Zemire et Azor

‘Beauty and the Beast’ in Milwaukee and More Opera News

Milwaukee Opera Theater, Skylight Opera, Florentine Opera offer a cornucopia of coloratura this weekend.

Three opera companies. Three productions: A reboot by popular demand. A venerable classic. A little known gem given new life through puppeteering. All in all, not a bad week for music lovers. Here’s the rundown.

At the Next Act Theatre, Milwaukee Opera Theatre reanimates its beloved production of Gilbert and Sullivan’s The Mikado. And boy is it ever Alive! Full of irreverent wit, imaginative takes on Mr. Sullivan’s glorious music via a thoroughly unorthodox orchestra, and wonderful songs via wonderful voices, Jill Anna Ponasik’s production is a complete joy.

mikado mot

There’s another welcome revival courtesy of the Florentine Opera. It’s 2006 production of Don Giovanni played to great reviews and full houses around the country, and it’s back for more, with a fresh cast of singers who are mostly new to Milwaukee audiences. John Hoomes directs Mozart’s dark tale of the charming seducer who finally gets his comeuppance courtesy of some strange supernatural events. Joseph Rescigno conducts the Florentine Orchestra.

Florentine Don Giovanni

There’s a bit of serendipity in the Skylight’s production of Zemire et Azor, otherwise known as Beauty and the Beast. No, it bears little relation to the Disney movie, the Broadway musical based on it, or the new life-action movie version of the story. This 18th century opera by André Grétry, a Belgian composer known for his opéras comiques. And it’s staged by Obie-winning theater artist James Ortiz, who is known for his imaginative puppetry. The cast includes familiar names such as Eric McKeever, Erin Sura, and Chaz’men Williams-Ali (who was last seen in the Skylight’s Tosca.

Early Music Now celebrates the approaching Spring with a concert by Apollo’s Fire, which offers a pond-spanning program called “An Appalachian Gathering.” The eight-member ensemble explores the intersection of British folk music, Southern hymns and African spirituals.

Apollos Fire

And if theater’s your thing, and you’ve already hit the area’s major productions, stop by Monday at the Broadway Theatre Center for one of Milwaukee Chamber Theatre’s staged play readings. Christmas in Babylon is the offering this time, written by an actor and writer familiar to Wisconsin theater fans, James DeVita. It’s a family drama set in a blue-collar community in Long Island.

James DeVita



Paul Kosidowski is a freelance writer and critic who contributes regularly to Milwaukee Magazine, WUWM Milwaukee Public Radio and national arts magazines. He writes weekly reviews and previews for the Culture Club column. He was literary director of the Milwaukee Repertory Theater from 1999-2006. In 2007, he was a fellow with the NEA Theater and Musical Theater Criticism Institute at the University of Southern California. His writing has also appeared in American Theatre magazine, Backstage, The Boston Globe, Theatre Topics, and Isthmus (Madison, Wis.). He has taught theater history, arts criticism and magazine writing at Marquette University and the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee.