Lord, what fools these mortals be.

In 1900’s Sweden, couples waltz, marriages are made and unmade, and the summer night smiles on the young and old alike. Stephen Sondheim’s ravishing score, set entirely in variations of waltz time, tells of the complications of love across generations, spiced with sparkling wit and rueful self-awareness.

Since its premiere in 1973, A Little Night Music has become a classic, a modern American Operetta that plays with our ideas of romance with delicious humor. With a score that includes the famous “Send in the Clowns,” it’s the perfect midwinter treat.

A Little Night Music
Friday, February 8 at 8pm
Sunday, February 10 at 2:30pm
Capitol Theater

Run time: 2 hours 45 minutes, including one intermission

A Little Night Music

Music and Lyrics by Stephen Sondheim
Book by Hugh Wheeler
Premiered: 25 February 1973, Schubert Theater, New York
Previously at MO:  1988

Act I

A Quintet gathers onstage and begin vocalizing.  As the curtain rises, elegantly dressed couples dance through a sylvan setting, presaging the romantic flirtations and frustrations to come.

The waltzers exit, and the aging Madame Armfeldt, a woman who has numbered kings among her lovers, alerts her granddaughter Fredrika to watch for the summer night to smile. “It smiles three times,” she says, “first, for the young, who know nothing; second, for the fools, who know too little; and, third, for the old, who know too much.”

Attention shifts to the home of Fredrik Egerman, a widowed lawyer who has recently married the eighteen year-old Anne.  Fredrik has a son by a previous marriage, Henrik – a somber twenty-year-old divinity student who plays the cello in moments of stress. Fredrik arrives with tickets for the theater: he is taking Anne (still a virgin after eleven months of marriage) to see “the one and only” Desirée Armfeldt. As he prepares for his afternoon nap, and Anne chatters away, Fredrik muses on some of the problems encountered in his new marriage. In the parlor, Henrik is being flirted with by the maid, Petra. He clumsily tries to unbutton her blouse. Petra, merely amused, tells him, as she leaves the room, “Later. You’ll soon get the knack of it.”  Frustrated as usual, Henrik grabs his cello.  Back in the bedroom, Anne promises Fredrik to soon become his bride in deed as well as in fact.  Fredrik, still asleep and obviously enjoying a vivid dream, utters a heartfelt “Desirée.” Anne stares at him, startled.

Desirée Armfeldt, the beguiling actress who was once Fredrik’s lover, ironically extols the joys of life on the road, with comments by the Quintet and her disapproving mother, Madame Armfeldt.

Fredrik and Anne arrive at the theater that evening, Anne clearly suspicious after Fredrik’s naptime slip of the tongue. Desirée makes her entrance and spots Fredrik immediately. She plays directly to him, upsetting Anne so much that she rushes out of the theater. Fredrik takes his wife home, then goes “out for a breath of fresh air.” His stroll takes him directly to Desirée’s rooms, where they meet for the first time in fourteen years. Desirée welcomes Fredrik warmly and lends a not-quite-sympathetic ear to his praise of Anne.  He tries to revive their relationship, and Desirée happily accepts. Off they go to the bedroom.

Madame Armfeldt, a grande dame from a more refined era, emerges from the theatrical shadows to lament the current lack of delicacy in the art of love.

Fredrik and Desirée are disturbed by the unexpected arrival of Desirée’s current lover, a jealous dragoon named Count Carl-Magnus Malcolm. Fredrik and Desirée quickly concoct a feeble story about legal papers to assure the Count that the situation is quite innocent. The Count sends Fredrik on his way in a nightshirt, and tries to assess the situation. He returns to his long-suffering wife, Charlotte, suggesting that she might enlighten Anne about her husband’s late-night activities. Charlotte promptly goes to inform Anne of Fredrik’s infidelity and to commiserate with her about their mutual matrimonial problems.

Desirée goes to the country to visit her mother and daughter, and to arrange for her mother to invite lawyer Egerman and his family out for the weekend, hoping to snare Fredrik back to herself. The invitation is sent, and Anne, after consulting with Charlotte, decides to accept. The Count, hearing of the weekend, decides that he and Charlotte should also make an appearance, uninvited.

Act II

When all the guests, invited and uninvited, have arrived at Madame Armfeldt’s château, the Quintet announces the end of the day, and Fredrik and the Count contemplate how things might have turned out differently with Desirée.

A formal dinner that evening turns into a verbal sparring session and ends with a furiously upset Henrik smashing his goblet in disgust and running from the room. The other guests scatter throughout the estate. Fredrik makes his way to Desirée’s bedroom, where she reveals her true reason for inviting him – her hope that they might be able to revive their love permanently. But Fredrik, unable to give up his young bride, walks out, leaving Desirée alone.

Meanwhile, Anne and Fredrika scour the grounds for Henrik. Anne finally finds him as he is preparing to kill himself.  Realizing that it is Henrik she loves, not Fredrik, Anne decides to run off with him.

Petra, the maid, having made love with Madame Armfeldt’s butler, expresses her sense of romance in terms of the practical and real.

Fredrik finds himself being consoled by Charlotte about the loss of his son and wife. The Count spots Fredrik and Charlotte embracing and challenges Fredrik to a game of Russian roulette. They go off to the summer pavilion, a shot is heard, and the Count returns with Fredrik slung over his shoulder. Fredrik has merely grazed his ear, and the Count and Charlotte are reunited. At last, Desirée and Fredrik realize that they are meant to be together.

The comedy ended, Madame Armfeldt tells her granddaughter that the night has already smiled twice, once for the young and once for the fools, adding that “the smile for the fools was particularly broad tonight.”  To the accompaniment of a final waltz, the lovers dance through the silver birches as the night smiles down for the third and final time.

Cast

Emily Pulley
Desiree Armfeldt

Madison Opera Debut: Beggar Woman, Sweeney Todd (2015)
Recently: Buttercup, HMS Pinafore (Eugene Opera); Madeline, Three Decembers (Nashville Opera); Becky, Morning Star (On Site Opera); Mrs. De Rocher, Dead Man Walking (Minnesota Opera); Carmen, Carmen (Central City Opera); Mrs. P., The Man Who Mistook His Wife for a Hat (UrbanArias, Indianapolis Opera)
Upcoming: Marthe, Faust (Opera Omaha)

Daniel Belcher
Fredrik Egerman

Madison Opera Debut: Dandini, La Cenerentola (2012)
Recently: Melchoir, Amahl and the Night Visitors (OnSite Opera); Sharpless, Madama Butterfly (Lyric Opera of Kansas City); Einstein, Die Fledermaus (Utah Opera); Tiger Brown, The Threepenny Opera (Boston Lyric Opera); James Addison Mills III, The House Without a Christmas Tree (Houston Grand Opera); Inspector Kildare, Elizabeth Cree (Opera Philadelphia); Orfeo, L’Orfeo (Chautauqua Opera Festival); Ping, Turandot (Atlanta Opera)
Upcoming: Alfred Stieglitz, Today It Rains (Opera Parallèle); Beaumarchais, The Ghosts of Versailles; Figaro, The Barber of Seville (Chautauqua Opera Festival)

Sarah Day
Madame Armfeldt

Madison Opera Debut
Recently: Florence Foster Jenkins, Souvenir (Four Seasons Theatre); Guinness, Heartbreak House (American Players Theatre); Juliette, Exit the King (APT); The Woman, The Unexpected Man (APT); Pam, Exit Strategy (Forward Theater)
Upcoming: Babs, Life Sucks (Forward Theater); Mrs. Hardcastle, She Stoops to Conquer (American Players Theatre)

Jeni Houser
Anne Egerman

Madison Opera Debut: Ensemble, Acis and Galatea (2013)
Recently with MO: Olympia, The Tales of Hoffmann; Amy, Little Women; Johanna, Sweeney Todd
Recently:
Franzi, Die Weiden (Vienna State Opera); The Queen of the Night, The Magic Flute (Central City Opera, Cincinnati Opera, Minnesota Opera, Kentucky Opera); La Charmeuse, Thaïs; Susanna, The Marriage of Figaro (Minnesota Opera); Zerbinetta, Ariadne auf Naxos (Austin Opera, Minnesota Opera); Cecily Cardew, The Importance of Being Ernest (Odyssey Opera)
Upcoming: The Queen of the Night, The Magic Flute (Boston Youth Symphony Orchestra); Viv, Companionship (Fort Worth Opera)

Quinn Bernegger
Henrik Egerman

Madison Opera Debut
Recently: Raoul St. Brioche, The Merry Widow; Hans Sachs’ Trainer, Vinkensport, or The Finch Opera (Opera Saratoga); Lensky, Eugene Onegin; Ferrando, Così fan tutte (Boston Conservatory at Berklee); Henrik Egerman, A Little Night Music (Des Moines Metro Opera); Nanki-Poo, The Mikado (Chautauqua Opera)

Upcoming: Ferrando, Così fan tutte (Barn Opera)

Katherine Pracht
Charlotte Malcolm

Madison Opera Debut
Recently: Elizabeth Cree, Elizabeth Cree (Chicago Opera Theater); Flora, La Traviata (Opera Philadelphia); Sharon Falconer, Elmer Gantry (Florentine Opera)

Charles Eaton
Carl-Magnus Malcolm

Madison Opera Debut: Morales, Carmen (2017)
Recently: German Sentry/Soldier #3, Silent Night (Minnesota Opera, The Glimmerglass Festival); Samuel, The Pirates of Penzance (Park Square Theater); Riff, West Side Story (Mankato Symphony); Mr. Lindquist, A Little Night Music (Des Moines Metro Opera); Bello, La Fanciulla del West; The Sailor, The Scarlet Letter (Opera Colorado); Count Almaviva, The Marriage of Figaro (Opera del West); Taddeo, The Italian Girl in Algiers (La Musica Lirica)
Upcoming: Joel Puckett, The Fix (Minnesota Opera)

Emily Glick
Petra

Madison Opera Debut
Recently: Rose, A Shayna Maidel; Mary Boyle, Juno (TimeLine Theatre Company); Quintet, Sweeney Todd (Paramount Theatre); Obama’s Mom, Jabari Dreams of Freedom (Chicago Children’s Theatre); Colette, La Cage aux Folles; Marie, The Nutcracker (Marriott Theatre); Clara, The Yiddisher Teddy Bears (The Public Theatre); Zipporah, Milk and Honey (Musicals Tonight!)

Maddie Uphoff
Fredrika

Madison Opera Debut
Recently: The Courier, 1776 (Four Seasons Theater); Chava, Fiddler on the Roof; Young Gertrude McFuzz, Seussical the Musical; Jane Cratchit, A Christmas Carol (Children’s Theater of Madison); Fantine, Les Misérables-High School Edition (Oregon Straw Hat Players)

Emily Secor
Mrs. Nordstrom

Madison Opera Studio Artist
Madison Opera Debut
Recently: Gretel, Hansel and Gretel; Nightingale, Country Lass, The Enchanted Child (University of Northern Iowa); Valencienne, The Merry Widow; First Lady, The Magic Flute; La Musica, L’Orfeo (Luther College)
Upcoming: Water Sprite, Rusalka (Madison Opera)

Cassandra Vasta
Mrs. Anderssen

Madison Opera Debut: Quartet, Little Women (2016)
Recently: Ensemble, Sweeney Todd (Mill City Opera); Ivette, La Rondine; Sylviane, The Merry Widow (Skylark Opera); Patty Andrews, Sisters of Swing (St. Croix Off Broadway); Vixen, The Cunning Little Vixen; Tytania, A Midsummer Nights Dream; Papagena, The Magic Flute (University of Minnesota)

Kirsten Larson
Mrs. Segstrom

Madison Opera Studio Artist
Madison Opera Debut:
Lola, Cavallaeria Rusticana (2018)
Recently: Johanna, Sweeney Todd (Middleton Players Theatre); Prince Orlofsky, Die Fledermaus (Madison Savoyards); Fox, The Cunning Little Vixen; Meg Page, Falstaff; Baba the Turk, The Rake’s Progress; Cherubino, The Marriage of Figaro (Louisiana State University); Carrie, Carousel (Middleton Players Theatre)
Upcoming: Water Sprite, Rusalka (Madison Opera)

Benjamin Liupaogo
Mr. Erlanson

Madison Opera Studio Artist
Madison Opera Debut:
Remendado, Carmen (2017)

Recently: Rodolfo, La Bohème (UW-Madison); Sam Kaplan, Street Scene; Pastore I, L’Orfeo (DePaul Opera Theatre); Tamino, Die Zauberflöte (German for Singers Middlebury); Candide, Candide (Opera Notre Dame); Ferrando, Così fan tutte (San Francisco State University)
Upcoming: Hunter, Rusalka (Madison Opera)

Stephen Hobe
Mr. Lindquist

Madison Opera Studio Artist
Madison Opera Debut
Recently: 
Argante, Rinaldo; John Proctor, The Crucible; David, A Hand of Bridge (Chicago Summer Opera); Silvio, Pagliacci (Main Street Opera); Cat / Grandfather Clock, L’Enfant et les Sortilèges (North Park University); Gamekeeper, The Cunning Little Vixen (Chicago College of Perfrming Arts)
Upcoming: Parson Peel, Patience and Sarah (Third Eye Theatre Ensemble)

Benjamin Barlow
Frid

Madison Opera Debut
Recently: Black Stache, Peter and the Starcatcher (Platteville Summer Arts Festival); Bull/Lucius/Ensemble, The Miraculous Journey of Edward Tulane (Children’s Theatre of Madison); Johnny Tarleton, Misalliance (Strollers Theatre)

John DeMain

Conductor

Madison Opera Debut: The Magic Flute (1994)
Recently with MO: Florencia en el Amazonas, The Abduction from the Seraglio, Carmen (2017)
Recently: Candide (Gran Teatre del Liceu); Porgy and Bess (Seattle Opera); Porgy and Bess, Sweeney Todd (Glimmerglass Festival); Lost in the Stars (Washington National Opera); Show Boat (San Francisco Opera, Washington National Opera)
Upcoming:  Rusalka (Madison Opera); Blue (Glimmerglass Festival)

Doug Scholz-Carlson
Stage Director

Madison Opera Debut: The Tender Land
Recently with MO: Romeo & Juliet (2016), The Barber of Seville (2015), The Turn of the Screw
Recently: The Pirates of Penzance, The Liar, Snow Queen (Park Square Theatre); Silent Night (L’Opéra de Montréal); Romeo & Juliet (Austin Opera); La Fanciulla del West (Minnesota Opera); Lucia di Lammermoor (Austin Opera, Pittsburgh Opera, Portland Opera); Shakespeare in Love, Richard III, Romeo and Juliet, Macbeth, Cymbeline, As You Like It (The Great River Shakespeare Festival)
Upcoming: Otello (Austin Opera)

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