Opera for everyone

By Brian Hinrichs, Portal Wisconsin.org guest blogger

The Onion recently published a headline that, predictably, made me chuckle: “Nation’s Boyfriends Dreading ‘Free Event in the Park’ Season.” Yes, it is indeed “Free Event in the Park season,” but personally, that’s what makes it my favorite season.

You see, I work for Madison Opera, and every year our staff and production team works hard to put on Opera in the Park (Saturday, July 17, 2010 in Garner Park), our free event in the park that has become a Madison summer tradition.

Maestro John DeMain conducts a previous Opera in the Park event.

Throughout Madison Opera’s mainstage season in Overture Hall, we encounter the tragic lives of historical heroines and the buffoonery of classic clowns. We laugh, we cry and we hop on the wonderful roller-coaster ride that is opera (both producing it, and experiencing it) because there is nothing else in the performing arts quite like it. The lavish sets, the costumes, the music, the drama, the beauty of the unamplified voice: it all combines for a uniquely powerful experience.

At Opera in the Park, we get to highlight the best parts of this magical art form for an audience of thousands, and yes, they get to experience it for free! It’s a thrilling night, one the nation’s boyfriends need not dread at all.

Opera in the Park started nine years ago, and each year since it has grown exponentially. It’s a concert of opera and Broadway hits, featuring some of today’s brightest American opera singers alongside the Madison Opera Chorus and the Madison Symphony Orchestra led by Maestro John DeMain. The program offers something for everyone, with excerpts from our upcoming productions of The Marriage of Figaro, The Threepenny Opera, and La Traviata, in addition to a Stephen Sondheim birthday tribute, selections from The Sound of Music, celebrating its 50th anniversary and much more.

This year’s guest soloists are sopranos Anya Matanovic and Barbara Shirvis, tenor Rodrick Dixon, and baritone Stephen Powell. Ms. Matanovic is a rising star in the opera world, with recent engagements at Seattle Opera and the New Israeli Opera, while Ms. Shirvis is in demand around the country both on the operatic and concert stages (she performs the title role in Tosca with the Minnesota Orchestra following Opera in the Park). Mr. Dixon is well known in many genres, from his role in the original Broadway cast of Ragtime to appearances with the Los Angeles Opera to his PBS specials with the opera/gospel crossover group, “The Tenors Cook, Dixon, and Young.” Mr. Powell leads a continent-spanning career, with The Wall Street Journal hailing his “rich, lyric baritone, commanding presence and thoughtful musicianship.”

Opera in the Park has grown exponentially in the past nine years.

All of this talent will be on display on Saturday, July 17th in Garner Park at 8 p.m. Come early, bring a picnic, and get a taste of Madison Opera: you don’t want to miss the highlight of “Free Event in the Park season!”

For more information on Opera in the Park, visit www.madisonopera.org.

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