Tuesday, December 30, 2008

Madison native joins "Cosi" cast

Soprano Mary Elizabeth Mackenzie will sing Despina in Madison Opera's 2008/2009 Season production of Cosi fan Tutte, March 13 and 15 in The Capitol Theater. Ms. Mackenzie replaces the previously announced Jamie Rose Guarrine in the role.

The performances will be something of a homecoming for Mary, who grew up in Madison, where she studied with voice professors at UW-Madison and performed with Wisconsin Youth Symphony Orchestras. She received her BM from the Cleveland Institute of Music and recently completed her master's in music at the Manhattan School of Music. Click here to visit her website, where you can read her complete bio and listen to audio samples.

Required reading

Michael Kaiser, President of the Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts, has written an important editorial in The Wahsington Post. Click here to read "No Bailout for the Arts?".

Monday, December 29, 2008

Madison Opera in local "best of" lists

Lucia di Lammermoor (2007/08 Season) was number three on the Wisconsin State Journal's top ten list of outstanding live shows or events in 2008. And in his year-end round up, classical music critic for The Isthmus John Barker says "Madison Opera had a particularly venturesome year," covering everything from "the novel and intimate...Tender Land" to "the demanding warhorse Lucia" and a "brave" production of Madama Butterfly.

It has indeed been an exciting year for Madison Opera; here's to an equally "venturesome" and successful 2009!

Monday, December 22, 2008

Happy Birthday, Giacomo!

Puccini turns 150 today, so we'll join the chorus in saying Tanti auguri di buon compleanno!

Wednesday, December 17, 2008

"Cosi" the movie

Cosi is the title of a very funny 1996 Australian film. A first-time director takes a job at a mental hospital, thinking he is organizing a variety show for the patients. Instead, they demand to do Cosi fan Tutte, and the mayhem that ensues is both touching and hilarious. The plot of the opera has been debated for centuries, and the same debate makes its way into the film: some characters see a true, human lesson on love unfolding, while others dismiss it as mysoginistic, dated, and ridiculous. Perhaps its both? Either way, the issues addressed in the opera inevitably begin to reveal themselves in the characters' real lives, and the culminating production is highly entertaining. A young Toni Collette and Rachel Griffiths are the stars you're likely to recognize, though I found the quirkier patients most amusing. Definitely worth a viewing! Click to find the DVD on Amazon.

Friday, December 12, 2008

How about some Melba toast?

A fascinating story comes via The Times: "Phantoms of opera Nellie Melba and Enrico Caruso break 100-year silence."

100 years ago at the Palais Garnier Opera House in Paris, 24 gramophone records were buried with the intention of teaching the world "[100 years from now] about the state of our talking machines and the voices of the principal singers of our times." Adding to the mystique of the "buried voices" project, The Phantom of the Opera (in original novel form) begins and ends in the vault in which the records were left.

The result of the 1907 project comes to a head now as the records have been unearthed and fully digitized online for all of us to enjoy. Click here for the French website that now hosts all of these files. Click here for the audio page where you can listen to Nellie Melba (of melba toast and peach melba fame), Enrico Caruso, and other opera stars of the late 19th and early 20th centuries. Truly amazing.

Thursday, December 11, 2008

Met Opera Broadcasts

Just in case you weren't aware, the Metropolitan Opera in New York broadcasts performances live on the radio around the world every Saturday afternoon. I've tuned in the last two weekends to WERN 88.7, which carries the broadcasts locally, to hear La damnation de Faust and Tristan und Isolde, and this weekend will feature Tchaikovsky's The Queen of Spades conducted by Seiji Ozawa and starring Ben Heppner and Maria Guleghina (starting 11:30 a.m.). The broadcasts have been a tradition since 1931, though we almost lost them in 2004 when Texaco ended its 64 year stint of underwriting the program. Luckily Toll Brothers has picked up the slack!

Click here for more information on the broadcasts.

Wednesday, December 10, 2008

The Capitol Theater

Our venue for Cosi fan Tutte is the gorgeous Capitol Theater. Now a significant part of the Overture Center for the Arts, the theater was built in 1928 and was last known as the Oscar Meyer Theater (Madison Opera's mainstage before Overture Hall opened in 2004). It's a gorgeous space, the perfect size and with ambience well matched to Mozart's music. To read about the renovations the Capitol recently underwent as part of the Overture Project, click here. Enjoy the pictures, the plush red velvet seats may just inspire you to hurry for your Cosi tickets!

(c) Eric Plautz

(c) Eric Oxendorf

The Grand Barton Organ still alive and well in the Capitol Theater.

Monday, December 8, 2008

Frank Lloyd Wright

Problems with the restoration of Wisconsin native Frank Lloyd Wright's Taliesin estate made the cover of the Wisconsin State Journal this Sunday, but more relevant to Madison Opera, check out this fascinating January 2008 article from Opera magazine on Wright's plans for an opera house in Baghdad. We even get a nod in the first paragraph! (See: "And though few architects actually make it into an opera, that happened in 1993 when Daron Hagen's Shining Brow (premiered by Madison Opera and since revived in several places) revisited the personal turmoil of an earlier phase in Wright's life...").

UPDATE 12/9: The second link in the original post above was accidentally set to the State Journal; it is now repaired and links to the Frank Lloyd Wright article in Opera magazine. Or just click here to get to that piece.

Friday, December 5, 2008

An eye on the Cosi cast

For the next few months I'll be keeping an eye on the activities of our cast for Cosi fan Tutte before they arrive in Madison.

Mezzo-soprano Michèle Losier, our Dorabella in Cosi, just finished up a run of Offenbach's Les Contes D'Hoffmann with Boston Lyric Opera, where she's garnered some really wonderful reviews for her portrayal of La Muse and Nicklausse:
Michèle Losier impressed with her consistently warm and lustrous tone as La Muse and Nicklausse. -The Boston Globe

...mezzo Michèle Losier nearly steals the show... -The Boston Herald
Up next for Michèle is a concert in Belgium and then Beethoven's 9th with the Seattle Symphony Orchestra, followed by her run here in Madison!

Thursday, December 4, 2008

DeMain at the Lyric

Butterfly has come and gone, and now it's time to start thinking of Cosi fan Tutte, our next production on March 13 & 15. In the meantime, I thought I should take a minute to point out the rave reviews Madison Opera's Artistic Director John DeMain has been getting for his Lyric Opera of Chicago debut with Porgy and Bess. The Chicago Tribune critic John von Rhein raves:
Not the least of the show's strengths is the conducting of John DeMain. His easy authority tells in every bluesy turn of phrase, in the smooth melding of stage and pit. What a luxury it is to hear George Gershwin's great score so sumptuously played by full orchestra.
Read more reviews here:
Congratulations are due to Maestro DeMain, "the definitive 'Porgy and Bess' maestro." Performances run until December 19; more information can be found on the Lyric website.