November 2011

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play in the spotlight A Season of Firsts Madison Opera punctu- ates its season with two operatic premieres Lyrical Mastery Madison Opera offers a November treat By Michael and Jean Muckian Madison Opera's production of Tchai- kovsky's "Eugene Onegin" opens Nov. 4, marking one of numerous "firsts" for the company as it moves into its 51st season. The production of the Russian musical masterpiece, based on Alexander Push- kin's classic verse novel, marks the first formal production for General Director Kathryn Smith and is the first Russian opera to be offered by the company. "'Eugene Onegin' rates on the 'favorite operas' list of many opera-goers, more so than any other Russian opera," says Smith, who previously served with both the Ta- coma (Wash.) Opera and the Metropolitan Opera in New York. "Tchaikovsky ranks high among opera composers in the same way Beethoven does—while not known primarily as an opera composer, his works include some of the best in the repertoire." The story, too, is unique for a medium known—often ruefully—for the simplicity of its librettos. Based on a series of episodes in its title character's life, the opera retains much of Pushkin's poetic verse in its tale of love, death and despair. "This is not a conventional opera story of boy-meets-girl, boy-loses-girl, boy- kills-girl," Smith says. "Instead, we have 80 BRAVA Magazine November 2011 a young woman writing an impulsive ro- mantic letter to a more sophisticated man, who rejects her and then self-destructs. When the couple meet a few years later, their final duet is full of intense passion, tinged by maturity and sorrow." Such complexity, coupled with the com- poser's glorious music, will provide a treat Russophiles will especially love. "Russian literature lovers will be im- pressed by how vividly Tchaikovsky's mu- sic bring Pushkin's characters to life and lovers of theatrical spectacle will enjoy the ballroom scenes with their period costume and dancing," Smith says. But the biggest draw will be the solo- ists. Soprano Maria Kanyova and baritone Hyung Yun already previewed highlights of the work to Opera in the Park's audience in July. "They're going to blow the roof off of Overture [Hall]," Smith says. Visit Michael and Jean Muckian have covered the local food and arts scenes for over 25 and 15 years, respectively. Find their blog, Culturosity, at Science meets the stage Scientific study and blind faith collide in "Galileo Galilei," an operatic study of the famed astronomer by contemporary composer Philip Glass. The one-act, 10-scene play walks backwards through Galileo's life, reliving his discoveries and persecution by the Catholic Church while exploring Galileo's relationship with his daughter Marie Celeste, a nun with the very institution that would see her father burn. "'Galileo Galilei' will be the first operatic company performance of the work, and it is an honor to present it in the year of Philip Glass's 75th birthday, which occurs two days after we close the show," says General Director Kathryn Smith. See "Galileo Galilei," featuring baritone John Arnold and local soprano Jamie-Rose Guarrine, Jan. 26-29 in The Playhouse at Overture Center. If the slipper fits In spring, Madison Opera will bring composer Gioachino Rossini's bel canto (literally "beautiful singing") style of opera to the stage with its production of "Cinderella," a musical retelling of the familiar fairy tale. A youthful Rossini composed the opera at age 25 on the heels of his successful "The Barber of Seville," and is considered to have some of the finest writing for solo voice and ensembles in the operatic canon. Madison Opera is taking a slightly different—and extremely creative— approach to its production, Smith says. "It's set on a 1930s movie backlot, so the characters and costumes are perfect for anyone who has ever loved old Hollywood musicals," she says. "And, of course, they live happily ever after." See "Cinderella," with mezzo-soprano Daniela Mack and tenor Gregory Schmidt, April 27 and 29 in Overture Hall. Visit Photo by Dwight Carter

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