7 operas and orchestras bring warmth in February

Concerts by Madison ensembles and a Broadway show
7 operas and orchestras bring warmth in February
Photo courtesy Kaupo Kikkas
Cellist Alban Gerhardt joins the Madison Symphony Orchestra Feb. 16-18.

“The Abduction from the Seraglio,” Madison Opera, Capitol Theater
Friday, Feb. 9, 8 p.m., and Sunday, Feb. 11, 2:30 pm.

Mozart’s first operatic hit was also his biggest. “The Abduction from the Seraglio” is a spirited romantic comedy set against the backdrop of a 17th century Turkish harem. The work is a “singspiel”–sung arias and ensembles with spoken dialogue. This latest offering from [Madison Opera] www.madisonopera.org will present this gem with surtitles for both the German singers and English speakers. A cast of youthful rising stars will bring to life the effervescent music of Mozart who was 26 when he wrote it. Alison Mortiz makes her Madison Opera directorial debut and John DeMain conducts at the Overture Center’s Capitol Theater

“Drown’d in One Endless Day,” Madison Choral Project
Saturday, Feb. 10, 7:30 p.m., Christ Presbyterian Church, 944 E. Gorham St.
Sunday, Feb. 11, 2 p.m., St. Andrew’s Episcopal Church, 1833 Regent St.

I was only able to hear one half of a rehearsal of the Madison Choral Project last December but that was enough for me to circle its next performance dates on my calendar. On Feb. 10-11, MCP will present “Drown’d in One Endless Day.” The title comes from a work, which the MCP will premiere, by Wisconsin composer Eric William Barnum. An eclectic program is rounded out by works of Bach, Parry, Rautavaara and others.

“Richly Romantic,” Madison Symphony Orchestra, Overture Hall
Friday, Feb. 16, 7:30 p.m.; Saturday, Feb. 17, 8 p.m.; Sunday, Feb. 18, 2:30 p.m.

Few things are a surer bet to warm us up mid-winter than the artistry of cellist Alban Gerhardt. He returns to join the Madison Symphony Orchestra on Feb. 16-18 as soloist in the sorely underrated “Cello Concerto” of William Walton. Music director John DeMain bookends that work with a delightful Rossini overture, and the majestic “Symphony No. 1” of Brahms.

Season Preview Concert, Willy Street Chamber Players, A Place to Be, 911 Williamson St.
Sunday, Feb. 18, 7 p.m.

No, that date is not a typo. For those who just can’t wait for the Willy Street Chamber Players’ July 2018 Summer Series, this preview concert will be held Feb. 18. Program details will be available shortly on their website. But given what we’ve heard from them the last two summers, we’d be happy just to hear them warm up and play scales.

“Masterworks II,” Wisconsin Chamber Orchestra, Capitol Theater
Friday, Feb. 23, 7:30 p.m.

Maestro Andrew Sewell has set up a neat balancing act for “Masterworks II,” the Feb. 23 program for the Wisconsin Chamber Orchestra. The Capitol Theater performance will open with a charming work for winds, “Petite Symphony” by Charles Gounod, and close with a masterpiece, “Serenade for Strings” by Tchaikovsky. In between we’ll get “Violin Concerto No. 2” by Sergey Prokofiev from the American/Israeli violinist Giora Schmidt, who visits us via New York.

“La Bohème,” University Opera, Shannon Hall, Memorial Union
Friday and Saturday, Feb. 23-24, 7:30 p.m., Sunday, Feb. 25, 3 p.m.

As much as we’ve enjoyed past University Opera performances, one wonders what it would be like to hear them in a more luxurious environment. On February 23-25 we’ll find out what that sounds like. For three performances in Memorial Union’s Shannon Hall, director David Ronis will lead his youthful stars through Puccini’s “La Bohème,” arguably the most popular opera in the world. Even if you’ve seen it before, there’s a lot to be said for a production in which the performers actually are the age of the characters in the story. And if you disappointed your sweetheart on Valentine’s Day, this is the perfect make-up date.

“An American in Paris,” Overture Hall
Tuesday, Feb. 27-Sunday, March 4

This musical, based on the songs and music of George Gershwin, won more awards than any other musical in 2015. The first national tour of “An American in Paris” arrives at the Overture Center on Feb. 27 and runs through Sunday, March 4 for eight performances. It might not be April in Paris, but it’s close enough to springtime in Madison to get us excited.

Greg Hettmansberger covers classical music, opera and jazz for madisonmagazine.com.