Arts and Culture

5 November events to kick off the holiday season

Hearts may grow three sizes with Grinch musical

Wisconsin Book Festival
Nov. 2-5
Conor Moran relishes planning the Wisconsin Book Festival, taking place Nov. 2-5 at Madison Central Library and other venues. The four-day fest celebrates its 15th anniversary this month, and Moran, the festival director, has overseen five straight. “I’m excited we’re bringing in people who are those big names that Madison deserves to see,” Moran says. This year’s slate of national writers includes Amy Goldstein, author of “Janesville: An American Story” and Julia Glass, who will discuss her new book “A House Among the Trees: A Novel” on Nov. 5 at Central Library.

“Carmen”
Nov. 3 and 5 
Kathryn Smith’s excitement is palpable for putting on “Carmen,” one of the most popular operas in the world, at Overture Center’s Overture Hall. “There is no such thing as a minimal ‘Carmen,’ ” says Smith, who is Madison Opera’s general director. “It has a big chorus in a lot of the scenes, it has a children’s chorus, it has dancers and it has ‘supers’—what we call extras.” Filled with seduction, love, loss and danger, Georges Bizet’s “Carmen” is set in 1820 Spain and tells the story of Don José, a corporal intrigued by the headstrong gypsy Carmen. “Carmen” is performed in French with English translation projected above the stage. In the pit, conductor John DeMain leads the Madison Symphony Orchestra.

Foo Fighters
Nov. 7
Foo Fighters and frontman Dave Grohl are no strangers to Madison. The band’s concert on Nov. 7 at the Kohl Center will be its third appearance in the city in 13 years. Grohl and bandmate Chris Shiflett performed with Bruce Springsteen at a 2004 political rally for Democratic presidential nominee John Kerry near the state Capitol, and in 2006, the band opened for Bob Dylan at the Kohl Center. A local connection for the Foo Fighters has been working with record producer Butch Vig. The Viroqua native and drummer for the rock band Garbage produced Foo Fighters albums “Wasting Light” (2010), which won five Grammy Awards, and “Sonic Highways” (2014). Vig, who co-founded the now defunct Smart Studios on East Washington Avenue in 1983, produced the 1991 Nirvana album “Nevermind,” which sold more than 30 million copies worldwide—the first with Grohl in the band.

Sharon Isbin
Nov. 17-19
If you’re intrigued by orchestral suites featuring classical guitar, don’t miss Sharon Isbin’s performances with Madison Symphony Orchestra at Overture Hall. Isbin will showcase the jazz colloquialism of American composer Chris Brubeck and Joaquin Rodrigo, one of Spain’s best known guitar concerto composers, in the piece “Troubadour: Two Faces of the Classical Guitar.” Isbin, a Minnesota native and multiple Grammy Award winner, founded the guitar department at New York’s Juilliard School. She has performed with more than 170 orchestras throughout the world. MSO conductor John DeMain and the orchestra will begin the concert with Aaron Copland’s well-known ballet score, “Billy the Kid.”

“Dr. Seuss’ How the Grinch Stole Christmas! The Musical”
Nov. 21-22 and 24-26
You’re a mean one, Mr. Grinch, yet audiences adore you. “Dr. Seuss’ How the Grinch Stole Christmas! The Musical”—performed more than 1,000 times during successful runs on Broadway in 2006 and 2007 and on national tours from 2008 through 2016—takes the holidays to a new level. This version arrives at Overture Hall at the Overture Center for the Arts with sumptuous sets, colorful costumes and catchy tunes. Expect Cindy-Lou Who and her family to steal your heart, but not before that grouchy Grinch and his dog Max attempt to steal the holiday from Whoville. The animated television classic is merely cute compared to the visceral impact of this live action show—one of six stops this year for the national touring company.

Tamira Madsen is a Madison-based writer. 


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