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University Opera to stage “La Bohème” at Memorial Union’s Shannon Hall

January 10, 2018
Contact:
David Ronis ronis@wisc.edu
Katherine Esposito  kesposito@wisc.edu

Riveting theater, achingly beautiful music abound in upcoming University Opera production of La Bohème

University Opera takes over the Wisconsin Union Theater for a three-day run of Puccini’s masterpiece

On February 23, 24 and 25, University Opera, in collaboration with the Wisconsin Union Theater, will present a special production of Giacomo Puccini’s timeless masterpiece, La Bohème, at the Wisconsin Union Theater’s Shannon Hall.  This marks the first time in over 15 years that University Opera has staged a production at the Union Theater and the first bona fide opera production in the space since the theater’s renovation in 2014.  Conducted by interim UW-Madison Director of Orchestras, Chad Hutchinson, and directed by Karen K. Bishop Director of Opera, David Ronis, the production will be performed in Italian with English supertitles.  It will take full advantage of the many upgrades to Shannon Hall, in particular, the expanded orchestra pit which will accommodate the UW-Madison Symphony Orchestra.

Friday, Feb. 23 @ 7:30 PM

Saturday, Feb. 24 @ 7:30 PM

Sunday, Feb. 25 @3:00 PM

Arguably Puccini’s most beautiful work, La Bohème blends riveting theater with sumptuous music.  The incomparable score accompanies the story of Rodolfo and Mimi, a penniless poet and a seamstress, who fall in love and suffer through heartbreak and tragedy.  Along for the ride are Rodolfo’s fellow starving artist buddies, Marcello, Schaunard, and Colline, as well as Marcello’s sassy yet bighearted girlfriend, Musetta, all surviving on laughter and the promise of love.

Says longtime University Opera supporter Kathleen Harker: “I am excited to see opera return to Shannon Hall at the Union with the University Opera’s lavish production of Puccini’s La Boheme. I have fond memories of seeing my first opera, a touring Metropolitan Opera production of ‘Madama Butterfly,’ at the Memorial Union in 1965.”

La Bohème is chock full of memorable arias including Rodolfo’s “Che gelida manina” and Mimi’s “Mi chiamano Mimi”  both from the end of the first act, when Mimi and Rodolfo fall in love; as well as Musetta’s Waltz, “Quando m’en vò,” which Musetta sings in the lively second act to arouse Marcello’s jealousy.  It was also the inspiration for Rent, Jonathan Larson’s musical theater adaptation of the material, recently seen at the Overture Center in a national touring production.


Above: Luciano Pavarotti sings “Che Gelida Manina,” 1961

University Opera’s production sets La Bohème in Paris of 1925, the period called les années folles, “the crazy years” – France’s version of the Roaring Twenties – during which time so many famous artists and intellectuals found themselves in the City of Light.  Among the crowd at the Café Momus in the second act, audience members might be able to pick out characters inspired by some of these famous expats – F. Scott and Zelda Fitzgerald, Salvador Dalí, Simone de Beauvoir, Man Ray, and Ernest Hemingway, to name a few.  “We’re so excited to be presenting this timeless, heart-wrenching story against the backdrop of the vibrant cultural and artistic milieu of Paris in the 1920s,” says director David Ronis.  “The environment is a natural fit for generating the emotionally charged performances that really make La Bohème so fulfilling to see.”

This marks the first time in over 15 years that University Opera has staged a production at the Union Theater and the first bona fide opera production in the space since the theater’s renovation in 2014.

The transposition of the story to the 1920s also provides fertile ground for the imagination of set designer Joseph Varga, emeritus professor of scenic design in the UW-Madison Department of Theatre and Drama.  For this production, Varga has designed a non-literal unit set that functions beautifully for both indoor and outdoor scenes, the background of which features a stunning roofscape view of Paris.  Varga is joined by M.F.A. student lighting designer, Sruthi Suresan, costume designers Sydney Krieger and Hyewon Park and props designer Jennifer Childers.  Completing the production team will be production manager Martie Barthel-Steer, technical director Greg Silver, scenic painters Teresa Sarkela and Yoshinori Asai, prop manager Jo Chalhoub, rehearsal pianist Sarah Williams, assistant director Sarah Kendall, and assistant stage managers Meghan Stecker and Delaney Egan.

This large production will involve over 80 UW-Madison students – singers, instrumentalists, and stage crew – as well as ten young performers who are members of Madison Youth Choirs.  Most of the principal roles will be double cast.  Shaddai Solidum and Yanzelmalee Rivera will split performances as Mimi. UW-Madison doctoral candidate and Madison Opera studio artist Benjamin Liupaogo will divide performances of Rodolfo with José Muñiz.  Katie Anderson and Claire Powling will both perform the role of Musetta, Matt Chastain and alumnus James Held will be Marcello, Nicholas Damiano and John McHugh will perform Schaunard.  Guest artist and alumnus Benjamin Schultz-Burkel will be seen as Colline, Jeremiah Gile as Benoit, and Jake Elner as Alcindoro.  UW-Madison vocal coach, Dr. Daniel Fung, will be responsible for the musical preparation.

Tickets are $38 for premium seating, $30 general admission, $25 senior tickets, $15 non-UW-Madison students and $10 UW-Madison students and are available in advance through the Campus Arts Ticketing office at (608) 265-ARTS and online at https://union.wisc.edu/events-and-activities/event-calendar/event/la-boheme/. 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.

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.

University Opera is a cultural service of the Mead Witter 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 https://www.music.wisc.edu/

Below, enjoy two more gorgeous arias from La Bohème. We will see you at the Union in late February!


Anna Netrebko sings “Si, mi chiamo mimi”


Maria Callas sings “Quando me’n vo,'” 1958

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University Opera presents Benjamin Britten’s “The Turn of the Screw”

January 31, 2017

Contacts:
David Ronis ronis@wisc.edu
Katherine Esposito kesposito@wisc.edu

 

Fresh from winning two major awards in the 2015-16 National Opera Association Competition, University Opera will present Benjamin Britten’s gothic ghost story, The Turn of the Screw, to round out its season.  In this, Britten’s last chamber opera, based on the Henry James novella of the same title, terror takes unexpected forms.  Premiered in 1954, The Turn of the Screw tells of a young governess who is hired to care for two children in an isolated country house in late 19th century England.  She soon realizes that the children are haunted by secrets and spirits that harm them in very real ways and she takes it upon herself to defend them.  In so doing, she is forced to confront the demons she perceives as threats, as well as her own internal ones.

Benjamin Britten in the mid-1960s (photograph by Hans Wild).

Benjamin Britten in the mid-1960s (photograph by Hans Wild).

The Turn of the Screw will be presented in English for three performances, all with projected supertitles.  March 3 at 7:30 PM, March 5 at 3:00 PM, and March 7 at 7:30 PM at Music Hall on the UW-Madison campus.  David Ronis, inaugural Karen K. Bishop Director of University Opera, will direct and graduate conducting assistant Kyle Knox will conduct the 13-member chamber orchestra.  Musical preparation will be by University Opera’s new vocal coach, Daniel Fung.

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 here.

Just as James’s novella is particularly notable for the ambiguity of its story, so is Britten’s opera.  Are the ghosts real?  Or are they creations of the Governess’s delusional mind?  Are the children as innocent as they originally appear, or are they part of a larger, scheme of evil?  What of Mrs. Grose, the housekeeper, who reveals some information, but not enough to form a coherent backstory?  And the ghosts themselves – Peter Quint and Miss Jessel – what motivates them?  What do they have at stake?  All these questions hover as this compelling psychological thriller unfolds.

Following each performance of The Turn of the Screw, there will be a talkback session with the cast and members of the artistic staff. Audience members will be given the opportunity to ask questions and discuss the issues raised by this opera.

Leading the cast and alternating the role of the Governess will be Katie Anderson and Erin Bryan.  Alec Brown will play the roles of the Prologue/Peter Quint, Anna Polum will be Miss Jessel and Cayla Rosché will be Mrs. Grose.  Elisheva Pront and Emily Vandenberg will alternate as Flora and guest artists Simon Johnson and Amitabha Shatdal will share the role of Miles.

The production will be designed by Frank Schneeberger with lighting design by John Frautschy.  Sydney Krieger and Hyewon Park will design costumes, Meg Huskin will be the assistant director, Holly Berkowitz the dramaturg, and the production stage manager will be Meghan Stecker.  Other staff include Chan Mi Jean and Satoko Hayami, rehearsal pianists; Erin Bryan, operations manager for University Opera; Teresa Sarkela, scenic charge; and Ethan White, lighting board operator.

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 here.

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 Mead Witter 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 music.wisc.edu.

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2017 Annual Schubertiade to feature acclaimed soprano Emily Birsan

ALSO IN JANUARY: Violinist Soh-Hyun Altino and pianist Christopher Taylor team up for an afternoon of exquisite sonatas from Fauré and Corigliano. Sunday, January 22, 4 PM. Learn more here.


Join pianists Martha Fischer, Bill Lutes, and friends on the stage and seats

of Mills Hall for January’s “Schubertiade,” an intimate homage to the music,

loves and life of Romantic composer Franz Schubert.

The concert will take place Sunday, January 29, at a new time, 3:00 PM.

Fischer is a UW-Madison professor of collaborative piano and piano and Bill Lutes is emeritus artist-in-residence.

Martha Fischer & Bill Lutes. Image by Katrin Talbot.

Martha Fischer & Bill Lutes. Image by Katrin Talbot.

The concert will be followed by a reception (included in the ticket cost) at the University Club. Tickets are $15 per adult and $5 for students. The concert is sponsored by Madison resident Ann Boyer, an admirer of Franz Schubert’s music and the musical talents of Fischer and Lutes.

Tickets may be purchased online, at the Memorial Union Box Office or in Mills Hall, one hour before the concert.

The evening will include a special guest, the much-acclaimed soprano and UW-Madison alumna, Emily Birsan. Among other works, she will sing Schubert’s Epistle to Josef von Spaun, D. 749 – a brilliant and humorous send-up of the Italian operatic style that was all the rage in Vienna during Schubert’s lifetime.

Emily Birsan.

Emily Birsan.

Other performers will include Mead-Witter School of Music faculty Mimmi Fulmer, soprano and Paul Rowe, baritone; School of Music alumni Daniel O’ Dea, tenor and Benjamin Schultz, baritone; and current graduate students Anna Polum, soprano, Rebecca Bechtel and Jessica Kasinski, mezzo sopranos, and Wesley Dunnagan, tenor.

Schubert was born on January 31, 1797, and lived only 31 years. In his day, his music was cherished, but mostly by his personal circle. UW-Madison’s “Schubertiade” extends that circle to include the entire seating chart in Mills Hall.

The theme for this year’s Schubertiade is “Circle of Friends,” says co-organizer Lutes.

He writes: “Moritz von Schwind, a important German painter of the 19th century, was a young man when he became part of the group that was present at the first Schubertiade — those social gatherings given over to charades, poetry reading, dancing and imbibing – but most particularly to the performance of Schubert’s music, often with the composer himself at the piano.

“These almost legendary occasions were immortalized by Schwind in his famous painting ‘A Schubert Evening at Josef von Spaun’s,’ created in 1868, when these glorious moments had become distant and cherished memories. Schubert is indeed at the piano, with the great baritone Johann Michael Vogel seated to the composer’s right. Depicted are many of the poets, artists, lawyers and civil servants, and close friends who first heard Schubert’s music. In some cases, they are individuals with whom Schubert collaborated in the creation of songs, and our program will include a many settings of poetry by Schubert’s friends: Schober, Mayrhofer, Spaun, Schlechta and others.

A Schubert Evening at the Home of Josef von Spaun on December 15, 1826. Sepia drawing by Moritz von Schwind (1804-1871), 1868.

A Schubert Evening at the Home of Josef von Spaun on December 15, 1826. Sepia drawing by Moritz von Schwind (1804-1871), 1868.

“In addition we will include a group of songs that Schubert assembled in 1816 and presented to Theresa Grob, a young soprano whom he had hoped to marry. Other highlights will be a Cantata written for the birthday of Vogl, for soprano, tenor, baritone and piano and a great piano duet composition, the Theme and Variations in A-flat major, D. 814.

“Emily Birsan will perform the ‘flower-ballad’ Viola, D. 786, and two Italian canzonas, D. 688 and the previously mentioned Epistle to Josef von Spaun. She will conclude the program with one of Schubert’s best-loved songs, Ellen’s 3rd Song from Scott’s The Lady of the Lake….also known as Ave Maria.”

“The concert will close with an audience singalong of ‘An die Musik.’

“We offer this program of musical collaboration in a spirit of camaraderie, good will, and love for Schubert and his music, in celebration of the composer’s 220th birthday on January 31. From Schubert’s Circle of Friends we reach out to our own Circle of Friends, including the sponsor of these Schubertiades: Ann Boyer.”

Tickets may be purchased online, at the Memorial Union Box Office or in Mills Hall, one hour before the concert.

Read this news story about our Schubertiade in 2015.

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University Opera presents Verdi’s Falstaff, re-envisioned in Hollywood, 1930

As part of the worldwide commemoration of the 400th anniversary of Shakespeare’s death, University Opera will present Verdi’s final masterpiece, Falstaff.  Based on material from The Merry Wives of Windsor, Henry IV, and Henry V, Falstaff is a wild, comic romp.  In the UW-Madison production, updated to Hollywood in 1930, Falstaff is a has-been silent movie actor, out of work with the advent of the “talkies,” holding onto his former glory and living beyond his means at the Chateau Marmont.  Now a petty criminal, Falstaff puts the make on Alice Ford and Meg Page in an effort to bilk their husbands of money.  The ladies, incensed at his audacity, hatch a plot to give Falstaff his comeuppance.  But not before Mr. Ford, (a movie studio executive in the UW production) acting on his own ill-founded suspicions, gets involved and complicates matters.  At the end, all are reconciled as both men are taught their respective lessons.

falstaffad

Falstaff will be presented in Italian with English supertitles for three performances, November 11 at 7:30 pm, November 13 at 3:00 pm, and November 15 at 7:30 pm in Music Hall on the UW-Madison campus.  Directed by David Ronis with James Smith conducting the UW Symphony Orchestra, the production will involve over 90 UW singers, instrumentalists, and stage crew.  This production opens just one week after the national traveling exhibit of Shakespeare’s First Folio arrives at the Chazen Museum of Art.

Buy tickets here.

Following the success of the panel discussion before University Opera’s production of Transformations last spring, Ronis will again be assembling a panel of colleagues to discuss Falstaff on Friday, November 11 at 6:00pm in the Music Hall, admission free.  Featured panelists include:

Joshua Calhoun, Assistant Professor of English, UW-Madison

Cabell Gathman, Lecturer, Dept. of Gender and Women’s Studies, UW-Madison

Steffen Silvis, Dramaturg and Doctoral Candidate in Interdisciplinary Theatre Studies, UW-Madison

David Ronis, Karen K. Bishop Director of University Opera, UW-Madison

Susan Cook, Pamela O. Hamel/Music Board of Advisors Director of the Mead Witter School of Music, Moderator

Paul Rowe, Professor of Voice at UW-Madison, will sing the title role amidst a cast featuring current students and a couple of guest alums.  The principal ladies’ roles will be filled by Yanzelmalee Rivera and Sarah Kendall (Alice Ford), Courtney Kayser and Talia Engstrom (Meg Page), Emily Weaver and Claire Powling (Nannetta), Rebecca Buechel and Jessica Kasinski (Quickly).  The men in the cast will be alum Brian Schnieder and guest artist Richard Schonberg (Ford), José Muñiz (Fenton), Wesley Dunnagan (Dr. Caius), Jiabao Zhang (Bardolfo) and alum Benjamin Schultz (Pistola).  Assisting Maestro Smith will be Kyle Knox, assistant conductor, with musical preparation by new professor of opera and vocal coaching, Dr. Daniel Fung, Chan Mi Jean, and chorus master, Christopher Boveroux.

The physical production will be designed by Greg Silver.  Costume design is by Sydney Krieger, and Hyewon Park, lighting design by Kenneth Ferencek, props design by David Heuer, and the production stage manager will be Alec Brown.  The production staff include Erin Bryan, operations manager for University Opera; Jimmy Dewhurst and Daniel Lewis, master electricians; and Ethan White, lighting board operator.

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 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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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!

 

 

 

Events

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Masters Recital: Sarah Kendall, voice

Sarah Kendall is a soprano second year master’s student studying voice with Professor Paul Rowe. She will perform a selection of vocal pieces from the 19th century; a new, commissioned composition; and opera repertoire.
With Sarah Williams (piano), Robert Fleitz (piano, cello).

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Student recital: Talia Engstrom, voice

Talia Engstrom is in her junior year, pursuing a bachelor’s degree in vocal performance under the direction of Prof. Mimmi Fulmer. On this recital, Talia’s solo repertoire will consist of Scandinavian art song, featuring composers such as Edward Grieg and Hugo Alfvén. In collaboration with Elisheva Pront, she will sing duets by Mozart, Rossini, and Shostakovich.With Thomas Kasdorf, piano.

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Senior Recital: Megan Mitchell, voice

Megan Mitchell, a native of Janesville, Wisconsin, is completing her fifth and final year at UW-Madison with two degrees, a bachelor’s of arts in vocal performance and a bachelor’s of science in interior architecture. Her recital will include standard vocal repertoire as well as a combo assisting her performance of one of her favorite styles of music, vocal jazz. Megan studies voice with Mimmi Fulmer, professor of voice and associate director of opera.

With Susan Gaeddert, piano, and others to be determined.

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Undergraduate Studio Recital: James Doing, voice

Undergraduate music education and performance students singing selections from the standard art song repertoire, spiced up with musical theater.

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DMA recital: Wesley Dunnagan, voice

A recital with pianist Martha Fischer, professor of piano at UW-Madison.

A native of Wabash, Indiana, tenor Wesley Dunnagan’s performance highlights include operas Falstaff (Caius), Così fan tutte (Ferrando), Gianni Schicchi (Rinuccio), as well as oratorio tenor solo appearances in Mendelssohn’s Elijah with Nathan Gunn in the title role, Handel’s MessiahLa resurrezione, and Ode for St. Cecilia’s Day, Mozart’s Coronation Mass, Haydn’s Nelsonmesse, Beethoven’s Mass in C. A passionate recitalist, he has presented many art song performances in the U.S and abroad. He holds degrees in German studies and music from Stanford University, a master’s of sacred music from the University of Notre Dame, and is currently a doctoral student at the University of Wisconsin-Madison under the direction of James Doing.

Program:

Selections from Robert Schumann’s song cycles Liederkreis, Op. 39 and 12 Gedichte nach Kerner, Op. 35
Gabriel Faure’s songs on poems by Leconte de Lisle
Francis Poulenc’s  Tel jour telle nuit

 

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Master Class: Nathaniel Stampley, voice

Alumnus Nathaniel Stampley will present a master class for the voice and program program.

Nathaniel Stampley, a Milwaukee native, is a proud graduate of the University of Wisconsin where he received his Bachelors of Music Degree. Broadway credits include:  CATS, The Gershwins’ Porgy and Bess, The Color Purple (original production and the revival), and The Lion King. He had the pleasure of playing “Mufasa” on the West End in the Disney UK’s The Lion King. National tours: The Gershwins’ Porgy and Bess (Los Angeles NAACP Award nomination), Ragtime and Orpheus Returns. Off-Broadway performances: Big Love, Signature Theatre (NY); Fiorello! and Lost in the Stars, NY City Center’s Encores!; and The First Noel, Classical Theatre of Harlem (AUDELCO Nomination). Regional performances: The Bridges of Madison County (Joseph Jefferson nomination), Man of La Mancha (Joseph Jefferson Award Actor in a Principal Role-Musical) Marriott Theatre; The Gershwins’ Porgy and Bess, The A.R.T.; Abyssinia, North Shore Music Theatre; Pacific Overtures, Chicago Shakespeare Theater; Strike Up the Band and One Touch of Venus, Auditorium Theatre’s Ovations! series; Violet, Once on This Island and Big River (Joseph Jefferson Award nomination), Apple Tree Theatre; Milwaukee Repertory Theater’s The Color Purple, Dreamgirls, and Man of La Mancha; Showboat, Sacramento Music Circus; The Skylight Music Theater’s Harriet, the Woman Called Moses, El Capitan, Girl Crazy, The King and I, Porgy and Bess (opera).

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Studio Recital: Jeanette Thompson, voice

Students from the studio of Jeanette Thompson will present works for voice.

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“Rush Hour” Recital–Mimmi Fulmer Studio

Prof. Mimmi Fulmer’s studio presents its popular “Rush Hour Recital,” featuring singers presenting classical and popular solos and ensembles. Please join us afterwards for a reception.