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University Opera’s Spring Show: The Magic Flute

From March 13 to 17, University Opera will present Mozart’s beloved masterpiece of fantasy, The Magic Flute, in a family-friendly, exotic East-West staging.  In a departure, the opera will run for four performances instead of the usual three, adding a Saturday evening that will allow lead roles will be split evenly among singers. The show will involve over 80 university singers, instrumentalists, and stage crew. The show dates are Friday, March 13, 7:30 p.m.; Saturday, March 14, 7:30 p.m.; Sunday, March 15, 3:00 p.m.; and Tuesday, March 17, 7:30 p.m.

Buy tickets online or in person at the Memorial Union Box Office.


The Magic Flute will mark interim opera director David Ronis’s second production at UW-Madison.  Ronis recently earned distinction when his 2014 production of Dialogues of the Carmelites at Queens College in New York was awarded third prize in the National Opera Association’s Opera Production Competition.  He will be joined at the helm by James Smith, conducting the UW Symphony Orchestra.

Full of surprises and delights, The Magic Flute is a treat for both seasoned opera lovers and those new to opera.  The familiar plot centers on Prince Tamino, sent by the Queen of the Night to rescue her daughter, Pamina, from the Sorcerer, Sarastro.  As the opera unfolds, Tamino’s quest for love evolves into one in which self-actualization becomes equally important.  Along for the ride are Papageno, his comic sidekick, searching for his own soul mate; the Queen’s Three Ladies; Three Spirits who serve as guides; and an assortment of other memorable characters.

Ronis comments about his concept for The Magic Flute: “When planning the production, I kept seeing Sarastro and his Masonic principles as being related to those of Eastern philosophy.  So, in order to create the polarity between the opposing forces of Sarastro and the Queen of the Night, I characterized Sarastro as coming from the East vs. the Queen of the Night, coming from the cultural West.  Thus, the Queen and her Ladies wear Victorian bustle dresses, while the basic costume for Sarastro’s followers is the shalwar kameez, the traditional garment of South and Central Asia.  To complement this, the scenic design combines pan-Asian, Victorian, and surreal elements with a few contemporary comedic references thrown in.  This works nicely, framing the story as well as creating an exotic environment in which the fantasy can take place.”

David Ronis. Photo by Luke DeLalio.

David Ronis. Photo by Luke DeLalio.

The large cast of The Magic Flute includes Thomas Leighton and William Ottow, who will split the performances as Tamino, Nicole Heinen and Anna Whiteway as Pamina, and Joel Rathmann and Brian Schneider as Papageno.  The Queen of the Night will be played by Sarah Richardson and alumna Olivia Pogodzinski, and the role of Sarastro will be taken by alumnus Thomas Weis.  The six singers playing the Three Ladies will be Susanna Beerheide, Tia Cleveland, Jessica Kasinski, Kirsten Larson, Heather Richardson, and Sheila Wilhelmi.  Rounding out the cast will be Alaina Carlson, Eileen Peterson, and Emily Weaver as the Three Spirits; Emi Chen and Gaby Klugman as Papagena; Nathaniel Greenhill and Michael Hoke as Monostatos; alumnus Benjamin Li as the Speaker; Mikko Utevsky as the Second Priest; and Evan Esslinger and Fabian Qamar as the Armored Men.  Assisting Maestro Smith will be Kyle Knox, assistant conductor; Seungwha Baek and Chan Mi Jean, musical preparation; and Dennis Gotkowski, chorus master.

The physical production will be based on designs by Charles “Jen” Trieloff II and realized by Joseph Varga, Greg Silver, and Liz Rathke.  Costume design is by Sydney Krieger, Hyewon Park and Sam Fleming, lighting design by Rob Stepek, props design by Dana Fralick, and the production stage manager will be Erin McDermott.  Student staff include Emi Chen, costume assistant; Fabian Qamar, props assistant; Emily Hake and Melanie Treuhaft, scenic painters; Briana Miller, master electrician; and Kyle Baldauf, assistant carpenter.

This production of The Magic Flute is dedicated to the memories of Karen K. Bishop and Charles Jennings Trieloff II.  Ms. Bishop was an UW-Madison alumnus who performed in a number of University Opera productions between 2007 and 2011. Mr. Trieloff was the original set designer for the production.

Tickets are $22.00 for the general public, $18.00 for senior citizens and $10.00 for UW-Madison students, available in advance through the Campus Arts Ticketing office at (608) 265-ARTS and online at http://www.uniontheater.wisc.edu/location.html. Tickets  may also be purchased in person at the Wisconsin Union Theater Box Office Monday-Friday, 11:30 a.m.-5:30 p.m. and Saturdays, 12:00-5:00 p.m. and the Vilas Hall Box Office, Monday-Friday, 11:30 a.m.-5:30 p.m., and after 5:30 p.m. on University Theatre performance evenings.  Because shows often sell out, advance purchase is recommended. If unsold tickets remain, they may be purchased at the door beginning one hour before the performance.  The Carol Rennebohm Auditorium is located in Music Hall, at the foot of Bascom Hill on Park Street.

University Opera is a cultural service of the School of Music at the University of Wisconsin-Madison whose mission is to provide comprehensive operatic training and performance opportunities for our students and operatic programming to the community.

For more information, please contact opera@music.wisc.edu.