Thursday, July 30, 2009

More on OITP...and Faust

Maestro John DeMain and soprano Lisa Daltirus. (Photo by James Gill)

If you check out 77 Square today, you'll see a big spread on Opera in the Park in the "Seen" column. Rob Thomas writes, "...thousands gathered on the park hill to enjoy a free evening of terrific music." Nice pictures accompany the piece, though none of any singers!

Shifting gears for a moment, remember that little opera we did back in May? Well, the last review has finally come in for Faust. Opera News, the leading US opera magazine, has published their review of the Madison Opera production and the word is good. Or I should say, the words are good: "intelligent... stirring... excellent... terrific... rewarding." Wow! We're collectively blushing, but of course more than a little proud.

Monday, July 27, 2009

Photo by Madison Guy

Check out the Opera in the Park post on Letter from Here, a great blog-stop for all things Madison (politics, nature, the arts), with posts usually accompanied by really incredible photography. The picture above is ample evidence (the full Opera in the Park slideshow by "Madison Guy" Peter Patau is on Flickr).

Oh what a night

Wow! Opera in the Park was a huge success! Who to thank first? The weather gods? Our fantastic crew? Volunteers? Sponsors? The thousands who showed up? As a first-time Opera in the Park staffer, I am simply in awe of the forces that cooperated on Saturday to make such a wonderful show happen, for free, for such a large crowd. I'll be posting more photos and accounts of the event over the next few days, but for now, a big thank you to everyone. Check out the reviews below, and if you have photos, videos, or comments, please send them along or post to our Facebook page.

77 Square: "Just about perfect...The performances: From beginning to end, of the highest quality."

The Isthmus: "With the rain holding off virtually to program's end, this year's Opera in the Park benefited from beautifully mild weather, drawing another audience of enthusiastic thousands gathered at Garner Park...The four guest singers were all excellent vocalists..."

Saturday, July 25, 2009

It's on!

After an afternoon of storm tracking, we can now officially confirm that Opera in the Park is definitely on for tonight, Saturday, July 25 at 8 p.m. in Garner Park! And what a night it looks like we'll have!

The threat of rain earlier in the day did not keep these hardcore fans from setting up their blankets at the crack of dawn (photos taken at 7 a.m.!):

This person asked not to labeled "crazy" for setting up her blanket under one of our load-in trucks: she knew it would roll on out of the way later in the day, leaving a great view for the concert! I was warned Opera in the Park fans were intense; the crack-of-dawn-blanket-throw-down certainly confirmed that.

Friday, July 24, 2009

Getting ready

Our crew is busy working to get Garner Park ready for Opera in the Park tomorrow night. Here are some time-lapse images of the stage going up yesterday (click to enlarge).

Thursday, July 23, 2009


Our fearless leader Allan Naplan was up bright and early this morning in Garner Park to talk with WKOW 27 Morning News. Catch Allan on NBC15 News at 4 today with soprano Lisa Daltirus, and live from the park again tomorrow morning on WISC TV.

Tuesday, July 21, 2009

Prepare for OITP

Per a request on Facebook, here's a guide to most of the music you'll hear this Saturday at Opera in the Park. Get excited and know your stuff!

Gioachino Rossini: Overture from Il Viaggio a Reims
  • Premiered in 1825, this is Rossini's last opera in the Italian language and features music considered his most grand. The plot revolves around a group of guests at an inn en route to the coronation of King Charles X of France, for whom the work was written.
  • About / Video
Rossini: "Una voce poco fa" from Il Barbiere di Siviglia
  • Premiered in 1816, Il Barbiere di Siviglia--based on Beaumarchais's comedy--remains Rossini's most popular work (the Overture alone has appeared in countless commercials). This aria is sung by sweet and saucy Rosina upon her entrance. She is the object of both Dr. Bartolo and Count Almaviva's affection, and it is only with the help of Figaro that she ends up with her true love in the end.
  • Lyrics / Video
Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart: Champagne Aria and "La ci darem la mano" from Don Giovanni
  • Mozart's 1787 masterpiece is based on the legend of the amoral womanizer Don Juan. Throughout the opera he celebrates his seductions, though in the end he faces harsh judgement.
  • Champagne Aria: Lyrics / Video
  • "La ci darem la mano": Lyrics / Video
Giacomo Puccini: "Recondita armonia" from Tosca
  • One of Puccini's most popular works, Tosca premiered in 1900. The opera follows the singer Floria Tosca and the painter Mario Cavaradossi as their love is interupted by misplaced jealousy, political intrigue, one really evil dude and ultimately death. "Recondita armonia" is Cavaradossi's early aria that compares a painting of Mary Magdalene he is working on to the beautiful Tosca.
  • Lyrics / Video
Giuseppe Verdi: "O patria mia" from Aida
  • This is Verdi at his most spectacular, in 1871. Here's the Wikipedia plot overview: "Aida, an Ethiopian princess, is captured and brought into slavery in Egypt. A military commander, Radames, struggles to choose between his love for her and his loyalty to the Pharaoh. To complicate the story further, Radames is loved by the Pharaoh's daughter Amneris, although he does not return her feelings." Aida's Act III aria "O patria mia" is sung as she waits to meet with Radames for their escape.
  • Lyrics / Video
Verdi: "Io morro" from Don Carlos
  • Originally written in French in 1867, the Italian version of Don Carlos did not premiere until 1884. This is Verdi's longest opera: unwinding the problems that ensue when the son of the King of Spain (Don Carlos) falls madly in love with his stepmother can take a while. The aria "Io morro" is sung by Rodrigo, a confidante of Carlos, as he dies for his friend.
  • Lyrics / Video
Georges Bizet: Seguidilla and duet, Flower Song, and Toreador Song from Carmen
  • As our press materials advertise for next season, this is Bizet's classic tragedy of love and lust in Seville. The 1875 opera-comique contains perhaps some of the world's best known melodies. As for the plot, well, let's see: gypsy girl Carmen successfully seduces corporal Don Jose (with the Seguidilla), then bullfighter Escamillo (Toreador Song) and Jose (Flower Song) both have their shot at seducing Carmen with mixed results. Hearts are tortured, knives fly, bandits, bulls,'s wonderful.
  • Seguidilla: Lyrics / Video
  • Flower Song: Lyrics / Video
  • Toreador Song: Lyrics / Video
Pietro Mascagni: "Innegiamo" from Cavalleria Rusticana
  • Marking the beginning of verismo opera in 1890, Mascagni's one-act Cavalleria set the stage for Puccini's dominance in the following decades. Set in a small Sicilian village on Easter morning, "Rustic Chivalry" traces the betrayal of two lovers that ends in a deadly duel. "Innegiamo" is the beautiful Easter hymn at the center of the opera, sung by the betrayed peasant girl Santuzza and villagers.
  • About / Video
Richard Wagner: Overture, Senta's Ballad, and the Act III Chorus from The Flying Dutchman
  • Where to begin with Wagner? Loathed for his anti-semitism, hailed for revolutionizing opera. The debate over whether or not we can collectively separate the music from the man is still raging. Putting all that aside, in my book there is no overture more rousing than that for The Flying Dutchman, one of Wagner's early works from 1843. Fingers crossed the stormy music is not matched by the weather! Click, read, watch, listen and decide for yourself.
  • About / Video: Overture / Video: Senta's Ballad
As for the rest of the program, you can look forward to:
  • "Be my love" from The Toast of New Orleans (Brodzsky/Cahn)
  • "Vilja" from The Merry Widow (Lehar)
  • "So in love" and "Wunderbar" from Kiss Me, Kate (Porter/Bennett)
  • "Music of the Night" from Phantom of the Opera (Webber/Hart)
  • "Stars" from Les Miserables (Schonberg/Boublil)
  • "You'll never walk alone" from Carousel (Rodgers/Hammerstein)

Catching up with Beth, Director of Development

Madison Opera's director of development is the wonderful Lizabeth Tolles. Ever since my first day at Madison Opera, Beth has been telling me how cool Opera in the Park is. It's her favorite event of the year, and here's what she has to say:

MOB: How many Opera in the Park concerts have you participated in?
Beth: This will be my fourth OITP as an employee of Madison Opera. I also attended the event twice as a "civilian."

MOB: What is the greatest challenge in planning OITP?
Beth: From my perspective, it is always a challenge to plan for a non-ticketed event as we really have no idea of what the audience size will actually turn out to be.

MOB: Why do you think sponsors have maintained a strong interest in OITP this year, despite the economic climate?
Beth: Sponsors and supporters realize that OITP is much more than just a concert. It is truly a community building event. Imagine sitting with over 13,000 audience members in a beautiful park on a warm summer evening. Incredible music fills the air and fellowship fills the park. Attendees cover all demographics. Everyone is extremely attentive; the event is about the music coming from the stage as professional opera singers are joined by talented local musicians. With the concert's free admission, popular repertoire and relaxed "wear your jeans and bring a picnic" setting, it attracts a significant number of audience members who might otherwise not be inclined and/or able to attend mainstage productions. The great majority of our sponsors return year after year because they appreciate what an investment in community OITP truly is for all concerned. Especially in these economic times, it is a joy to be able to offer such an incredible evening to the public at no charge. We are grateful to our sponsors and donors for making it possible.

MOB: What is your favorite OITP memory?
Beth: My favorite OITP memory is the first time I saw the entire park "glowing" as the audience joined Maestro DeMain in conducting with their light sticks. I turned my back to the stage and just peered out into the park. It was like an ocean of glowing waves undulating throughout the park. Breathtaking! And yes, I always help conduct with my own light stick. I consider it a duty. Gotta keep the orchestra on track, right!?

Monday, July 20, 2009

Previews in the papers

Opera in the Park 2009 was all over the Sunday State Journal. In case you missed it, read Tom Alesia's preview here. He spoke with tenor Adam Diegel and General Director Allan Naplan for a great story on how we bring in the best talent from around the country for this special night of free opera. Earlier last week, Madison Opera's 2009/2010 Season and Opera in the Park 2009 were featured in the classical season preview in the Isthmus.

Thursday, July 16, 2009

Catching up with Karra, OITP Coordinator

Opera in the Park volunteers

Opera in the Park is a logistical beast, and the person who ties all of the loose ends together to make it happen is the event coordinator. For the past three years that has been Karra Liddicoat, a UW Madison graduate in Theater and Drama who first started assistant stage managing for Madison Opera back in 1998. I caught up with Karra this morning to get her perspective on organizing Opera in the Park.

MOB: What are your top three priorities at this point in the planning stage for Opera in the Park?
Karra: The top three priorities at this point are:
1. Adding the final few volunteers to my volunteer team.
2. Confirming the arrival times for all the "pieces" of this event. I begin contacting the vendors (stage, power, tents, porta-potties, etc.) in January, so there have been a few months between when I set up the contract and now. It's good for everyone to remember what we talked about three to six months ago!
3. Preparing myself to delegate on both Friday and Saturday [of the event]. It is my job to know what needs to be done and then be willing and ready to hand out tasks to the great staff and volunteers we have.

MOB: What will be your top three priorities the day of the concert?
Karra: 1. Volunteers will be my number one priority on show day. I really try to greet and thank everyone I can because I appreciate the work they do and it helps me get to know them year after year. I also want to make sure that all the planning I did to organize the volunteers is working well.
2. Fielding questions and addressing them as they come in is my second priority. We all do a plethora of planning for the event, but there will always be items that may need to be addressed later and it's my job to make sure we get them answered and taken care of.
3. Making notes on what went well and what needs to be changed or planned differently next year. For me, it is best to make notes while they are still fresh in my mind.

MOB: What's the hardest part about managing a crowd of over 13,000?
Karra: The first year I worked on this event, the audience number was a bit intimidating. But we honestly bring in the most wonderful patrons, and once I experienced that my first year, I haven't worried about "managing" them since.

MOB: Do you have a favorite OITP memory?
Karra: As a result of working on this event on my own for many months, my favorite part of OITP is watching it all come together. It is a long planning process but seeing the sunset as the audience dines on their picnics while listening to beautiful music is truly the ultimate reward.

Tuesday, July 14, 2009

Happy Bastille Day!

It's Bastille Day! I thought it appropriate to join in with the French as we are presenting our second consecutive French opera with Carmen in the fall (Gounod's Faust just ran in May). If you were in Madison this past weekend, La Fete de Marquette offered the perfect opportunity to celebrate. However if I were in Paris today I think I would "storm" (too easy) the Opera Bastille to catch the final performance of Anselm Kiefer and Jörg Widmann's new opera, Am Anfang ("In the Beginning").

Thursday, July 9, 2009

The OITP 2009 Program

Opera in the Park is fast approaching, so here's a glimpse of the program. In addition to excerpts from our upcoming mainstage productions of Carmen (Seguidilla/Flower Song/Toreador Song) and The Flying Dutchman (Overture/Senta's Ballad/Act III Chorus), the 2009 program will feature:
  • Il Viaggio a Reims (Overture)
  • Il Barbiere di Siviglia (Un voce poco fa)
  • Don Giovanni (Champagne Aria/La ci darem la mano)
  • Tosca (Recondita armonia)
  • Aida (O patria mia)
  • Don Carlos (Io morro)
  • Cavalleria Rusticana (Inneggiamo)
  • The Merry Widow (Vilja)
There will also be plenty of Broadway featured, with songs from Kiss Me, Kate, The Phantom of the Opera, Les Miserables, and Carousel.

Monday, July 6, 2009

"Break a leg" (literally)

It had to happen sometime, and perhaps it has happened before, but surely never in such spectacular style: American mezzo-soprano Joyce DiDonato fractured her fibula during a performance of Il Barbiere di Siviglia at the Royal Opera House in London Saturday night, giving painful life to the phrase "break a leg." Read all about it on her blog. You'll notice the title of her latest post is "And the show went on" because Ms. DiDonato in fact continued to perform for three hours before going to the hospital! And the word today is that she will finish this run of Barbiere in London with leg in cast. Already a widely admired, international star noted for her passion and professionalism (and of course, uniquely beautiful voice), this act of artistic and physical courage will surely secure her spot in operatic history.

Readers of The MadOpera Blog may remember that DiDonato was in Madison last November to attend Madama Butterfly, conducted by her husband, Maestro Leonardo Vordoni. Her photographs of that production are on Flickr.

Thursday, July 2, 2009

Opera in the Park memories

The 8th annual Opera in the Park is just 3 weeks away! This will be my first OITP experience, having only arrived in Madison last August, but I know Madison Opera fans have many fond memories of this magical summer night of music under the stars...and we'd love to here them! Post your favorite OITP memories in the comment section here on the blog, or post to our Facebook page.

Wednesday, July 1, 2009

The role of the critic

Keeping with the theme of yesterday's post, I thought I'd share two very recent writings on the role of the critic, coming from two of the best out there:
  1. Tim Page, "The Education of a Critic," Opera News (July 2009).
  2. Anne Midgette, "Do Critics Matter?," The Washington Post (The Classical Beat blog, July 1, 2009).
Puliter Prize-winner Tim Page is a professor of journalism at USC and the former chief classical music critic at The Washington Post; Anne Midgette is his successor in Washington. I'll leave it at that. If I elaborate this will begin reading like a PR person's fantasy.