Friday, February 26, 2010

American skates to Carmen medley

American figure skater Mirai Nagasu skated a beautiful long program last night to a medley from Carmen, which drew both from Bizet's music directly and Sarasate's "Carmen Fantasy" for violin. Friends I was watching with were convinced it was the 1812 Overture, but I was able to pull the opera-employee card and kindly correct them. Much has been made of the music choices of figure skaters lately, both in the local and national press. For what it's worth, last night seemed to involve the least amount of synthesized voices, choppy cuts, and tacky re-mixes. Plus there were plenty of composers for classical fans to pick out (Bizet! Rachmaninoff! Saint-Saens! Gershwin!).

I think this is it for blog posts connecting the Olympics to opera, I'm frankly surprised I could squeeze out three. But if anyone out there can think of something else before Sunday, let us know in the comments section!

Wednesday, February 24, 2010

The Flying Dutchman On Ice

It isn't exactly what it sounds like (though opera on Lake Monona could be interesting): The Flying Dutchman is also a nickname for superstar Dutch speed skater Sven Kramer. You may remember that Sven won the 5,000m race on the first weekend of the present Olympics. You'll definitely remember that last night, he made a costly mistake--with the help of a confused coach--in the 10,000m race by incorrectly switching lanes. He was disqualified, losing his second gold medal and an Olympic record. The New York Times reports that the story is front page news in the Netherlands: according to one Dutch correspondent, “It’s a national tragedy. It’s all anybody’s talking about. A few days ago our prime minister stepped down, but it’s off the front pages because it’s all about Sven Kramer.” Something tells me The Flying Dutchman (the opera) on ice would actually sell in the Netherlands.

Friday, February 19, 2010

Maestro in Vancouver

As many of our readers already know, Madison Opera's artistic director John DeMain is currently in Vancouver. Rumor was that he would be competing in the Men's Snowboard Cross, but it turns out he is conducting the John Adams opera Nixon in China for Vancouver Opera. While at Houston Grand Opera, DeMain conducted the world premiere of this important work.

To learn more about the Maestro's activities in the Olympic city, check out Vancouver Opera's Nixon in China blog and Jake Stockinger's preview chat with DeMain. Performances of the opera take place in March, as part of Vancouver's Cultural Olympiad, and the latest word is that Maestro's hotel room overlooks the Olympic Village. Not quite Snowboard Cross, but the Nixon score does require athletic ability in its own right!

Wednesday, February 10, 2010

The Flying Dutchman: Click/Read/Watch/Listen

It's time to start prepping for The Flying Dutchman, Madison Opera's first-ever production of an opera by the revolutionary German composer Richard Wagner [pronounced Vahg-ner]. For this edition of Click/Read/Watch/Listen, I've decided to ditch the cumbersome PDF and offer all of our Dutchman-related links live on the blog. If you don't know anything about Wagner or this opera, the following articles and multimedia selections should provide an accessible introduction to the story and music of Dutchman, as well as to the composer's unique place in history. There's also plenty in here for the expert and devoted Wagnerite, so enjoy!

  • Title: Der fliegende Holländer (The Flying Dutchman)
  • Composer and Librettist: Richard Wagner (1813-1883)
  • Premiere: January 2, 1843 in Dresden
IntroductionDelving DeeperMultimedia
  • Video: OperaTalk! (San Diego Opera's introduction to The Flying Dutchman)
  • Video: Overture to The Flying Dutchman (Karl Bohm conducts)
  • Video: Senta's Ballad (featuring Turid Karlsen, Madison Opera's Senta)
  • Video: The Sailors' Chorus
POPera Connections
  • Audio: Jethro Tull, "The Flying Dutchman" (1979)
  • TV: "What's Opera Doc?" (1957 Warner Bros. classic opera spoof with music of The Flying Dutchman and other Wagner operas)
  • TV: Twilight Zone, "Death Ship" (1963)
  • TV: SpongeBob Squarepants, "Ghost Host" (The Flying Dutchman is a recurring character in ten episodes)
  • Movie: Pirates of the Caribbean (2006, Davy Jones captains The Dutchman)

Monday, February 8, 2010

Local fire chief also one time opera singer

Last week, Mount Horeb's longtime fire chief Charles Himsel passed away at the age of 67. The funeral for the beloved chief was held this morning, according to WKOW. Former Madison Opera General Director Ann Stanke reports the little known fact that Mr. Himsel also performed the role of Rinuccio in Puccini's Gianni Schicchi with Madison Opera in 1973. "He was an unschooled tenor with a beautiful voice and it was his first and probably only opera role. However, he acquitted himself admirably," she wrote today in an e-mail.

UPDATE: The Wisconsin State Journal covered today's funeral for "Fire truck Chuck" and mentions his performance with Madison Opera.

Wednesday, February 3, 2010

Overture Center brings money, jobs, downtown

The Overture Center for the Arts--of which Madison Opera is a resident organization--has released a study conducted by AMS Planning and Research that demonstrates the center's sizable financial impact on downtown Madison and Dane County.

Details of the study can be found on the Overture website and in today's Wisconsin State Journal.

A few highlights:

Since opening, nearly 1.8 million people have attended more than 2,200 Overture events.

Since opening, more than 500,000 people have attended resident organization performances.

In 2008 alone, Overture audiences spent an additional $9.8 million related to their attendance, above and beyond the price of tickets, including meals and lodging downtown.

Also in 2008, Overture Center activity helped generate nearly $4.5 million in tax revenues for state and local governments.

As a resident organization, we take pride in the positive impact Overture has had on the Madison community and in the world-class performances this unique space has allowed us to produce.

Monday, February 1, 2010

We've turned the screw, now it's time to fly!

Before we dive into The Flying Dutchman, here's a look at what the critics are saying about our new production of The Turn of the Screw, which had a four performance run in The Playhouse this past weekend...

"Richly theatrical...Gorgeous set and lighting designs make the story come alive while grounding it in fantasy." -The Capital Times

"It was brave and ambitious of the Madison Opera to choose Benjamin Britten's The Turn of the Screw for its mid-season production...In all, an absorbing production of a thought-provoking opera." -The Isthmus

"...the company knows how to mount a big production on a small stage...[they] pulled it off brilliantly...My advice if you don't have tickets: Find a scalper." -Channel 3000

"That intimacy [of the Playhouse] amplifies fine performances and it was a pleasure to watch the singers practice their craft so near. Anyone with a heart will thrill to soprano Caroline Worra...Her performance as the Governess is exhilarating."

"...ghostly projections on the gauze-like screens sometimes slowed down the action to an otherworldly effect. It was powerful and original use of visual imagery..." -The Well-Tempered Ear

Thank you to our incredible cast and creative team--audiences won't soon forget this powerful production!

All photos by James Gill.