How can we keep from singing?
Madison Opera’s Digital Winter + Spring

Although the pandemic made it impossible for us to gather in the Overture Center for the Arts for our planned productions in winter and spring 2021, Madison Opera did not fall silent this year.

Continuing the success of our Digital Fall, we embarked on a Digital Winter + Spring season that ran from January through May and included the range of content that has become our (digital) signature. Cast members from our cancelled productions joined a number of other Madison Opera favorite performers in sharing music, discussions, and more.

Digital Winter + Spring Highlights

Our Digital Winter + Spring featured a roster of favorite Madison Opera singers, including cast members from our cancelled productions:

  • Andres Acosta (Fellow Travelers, Digital Opera in the Park)
  • Emily Birsan (Rusalka, Romeo & Juliet)
  • David Blalock (Opera in the Park, Fidelio)
  • Matt Boehler (The Abduction from the Seraglio, Don Giovanni)
  • Elizabeth Caballero (Florencia en el Amazonas, Don Giovanni)
  • Alan Dunbar (Fellow Travelers, The Magic Flute)
  • Ben Edquist (Fellow Travelers)
  • Emily Glick (A Little Night Music)
  • Robert Goderich (Pagliacci, The Tales of Hoffmann)
  • Jasmine Habersham (Digital Opera in the Park)
  • Jeni Houser (The Tales of Hoffmann, A Little Night Music)
  • Kirsten Larson (La Traviata, Rusalka)
  • Cecilia Violetta López (La Traviata, Carmen)
  • Sidney Outlaw (Fellow Travelers, Romeo & Juliet)
  • Andrew Wilkowske (Fellow Travelers)

Our home in the Margaret C. Winston Madison Opera Center is perfect for some socially-distanced music-making, streamed directly with you.

Live from the Madison Opera Center

Emily Birsan, soprano
Karl Lavine, cello
John Christensen, bass
Scott Gendel, piano
Pete Lundberg, piano

Saturday, February 13, 7:30 pm

Emily Birsan has been a favorite Madison Opera performer since she was a graduate student at U.W.-Madison, most recently singing the title role in Rusalka, Juliette in Romeo & Juliette, and at Opera in the Park. Now she returns for a special Valentine’s Weekend recital, featuring arias and songs that tell of both happy and less-happy love (it is opera, after all).

She is joined by cellist Karl Levine and pianist Scott Gendel for her classical selections, and then partners with bassist John Christensen and pianist Pete Lundberg for some American Songbook selections.

Live from the Madison Opera Center

Alan Dunbar, baritone
Scott Gendel, piano

Saturday, March 20, 7:30 pm

Alan Dunbar has sung an incredibly wide range of music at Madison Opera since his debut as Alidoro in La Cenerentola in 2012. Audiences have enjoyed him in roles ranging from Papageno in The Magic Flute to Schaunaurd in La Bohème, Owen Hart in Dead Man Walking, and Joseph McCarthy in Fellow Travelers. Now the Minnesota baritone joins us for an intimate recital of his favorite music – some by composers you know, and some that will surprise you!

Live from the Madison Opera Center

Andres Acosta, tenor
Scott Gendel, piano

Saturday, April 24, 7:30 pm

Andres Acosta was widely-acclaimed for his performance as Timothy Laughlin in Fellow Travelers with Madison Opera last season, which he followed up with beautiful performances in Digital Opera in the Park.  Next season will see him return to Madison Opera in a role to be announced, as well as singing the world premiere of Snowy Day at Houston Grand Opera; workshopping the title role in The Pigeon Keeper at Santa Fe Opera, and singing Tony in West Side Story in Italy, among other engagements.

Now Andres joins us in the Madison Opera Center for a joyous recital that looks forward to the arrival of spring.

Live from the Madison Opera Center

Jeni Houser, soprano
David Blalock, tenor
Scott Gendel, piano
JJ Koh, clarinet

Saturday, May 22, 7:30 pm

For the final Live from the Madison Opera Center of our digital season, we return to where we started in September: with soprano Jeni Houser and tenor David Blalock.  The Wisconsin couple have sung often with Madison Opera, helped us launch our digital season, and also take part in our “Opera Postcards from Madison” project.  Jeni returns to Madison Opera next season in a title role TBA, but first she and David will share a program that celebrates the power of music to carry us through even the most challenging times.

Cecilia Violetta López, soprano
Available through February 8

Since her debut with Madison Opera at Opera in the Park 2017, Cecilia Violetta López has dazzled audiences, singing Micaela in Carmen and Violetta in La Traviata. Now she brings an intimate collection of arias to you from her home state of New Mexico, with music by Donizetti, Puccini, J. Strauss II, and Giménez.

Ben Edquist, baritone
Available through March 1

Ben Edquist broke hearts last season as Hawkins Fuller in Fellow Travelers, a few months after he debuted with us at Opera in the Park 2019. He was scheduled to sing Georg in She Loves Me with us this season. Since that is not possible, he instead shares a few numbers from his home in New York, including a song from She Loves Me, as well as arias by Mozart, Korngold, and more.

Kirsten Larson, mezzo-soprano
Available through April 5

Join mezzo Kirsten Larson in your living room for a mini-recital featuring music by Clara Schumann, Richard Strauss, Charles Gounod, and Jacques Offenbach.  Kirsten was a Madison Opera Studio Artist for the past two seasons, singing roles including Flora in La Traviata and Lola in Cavalleria Rusticana, and was originally scheduled to sing Cherubino in The Marriage of Figaro this season.

Elizabeth Caballero, soprano
Available through May 2

Elizabeth Caballero’s many roles with Madison Opera include Florencia in Florencia en el Amazonas, Donna Anna in Don Giovanni, and Violetta in La Traviata, and she was scheduled to return as Countess Almaviva in The Marriage of Figaro this spring.  You won’t miss her beautiful singing, though, as she will share a mini-recital of zarzuela arias, music from The Marriage of Figaro, and more.

Jasmine Habersham Mini Recital

Jasmine Habersham, soprano
Available through May 30

Jasmine Habersham debuted with Madison Opera at Digital Opera in the Park last summer, and was scheduled to sing Susanna in The Marriage of Figaro this spring.  As she cannot be here singing Mozart in Overture Hall on the weekend of April 30, she will share a mini-recital of Mozart arias, including selections from Figaro, Zaide, Don Giovanni, and Exsultate Jubilate.

Miss the operatic conversation? Join us online! Opera Up Close Cocktail Hour invites company members to join us for a roundtable on different aspects of opera. Subscribers can ask questions in advance and during the live stream.

Sunday, January 17:  Alumni, Part 2
Cecilia Violetta López, Alan Dunbar, and Sidney Outlaw have collectively appeared in ten operas with us, from Dead Man Walking to La Traviata to Fellow Travelers; all have also sung at Opera in the Park. Now they come together for a conversation about their careers, their paths to opera, favorite performances, and so much more.

Sunday, February 28:  Stage Managers
Stage managers are in charge of what happens on stage, making sure everyone and everything is in the right place at the right time. Join us for a discussion with Jill Krynicki, Madison Opera’s Production Stage Manager; Lynn Krynicki, her twin sister who is the Production Stage Manager for Washington National Opera; and Sean Corcoran, who stage manages for both companies. Find out what they do, how they trained, and more. Expect lots of great backstage stories!

Sunday, March 28:  General Directors
Stepping outside the Madison Opera family, Kathryn Smith is joined by three colleagues: Michael Egel of Des Moines Metro Opera, Ashley Magnus of Chicago Opera Theater, and Lee Anne Myslewski of Wolf Trap Opera. From how they got into opera, to the ups and downs of running an opera company, their favorite productions, and more, it will be a unique and entertaining afternoon.

Sunday, April 18: Madison Opera Alumni
Matt Boehler, Elizabeth Caballero, and Emily Glick have collectively sung in eight shows with Madison Opera, from Don Giovanni to Florencia en el Amazonas to A Little Night Music, as well as at Opera in the Park. Join them for a conversation about their careers, their paths to opera and theater, favorite performances, and so much more.

Sunday, May 16: Opera in the Park
Opera in the Park celebrates its 20th summer this year – and much has happened over those many summers. Join us to look at what goes into creating this summer tradition, from the sound design to rigging the stage, from complicated amounts of music to handling rain and mud. Kathryn Smith is joined by concertmaster Suzanne Beia, technical director Billy Larimore, and Jonathan Lipp, CEO of Full Compass Systems, which creates the sound for the concert.

General Director Kathryn Smith continues her monthly lecture series on aspects of opera history, complete with obscure facts, amusing anecdotes, and cute pet photos to distract you. Subscribers can send in questions in advance and ask them during the live stream.

Thursday, January 21:  Shakespearean Operas
Shakespeare’s plays have been made into innumerable operas. Some have entered the standard repertoire, like Gounod’s Romeo & Juliette; others, like Wagner’s version of Measure for Measure, were less successful. Kathryn will look at a variety of Shakespearean operas, from plot liberties taken to operatic conventions, and more.

Thursday, February 18:  The Goddesses, Part Two
In December, Kathryn talked about some great divas of the 19th and early 20th century. Now she picks up where she left off, looking at some of the legendary singers of the first part of the 20th century, from Maria Jeritza to Kirsten Flagstad, Marian Anderson, and Lily Pons.

Thursday, March 11:  Opera Traditions Outside of Europe
When we say “opera,” we are usually referring to works from Western Europe and the U.S., whether by a 19th-century Italian composer or a 20th-century American one. Yet there is more to the world of “telling stories with music” than these works. Join Kathryn for an exploration of other operatic traditions, from Chinese opera to Argentine tango opera, Cuban zarzuelas, and more.

Thursday, April 8: Fairy Tale Operas
Fairy tales have been the basis for countless operas, offering source material that would be familiar to an audience, but still allow the operatic conventions of love and danger. Join Kathryn to explore the vast range of how operas got to their happily (or-not-so-happily) ever after.

Thursday, May 6: Great Opera Disasters
Set mishaps. Costume malfunctions. Trampolines in places there shouldn’t be trampolines. For the final Opera Novice of our digital season, Kathryn explores some of the classic – and less well-known – ways in which opera performances have gone gloriously wrong.

This pandemic time has brought about new creativity – within the bounds of health guidance, of course. We have some interesting ideas we’d like to play with in Digital Winter + Spring, and hope you will take a chance on us and be part of them.

Guns N Rosenkavalier


Andrew Wilkowske, Guitar & Vocals
Lara Bolton, Keyboard & Vocals
with English lyrics by Kelley Rourke
and Musical Arrangements by John Glover

Andrew Wilkowske debuted with Madison Opera in Fellow Travelers last season and was scheduled to return for She Loves Me this winter. Since he cannot be with us in person, he is sharing with all of us a special digital project called Guns n’ Rosenkavalier.

What is Guns n’ Rosenkavalier? Andrew and his colleagues took art songs by Schubert, Brahms, and Strauss, gave them new English translations, and mixed them up with music by dozens of rock composers, from Guns n’ Roses to Madonna, Queen, and Lady Gaga. Schubert’s glorious “Wintereisse” is linked with music by Prince, The Jackson 5, and Bonnie Raitt. A “power ballad” set connects arias from La Traviata, Rigoletto, and Faust with music by Bon Jovi, Def Leppard, and Mötley Crüe. There is even a tribute to 1980s music videos with a mash-up of Schubert and Van Morrison.

This dazzling program includes songs you may know (and many you may not) from both the 19th and 20th century, presented in a completely new way – and all sung gloriously by Wilkowske, who also plays guitar. Lara Bolton joins him on keyboard and vocals.

Madison Opera will present the film in three parts, releasing segments on consecutive Tuesdays, starting on February 23. Each segment will be available for one month, so you can catch up whenever you have time.


Carla & Fernando Alvarado

Fran Klos

Patricia & Stephen Lucas

Sally & Mike Miley

Kato & David Perlman

The Wallach Family

Helen Wineke

David Flanders & Susan Ecroyd

John Lemke & Pamela Oliver

Charles Snowdon & Ann Lindsey

Cultural Grant Awardee FB graphic