Madison music lovers have an array of listening choices this month—from the time of Don Quixote to the patter of Gilbert & Sullivan and Michael Jackson heard through an orchestral prism.
Willy Street Chamber Players
Seemingly overnight (they started just two summers ago), the Willy Street Chamber Players have established themselves as a highlight of Madison’s classical summer scene. The core of six young players with ties to University of Wisconsin–Madison and the community are joined by a few other incredible musicians and led by artistic director Paran Amirinazari. You can hear them held at Immanuel Lutheran Church, 1021 Spaight St., on three Fridays (July 7, 21 and 28). The music starts conveniently early at 6 p.m., is over by 7:30, and an informal reception follows. At noon on Saturday, July 15, the chamber ensemble will put on a free concert at the Goodman Community Center, 149 Waubesa St.
Madison Early Music Festival
The Madison Early Music Festival has long been established as a summer destination for performers, scholars and aficionados from around the world. The theme this year for the events of July 8-15 is “Quixotic Musical Treasures from the Golden Age of Spain.” The festival is a celebration of the more than 400 years since the writing of the great novel by Cervantes, with every performer portraying aspects of the musical life of Spain in the late 16th century. As always, MEMF has attracted some of the greatest early music performers, starting with the ensemble Piffaro on July 8 (at Mills Hall, as are most of the performances). The following night, experience the exquisite artistry of early guitar and its forbears in the hands of Xavier Diaz-Latorre. The duo of Daphna Mor and Kane Mathis appear on July 11, with the ensemble Sonnambula on Friday , July 14, and the all-festival finale on the 15th. Check the website for two other unique events featuring festival students.
If you think frothy musical antics that unfold in an operetta by William S. Gilbert and Sir Arthur Sullivan is an acquired taste not for you, this is the year to give one another try. The Madison Savoyards this summer give us one of G&S’s greatest hits, “H.M.S. Pinafore,” which includes serious ribbing of the class system with unqualified people in positions of authority. Directed by Audrey Wax with Kyle Knox returning to lead the orchestra, there are seven performances to choose from at the Music Hall, beginning July 28 and closing August 6.
Opera in the Park
Madison Opera brings us the 16th edition of one of the best free nights anytime on the calendar, with Opera in the Park on Saturday, July 22. The park is Garner Park, and one can expect the usual throng of 15,000 or so. By the way, parking is relatively easy and free, and you can stake out your spot pretty much anytime during the day in advance of the 8 p.m. performance. This year features two debuts with four soloists in all, along with the Madison Symphony and Madison Opera Chorus. Expect excerpts from next season’s repertoire (“Carmen,” Mozart’s “Abduction from the Seraglio” and the stunning “Florencia en el Amazonas” of Daniel Catan), along with light favorites and selections from Broadway. Concert goers can even give conducting a try with special glow-stick baton available all over the park.
Concerts on the Square
Every Wednesday in July brings us another Concert on the Square with the Wisconsin Chamber Orchestra. In addition to maestro Andrew Sewell’s always creative programming of classics, nicely balanced between the lighter fare and some offbeat choices, the July 26 event features orchestrations of hits by Michael Jackson and Earth, Wind and Fire. If the weather doesn’t cooperate on a Wednesday, the event is rescheduled for Thursday. You can confirm whether it’s on by checking the website starting at 3 p.m. Always free, just bring your own chair, picnic and libations (or make selections from the food and drink for sale from a wide assortment of vendors).
Greg Hettmansberger reviews opera and classical music for madisonmagazine.com.
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