Claire Nowak

A Little Romance Music

Florentine Opera presents Valentine’s concert and MSO offers composer Marvin Hamlisch’s romantic tunes.

By - Feb 11th, 2015 03:43 pm
From Vienna to the Great White Way 2015. Photo by Danielle Chaviano.

From Vienna to the Great White Way 2015. Photo by Danielle Chaviano.

Valentine’s Day is fast approaching, as are the traditional date night options: grabbing dinner at her favorite restaurant, treating him to a movie, or simply flowers and chocolate. So why not spice things up and try something new?

For instance, “From Vienna to the Great White Way,” the Florentine Opera’s fourth annual Valentine’s Day performance, performed three times this weekend. Four of the company’s Studio Artists—soprano Julie Tabash, mezzo Lindsay Metzger, tenor Aaron Short and baritone Pablo Siqueiros—combine operatic repertoire and Broadway romance in a very diverse program of music.

“It’s a way to showcase our young artists, but it’s also a way to have a contact with the city in a different kind of way than the traditional full productions,” director and host William Florescu says. “It’s a way to get people to a concert revue and it’s music they don’t always get to hear from us.”

The show has a “pretty broad-based program,” according to Florescu, with songs chosen for their romantic themes and how well they fit the strengths of the singers. That includes selections from Broadway musicals like Guys & Dolls and Into The Woods to operettas like Die Fledermaus by Strauss and The Student Prince by Sigmund Romberg. Florescu predicts some of the more popular tunes will be “Serenade” from Student Prince, “Champagne Trio” from Fledermaus and “Lullaby of Broadway” from 42nd Street.

“There’s some fun stuff, and then there’s also the big romantic tunes that people like, in particular when it’s done by really good young voices.

“Somebody who’s into musical theater more than opera would recognize some of the musical theater tunes, and somebody who’s more into opera would probably recognize more of the operatic things,” he continues, “but it’s all very tuneful.”

Operettas don’t often appear in the Florentine’s schedule. This style is a cross between classic opera and modern Broadway shows. The plots are of a lighter, romantic nature and include spoken dialogue, but the vocals require the power and energy of classical operatic performers. Each is also written in the language and style of the country where it premiered; Fledermaus is Viennese and Student Prince is American.

As it happens, the venue completes the Valentine’s Day atmosphere of this show, with lush red seats in the newly renovated Vogel Hall.

“It’s a unique way to spend an evening that will fit the mood of the holiday but in a way that people might not have spent it before,” Florescu says. And you can still nibble on chocolates afterwards.

7:30 p.m. Feb. 13 & 14 and 2:30 p.m. Feb. 15 at the Marcus Center’s Vogel Hall. Tickets range from $27-55, available online or by calling 414-291-5700 ext. 224. For a pre-show dining package, call 414-291-5700 ext. 212.

One Singular Sensation: Marvin Hamlisch

Marvin Hamlisch lived a full life. One of only 12 people to win an Emmy, Grammy, Oscar and Tony award, the prolific composer produced original work and arranged music by others for almost 50 years before he passed away in 2012. Some of his notable works include the score for the Broadway musical A Chorus Line and the adaptations for the film, The Sting.

Hamlisch also had a prominent fan base in Milwaukee; he served as principal pops conductor for the Milwaukee Symphony Orchestra for several years. Now the MSO is remembering the beloved musician with the tribute concert, “One Singular Sensation,” conducted by Larry Blank.

Vocalists Donna McKechnie, Jodi Benson and Doug LaBrecque premiered the show with the Boston Pops Orchestra last year and have taken it to nearly 10 cities since. All three singers had close ties with Hamlisch. McKechnie played Cassie in the original production of Chorus Line. Benson, best known as Ariel in The Little Mermaid, starred in Hamlisch’s musical Smile when it debuted on Broadway. LaBrecque shared the stage with the composer numerous times in concerts and appearances across the country.

The program tries to capture the versatility in Hamlisch’s work. It features songs from Chorus Line and the film Sophie’s Choice, as well as pop hits like “The Way We Were” and “Looking Through the Eyes of Love.”

“His music really meshed with the storytelling, and I think that’s something he will always be remembered for,” LaBrecque says. “He was really skilled in choosing the right style of music for the particular dramatic moment in films. He was a master of that.”

Some of the program’s selections from LaBrecque, who coincidentally performed with MSO on Valentine’s Day a few years ago, are “Ordinary Miracles,” the titular song from Smile and a duet with Benson for “The Last Time I Felt Like This.” While many of the numbers were written for musical theater, in a concert hall the focus is on the extraordinary music Hamlisch created.

“In the theater, you’re lucky if you get a 24 piece orchestra,” LaBrecque says. “With the Milwaukee Symphony, audiences will be hearing Marvin’s music played on a full orchestra.”

8 p.m. Feb. 14 at the Marcus Center for the Performing Arts. Tickets range from $22-82, available online or by calling 414-291-7605.

Portrait of Love

If French is the language of love, Les Délices is fluent. The classical group specializes in French Baroque music, and four of its musicians will share that distinct genre courtesy of Early Music Now this weekend. The show, “Portrait of Love,” captures a spectrum of romantic feelings, from pure bliss to agonizing grief. Saturday’s show features soprano Carrie Henneman Shaw, lutenist Nigel North, Emily Walhout on viola da gamba and director Debra Nagy on oboe and recorder.

5 p.m. Feb. 14 at St. Paul’s Episcopal Church, 914 E. Knapp St. Tickets cost $28 for general admission and $44 for preferred seating, available online.

Symphony Sunday Seascapes

The programmers at Festival City Symphony certainly knew how to alliterate when producing this month’s performance, the group’s  Symphony Sunday series show, “Seascapes.” The performance features three nautical works: the overture to Richard Wagner’s opera, The Flying Dutchman, Frank Bridge’s “The Sea” and “La Mer” by Claude Debussy.

3 p.m. Feb. 15 at The Pabst Theater. Tickets cost $14, available online or by calling 414-286-3205.

That’s Amore: Love Songs and Arias

The city’s chapter of Opera on Tap takes the art form and makes it accessible for all audiences and musicians. This includes using less traditional performance spaces, like the Villa Terrace Decorative Arts Museum, the location for the group’s next concert, “That’s Amore.” With seven local performers showcasing classic love songs and arias for the holiday weekend, you could say Opera on Tap is putting romance on tap.

7 p.m. Feb 13 at Villa Terrace Decorative Arts Museum, 2220 N. Terrace Ave. Suggested donation for tickets is $10, available at the door.

0 thoughts on “Classical: A Little Romance Music”

  1. Anonymous says:

    Just an Fyi, in the spirit of collaboration between the lake and the lake country, the theatre at Vogel Hall is called the Wilson Theatre at Vogel Hall. It’s all good and thank you for allowing me to comment.

  2. Anonymous says:

    I was at Festival City Symphony’s Seascapes, and it was a GREAT concert (particulary the Frank Bridge pieces – I wasn’t familiar with his work before this concert). Early Music’s Portrait of Love was also amazing!

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