Category Archives: William Farlow

School of Music announces David Ronis as visiting director of opera

The UW-Madison School of Music is pleased to announce the appointment of opera director David Ronis to serve a one-year term as Visiting Assistant Professor, Director of University Opera, replacing William Farlow, who retires this year after 16 years in the position. His final production of Hector Berlioz’s Béatrice et Bénédict will be staged Tuesday, April 15, in Music Hall.

David Ronis.
David Ronis.

Ronis, a tenor with many singing and acting roles to his credit, is currently on the faculties of the Aaron Copland School of Music, Queens College/City University of New York, and Hofstra University on Long Island, where he teaches voice, directs opera, and coaches singers on acting and auditioning skills.

“The voice and opera programs are delighted to welcome David Ronis,” says Mimmi Fulmer, professor of voice and opera at the School of Music. “Mr. Ronis will direct two full productions for University Opera during the 2014-15 season, as well as join me in teaching Opera Workshop. He brings a background of a distinguished singing career in both opera and musical theater as well as extensive credits as a director. We are fortunate to have him contribute his artistry and experience to our singers and our audiences. I am looking forward to the opportunity to work together to present another wonderful season of University Opera.”

Ronis’s resumé is impressive. His 2009 and 2011 productions of Monteverdi’s L’Orfeo and Argento’s Postcard From Morocco won first and third place, respectively, in the National Opera Association Opera Production Competition. Other recent productions include L’incoronazione di Poppea, Suor Angelica, La Damoiselle Elue, The Magic Flute, Le Nozze di Figaro, and Dido and Aeneas at Queens College, Rigoletto for the Queens Symphony Orchestra, Cosî fan tutte for OSH Opera, From Berlin to Potsdam: A Kurt Weill Cabaret for the Crane School of Music at SUNY Potsdam, and a portion of Gregg Wramage’s Death in Summer at the Manhattan School of Music, part of their annual “From Page to Stage” series.

Mr. Ronis is also the co-director of the Baroque Opera Workshop at Queens College, a faculty member at the Westchester Summer Vocal Institute, and served as the local chair for the National Opera Association’s January 2014 convention in New York City.

Ronis visited UW-Madison in March and says he was “very impressed with the students.”

“Their skill level is very high, they were very engaged, interested and motivated. They asked really difficult questions. I just loved it,” he added.

David Ronis.
David Ronis as “Lumiere” in Disney’s “Beauty and the Beast.”

Mr. Ronis has sung over 50 operatic roles, including performances of the Witch in Hansel and Gretel, the Four Servants in Les Contes D’Hoffmann, Prince Orlovsky in Die Fledermaus, Basilio and Curzio in Le Nozze di Figaro, and Goro in Madama Butterfly. He has appeared on stages from Milan’s La Scala to Vienna, New York to Hong Kong. He also has performed as a soloist in the world’s most famous halls and at summer music festivals and has acted in many musical theater productions, independent films and commercials. He is a member of the National Opera Association, National Association of Teachers of Singing, the College Music Society, Actors Equity Association, the American Guild of Musical Artists and the Screen Actors Guild.

Mr. Ronis received his B.F.A. degree from Purchase College of the State University of New York and the M.A.L.S. (Master of Arts in Liberal Studies) in Opera Studies, an interdisciplinary research degree, from Empire State College/SUNY. He also studied at the Conservatoire Americain in Fontainebleau, France, then under the direction of the legendary teacher, Nadia Boulanger. Additionally, he received the Anthony Gishford Award to attend the Britten-Pears School in Aldeburgh, England, where he worked with the late Sir Peter Pears.

For more information, please email or call Mimmi Fulmer, fulmer.wisc@gmail.com. 608/263-1882.

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Retiring director Farlow brought high expectations and humor to the stage

Written by Paul Baker
Photographs by Michael R. Anderson

In his 16 seasons as director of University Opera at UW-Madison, William Farlow has become known for high expectations coupled with a devilish sense of humor.

This is his final year, his final opera: Hector Berlioz’s Béatrice et Bénédict, to be performed in Music Hall April 11, 13, and 15. Now, in near-daily rehearsals, a group of voice students are receiving their very last chances to experience the Farlow Method.

(Click here for a news release about this show.)

It is not always easy. He can be brutally honest one minute, and chuckle with mirth the next. Students may accept his comments with a professional “thank you” or jokingly threaten to post questionable comments on his Facebook page. On the other hand, during one rehearsal a few years ago of Francis Poulenc’s Dialogues of the Carmelites, known for a somewhat-oppressive tone, he donned bunny ears to lighten the mood.

He does not compromise. He wants the best. Some young actors sometimes find it difficult to deliver their spoken words, he confides. “They overdo it. They don’t yet know how to underplay less important lines.”

To a pair of male actors, clearly still working on their delivery: “That dialog sort of went reasonably well.”

To the chorus, who failed to show sufficient fear when the inept Somarone brandishes his conductor’s baton, he invoked the name of a famous household appliance: “Your inhalation must sound like a giant Hoover [vacuum], sucking up in Chicago!”

To the chorus, again, celebrating Don Pedro’s military victory over the Moors: “You will have to put out a lot more sound. The longer you sing, the less energy there seems to be. It should be the opposite. Especially when the orchestra is here.”

At a recent rehearsal, Farlow never sat for long. He constantly jumped onto the stage to position actors and chatted during breaks when conductor James Smith worked with musicians. His need to be in the middle of things stems from his time at Chicago’s Lyric Opera, he says. The director would suggest a change, and Farlow would sprint down the aisle, grab the actors and push them into new positions. He developed a response to the common adage that “directors must not invade the actors’ space”: “Baloney!”

Farlow well remembers this stage of a singer’s career. Before he began directing, he performed half a dozen or so Gilbert and Sullivan roles. The experience became critical to his directing. It’s like being a good orchestral musician before you conduct, he says, or a good shortstop before you coach.

Stress is always part of performance, and the last thing Farlow wants to do is add to it. So much is going on at any given moment that rehearsals can seem like a circus. He tries to keep pressure low, unless he’s really ticked off about something. He knows that actors must be comfortable to give their best.

The two-act Béatrice et Bénédict is based loosely on William Shakespeare’s play, Much Ado About Nothing. Written by Hector Berlioz and premiered in 1862, it is scored for lead singers, chorus, and a large orchestra. The story line leads up to a double wedding ceremony.

Although the singers deliver dialog in English, they sing in the French. Farlow decided that was the way to go, following his success with a production of The Magic Flute with English dialog and German singing.

The modestly-sized chorus consists of six female and six male undergraduates. A professional company doing Béatrice et Bénédict would employ a chorus three times that size, Farlow says, but Music Hall doesn’t require such forces.

Lead parts are sung by Lindsay Metzger (Beatrice), Benjamin Schultz (Somarone), Anna Whiteway (Hero), Daniel López-Matthews (Benedict), Erik Larson (Don Pedro), Jordan Wilson (Claudio), Kathleen Otterson (Ursule), and  Annisa Richardson (Adèle).

Farlow stayed on as Director of University Opera this last year because he knew he had two more master’s students majoring in opera performance left to graduate. He loved last semester’s production of Handel’s Ariodante (“It was beautiful”) and he thinks he can see the Berlioz through to the end. “Just needs a little tightening up here and there.” And that’s exactly what he was doing.

Later, over lunch, Farlow takes a minute to reflect. Four weeks from tomorrow my directing career is over, he says, a glint in his eye. He’s already been asked to direct four productions and he’s turned them all down.

Even though he will no longer direct, he will continue to serve as artistic advisor for Madison’s Fresco Opera and artistic consultant and master teacher for Des Moines Opera. 

Working his way through a delicious looking spinach quiche, he was reflective, yet upbeat, when we talked. Béatrice et Bénédict has been on his wish list for at least 30 years. He first saw it performed on public television and thought, “it was the greatest thing I’d heard.”

The most rewarding challenge

Growing up in the 1950s and 60s in El Paso, Texas, William Farlow benefited from strong public school music programs. His first career ambition was to direct a high school orchestra; he graduated college from the University of Texas-El Paso as a music theory/composition major. But that impulse passed very quickly. His eyes were opened to the possibility of a professional career as a director when he did graduate work at UT-Austin with Walter Ducloux, the internationally known conductor, pianist, translator, writer, and educator whose career spanned over 50 years.

A former pianist and violinist, Farlow chose opera as his life work because it combines singing, dancing, lighting, costumes, poetry, prose, stage design, and orchestral conducting. Opera is the most rewarding and the most frustrating challenge of all, says Farlow. “To make all those elements come together at the same time is a huge undertaking, but when it does all come together it’s unlike anything,” he says.

Most operas he’s witnessed have been good. Unforgettable performances are rare. One can enjoy outstanding performances by individual singers in an otherwise mediocre production. But a really extraordinary experience requires everything to sparkle: singers, orchestra, the conducting, the sets, the costumes. He places the Chicago Lyric’s recent La Clemenza di Tito in the “wonderful” category, and not only because UW alum Emily Birsan played the role of Servilia. (Note: Birsan is scheduled to perform in this weekend’s performance of the Madison Symphony Orchestra, in Mozart’s Requiem. Students may purchase tickets for as little as $12. She will also give a master class at the School of Music Thursday, April 3, at 1PM in Mills Hall.)

Farlow’s years of experience prepared him for directing Tristan und Isolde for the Pittsburgh Opera (where he served as operations director from 1990-1992), Turandot for the Lyric Opera of Chicago, and Salome for the Los Angeles Opera. He has also directed productions for the Canadian Opera Company, Los Angeles Opera and the Kalamazoo Symphony.

People sometimes ask when his career really took off. “I don’t know that it ever did take off,” he says. “I just started working more in opera and working less at Barnes and Noble.”

The anatomy of the UW Opera program

“Wonderful” is a term voice professor Mimmi Fulmer uses to describe Farlow’s work. She credits him with transforming the program in two ways: using the university orchestra, rather than using a “pick-up” ensemble. And rather than assigning meaty roles to faculty and guests, he picked only students.

Plotting out operas for the coming year, Farlow always chose works by surveying his resources and solving an equation, of sorts. It went like this: Here are my singers. What operas can they do now? Is the orchestra part workable? Does it require a huge chorus? If it requires five baritones, do we have five baritones? Will this role prepare this student for where she or he should be next year? “I choose operas that will afford the most parts to the most singers,” he says.

He developed a policy of accepting students into the opera performance program only if he knew if he knew they could be cast in three major roles. He wanted to understand their strengths and their potential so that he could plot their growth and pull out the best they have to offer. “When a really talented student lands on my doorstep,” he says, “I want to know I can work with them for a few years, and that gives me some leeway.” Two dozen Master’s of Music in Opera Performance students have graduated during his tenure.

After graduation, when their professional careers start to develop, singers need to be patient, Farlow says. If you want a career as a musician, you have to give it everything, he says, “and that means doing all kinds of temp work that you never thought you would, and you have to give it at least five years. And you’ll see if that’s what you want to do, or not.”

Mimmi Fulmer says Farlow always listened to a student’s voice, then mentally placed what that voice will be able to do several shows ahead. Farlow’s hunches generally proved to be correct. It’s not just that he had a crystal ball, Fulmer says; he also provided students opportunity and training. He could tell where the voice was going and help them make the next leap.

Fulmer updates her list of vocal and opera program graduates. The alumni, and what they’re doing, are a tribute to Bill, she says. The program has sent graduates (of the master’s and doctoral programs-there is no undergraduate opera major) to choice positions all over the world, and she credits that to Farlow’s leadership. Farlow recently saw former student Emily Birsan sing in the Lyric Opera’s production of Mozart’s La clemenza di Tito. But Emily is just the tip of the iceberg, says Fulmer. Click here for a partial list of opera graduates: UW-Madison Opera Graduates2013

Farlow appreciates his UW faculty colleagues, who demonstrate their commitment in myriad ways. Longtime university orchestra conductor James Smith, for example, attends every rehearsal of every production, something Farlow has seen nowhere else. “Bill has an immense knowledge of all areas of music: vocal, orchestral, chamber music, and theatrical,” Smith says. Indeed, Farlow has directed operas ranging from works by 17th century Italian composer Cavalli to a 2009 world premiere of Maura Bosch’s Art and Desire, based on the life of Jackson Pollock.

Other faculty members have gone to great lengths to realize certain shows. With Mimmi Fulmer and emeritus professor and pianist Bill Lutes, Farlow presented a semi-staged version of Schoenberg’s Erwartung, one of his “absolute favorite things,” even though Schoenberg’s music is difficult and Fulmer said learning it was the hardest thing she’d done.

He also appreciates his tech colleagues, not only for their talent but for their longevity. Costume designers Sydney Krieger and Hyewon Park have worked with Farlow on nearly every production. He’s had only had three tech directors, including incumbent Greg Silver, who’s been with him for seven years. Set designer and scenic artist Liz Rathke and lighting designer Steven M. Petersen have been stalwart as well.

He’s had help from a supportive media. Farlow credits Scott Herrick and Perry Allaire of WORT-FM with promoting his productions faithfully. Journalist Jacob Stockinger has supported UW opera for decades, beginning with his Capital Times columns and now with his blog, The Well-Tempered Ear. Many times Wisconsin Public Radio’s Jonathan Overby invited Farlow to guest on his program Higher Ground. And not just to plug the opera, but to stay in studio for an extra hour to play Ed McMahon to Overby’s Johnny Carson.

Besides faculty and staff salaries, the major part of University Opera’s funding comes from private donors and outside grants. Both Bill and Mimmi Fulmer, like many in the arts and on campus, have taken on larger roles in advancement and fund raising, work that now serves as a model for the entire School of Music.

Who will likely replace him? Farlow says whomever is hired will bring a skill set that overlaps, but does not duplicate, his own. “Professionals have their own way of doing things,” he says. “There are certain things that must be done but, beyond that, it’s up to the person.”

UW Opera says goodbye to director Farlow with a Berlioz comedy

Top:  Anna Whiteway (Hero). Bottom: Daniel López-Matthews (Bénédict) and Lindsay Metzger (Béatrice).
Top: Anna Whiteway (Hero). Bottom: Daniel López-Matthews (Bénédict) and Lindsay Metzger (Béatrice).

A Delightful Comedy to Usher Out a Veteran Director

Photographs by Max Wendt

Madison, WI – Veteran director William Farlow’s final opera takes the stage in University Opera’s spring production of Hector Berlioz’s Béatrice et Bénédict. Sung in French with English surtitles by Christine Seitz, the work will be given three performances—Friday, April 11 at 7:30 p.m., Sunday, April 13 at 3:00 p.m. and Tuesday, April 15 at 7:30 p.m.  All shows will be presented at the Carol Rennebohm Auditorium in Music Hall on the University of Wisconsin-Madison campus.

“My time here has been the most extraordinary and rewarding of my career,” says Farlow. “One of my greatest joys has been to help develop young singers for the professional world,” he says. Those singers include James Kryshak, Emily Birsan, and Jamie van Eyck.

For his last show, Farlow has chosen a delightful comedy, full of friendly trickery and an unlikely match made in heaven. The storyline is modeled on Shakespeare’s Much Ado about Nothing, telling the story of a young man who scoffs at love and marriage. “Women are as “gentle as a thistle,” he thinks, but in the end, he is convinced (or is it hoodwinked?) into marrying Beatrice. “The opera ends with a duet, as Beatrice and Benedict admit their true feelings. OK, they concede, they really are in love, at least for today. Perhaps they’ll be enemies again … but not until tomorrow” (National Public Radio, 2009: read more here.)

The opera’s overture is also justly famous. In this video clip, the Sydney Symphony Orchestra is joined by conductor Peter Oundjian in Berlioz’s Beatrice et Benedict: Overture, performed in February, 2011 at the Sydney Opera House.

During his sixteen seasons with University Opera, Farlow has brought to life over thirty opera productions and an equal number of scenes performances. His career has taken him to Scotland, Mexico, Canada, and throughout the United States, and has worked with artists such as Placido Domingo, Kiri Te Kanawa, and Carlo Maria Giulini. Click here for a feature story about William Farlow.

The current show cast includes undergraduate and graduate students as well as alumni from the University of Wisconsin-Madison School of Music, supported by the UW Symphony Orchestra under the direction of James Smith.  The roles of Béatrice and Bénédict will be performed respectively by Lindsay Metzger and Daniel López-Matthews, and the role of Héro will be portrayed by Anna Whiteway. Erik Larson will appear as Don Pedro, and Jordan Wilson will perform the role of Claudio. The cast will be joined by University Opera alumni Benjamin Schultz and Kathleen Otterson, who will perform the roles of Somarone and Ursule. Schultz currently works as the assistant director of the School of Music, and Otterson is a senior music instructor at Edgewood College and also serves as music director at Christ Presbyterian Church. Her local career is marked by appearances with Madison Opera and Madison Savoyards, and she is a member of the UW Opera Props Board of Directors.

Chorus members includes Arren Alexander, Aimee Teo Broman, Emi Chen, Tia Cleveland, Kyle Connors, Meg Huskin, Jennifer Kuckuk, Kirsten Larson, William Ottow, Michael Ward, Eric Wilson, and Fred Younger.

Left to right:  Daniel López-Matthews (Bénédict), Lindsay Metzger (Béatrice), and Anna Whiteway (Hero).
Left to right: Daniel López-Matthews (Bénédict), Lindsay Metzger (Béatrice), and Anna Whiteway (Hero).

Production and music staff includes assistant conductor Kyle Knox, costume designers Sydney Krieger and Hyewon Park, technical director and set designer, Greg Silver, lighting designer Steven M. Peterson, scenic artist Liz Rathke, vocal coach and musical preparation Thomas Kasdorf, and chorus master Susan Goeres.

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.

In an effort to help patrons find parking on campus, the Campus Arts Ticketing office is offering prepaid parking permits for a guaranteed parking spot on the evenings of ticketed UW arts events for $5.  Preorder your permit online at http://arts.wisc.edu/map (5 days or more in advance; $1 handling fee) or call (608)-265-ARTS (3 days or more in advance; $1 handling fee).

University Opera is a cultural service of the School of Music at the University of Wisconsin-Madison.  Its mission is to promote professional training and practical performing experience for student singers, conductors and pianists and, when possible, provide opportunities for student designers, actors and dancers.  For more information, please contact Christina Kay at christina.kay2012@gmail.com. Or visit the School of Music’s web site at music.wisc.edu.

UW singers win a first round; pianist Christopher Taylor secures patent for double piano; UW Opera bids farewell to Bill Farlow in April show

NEWS

Madison a cappella choir one of region’s best

It was the colorful chalk drawings that drew Mike Fuller to sing with Fundamentally Sound, advertisements painted on sidewalks near the Humanities building last September. But it was Mike’s voice–and those of 16 others–that allowed them to win first place a few weeks ago in the first round of the International Championship of Collegiate A Cappella (ICCA), held at the University of Chicago.  The group, open to students who either have “a voice and/or can make noises with your mouth,” according to their website, is an auditioned, all-male a cappella choir founded in 2005 that sings arrangements of Disney songs, rap, hip-hop and more. The group rehearses twice a week, performs regular shows and gigs, and even released a CD in the fall of 2012, “Sounding the Alarm.”

The next competition will be in Normal, Illinois, on April 5. The group will also perform April 25 at the Orpheum Theater on State Street in Madison; buy tickets here.

“It’s a fun escape from homework and studying,”  says Mike, a freshman who sang in choirs at Pacelli High School in Stevens Point before entering college. He is not a music major–in fact his favorite class is Physics 109, the physics of light and sound–but is one of many students who take lessons to have fun and improve their skills. Along the way, they sometimes discover they have more talent than they realized.

Mike Fuller.
Mike Fuller. Photo by Katherine Esposito.

Last fall he enrolled in Music 144, a group voice lesson class open to non-majors that was taught by Jordan Wilson, a graduate student; this semester, he’s taking lessons from Elizabeth Hagedorn, visiting assistant professor of voice.

The voice lessons have given him much better range, he says. And he’s made a bevy of great new friends. “I feel it was one of the best decisions I made this year at UW-Madison.”

Albany music director and SOM alumnus Brian Gurley is really glad winter is over

Brian Gurley, SOM alumnus in choral conducting (M.M., 2011), moved from Wisconsin last summer to take the position of music director of the 162-year-old Cathedral of the Immaculate Conception in Albany, New York, a church built during the height of the Irish potato famine that served as a refuge for persecuted Irish. Over its century-and-a-half, church activities included welcoming the Archbishop of Canterbury, hosting a “forgiveness ceremony” between Catholics and Jews,  and avoiding demolition in the 1960s. Lately, the church had been undergoing significant restoration that included replacement of deteriorated sandstone with imported stone from England, new granite steps and a unique rolled lead roof. But this past winter (the one we’re all hoping is finally OVER), as Gurley played a Steinway piano for a choir rehearsal, he heard the sound of dripping water. “My stomach kind of went in my mouth and I thought oh my gosh, they spent all this time and money on the restoration and now the roof leaks,” Gurley told reporter Paul Grondahl of the Albany Times-Union. Want to know what went wrong? Click here to read the entire story.

Pro Arte premiere of new Benoit Mernier string quartet draws appreciative crowd as well as positive critical reviews

Benoit Mernier rehearses with the Pro Arte String Quartet
Belgian composer Benoit Mernier rehearses with the Pro Arte String Quartet, March, 2014.
Photo by Michael R. Anderson

The fifth of six world premieres commissioned by Madison’s own Pro Arte String Quartet took place on March 1 in Mills Hall, and was enthusiatically received by former UW-Madison history professor and music critic John Barker (who also helped to plan the centennial events). The new work, funded by both the Pro Arte Quartet and the Serge Koussevitzky Music Foundation, deliberately hailed the quartet’s roots in Belgium, as Mernier is from that country, and “was the most musically satisfying of all the commissioned works presented so far,” according to Barker in a post on The Well-Tempered Ear, Madison’s classical music blog. “Met honestly, the score has a logic and even power to it that one might compare to Bela Bartók’s quartets — and we have all caught up with those by now, haven’t we?” The final commission, a clarinet quintet by French-Canadian composer Pierre Jalbert, will be performed next September.

Read the entire review here.

Read an interview with Pro Arte violinist Suzanne Beia in the Wisconsin State Journal, Feb. 27, 2014

School of Music music ed students band together to support music education in public schools

 NAfME students,
The NAfME students, excited about their new chapter!

Over 40 music ed students have launched a UW-Madison chapter of the National Association for Music Education (NAfME). Membership will allow students to network for job and educational advancement, as well as finding ways to assist area schools, according to Dan Joosten, co-president. The chapter is advised by Teri Dobbs, associate professor of music education and Darin Olson, assistant director of bands.

With over 130,00 members, NAfME bills itself as the world’s oldest arts education organization, and includes students, faculty, and professional teachers, both active and retired. According to its website, “NAfME developed the National Standards for Music Education and administered the overall development of the National Standards for Arts Education (1994) under a grant from the U.S. Department of Education, the National Endowment for the Humanities, and the National Endowment for the Arts. The National Standards represent the first comprehensive set of educational standards for K–12 arts instruction.” The group meets Wednesday nights at 8PM in Humanities. For more information, contact Dan Joosten at djoosten@wisc.edu, or Jenny Deroche at jlderoche@wisc.edu.

Piano Extravaganza High School Competition announces winners

Finalists in the 2014 UW-Madison Piano Extravaganza Competition. Front L-R: Anthony Cardella, Vivian Wilhelms, Kaitlin Lalmond, Olivia Montgomery; Bach L-R: Ethan Nethery, Garrick Olsen, Quinton Nennig, Theodore Liu.
Finalists in the 2014 UW-Madison Piano Extravaganza Competition. Front L-R: Anthony Cardella, Vivian Wilhelms, Kaitlin Lalmond, Olivia Montgomery; Bach L-R: Ethan Nethery, Garrick Olsen, Quinton Nennig, Theodore Liu.

Saturday, March 1 was the inaugural UW-Madison School of Music Piano Extravaganza Competition. Nine finalists from Wisconsin and Minnesota competed for cash prizes. The 1st prize winner ($1,500) was Vivian Wilhelms, a freshman at Waunakee High School. Vivian is a student of William Lutes and was a finalist of the 2010 Chopin Piano Competition in Milwaukee, 2011 winner of the Fall Youth Concerto Competition sponsored by the Madison Symphony Orchestra, and 2013 winner of the Wisconsin Youth Symphony Orchestra Concerto Competition. The 2nd prize winner ($1,000) was Garrick Olsen, of Madison. Garrick studies with William Lutes and plans to major in piano performance in college next fall. Garrick will make his subscription concert debut with the Madison Symphony Orchestra in May 2015, playing Gershwins’ I Got Rhythm Variations. He is the winner of a number of competitions, including the Wisconsin Public Radio’s 2013 Neale-Silva Young Artist Competition, the 2012 PianoArts award for Best Performance of a North American Competition, the Madison Symphony Orchestra’s 2012 Bolz Young Artist Competition (“Final Forte”) as well as MSO’s 2003 Fall Youth Concerto Competition. 3rd prize ($500) went to Quinton Nennig from Sherwood, Wisconsin. Quinton currently studies at the Interlochen Arts Academy with Dr. TJ Lymenstull, where he is the recipient of a merit scholarship. Previous studies were with Nina Mink. His many accomplishments include winning Lawrence University’s Piano Festival (2009-2012), and 1st place in the WMTA Badger Competition in 2010 and 2012. Honorable mention went to Theodore Liu, a sophomore at Waunakee Community High School. Theodore studies with Shu-Ching Chuang and plays trumpet in band and the Wisconsin Youth Symphony Orchestra. He is very fond of mathematics and science due to their precision and logic.

Judges for the competition were Jess Johnson, Christopher Taylor, John Stowe, Todd Welbourne, Dino Mulic and Seungwha Baek.

The Piano Extravaganza Competition was sponsored by the Evjue Foundation and Former Chancellor Irving Shain.

Pianist Christopher Taylor receives patent for new double keyboard

Christopher Taylor
Christopher Taylor performs at the Miller Theater in New York City, May 2013.
Richard Termine photograph.
Click photo for the New York Times review.

It’s official: The new digital double keyboard piano invented by UW-Madison pianist Christopher Taylor, modeled after a unique double Steinway that resides in Taylor’s office, is the owner of patent number 8,664,497, issued to the Wisconsin Alumni Research Association on March 4.  As described in San Francisco’s Classical Voice: “The instrument setup is an unusual one in that a console, with the two sets of 88 keys, will drive two “slave” pianos, remotely. The console piano will not produce any sound. Instead, an electronic sensor will record what a pianist is playing and instantaneously send that information across the stage, MIDI style, to two normal pianos that will produce the music.”  Taylor has worked extensively with scientists and technicians at the Wisconsin Institutes for Discovery to perfect the instrument.

It’s not built yet, though. What it means is that anyone with an interest in something very musical and very new could apply for a license to pursue actual construction of the piano, says WARF spokeswoman Emily Bauer, license manager. “It’s a cool case. We’d love to see it licensed and commercialized,” Bauer says.

Taylor hopes that in a couple of years, he’ll be able to unveil both the first iteration of this new piano and a new piece written especially for it. He’s already talked to composer Derek Bermel about the idea.  “Bermel welcomes the idea of writing music for an instrument where limitations are not known. The possibilities for new music are many, said Bermel, who wrote his first work for Taylor — a solo piano piece titled Turning — in 1995,” wrote Classical Voice writer Edward Ortiz. “ ‘[Repeated] notes on one set of hammers are pretty tough to play, but with two sets of hammers you can repeat notes by playing one note on one keyboard and a note on the other; then you can get this incredible, drumroll-like effect,’ said Bermel. “ ‘Also, there are some chords you cannot play on the piano because they would be too wide —– you would need fingers that were two feet long!’ ”

Read about Christopher Taylor in On Wisconsin! magazine, February 2014.

Read “The Quest for the Perfect Piano” in San Francisco Classical Voice, May 2013

Read about Taylor in the Wisconsin State Journal, 2011

And one more: Madison Magazine Q&A with Taylor in February, 2014.

SAVE THE DATE! SELECTED UPCOMING CONCERTS AT THE SCHOOL OF MUSIC

Paul Rowe, Julia Foster, and Martha Fischer perform the Italienisches Liederbuch of Hugo Wolf

Paul Rowe.
Paul Rowe. Photo by Michael R. Anderson

Austrian-born Hugo Wolf (1860-1903), a child prodigy who became a devotee of Richard Wagner, was known for his “concentrated expressive intensity” in his compositions, especially his lieder (songs). On March 26, at 7:30 PM in Mills Hall, voice professor Paul Rowe, alumna Julia Foster (now assistant professor of voice and opera at Rollins College in Winter Park, Florida) and pianist Martha Fischer will perform his “Italian Songs.” Read about the program here (PDF): Notes on the “Italienisches Liederbuch” of Hugo Wolf

Cello professor Uri Vardi bridges a cultural divide with trans-Middle Eastern music

On April 5 at 8 PM, cello professor Uri Vardi, oud artist Taiseer Elias, and composer/pianist Menachem Wiesenberg will present a concert, “Fusions,” of Arabic and Israeli music on the stage of Mills Hall, co-sponsored by UW’s Center for Jewish Studies. Elias is founder and conductor of the first Orchestra of Classical Arabic Music in Israel and is currently the musical director and conductor of the Arab-Jewish Youth Orchestra; he is the head of the Eastern Music Department at the Jerusalem Music Academy and is a professor of musicology at Bar Ilan University. Wiesenberg  is a professor and dean of composition, conducting, and music education at the Jerusalem Academy of Music and Dance and also a senior consultant to the Jerusalem Music Center. Cellist and pedagogue Uri Vardi has performed as a recitalist, soloist, and chamber player across the United States, Europe, South America, Asia, and his native Israel. Born in Szeged, Hungary, Vardi grew up on kibbutz Kfar Hahoresh, Israel. He studied at the Rubin Academy in Tel Aviv, was an Artist Diploma student at Indiana University, and earned his Master’s degree from Yale University.

Read an interview with Uri Vardi in the Center’s winter 2014 newsletter. 

Learn about the backgrounds of the musicians and hear a track of their music.

View the concert program.

The concert will be repeated on Sunday, April 6 on Wisconsin Public Radio’s Live at the Chazen afternoon show, starting at 12:30 PM. It will also be held in Milwaukee that evening. Learn more here. 

Final Farlow opera to be staged April 11, 13, and 15 in Music Hall

Put it on your calendar: After 15 years with University Opera,  director William Farlow will retire after this spring’s performance of Hector Berlioz’s Béatrice et Bénédict, a comic opera in two acts that was Berlioz’s last work; according to a National Public Radio story from 2009, it “combines the signature brilliance and bombast of composer with the sly, comedic insights of Shakespeare’s Much Ado About Nothing.” Berlioz wrote both the libretto and the music. Look for an official news release very soon. Hear the overture in this YouTube video clip.

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 (click “buy tickets” on the site): http://www.uniontheater.wisc.edu/location.html

JUST ANNOUNCED: OPERA STAR SUSANNE MENTZER TO CONDUCT MASTER CLASS AT SCHOOL OF MUSIC

Opera singer Susanne Mentzer, in town for Madison Opera’s April 25-27 production of Dead Man Walking, will conduct a master class on Monday, April 7 at the School of Music, 1:15 to 3:15 in Room 1321 (one floor below below Mills Hall). This event is free and open to the public.  Ms. Mentzer will be working one-on-one with students, performing a signature aria for the class, conducting a Q&A session, and staying to meet and greet all attendees. From her online bio: “Ms. Mentzer has appeared with nearly all the major opera companies, orchestras and festivals of North and South America, Europe and Japan. For over 20 years she has sung leading roles at the Metropolitan Opera. She has collaborated with many of the world’s great conductors and singers including James Levine, Riccardo Muti, Zubin Mehta, Kurt Masur, Lorin Maazel, Pierre Boulez and Christoph Eschenbach, Joan Sutherland, Shirley Verrett, Placido Domingo, Natalie Dessay, Renee Fleming, Deborah Voigt, Carol Vaness, Thomas Hampson and Samuel Ramey, Frederica von Stade to name just a few.” Read more here: http://www.susannementzer.com/index.html

Madison Opera website, for information and tickets: http://www.madisonopera.org/performances-2013-2014/dead_man_walking/

New York Times review of Susanne Mentzer, 2000

The School of Music offers many more concerts and recitals this spring. See the full schedule at http://www.music.wisc.edu/calendar

Farlow
Retiring opera director Bill Farlow exchanges pleasantries with Beatrice et Bendict chorus member Annisa Richardson
on the stage of Music Hall, March 2014. The two are old pals.
Photo by Michael R. Anderson.

Handel’s “Ariodante” opens October 25 at UW’s Music Hall

University Opera showcases a timeless classic: Handel’s “Ariodante”

Opera seria in three acts.
First performed at Covent Garden, London, on January 8, 1735.

One of George Frideric Handel’s most virtuosic operas takes the stage in University Opera’s fall production of Ariodante. Sung in Italian with English surtitles by Christine Seitz, the work will be given three performances—Friday, October 25 at 7:30 p.m., Sunday, October 27 at 3:00 p.m. and Tuesday, October 29 at 7:30 p.m. All shows will be presented at the Carol Rennebohm Auditorium in Music Hall on the University of Wisconsin-Madison campus.

“Although Ariodante has a happy ending it is a complex, dark work,” says director William Farlow. “Stunningly beautiful music accompanies the characters as they search for the truth. It is a captivating story of betrayal and reconciliation.”

Ariodante PR photo 2013_1
Lindsay Metzger as Ariodante, Anna Whiteway as Ginevra, and Spencer Schumann as Polinesso.
Photograph by Brent Nicastro.

Farlow’s cast includes undergraduate and graduate students from the University of Wisconsin-Madison School of Music, supported by the UW Chamber Orchestra under the direction of James Smith. The role of Ariodante is shared by Lindsay Metzger (October 25 and October 29) and Susanna Beerheide (October 27). The role of Ginevra is also double cast with Anna Whiteway (October 25 and October 29) and Caitlin Ruby Miller (October 27), as is the role of Dalinda, performed by Christina Kay (October 25 and October 29) and Lydia Rose Eiche (October 27). Spencer Schumann (October 25 and October 29) and guest artist Gerrod Pagenkopf (October 27) share the role of Polinesso. Other cast members include Daniel López-Matthews as Lurcanio, Erik Larson as the King, and William Ottow as Odoardo.

Production and music staff includes assistant conductor Kyle Knox, costume designers Sydney Krieger and Hyewon Park, technical director Greg Silver, lighting designer Steven M. Peterson, set designer and scenic artist Liz Rathke, vocal coach and musical preparation Thomas Kasdorf, and chorus master Susan Goeres.

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 music.wisc.edu. 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.

In an effort to help patrons find parking on campus, the Campus Arts Ticketing office is offering prepaid parking permits for a guaranteed parking spot on the evenings of ticketed UW arts events for $5. Preorder your permit online at http://arts.wisc.edu/map (5 days or more in advance; $1 handling fee) or call (608)-265-ARTS (3 days or more in advance; $1 handling fee).

University Opera is a cultural service of the School of Music at the University of Wisconsin-Madison. Its mission is to promote professional training and practical performing experience for student singers, conductors and pianists and, when possible, provide opportunities for student designers, actors and dancers.

For more information, contact Christina Kay, Marketing/Operations Manager, University Opera  

(414) 899-9570     cmkay@wisc.edu

Here are a few links to more information about Ariodante:

From National Public Radio: Scandal in Scotland: Handel’s ‘Ariodante’

http://www.npr.org/2008/05/23/90738061/scandal-in-scotland-handels-ariodante

Lorraine Hunt-Lieberson sings “Dopo Notte” from Ariodante:

http://www.npr.org/player/v2/mediaPlayer.html?action=1&t=1&islist=false&id=90738061&m=90742055

Discover the plot:

http://operastory.co.uk/georg-friderich-handel-ariodante/

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