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University Opera presents The Marriage of Figaro: Oct. 23-27

University Opera presents The Marriage of Figaro, Mozart and da Ponte’s masterpiece of comedy and intrigue

After the unprecedented success of last spring’s sold-out run of The Magic Flute, this fall, University Opera will present four performances of Mozart’s The Marriage of Figaro.  This new production will be directed by returning interim opera director, David Ronis, and James Smith will conduct the UW Symphony Orchestra.  The production will involve over 80 UW singers, instrumentalists, and stage crew.

The opera will be performed in Italian with projected English supertitles in the Music Hall, 925 Bascom Mall, on Friday, October 23 at 7:00pm, Saturday, October 24 at 7:00pm, Sunday, October 25 at 3:00pm, and Tuesday, October 27 at 7:00pm.

Figaro

The Marriage of Figaro was the first of Mozart’s collaborations with the formidable librettist, Lorenzo da Ponte, and shows both geniuses at the height of their powers.  Da Ponte based his libretto on Pierre Beaumarchais’ seminal play of the same title.  With its topical references and oblique indictment of the French aristocracy, the play was considered scandalous when it opened in 1784.  Although Da Ponte and Mozart’s version, written two years later, keenly depicts the underlying tension between the sexes and social classes, it focuses less on the period’s political issues and more on the complex humanity of its characters.  Mozart and da Ponte’s Figaro, which provides insight into the tenuousness of human relationships via hilarious situational comedy, is at once an eminently delightful, yet profoundly moving work.  Mozart’s brilliant score mirrors the complex world it depicts.  Full of stunning arias and intricate yet transparent ensembles, Figaro is one of the crowning achievements of one of the world’s great artists.

James Smith

James Smith. Photo by Michael R. Anderson.

David Ronis. Photo by Luke DeLalio.

David Ronis. Photo by Luke DeLalio.

Although written before Rossini’s The Barber of Seville, The Marriage of Figaro represents the continuation of that story.  In Figaro, Count Almaviva, having married Rosina, has taken to philandering.  His downtrodden wife conspires with Figaro, now his valet, and Figaro’s bride-to-be, Susanna, the Count’s current amorous target, to teach him a lesson.  In the process, all of the relationships in the opera are called into question and undergo both subtle and not so subtle changes.  All is resolved in the end when the Countess’s love and devotion wins out as she is reunited with her repentant husband.

Viewing Figaro as a work that is intimately tied to the 18th-century, Director Ronis has assembled a design team to create a traditional setting for the production.  But he also sees it as a piece with tremendous relevance today.  “Even though it can be difficult for modern audiences to relate to men in frock coats and women in hoop skirts, by realistically focusing on the characters’ joys, pains, and struggles, it is possible to deliver messages of The Marriage of Figaro in a way that is both entertaining and meaningful in the 21st century,” he says.

The large cast of The Marriage of Figaro includes Joel Rathmann and alumnus Benjamin Schultz, who will split performances of the title role; Erin Bryan and Anna Whiteway as Susanna; Brian Schneider and Gavin Waid as Count Almaviva; and Anna Polum and Yanzelmalee Rivera as the Countess.  The role of Cherubino will be split between Alaina Carlson and Kirsten Larson.  In supporting roles, the production will feature Tia Cleveland and Meghan Hilker as Marcellina, alum Thomas Weis as Bartolo, Dennis Gotkowski and Fabian Qamar as Basilio, Kyle Connors and Mikko Utevsky as Antonio, Emi Chen and Emily Weaver as Barbarina, Todd Keller and Jiabao Zhang as Don Curzio.

Assisting Maestro Smith will be Kyle Knox, assistant conductor; Professor John Stowe, harpsichord continuo; Andrew Briggs, cello continuo; Chan Mi Jean and Kangwoo Jin, musical preparation; and Sara Guttenberg, chorus master.

The production will be designed by Dana Fralick, scenery and props; John Frautschy, lighting; Hyewon Park and Sydney Kreiger, costumes; and Jan Ross, wigs.  The production stage manager will be Isabel Karp and the assistant director, Elisheva Pront.  Additional student staff includes Sarah Kunath, master electrician, and Emi Chen, costume assistant.

Tickets are $25.00 for the general public, $20.00 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.arts.wisc.edu/ (click “box office”). 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. Or visit the School of Music’s web site at www.music.wisc.edu/

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“Brass Fest II” to feature eclectic mix of jazz and folk vocals, solo trumpet, and works for brass quintet

From October 9 to 11, the UW-Madison School of Music will present its second brass music festival, following a spirited event last year that was enthusiastically received by students and the community.

This year, “Brass Fest II” has added a vocalist to the mix: a Norwegian singer who mixes jazz tunes with pop and folk music from the Middle East, Bulgaria, Spain and India. The three-day festival will also features two brass quintets and a solo trumpeter.

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The festivals showcase the energetic, eclectic world of brass music, says festival organizer John Aley, professor of trumpet at UW-Madison and principal trumpeter of the Madison Symphony Orchestra. “We benefited from creative energy last year that continues to impact positively in the School of Music,” says Aley. “The performances will showcase some amazing talent and innovation including the surprising and delightful synergy of brass plus voice.”

On the docket this year:

Friday, October 9: Axiom Brass Quintet, 8 PM, Mills Hall. This lively Chicago quintet features repertoire ranging from jazz and Latin music to string quartet transcriptions, as well as original compositions for brass quintet.  Friday’s concert will offer an Elizabethan suite, “The Art of the Fugue” by J.S. Bach, and brass quintet works by Victor Ewald, David Sampson, and Patrice Caratini.

Axiom Brass is an Ensemble-in-Residence at the Boston University Tanglewood Institute and at Chicago’s Rush Hour Concerts. They are winners of the Chamber Music Yellow Springs Competition (2012), the Preis der Europa-Stadt Passau in Germany (2012), the 2008 International Chamber Brass Competition and prize-winners of the 2010 Fischoff Chamber Music Competition, the Plowman Chamber Music Competition, and the Jeju City International Brass Quintet Competition in South Korea. Axiom Brass is comprised of Dorival Puccini, Jr., trumpet; Jacob DiEdwardo, horn; Kevin Harrison, tuba; Serdar Cizmeci, trombone; and Kris Hammond, trumpet.

Saturday, October 10: Festival Brass Choir with the Axiom Brass Quintet, the Wisconsin Brass Quintet, trumpeter Adam Rapa, vocalist Elisabeth Vik, and students/faculty of the School of Music. 8 PM, Mills Hall. Conducted by Scott Teeple, professor of music and wind ensemble conductor. The concert will include works by Astor Piazzolla, James M. Stephenson, Anthony DiLorenzo, Nicolai Rimsky-Korsakov, and a Bulgarian vocal work sung by Ms. Vik.

The Norwegian-born vocalist Elisabeth Vik was classically trained by Norwegian opera singer Rolf Nykmark, then moved on to study commercial music and music business at the Liverpool Institute for Performing Arts in England. She received a bachelors degree in pop-music performance, then moved to New York City. She has traveled the world gathering and learning techniques and musical expressions, giving her sound and stylings hints of Indian, Arabic, Spanish, Bulgarian as well as Norwegian flavors, superimposed upon a classical technique and an affinity for jazz.

American Adam Rapa is a dynamic performer, composer, producer and educator known for the excitement, energy and enthusiasm he brings to stages and classrooms around the world. Rapa has been featured as a special guest artist and clinician at trumpet conferences around the globe including the International Trumpet Guild conference, the National Trumpet Competition, and festivals in dozens of countries around the world. Adam performed and/or recorded with Grammy Award winners Nicholas Payton and Roy Hargrove, Christian McBride, Doc Severinsen, Soulive, Wycliffe Gordon, Eric Reed, Jason Moran, Robert Glasper, Cyrus Chestnut, Jorge Pardo, Mnozil Brass, Belgian Brass, Alice in Chains, Academy Award winning film composer A.R. Rahman, and many others. Now living and freelancing in Copenhagen, Rapa plays lead trumpet in the Danish Radio Big Band and also performs with members of the Afro-Cuban All-Stars.

The Wisconsin Brass Quintet, formed in 1972, is a faculty ensemble in residence at the UW-Madison. In addition to performing with the WBQ, the players have also been members of the American Brass Quintet, Empire Brass Quintet and Meridian Arts Ensemble. Current members include Tom Curry, tuba; Mark Hetzler, trombone; Daniel Grabois, horn; John Aley, trumpet; and Matthew Onstad, trumpet.

Sunday, October 11: Duo recital with trumpet soloist Adam Rapa, vocalist Elisabeth Vik, and musicians from the School of Music. 7:30 PM, Mills Hall.  Based in Denmark, the duo offers a creative blend of classical and jazz, melding traditional and modern repertoire with a Latin sizzle. Works will include the Carmen Suite by George Bizet, Så Skimrande Var Aldrig Havet by Evert Taube, arranged by Rapa & Vik, Oblivion by Astor Piazzolla arranged by Rapa, and Anitras Dance by Edvard Grieg, arranged by Vik & Rapa.

Tickets for the Friday and Saturday concerts are $15 for adults, free for students and children. Sunday’s concert is free to all.

Buy tickets to both concerts and save!

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Q&A with new faculty violinist Prof. Soh-Hyun Park Altino

In September, the UW-Madison School of Music will welcome violinist Soh-Hyun Park-Altino to its roster of full-time faculty. Prof. Altino hails most recently from Memphis, where she served on the faculty for 14 years.

Read Prof. Altino’s biography here.

Save the Date: Prof. Altino will make her concert debut in Madison with pianist Martha Fischer on November 13, 8 PM in Mills Hall. Tickets $12, and available at the Memorial Union Box Office or day of show at Mills Hall. Student admission is free.

Soh-Hyun Park Altino.

Soh-Hyun Park Altino. Photograph by Caroline Bittencourt.

What motivated you to seek the position here at UW?
I first heard about the UW-Madison School of Music and its fantastic string faculty when I was attending the Cleveland Institute of Music as a graduate student. Later while I taught at the University of Memphis, I often encouraged my students to consider UW-Madison for further schooling because of the reputation of the faculty. So I was excited to find out about the violin position last fall, and I am honored to be joining such an excellent community of musicians and scholars here at UW-Madison.

What gives you the greatest pleasure as a teacher of young students?
My greatest joy as a teacher is the up-close witness of the journey that each student takes throughout the course of his or her study. As we discuss and explore countless ways to communicate a story through the sound of a violin, sooner or later students face challenges that would push them beyond the familiar and the manageable. I love seeing my students grow to the point of taking steps of courage and giving generously from their hearts in spite of the difficulties presented in their pieces. The confidence gained by these experiences remains with them for the long haul.

Do you have special qualities, strengths, skills that you’ve honed over the years?
I believe, in order to be able to truly help my students grow as individual violinists and artists, I need to first get to know and understand how each one hears music. Different people will hear different things in the same performance. My role is to help them become aware of other things that are going on in the music and to assist them in acquiring necessary tools to express these ideas. My students often tell me that I am very patient during lessons; that always sounds funny to me because I think of myself as a impatient person in general. Working out long-standing and unhelpful physical habits in my students’ playing energizes me as I hear and see the freedom in their music just around the corner.

Do you enjoy performing any particular musical styles/time periods?
I enjoy learning and performing all good music, from the Baroque to the contemporary. While I love chamber music of all kinds, my favorite genre is works for violin and piano. It feels like an intimate conversation between two close friends that are inherently very different from each other.

Where have some of your students gone after study with you?
It’s extremely important for me to guide each of my students toward a career path that would make use of their individual gifts and strengths. Many of my students have gone on to study at major conservatories and universities and after schooling, they secured professional positions in various places. Some are teaching at colleges, in school string programs, and in Suzuki schools while some are performing in professional orchestras. And some others have found their calling in musicology and arts administration. I truly believe that, for us musicians, our satisfaction in what we do depends largely on the sense of continual growth.

You will bring your husband, a cellist. Have you collaborated?
My husband, Leo, and I met playing and teaching together at a festival, and we have performed concertos, duos, piano trios and beyond ever since. We love to play with and for each other and value each other’s honest commentaries; over the years we have become each other’s teacher. We are just beginning to get to know the area and are very excited about our new adventure in the musically dynamic city of Madison.

Had you been to Madison before?
My first time in Madison was for the interview and audition for this position in April, and I didn’t know a lot about the city, but since accepting the position, everyone around me has given me nothing but enthusiastic reports about Madison. My family and I moved to Madison in late July, and I have to agree with my friends’ opinions about the city.

Do you have an inkling of your concert program?
I am so looking forward to working with Martha Fischer and presenting a recital with her in November. The program includes the C major solo sonata by Bach, the second sonata by Brahms, and Charles Ives’s sonata no. 2.

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School of Music adds professors of violin and clarinet to its roster

The 2015 fall semester at the School of Music will be marked by the addition of a new tenure-track professor of violin, Soh-Hyun Park Altino, and adjunct professor of clarinet, Wesley Warnhoff.

Park Altino replaces Felicia Moye, a tenured violin professor who decamped to McGill University in the summer of 2014 and was replaced for 2014-2015 by Leslie Shank. Warnhoff replaces Linda Bartley, a tenured professor of clarinet who has retired. Below are their official biographies.

Violinist Soh-Hyun Park Altino is highly regarded as a gifted teacher and a versatile performer of solo and chamber music. Her concert engagements have taken her to Brazil, Colombia, Germany, Korea, Venezuela, and throughout the United States. Praised for her “poise and precision,” she has appeared as soloist with the Memphis Symphony, Jackson Symphony, Peabody Concert Orchestra, Masterworks Festival Orchestra, Sinfonica de Campinas in Campos do Jordão, Festival Virtuosi Orquestra in Recife, and Suwon Philharmonic in Seoul among others.

Soh-Hyun Park Altino.

Soh-Hyun Park Altino. Photograph by Caroline Bittencourt.

She has collaborated with renowned artists such as Monique Duphil, Oleh Krysa, Suren Bagratuni, Daniel Shapiro, and Jasper de Waal in festivals such as Duxbury Music Festival, Masterworks Festival, the Academy y Festival Nuevo Mundo in Venezuela, and in the Memphis Chamber Music Society concert series.

Prior to her joining the University of Wisconsin-Madison School of Music in 2015, Soh-Hyun served on the faculty at the University of Memphis for fourteen years. During her tenure at Memphis, she frequently performed with pianist Victor Asunción and cellist Leonardo Altino in the Dúnamis Trio, and as a member of the resident ensemble, Ceruti Quartet, she presented recitals and educational programs throughout the U.S. as well as at the National Assembly in Seoul, Korea and Teatro Santa Isabel in Recife, Brazil. The quartet’s recording of the Debussy Quartet released in 2013 was hailed by Gramophone for its “physically emotional power.” As an enthusiastic supporter of new music, she has enjoyed working closely with composers such as Steven Mackey, Margaret Brouwer, James Mobberley, and Kamran Ince, and in 2014 she premiered a commissioned work, En Voyage for violin and cello, by Paul Desenne.

As a dedicated teacher, Soh-Hyun directed the String Intensive Study Program at Masterworks Festival for eleven summers, taught through projects such as Fabrica de Musica and eMasterclass in Brazil and Festival y Escuela Internacional de Musica in Colombia, and presented violin master classes at universities nationally and internationally. Her experiences and insights gained from overuse injuries as a student have served as one of the major factors that inspire her passion and inquisitiveness for teaching, and she has become an advocate of continuing education for performers and teachers. To this end, she has regularly presented professional development sessions and held forums and clinics for violin teachers and their younger students. While her former students are national competition prizewinners and members of professional orchestras, a great many of them are devoted teachers at colleges and string programs across the country.

A native of Korea, Soh-Hyun grew up in a musical family and studied with Young-Mi Cho. At age sixteen, she came to the U.S. and studied with Violaine Melançon at the Peabody Institute where she was also given intensive training in chamber music and music theory, and she was a participant at Yellow Barn, Kneisel Hall, Tanglewood, Aspen, and Sarasota Music Festival. Her major chamber music coaches include Anne Epperson and the members of the Peabody Trio and the Juilliard, Concord, Cavani, and Cleveland Quartets. Soh-Hyun received her bachelor’s, master’s and the doctor of musical arts degrees in violin performance from the Cleveland Institute of Music, where she was a student and teaching assistant to Donald Weilerstein.

Wesley Warnhoff

Wesley Warnhoff

American clarinetist Wesley Warnhoff’s thoughtful and intense performance style has gained him international acclaim as a soloist, orchestral, and chamber musician. Dr. Warnhoff’s research into contemporary techniques has helped him to develop a unique pedagogical approach that provides a new perspective on creating the ideal embouchure and sound concept, and it is this dedication to the art of teaching that makes Dr. Warnhoff a sought after clinician throughout the United States.

As a champion of new music he has given many premiere performances including the world-premiere of Murray Gross’ Rhapsody for Clarinet, I Surrender. Along with performing new music, Dr. Warnhoff has also added to the performing repertoire, most notably with his transcription for clarinet, voice, and piano of “La Vita e Inferno” from Verdi’s La Forza del Destino.

Dr. Warnhoff is currently on the music faculty at the University of Wisconsin-Madison where he leads the clarinet studio and performs with the renowned Wingra Woodwind Quintet. He is a founding member of the VCP International Trio, a violin, clarinet, piano trio that advocates new music performance, and he is also the principal clarinet of the Battle Creek Symphony Orchestra in Michigan, a post he has held for 5 years.

Dr. Warnhoff holds degrees from Michigan State University and Missouri State University. His primary teachers are Dr. Elsa Ludewig-Verdehr, Dr. Allison Storochuk, and Dr. Jack Scheurer.

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Morgridge Fund and Private Opera Bequests combine to secure permanent endowment for University Opera

Cancer claims Karen Bishop, but husband carries out her wishes

by Katherine Esposito

It takes a big heart to pour oneself into a operatic solo, in front of a live audience, roles always edged with varying shades of emotion, all guaranteed to be intense.

For Karen K. Bishop, who returned to school at UW-Madison in her late 40s to gain master’s and doctoral degrees in opera, those emotions were only too real.

Karen Krieger Bishop

Karen Krieger Bishop

Bishop received a music degree in 1981 from Wheaton Conservatory of Music in Illinois, but decided to pursue her entrepreneurial interests, founding Rainbow Play Systems of South Central Wisconsin, retailers of playground equipment. In 1987, she married Charlie Bishop, who completed a postdoctoral fellowship in biochemistry at UW-Madison in the early 1980s. They had two children. Bishop sold the business in 2003 and turned her thoughts again to music.

She enrolled at the UW-Madison School of Music and became friends with much-younger Benjamin Schultz, then gaining his doctoral degree in opera. With Schultz, now assistant director of the school, the two talked and laughed and studied opera together.  She was singing and researching lost art songs of Ernst Bacon and John Duke. He was writing a book on Polish diction. They bought coffee on State Street and co-starred in a show. “She was hungry for knowledge,” Schultz said. “She followed her heart.”

What Schultz didn’t know is the reason why Bishop had sold her thriving business and entered the opera program. She had breast cancer, which was diagnosed in the mid-1990s and, in January, finally claimed her life. She was 54.

Very few people knew. That’s as she wished.  Now, her husband, Charlie, has acceded to another wish of Karen’s: to support the University Opera program.  He has joined community supporters and the local support group, UW Opera Props, to further a fund-raising campaign to “Go All In” to secure an endowed directorship for University Opera by pledging $500,000 to establish the Karen K. Bishop Fund for the Director of University Opera. That role has been temporarily filled by visiting opera director David Ronis. Ronis replaced William Farlow, who retired in 2014.

Bishop’s donation will be coupled with several hundred thousand dollars recently raised by local supporters of the opera program, including several individual member donations and a joint board donation from Opera Props, and a bequest from the estate of Margaret Winston, another longtime benefactor who died last September. With Bishop’s pledge, the fund has secured a dollar-for-dollar matching grant from the John and Tashia Morgridge Foundation, creating an endowed professorship and a lasting footing for the popular and successful program, which offers one of the few opera master’s degrees in the nation. Graduates have included current Broadway star Nathaniel Stampley; Gregory Schmidt, now with the Metropolitan Opera; Jamie-Rose Guarrine, who will join the faculty of University of Massachusets-Amherst this fall; James Kyrshak, who recently joined the Vienna State Opera; and Emily Birsan, currently performing with the Ryan Center of Chicago’s Lyric Opera.

It’s hard to overstate the value of the donations to the School of Music. The new Bishop Fund represents a “transformative opportunity,” said Prof. Mimmi Fulmer, with whom both Bishop and Schultz studied.  “University Opera will, for the first time, be able to plan for the future with a solid financial foundation,” she added.

Reached at his office in Miami, Florida, Charlie Bishop said that Karen was firm about her wishes. “We spoke of her desires,” he said. “She wanted to support University Opera and the School of Music. So, I made a commitment to make sure that that happened. It would make Karen happy to know that she had a positive impact on the School of Music that she admired so much.”

Bishop added that he hopes the new fund will raise the profile of University Opera and UW-Madison more generally.

“I often wonder if people in Madison realize how remarkable an achievement it is for students to mount two full opera productions every year,” he said. “It’s tremendously difficult. Professional organizations struggle.  But UW does it masterfully.”

“[The program] offers unsurpassed opportunities for vocal performance and to study operatic compositions by leading composers.”

 

Save the Date!

Sunday, September 27: Special Fundraising Concert with Brenda Rae, a rising opera star and alumna of the UW-Madison School of Music and The Juilliard School. Brenda will sing the Glière Concerto for Coloratura Soprano, op. 82, with the UW Symphony Orchestra. 7:30 p.m., Mills Hall. Tickets $25, on sale July 15 at the Wisconsin Union Theater Box Office.

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UW Percussion celebrates 50 years with a concert and trip to China

Fifty years is not a long time in the world of classical music, but it’s a very long time in the world of formal percussion studies. In the 1960s and before, the very notion of teaching percussion beyond the basic orchestral instruments caused music educators to simply shake their heads in disbelief.

Professor Anthony Di Sanza, right, with members of the World Percussion Ensemble. Photo by Mike Anderson.

Professor Anthony Di Sanza, right, with members of the World Percussion Ensemble. Photo by Mike Anderson.

“There was this old guard tradition that very much did not see percussion as a viable solo artistic instrument,” says Anthony Di Sanza, professor of percussion at UW-Madison. In fact, John Cage, one of the pioneers in the field, was unable to find percussionists to play his first works; instead, they were performed by dancers and composers. “The percussionists wanted nothing to do with it,” Di Sanza says. “Most were in orchestra.” One famous orchestral percussionist even referred to the rising deployment of sirens and whistles in cutting-edge percussion pieces as “debasements.”

But that was then.

Since then, percussion studies have exploded, with UW-Madison firmly in the vanguard. In 1950, the University of Illinois established the first accredited university percussion ensemble. In 1965, UW-Madison staged its first percussion concert, followed one year later with a full-blown major. In 1968, James Latimer was hired as program director and served until 1999 when he retired and was replaced by Di Sanza. While at UW, Latimer spearheaded a Duke Ellington Festival, started the Madison Marimba Quartet, initiated the first of 300 Young Audience Concerts held in public schools from 1969 to 1984, and hosted the Wisconsin Percussive Arts Society “Days of Percussion.”

Di Sanza’s tenure has been marked by numerous world premieres, commissions, recordings, and collaborations. In 2004, a doctoral program was founded, and two additional teachers are now on board: Todd Hammes and Tom Ross, both with specialties of their own.

Now, almost exactly 50 years after the school’s first percussion concert, Di Sanza’s studio plans to celebrate.

On March 20 at 8 pm in Mills Hall, the percussion ensemble will present a ticketed concert of music from the United States, China, Mexico, Brazil and the Middle East with emeritus professor James Latimer as guest conductor and Clocks in Motion, a four-year-old professional alumni ensemble, as guest artists. With the help of Latimer and many others, DiSanza has doggedly tracked down dozens of former students from over the years, and hopes that many of them will be able to attend. Buy tickets here or at the door. Adults $10.00/students of all ages are free.

Latimer will conduct the ensemble in Carlos Chavez’s landmark composition Toccata for Percussion, which was performed on their first concert in 1965.

But that’s only the prelude. In April, Di Sanza’s studio will embark on its first international tour, a ten-day trip to China to perform and also partner with students at the Shenyang and China Conservatories.

The group was invited by percussion professor Lu Qingshan of the Shenyang Conservatory, whose former student, Zhang Yuqi, is now a master’s candidate at UW-Madison. There, they will play works by American and Chinese composers as well as music from the Middle East and Brazil. The trip is funded by the Wisconsin China Initiative, Dr. and Mrs. Robert W. Graebner, the UW-Madison Division of International Studies and the UW-Madison School of Music.

Since the program’s founding fifty years ago, hundreds of graduates have established multi-pronged careers of their own, as teachers, as arts managers, as performers playing music from every tradition imaginable and on every instrument that makes a sound, which includes pretty much anything.

Including whistles.

Want to know the full history of the UW-Madison Percussion Program from decade to decade? Download a timeline here.

Wonder what percussion with whistles sounds like? Watch a video of the UW-Madison Percussion Ensemble in 2009, performing John Cage’s “Dance Music for Elfrid Ide II.”

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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.

Jrnl-MagFlt-Ad-Smaller

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.

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The School of Music rallies behind stricken student

Concert to Benefit UW-Madison Trombonist Brittany Sperberg

On Wednesday, March 18, the School of Music’s brassiest ensembles will join forces in a concert to benefit Brittany Sperberg, a formerly highly visible and energetic trombonist now stricken with an undiagnosed ailment. This semester, Brittany reluctantly withdrew from school to attend to her medical needs and her performing future is in doubt. She will also have to miss next month’s Carnegie Hall debut of the UW Wind Ensemble.

Brittany Sperberg

Brittany Sperberg

Brittany, a Shawano native, is a senior majoring in music education, now being treated full time at the Mayo Clinic in Rochester, Minnesota. Her symptoms began last August with a painful infection in her nasal cavity, and despite numerous tests, medications, surgeries, scans and biopsies, the cause and precise treatment remain a mystery. She was hospitalized on Christmas Eve, and while her family is insured, the out-of-pocket expenses–including travel, hotel, food and loss of employment from her mother who is at her side– are mounting.

Groups to perform at the benefit will include the UW Wind Ensemble, directed by Prof. Scott Teeple; the UW Jazz Orchestra, directed by Prof. Johannes Wallmann; the Low Brass Ensemble, directed by Prof. Mark Hetzler; Dat Brass, a funk horn band founded by Sperberg; and the Badger Brass, featuring her fellow students. Brittany performed in all of these ensembles, and more: she also played her trombone with the Latin Jazz Ensemble and even sang with the Twisted Metal Horn Choir, directed by Prof. Daniel Grabois.

“If you’ve spent any time with Brittany Sperberg, you know her as a person with energy, love and creativity, in amounts that go beyond the norm,” says her teacher, trombone professor Mark Hetzler. “Her heart is bigger than what should be possible, her mind is open to amazing ideas and her spirit always seems to soar. Even in the midst of this horrible illness, with her music career and trombone future up in the air, Brittany continues to keep a positive attitude and an incredibly upbeat sense of humor. She has been a true warrior in the face of this adversity.”

In November 2013, Brittany wrote an account of her experiences at the School of Music that remains one of the school’s all-time most popular posts.

Read it here: https://uwmadisonschoolofmusic.wordpress.com/2013/11/18/sperberg/

The benefit concert will be held in Mills Hall on Wednesday, March 18, 7:30 PM. A suggested donation is $10.00, and more is welcome.

Online donations can be made at this website:
https://www.youcaring.com/help-a-neighbor/help-get-brittany-sperberg-back-to-music-/302862

Checks may also be mailed to Mark Hetzler, 5326 Russett Rd., Madison, WI 53711. Please make checks out to “Brittany Sperberg.”
For more information or an interview, please contact
• Mark Hetzler at (608) 628-5026 or hetzler@wisc.edu.
• Katherine Esposito (608) 263-5615 or kesposito@wisc.edu

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Meet John Wunderlin: No limits on age when it comes to studying music

At the School of Music’s “Horn Choir” concert at the Chazen Museum of Art last month, one could easily discern John Wunderlin from the swarm of horn players on the stage.

He was the only one with gray hair.

Chazen_horn_choir2014

UW’s Horn Choir at a recent concert, at the Chazen Museum. Wunderlin is second from right. Daniel Grabois, conductor.

That’s because he’s 50 years old. It’s safe to say that most of the other performers were about the ages of his two kids, 23 and 19. And yes, he is a student.

After a full life as a business owner, husband and dad, Wunderlin returned to school this fall for a master’s degree in horn. He first studied the instrument in college (way back when) and played as much as possible over the years. But after he met Dan Grabois, assistant professor of horn at UW-Madison, he finally took the leap and applied for the program at UW. He says he likes Dan’s teaching style. “[Dan] offers a lot of concrete suggestions, as opposed to someone who says, ‘it’s my way or the highway,’ ” Wunderlin says.

We asked John to tell us a bit about his unusual career path.

What made you want to come back to school for a masters degree?
“It was always a long-term goal of mine to come back to school. My undergraduate degree was computer science with a music minor from UW-Platteville. As an undergrad, I made a conscious decision to earn a degree that would allow me to make a good living, but music was always my passion. With a long career in computers and both my children grown, it seemed like the right time to focus on music.

John Wunderlin. Photo by Katherine Esposito.

John Wunderlin. Photo by Katherine Esposito.

What was your previous career, and how did the horn fit in?
“I spent 27 years working as a computer programmer. First for several large corporations, then as an independent contractor, and for the last 14 years I ran my own software business with my wife Nancy. After college, I didn’t stop playing the horn. I was always looking for gigs, but did try to balance my rehearsal schedule with my home life- we have two children. In 1999, I came across a summer camp called the Kendall Betts Horn Camp in New Hampshire. This is a camp for horn players of all ages from high school to seniors with world-class horn faculty. It was a week-long opportunity to immerse in music that I have taken advantage of nearly every year since. I credit KBHC with improving my playing significantly to the point that I won my first regional orchestra audition with the Beloit-Janesville Symphony (now called the Rock River Philharmonic). I’ve been a member there for the last six seasons.

Why UW-Madison?
“I’ve played a lot of gigs in the Madison area and my wife and I both love the town. We lived in Mineral Point for the last 21 years. This was a good opportunity (and a good excuse) to move to Madison. I considered a few other universities, but after working with Dan Grabois and considering my options, it was really an easy choice.

What is it like being having student colleagues in their 20s and even late teens?
“The other students in the horn studio have been absolutely terrific! From day one they treated me like just another student. I’m amazed at the sense of camaraderie and lack of competitiveness within our studio. I feel like everyone’s goal is to support and help each other become the best musicians we can all be.

Have you had any trouble adapting or fitting in?
“Very little. I’m not the only non-traditional student in the music department. There are a range of ages, though I’m probably a bit above the median.

What do you hope to gain from the degree and the experience here at UW?
“My primary short-term goal is full musical immersion for the next two years. Beyond that, I’m interested in winning a larger orchestra job and/or teaching at a college or university.

Any advice for people thinking of going back to school for a performance degree?
“The field of music performance is an extremely competitive area with many, many more musicians than available jobs. My first recommendation would be to save a lot of money before starting to give yourself some time to find a job and consider other options if things don’t work out. My second recommendation is to jump in with both feet. It’s a lot of hard work, but also very rewarding. When I’m performing with a great group of musicians and in ‘the zone,’ there’s nothing else I’d rather be doing. Personal problems, politics, bad thoughts all melt away and are replaced with a musical connection with my talented colleagues that transcends words.”

 

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New Music Performance Center Named in Honor of the Hamel Family

The University of Wisconsin announced Friday, December 5, 2014, that the new music performance center at the corner of Lake Street and University Avenue will be named in honor of UW-Madison alumnus George Hamel (BA’80, Communication Arts) and his wife Pamela Hamel.

The new recital hall in the soon-to-be-constructed Hamel Music Center.

The new recital hall in the soon-to-be-constructed Hamel Music Center.

The Hamel Music Center, whose name was approved Friday by the UW System Board of Regents, honors the Hamels who provided the $15 million lead gift to construct the new facility.

The center will include a 315-seat recital hall, large rehearsal room and spacious lobby while anchoring a highly visible corner of campus in the university’s East Campus Gateway, which includes the now-completed Chazen Museum of Art expansion, the Memorial Union renovation, the Library Mall reconstruction and the planned Alumni Park on Lake Mendota. Construction on the new center is set to begin in late 2015.

The Hamels’ lead contribution to the $22 million project comes as the university prepares for an upcoming comprehensive campaign, which is currently in the planning phase. In addition to their service on advisory boards across campus, George and Pam are members of the campaign planning committee.

“We are thrilled and humbled by George and Pam’s generosity. The new center will be a jewel for the campus and a hub for music performance, education and outreach for our students, faculty, performers, instructors and the greater community,” said John Karl Scholz, Dean of the College of Letters & Science. “The Hamels are loyal supporters and I could not be more excited to honor their legacy and leadership as we prepare for the comprehensive campaign.”

Pamela and George Hamel

Pamela and George Hamel

The Hamel Family, which includes three generations of UW-Madison alumni, has supported the university through gifts to athletics, scholarships, facilities and faculty support. George is a founder of ValueAct Capital, an investment management firm in San Francisco, and the family owns and operates Hamel Family Winery in Sonoma, Calif., whose badger logo honors their family’s UW-Madison roots.

“Music has always had an important place in our family,” said Pamela Hamel. “We feel privileged to be able to help provide the university’s musical students and fellow lovers of music a world-class facility in which to learn, practice, perform, and enjoy music. It’s exciting for George and me to imagine just how many students will be able to benefit from and delight in the Music Center for years to come.”

The center will include a glass-walled lobby, clerestory windows in the recital hall, along with a dramatic glassed-in corner of the rehearsal hall that will allow passersby to see the on-going rehearsals. Such extended transparency will help create educational and social connections between working musicians and the public, a key priority for the School of Music.

“This new space promises to be an exciting—and beautiful—example of the power of private philanthropy,” said Susan C. Cook, director of the School of Music. “The Hamel Music Center is an investment in the School of Music’s student-focused, mentor-driven educational mission and its embodiment of the Wisconsin Idea.”

In addition to providing a professional space for budding musicians to practice and learn, state-of-the-art audio-video technologies in the recital hall will allow for live-stream concerts and high-quality recordings. The new building is designed by Holzman Moss Bottino Architects of New York City, in partnership with Strang Architects of Madison. Acoustic design is by Richard Talaske/Sound Thinking of Oak Park, Ill., with theatrical design by Fisher Dachs Associates of New York City.

Ingrid Jensen in Brooklyn, NY. June 2005photo by Angela Jimenez
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Jazz Trumpeter Ingrid Jensen to headline MMSD-UW Jazz Festival

On December 4-6, 2014, the UW School of Music will host the 4th Annual UW/MMSD Jazz Festival, an educational jazz festival featuring workshops and performances by high school big bands from Madison and Middleton, the UW Jazz Orchestra and UW Contemporary Jazz Ensemble, UW jazz faculty, and New York trumpet star Ingrid Jensen.

Ingrid Jensen in Brooklyn, NY. June 2005photo by Angela Jimenez

Ingrid Jensen

This 4th annual edition of the UW/MMSD Jazz Festival represents the expansion of the festival into a multi-day event featuring an internationally recognized guest artist and also marks the first time that UW Madison will be the host campus. In its new venue, the festival will continue its original mission of bringing together participating schools in a non-competitive festival environment to focus on students’ peer learning and the exchange of information, developing idiomatic jazz and improvisation skills, building a community of young jazz musicians and connecting them with working professionals, and inspiring student performers to deepen their involvement with the jazz idiom.

Watch the Ingrid Jensen Jazz Quintet perform “At Sea,” at the Berklee College of Music, April 2012

The festival’s expansion and its move to UW Madison as its host campus coincide with a major expansion of UW-Madison’s jazz studies program. Spearheaded by jazz pianist Dr. Johannes Wallmann who joined the School of Music faculty in 2012, the jazz program has added five new jazz ensembles, several new academic jazz courses, and a high school Honors jazz band. In the fall of 2014, the jazz program welcomed new instructors of jazz drums and jazz trombone along with its first cohort of students in the newly re-launched undergraduate jazz major.

2014 UW/MMSD Jazz Festival featured artist Ingrid Jensen has been a major figure on the international jazz scene for over 20 years. Her three CDs for the ENJA label and her latest CD, “At Sea,” won her nominations from the Canadian Juno Awards, including an award in 1995 for Vernal Fields. In addition to her work as a leader of the quartet Project O and the quintet Nordic Connect, Jensen is a featured soloist with the Maria Schneider Orchestra, with whom she recorded four albums, including the Grammy Award-winning “Concert in the Garden” and “Sky Blue,” the former of which was also named Jazz Album of the Year by the Jazz Journalists Association. She regularly places in Downbeat magazines Critics’ and Readers’ polls.

Ingrid Jensen recently made her Madison debut as a member of Terri Lyne Carrington’s Mosaic Project. She is also a member of Darcy James Argue’s Grammy-nominated Secret Society; the Juno-award winning Christine Jensen Orchestra; has been featured on Gil Evans’ Porgy and Bess at the San Francisco Jazz Festival under the direction of Maria Schneider; and has appeared as a guest in the festival’s “Tribute to Woody Shaw and Freddie Hubbard,” alongside Terence Blanchard, Eddie Henderson, Bobby Hutcherson and Kenny Garrett. Other musicians Jensen has performed and or recorded with include Madelaine Peyroux, Ron Carter, Mullgrew Miller, Steve Wilson, Jeff ‘Tain’ Watts, Dr.Lonnie Smith, Marc Copland, Bob Berg, Gary Thomas, Gary Bartz, Jeff Hamilton, Bill Stewart, Terri-Lynn Carrington, Geri Allen, Geoffrey Keezer, Billy Hart, George Garzone, Chris Connor, Victor Lewis, Clark Terry, Frank Wess, Badal Roy, Mike Clark, Jason Miles and Global Noize, Dr. Billy Taylor and the DIVA Big Band. Her performances as a leader and as a featured soloist have taken her around the world from Canada to Japan, Australia, South America, South Africa, the Caribbean and to almost every country in Europe and Scandinavia.

 

Schedule of events:

Thursday, Dec. 4: Trumpet master class with Ingrid Jensen. 1:30 PM, Music Hall.

Thursday, Dec. 4: Small-group jazz improvisation masterclass with Ingrid Jensen and the UW Contemporary Jazz Ensemble. 7:30 PM, Music Hall.

Friday, Dec. 5: Concert with Ingrid Jensen and the Johannes Wallmann Group. 8PM, Morphy Hall.

Saturday, Dec. 6: Headline concert featuring bands from Madison’s East, West and Memorial High School, Middleton High School, the UW Jazz Orchestra, and Ingrid Jensen. 6 PM, Music Hall.

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UW-Madison School of Music to Share $2.5M Grant to Promote Study of Jewish Culture

When Teri Dobbs was twelve years old, growing up in the tiny farming town of Platte, South Dakota, her mother took her aside and broached a topic that would forever change the young girl’s life.

“My mom started educating me about the Holocaust, and gave me a book,” says Dobbs, an associate professor of music and chair of the music education program at UW-Madison. “She said, ‘You need to read this book, because it could have been us.’ ’’ It was about the extermination camp at Treblinka, during World War II in Poland.

Dobbs asked her what she meant.

“Performing the Jewish Archives” is a $2.5 million grant to five universities to mount recently rediscovered Jewish musical, theatrical and literary works created from 1880 to 1950, and encourage the creation of new works based on archives.

Teri Dobbs

Teri Dobbs. Photograph by Michael R. Anderson.

Her mom replied, “Well, your grandfather’s Jewish.” Dobbs was bewildered, and her mother explained: He was one of the only Jewish people in town, his mother having been part of a wave of Jewish immigrants in the late 19th century who became merchants, peddlers and farmers on the Great Plains. His name was Gerrit Dyke.

Dobbs kept reading. She asked questions. She wanted to know: How did a Dutch Jewish woman, Maria Louisa Rosenthal, land in the middle of South Dakota in the 1880s? After marrying Govert VanderBoom, a non-Jewish Dutch man, Maria Louisa took his name, but the name Rosenthal was not forgotten. Dobbs’ mom kept a trove of family papers, including Maria Louisa’s obituary, who in her papers consistently referred to herself as “Maria Louisa Rosenthal VanderBoom.” And, when asked, extended family members replied, “Yes, Maria was Jewish.” But that was the end of the conversation.

It wasn’t the end of Dobbs’ interest in Jewish history, however.

In 2002, she became a Jew by choice and married a Jewish man. As it happened, her husband, Jesse Markow, had a similar background: his grandfather, Morris (Moishe) Markov had emigrated from the Ukraine, from a shtetl called Markova, located in what was known then as the Pale of Jewish Settlement. Markow arrived in New York City around 1904 as a single man, with only a wooden flute in his pocket that he’d formerly played in the Russian czar’s army, and found his first job working at a laundry at the dockyards.

Dobbs' husband, Jesse Markow, with his grandfather's flute.

Dobbs’ husband, Jesse Markow, with his grandfather’s flute.

Neither Rosenthal nor Markov maintained any links to their former homelands. And so it was for so many expatriate Jews at that time.

Meanwhile, Dobbs grew up. She went to college at the University of South Dakota and served four years with the United States Air Force Academy Band as a flutist and singer, then taught band, orchestra, vocal music, and general music in Colorado, South Dakota, and Illinois. Later, in graduate school at Northwestern University, where she earned a master’s degree in 1992 and a Ph.D in music education in 2005, she found herself drawn to that Jewish history, and started delving into music created and performed during the Holocaust, or Shoah.

At UW-Madison, where she arrived in 2006 as an assistant (now associate) professor of music education, she focused on children’s musical experiences in the ghetto at Theresienstadt, known now as Terezín. During World War II, Terezín, an 18th-century fortified city in Czechoslovakia, not far from Prague, was converted by the Nazis into a transit camp for thousands of largely upper class, educated Jews, including well-known artists, writers, and composers, most of whom who ultimately were killed in concentration camps. One of those, the composer Hans Krasa, had written a children’s operetta, Brundibár, which was performed over 50 times by children at Terezín.

Artifacts from the children's operetta, Brundibár

Artifacts from the children’s operetta, Brundibár.

Performing Brundibár provided a way for the Jews at Terezín to preserve some semblance of culture as society was disintegrating all around them. It also provided Dobbs the entrée into a field of study that had so long intrigued her.

In 2010, she began an intense study of the operetta, culminating in a paper published last fall in the Philosophy of Music Education Review, “Remembering the Singing of Silenced Voices: Brundibár and Problems of Pedagogy,” in which Dobbs explored the cognitive dissonance of music-making during wartime and questioned how the opera is taught today. On a recent sabbatical, she spent time researching the archives in the Jewish Museum of Prague and the Terezín Memorial, in addition to Yale University’s Fortunoff Video Archive for Holocaust Testimonies and the Shoah Foundation Video History Archive at the University of Southern California.

In Prague, she interviewed survivors of Terezín, some of whom had sung in the Brundibár chorus. All shed light on how valuable the experience of music making was to people trapped inside the ghetto, and provide insight into music education today.

“Studying Brundibár is, in a way, studying the ‘present absence’ of people who are no longer with us,” Dobbs says. “When we hear the operetta, we hear the voices of children who were silenced.”

It turned out that Dobbs’ work fit perfectly within a framework being developed by researchers elsewhere.

Due to her pedagogical pedigree, Dobbs was recently named an international co-investigator in a $2.5 million grant to mount recently rediscovered Jewish musical, theatrical and literary works created from 1880 to 1950, and to encourage the creation of new works based on archives. The grant, called “Performing the Jewish Archive,” was awarded by the British Arts & Humanities Research Council, and is led by Dr. Stephen Muir at the University of Leeds in England. Other co-investigators include Dr. Helen Finch, School of Languages, Cultures and Societies, University of Leeds; Dr. Lisa Peschel, Film, Theatre and Television, University of York; Dr. Nick Barraclough, Psychology, University of York; Dr. Joseph Toltz, Sydney Conservatorium, University of Sydney; and Dr. David Fligg, Leeds College of Music.

The three-year “Performing the Jewish Archive” project will involve a large number of partners, exploring archives, delivering community and educational projects, holding at least two international conferences and a series of symposia at the British Library, as well as mounting five international performance festivals – in the United States, the Czech Republic, South Africa, Australia and Yorkshire, England. Madison — where two of those festivals will take place in 2015 and 2016 — is the only United States site to be chosen. The goal of the performance festivals is to uncover lost and damaged theater scripts, musical scores and works of literature so that they may be experienced by modern audiences.

Not so long ago, lead investigator Stephen Muir himself, on a trip to South Africa, unearthed a musical score called “One Little Goat” by a previously unknown Russian Jewish composer, David Eisenstadt (Dovid Ajzensztadt). Eisenstadt had lost his life at the Treblinka concentration camp but had given the manuscript to a friend to review. Decades ago, the score had wended its way to South Africa via a friend and was finally premiered last spring in England.

Brundibár is only one example of the wealth of Jewish performance art that has been lost for so long. And so the race is on to find others, to preserve them, and to present them. And for at least one researcher, it will also help open a door to her own past.

“Having the opportunity to do this kind of research/scholarship in many ways brings me full circle, connecting and reconnecting me with a part of my heritage that was hidden for so long,” says Dobbs. “It’s a way for me to return to my roots by remembering actively those who went before me, maybe even to make things a bit better for those who come after me. In Judaism, this can be considered a type of ‘tikkun olam,’ or ‘healing the world.'”

Read about Dobbs’ research in a story published in the online newsletter of the Center for Jewish Studies.

“Remembering the Singing of Silenced Voices”: Philosophy of Music Education Review, Fall 2013, Teryl Dobbs, author.

More media links:

Lost and found: music of the Holocaust

Raiders of the lost arts get £1.5m grant

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250 Years Later, A Composer Gets His Due

It’s not very often that one receives international recognition 250 years after being placed in the ground. But with help from UW-Madison musicology professor Charles Dill and a host of international scholars and musicians, that’s exactly what’s happening for Jean-Philippe Rameau.

Rameau, a French composer (1683-1764) who lived during the reign of Louis XV, has become famous for his contributions to music theory, his early harpsichord works, and especially his operas. His 1722 Treatise on Harmony is considered revolutionary for having incorporated philosophical ideas alongside practical musical issues. His operas were equally famous for their rich choral singing and elegant dancing.  In the last few decades, interest in Rameau has intensified, with French scholars leading the way and organizing major festivals in Europe. Because of Dill’s renown as a scholar of Rameau and the Baroque, the UW-Madison School of Music will present a series of performances and talks about Rameau during the 2014-2015 academic year.

Charles Dill

Charles Dill

On November 13, the first of these events will kick off with a discussion about the expressive qualities in Rameau’s music (with visiting opera director David Ronis and Professor Anne Vila of the Department of French and Italian), followed by a concert the next day featuring Marc Vallon, UW-Madison professor of bassoon, in a mostly-Rameau concert. You can read the full schedule of events here.

We asked Prof. Dill to tell us a bit about himself and what makes Rameau an important figure in music.

How did you first become interested in Rameau?

“Modern audiences often view all composers of the past as struggling visionaries. This may be true of composers after Beethoven, but it isn’t true—or isn’t true in the same way—for earlier composers, even composers like Mozart or Haydn. They considered themselves to be working at a job. They wrote pieces to suit their performers, and the compositions were ‘disposable.’  If something needed changing, the composer changed it, generally without much grumbling. They didn’t continue to garner attention for decades.

“What first interested me about Rameau, then, was that he revised his operas extensively and these revised versions continued to be performed. This suggests all sorts of remarkable things about him and his works. Notably, he was alert to how audiences responded to his works to an unusual degree, and he felt some kind of obligation toward ‘getting the work right,’ as it were. That’s a very modern way of thinking about music. Because of this attitude, he also took risks as a composer. He was a remarkably creative individual, and he was rewarded for it. His works dominated French opera for a period of fifty years, until well after his death. For his time and place, this truly was an unusual relationship between composer and audience.

“Add to that Rameau’s work as a theorist. Thinkers had been speculating about how music works for as long as music had existed, but Rameau was the first to envision a comprehensive system that accounted for all of its aspects: how keys or tonalities come into being, why some harmonic progressions are more effective than others, how musical knowledge influences performance. We still employ his basic terminology for describing fundamental principles of music—chord inversion, tonic, dominant. There were flaws in his ideas, to be sure, and there have been countless other systems proposed since that make similar claims, but if you imagine music as an organized, coherent system—something we do every day—then you are, to a degree, following in his footsteps.

“And finally, around the year 2000, everyone became much more interested in Rameau, in response to a series of extraordinarily good performances and recordings, many of them under the direction of William Christie. It is no exaggeration to say the world thinks of Rameau differently as a result of William Christie’s work with the group Les Arts Florissants.

How did you become a Rameau specialist?

“I was fortunate to be in the right place at the right time. When I began working in Parisian libraries in the late 1980s, as a graduate student completing my degree, there were only a handful of people studying Rameau. Students from that generation have done influential work. Thomas Christensen explained the development of Rameau’s music theory, Sylvie Bouissou became the general editor of the Rameau edition, and William Christie specialized in interpreting Rameau’s music in performance.

“I was interested in Rameau’s relationship with audiences. Music criticism was still a fledgling enterprise in the eighteenth century, and yet his compositions elicited strong opinions, both for and against. He was one of the first composers to be treated not simply as a commodity, but as a public figure, one of the first to take that role seriously. To an unusual degree, he felt the need to experiment in his compositions, and yet he was also forced by circumstances to consider listeners and their perceptions in everything he wrote. After all this time, I still find this story remarkable.

“Times have changed. Nowadays, France recognizes Rameau as one its most representative composers and devotes time, money, and effort to developing our knowledge of him. A small army of dedicated French researchers is poring over every available source and producing first-rate scholarship. They’re doing wonderful work.”

What contributions have you made to scholarship?

“When I began writing about Rameau, there was a longstanding trend to approach composers solely from the vantage point of what they wrote. We could describe this as the ‘great composers’ or ‘great works’ approach. Discussing composers in this way cuts out some of the most interesting material: what audiences believed, how they liked what they heard, how they received the composers, and how composers responded to criticism. My book, Monstrous Opera: Rameau and the Tragic Tradition (1998), which Princeton University Press has recently reprinted as part of its Legacy series, addressed some of these questions. As an eminently public figure, Rameau was subject to intense scrutiny. Some critics distrusted opera as an overly sensual medium, and some regarded Rameau’s colorful music as an especially egregious example. Rameau encouraged these kinds of responses. Where earlier composers generally wrote simple, unobtrusive music, Rameau wrote music that demanded attention. In a way, then, he challenged critics and audience members to define their expectations regarding music openly and publicly. It is telling that, during the period in which he became popular, audiences changed, coming to resemble modern audiences more and more: they began to learn difficult and complex music by heart, they grew more quiet and became more attentive during performances.

“My other contributions have had to do with aspects of his career. My early publications often dealt with the relationship between Rameau’s ideas as a music theorist and his actual compositions. Having an eighteenth-century composer who was so active on both fronts is truly unusual, and it allows us to think more carefully about the relationship between theory and practice. More recently, I’ve been interested in reconstructing Rameau’s intellectual life. He was a bit of a magpie, really, taking ideas from the writers and philosophers who most suited his needs, but given the time and place in which he lived, he could take from the best: Descartes and Malebranche were early sources of inspiration, but eventually, like so many of his contemporaries, he turned his attention to Locke. Among those who collaborated with him on projects were Voltaire, Diderot, and d’Alembert. So I’ve been developing a clearer sense of what he himself actually believed, based on what he drew on from these various sources.”

How does Rameau fit in with other well-known composers of the day?

“Rameau was two years older than Handel and Bach, almost an exact contemporary. Interestingly, although there’s no evidence to suggest he knew their music well, he helped popularize in France the kinds of music they were writing. From the Handel side of things, he took the kind of virtuosic playing and singing we associate with Italian composition, and from the Bach side, he took an interest in complex counterpuntal and harmonic language. To these he added an extraordinary sense of color—few at this time were combining orchestras and voices in such surprising ways—and an endless gift for invention comparable to Bach’s and Handel’s. During the late 1740s, a faction arose at the French court that wanted to set limits on how many operas Rameau could compose, because they felt he was dominating the music scene so completely.

“Rameau was well known internationally. Initially, this was the result of his theoretical ideas, which he began publishing in the 1720s; reviews appeared almost immediately in Germany. By the 1750s, when his theoretical ideas were being popularized, his work was receiving attention in Italy as well. He also became an international figure musically in this period. His works were performed in Italy and Germany, and they were influential among the reform composers of that generation—Traetta, Jomelli, and Gluck. (For example, the famous opening scene of Gluck’s Orfeo et Euridice, which begins in the midst of a funeral procession, was directly modeled on the beginning of Rameau’s Castor et Pollux.)”

What activities have taken place around the world this year, and where?

“Well, as is always the case with composers, there have been performances around the world—in France and, more generally, Europe, obviously, but in the states as well, notably in New York and Washington D.C. In fact, a phone app has circulated in France so that one can follow where Rameau is being performed every day this year.

“Raphaëlle Legrand, who teaches at the Sorbonne, has put together a fascinating year-long series of presentations, open to the public, that combine historians, music theorists, professional musicians specializing in period instruments, and professional dancers specializing in historical dance techniques. This project is called the ‘Atelier Rameau’ and it has an excellent website. It has been especially interesting to have singers, instrumentalists, and dancers working together, because dance is so basic to Rameau’s musical style. Performers quickly developed a new sense of what was and wasn’t possible when they began talking to each other!

“The biggest events, however, were two international conferences that united all of the scholars currently working on Rameau. The first was held last March in Paris. Sponsored by the French national library and CNRS (Centre National de la Recherche Scientifique), the French government’s principal sponsor of scholarly research, ‘Rameau between Art and Science’ was held over three days at the Bibliothèque National, the Cistercian abbey at Royaumont (where an important research library is housed), and the Opéra-Comique (which premiered a new production of Rameau’s comedy, Platée). The second, ‘Jean-Philippe Rameau: International Anniversary Conference,’ was held at St. Hilda’s College, University of Oxford, this past September. It was part of a vast research effort, The Rameau Project, which is being overseen at Oxford by Graham Sadler and Jonathan Williams. Both conferences were remarkable.

“Among the surprises, those in attendance learned that we are still discovering eighteenth-century production scores for Rameau’s earliest and most important works, and that Rameau was the composer of the famous round, ‘Frère Jacques,’ which he included in a recently discovered composition manual. I can honestly say that this past year has advanced our knowledge of Rameau and his music in unprecedented ways.”

 

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School of Music Unveils Plans for a New Music Hall

New facility to provide a window into the world of working musicians

New building

An artist’s rendering of the proposed new music performance building, as viewed from University Avenue. This sketch shows the proposed rehearsal space with translucent walls at the corner.

The University of Wisconsin-Madison’s School of Music is moving ahead with plans to construct the first phase of a new performance center at the corner of Lake Street and University Avenue.

Architects will appear before the City of Madison’s Urban Design Commission Oct. 1 to present drawings for a 325-seat recital hall, large rehearsal room and spacious lobby. The $22 million project is entirely funded by anonymous donors.

The new performance building will anchor a highly visible corner of campus and is a critical component of the university’s East Campus Gateway renovation, which includes the now-completed Chazen Museum of Art expansion, Memorial Union renovation, Library Mall reconstruction and the planned Alumni Park on Lake Mendota.

More than 160 events were staged last year in the current recital hall, known as Morphy Hall, including concerts by faculty, guest artists, small chamber groups and student recitals. The school currently enrolls approximately 300 music majors, both undergraduates and graduates.

The new building is designed by Holzman Moss Bottino Architects of New York City, in partnership with Strang Architects of Madison. Acoustic design is by Richard Talaske/Sound Thinking of Oak Park, Ill., with theatrical design by Fisher Dachs Associates of New York City.

Noteworthy design elements include a glass-walled lobby and rehearsal room, allowing passersby to view rehearsals. Such extended transparency will help create educational and social connections between working musicians and the public, a key priority for the School of Music.

“Both the recital hall and large rehearsal room are central to our educational and curricular missions and will provide our students — majors and non-majors alike — with the spaces they need to experience music as practitioners and audience members,” says Susan C. Cook, director of the School of Music.

Architects have also proposed a translucent, multicolored glass brick clerestory to provide natural light, a recording suite to capture performances in both the rehearsal room and recital hall, and multi-channel audio and high-definition video recording and streaming capabilities. A “green room” lounge and dressing rooms are also planned.

Exceptional acoustics have been a priority since the project’s inception, and the site — a particularly noisy stretch of campus — presented a challenge for designers. Plans call for double-concrete walls and a double-concrete roof to block exterior noise. Inside, the cooling and heating system will be placed beneath the lobby to prevent those sounds from reaching the concert hall.

“Within the recital hall, patrons could experience the quietest space on campus,” says acoustics consultant Richard Talaske.

New building

An artist’s rendering of the proposed new music performance building, as viewed from the corner of Lake Street at University Avenue.

The School of Music Performance Center is part of a larger plan to replace outdated and inadequate performance facilities in the Mosse Humanities Building. In addition to providing a professional space for budding musicians to practice and learn, modern audio-video technologies in the new building will allow for live-stream concerts and high-quality recordings.

The second phase of the project will include a full concert hall to seat 800 patrons (fundraising for this phase is not yet complete). The first building will be designed in a modular U-shape into which the larger concert hall will eventually be placed.

UW-Madison unveils ambitious School of Music plans: Wisconsin State Journal, Sept. 25, 2014

 

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David Ronis brings theatrical flair to University Opera

David Ronis, the visiting director of University Opera at the UW-Madison School of Music, doesn’t want his opera singers to just “park and bark” their arias. He wants them to truly express the various hidden narrative levels of the opera’s libretto and musical score.

In short, he wants them to act as actors do.

It’s not a new idea, Ronis says. In fact, he says, the overall trend in opera over the last 30 years has been for opera singers to develop acting skills as keen as their vocal ones–and he considers himself to be part of that movement.

David Ronis. Photo by Luke DeLalio.

David Ronis. Photo by Luke DeLalio.

At one point, working in this way was a departure for Ronis himself. He’d been singing professionally in opera for years before he landed a job in the Los Angeles company of Disney’s Beauty and the Beast, where he suddenly was surrounded by actors with real technique. After three years there he returned to New York and began to study acting seriously and added acting jobs – spoken theater, commercials, and independent films – to his resume.

It was life-changing. He began to look at operatic acting with new eyes, and discovered he was a bit embarrassed by the quality of much of the work that he saw.

“So I joined some friends – other teachers and directors – whose mission in life was to train opera singers to become better actors,” Ronis says. “And my background, being a singer myself as well as a trained actor, has facilitated that. So that’s what I work on now: how to use yourself, your imagination, your emotions, and your body, to act the story more effectively.”

For Albert Herring, this season’s University Opera production and Ronis’s first at UW-Madison, that means detailed stage work. “Comedy is harder than drama,” he says. “When you’re singing an aria about how lonely you are and how you want to commit suicide, it usually has a slower, more sustained inner tempo. Although the emotions are intense, it doesn’t require the same kind of technical skill as comedy.”

“In comedy, things happen quickly. Characters exchange thoughts, react to each other, and things are constantly bouncing back and forth,” he continues.  “So we’re spending a lot of time working on those interchanges, and how they manifest in action. The trick is to do it cleanly and with proper timing.”

What does Ronis find funny? “I love comedy that arises out of situation,” he says. “The first time I saw the play Noises Off, I thought I had died and gone to heaven. I also have a few favorite standup comedians – Chris Rock, Kathy Griffin, Louis CK – as well as few sitcoms like ’30 Rock’ that I think are deeply funny. The classic TV comedies from the 50s and 60s are fantastic! Yesterday, in rehearsal, I found myself saying to one of the students, ‘Okay, you’re Lucy! This is a Lucy moment!’ ”

Did they have any idea what you were talking about? “They did! Yes!”

Learn more about University Opera’s Albert Herring, including how to buy tickets.


We asked David to tell us a bit more about this background and his plans for the UW-Madison School of Music. Here’s his response.

Q: Welcome to Madison, David! You’re such a New Yorker – how does it feel to be in the Midwest?

A: I’ve actually spent quite a bit of time in the Midwest. When I was actively performing, I sang all over the country, frequently spending a good month or more in a given city. So I got pretty comfortable living outside of New York. I’ve been to Wisconsin a number of times – I sang at both the Skylight and Florentine Opera companies as well as on tour with the New York City Opera National Company in Madison (at the Oscar Mayer Theater) And also in Platteville!

Q: Did you have any connections with the School of Music before you came here?

A: Yes, my good friends Paul and Cheryl Rowe have been here for 16 years. Paul is on the voice faculty and Cheryl is a terrific singer and voice teacher in her own right. It was Paul and Cheryl who encouraged me to apply for the interim position. And I’m glad they did!

Q: What are your plans this year for University Opera?

A: Well, we’ve selected two shows that I think are perfect for the UW students and for the community. In October, we’re doing Benjamin Britten’s Albert Herring and in March, Mozart’s masterpiece, The Magic Flute. Albert Herring is a terrific comedy with a social message or two that’s truly an ensemble piece. Technically, it’s a chamber opera, because the orchestra consists of only 13 players.

Albert Herring is also a perfect piece for the intimate Music Hall at UW-Madison which seats 380. Grand opera it isn’t. What it is, is a terrific opportunity for young singers and instrumentalists to develop their skills and put on an entertaining, meaningful work. We’re very happy to bring this piece to the Madison community. The conductor for Albert Herring is Kyle Knox, a remarkably talented graduate student, studying with orchestra conductor James Smith. It’s been a delight collaborating with Kyle on this project and I look forward to working with Jim in the spring.

I actually have a special connection with this work. When I was a young singer, I had the opportunity to travel to the Britten-Pears School in Aldeburgh, England in order perform the title role of Albert Herring as well as to study it with Peter Pears, the original Albert. It was a minimal workshop production, directed by Eric Crozier, Britten’s librettist, and Nancy Evans, another original cast member, yet quite memorable for me. I’m very happy to share my one degree of separation from the creation of the work with UW students. It was fantastic to do Albert Herring in the part of England where it not only takes place, but where Britten, Pears, Crozier and the English Opera Group lived and worked.

The spring production, The Magic Flute, will be sung in German with English dialogue. Since we have a full orchestra for the spring production, I wanted to do a piece that had a fairly large cast and chorus, thus offering lots of opportunities for UW students to perform. The Magic Flute is the perfect piece – well-loved and family friendly. One of our missions is to develop new, young audiences, and this opera goes a long way to accomplish that task. We look forward to bringing this work to the Music Hall.

Q: As a Visiting Assistant Professor with a one-year appointment, how do you see your role, as far as continuing and developing University Opera?

A: It’s an interesting position to be in. This is truly a year of transition for University Opera. After 16 successful years under William Farlow, I want to make sure that the program continues to grow and develop. One year is long enough to begin a few new initiatives that will hopefully be continued in the years to come. At the top of my list are the program’s educational priorities – to provide ways to help students develop their skills and to provide performance opportunities for them. In order to involve as many students as possible in the program, we’ve double cast some roles in Albert Herring and I’m expecting to do the same in The Magic Flute. As part of the Opera Workshop class (which produces an Opera Scenes program twice a year in addition to the mainstage productions), I’ve started teaching an Acting for Singers class. Seeing that my personal mission has been to develop better acting standards among opera singers, I’m excited to have the opportunity to help the students with their stage skills. Also, pursuing the part of the mission of University Opera that values community service, I would like to reach out to various arts and civic groups, both on campus and off, to see what kinds of collaborations may be possible – connections that would be mutually beneficial.

Q: Do you have any other observations regarding University Opera or the School of Music in general?

A: Well, I continue to be impressed with the students. They seem hungry for knowledge and to develop their skills. As a group, they are very hard working, and I think that you’ll see the results in performance. Susan Cook, the Director of the School of Music, Ben Schultz, the Assistant Director, and the other administrative staff have been very welcoming and helpful as I adjust to new systems and procedures. Likewise the School of Music faculty members I’ve met. I’m very happy to be among this group and look forward to an exciting year!

 

 

 

David Ronis
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University Opera Presents Britten’s “Albert Herring”

University Opera presents Albert Herring, Benjamin Britten’s entertaining ensemble comedy with a social message

On October 24, 26, and 28, University Opera will present its first operatic production of the season, Albert Herring, composed in 1947 by Benjamin Britten. The libretto is based on Guy de Maupassant’s novella Le Rosier de Madame Husson, and was written by Eric Crozier. It was premiered in 1947 at Glyndebourne Festival Opera in East Sussex, England, and received its first United States premiere at Tanglewood in 1949. It has been called the greatest comic opera of the century.

It will mark the first opera staged under the direction of David Ronis, visiting director of opera at UW-Madison. Read about David Ronis’s new ideas for University Opera. 

The opera will be performed in Music Hall, 925 Bascom Mall, on Friday, October 24 at 7:30 p.m., Sunday, October 26 at 3 p.m., and Tuesday, October 28 at 7:30 p.m.

Herring-Poster-FnlWEB

The story begins when the town council in the small English village of
Loxford, motivated by the formidable Lady Billows, meets in order to select a “chaste and virtuous” Queen of the May. When no young ladies can be found that fit the bill (scandale!), they decide to choose a King of the May instead. The young man they select is the nerdy Albert Herring. Henpecked by his mother, Albert dreams of going out on his own. For the moment, however, he does not have the emotional wherewithal to break loose from her tether. That changes when his contemporaries, Sid and Nancy, spike his drink during the celebration. Under the influence of alcohol, he conquers his inhibitions and disappears overnight. The next morning, the whole town believes him to be dead. But Albert, of course, reappears and proceeds to tell them all off. Thus, Britten’s opera is both a coming of age story as well as one that gently examines the nature of hypocrisy in modern society.

Although originally set in 1900, the University Opera production transports Albert Herring to 1947, the year it was written. At that time, England was still reeling from the hardships of World War II. By setting the opera at the the time of its creation, University Opera hopes
to reflect some of the social and economic challenges faced by Britten and
his colleagues when they started the English Opera Group. Some of Britten’s most important work dates from this period in which he wrote for the same forces of 13 instrumentalists and a small group of singers, and consequently made a huge contribution to the genre of the chamber opera.

The 13-character cast of Albert Herring features William Ottow and Joshua Sanders in the title role, as well as Jessica Kasinski and Tyana O’Connor as Lady Billows. Additionally, the production will include Alaina Carlson and Jennifer DeMain as Nancy, Brian Schneider as Sid, Joel Rathmann as the Vicar, Tia Cleveland as Mrs. Herring, Sheila Wilhelmi as Florence, Dennis Gotkowski as the Mayor, Emi Chen as Emmie, Emily Weaver as Cis, and Nicole Heinen and Sarah Richardson as Miss Wordsworth. Three local performers join the cast – Rick Henslin as Superintendent of Police Budd, as well as Michael Chiaverini and Eli Kuzma, boys who sing in the Madison Youth Choir, splitting the role of Harry. The instrumental forces for Albert Herring will be the University Opera Orchestra, conducted by Kyle Knox, with musical preparation by Mr. Knox, Chan Mi Jean, and Thomas Kasdorf.

The production staff include scenic designer Stephen Hudson-Mairet, costume designers Sydney Krieger and Hyewon Park, lighting designer Jordan Kardasz, prop designer Dana Fralick, scene painting advisor Liz Rathke, technical director Greg Silver, and production stage manager Erin McDermott. Student staff include Emi Chen, costumes; Katie Oliver and Fabian Qamar, props; Melanie Treuhaft, scene painter; Briana Miller, master electrician; and Lukas Heins, assistant carpenter.

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.arts.wisc.edu/ (click “box office”). 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.

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Pro Arte Quartet Channels Allen Ginsberg in “Howl” Composition

World Premiere of New Chamber Work Scheduled for Sept. 26

Also: Open Rehearsal, Friday, Sept. 25, 9 to noon, Mills Hall.

Encore Performance Sunday, Sept. 27, Chazen Museum, 12:30 p.m.

When Beat Generation poet Allen Ginsberg published “Howl” in 1956, he may have anticipated the obscenity charges he faced because of the work’s highly charged content. Chances are he didn’t foresee his epic poem, now considered a significant work of American literature, as the source of inspiration for a 21st Century chamber music composition.

The Pro Arte Quartet

The Pro Arte Quartet during a rehearsal last spring with Belgian composer Benoit Mernier

Pierre Jalbert, an American composer of French-Canadian decent, thought otherwise. When commissioned by the University of Wisconsin Pro Arte Quartet to compose an original work to help the quartet celebrate its centennial season, Jalbert chose Ginsberg’s poem as his source of inspiration. Jalbert’s “Howl” for clarinet and string quartet will receive its world premiere by the Pro Arte on Friday, Sept. 26, at the Wisconsin Union Theater on the UW-Madison campus. The event, free and open to the public, will be the first classical music concert to take place in the historic theater’s newly refurbished Shannon Hall.

The 8 p.m. concert will be preceded by a 7 p.m. concert preview discussion with Jalbert in Shannon Hall. In addition to Jalbert’s composition, the evening’s program includes the String Quartet No. 2 in A Major (1824) by Juan Crisóstomo Arriga and the Clarinet Quintet in A Major (1791) by Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart.

The concert will be repeated Sunday, Sept. 28, at 12:30 p.m. in Gallery III at the Chazen Museum of Art, also on the UW-Madison campus. Joining the Pro Arte for both concerts will be clarinetist Charles Neidich, a regular member of the Orpheus Chamber Orchestra and noted guest performer with orchestras and string quartets worldwide.

Clarinetist Charles Neidich

Clarinetist Charles Neidich

“The Jalbert quintet is a very exciting composition, often very rhythmic, but with very serenely quiet contrasting sections,” said Neidich. “It is also interesting in that the clarinetist has to switch to bass clarinet, creating a very different sound for the group.”

Ginsberg, who died in 1997, began work on “Howl” as early as 1954. The poem was first published in “Howl and Other Poems” in 1956 as part of the “Pocket Poets” series by fellow beat poet Lawrence Ferlinghetti, also known as founder of City Lights Books in San Francisco.

Upon the poem’s release, both Ferlinghetti and City Lights manager Shigeyoshi Murao were arrested and charged with distributing obscene material because of the poem’s profanity, drug references and frank sexual content. Four months later, Judge Clayton Horn ruled that the work was not obscene and charges against Ferlinghetti and his employee were dropped.

Judge Horn deemed “Howl” to have redeeming social content, and over the years it’s proved its worth, both in terms of social and literary value, according to Dr. Lynn Keller, the Martha Meier Renk Bascom Professor of Poetry in the UW-Madison Department of English.

” ‘Howl’ stands out stylistically in its compellingly and varied repetition of words beginning successive lines, its near surrealist imagery, and its combination of agonized depictions at once hellish and lofty with a very appealing sense of humor,” Dr. Keller said. “In terms of content, it also stands out in celebrating the down-and-out hipster as spiritual quester and visionary.”

As part of the Beat Generation – as much a social as a literary phenomenon – Ginsberg’s celebration of physical pleasures and suspicions about “the military industrial complex” created a new path that still appeals to younger audiences. “It is a powerful poem, a howl from the heart of an agonized generation in a repressive era,” Dr. Keller said. Jalbert was familiar with the poem prior to the Pro Arte commission, but it was only after he started composing the work that he began to realize the influence Ginsberg had on the music. Those similarities had less to do with the poem’s content and more to do with its structure and rhythm, the composer said.

Composer Pierre Jalbert

Composer Pierre Jalbert

“At the beginning of my piece, the clarinet is basically playing long tones, creating a long line much like the long lines in Ginsberg’s poem, while the strings present the rhythmically pulsating harmonic underpinning,” Jalbert said. “Ginsberg’s poem has been called a  ‘litany of praise,’ and the second movement of my work becomes a litany, much like a series of prayers in a liturgy, with the strings creating chant-like lines while the clarinet becomes the vox Dei, or “voice of God,” hovering mysteriously over everything. The third movement returns to the musical materials from the first movement, but now the bass clarinet takes on the virtuosic role.”

In keeping with emotional soundings in parts of “Howl,” Jalbert also has attempted to capture the “shrieks” that were characteristic to the poem alongside the aforementioned litany of praise.

“There are buildups to shrieking moments in my piece as well as a “howl” motive of a low chord slurred up to an immediate high cluster, all played very forcefully,” said Jalbert. “There’s also something very urban about parts of the poem and to me, there’s an urban quality in my first and third movements. There are also many religious allusions and the last words of Christ on the cross, so the second movement uses some of this.”

The Jalbert composition is the final of six commissions for the Pro Arte Centennial seasons, and it has all the earmarks of a contemporary works with staying power, according to Neidich.

“Having studied the score, I believe that it will be accessible to listeners and exciting to hear,” said Neidich. “It features the clarinet both in the role of soloist and as contributor to the sonority of the ensemble. It has all the necessary attributes to become a significant work.”

The Jalbert commission also brings to an end the Pro Arte’s seasons of centennial celebration in honor of the quartet’s long and storied history.  The Quatuor Pro Arte of Brussels, first formed in 1911-1912, was performing at the Wisconsin Union Theatre on the UW-Madison campus on May 10, 1940, when Belgium was overrun and occupied by Nazi forces, turning three of its original four musicians into war orphans. By October of that year, the group had officially become the UW Pro Arte Quartet, making it the first artist ensemble-in-residence at any university in the world. At more than 100 years old, Pro Arte also is thought to be the world’s oldest continuously performing string quartet.

In May, the Pro Arte returned to Belgium to perform the European premiere of its fifth centennial commissioned work, Belgian composer Benoît Mernier’s String Quartet No. 3. The work had received its world premiere on March 1 Mills Concert Hall in the Mosse Humanities Building on the UW-Madison campus with the composer in attendance. Read about their Belgium adventures in a local blog, The Well-Tempered Ear.
The Pro Arte Quartet includes violinists David Perry and Suzanne Beia, violist Sally Chisholm and cellist Parry Karp.

Contacts:
Sarah Schaffer 608/217-6786
Mike Muckian 608/287-6261

 

 

 

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UW-Madison showcases Brass, Jazz, and Composers in 2014-15 Music Festivals

Brass, jazz and three composers–American George Crumb, Cecilia McDowall of the United Kingdom, and France’s Jean-Philippe Rameau — will be showcased this year at the UW-Madison School of Music in the form of five multi-event guest artist festivals, starting in October and continuing through April. Funding is provided by the Vilas Trust and Anonymous Fund at UW-Madison. We thank them for their support.

Other notable events will include an eight-concert faculty/student “Showcase Series” series, presenting some of the most dynamic music that the School has to offer. Click here for Showcase info.

Some events are ticketed (click here for info). Tickets will go on sale one month ahead of time. All other events at the School of Music, including dozens of faculty recitals, student ensembles and individual guest artists, continue to be free.

Oystein Baadsvik

Oystein Baadsvik

Our 2014-15 festivals include:

“Celebrate Brass”
Wednesday, October 8 — Monday, October 13, 2014

Brass music is often known for its swagger, but it is also famous for delicate polyphonies and burnished tones. We invite the public to experience the beauty of brass first-hand at a festival featuring both a full array of music and musicians, many at the height of their careers.

Performers will include famed Norwegian tubist Øystein Baadsvik, the only musician to have created a career as a tuba soloist, rather than becoming a member of an orchestra or accepting a teaching post. His multi-faceted musical career as a soloist, chamber musician and recording artist has taken him all over the world. Øystein Baadsvik’s international career began in 1991 when he was awarded two prizes at the prestigious Concours International d’Exécution Musicale in Geneva.

Baadsvik will be joined by hornist Jessica Valeri (BM, UW-Madison, 1997) of the San Francisco Symphony Orchestra, Michigan’s Western Brass Quintet, UW-Madison’s Wisconsin Brass Quintet, renowned brass composer and blogger Anthony Plog, new UW-Madison faculty tubist Tom Curry, as well the best brass players and conductors at the University, including a Brass Choir led by conductor Scott Teeple.

Events will include concerts, solo recitals, masterclasses, brass coachings, a colloquium and a reception.
Click here for full schedule.

The 4th Annual UW-Madison/Madison Metropolitan School Jazz Festival
Wednesday, December 3 — Saturday, December 6, 2014

Ingrid Jensen in Brooklyn, NY. June 2005photo by Angela Jimenez

Ingrid Jensen

A festival featuring workshops and performances for college and high school jazz performers. This marks the first time that UW-Madison will host the event.

This festival will feature Ingrid Jensen, trumpeter, bandleader, artist-in-residence at the University of Michigan and part-time faculty member at the Peabody Conservatory. Ingrid Jensen has been a major figure on the international jazz scene for over 20 years. Her three CDs for the ENJA label and her latest CD, “At Sea,” won her nominations from the Canadian Juno Awards, including an award in 1995 for Vernal Fields. In addition to her work as a leader of the quartet Project O and the quintet Nordic Connect, Jensen is a featured soloist with the Maria Schneider Orchestra, with whom she recorded four albums, including the Grammy Award-winning “Concert in the Garden” and “Sky Blue,” the former of which was also named Jazz Album of the Year by the Jazz Journalists Association.

Jensen is a member of the Mosaic project with Terri-Lynn Carrington, Esperanza Spaulding and Geri Allen; the Darcy James Argue’s Grammy-nominated Secret Society; the Juno-award winning Christine Jensen Orchestra; has been featured on Gil Evans’ Porgy and Bess at the San Francisco Jazz Festival, under the direction of Maria Schneider; and has appeared as a guest in the festival’s “Tribute to Woody Shaw and Freddie Hubbard”, alongside Terence Blanchard, Eddie Henderson, Bobby Hutcherson and Kenny Garrett.

The festival will include master classes in jazz trumpet and improvisation, open rehearsals, a Saturday high school clinic, and performances with UW jazz ensembles and high school big bands from Madison and Middleton.

This festival is free and open to the public.
Click here for full schedule.

“Seventy Degrees Below Zero”: A concert series and residency showcasing the music of British composer Cecilia McDowall
Friday, February 19 through Sunday, February 23, 2015

In 2009, after premiering a McDowall work, “Framed,” UW-Madison trumpet professor John Aley discovered for himself what he describes as the “challenging, energizing, poetic, clever, tongue in cheek, and utterly beautiful” music of Cecilia McDowall.

Cecilia McDowall

Cecilia McDowall

Our festival, organized by Aley, will feature the first-ever United States residency of British composer Cecilia McDowall and the US premiere of her symphonic work “Seventy Degrees Below Zero,” commissioned by the City of London Sinfonia and the Scott Polar Research Institute, based in Cambridge, England.

Often inspired by extra-musical influences, McDowall’s writing combines a rhythmic vitality with expressive lyricism. She has won many awards and has been short-listed several times for the British Composer Awards. Her music has been commissioned and performed by leading choirs, including the BBC Singers, ensembles and at major festivals both in Britain and abroad and has been broadcast on BBC Radio and worldwide.

“Seventy Degrees Below Zero” is a cantata for solo voice (to be sung by faculty tenor Jim Doing) and orchestra, inspired by a phrase written by British captain Robert Falcon Scott to his wife, prior to his death while returning from an expedition to the South Pole: ‘Dear, it is not easy to write because of the cold – 70 degrees below zero.’ ”

Joining us on Saturday will be Michael DuVernois of the UW-Madison IceCube Particle Astrophysics Center, only recently returned from the Antarctic, who will present an entertaining and educational talk, complete with historic and modern photographs, on the progression of Antarctic exploration from the heroic age through modern science on the coldest, highest, driest continent.

Other works to be performed during the three-day festival include the first US performances of “Regina Caeli,” for four trumpets and four trombones, and “Cavatina at Midnight,” for clarinet, cello and piano. Her haunting choral works “Ave Regina” and “Ave Maris Stella” will be performed by the UW Chamber Choir, directed by Bruce Gladstone. In addition to Jim Doing, faculty performers will include pianists Christopher Taylor and Martha Fischer, clarinetist Linda Bartley, soprano Elizabeth Hagedorn, oboist Kostas Tiliakos, trombonist Mark Hetzler, trumpeter John Aley, cellist Parry Karp, percussionist Anthony Di Sanza, violist Sally Chisholm, and others.

In 2008, the Phoenix Chorale won a Grammy Award for “Best Small Ensemble Performance” for its Chandos CD, “Spotless Rose: Hymns to the Virgin Mary,” which included a work, “Three Latin Motets” by Cecilia McDowall.

Click here for full schedule.
Read a review in The Guardian newspaper of the UK premiere of “Seventy Degrees Below Zero.” 

“Honoring George Crumb at 85”
Sunday, March 22 and Monday, March 23, 2015

George Crumb has been a major force in American composition since the 1960s when his Ancient Voices of Children set to texts by Garcia Lorca provided an evocative and deeply personal response to late modernist serialism. The winner of both a Pulitzer Prize and Grammy, Crumb continues to compose new works, most recently his American Songbooks, that celebrate the magic and mystery of life. Crumb’s music often juxtaposes contrasting musical styles and quotes from pre-existing works, and his use of extended instrumental techniques shows his predilection for new sound colors. Many of Crumb’s works include programmatic, symbolic, mystical and theatrical elements, which are often reflected in his beautiful and meticulously notated scores.

Miranda Cuckson

Miranda Cuckson

Crumb’s 85th birthday provides an opportunity to celebrate this composer through concerts, workshops, and master classes featuring guest artists as well as our own faculty and students. The program will include a performance of the “Crumb Madrigals” by Chicago duo Due East and a concert by New York-based violinist Miranda Cuckson, as well as a performance of “The Violinists in My Life,” written by faculty composer Laura Schwendinger.

Cuckson is highly acclaimed for her performances of a wide range of repertoire, from early eras to the most current creations. In demand as a soloist and chamber musician, she appears in major concert halls, as well as at universities, galleries and informal spaces. She has performed at such venues as the Berlin Philharmonie, Carnegie Hall, the Library of Congress, Miller Theatre, the 92nd Street Y, Guggenheim Museum, and many more.

Nunc (Latin for “now”) was founded in 2007 as “Transit Circle ” by artistic director and violinist/violist Miranda Cuckson, and was renamed and incorporated as a not-for-profit organization in 2012. Nunc is devoted to presenting high-caliber performances of music of current, recent and older eras, through distinctive programming that highlights their innovations and contributions.

Due East (Erin Lesser, flutes; Greg Beyer, percussion) actively promotes new music and seeks to expand the flute and percussion duo genre through frequent commissions and premieres. Their first recording, Simultaneous Worlds, is available on Albany Records. Their second recording, Drawn Only Once, is a multi-media CD/DVD now available on New Amsterdam Records. Noted critic Steve Smith gave it a rare 5.0-star rating in Time Out New York, calling it “spellbindingly beautiful.”
Click here for full schedule.
Read a review of Miranda Cuckson in the New York Times.

“Rediscovering Rameau”
Multiple events; check back later for more details.

Jean-Philippe Rameau

Jean-Philippe Rameau.

A year-long festival marking the 250th anniversary of the death of French Baroque composer Jean-Philippe Rameau.
The UW-Madison and community partners will offer a series of public events beginning this fall and culminating in April with two concert performances of Rameau’s one-act opera, Pygmalion, by the Madison Bach Musicians.
Learn more about Rameau here.

 

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Remembering and celebrating the life of Howard Karp

Howard Karp, professor emeritus of piano at the University of Wisconsin-Madison, died of complications of cardiac arrest on Monday, June 30 at the Medical Center of the Rockies in Loveland, Colorado, close to his beloved summer home in Estes Park, surrounded by his wife and sons. He was 84.

Howard_Karp

Howard Karp. Photo by Katrin Talbot.

“Howard Karp was an inspirational presence as both an educator and performer,” says Susan Cook, director of the UW School of Music. “He taught generations of students and helped make the Wisconsin Idea international by recruiting pianists worldwide. His influence continues to shape the School of Music and its mission.”

For many music lovers, the Madison concert season begins with the annual Karp Family Concert each Labor Day. In 38 years, three generations of the Karp family — piano, cello, violin, viola and spoken word — never repeated a piece, premiering new works and celebrated masterpieces in front of some of Mills Hall’s largest crowds. However, the 2014 concert — originally scheduled for September 1 — has now been cancelled. In its place is a tribute event on Sunday, August 31, at 3 PM in Mills Hall. The public is welcome. A reception will follow.

Download the program here. (PDF)

In lieu of flowers, donations and contributions in Prof. Karp’s name may be made to the “Howard and Frances Karp Piano Scholarship Fund” University of Wisconsin Foundation, US Bank Lockbox, Box 78807, Milwaukee, WI 53278.

Click here to read the story published by the University of Wisconsin-Madison News.

Click here to read Prof. Karp’s obituary.

Click here to read a story about Prof. Karp and fellow pianist Leonard Shure, published August 17, 2014 in the New York Times.

Howard Karp’s music is now available on SoundCloud and may be purchased through Albany Records and the UW-Madison School of Music Online CD Store.


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UW appoints School of Music appoints alumnus Tom Curry as visiting assistant professor of tuba

UW-Madison alumnus studied with UW’s John Stevens and Northwestern’s Rex Martin

The UW-Madison School of Music is pleased to announce the appointment of Appleton native Tom Curry as Visiting Assistant Professor of Tuba, replacing Professor of Tuba John Stevens who will retire this spring after 29 years in the position.

Tom Curry

Tom Curry

Curry, a former student of John Stevens’, graduated from UW-Madison in 2009 with a degree in music performance and communication arts and was on the Dean’s List for eight semesters with a 4.00 GPA. He subsequently earned a master’s degree in music performance and literature from Northwestern University, studying with Rex Martin, and is currently pursuing a doctorate in music performance there. He is principal tubist of the Green Bay Symphony Orchestra and the Evanston Symphony Orchestra, and has performed with the Joffrey Ballet, the Chicago Philharmonic, the Ars Viva Symphony, and many other orchestras.

Curry maintains a large studio of private low brass students at several Chicago-area high schools and also teaches supplemental tuba and euphonium lessons and master classes at Northwestern. He has served as a low brass instructor at the University of Wisconsin Summer Music Clinic and as a guest tuba and euphonium instructor at Lawrence University.

WBQ_2014_Megan_Aley_photog

The 2014-15 Wisconsin Brass Quintet. Front row: Tom Curry, tuba; Mark Hetzler, trombone. Back row: Daniel Grabois, horn; John Aley, trumpet; and Jessica Jensen, trumpet. Photo by Megan Aley.

In addition to teaching the Low Brass Studio, Curry will play in the Wisconsin Brass Quintet, a position he also held during his final semester at UW while John Stevens was on sabbatical.

In Chicago, Curry has regularly appeared with several local and national rock and popular acts, including performances with the Grammy-nominated group Foster the People and the local band, Mucca Pazza.

“We’re ecstatic,” says Mark Hetzler, professor of trombone. “There’s an energy about Tom which comes across in how he teaches and plays. And he understands the style of teaching here: the faculty connection with students is extremely important. He’s going to continue that tradition.”

“It’s quite an honor to come back to a place that had such a formative influence on me,” Curry says. “To be in that environment is an incredible opportunity.”