Friday, March 27, 2009

Naplan named one of Madison's "40 Under 40"

Congrats to our General Director Allan Naplan for recently being named one of Madison's "40 Under 40" honorees for 2009 by In Business magazine. You can read all about it on the In Business site and on Words of wisdom from Allan:
Do what you do because you love doing it. While no one gets rich working in non-profit arts management, the reward of creating good art, inspiring creativity and making a positive impact on the culture of a community is something I love to do and something that goes well-beyond the paycheck.

Thursday, March 26, 2009

Aria Focus: "Le veau d'or"

"Le veau d'or," or "The Song of the Golden Calf," is sung by Mephistopheles in Act II of Faust. It contains some of Gounod's most recognizable (and frightening) music and is a masterpiece of succinct characterization; you very quickly fear this guy. At this point in the plot, Mephistopheles has already revealed himself to Faust, and the infamous pact has been made: the weary scholar trades his soul to the devil for youth. Act II then opens with the famous "Kermesse," or carnival scene, with throngs of students and villagers drinking and celebrating. Mephistopheles arrives, a sinister outsider, and sings "Le veau d'or," his cynical manifesto on mankind, and his powers are gradually discovered (find an extra-detailed summary here). I've included a recording of the piece below by Boris Christoff with the Paris Opera Orchestra under Andre Cluytens, along with the lyrics in English. Beneath that there's another interpretation by Bryn Terfel at Covent Garden. Enjoy, and check back in the coming weeks for more "Focus" selections from Faust.

The calf of gold is still standing!
One adulates his power,
One adulates his power,
From one end of the world to the other end!
To celebrate the infamous idol,
Kings and the people mixed together,
To the somber sound of golden coins,
They danse a wild round
Around his pedestal
Around his pedestal
And Satan leads the dance, etc, etc.

The calf of gold is the victor over the gods!
In its derisory (absurde) glory,
In its derisory (absurde) glory,
The abject monster insults heaven!
It contemplates, oh weird frenzy!
At his feet the human race,
Hurling itself about, iron in hand,
In blood and in the mire,
Where gleams the burning metal,
Where gleams the burning metal,
And satan leads the dance, etc.

[Translation from AriaDatabase]

Faust: Click/Read/Watch/Listen

You can now view our compendium of online scores, librettos, articles, videos, and recommended recordings, DVDs, and books related to Gounod's Faust. One stop shopping for everything you need to know about the opera!

Monday, March 23, 2009

Eye on the Cast: David Pittsinger

It's round 3 of "Eye on the Cast," this time for Faust. I wrote about bass David Pittsinger earlier in the year, during his first run on Broadway in the Tony-winning revival of South Pacific. Now he's at it again, taking the Broadway stage as Emile De Becque until April 12. You can read more about Pittsinger and his decision to give up a gig at the Met for South Pacific in this recent Hartford Courant feature. After Pittsinger sings Mephistopheles in Faust with Madison Opera in May, he'll head back to Broadway, but not surprisingly the Met has come calling again: next season he'll make appearances in Alban Burg's Lulu and Mozart's The Magic Flute at the famed New York institution.

Wednesday, March 18, 2009

A new twist on Cosi

This is genius! Underworld Productions in New York offers a Cosi for the American Idol-era:

UP’s "Così" sticks with the original until the very end, when it introduces a little modern mischief that the impish Mozart might have relished. The opera is a comedy of three men, three women, a little fiancé-swapping, a wedding and the unanswered question of who is marrying whom. Underworld Productions will ask audience members to pair up the characters for the final wedding scene. Electronic voting will take place at intermission, and the cast will respond by implementing the favored ending.

Read more here.

Tuesday, March 17, 2009

New Facebook page

Madison Opera has a new and improved Facebook page. Before, we functioned as a "group" on Facebook that people became "members" of, but now we are an officially registered organization that people can become "fans" of. It's a little confusing, but basically pages are a more recent phenomenon that allow for lots of cool things. For instance, after I write this, it will show up on our new Facebook page. After I post a video to YouTube, it will show up on Facebook. Our event listings are neater on the new page, and it also allows for the rapid fire sharing of links and photos and any thought that crosses my mind, really, sort of like Twitter (but I'm not going there quite yet). On the surface it all looks the same (website, blog, Facebook), and in many ways the information is the same, but it's being presented differently, and with different levels of user intereaction (Facebook being the most interactive, the website being the least). So take the plunge, and become an official fan of Madison Opera at our Facebook page!

Monday, March 16, 2009

Cosi round-up

It's always sad when a production ends, but as the couples sing at the conclusion of Cosi fan Tutte, "Happy is the man who looks / At everything on the bright side." And that's pretty easy to do right now: audiences loved it, as did the critics (click here and here to read reviews), and we sold out the Capitol Theater for both performances. Onward and upward to Faust!

UPDATE (12:13 p.m.): A review from The Isthmus is now posted here. "Madison Opera's production of Mozart's Così fan tutte ('All women are like that'), was a musical feast and a visual delight, ideally fitted to Overture Center's Capitol Theater."

Photos by James Gill.

Saturday, March 14, 2009

State Journal: "Superb cast unwinds Mozart's comedy"

The Cosi fan Tutte cast after the show

The first review is in from the Wisconsin State Journal and the entire cast gets kudos for a "well sung, well acted, well staged, nicely directed, and intelligently played" production of Cosi. Most importantly, the sold-out crowd in the Capitol Theater was loving it, laughing heartily and clearly enchanted by the music. Can't wait for Sunday!

Friday, March 13, 2009

Mozart storms Madison...tonight!

I won't hold a sword to you or anything like that, but I will say that we're 99% sold for performances of Cosi fan Tutte tonight and Sunday: this is your last chance!

Thursday, March 12, 2009

"I never knew opera could be funny"

Waiting in the Overture Center lobby for my ride after the dress rehearsal last night, I overheard a high-school aged student (likely an orchestra member's kid) in conversation actually say, "I never knew opera could be funny." It may have been more like, "Like, seriously, I never knew opera could be funny, and I mean, I LOVE Mozart." It was music to my ears...seriously.

Brush up your Mozart

Curtain call for the principals at last night's dress rehearsal for Cosi

"Opera Up Close: The Cosi fan Tutte Preview" is now available online. Brush up your Mozart before tomorrow night by viewing the presentation here (you'll be asked to open the file; just click OK and it will start playing in your RealPlayer).

Wednesday, March 11, 2009

Scenes from Tuesday

Last night was the first dress rehearsal with full orchestra in the Capitol Theater. I snapped the above photo before things got underway in the beautiful space. Check out more scenes from yesterday below:

Tuesday, March 10, 2009

Happy Birthday, Lorenzo!

Lorenzo da Ponte--the infamous librettist of Cosi fan Tutte, Le Nozze di Figaro, and Don Giovanni--turns 260 today! A nod to Milan-based opera blogger OperaChic for the heads-up, and I think her words are most appropriate for the occasion:

On March 10 -- of the year 1749, but it doesn't really matter because his art is still so present and his genius is still so new -- Emanuele Conegliano was born, son of Rachele and Geremia, brother of Baruch and Anania, the future Lorenzo Da Ponte, Abate Da Ponte, lecherous priest, brothel owner, poet, court librettist for Mozart and Salieri, writer of that trilogy, naturalized American citizen and New Yorker (he used to call his adoptive city "Nova Iorca", which Opera Chic finds terribly cool), impresario, Bowery grocer, Columbia University professor, memoirist, Greatest Italian Playwright Who Ever Lived (and that includes Goldoni and Pirandello).

Cosi in the press

"It's a battle of the sexes in Mozart's Cosi." Lindsay Christians talks to director Kristine McIntyre and conductor Kelly Kuo for 77 Square.

"A rising star returns home." Brava Magazine profiles soprano Mary Mackenzie.

Production week

I have not been writing nearly as much as I would like the last few weeks, but as it sometimes happens, along with Cosi being in production, a few other projects have landed at the same time (namely, it's also the time of year when most of our grant applications are due). But here's a fun shot of wig-fittings in our offices from last Friday morning.

Despina gets her locks.

Before rehearsal tonight, our High School Apprentices will be dining with Mary Mackenzie (pictured above) to learn about her path as a singer from Madison to New York. As someone in the early stages of her career, I think it will be a great learning experience for the high school juniors as they consider their college application choices.

Tomorrow night is the final dress for Cosi, and Friday the curtain goes up. Reports from rehearsals have been glowing, and I can't wait to see the final product. We're almost sold out, so I suggest clicking or calling for tickets today!

Friday, March 6, 2009

Wednesday, March 4, 2009

Notes on Cosi

The cast has been working through Act II this week and are set to finish up tomorrow. Friday night they're scheduled for the first full run through, after which our hardworking and incredibly efficient production crew will be unloading the Cosi sets into the Capitol Theater. Next week starts with a piano tech rehearsal on Sunday, which is sort of a big practice for everyone minus the orchestra: the singers feel out the sets and the auditorium, while the crew and designers tweak lighting and get used to placing props, etc. Monday afternoon will be the sitzprobe, with a piano dress rehearsal that night, followed by orchestra dress rehearsals on Tuesday and Wednesday. And then Friday night, it's showtime. Tickets are a hot commodity, so hurry to the box office before it's too late!

On another note, I've been typing out goofy names like "Guglielmo" and "Fiordiligi," and even "Cosi fan Tutte," for months now, so this is well overdue. Click the links below to hear how these names and titles are all pronounced:
Find more opera pronunciations here courtesy of Arizona Opera.

Check back tomorrow afternoon for Madison Opera's latest YouTube installment.

Monday, March 2, 2009

"What happens in Naples, stays in Naples"

If you were at Opera Up Close yesterday, you'll know what I'm talking about in the post title. General Director Allan Naplan's preview of Cosi fan Tutte was a hit, and asides from all of the laughing the audience did, they surely learned a ton too. We were transported to Salzburg and Vienna, and learned of Mozart's great gifts as a child. We saw the progression of his operatic writing, and learned that Cosi was commissioned by Emperor Joseph II, who likely provided the idea for the plot based on a story he heard while at war with the Turks.

Did you know that Cosi was Jacqueline Kennedy's favorite opera? Well, that came up too, with Allan providing exciting (photoshopped) footage of an infamous incident at one of Kennedy's "Concerts for Young People": during a performance of Cosi at the White House, Ferrando's turban caught fire on a wall sconce. And pictured above is the start of the segment "From Ten Chimneys to the Met," a special exploration of Wisconsin native Alfred Lunt's historic production of Cosi fan Tutte for the Metropolitan Opera, which is largely responsible for reviving the work's popularity in the US. With never before released images from the Met, Allan shed light on Lunt's masterful interpretation and his comic dealings with opera singers (he at one point said their acting was like "cold, rancid oatmeal").

And that was just the first half of the presentation. After intermission, conductor Kelly Kuo and director Kristine McIntyre came out to talk about their views on Cosi. Kelly demonstrated on the keyboard how recitative in Mozart operas works much like accompaniment for silent movies. He also clued us in on why he thinks certain woodwind instruments in the orchestra represent different characters in the opera.

Kristine spoke about the comedy in Cosi, relating it to smarter, more subtle sitcoms like Frasier because it's about fairly normal--if exceptionally witty--people finding themselves in extraordinary situations. She says she has emphasized to the cast that the action takes place in Naples, which at the time was a seaside resort ("It's summer, it's warm, you're away from home on vacation..."); in essence, the characters adopt a "What happens in Naples, stays in Naples" mentality, which allows for them to act outside their typical behavior, to be extra flirty and silly. But actions have consequences, and that is where the line between comedy and drama blurs in Cosi. This conversation led to a discussion of the opera's ambiguous ending. There is a question as to whether the couples end up back together in their original formation, or whether they have switched, or whether anyone gets together at all; one's interpretation of this represents how seriously one takes the notion of forgiveness in the opera. Our director takes it seriously, but you'll have to see what exactly that means onstage for yourself.

The next Opera Up Close will be for Faust, on Sunday, May 10, from 4-6 p.m. at MMoCA.