Monday, November 9, 2015

Ten Questions with Eleni Calenos

Ten Questions With...

Eleni Calenos, soprano
Mimì in La Bohème






1.  Where were you born / raised? 
I was born and raised in Thessaloniki, Greece.

2.  If you weren't a singer, what profession would you be in?
I would be either an instrumentalist or a music teacher.  I can't imagine myself away from music.

3.  The first opera I was ever in was...
Hansel and Gretel (as the Mother in a college production), but my first substantial role was Mimì in La Bohème.

4.  My favorite opera is...
Madama Butterfly.

5.  My favorite pre/post-show meal is...
Before the show I try to have a meal that can sustain me for the performance and is relatively easy for digestion, which is usually some meat and salad.  Post-show favorites include warm soups, salads, and tea.

6.  People would be surprised to know that...
I have a degree / diploma in cello performance.

7.  A few of my favorite books are...
The War of Art by Steven Pressfield, Mastery by Robert Greene, Spiritual Exercises and Captain Michalis by Nikos Kazantzakis, and Love in the Time of Cholera by Gabriel Garcia Márquez.

8.  If we were to turn on your ipod right now, what five artists / songs would we see on you recently-played list?
Estrella Morente:  Volver
Maria Callas:  "Ecco l'orrido campo" from A Masked Ball
Amy Winehouse:  Love is a Losing Game
Debussy:  Clair de lune
The Beatles:  Black Bird.

9.  What is the worst costume you've ever worn?
Thankfully, I have never had to wear a bad costume.  However, I had to be dressed in winter attire (pants, sweater, boots, coat, and scarf) for a contemporary version of La Bohème in an outdoor performance in a New York park in the middle of July!

10.  Everyone should see La Bohème because....
The music is gorgeous and genius, and the story is universal and always current.  I believe there won't be a dry eye in the house.  Good enough reasons?

Bonus:  One question you wish someone would ask you (and the answer):
Q:  Do you have a favorite quote?
A:  One of my favorite quotes is "The heart that gives, gathers" from Lau Tzu, Tao Te Ching. 


Don't miss the chance to see Eleni in La Bohème, one of the greatest operas of all time!  Performances are November 13 and 15 in Overture Hall.  Tickets start at $18; visit madisonopera.org for more information.

Saturday, November 7, 2015

Ten Questions with Mackenzie Whitney

Ten Questions With...


Mackenzie Whitney, tenor
Rodolfo in La Bohème












1.  Where were you born / raised?
I was born and raised in Janesville, Iowa. 

2.  If you weren't a singer, what profession would you be in?
Well, my dad runs a small construction company, so maybe I would do that.  I enjoyed working in restaurants when I was in college, so maybe I would try opening my own place called "Karla's Kitchen," a restaurant filled with delicious food made from the recipes of my mother Karla. :)  Then again, maybe I would just move out to the mountains and live off the land; that could be exciting.


3.  The first opera I was ever in was... 
My first opera experience occurred at the University of Northern Iowa during the sophomore year of my undergraduate degree.  I was so green at that time, I didn't even have an aria to audition with.  I ended up singing the role of the scribe, Ezekiel Cheever, in The Crucible.  Word has it I sang a killer "hear ye!  hear ye!"

4.  My favorite opera is...

Oddly enough, I would have to say my favorite opera is La Bohème.  It's very easy for me to relate to the good and bad times of being a struggling artist, and Puccini makes that so accessible for all to see and feel.  And the tragic love story doesn't hurt either.

5.  My favorite pre/post-show meal is...
I've done a lot of experimenting with pre-show meals, and I've found that a nice piece of chicken with some rice and broccoli or something like that (bland and boring) is best.  That usually gives me enough energy without affecting my voice negatively.  I'll usually have an apple in between acts, and then once the show's over, bring on the hot wings!  Or pizza, I love pizza too... or some ribs maybe, or a big juicy burger!  Actually, I just love all food.


6.  People would be surprised to know that...

I alluded to it earlier, but I was a little late to the opera party.  It wasn't until college that I started taking an interest in it.  I've always been involved with music, but when I was in high school, sports actually took up most of my free time.  I was an all-conference point guard on my basketball team and at one point I could dunk a basketball!  Sadly, that small window of time where I could slam dunk a basketball has long been closed....

7.  A few of my favorite books are...
I think anyone my age has to include the Harry Potter books as some of their favorites.  I remember making my mom take me to Walmart the day of the release of the new book so I could stay up all night reading it.  Nowadays I enjoy reading crime fiction novels.

8.  If we were to turn on your ipod right now, what five artists/songs would we see on your recently-played list?
 

I would have to guess that you would find the Red Hot Chili Peppers, The Beatles, Bob Marley, Luciano Pavarotti, and maybe Neil Young.  My girlfriend and I recently listened to a Neil Young concert and discovered that Neil and I have very similar speaking voices....  It's made me think about adding "Harvest Moon" to my audition rep. :)

9.  What is the worst costume you've ever worn? Or if no such costume, what was the best costume? 

I'm going to take the Fifth on the worst costume, but the best costume I've ever worn would have to be the two costumes I wore in our production of Così fan tutte at the Academy of Vocal Arts.  It was an updated production set in the 1960s.  We were Marines in the beginning and returned later in the show disguised as hippies.  It was amazing to have such a great contrast and for both of them to be so striking!  We had very legitimate Marine uniforms and the hippy costumes were just amazing, fully-equipped with wigs, beards, tattered jeans, leather sandals, pink glasses, and Dashiki shirts.

10.  Everyone should see La Bohème because....

It's so easy to find a little bit of yourself in all of the characters.  We've all had moments in life where we are struggling to get by.  It's very important in those times to have great friends to help you find a way through.  Some of my best memories are when I had almost nothing to my name.  I think many people will remember those times when they see this opera.  And they'll remember their first loves and the passion both in love and hate that fuel those relationships.  The music gives such a clear vision to the stories of these characters.  It will greatly affect you if you give it a chance.

Bonus:  One question you wish someone would ask you (and the answer):

Q:  What are you watching on Netflix?

A:  The best thing I've recently finished was Lost, but currently I'm slowly making my way through Lawrence of Arabia.


Don't miss the chance to see Mack in La Bohème, one of the greatest operas of all time!  Performances are November 13 and 15 in Overture Hall.  Tickets start at $18; visit madisonopera.org for more information.

Friday, November 6, 2015

Ten Questions with Alan Dunbar

Ten Questions With...


Alan Dunbar, baritone
Schaunard, La Bohème







1.  Where were you born / raised? 
Born in Jefferson, NC, raised in Beaufort, SC.

2.  If you weren't a singer, what profession would you be in?
Woodworking / instrument-making.

3.  The first opera I was ever in was...
Candide (if you consider that an opera, which I do.  If not, then singing Alcindoro in La Bohème would be my first.)


4.  My favorite opera is...
Whichever one I'm currently performing.  Along with a few others - I can't pick just one.  Eugene Onegin, Dead Man Walking, Wozzeck, Bluebeard's Castle, and Le Nozze di Figaro would probably be my top five.  Although I do love Britten - maybe Peter Grimes and Midsummer Night's Dream, too.

5.  My favorite pre/post-show meal is...
Pre-show, something filling but not too rich or heavy.  Post-show, something salty and a good beer.

6.  People would be surprised to know that...
I never finished high school.  I have two advanced degrees, but no high school diploma or equivalency.

7.  A few of my favorite books are...
The Prince of Tides by Pat Conroy, The Soul of a Tree by George Nakashima, Language Older Than Words by Derrik Jensen, A Place of My Own by Michael Pollen, Mein Jahrhundert by Günter Grass.

8.  If we were to turn on your ipod right now, what five artists/songs would we see on your recently-played list?   
Paul Simon, Die Fantastischen Vier, Chris Thile, Max Raabe und sein Palast Orchester, and Chet Baker.

9.  What is the worst costume you've ever worn?   Or if not such costume, what was the best costume?
I had some fairly "blah" costumes, but none that were really horrible.  One of my favorites was my first Leporello - it was a new production, so everything was tailored for me.  They even spent exorbitant sums on custom-made shoes for my feet - but, sadly, I didn't get to keep them.

10.  Everyone should see La Bohème because....
The music is spectacular, especially the parts with that musician character, whatever his name is.  (Ed. note: It's Schaunard.)  

Don't miss the chance to see Alan in La Bohème, one of the greatest operas of all time!  Performances are November 13 and 15 in Overture Hall.  Tickets start at $18; visit madisonopera.org for more information.

Wednesday, November 4, 2015

Ten Questions with Emily Birsan

Ten Questions With...





Emily Birsan, soprano
Musetta in La Bohème









1.  Where were you born / raised? 
I was born in Appleton, Wisconsin, and moved around quite a big as a child to North Carolina, South Carolina, Iowa, and a few cities in Wisconsin.  I ended up in Neenah, Wisconsin, for middle school and high school, so I feel most connected to Fox Cities in Wisconsin.

2.  If you weren't a singer, what profession would you be in?
I think I would be in a profession involving working with people - a social worker, realtor, or development in a non-profit.

3.  The first opera I was ever in was...
The Magic Flute (in college!!  I was Pamina... totally memorable experience.)

4.  My favorite opera is...
Whatever I'm working on.  When you deem something your favorite, you want to look at it from all angles and figure out why it's so great...  It's a good challenge for whatever I'm working on.

5.  My favorite pre/post-show meal is...
Pre-show I like chicken and broccoli - something with protein (usually MEAT).  I like a good-size meal to sing on.  After a show, I crave popcorn and dark chocolate while I'm coming down from my adrenaline high.

6.  People would be surprised to know that...
I played the trombone in the band, jazz band, and marching band.

7.  A few of my favorite books are...
Mostly biographies - lately one about Egon Shiele, and anything by Thich Nhat Hanh.

8.  If we were to turn on your ipod right now, what five artists/songs would we see on your recently-played list?   
The Pandora radio station "Positive Hip Hop" for my workout, some Joni Mitchell, Nancy Wilson, Monteverdi madrigals, and usually a recording of whatever I'm working on.

9.  What is the worst costume you've ever worn?  Or if no such costume, what was the best costume?
I would say the answer to this was the best because it was the worst!!  I was the trainbearer in Strauss's Elektra in a new production at Lyric Opera of Chicago.  I had painted white skin, a leather corset, and a bald head with a little tuft of hair (a comb-over!) on top.

10.  Everyone should see La Bohème because....
It has stood the test of time for a good reason, combining amazing music with such a relatable story line about youth, love, and our hopes and dreams.

Bonus:  One question you wish someone would ask you (and the answer):

Q:  What new hobby did you just pick up?

A:  Major league baseball - learning about the ins and outs of the game, and picking out rookie players that shine.  AND painting!  I've been learning how to paint with acrylic and watercolor paints - it is quite fun!



Don't miss the chance to see Emily in La Bohème, one of the greatest operas of all time!  Performances are November 13 and 15 in Overture Hall.  Tickets start at $18; visit madisonopera.org for more information.

Monday, November 2, 2015

Ten Questions with Dan Kempson

Ten Questions With...



Dan Kempson, baritone
Marcello in La Bohème












1.  Where were you born / raised? 
I was born in Washington, D.C., and lived in Arlington, VA until I was 8, when my family moved to Wilton, CT.

2.  If you weren't a singer, what profession would you be in?
I have a dozen other lives I want to live.  I want to be a business / box office analyst for film, high school English teacher, management consultant, historical novelist, lawyer, political activities, journalist, restaurant manager, opera agent, film director....

3.  The first opera I was ever in was...
I sang Amahl in Amahl and the Night Visitors when I was 12, in a production that my church did.  The stage director told me I wasn't allowed to hit puberty until after closing night.


4.  My favorite opera is...
Tosca!  I know that Joseph Kerman called it a "shabby little shocker," but it's so much more than that.  Political strife, love, betrayal - and Act 2!  The cat-and-mouse game of Scarpia and Tosca is all about control vs. freedom, sex vs. love, the many shades of loyalty and courage, and how dirty we all get when fighting for what we believe in.

5.  My favorite pre/post-show meal is...
Before a show, I prefer something simple, like a sandwich.  After a show, I'm badly behaved, and will have a glass of wine (or two) and ice cream.

6.  People would be surprised to know that...
I have a twin sister, Emily - she's ten minutes older than I am, and you'd be hard-pressed to find a picture of me under the age of 5 that she isn't also in.  She's getting a Doctorate in Theology at Cambridge University right now.  We lead very different lives, as I like to tell people.

7.  A few of my favorite books are...
These days I'm concentrated on reading a lot of long-form journalism and current events.  I'd rather spend my reading time eating up the entire New York Times than read a novel.  I lead my whole life playing characters!  So weirdly, newspapers are my escape.  Michael Cunningham's A Home at the End of the World was a very important novel for me growing up, however. 

8.  If we were to turn on your ipod right now, what five artists/songs would we see on your recently-played list?
A little bit of everything.
1) Pink, "Just Give Me a Reason"
2) Queen, "Fat Bottomed Girls"
3) a This American Life podcast
4) Patti LuPone, "With One Look" from Sunset Boulevard
5) My little sister Abigail singing "Bel raggio lusinghier" from Bellini's Semiramide - she's a soprano in the grad program at Westminster Choir College.

9.  What is the worst costume you've ever worn?
Not worst, but how about complicated?  When I sang Papageno in The Magic Flute at Seagle Music Colony in 2008, I had a 4-foot feathered tail that was connected to me with an elaborate system of clips, belts, and harnesses.  I couldn't easily sit down backstage, so I spent my time leaning on tables.  The whole thing took about 12 minutes to get in or out of.  Intermission was 25 minutes long, so after Act One, I would walk offstage, a costume assistant would unfasten me, and I'd get a bathroom break of 60 seconds.  Then we'd put the whole thing back on and I'd walk onstage just in time for the downbeat! 

10.  Everyone should see La Bohème because...
The music is among the most beautiful ever written, but what pulls me back again and again is the fact that the characters are young people discovering themselves, the world, and who they are in that world.  Bohème is about the fight between "what's right" and your gut feelings - Rodolfo and Mimi love each other, but they also know that they aren't always their best selves with each other.  It's also about being an artist and struggling to be a person outside of your art - each of the four friends finds a different way to do that. 

Bonus:  One question you wish someone would ask you (and the answer):
Just the important things:  My favorite candy is Reese's peanut butter cups and my favorite ice cream is Ben & Jerry's Americone Dream.  I kid.  People always ask, "Where do you live?"  I technically live in New York City, but I've only slept in my apartment for about four weeks since 2013.  I'm looking forward to my home and my bed after this production of Bohème!!

P.S.  And I feel like I should mention my third sibling, since the other two got shout-outs - hey, Peter! 

Don't miss the chance to see Dan in La Bohème, one of the greatest operas of all time!  Performances are November 13 and 15 in Overture Hall.  Tickets start at $18; visit madisonopera.org for more information.

Wednesday, October 28, 2015

Ten Questions with Liam Moran

Ten Questions With...


Liam Moran, bass
Colline in La Bohème



1.  Where were you born / raised?
I was born and raised in Brookline, Massachusetts, but am now a proud Dairy Stater, living with my wife and two kids in La Crosse. 

2.  If you weren't a singer, what profession would you be in?
Professional soccer player, if I were good enough, which I'm not!  I'd love to say a chef but would hate the hours.  More likely law or education.

3.  The first opera I was ever in was... 
Falstaff, in the chorus at Tanglewood when I was in high school.  I've known that fugue since I was 16.

4.  My favorite opera is...

Depends on way day you ask me.  Could be... L'Incoronazione di Poppea, Le Nozze di Figaro, Carmen, Don Carlo, The Rake's Progress, Eugene Onegin, Nixon in China, St. François... you get the idea.

5.  My favorite pre/post-show meal is...
Pre-show, anything spicy.  Post-show is the same, except with a Guinness.


6.  People would be surprised to know that...

I can't wink my left eye.  The right isn't so great either.

7.  A few of my favorite books are...
The Brothers Karamazov, All the King's Men, Me Talk Pretty One Day, and Thinking, Fast and Slow.

8.  If we were to turn on your ipod right now, what five artists/songs would we see on your recently-played list?

You'd see mostly podcasts- Snap Judgment, Wait Wait, Don't Tell Me, This American Life.  As for music you'd see mostly soul and R&B: Otis Redding, Nina Simone, Stevie Wonder, and lots of Tribe Called Quest.

9.  What is the worst costume you've ever worn? Or if no such costume, what was the best costume?
The answer to both was the Bonze costume from the Sydney Opera production of Madama Butterfly, which involved lots of red body paint and a bald pate.  It looked super cool but took several extremely uncomfortable hours to put on and take off.


10.  Everyone should see La Bohème because....

It's got everything- humor, pathos, soaring music, nuanced drama, all under two hours.  (Ed. note:  plus intermission.)

Bonus:  One question you wish someone would ask you (and the answer):

These days, with an infant and a toddler in our house, the question is would you like some coffee?  The answer will always be "yes."


Don't miss the chance to see Liam in La Bohème, one of the greatest operas of all time!  Performances are November 13 and 15 in Overture Hall.  Tickets start at $18; visit madisonopera.org for more information.

Tuesday, October 27, 2015

Ten Questions with Evan Ross

Ten Questions With...


Evan Ross, bass
Benoit / Alcindoro in La Bohème







1.  Where were you born / raised?
I was raised in Bloomfield Hills, Michigan, a suburb of Detroit.  My wife and I moved back to Michigan after grad school in Boston and have been living here ever since. 

2.  If you weren't a singer, what profession would you be in?
I would be a chef and restauranteur.  I have always loved food and love to cook.  I also watch a lot of food TV.


3.  The first opera I was ever in was... 
Massenet's Cendrillon.  I was in the chorus in my undergrad.  My professional debut was as the Marchese d'Obigny in La Traviata with Michigan Opera Theater.

4.  My favorite opera is...

Verdi's Falstaff.  You can't go wrong with Verdi and Shakespeare together.  The way that Verdi writes for the voice and the comedy in the score are both thrilling to me.  Ending with that fugue was a stroke of brilliance.

5.  My favorite pre/post-show meal is...
I'm not a big eater before a show, so I am usually ravenous afterwards.  I need some protein and carbs to re-charge me after the show, but I don't have a set meal.


6.  People would be surprised to know that...

All of my height is in my torso.  I have the same length legs as my wife and she is a full foot shorter than me.

7.  A few of my favorite books are...
I like to read mystery novels and biographies.

8.  If we were to turn on your ipod right now, what five artists/songs would we see on your recently-played list?
 

I don't actually listen to music all that often, which I know is surprising.  I am more likely to listen to a book on tape or a podcast.

9.  What is the worst costume you've ever worn? Or if no such costume, what was the best costume? 

My oddest costume was when I was playing a cat in Ravel's L'Enfant et les Sortilèges.  I wore a spandex bodysuit with a full body mohawk made from a dryer vent.  I felt very exposed!

10.  Everyone should see La Bohème because....

It has one of the most gorgeous scores ever written and really makes you invested in the characters.


Don't miss the chance to see Evan in La Bohème, one of the greatest operas of all time!  Performances are November 13 and 15 in Overture Hall.  Tickets start at $18; visit madisonopera.org for more information.

Monday, October 26, 2015

Ten Questions with David Lefkowich

Ten Questions With...



David Lefkowich
Stage Director of La Bohème







1.  Where were you born / raised? 
Born in Albany, New York; raised in Delmar, New York.

2.  If you weren't a director, what profession would you be in?
Chorus singer at the San Francisco Opera.

3.  The first opera I was ever in was... 
In 2004, I was the assistant director for La Fanciulla del West at Glimmerglass Opera.  The performer singing Billy Jackrabbit was indisposed for the final performance and the cover was already singing Castro (another role in the show).  I had to go on as Billy AND Castro whenever they were onstage and not singing.  Full makeup, four quick changes, and two fight scenes.  Harrowing.

4.  My favorite opera is...
The Rake's Progress by Igor Stravinsky / Les Contes d'Hoffmann by Jacques Offenbach / whatever I am currently directing.

5.  My favorite pre/post-show meal is...
Pre-show:  is anxiety considered a meal?
Post-show:  steak-frites.

6.  People would be surprised to know that...
I spent the first year of my career as a healthcare consultant.  I didn't hate it.

7.  A few of my favorite books are...
Shadow of the Wind (Carlos Ruiz Zafon), anything by Haruki Murakami, The Velveteen Rabbit (Marjery Williams).

8.  If we were to turn on your ipod right now, what five artists/songs would we see on your recently-played list?   
Bastille, "Pompeii."  Hozier, "Take Me to Church."  Lionel Ritchie, "You Are My Destiny."  Various recordings of Carmen, La Bohème, and Lucia di Lammermoor (my next three projects).

9.  What is the best costume you've ever worn? 
I have only worn a few costumes professionally, but one of the most fun was when I performed as a super in the David Hockney Tristan und Isolde at San Francisco Opera.  Bright orange hat, tunic, and leggings, plus a broadsword.

10.  Everyone should see La Bohème because....
The music, the passion, the romance, the heartache, and the despair.  It has everything needed for a fantastic evening of entertainment.

Bonus:  One question you wish someone would ask you (and the answer):

Q:  Have you ever fallen into the orchestra pit?

A:  Not yet!


Don't miss David's production of La Bohème, one of the greatest operas of all time!  Performances are November 13 and 15 in Overture Hall.  Tickets start at $18; visit madisonopera.org for more information.

Monday, October 12, 2015

Ten Questions with Nathaniel Hill

Ten Questions With...


Nathaniel Hill, baritone
Madison Opera Studio Artist





1.  Where were you born / raised? 
I was born in Defiance, Ohio.  It's a small rural town in Northwest Ohio and I lived there until I went to college.

2.  If you weren't a singer, what profession would you be in?
That's tough.  Maybe the film industry.  Maybe a lawyer.  Or maybe an Alaskan hermit, I'm not really sure.

3.  The first opera I was ever in was...
The Carmen chorus with Toledo Opera when I was about fifteen.  I was instantly hooked.


4.  My favorite opera is...
Either Carmen, Pagliacci, or Don Giovanni.

5.  My favorite pre/post-show meal is...
Pizza!

6.  People would be surprised to know that...
I have seven older sisters.  Yes, seven.

7.  A few of my favorite books are...
Mostly biographies.  Into the Wild, The Diving Bell and the Butterfly, etc... 

8.  If we were to turn on your ipod right now, what five artists/songs would we see on your recently-played list?   
Mostly opera and musical theater, but you might get lucky and find The Who, The Tallest Man on Earth, Bon Iver, Bob Dylan, and even Kanye.

9.  What is the worst costume you've ever worn?
The worst costume was definitely from this summer when I wore a fat suit as Gregorio in Roméo et Juliette.

10.  Everyone should go to the opera because....
It's thrilling.  They're the greatest stories ever told.  Why wouldn't you go?

Bonus:  One question you wish someone would ask you (and the answer):

Q:  Who will win the 2016 NBA Championship?

A:  Cleveland, obviously.  Go Cavs!

Don't miss the chance to see Nathaniel all year long, on our mainstage and in our community.  First up is La Bohème, one of the greatest operas of all time.  Performances are November 13 and 15 in Overture Hall.  Tickets start at $18; visit madisonopera.org for more information.

Wednesday, October 7, 2015

Ten Questions with William Ottow

Ten Questions With...

William Ottow, tenor
Madison Opera Studio Artist












1.  Where were you born / raised? 
La Crosse, Wisconsin.

2.  If you weren't a singer, what profession would you be in?
I don't really know, being a politician has always interested me, but I'd probably be a pretty bad one.  I'd be a political science or economics major if I didn't sing, but I can't say I know what you do with those degrees. 

3.  The first opera I was ever in was...
The chorus of Don Giovanni at UW-Madison my freshman year; that's really when I realized that opera is a thing I wanted to do.

4.  My favorite opera is...

How can I pick just one opera?  But instead of choosing La Bohème or Werther or Così fan tutte or L'Elisir d'Amore or Carmen, I'll choose Albert Herring by Benjamin Britten.  Albert was my first major role and it will always have a special place in my heart.

5.  My favorite pre/post-show meal is...
I always forget to eat pre-show, so usually I just eat a couple apples, but post-show I enjoy a nice burger with something brewed by New Glarus.

6.  People would be surprised to know that...
I ran track at UW-Madison for three years. #badgertough

7.  A few of my favorite books are...
Harry Potter will always top my list of favorite books.  Others include the Miss Peregrine series by Ransom Riggs, The Great Gatsby, Heirs of Cain by Abraham Rothberg, Goodbye Columbus by Philip Roth, and The Outsider by Albert Camus.

8.  If we were to turn on your ipod right now, what five artists/songs would we see on your recently-played list?   
Looking at my actual playlist I see Madison Opera's season of La Bohème, Little Women, and The Tales of Hoffmann, mixed in along with Benjamin Britten's "Holy Sonnets of John Donne," The Beach Boys' Pet Sounds, David Bowie, Elvis Costello, and The Decemberists, among others.  (Is that more than five?  I can't count past four.)

9.  What is the worst costume you've ever worn?
My junior year of show choir in high school, a portion of our show we were dressed as 80s rockers.  We had pleather pants, neon mesh shirts, long, ratty wigs, and giant silver platform boots.  It was so ridiculous, it only lasted one performance before we had to scale it back.

10.  Everyone should go to the opera because....
Often I think I encourage people to go to the opera because I love it, but people should go to the opera because they love it.  I see people fall in love with opera all the time; it's easy to do.  But in order to fall in love with opera, you have to go and experience it for the first time.  Luckily Madison is a wonderful place to experience opera, as there are many more affordable opportunities than other communities of a similar size.  La Bohème was the first opera I ever saw live and it opened the door to a new world for me.  Madison Opera has a wonderful season programmed this year and people owe it to themselves to open themselves up to this world I live in and love. 

Bonus:  One question you wish someone would ask you (and the answer):

Q:  How many wisdom teeth did you have?

A:  Five.

Don't miss the chance to see William all year long, on our mainstage and in our community.  Visit madisonopera.org for more information.

Tuesday, September 29, 2015

Ten Questions with Marie McManama

Ten Questions With...


Marie McManama, soprano
Madison Opera Studio Artist






1.  Where were you born / raised? 
Born and raised in St. Louis, Missouri.

2.  If you weren't a singer, what profession would you be in?
There is nothing I would rather do and I consider myself fortunate to be able to make a living doing what I love!

3.  The first opera I was ever in was...
The Very Last Green Thing on Earth with Opera Theatre of St. Louis in 1995.  It's a short children's opera about a dystopian earth where plants no longer grow, kind of like Wall-E but with opera singers.  I played a "child of the future."

4.  My favorite opera...
To watch:  La Bohème.
To listen to:  The Magic Flute.
To sing:  any Donizetti comedy.

5.  My favorite pre/post-show meal is...
It is uncomfortable for me to sing on a full stomach (heavy costumes, acid reflux), so I typically eat something light a couple hours before performing.  After a show, anything goes!

6.  People would be surprised to know that...
I have played classical violin my whole life, but I won the concerto competition when I played in the St. Louis Symphony Youth Orchestra by singing opera arias.

7.  A few of my favorite books are...
Anything by Daniel Handle, Gone Girl, Travels in the Scriptorium by Paul Auster. 

8.  If we were to turn on your ipod right now, what five artists/songs would we see on your recently-played list?   
Billy Joel, Ben Folds, Pentatonix - for the proud choir nerd in me, Guster.  And they are all amazing live!

9.  What is the worst costume you've ever worn?
Hmm...  worst opera costume.  I honestly don't remember any terrible opera costumes.  I did have to wear a bedazzled disco ball bathrobe and a feather boa when I sang Juno in Orpheus in the Underworld, but that was more awesomely bad.  I am pretty excited to try on my three-headed alien costume for an upcoming production of The Magic Flute, though!

10.  Everyone should go to the opera because....
Nothing makes you feel more cultured than going to the opera!  It is unlike any other art form in that it combines visual art, literature, drama, music, and singing in a way that a poem, a play, a ballet, or an orchestral concert cannot do on its own.  It demonstrates the awesome capabilities of the human voice by not using any electronic amplification.  At the opera it's all real - real voices, real music, real emotions - and that is a pretty amazing thing to experience.

Bonus:  One question you wish someone would ask you (and the answer):

Q:  What is the story behind your wedding ring?

A:  The engagement stone is my husband's father's grandmother's from the 1800s.  It's European round cut, a style that is no longer made because it is cut to reflect candlelight.  My wedding band is made from the first Christmas present my (now) husband ever gave me, a small diamond necklace.  Because I wore it all the time, the chain kept breaking and I nearly lost the pendant several times.  I wanted to put it somewhere I would never lose it but could still wear it.  It's been on my finger ever since.

Don't miss the chance to see Marie all year long, on our mainstage and in our community.  Visit madisonopera.org for more information.

Thursday, July 23, 2015

In the Park with Kyle Ketelsen

In the Park with...


Kyle Ketelsen
Bass-Baritone, Opera in the Park








1.  Where were you born / raised? 
I was born and raised in Clinton, IA.  In many ways it's your standard, working-class, mid-America town.  On a lovely stretch of the Mississippi, and a strong music tradition in the schools.  Quite similar to my current town, Sun Prairie, WI.

2.  What is in your ideal picnic basket?
Cheese, meat, and fruit.  Along with delivery vehicles like bread and crackers.  Red wine and/or Belgian beer.  And because that's not fatty enough, some form of chocolate for dessert is needed.

3.  My most memorable moment performing outside was...
I think it's a toss-up between two "Carmen" productions.  One was at the Hollywood Bowl, which is such a festive atmosphere, not to mention the amazing performers who have stepped foot on that stage.  The other was just a few weeks ago in Orange, France, in a Roman theater built in the first century.  Tremendously appreciative crowd, and the history of such a venue is exhilarating.

4.  My favorite outdoor performance I've attended was...
Probably the Three Tenors concert, Tiger Stadium, Detroit in 1999.  It was a wedding gift to my wife, and I was just beginning my own career.  Fascinating juxtaposition with the three men on stage, and their body of work.  Amazing!

5.  My favorite summertime activity is...
Anything with my family outside.  The Dells.  Baseball and softball games with the kids.  Cookouts!  We've been to many Madison Opera "Opera in the Park" concerts as viewers.  Also, NOT shoveling snow.

6.  My ideal vacation is....
Really anywhere with my family.  Opening our kids' eyes to the world.  Historical destinations are among our favorites.  Otherwise, I think I prefer lakes and mountains to sun and beach.  So many lovely places in Wisconsin that do in a pinch!


Join Kyle for Opera in the Park on Saturday, July 25 at 8pm in Garner Park.  FREE admission; visit madisonopera.org for more information.

Wednesday, July 22, 2015

In the Park with Eleni Calenos

In the Park with...


Eleni Calenos
Soprano, Opera in the Park








1.  Where were you born / raised? 
I was born and raised in Thessaloniki, Greece.

2.  What is in your ideal picnic basket?
One that includes Spanish tapas and wine.

3.  My most memorable moment performing outside was...
Singing a Mozart opera in Barbados where the stage was set by the Caribbean and the orchestra included the sounds of local birds.

4.  My favorite outdoor performance I've attended was...
A performance of the Bolshoi Ballet in my hometown as a child.

5.  My favorite summertime activity is...
Swimming and reading.

6.  My ideal vacation is....
A small and remote Greek island in the Aegean Sea.

Bonus:  One question you wish someone would ask you (and the answer):
Q:  To what extent did you have to withdraw from the common game of life to dedicate yourself to opera, and is it worthwhile after all?
A:  Every detail of my life has definitely been modified to fit the career.  I am not engaged with opera - it is marriage we are talking about.  It is true and devoted love.  So, there is no doubt that it has taken me away from usual everyday activities.  You ask me if it's worthwhile...  My answer is, every bit.  I am hugely grateful for this never-ending source of happiness in my life.


Join Eleni for Opera in the Park on Saturday, July 25 at 8pm in Garner Park.  FREE admission; visit madisonopera.org for more information.

Tuesday, July 21, 2015

In the Park with Harold Meers

In the Park with...


Harold Meers
Tenor, Opera in the Park






1.  Where were you born / raised? 
I was born on Long Island, New York, but was raised in Pittsburgh, PA and Visalia, CA.

2.  What is in your ideal picnic basket?
Salami, soppressata, prosciutto, cheeses, and crackers.  And perhaps a vodka and soda...

3.  My most memorable moment performing outside was...
Watching the sun set over the horizon while singing La Bohème in Minneapolis.

4.  My favorite outdoor performance I've attended was...
Hearing my wife sing with the San Francisco Opera Orchestra in Golden Gate Park.

5.  My favorite summertime activity is...
Golf.  No contest.

6.  My ideal vacation is....
Either a golf vacation to Scotland or enjoying the sun and blue water of Hawaii (and they have golf there, too!).

Bonus:  One question you wish someone would ask you (and the answer):
Q:  If you could possess any other skill, what would it be?
A:  I'd love to have the ability to play killer jazz piano.


Join Harold for Opera in the Park on Saturday, July 25 at 8pm in Garner Park.  FREE admission; visit madisonopera.org for more information.

Monday, July 20, 2015

In the Park with Anna Laurenzo

In the Park with...


Anna Laurenzo
Mezzo, Opera in the Park






1.  Where were you born / raised? 
I was born in Des Moines, IA and grew up 15 minutes away in the suburb of Urbandale, IA.

2.  What is in your ideal picnic basket?
If someone packed me up a picnic with a nice bottle of Pinot Noir, a variety of Wisconsin cheeses, hummus, and pita chips, I would be a happy girl.

3.  My most memorable moment performing outside was...
I've never performed opera outdoors before!

4.  My favorite outdoor performance I've attended was...
Luke Bryan's Farm Tour outdoor concert in Tallahassee, FL was truly amazing.  It had it all:  cowboy boots, pickup trucks, and crowds singing along with live country music out under the stars!

5.  My favorite summertime activity is...
Playing lawn games.

6.  My ideal vacation is....
Up north sitting on a lake in Minnesota with a cooler, limited cell phone reception, and the people I love.

Bonus:  One question you wish someone would ask you (and the answer):
Q:  What is one quality you wish you could change about yourself?
A:  My highly competitive approach to board games.  I absolutely love them all and it's always fun, until I start losing....


Join Anna for Opera in the Park on Saturday, July 25 at 8pm in Garner Park.  FREE admission; visit madisonopera.org for more information.

Friday, April 17, 2015

Ten Questons with Will Liverman

Ten Questions With...


Will Liverman, baritone
Figaro in The Barber of Seville







1.  Where were you born / raised? 
I was born in Norfolk, Virginia and raised in Virginia Beach, Virginia

2.  If you weren't a singer, what profession would you be in?
I would still be in music, maybe as a teacher or a jazz/gospel pianist.  Perhaps both!

3.  My favorite opera is...
That's a tough one, but I have to go with Turandot.

4.  My favorite pre-show meal is...
A good hearty breakfast the day of a show.

5.  People would be surprised to know that...
I've studied piano for over 20 years.

6.  What is your favorite song to belt out in a bar / the shower / at karaoke?
Sinatra's "My Way."

7.  What is your pop culture guilty pleasure?
I have to say I was addicted to Project Runway for a time.

8.  A few of my favorite films are...
Hook, The Patriot, and the Insidious movies.  I love scary movies!

9.  If we were to turn on your ipod right now, what five artists/songs would we see on your recently-played list?   
Fischer-Dieskau, Eminem, Kirk Franklin, Katy Perry, Ray Charles.

10.  What is the worst costume you've ever worn? 
I was in drag for my first show at Julliard, wearing a white dress and heels with a good wig.  Some would say that I resembled Viola Davis as a woman.

Bonus:  One question you wish someone would ask you (and the answer):
Q:  What should I eat for dinner?
A:  Wendy's!!


Don't miss the chance to see Will in The Barber of Seville, a classic operatic comedy!  Performances are April 24 and 26 in Overture Hall.  Tickets start at $18; visit madisonopera.org for more information.

Wednesday, April 15, 2015

Ten Questions with Emily Fons

Ten Questions With...



Emily Fons, mezzo
Rosina in The Barber of Seville





1.  Where were you born / raised? 
I was born in Milwaukee and raised in the Bay View neighborhood of Milwaukee.

2.  If you weren't a singer, what profession would you be in?
I would work with animals in some way, maybe with wildlife rehabilitation or in an animal shelter.

3.  My favorite opera is...
Hansel and Gretel.

4.  My favorite pre/post-show meal is...
Pre - something filling like a veggie burrito or a big salad with beans and quinoa and avocado.
Post - something terrible like French fries and ice cream.  :)

5.  People would be surprised to know that...
I've been a vegetarian for almost 14 years.

6.  What is your favorite song to belt out at karaoke?
Probably some Céline Dion or something.  :)

7.  What is your pop culture guilty pleasure?
Probably my Instagram account.  I love taking selfies with my dog.

8.  A few of my favorite films are...
Death at a Funeral, Noises Off, Clueless, Bridget Jones' Diary, Office Space, Star Wars 4-6, Home Alone, Jurassic Park, Babe the Gallant Pig.  I don't aspire to any great artistic knowledge of film, as you can see.

9.  If we were to turn on your ipod right now, what five artists/songs would we see on your recently-played list?   
The only things I really listen to on my ipod are things that I'm working on, so you'd find a lot of opera.

10.  What is the best costume you've ever worn? 
In Laurent Pelly's production of La Traviata at Santa Fe Opera.

Bonus:  One question you wish someone would ask you (and the answer):
Q:  Could you please tell us about your dog?
A:  I could talk about her until your ears fall off.  I rescued her when I was an apprentice in Santa Fe, have had her for 5 1/2 years, and she is my best friend.


Don't miss the chance to see Emily in The Barber of Seville, a classic operatic comedy!  Performances are April 24 and 26 in Overture Hall.  Tickets start at $18; visit madisonopera.org for more information.

Sunday, April 12, 2015

Ten Questions with John Irvin

Ten Questions With...


John Irvin, tenor
Count Almaviva in The Barber of Seville







1.  Where were you born / raised? 
Atlanta, Georgia.

2.  If you weren't a singer, what profession would you be in?
Music production / song-writing.

3.  My favorite opera is...
Massenet's Werther.

4.  My favorite pre-show / post-show meal is...
A Wendy's double cheeseburger.

5.  People would be surprised to know that...
I make hip hop beats as a hobby on an MC-808, one of my most prized possessions.

6.  What is your favorite song to belt out in a bar / the shower / at karaoke?
"Oh! Darlin'" by The Beatles.

7.  What is your pop culture guilty pleasure?
The Walking Dead.

8.  A few of my favorite films are...
Heat, Jackie Brown, Blade Runner.

9.  If we were to turn on your ipod right now, what five artists/songs would we see on your recently-played list?   
Meek Mill, Neil Young, The Notorious B.I.G., Horace Silver, and Bill Evans.

10.  What is the best or worst costume you've ever worn? 
Best AND worst costume was a mummy costume I wore in first grade for Halloween.  I was wrapped completely from head to toe in gauze... It looked great, but I couldn't move an inch!

Bonus:  One question you wish someone would ask you (and the answer):
Q:  Excuse me, sir, would you like a bag of money?
A:  Why yes, I would love a bag of money.  Thank you!


Don't miss the chance to see John in The Barber of Seville, a classic operatic comedy!  Performances are April 24 and 26 in Overture Hall.  Tickets start at $18; visit madisonopera.org for more information.