-music students and is conducted by Janet Jensen.

UW Symphony Strings copy

Conductor Kyle Knox (below) explains:

During one concert cycle per year, the UW Symphony Orchestra performs at Music Hall with UW Opera.  Given the space limitations of the opera pit, not all of our 75 Symphony members will play the opera.

So during this period the Symphony is split into two ensembles – Opera Orchestra and Symphony Strings.  Professor James Smith conducts the Opera Orchestra and I conduct the Symphony Strings.

Symphony Strings is a good venue for our players to perform some of the core classical chamber orchestra repertory.  Given the reduced size of the ensemble and the stylistic demands of music from the late Classical period, the Symphony Strings provides a wholly different performance challenge as compared to what they will experience in the large orchestra works performed in other concert cycles.

Playing Mozart and playing Mahler are very different experiences.  Both are difficult, but in different ways.  Last year, we did Mozart’s Symphony No. 36 and Haydn’s Symphony No. 88. This year, we’ll do two of the lesser-performed Beethoven Symphonies, Nos. 1 and 4.

As its name suggests, Symphony Strings has traditionally been a “strings only’ group.”  When necessary, recruitment for winds, brass and percussion starts with players from the Symphony Orchestra roster who are not involved with the opera. Inevitably players from other ensembles are recruited as needed to ensure that all parts are covered.  It all works out one way or another.

Kyle Knox 2

True to Knox’s words, it does work out.

A week ago Wednesday night in Mills Hall the Symphony Strings did indeed perform two symphonies by Ludwig van Beethoven: Symphony No. 1 and Symphony No. 4. (You can hear Symphony No. 1 performed by the Vienna Philharmonic under conductor Christian Thielemann in a YouTube video at the bottom.)

And sure enough, as well as strings, the orchestra included the required winds, brass and percussion.

The playing by all parties was very good. True, you could detect some unevenness. The cellos (below), for example, seemed especially polished and better in pitch or intonation than the violins, which were rough by comparison. Maybe that is because the cello section includes more accomplished undergraduates or more advanced graduate students or because the section is smaller in number or because the cello part is easier.

UW Symphony Strings cellos

Still, one has to make allowances. After all, these are students, not professionals. And it is still early in the season and school year. Most of all, Beethoven simply is not easy, not even early Beethoven.

And that was one of the highlights. The program included two lesser-known Beethoven symphonies and they went together extremely well.

Graduate student conductor Knox (below, center right), who is quite busy these days with many engagements — including the Middleton Community Orchestra and the Madison Opera — drew sharp attacks and clean quick releases, forceful accents, sudden and dramatic dynamic shifts in tempi and volume. Those are all hallmarks of exceptional Beethoven playing.

Kyle Knox conducting UW Symphony Strings

It was enough to make The Ear hope that the group does another program with Beethoven’s two other less well-known symphonies: Nos. 2 and 8. Maybe next semester, or maybe next year.

Then again, The Ear loves the same early Beethoven (below), influenced by the Classical era of Haydn and Mozart, that many other listeners skip over: the early symphonies, the early piano sonatas, the early piano trio, the early violin sonatas, the early cello sonata and the early string quartets.

young beethoven etching in 1804

And often a soloist pulls up the quality, so perhaps a faculty soloist would be a good addition.

But soloist or not, it is well worth hearing.

So The Ear highly encourages orchestral fans to go. The next performance is on Thursday, March 17, at 7:30 p.m. in Mills Hall. No program is listed yet. But write the concert into your datebooks. You’ll be happy you did.


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