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Madison Opera's upcoming season will include its first Spanish-language opera
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Madison Opera's upcoming season will include its first Spanish-language opera

Florencia

Cuban American soprano Elizabeth Caballero returns next season to play the title character in Madison Opera's production of "Florencia en el Amazonas." Shown here, she played the role with New York City Opera in summer 2016. 

Madison Opera has announced its 2017-18 season, which kicks off the first weekend in November with a classic: "Carmen." 

Last seen in Overture Hall in 2009, George Bizet's tale of a gypsy girl and her doomed love life has made an excellent entry point to opera for newcomers to the genre.

Aleks Romano, a mezzo-soprano making her Madison Opera debut, will play the title character. Sean Panikkar, a tenor who performed at Opera in the Park in 2014, will be singing Don Jose. 

The return of "Carmen" is part of Madison Opera's core mission to stage the classics while steadily adding new works like Charlie Parker's "Yardbird" this season and "Dead Man Walking" in 2014. 

"Things get added to the repertoire, and the good stuff stays," said Kathryn Smith, Madison Opera's general director. 

To that end, the final show in the 2017-18 season will be the company's first staging of a Spanish-language opera, Daniel Catán's "Florencia en el Amazonas." It premiered in 1996 at Houston Grand Opera, the company where Madison Opera artistic director John DeMain was once director. 

"I saw it in Seattle when I lived there and it is just so beautiful," Smith said of "Florencia." "To say it's Puccinian is not quite right, but it has this lush melodic score." 

Inspired by the style of Gabriel Garcia Marquez (though not his work directly), "Florencia" is set in 1910. An operatic soprano travels by boat, on her way to give a concert at the opera house in Manaus, Brazil. Several characters on the ship, including a couple going to see her perform and a journalist writing the soprano's biography, don't know she's there. 

"It has a lot of magical realism in it," Smith said. "One of the characters works on the boat turns out to be a river god," a role to be played by Nmon Ford. Ford played the villain Scarpia in Madison Opera's "Tosca." 

A second work the company hasn't done before, albeit a much older one, fills the middle slot. Mozart's opera "The Abduction from the Seraglio" plays the Capitol Theater in February.

Caitlyn Lynch has been tapped to sing the lead, Konstanze. Lynch sang Pamina in "The Magic Flute" at The Metropolitan Opera this year and this coming season she will return to play the Countess in "The Marriage of Figaro." 

Also in that cast, David Walton, a young tenor just out of Minnesota Opera young artist's program, plays Belmonte in his Madison Opera debut. Matt Boehler ("Don Giovanni," 2013) returns to play Osmin. 

The scene in the film "Amadeus" where the emperor mentions "Too many notes?" That comment was about "Seraglio." 

"It's a fairly small opera," Smith said. "The chorus sings only a little. That's the kind of piece that does well in a 1,000-seat theater.

"It's a virtuoso vocal showcase, and it works better in a smaller venue."

The current season closes with "The Magic Flute," running April 21 and April 23 in Overture Hall. Tickets are still available. 

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