Soprano Elizabeth Caballero takes on TV

Elizabeth Caballero in
Madison Opera’s Carmen.

If you haven’t been able to tell, we’re very excited that Elizabeth Caballero is returning to Madison Opera after appearances at Opera in the Park and most recently as Micaela in Carmen (2009). This time around, the Cuban American soprano will be taking on the thrilling role of Violetta in La Traviata in performances on April 29 and May 1. Ms. Caballero, who made her Metropolitan Opera debut last season, has had a busy year, with performances at the Florida Grand Opera as Liu in Turandot, and as a guest judge on the wildly popular Univision program, Sabado Gigante. Wait…what?

That’s right, Ms. Caballero has recently taken on a new role as judge in an American Idol style singing competition (“Su Majestad La Voz”) on Spanish TV. Here’s what she has to say about the new gig:

Sabado Gigante is a Spanish TV show that has been on the air on Univision for over 30 years. It’s like a cross between the Price is Right and The Ed Sullivan Show but in Spanish. And of course with it being Spanish TV, there are a lot of tight dresses and big hair. Spanish TV is a hoot!  The show has amazing ratings and it’s viewed by millions of people world wide, especially in North and South America. So when they decided to do an American Idol version for young opera singers, I thought it was an amazing idea, and when they asked me to judge, I was beyond honored. 

Quite an honor indeed! Through the experience, Liz has gained exposure to a whole new audience while serving as an advocate for her passion, opera. To give you an idea of the show, here’s a clip, with Judge Caballero chiming in at the 2:35 mark:

To stay up to date on this busy soprano’s career, check out her Facebook page!

Verdi’s “theme music” for Italian unification

NPR reports today that Italy is in the midst of celebrations marking the 150th anniversary of the country’s unification. Giuseppe Verdi, the composer of La Traviata, somewhat unwittingly created the movement’s “theme music” when his opera Nabucco premiered in 1842. In the third act of Nabucco, the exiled and defeated Jews sing a beautiful chorus, Va, pensiero, longing for their homeland. It’s simple, folk quality, the swelling music, and the content of the lyrics (“Oh, my country so beautiful and lost! Oh, remembrance so dear and so fatal!”) struck a nationalistic nerve, and it does so to this day. In fact, at a 2005 performance of Nabucco in Verona, I witnessed an audience of thousands singing along to the chorus and demanding an encore mid-performance, something simply unheard of in the U.S.! Here’s the famous piece, and below, find some important dates in the history of the Italian unification movement as they correspond to Giuseppe Verdi’s life.

1813: Giuseppe Verdi is born in Busseto, Italy, then part of the First French Empire, under the rule of Napoleon
1814: Napoleon is defeated and is exiled to St. Elba
1815: Napoleon escapes, but is defeated again at the Battle of Waterloo; Congress of Vienna restores Austrian rule to the Kingdom of Italy
1836: Verdi marries first wife, his childhood sweetheart
1839: Verdi‘s first opera, Oberto, premieres at La Scala in Milan
1842: Premiere of Verdi‘s Nabucco, in which the plight of the oppressed Jews was instantly compared to the plight of the Northern Italians under the Austrian Empire
1848: Revolution of 1848 in France results in the establishment of the Second French Republic, spreads revolutionary movements throughout Europe, including Italy; death of bel canto opera composer Gaetano Donizetti
1853: Premiere of Verdi‘s La Traviata at La Fenice in Venice
1859: War in Italy gradually removes Austrian rulers from northern states
1861: First Italian parliament is called, at peak of unification process, and Rome is declared the capitol of Italy
1866: Austria cedes rule of Venice to Italy
1870: Rome is seized from the Pope by the Italian army, effectively ending the battle for Italian unification

Announcing OUT @ THE OPERA

Madison Opera is excited to announce the launch of Out @ the Opera, a new affinity group for Madison Opera’s LGBT friends and fans! The inaugural Out @ the Opera event will be held on opening night of Verdi’s La Traviata, Friday, April 29th at 8 P.M., and will include attending the performance in Overture Hall and a special after-party at Fresco Restaurant.

Tickets are $35 (mezzanine level) or $75 (circle level) and cover admission to La Traviata and the after-party. Call the Madison Opera office at (608) 238-8085 to order today!

More details are available on Facebook or our website.

Help defend the Wisconsin Arts Board and NEA

While this is hardly a space for political posturing, I believe it is important to alert Madison Opera fans that two significant sources of our funding are under attack in the current round of national and local budget cuts. In congress, the National Endowment for the Arts is facing a proposed $43.1 million decrease for FY11. In Wisconsin, Governor Scott Walker’s recent budget proposal would eliminate the Wisconsin Arts Board entirely, leaving all remaining arts granting duties to the Department of Tourism, with a depleted budget of $1.5 million (down from $3.7 million).

At Madison Opera, we believe that the arts are part of the solution, not the problem. The arts create jobs, build communities, and offer invaluable educational opportunities for all. Government funding for the arts in the U.S. is already paltry; we must speak up for what little is left. If you agree, here’s how you can help (the links below go to personalized forms that will be e-mailed directly to your representatives):

  • Defend the NEA by telling your Representative and Senator about the importance of federal funding for the arts in your community. The NEA has specifically funded recent productions of The Tender Land and The Turn of the Screw, allowing Madison Opera to sustain its expansion to a 3-production season, in turn providing new employment opportunities for artists, designers, production staff, and stagehands. It has also funded Opera in the Park, a free event enjoyed annually by over 14,000 citizens from Wisconsin, Illinois, and Iowa. 
  • Defend the Wisconsin Arts Board by writing your state representatives in the upper and lower chambers. The WAB is an indispensable state agency for fostering arts education, employment, and accessible performances in our communities. Any depletion of its granting capabilities will directly and negatively impact the hundreds of organizations it supports across the state. You can tell them specifically that the WAB is one of Madison Opera’s largest season sponsors.

Thank you for your continued support, and let’s hope the climate for the arts turns in our favor!