I Love This Town – Hartford, WI

January 10, 2012

It has started, my year of visiting small town Performing Art Centers to experience theater. If the remainder of the year is like this first trip, I’m going to have a wonderful time.

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Opera for everyone

July 8, 2010

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.

A blogling is born…

June 16, 2010

This is Al Ross speaking.  Among other things, I’m a producer for Wisconsin Public Radio.  It’s funny, but twenty years ago, I never envisioned that I’d someday be a ‘blogger’; yet, now that I am one, I should get down to blogging….although dyslexia may turn it into ‘globbing’ on occasion.  I find it interesting that someone who doesn’t regularly read blogs would, himself, blog.  You are what you write, I guess.  I find comfort knowing that it’s similar to – and thus as easy as –  writing in a diary or journal – the only difference being entries must be suitable for others to read.  The way I’m going to think of it is that I am a columnist within an electronic newspaper.  With that definition, I can join the ranks of Ed Sullivan, Walter Winchell and Dave Barry.  I’d better toss in Charles Kuralt as well, because he was an idol of mine and I so envied his fortunate assignments.

Now, before you roll your eyes and label me a prima donna – please know that I’m only rambling (which is probably a better word than ‘blog’ to describe my initial participation) – and I believe a person should be allowed to saunter comfortably through his first blog.  None of us rode straight and true the first time we took off the training wheels.  Anyway, I’m very proud to be a part of an impressive entity: Portal Wisconsin.  Just the sound of ‘Portal Wisconsin’ summons pride.  And, yes, I too thought it was ‘Porthole’ Wisconsin when I first heard about it years ago.  Then I realized it was ‘portal’ and the idea of an opening through which to view what’s going on inside Wisconsin sunk in.  I thought it was a great idea.

Now that I’m a small part of it, I think it’s an even greater idea.

My contributions will range from rambles to regional reminders.  I will talk about the people who and places that make Western and Northwestern Wisconsin culturally vital and vibrant.  Since becoming host of Spectrum West on WPR, I’ve met and rubbed elbows with some very impressive folks and functions.

The program is a delight to produce simply because the events, stars and planners are equally delightful.

I’m impressed with the vision shown by so many venues in so many towns – very small to medium/large.

Theaters (if you like to spell yours with an ‘re’ at the end, I apologize) and theater groups; musicians and musical groups; artists and art galleries; publishers, publications, poets and authors – there’s an abundance of these that equals all the other natural abundances we relish and, hopefully, use with respect, here in West Wisconsin.

Suffice it to say I will check in periodically to tell you about some of these things and many of these people – and I will expect to interact along the way with those who read my words.  After all, even though it sounds like the quick, fast end of something (blog!…the ‘g’ landing hard in a messy heap), I don’t believe a blog should be a one-way street.