We drove over to Madison on Saturday, July 8th, for the beginning of this year’s Madison Early Music Festival. This year’s theme is “Quixotic Musical Treasures from the Golden Age of Spain” which in particular celebrates Miguel de Cervantes, and his novel Don Quixote, but also the other authors, poets, and musicians of that productive era.

The opening night concert was titled “The Musical World of Don Quixote.” Numerous pieces and types of music were referred to by Cervantes in his story, and the concert took us through events of the novel with examples of the types of music that might have been played, and that were thematically appropriate to the story.

Piffaro, the Renaissance Band, lead the concert, joined by members of the Rose Ensemble, Andrew Rader, Bradley King, Jordan Sramek, and Jake Endres; as well as soprano Nell Snaidas, and additional instrumentalists Erick Schmalz, Glen Velez, and Charles Weaver on sackbut, percussion, and vihuela and guitar, respectively. The Piffaro contingent consisted of Grant Herreid, Priscilla Herreid, Greg Ingles, Joan Kimball, Christa Patton, and Bob Weimken.

Various members of the Rose Ensemble embodied Don Quixote on vocals, depending upon the voice the piece was written for; Ms. Snaidas sang all the female parts, and put her operatic background to good use in expression and gesture.

This was a really fascinating concert, extremely well performed and very well put together. Mr. Herreid, who “conceived and curated” the program gave an interesting pre-concert lecture on how the various works performed were found and decided on.

The pre-concert lecture on Sunday night, by Peggy Murray, on historical reproduction of dance, was unfortunately cut short by technical difficulties. However, the concert, a solo performance by Xavier Diaz-Latorre, was mostly flawless. The stage lighting was on the dim side, and Mr. Diaz-Latorre’s voice did not carry well to the upper seats where we were. Nevertheless, the music was amazing. The vihuela is an instrument shaped like a small guitar, but strung and tuned like a lute. The first half of the program, played on the five-course vihuela, was mostly soft, sweet, and introspective, although the pieces played had an intricacy that called for and received intense focus.

The six-course vihuela, used in the second half, is a transitional instrument, which can be strummed as well as plucked—sometimes at the same time, as happened in the first piece, “Poema harmonico,” by Francisco Guerau. This set was faster and more fiery, which built to a conclusion lauded by a universal standing ovation, and two encores.
On Friday evening, April 21st, we went to the Charles Allis Museum to hear a concert by the Madison-based Wisconsin Baroque Ensemble. The group this evening consisted of soprano Mimmi Fulmer; Brett Lipshutz, taverso (transverse flute); Nathan Giglierano, baroque violin; Eric Miller, viola da gamba and treble viol; Sigrun Paust, recorder; Anton TenWolde, baroque cello; and Max Yount, harpsichord.

The first part of the program consisted of the Quartet for two traversi, recorder, and basso continuo, TWV43:d1, by Georg Philipp Telemann; Pieces de violle, suite #3, by “M. de Machy”; “Lasciatemi qui solo,” by Francesca Caccini; and Sonate en trio for two traversi and basso continuo, opus 13, #3, by Jean-Baptist-Quentin. All these pieces were played and sung beautifully. All except the Telemann were new to us, and we were particularly interested by the solo suite for viol da gamba by de Machy, and the song by Francesa Caccini.

The second half included “Interrote Speranze,” by Johannes Hieronymous Kapsberger; Sonata a trio for recorder, violin, and basso continuo, by Johann Cristoph Pepusch; Telemann’s Nouveaux Quators, #6 in E-Minor; and “Odi, Euterpe,” by Giulio Romola Caccini. In this set, again, the pieces featuring the viol da gamba were particularly interesting, since the viol parts could almost be described as “sprightly,” which is unusual for this instrument. The final piece, which featured Ms. Fulmer accompanied by the complete ensemble, was quite beautiful.

This was a very interesting and enjoyable concert. We look forward to the company’s November concert.
On Friday evening, March 24th, we went to hear Great Lakes Baroque’s first concert of the year, featuring mezzo soprano Suzanne Lommler, cellist Paul Dwyer, and founder and harpsichordist Jory Vinokur.

Besides being a wonderful singer and operatic performer, Ms. Lommler also demonstrated that she is a real trouper, showing up despite having one foot in a cast, and standing up to sing all her pieces

In the first half, she gave us lovely renditions of “Amanti, io vi so dire,” by Benedetto Ferrari, and “L’Eraclito amoroso,” by Barbara Strozzi, whose proto-fado, proto-blues music we particularly enjoy. Then, Mr. Vinokur soloed on the Handel Suite in E Major, HWV 430 (“The Harmonious Blacksmith”) which displayed his virtuosic level of skill on the harpsichord.
Then, Ms. Lommler gave us a very passionate rendition of Handel’s La Lucrezia, wherein we got a good sample of her operatic skills in song, expression, and gesture. The cantata adopts the same classical story as Shakespeare’s “The Rape of Lucrece,” and the portion in which Lucrezia curses her attacker, Tarquin, is truly fiery.

Mr. Dwyer accompanied La Lucrezia also, and did a beautiful job of it. The singing tone of the cello was truly a duet with the human voice.

In the second half, Mr. Vinokur moved to a fortepiano, to accompany Ms. Lommler on first, a set of songs by Franz Joseph Haydn, which set to music “She Never Told Her Love” (Shakespeare), “The Mermaid’s Song”(Anne Hunter), “O Tuneful Voice” (Anne Hunter), and “Cupido” (G. Leon).
This was followed by a second set of songs set to music by Mozart: “As Luise Burned the Letters of her Unfaithful Lover” (Gabriele von Baumberg); “In A Dark and Secluded Wood” (Antoine Houdart de la Motte); “Contentment” (Christian Felix Weisse); “Evening Thoughts” (Joachim Heinrich Campe); and “To Chloe” by Johann Georg Jacobi.

After a rapturous ovation, all three performers joined in an encore, also a Mozart piece that I did not catch the name of.

Pretty much all this music was new to me, and I very much enjoyed it all.
On Saturday evening, March 18th, we went to the Skylight to see their new production of Beauty and the Beast, based upon Zemire et Azor, a 1771 opera by André Ernest Modeste Grétry, with libretto by Jean François Marmontel, after the story La belle et la bête by Jeanne Marie Le Prince de Beaumont and the play Amour pour amour by P.C. Nivelle de La Chaussée.

Largely forgotten nowadays, Grétry was popular in his time, composed more than fifty operas, and was hired by Queen Marie Antoinette as her court music director. The opera was a favorite of Mozart’s, and the music stands the test of time very well.

The story follows the classic version of the tale of Beauty and the Beast, with a few tweaks. The merchant Sander (Eric McKeever) is shipwrecked, along with his servant, Ali (Nicholas Nestorak). They seek shelter in what appears at first to be an abandoned palace, Ali with great reluctance as he fears the place is haunted. The palace’s invisible servants (Alex Campea, Bria Cloyd, Sean Anthony Jackson, and Alex Mace) lay out a feast for them. Ali’s fears are dispelled by the excellent wine, but Sander becomes the fearful one when the playful spirits start levitating the drunken Ali around the room.

Comes the dawn, Sander literally drags the hung-over Ali out the door, but stops to pluck a rose for his daughter, Zemire. which prompts the appearance of the outraged Beast, Azor. In this production, the Beast is represented by an eight-foot tall and equally broad puppet figure manipulated by the spirits, and given voice by tenor Chaz’men Williams Ali. The fearsome Beast walks like a gorilla, has a spiky carapace like a crab, the horns and ears of a water buffalo, fangs, and tusks. Accusing Sander of theft and ingratitude, the Beast eventually agrees to give Sander his life, his freedom, and wealth, if he will send Azor his daughter, Zemire. Azor swears that she will come to no harm, but Sander and Ali aren’t sure when Azor summons up a wind spirit (another puppet, reminiscent of a small version of the “Snow Dragon” seen at the Skylight in 2015) that bears them home.

At home, they are greeted by Sander’s daughters, spoiled materialists Fatme and Lisbe (Erin Sura and Sarah Thompson Johansen), and the good and virtuous Zemire (Gillian Hollis). Fatme and Lisbe are dismayed that their father has lost everything, but Zemire is just glad to have him back. Then, he produces the rose, and tells them of the dreadful bargain he has made. While the others all think about ways to get out of it, Zemire compels Ali to take her to the Beast’s palace, so that the Beast will keep his promise and her family be provided for. She bravely enters the palace, but, on seeing the Beast for the first time, faints dead away.

When she revives, Azor is kind to her, and tells her that she may command him and the spirits for any thing she wishes. She replies that she is not made happy by things. Instead, she sings a song for him, and dances with the spirits.

After a time, she wishes to know how her family is faring. Despite misgivings, Azor brings out a magic mirror, which will not only show her whom she wishes to see, but allow her to hear their thoughts as well. Her now richly adorned sisters are more spoiled than ever, but her father, aged by his ordeal, is deeply sunk in grief over the loss of Zemire. Zemire declares that she must go to him. Azor protests that this is an excuse to leave him. Giving her a magic ring that will allow her instant travel, Azor gets her to promise to return by sunset, because he has realized that he loves her, and it was foretold him by the spirit that enchanted him, that on the day he was able to love, his “cursed life would end.”

Zemire transports herself to the family home, to her father’s joy, but he and her sisters attempt to keep her there. With Ali’s help she escapes back to the Beast’s palace, arriving just as night has fallen. She calls out to Azor, and he is able to answer, because his “cursed life” has ended by his being transformed back into his normal, kingly, form. Sander, Ali, Fatme and Lisbe arrive, intent on rescuing Zemire once and for all, in time to take part in the happy ending.

This production was just charming all the way through: the story, the setting, the costumes, the music, the singing, the dancing were all lovely. The English translation of the libretto, by Colin Graham, further adapted by Director James Ortiz and Shari Rhoads, was witty and enjoyable. Of course, the monster in the room is the huge Azor puppet, which was very effective. The “spirits” manipulating it did a wonderful and graceful job of bringing it to life, and most of the time the “ventriloquism” effect worked well, making it easy to accept that the puppet was singing. It didn’t work when Mr. Williams Ali, who sings the Beast’s role as a hooded figure on stage, gets too far down front and in the action, but this only happened a couple of times. One episode in which the puppet manipulation was distracting came in the first scene, during Sander’s song lamenting his dilemma, during which the Beast kept nervously moving its head, which distracted from Sander’s singing. Even puppets should obey the basic rule of stagecraft to not pull eyes away from the focus of the scene.

This was a really excellent, creative, and entertaining production, and we were very glad to have seen it.

Saturday the 16th was the final day of the Madison Early Music Festival, and a day for two big concerts by the participants. That morning, we got breakfast at a restaurant called “Manna,” located in a small strip shopping center on Madison’s north east. Everything we had was excellent. My scrambled eggs were light, creamy textured, and very tasty. Georgie had the house specialty, oatmeal pancakes, which she pronounced delicious and filling. She also bought some samples of their other baked goods for later, which were very good also.

In the afternoon, we were treated to performances by the “Advanced Loud Band,” and the “Early Opera” workshop.

The phrase “Loud Band” refers to an ensemble containing wind instruments, specifically shawms (oboe/English horn ancestors); sackbuts (early trombones); and dulcians, which are a family of bassoon-like instruments.  “The London Waites,” as the group called itself, played an entertaining selection of music from Shakespearean England.

Early Opera Workshop, “The Fairy Queen,”

The Early Opera Workshop put on a condensed version of Henry Purcell’s masque, “The Fairy Queene.” This is always one of the more challenging sessions, since the participants, in addition to learning the music, have to stage the opera including blocking, and finding (referential) costuming, and minimal props. This was a very entertaining performance. All the singing was excellent, and dancing and acting enthusiastic and more than adequate.

We were keeping dining simple this weekend, and got dinner at Potbelly Deli on State Street. A very basic but pleasant hot sandwich shop that we again have found reliable. They use good ingredients and have a nice variety of drink options.

The evening’s Pre-concert lecture, was by Prof. Emeritus John Barker, and entitled “Elizabeth I as a Politician”. This was a very enlightening and entertaining talk, which brought out the fact that “Good Queen Bess” was not in fact popular with many of her subjects, and relied upon a variety of stratagems in order to keep her throne.

 

Saturday evening, was the All-Festival Concert, which was quite spectacular. The concert theme was “A Day in the Life of Shakespeare’s London,” and began with Holborne’s “The Night Watch,” and a choral piece by Orlando Gibbons called “The Cries of London,” which is based on the sales calls of the various merchants and mongers of the city in that time. This was quite a revelation, the piece was wonderfully complex, very modern in sound, and exciting to listen to.

The concert was very well put together, with some deep scholarship put into assembling the music and the readings, with some very obscure but appropriate readings chosen, such as a speech about the Queen at her prayers from Henry VIII, and Lorenzo wooing Jessica, from The Merchant of Venice.

Listening and watching this concert made me realize how amazingly much work had gotten done in eight days. Just putting together this concert, which consisted of twenty-four musical pieces and ten readings, in that time would have been a major work by itself. Then, when you consider that in addition, the Loud Band played twelve pieces in its concert, there were twenty-four numbers in The Fairy Queen, and twenty-nine pieces in the Participant’s concert, a huge amount of music was taught and learned. Out of all that, there were only three or four false starts, which I consider truly remarkable.

All praise to the Madison Early Music Festival staff, faculty, and participants. Well done, all around!

The Friday public program of the Madison Early Music Festival began with the “Participant Concert.”

The Festival is an intensive workshop for those interested in learning and performing early music, and the Participant Concert exhibits what has been learned in the week of the Festival, with more than twenty classes having prepared one or more pieces for the concert.

Memorable moments of the concert included the “Wake-up Bagpipes” playing Shepherd’s Hay, a Scottish air, and Ungaresca, a 16th century Italian tune.

“The Knot Untied,” a string group, played the “In Nomine,” by Pickforth, which was a unique piece of music. The lowest line, for violoncello, is played entirely in whole notes (four beats); the next higher (violas) are dotted half notes (three beats) and half notes (two beats); the violin lines are dotted quarter notes (beat and a half) and the “melody” line quarter notes. The overall effect was to be like the gearing of a clock, and the intricacies of its working were quite fascinating.

A trio of faculty members, Taya Konig-Tarasevich, Baroque flute; Charles Weaver, lute; Robert Eisenstein, bass viol, gave us two pieces, “Chaconne, Two in one upon a ground”, by Henry Purcell; and Sonata in G, by William Croft.

“Balanced, not Blended” presented some humorous rounds, again by Purcell. The audience particularly liked “T’is women makes us love/ T’is love that makes us sad/ T’is sadness makes us drink/ T’is drink that makes us mad!” (Each group chose its own name, some more creatively than others. This vocal group’s name reminds us that in music of this period, harmony was not common, but counterpoint was more common.)

Bard Notes presented songs referenced in Shakespeare. “Blacke Spirites and White,” was preceded by a reading of the famous witches “double, double, toil and trouble,” scene, complete with “cauldron,” a Weber barbecue grill overflowing with fumes of dry ice.

Gentle Ladies’ Ballad Society and Tea Club, gave us a gently bawdy song, “My Thing is My Own,” from the book “Wit and Mirth, or Pills to Purge Melancholy,” which was very funny, and ended the concert on a definite “up” note.

We drove out to our hotel to check in for the evening, and got dinner at Ella’s Deli on the way back. Ella’s is always reliable, although far from haute cuisine.  We’ve been going there on and off for more than thirty years and never had a bad thing. The Fairfield Inn, where we stayed last Saturday night as well, was clean, reasonably comfortable, and reasonably priced, especially compared with hotels downtown. Being out by the freeway past East Towne wasn’t terribly convenient, but not too bad.

 

The evening concert, “Sonnets 400,” was preceded by a lecture by Prof. Joshua Callahan, “Repackaging Shakespeare’s Sonnets,” which gave us an interesting piece of publishing history. The original 1609 edition of the Sonnets, published during Shakespeare’s lifetime, was a commercial flop and was quickly out of print.  However, in 1640, a London publisher, John Benson, “repackaged” the sonnets as part of a volume titled Shakespeare’s Poems. This combined most, but not all of the Sonnets along with others of the Bard’s poems, plus works by other authors blithely gathered in. Benson changed the order in which the sonnets appeared, removed the numbering, added titles, and grouped two or more into single units of verse.  Benson’s rough handling proved popular, however, and remained the definitive edition of the Sonnets until well into the 19th Century. Professor Callahan made the interesting argument that reuse of a resource, which he called “conservation,” can be as good for it in the long run as trying to maintain it in a pristine state (“preservation”).

The performance itself consisted of forty of the sonnets read by veteran actor Michael Herrold , with contemporary music between each set of three or four. The musical ensemble consisted of three members of the faculty, Grant Herreid, lute and cittern; Charles Weaver, lute and bandora; and Priscilla Herreid, recorder. They played dance music by Anthony Holborne, from Pavans, Galliards, Almains, and other short Aiers (1599), including such pieces as “Paridizio,” “Last Will and Testament,” “The Funerals,” and “The Fairie Round.”

Mr. Herrold read well, with good intonation, expression, and enunciation, but not overdramatizing. This was a very interesting and well-presented program which we enjoyed.

The second evening of the Festival had something rather unique for Early Music: a movie showing. David Douglass, co-director of The Newberry Consort, has assembled a “score” of Elizabethan music to be presented with a silent film, Les Amours de la reine Elisabeth, a 1912 feature film starring the famous French actress Sarah Bernhardt.

The showing was preceded by a talk by co-director Ellen Hargis, who spoke about the historical Elizabeth and Essex. Then, before the showing proper, Mr. Douglass gave a very entertaining introduction to the film, including its making, the cast, and its significant effect on the American film industry.

Before the film proper, Ms. Hargis was accompanied by the Consort in presenting vocal versions of the songs “What if a Day,” “If My Complaints Could Passions Move,” and “Can She Excuse My Wrongs,” which figured in the film score.

I can’t say that watching the film was easy: it has been digitized, but not restored or remastered: tops of heads are cut off in some scenes, and some are very washed out. For that, it was still interesting as showing examples of the demonstrative style of acting in use at the time, as presented by one of the premier acting troupes of the day. Of course, modern audiences find this humorous, but I found it very instructive to see.

The movie plot is very similar to the opera Roberto Devereaux, recently reviewed elsewhere in this journal, but with some changes that actually make the plot a bit more sensible. Elizabeth’s motivation for giving Essex the “get-out-of-jail-free” ring is shown as being due to a fortune-teller who utters the dire prophecies that Elizabeth (Ms. Bernhardt) shall die unhappy, and Devereaux (Lou Tellegen) die on the scaffold (i.e., be executed as a criminal). Besotted, the Queen gives him the ring which he is to send to her if ever he is in trouble.

Later, we see Essex romancing the Countess of Nottingham (Mlle. Romain), when they are discovered by her husband, the Earl (Max Maxudian). Rather than interrupting them, he decides to seek revenge by denouncing Essex as a traitor, with the help of Lord Bacon (Jean Chameroy).

Elizabeth at first refuses to credit the accusation until she, also, stumbles across the unlucky lovers. Believing that if Essex is false to her as a lover, he could be false to her as a liege man, she orders his arrest and execution.

Her anger cooling, she sends the Countess to the Tower to bring her the ring and justify her sparing Essex. However, the Earl of Nottingham intercepts her, seizes the ring, and throws it into the Thames. Grieving, Elizabeth allows the execution to proceed, accepting that Essex was too proud to appeal to her. But, when she later views Essex’ corpse, she sees that the ring is not on his hand. Having made the Countess tell her what really happened, Elizabeth takes to her bed, and soon dies. (Even I have to admit that Ms. Bernhardt’s “faceplant” into her featherbed as the dying Queen was funny--.)

Mr. Douglass did a marvelous job matching Shakespearean period music to the film action. Most of the pieces were new to me, and some I had heard of, but never heard played. One such was “Heartsease,” which is referred to in “Merry Wives of Windsor.” In the movie, the Queen and her court view a performance of “Merry Wives,” after which Essex presents Shakespeare to the Queen.
The Consort played the twenty-six pieces without discernible flaw, and in excellent synchrony with the music. Ms. Hargis sang again on Edward Johnson’s “Eliza is the Fairest Queen,” which was the “end title music.”
This year, we decided to get a Festival Pass for the Madison Early Music festival, which gets us access to six concerts over four days. (We could have had seven, but the Baltimore Consort presentation on Tuesday is the same one I previously reviewed by Early Music Now, so we chose to give that one a pass.) The overall Festival theme is “Shakespeare 400,” with emphasis on English music from Shakespeare’s day.

The program for this Saturday night was New York Polyphony, making their Wisconsin debut and first appearance at MEMF. Their concert of English sacred music was preceded by the lecture “That the Congregation May Be Thereby Edified,” by Professor J. Michael Allsen, which set the context of the religious shifts that took place during the reigns of Henry VIII, Edward VII, Mary, and Elizabeth I. England had always had its own tradition of sacred music, most of which was lost in the Dissolution of the Monasteries, and cleared the way for new works.

New York Polyphony is made up of four male singers: Geoffrey Williams, countertenor; Steven Caldicott Wilson, tenor; Christopher Dylan Herbert, baritone; and Craig Phillips, bass. They are currently one of the most highly regarded classical music vocal groups, and, having heard them, it’s easy to tell why. They have very pure tones, extremely precise elocution, and pitches that are spot-on.

Their concert, called “Tudor City,” after their 2010 album, included two masses. After “Ave Maria Mater Dei,” by Willam Cornysh, they began the Mass for Four Voices by William Byrd, which Professor Allsen called one of the most perfect examples of counterpoint extant. Inserted between the movements of the Mass were other pieces of sacred music from the Tudor and late Plantagenet period, by John Dunstable, Walter Lambe, and Thomas Tallis.

The second half of the program began with “Ave Verum Corpus,” by Byrd, and the Mass for Four Voices by Byrd’s predecessor and mentor, Thomas Tallis. Tallis’ Mass was a simpler and more austere setting, but in its way no less beautiful. Additional pieces came from John Pyamour, John Plummer, and the Worcester Fragments.

After a well-deserved standing ovation, the group favored us with an encore: a do-wop version of “Rosie the Riveter on the Assembly Line,” which showed that their mastery of more modern styles is just as great as that of the ancient music.
Saturday evening, the 11th, we drove up to the American Legion Hall in Mequon for the second Milwaukee area Midsummer Masquerade. The Legion hall is a small but nice venue, and the organizers had laid on a decent snack buffet included with the ticket price. Open bar prices were very reasonable also, at two dollars for a soft drink, and only three for a cocktail.

Live entertainment was provided by The Rat Package Cabaret Troupe, who put on two sets of World War II/Korean War Era song and dance. The performers, lead by Rich Mach and Lori Minetti, put on a good show and engaged with the audience. They had a good repertoire of songs, including short Frank Sinatra and Marilyn Monroe tributes.

There wasn’t a huge turnout, but the people that were there dressed for the occasion and had a good time. According to signs, another Midsummer Masquerade/Dieselpunk USO is planned for 2017. If it comes off, we will have to share the info around to get some more people there.
On Sunday afternoon, June 5th, we went to see the final production of this year’s Skylight season, Gilbert and Sullivan’s “Pirates of Penzance.” This was as manic and active a production of the famous operetta as we have seen. All of the action was intensely choreographed, and, with the exception of the few slow numbers, the stage was a continuous whirl of color and action. The “silly” meter was cranked up to high, to the point that the production verged on self-parody at times, but it was all good fun, and we enjoyed it very much.

Benjamin Robinson was a handsome and stalwart Frederic, and Julie Tabash Kelsheimer an attractive and forceful Mabel. Both had gorgeous voices and lead an excellent cast. Drew Brhel as Major-General Stanley and Diane Lane as Ruth were splendid in their important comic roles, and sang well as well.
As mentioned, a lot of the scenes were almost continuous dance and action: the intense choreography by Ryan Cappleman, and the stage business as directed by Shawna Lucy, were continuous and seamlessly integrated.

The set, with its postcard backgrounds, worked well with the action, and incorporated its own set of jokes. The women’s shirtwaist outfits for the first act were more 1900 style than 1879, but they were attractive and pretty and that was sufficient.

The orchestra, under the direction of noted Gilbert and Sullivan director Robert Linder, performed with out noticeable flaw, and supported the singers at just the right level.

A very enjoyable afternoon at the opera, with just as much energy as we could stand.
  On Saturday, May 7th, we went to the South Milwaukee High School Auditorium (also known as the South Milwaukee Performing Arts Center) for a performance by the Cantare Chorale. This is a community choral group, new to us, but which has members we know and have heard in other groups.

Although it was an evening of generally pleasant music, I can’t say that we enjoyed it all that much, a fact that I attribute to the Director, Lani M. Knutson.  As a rule,the arrangements chosen were neither inspiring nor challenging . Tempos were homogenous and uniform, and dynamic changes almost non-existent.

Problems were immediately noticeable with the opening number, “How Can I Keep From Singing?” I am used to hearing this song done joyously, but the arrangement made it sound more like grim duty. The following pieces, “Hallelujah, Amen,” from Judas Maccabeus, by George Frideric Handel;  “Ave Verum Corpus,” by Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart; and “How Lovely is Thy Dwelling Place,” by Johannes Brahms,  all suffered from metronomic tempos and monotonous volumes.  That the chorus was being held down became apparent on the final crescendo of Jean Sibelius’ “Onward, Ye Peoples!,” which was the first time that the voices really filled the hall.

“Sometimes I Feel Like a Motherless Child,” was presented in an unsatisfying homogenized arrangement without a trace of “the Blues.” Although we were glad to hear all the words to “When the Saints Go Marching In,” I conjecture that the lack of the jazz bounce for which the piece is famous contributed to the audience’s tepid response when asked to sing along.

The first half of the concert was nominally “sacred” music; the second half was more eclectic, but with an emphasis on show music. “It’s A Grand Night for Singing,” opened the half, but still without the swing and sway one is accustomed to hearing. “Yesterday,” was essentially a solo with some choral accompaniment. Regrettably, the soloist was not having a good night, starting flat, then recovering, but not making the high notes later in this deceptively difficult piece.

Having been in a production of “Oliver!” myself, I was well able to judge that the songs in a medley from the show were mostly up to tempo.Some energy almost showed itself on “Oom Pa Pah,” and the soloist on “Who Will Buy?” demonstrated that there was genuine vocal power available in the group. However, you wouldn’t have known that from the frustrating presentation of “Bridge Over Troubled Water,” which requires an intensity, and a swelling and receding in the volume levels that just was not there. I had to restrain myself from standing up and shouting, “Sing out, for God’s sake!”

The medley that followed, “Irving Berlin’s America,” had some good points, but, again, I was annoyed by the total lack of emphasis on songs such as “No Business Like Show Business,” which needs to be a punchy song, to wit: “There’s NO business like SHOW business, like NO business I KNOW!” It would perhaps have been well to have ended with the Berlin medley, but the concert wrapped up with “Lullaby (Good Night My Angel)”by Billy Joel, which was unmemorable.

What was disappointing was that we know people in this group, and they are capable of being SO MUCH better. What could have been an exciting and interesting evening of music ended up being just –nice—and insipid.

On Monday evening, April 25th, we went to Schwan Hall on the Wisconsin Lutheran College campus to hear a concert by the Philomusica string quartet.  Founded in 2008, the Philomusica Quartet is Wisconsin Lutheran’s resident string quartet, is well known regionally, and has played across the country.

The group’s members are Alexander Mandl, violinist and conductor; Jeanyi Kim, violinist; Nathan Hackett, violist; and Adrien Zitoun, cellist.  Among other work, Dr. Mandl is Concertmaster of the Racine and the Kenosha Symphonies, and a faculty member at Wisconsin Lutheran and other institutions.  Jeanyi Kim is Associate Concertmaster of the Milwaukee Symphony and Concertmaster of the Milwaukee Chamber Orchestra.  Mr. Hackett is a member of the Milwaukee Symphony, principal violist for Milwaukee Chamber Orchestra, and faculty at Wisconsin Lutheran.  Mr. Zitoun is also a member of the Milwaukee Symphony, Milwaukee Chamber Orchestra, and the Wisconsin Lutheran faculty. The busy artists also work with a large number of different groups and institutions.

The program consisted of the Quartettsatz in C-minor, D. 703, by Franz Schubert; String Quintet in D Major, K. 593, by Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart; and the String Quartet No. 14 in C-sharp minor, Op. 131, by Ludwig van Beethoven.

The Quartettsatz is an interesting piece, part of planned multi-movement quartet that Schubert planned but never finished.  It begins with a dramatic theme, that transitions to a lyrical second theme, and a peaceful third theme, before the recapitulation and closing coda.

For the Mozart quintet, the group was joined by violist Matthew Michelic, who is currently on the faculty of the Lawrence University Conservatory of Music, and who, like the other players, has a diverse and distinguished work history.  This quintet was one of Mozart’s last two string quintets, which were anonymously commissioned at a time when Mozart’s fortunes were at a low ebb.  The work seems to have cheered Mozart up somewhat, as the Allegro first movement is quite cheerful, the second movement Adagio, slow and sighing, but not sad, graceful and, at times, almost fragile.  The third movement Menuetto is bright and humorous, and the fourth movement Allegro is based on a lively “Tarantella” structure.

The Quartet has been working its way through all of Beethoven’s string quartets, and we were privileged to hear them finish the journey with Number 14. Monumental, particularly by quartet standards, the piece has seven movements, played without interruption, which amounts to forty intense minutes of music. I found this piece in some ways to be more playful than “typical” Beethoven, perhaps in part because Beethoven by this time had pretty much thrown over conventions about the quartet form. The lengthy fifth movement Presto was particularly invigorating, and was followed by the short , Adagio quasi un poco andante. This was a good entrée to the finale Allegro, which was the most dramatic and sober—most “Beethoven-like”—part of the quartet.

All of the musicians displayed the highest degree of skill and ability in interpreting the music, and the concert was very well received by an enthusiastic audience.  We enjoyed it particularly for the uplifting character of the music.

The Philomusica Quartet has announced their Wisconsin Lutheran concert schedule for next season, which looks very interesting.  Doubtless we will attend some, events permitting.

http://www.philomusicaquartet.com/Philomusica/Home.html


 

Friday evening, April 22nd, we went to the Charles Allis Museum for a concert by the Wisconsin Baroque Ensemble. The evening's performers were: Mimmi Fulmer, soprano; Brett Lipshutz and Monica Steger, traverse (transverse flute); Eric Miller, viola da gamba, baroque cello; Consuelo Sanudo, mezzo soprano; Anton TenWolde, cello; and Max Yount, harpsichord.

The concert began with "Occhi miei, che faceste?" HWV 146, by Georg Friedrich Handel, sung by Ms. Fulmer, accompanied by Mr. Yount and Mr. TenWolde. Ms. Fulmer is a very expressive singer with a lovely voice and made this a very enjoyable piece to listen to. Next was "Sonata for two German flutes and bass," by Flippo Ruge, played by Mr. Lipshutz and Ms.Steger, Mr. Yount. This was a very pleasant, mellow piece.

Then there was, "Sonata for viola da gamba solo," by Georg Philipp Telemann, played by Mr. Miller. Fascinating to listen to, and to watch. The viola da gamba is an awe-inspiring instrument with its seven strings. Sitting at chamber-music range, I was able to hear the sounds of fingers impacting the fretboard, which was a strange little percussive accompaniment.

"Pur ti miro," from L'incoronation di Poppea, by Claudio Montiverdi, Ms. Fulmer, Ms. Sanudo; Mr. Yount and Mr. TenWolde. This was a very nice rendition of this duet. Poppea may have been the first Baroque opera I experienced, and I have a fondness for it.

The second half began with "Duetto in G-major for two traversi," by Wilhelm Friedemann Bach. Mr. Lipshutz and Ms.Steger did a lovely job with this much more intricate piece for the two flutes. The two lines twined intricately about one another. After that, we had "Duets for two sopranos," from Madrigali, Book 7, Claudio Monteverdi as sung by Ms. Fulmer and Ms. Sanudo. Pieces from the Monteverdi Madrigal books seem to be a theme lately. This was a very pretty piece and nicely sung.

"Premier Concert," from Concerts Royaux, by Francois Couperin called for all the instrumentalists to take part in this multi-movement suite of dance-music inspired pieces. It was very enjoyable to hear them all working together. The concert ended with Antonio Vivaldi's "Di verde ulivo," from the opera "Tito Manlio." Ms. Fulmer did a lovely job with it, and ended the concert on a very satisfying 'note'.

We were very pleased with this concert, and will be watching for future Wisconsin Baroque Ensemble performances in our area.

Saturday evening, April 16th, we went to the Cathedral of St. John the Evangelist in Milwaukee for Early Music Now’s presentation of the concert “Sacred or Profane?” by British vocal music group Stile Antico.

There was quite a full house for this performance, and we were glad to find out that the Cathedral has marvelous acoustics. The singers gathered at various points in the building during the concert, and could be heard as clearly from any one point as any other. The Cathedral’s relative lack of echo made the sound very clean and it was easy to pick out individual voices. On the other hand, it was pleasing how rich and full four, nine, or twelve voices sounded in the space.

The theme of the concert dealt with how secular tunes have been adopted into liturgical music. The concert began with the group processing in as the male singers chanted L’homme arme (“The Armed Man”), a martial chanson that may have its origin in the Crusades. A popular tune, it was adapted for liturgical music more than once, and the group gave us one of the earliest known versions, the Kyrie from the Missa L’homme arme, by Guillaume Dufay, in which the song appears strongly in the baritone line with intricate counterpoint in the other voices.

The lyricist Aquilino Coppini of the opinion that any good music, given appropriately spiritual words, could be rendered acceptable to God and the saints, and Coppini “rendered” a number of tunes from the highly secular madrigals of Claudio Monteverdi. We heard four, interspersed through the program, beginning with Rutilante in nocte, which came next.

The (literally) profane song, Entre vous filles de quinze ans, (“You fifteen-year old girls”) by Jacob Clemens non Papa, was adapted as part of the Gloria from Orlando Lassus’ Missa Entrevous.

Clement Janequin’s long and --- song, La guerre, notable for its “battle music” and vocal recreation of the sounds of warfare, became a basis for the Credo from the Missa pro Victoria, by Tomas Luis de Victoria.

The Monteverdi/Coppini Plorate amare ended the first half.

The second section began with Westron Wynde, a very old British tune. Georgie in particular was very interested in this piece, having read several references to it, but never having heard it.  John Taverner was among other composers that made use of it, putting it into the Sanctus and the Benedictus from the Western Wynde Mass.

Monteverdi and Coppini followed, with O Jesu mea vita.

Mille regretz (A Thousand Regrets), a sad song by Josquin des Prez, was used in the Agnus Dei in the Missa Mille regretz, by Christobal de Morales.

Another adapted madrigal, Qui laudes tuas cantat, followed.

The evening ended with the pairing of Mort et fortune (“Death and Luck”) by Nicolas Gombert, and its adaptation into the solemn Magnificat tertii toni super Mort et fortune, by Orlando Lassus.

The Stile Antico singers perform a cappella, grouping and regrouping into ensembles and sections as the musics require. Every voice was clear, pure and beautiful. We were extremely glad to have been able to enjoy this concert, which was an aesthetic joy in addition to its historical interest.

Prior to the concert, we had dinner at Sake Tumi, the Asian fusion restaurant nearby on North Milwaukee Street. We dined on tempura green beans, pork gyoza (pot stickers), “dancing shrimp’, and teriyaki chicken, all from the “small plates” section of the menu. Everything was excellent. The tempura batter for the green beans was a bit heavier and firmer than we were used to, but very flavorful and delicious and the beans appropriately crisp. The pork dumplings were delicately flavored and very good.

“Dancing shrimp” are crisp-fried wonton cups, filled with a creamy mixture of steamed shrimp,  kani kama (“imitation crab meat” or pollock), cucumber, masago (capelin roe), & sriracha mayonnaise, which was tasty and excellent. The teriyaki chicken was perfectly prepared.

Service at the early dining hour of 5 PM was fast and friendly, and the prices very reasonable. Recommended for the adventurous diner.

 

On Saturday afternoon, March 19th, we went to the Zelazo Center on the UW-Milwaukee campus for Early Music Now’s presentation, “Paths to the Summit,” by the group Constantinople.

Founded in 1998 in Quebec by brothers Kiya and Ziya Tabassian, Iranian expatriates, the group has evolved a reptoire including unique examples of long-lost early Persian music rediscovered through years of digging though libraries and archives across the world.

The afternoon’s ensemble included Kiva Tabassian, playing the setar; Sepideh Raissadat, vocals; Didem Basar, kanun; Patrick Graham, percussion; Mavrothi Kontanis, oud; and Pierre Yves-Martel, viola da gamba.

The setar might be a relative of the Indian sitar, with some similarities of tone, but they are very different instruments. The setar is a small instrument, about three feet long overall, with a small gourd-shaped soundbox. It has four strings, and is plucked with the index finger. I was interested in the way Mr. Tabassian held the instrument, with the fretboard and sound hole facing down, so that his hand was underneath it. The kanun is a lap-harp/zither, shaped like a large auto-harp, but without the chord bars. It is played by striking the strings with the fingertips. The oud is a twelve-stringed fretless cousin to the lute.

The pieces presented in “Paths to the Summit” were found in manuscripts dated from the 16th to 18th Centuries, and were written in the maqam system of modes, which was generally supplanted by a system of modes called dastgah in the 19th Century. The maqam modes use complex, cyclic rhythms that were abandoned in the dastgah system.

Being modal, rather than using western scales, the music has a very distinctive sound, and the repeating motifs make it very hypnotic. The vocals by Ms. Raissadat demonstrated that the musical style favors the lower female voice, with bluesy-sounding half-tones and micro-tones that we hear echoes of in Arabic and Egyptian music, and in the Moorish influences in tango and fado singing.

This was a fascinating concert to attend, with much beautiful music that was totally new to us.
Sunday afternoon, February 14th, we went to Vogel Hall at the Marcus Center for the recital by the Florentine Opera Studio Artists, “Vienna, City of My Dreams.” This was the Florentine’s second Valentine’s day concert showcasing their young artists, Ariana Douglas, soprano; Katherine Fili, mezzo-soprano; Thomas Leighton, tenor; and Leroy Y. Davis, baritone. Accompaniment was provided by Ruben Piiranen, piano, and Barry Paul Clark, double bass. Florentine Opera General Director Willam Florescu was the genial host.

This concert had “Vienna” as a theme, and started off with the title song, “Wein, Du Stadt Meiner Träume,” by Rudolf Siecynski. This was followed by “Sull’aria”, from Le Nozze di Figaro, by Mozart, a duet for the ladies; and by “Non ti fidar, o misera,” from Mozart’s Don Giovanni. Next up was a piece new to us, “Sonett für Wein” by Erich Korngold, whom I had only known of as a film score composer, beautifully sung by Ms. Fili.
Then, we heard the classic love song, “Dein ist mien ganzes Herz,” by Franz Lehar, which Mr. Leighton did a lovely job with. The first half ended with two pieces from Die Fledermaus, “The Watch Duet,” sung charmingly by Ms. Douglas and Mr. Leighton, and “Bruderlein und Schwesterlein,” by the full ensemble.

After intermission, the concert resumed with “Wochenend und Sonneschein” (literally, “Weekend and Sunshine,”) an arrangement of the “Happy Days Are Here Again” tune with new German lyrics. This was by a group called the Comedian Harmonists, that were popular in Germany in the 20’s and early 30’s.

This was followed by another classic of the genre, “Meine Lippen, sie küssen so heiß,” also by Lehar from his operetta Giuditta, sung very fetchingly by Ms. Douglas, and then another rarity, “Florenz hat schöne Frauen,” by Franz von Suppé, from his operetta Boccaccio, or the Prince of Palermo, which was a duet by Ms. Fili and Mr. Davis.

Davis then soloed on “Frühlingstraum (Dream of Springtime)” from Franz Schubert’s Winterreise. I must admit that “art songs” are far from my favorite musical genre, but Mr. Davis sang so beautifully that I quite enjoyed it.

The ensemble wrapped up with “Sag beim abschied ‘Servus’” , by Hilm, Lengsfelder, and Kreuder; “The Merry Widow Waltz,” by Lehar, “Edelweiss” by Rodgers and Hammerstein, and “Auf Wiederseh’n, My Dear,” by Hoffman, Goodheart, Ager and Nelson.

Besides the beautiful music, the concert included interest for the eye as well. The ladies’ gowns were provided by the “Dress for Success” project, which endowed the dresses made by designer Timothy Westbrook. In the first half, Ms. Douglas wore a simply cut gown in off-white satin, which had interest added by layers and swags of differently textured fabrics. This contrasted strikingly with the lush wine-colored gown given to Ms. Fili, which was decorated with sequins and fabric roses at the bust and hip.

The second act gowns were not as successful. Abstract artist Pamela Anderson created some colorful and striking paintings for the stage setting, and designs of hers were also used on fabric for these dresses. Ms. Douglas got a simple black top with a full skirt painted with bold color blocks, which wasn’t bad. However, Ms. Fili’s white gown had a long train embellished with random splotches of green that gave it an unfortunate resemblance to the painter’s drop cloth.
This was a beautiful and romantic concert, extremely well sung and entertainingly presented.
Saturday, February 13th, we went to St. Paul’s Episcopal Church for Early Music Now’s presentation of “The Food of Love,” by The Baltimore Consort.

The Baltimore Consort is a well-established early music group, and this year is touring a concert made up of music related to Shakespeare, since 2016 is the 400th anniversary of the Bard’s death. They assembled a roster of twenty-eight pieces, some of which were known to have been composed for use in Shakespeare’s plays, and others which were quoted from or referred to by Shakespeare.
These were grouped into suites for various plays to which the music could be related. The concert was preceded by a very informative lecture that helped put the music in context.

The first half gave us music for As You Like It, Twelfth Night, Romeo and Juliet, and Henry IV, Part 1 & The Winter’s Tale. There was a lot of fascinating music presented, some of it familiar, but most new to us. We were particularly pleased with the performances of “It Was a Lover and His Lass,” by Thomas Morley, “Les Buffons,” by Jean d’Estree, “Heart’s Ease (The Honeysuckle)” by Anthony Holborne, and “The Carman’s Whistle,” an anonymous broadside ballad.

In the second half, there was music for Hamlet, The Tempest, The Merry Wives of Windsor, Othello, and A Midsummer Night’s Dream. In this section there was a bit more emphasis on vocal music, with vocalist Danielle Sonavec appearing in costume as the Gravedigger from Hamlet on “In Youth When I Did Love,” and as Puck on “The Mad, Merry Pranks of Robin Goodfellow,” by Ben Johnson.

The performers were: Mary Anne Ballard, treble and bass viols; Mark Cudek, cittern and bass viol; Larry Lipkis, bass viol, recorder, krummhorn, gemshorn; Ronn McFarlane, lute; Mindy Rosenfeld, flutes, fifes, bagpipes, krummhorn. All the music was flawlessly presented by this very polished group, and sounded beautiful in the Church.

On Sunday evening, September 13th, we had the pleasure of attending the inaugural concert of a new performing organization, Great Lakes Baroque, at the St. Joseph’s Chapel on the School Sisters of St. Francis campus.

I say “organization” rather than “group”, since there is no fixed group membership or ensemble. Noted harpsichordist Jory Vinikour is the Artistic Director, who will be assembling performers for each program as needed. For this concert, he put together an ensemble of truly talented and experienced musicians. The group consisted of Mr. Vinikour; Mezzo-soprano Celine Ricci; Countertenor Jose Lemos; lutenist Deborah Fox (theorbo and guitar); and cellist Craig Trompeter. All these people have remarkable recording, performing, and conducting records, and it was a privilege to have them all together in one place.

The evening’s program focused on the works of Claudio Monteverdi and approximate contemporaries of the Italian 17th Century, and opened with Occhi, perche piangete? by Agostino Seffani, a vocal duet accompanied by the instrumentalists. This piece got particularly thrilling effect from the very lively acoustics of the marble chapel. The reverberation of the singers’ voices (although not, curiously, of the instruments) made it sound more like a chorus than a duet, and, although the singers were a few paces from us, as though the voices were coming from the middle of the air.

This was followed by Su la cettra amorosa, (Tarquino Merula), a love song with quite a modern sounding moving line in the guitar and harpsichord, and then a theorbo solo by Ms. Fox, Toccata arpggiata, by Giovanni Girolamo Kapsberger.

Next was Se dolce e’l tormento (So sweet is the torment), by Monteverdi, and Io vidi in terra, by Marco da Gagliano. This was followed by a Spagnoletta, by Bernardo Storace, which was a solo by Mr. Vinikour on the chapel’s pipe organ.

Ms. Ricci soloed on L’Eraclito ameroso (Udite, amanti), a song by Barbara Strozzi, one of the few women who’s compositions from this period survive. Dark and passionate in tone, Georgie and I detected elements found in the fado music of Portugal, and in the tango, and suspected there were common roots.  The first half ended with Se l’aura spira, by Girolamo Frescobaldi.

Following intermission, we had Canzonetta spirituale, by Merula; L’amante segreto (The secret love), another torch song by Strozzi; and Ciaconna, by Storace, which allowed Mr. Vinikour to exhibit his virtuosic talent on the harpsichord. This was followed by works by Frescobaldi, Benedetto Ferrari, and Steffani. There was an encore, the climactic duet, "I gaze at you, I possess you" from L'incoronazione di Poppea.

On Saturday, the 15th, we made our annual trip to Irish Fest, and, again, had a splendid day. There was a lake breeze, which kept the temperatures on the festival grounds quite pleasant, and there was no rain. (Friday evening had been interrupted by a short but violent storm passing through--.)

This was the 35th Irish Fest, and the organizers had decided to recognize it as a significant anniversary, with the year’s theme being “Living Tradition.” This suited us just fine, as we tend to prefer the more traditional styles of music.

The first group we went to see was Myserk, which draws inspiration from Brittany as well as Ireland. With the somewhat unusual instrumentation of two wooden flutes and guitar, they played a very mellow set with interesting music, which we found very enjoyable. Like a lot of the groups, they had dancers join for some numbers, in this case from a school in St. Paul. I particularly appreciated the dancer’s traditional steps, relatively simple but becoming costumes, and natural hair, which was a nice reversion from the typical overdone dresses and “Irish Dance Hair” many schools use.

Next, we chose Athas, at the relocated Celtic Roots stage. Athas gave us a very nice program of old and new pieces. We picked up some snacks from “The Gaelic Baker,” which were excellent.
At 2:30, we went to take in Blackthorn Folly at the Milwaukee Pub Garden. Appropriately enough, they are a “pub band,” and played a set full of boisterous and amusing pieces, such as “Johnny Jump Up,” which Georgie hadn’t heard before and found particularly fun.

Next, we went to the Tipperary stage to hear Full Set, a band from Ireland making their first appearance at Irish Fest, and I’m sure I am not alone in hoping it will not be their last. With six players (bohdran, fiddle, uleiann pipes, concertina, flute, and guitar), their arrangements have the depth and intricacy that I associate with the great Chieftains, and which I particularly enjoy. We bought one of their CDs.

Lunasa at the Miller Lite Stage was next, and very popular. This is one of the largest performance areas, and we found all the regular seats filled buy the time we got there. Fortunately, there was plenty of seating at the adjacent picnic tables, and we could hear the performance perfectly well, although not see much--.

Shopping was good—there was lots to look at, and Georgie found a nice skirt. We took a break from our usual bridie and sausage roll dinner upon observing (and smelling) that American European Foods had real spit-roasted spanferkel, which we hadn’t had in years. I got a dinner, and Georgie ordered the roasted lamb sandwich. Both were delicious and really hit the spot.
Our last major set of the day was Cherish the Ladies at the Aer Lingus stage. Cherish the Ladies always puts on a splendid show, and this was no exception. It was unfortunate that there was a bit of fuzz in the sound system for this set, but that didn’t keep us from enjoying it, although the experience could have been better.

After that, we wended our way out, sampling enough of the Billy Mitchell Pipes and Drums to be satisfied, and picking up an obligatory box of “Mother Machree’s Irish Strudel” to take home.
This was one of the best Irish Fests musically that we can recall.
On Sunday, May 10th, we enjoyed a charming and beautifully sung production of Gaetano Donizetti’s “The Elixir of Love” (L’elisir d’amore).

The libretto, by Felice Romani, is sweet, funny, and foolish. Poor, honest, and unsophisticated farm boy Nemorino (Rolando Sanz) loves Adina (Diana McVey), who, besides being beautiful, owns her own vineyard, reads a lot of books, and, at the beginning of the opera, is committed to her own freedom and intent on not marrying. Things don’t look good for Nemorino’s suit, so, when patent-medicine dealer Doctor Dulcamera (Musa Ngqungwana) comes to town, Nemorino asks him if he can provide a love potion like the one he has overheard Adina speak of, in the story of Tristan and Isolde.

Dulcamera, following the tried and true rule of never giving sucker an even break, sells Nemorino an unaltered bottle of wine for the lordly sum of one dollar, but cautions it will take overnight to work (by which time Dulcamera figures he will be gone--).

Meanwhile, Adina, having reconsidered her priorities, agrees to marry the hunky Sergeant Belcore (Corey McKern). Initially, Nemorino is not dismayed thinking the potion will change her mind before the wedding, but complications ensue when the date is moved up due to Belcore getting new orders. Nemorino attempts to delay the wedding, as does Adina, who is havingthird thoughts.

Desperate, Nemorino enlists in the army with Belcore in order to get money for a second bottle of “potion” in an attempt to speed results. Dulcamera happily sells him another bottle, and then is astonished to see him swarmed by the local unattached women, who, unbeknownst to the men, have heard a rumor that Nemorino has inherited a fortune.

Witnessing this from a distance, jealousy flares up in Adina, causing her to admit that she loves Nemorino. She buys out Nemorino’s enlistment, and confesses her love to him. Belcore shrugs off being jilted, saying there are thousands of other women he can get. Amid general happiness, Dulcamera takes the opportunity to tout the efficacy of his potions.

The Florentine’s new production was updated to the 1930’sand transplanted to California’s Napa Valley, which is quite believable. The simple setting was done in bright watercolor shades. Costumes were pretty and period-appropriate, including Adina’s fashionable pantsuits. All of the performers sang and acted masterfully, including the members of the Florentine Opera Chorus, who were in excellent voice. We were especially pleased with the handing of the opera’s trademark “A Furtive Tear” aria, (“Una furtiva lagrima”),which Mr. Sanz presented simply, sweetly, and in a contemplative fashion appropriate to the story, instead of making it a tenor showoff piece, which is commonly done.

Maestro Joseph Resigno was at the podium, and evoked Donizetti’s music from the Milwaukee Symphony Orchestra flawlessly to our ears. This was a thoroughly lovely afternoon at the opera.

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