100 posts & counting…

I was pleasantly surprised this morning to see that we’ve reached the “100th blog post” milestone! Thank you to our daily readers and anyone just stopping by, whether you’re looking for information on “The Jewel Song,” Jun Kaneko, Mozart, or geisha make-up (our most popular search on Google), we’re glad you found us!

The week ahead is a particularly busy one. Wednesday night, our High School Apprentices will be meeting with UW Madison Voice Professor Julia Faulkner for a mini-masterclass. Thursday, text and layout of our Faust program is due, AND with great excitement, we post our 2009/2010 Season to the website! On Saturday, we have the first formal meeting of the Madison Opera Book Club at the Sequoya branch of the Madison Public Library, and Sunday our guest artists for Faust arrive and we are off and running with rehearsals by next Monday. All good stuff, but much preparation is required on the administrative end to pull it off!

You saw them in Madison first!

Tenor Stephen Costello has been awarded the Richard Tucker Award, one of opera’s highest honors. Madison audiences saw Stephen in 2006 as the Duke in Rigoletto (pictured above). Of that performance, John Barker wrote in the Isthmus “the most exciting performer was surely Stephen Costello.”

Star soprano Nicole Cabell is also in the news: on Wednesday night she stepped in for Angela Gheorghiu at the Metropolitan Opera to sing Adina in L’Elisir d’Amore. Nicole made her Met debut in December as Pamina in The Magic Flute, a role she sang in Madison in 2006 (pictured above).

Aria Focus: “Ah! je ris” (The Jewel Song)

By Act III, Scene 6 of Faust, the title character has made his pact with the devil and has been transformed into a young man in love with the beautiful maiden Marguerite. At first, she politely rejects his advances, but this only assures him of her purity. Faust goes to her home and sees that Siebel has left her flowers, so Mephistopheles sets out to find a more impressive gift for Faust to leave. In the meantime, Faust marvels over Marguerite’s simple home and questions whether or not he should even be pursuing such an ideal, innocent creature.

Mephistopheles returns and plants a box of jewels next to Siebel’s flowers before hiding in the shadows with Faust. Marguerite comes home, with the handsome stranger from earlier in the day on her mind. She sees Siebel’s flowers, but then immediately is struck by the casket of jewels. Marguerite in her modesty is hesitant to believe such a grand gift could be for her, but she soon gives in and tries them on. Basking in their beauty and shocked at how regal they make her look, she sings Gounod’s famous “Jewel Song.” Listen to Maria Callas sing and follow the lyrics in English below:

Ah, I laugh to see myself
so beautiful in this mirror,
Is it you, Marguerite, is it you?
Answer me, answer me,
Respond, respond, respond quickly!
No No! it's no longer you!
No...no, it's no longer your face;
It's the daughter of a king, (repeat)
It's no longer you, etc.
One must bow to her as she passes!
Ah if only he were here!
If he should see me thus
Like a lady, he would find me so beautiful, Ah!
Lets complete the metamorphosis,
I am late yet in trying on
The bracelet and the necklace!
God! it's like a hand
Which is placed on my arm! Ah, ah!
Ah, I laugh to see myself
so beautiful in this mirror!
Here's Angela Gheorghiu's take on the aria:

This is undeniably a lovely moment in the opera, a light reprieve from the sinister machinations afoot. There is great pleasure for the audience in seeing Marguerite have so much fun with herself, and the aria is a soprano’s dream: a beautiful, simple, lyric melody that shows off the voice (plus the singer is bedecked with jewelery and gets to play up the character’s vanity!). But it is exactly because the innocent Marguerite is giving in to her vanity that an element of darkness persists here. This is the first step in the devil’s plan to have her succumb to worldly temptations, and it’s working…

Die Walkure, with our Dorabella!

Just a little reminder for anyone tuning into the Met Opera broadcast of Die Walküre this Saturday on WPR at 11 a.m.: our Dorabella from Cosi, Laura Vlasak Nolen, will be singing the role of Waltraute, one of the flying Valkyries belting out those famous “Ho jo to hos.” Laura flew out of Madison to make it to New York for rehearsals at the Met literally an hour after her final bow for Cosi on March 15th! Pictured is Nolen with famed Wagnerian bass James Morris.

Explore the Voice

Another new project we have coming up with Faust is “Explore the Voice,” a day-long seminar exploring the complexity and wonder of how the voice works. This is an exciting collaboration between Madison Opera and the UW Voice and Swallow Clinic, and you can register here for the FREE event on May 16 (in between Faust days), from 9am – 3pm at the UW Hospital and Clinics on University Ave in Madison.

Throughout the day there will be workshops on everything from the prevention and treatment of vocal disorders to jaw massage to healthy warm up practices. Madison Opera’s Allan Naplan will be giving a talk on how an opera company works, and our chorus master Andy Abrams will be comparing his vocal experiences in musical theater and opera. It should be a really fantastic day, with important and useful insights from doctors, speech pathologists, and singers! As the flyer says, we invite all individuals who use their voice for communication, including professional singers, teachers and other occupational voice users, to attend this FREE educational event.