Apprenticeship Program Starts Third Season

The Madison Opera High School Apprenticeship Program kicked off its third season last night with a new round of participants. We could not be more thrilled to have 8 new apprentices joining us for this exciting season! Coming from a wide range of local and regional schools, these impressive juniors and seniors in high school are all interested in learning about how opera is produced and what it takes to become a professional opera singer, or in one case, conductor. Without further ado, the 2010-2011 Madison Opera High School Apprentices are:

  • Sami Elmer (Oregon High School)
  • Claire Lamberty (Waunakee High School)
  • Kelly Noltner (Monona Grove High School)
  • Tiffany Orr (Abundant Life Christian School)
  • Joshua Sanders (Sauk Prarie High School)
  • Alannah Spencer (Verona Area High School)
  • Mikko Utevsky (Madison East High School)
  • Bayley Waters (Edgewood High School)

At last night’s staging rehearsal for The Marriage of Figaro, the apprentices met each other for the first time and reviewed the story of the opera. They also heard from our stage manager Jill Krynicki and director A. Scott Parry before observing our chorus and principal singers at work. The night finished off with Figaro’s famous aria, “Non piu andrai.

Over the next few weeks, the apprentices will see the evolution of the staging and learn about the production process by attending a variety of rehearsals and the final full performances, in addition Opera Up Close: The Figaro Preview this Sunday. They’ll also get to have dinner with a guest artist, and learn about the many paths one can take to become an opera singer. It’s always a ton of fun, and we’re looking forward to an exciting year ahead!

Eye on the Cast: Jeff Mattsey

Jeff Mattsey makes his Madison Opera debut as the Count in The Marriage of Figaro in just a few short weeks. Renowned worldwide for the signature baritone roles that have defined his career, Jeff made his operatic stage debut at the age of 21 as Marcello in La boheme, opposite Luciano Pavarotti at the Opera Company of Philadelphia (photo, right). He made his Metropolitan Opera debut in 1998 and can be seen at the MET this season as Marco in Gianni Schicchi, Hermann/Schlemiel in Les Contes d’Hoffmann, Paris in Romeo et Juliette, and Joe Castro in La Fanciulla del West. In recent seasons, Mattsey has also been a frequent guest at Vancouver Opera and the San Diego Opera. Of one recent performance, the San Diego Tribune says, “Baritone Jeff Mattsey was an extraordinary Marcello: extraordinary because he created a character so rich and textured with so little apparent effort – and sang the role with such an outpouring of warm, burnished sound…”

But wait! There’s more…Any “Real Housewives of New York City” fans out there? Mr. Mattsey appeared on the notorious reality show to grace the ladies with an excerpt from The Barber of Seville at a charity event:

Now that’s drama of operatic proportions.

Eye on the Cast: Jason Hardy

American bass Jason Hardy is well-known as an exceptional Figaro, so we’re pretty excited that he’ll be joining us here in Madison starting this weekend to rehearse for The Marriage of Figaro. He’s recently performed Mozart’s title role with Opera Birmingham, Opera Omaha, and Cleveland Opera, with the Cleveland Plain Dealer writing that Hardy “turns in a Figaro of charismatic allure, with an elegant bass.” Jason also garnered critical acclaim for his portrayal of Leporello in Don Giovanni last season at the New York City Opera. Just listen to samples of his CD “Youth and Love” on iTunes, and you know this is a lustrous, rich voice, perfect for Figaro.

There’s also the fact that Hardy earned official “barihunk” status after going shirtless in NYCO’s Don Giovanni, with even the New York Times noting his “buff” physique. But ladies, we have to tell you, this Figaro is already on his way to getting married! Hardy made waves again when he proposed to fellow opera singer Carrie Kahl onstage during the curtain call of a performance of The Marriage of Figaro at Opera Birmingham. Here’s the proof:

Don’t miss Jason in The Marriage of Figaro, Nov. 5th and 7th in Overture Hall!

Katharine Goeldner brings her Carmen to Lyric Opera of Chicago

Last year, Madison Opera audiences were mesmerized by Katharine Goeldner’s smoldering portrayal of the title-role in Carmen. Tomorrow night, she brings Bizet’s notorious femme fatale to life again, this time for the Lyric Opera of Chicago.

Originally slated for one performance as Carmen in Chicago, Goeldner will now portray the title-role gypsy in all six October performances. We know Lyric audiences are in for a treat, and we’re sending Katharine a hearty “Toi, toi, toi” from Madison!

And guess what, Katharine isn’t the only Madison Opera “alum” in this Carmen production. Escamillo will be sung by Kyle Ketelsen, most recently seen in Madison as Raimondo in Lucia di Lammermoor (2008). Additionally, in March performances, Nicole Cabell–our Pamina in The Magic Flute (2006)–will portray Micaela.

Show your support for the Overture Center

Despite what you may have read this summer, the fate of the Overture Center remains unclear. While there remains a proposed solution that would see Overture’s lending banks and generous local donors resolve the building’s lingering $28 million debt, it is contingent on the building being purchased by the city for $1 and then being operated as an independent non-profit organization, all in the name of encouraging a sounder financial and operational future for the beleaguered arts center. The city will vote on whether to approve this action in November.

Sadly, the results of the impending vote are not easy to predict at this point in time, because of the perceived incompleteness of Overture’s plan to transition to a non-profit, and because of the continued public outcry against the building, which many wrongly assume will increase taxes. (In fact, capital costs for the Overture Center are significantly less than they would be right now if the city was still responsible for the old Civic Center.)

As a resident organization of the Overture Center, we ask you, our supporters and fans, to please get vocal with your support for our incredible performance home. Regardless of how you feel about the specifics of the proposed transition, we hope you can agree with Madison Opera’s simple stance that it would be a horrible thing to lose this building. The local press and our public leaders have only been hearing the negative, so please, contact your alder, write a letter to the editor, and let them know what Overture means to you, and to our community. Tell them to keep the doors open.

Madison Opera’s strength over the last five years has no doubt been helped by the opening of the Overture Center. Here’s what the Overture Center has meant to us:

1. In the season just prior to the opening of Overture, the company’s operating expenses totaled just over $1 million. Six years later, the company’s operating budget has increased by 100%, totaling $2 million in 2010.

2. Prior to the opening of Overture, attendance at Madison Opera productions regularly averaged 78% capacity. In the six seasons since the opening of Overture, Madison Opera attendance has increased by 17%, to an average capacity of 91%.

3. Box office revenue for the season just prior to the opening of Overture totaled $228,000. This season, box office revenue is conservatively projected to total $630,000. An increase of 176%! (Note: The Opera’s annual fundraising covers the gap between box office revenue and total operating expenses.)

4. In the six seasons since the opening of Overture, Madison Opera has averaged a subscription renewal rate of 82%, a remarkably high rate by industry standards.

5. In the six seasons since the opening of Overture Center… Over 49,000 adults have attended Opera performances, and 20% of them have attended for under $35. Over 7,000 junior high and high school students have attended Madison Opera performances for just $7 or less! Over 6,000 people have attended FREE Opera previews held at Overture Center, in advance of each opera performance.
Over 1,400 children have participated, for FREE, in the Opera’s annual collaboration with Overture’s Kids in the Rotunda series.

6. On average, over 180 Madison-based professional musicians, artists and production technicians are employed for each of the Opera’s productions.

7. Since the opening of Overture, Madison Opera has increased its season from two productions to three and Madison Opera’s institutional growth has been featured in profile articles in the leading opera magazines of Europe and North America.

8. Prior to Overture, Madison Opera’s free summer event, Opera in the Park, attracted audiences averaging between 4 and 6 thousand. This past summer, Opera in the Park attracted a record 14,000 attendees. While this event is not held in the Overture Center, its success is directly tied to the recent growth of Madison Opera.

9. Madison Opera, which celebrates its 50th anniversary this season, could not be where it is today, if it weren’t for the attraction, the experience, the excellence and the existence of the Overture Center.

Click here to learn more about the state of the Overture Center and the impact it has had on Madison.