Verdi’s Il Trovatore—on stage at Lyric October 27 through November 29—is a vocal feast with several show-stopping arias, duets, and trios for its quartet of stars. However, the opera is also a choral feast and provides one of the biggest showpieces for the amazing Lyric Opera Chorus this season.
Chorus Master Michael Black takes us through some of the many choral highlights in Verdi’s masterpiece. One of the most familiar pieces in the opera—and perhaps in classical music more generally—is of course the Anvil Chorus, which Black describes as “a gift for a good chorus such as Lyric's.” He notes that much of the chorus’s impact comes from its structure: “Verdi predominantly wrote it in vocal unison, which means that the melody is not diluted with harmonies and is particularly powerful. There is nothing too subtle about this chorus and its visceral quality means that it speaks directly to an audience.”
This no-holds-barred vocal writing gives every singer Black prepares a chance to shine: “A world-class chorus like Lyric’s needs no encouragement giving their all in a set piece like this!”
There is much music to love beyond the Anvil Chorus, as well. “In every one of his operas, Verdi asks the chorus to sing with full force at times and then with the gentlest subtlety at other times,” says Black. “Trovatore is no exception. When a chorus performs in this opera, they are expected to call on all their experience to provide a whole palette and colors and range of character.”
Black points to the Nuns’ Chorus as one of these quieter moments that allows the chorus to shine. “They sing virtually unaccompanied, leaving them incredibly exposed singing in close harmony,” he elaborates. “It provides one of those great moments where you realize that you have come to the opera to hear amazing singing.”
Showcasing the Chorus Offstage
Before the opening of Il Trovatore, the Lyric Opera Chorus will give two concerts on September 12 and November 22 in Chicago and Evanston that will feature the singers offstage and out of costume. (Tickets and details available here.)
These concerts are a special treat for Black: “I’ve wanted to showcase our wonderful chorus for some time now and do so with repertoire in which they excel. They are an opera chorus, and an incredibly fine one at that, and should be seen and heard singing opera.”
The repertoire for these concerts will feature choruses and solo work from beloved operas. “I’ve chosen typical favorites for the concert including choruses from Carmen, Madama Butterfly, Macbeth, La Traviata, and Nabucco, as well as repertoire from the upcoming season such as Tosca, Anna Bolena, Il Trovatore, and Carousel,” says Black.
Soloists from the chorus will be featured throughout the performances. Black hopes that “by the end of the concert the audience will have a connection with the chorus as a group, as well as getting to know some of the personalities and talent that makes up this wonderful ensemble.”
More from Michael Black
Check out Lyric Lately
for more from Michael, including his history with Il Trovatore and what he’s been doing this summer.
For more information and to book tickets, visit our Il Trovatore
page or call our audience services department at 312.827.5600