Curtain Calls for a Career

John Schaffer retires from UW-Madison—and we all owe him more gratitude than we probably realize   The major musical groups in and around Madison, and the people who create their music, rarely lack for applause and general appreciation. But there are those who toil beyond the footlights, and their passion and dedication doesn’t often give… Continue reading Curtain Calls for a Career

Art Songs Are Alive and Well

Soprano Mary Mackenzie and pianist Heidi Louise Williams survey mostly 21st-century songs in a compelling 2-CD set   It has been some months now (back in 2018 in fact) since Albany Records released “Vocalisms,” a 2-CD set of songs by four leading and living composers: John Harbison, James Primosch, Daniel Crozier and Ned Rorem. While… Continue reading Art Songs Are Alive and Well

“Rusalka” Proves an Elusive Fairy Tale

Madison Opera closes season with Dvorak’s on-again, off-again near-masterpiece   What to do with Rusalka? Just like the Prince in Dvorak and Kvapil’s telling of the Czech version of “The Little Mermaid,” we can never fully possess her as a woman, and, while he may decide that as a water sprite she really is to… Continue reading “Rusalka” Proves an Elusive Fairy Tale

There’s a New Prince in Town

John Lindsey aims to charm Madison Opera audiences in Dvorak’s Rusalka   John Lindsey undoubtedly cut a fine figure (and surely sang well) in his Madison Opera debut last summer at Opera in the Park. But this weekend will mark his stage debut for the company, as it closes its season with Dvorak’s luminous fairy-tale… Continue reading There’s a New Prince in Town

Madison Symphony Delivers a Better-Late-Than-Never Debut

Pianist Marc-André Hamelin graces Overture Hall at last Any local music lovers who had long desired to be awed by the artistry of Canadian-born pianist Marc-André Hamelin had their wish granted Friday night at Overture Hall. Prior to this opening concert of the penultimate program of John DeMain’s 25th season at the helm, one would… Continue reading Madison Symphony Delivers a Better-Late-Than-Never Debut

A Wrenching, Roaring “Miss Saigon” Lands at Overture Center

Thirty years as a smash hit—and still problematic   I’m always a little embarrassed to admit that one iconic work or another has remained unknown to me—but usually glad that when I get the chance to experience it firsthand. Miss Saigon, the hit musical that opened in London thirty years ago and broke records there… Continue reading A Wrenching, Roaring “Miss Saigon” Lands at Overture Center

A Testament of Greatness

New documentary of Birgit Nilsson reminds us of what we had—and can still treasure I’ve spent most of my life believing that Birgit Nilsson was the greatest Wagnerian soprano of my lifetime. A 2018 Unitel DVD, “Birgit Nilsson: A League of Her Own,” (distributed by Naxos), gives ample evidence to even make the argument she… Continue reading A Testament of Greatness