A Journey Through Madison's Classical Music Scene
Jul 22, 2014
10:20 AMClassically Speaking
It’s True: An Evening with a Princess Could Be Yours
It’s not likely anyone has midsummer doldrums—there are plenty of activities to pack in during these few months of great weather—but when the calendar turns to late July it’s time to check off another great Madison summer tradition.
The Madison Savoyards celebrated their fiftieth season last year, and to kick off their next half-century the company will offer one of the relatively neglected operettas of Gilbert and Sullivan’s canon, Princess Ida. The only other time the Savoyards mounted the work was in 1999. Interestingly, Princess Ida followed Iolanthe in the sterling run of hits that Gilbert and Sullivan produced late in Queen Victoria’s reign—and it was Iolanthe that the Savoyards gave us last year.
Princess Ida can hardly be labeled a failure with an initial run of 246 performances, but the work was not favored with nearly as many revivals as most of the other operettas from Gilbert and Sullivan. Princess Ida is unique in two respects: The work is laid out in three acts, instead of the usual two, and the dialogue (for the only time from Gilbert in his work with Sullivan) is in blank verse.
Based on an epic poem of Tennyson, Gilbert had already treated the subject in a farcical musical play in 1870. But rest assured that Ida is full of the usual satirical thrusts and parries at Victorian society. Director Audrey Lauren Wax, in the Savoyards’ press release says, “Who doesn’t love the fact that there are three siblings who look nothing alike and the only real connection they have is that it takes three of them to equal one full brain!”
The leads, who are destined to live happily ever after, after much ado, are the latest in Savoyard participants with a local flavor and offer great promise. The title role will be sung by soprano Naiza Delica. She grew up in Milwaukee and has a BFA degree in performance from UW–Milwaukee, and adds this role to a growing list of area performances. Betrothed to her from infancy, but rejected (until Act III) is Prince Hilarion, brought to life by La Crosse native William Ottow. This is just our first chance to see and hear Ottow again: As a senior here at UW–Madison, he will also sing the title role in Benjamin Britten’s Albert Herring this fall.
Performances begin this Friday, July 25, and run through Sunday, August 3, and tickets may be purchased through the Wisconsin Union Theater box office (performances take place at the Music Hall).
I recently had the opportunity to see the DVD of the Savoyards’ performance last summer of Iolanthe, and it is another strong testament to what makes both Gilbert and Sullivan, and companies like the Madison Savoyards, so dear. The uninitiated may purport that G&S is an acquired taste, with their insistence on formulaic characters and musical structures. But when you take tongue-in-cheek silliness, splash in some frothy music—and add the crucial element of an abiding passion and respect for the genre as the Madison Savoyards have always done—the result is irresistible. So go acquire some!