University Opera offers up explosive "diva" opera
An epic power play ignites vocal fireworks in University Opera's latest premiere, Gaetano Donizetti's "Maria Stuarda." Sung in Italian with projected English surtitles, the work will be given three performances-Friday, April 23 at 7:30 p.m., Sunday, April 25 at 3:00 p.m. and Tuesday, April 27 at 7:30 p.m. All shows will take place at the Carol Rennebohm Auditorium in Music Hall on the University of Wisconsin-Madison campus.
"Maria Stuarda," based on the play by Friedrich von Schiller, is a rare "bel canto" opera with a turbulent history. Banned by the King of Naples shortly before its 1834 debut, numerous efforts to present the work continually fell short until the middle of the 20th century. A current revival in opera houses around the world has been facilitated by the 1987 discovery of the autograph score and Anders Wiklund's critical edition. Donizetti, considered one of history's most prolific opera composers, offers what history could not: a fictional meeting between Queen Elizabeth and Mary Stewart that combines power and jealousy, resulting in dynamic confrontation seldom associated with works of this period.
University Opera's production is generously supported by the Dara Elizabeth Welty Memorial Fund and is the final offering of the 2009-10 season. Director William Farlow is thrilled with the opportunity to stage "Maria Stuarda," the fourth Donizetti opera he has directed for the program. "Bel canto opera-Bellini, Rossini and Donizetti-has been a favorite of mine since I was a teenager because of my exposure to performances by Callas, Sutherland, Caballe, Sills, Scotto and Gencer," said Farlow. "It is especially gratifying to be able to present this work at this time of my career."
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 title role is performed by Emily Birsan while the role of Queen Elizabeth is shared by Celeste Fraser (April 23 and April 27) and Jennifer Grace Sams (April 25). In addition to a sizable ensemble, other roles are performed by J. Adam Shelton (Leicester), John Arnold (Talbot), Justin Niehoff Smith (Cecil) and Megan Gryga (Anna).
Production staff includes costume designers Sydney Krieger and Hyewon Park, technical director Greg Silver, lighting designer Steven M. Peterson, set designer Angelina Paoli, vocal coach Bill Lutes and chorus master Susan Goeres. The English surtitles are by Christine Seitz.
Tickets are $20.00 for the general public, $18.00 for senior citizens and $10.00 for UW-Madison students, available in advance through the Wisconsin Union Theater Box Office at (608) 265-ARTS, Monday through Friday, 11:30 a.m.-5:30 p.m. and Saturdays, 12:00-5:00 p.m. Tickets are also available at the Vilas Hall Box Office from Monday through 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. 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 Justin Niehoff Smith at firstname.lastname@example.org or (415) 359-6325. Or visit the School of Music's web site at music.wisc.edu.