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An Insider's Guide to ANNA BOLENA

Donizetti's bel canto masterpiece, Anna Bolena, is on stage at Lyric from December 6 through January 16. Learn more about the passion, intrigue, and betrayal at the court of Henry VIII with this inside look at the history, aesthetic, and cast of his new-to-Chicago production.

Donizetti's bel canto masterpiece, Anna Bolena, is on stage at Lyric from December 6 through January 16. Go inside the intrigue and betrayal at the court of Henry VIII with this inside look at the history, aesthetic, and cast of his new-to-Chicago production.

Two rivals battle for the ultimate prize: Queen of England. Fiery and passionate, Anne Boleyn (Sondra Radvanovsky) seduced Henry VIII (John Relyea) and started a revolution, but now she's been replaced-in his heart and his bed-by the demure Jane Seymour (Jamie Barton). As her enemies scheme, Anne confronts memories of her first love, Percy (Bryan Hymel in his Lyric debut), and bravely faces her inevitable fall, while Jane finds herself overcome by guilt. See superstars Sondra Radvanovsky and Jamie Barton face off in this thrilling showcase of their vocal and dramatic prowess.

Articles with insights from the cast and creative team 

A Pair of Dynamic Debuts: Kevin Newbury and Patrick Summers bring Anna Bolena to life
Director Kevin Newbury and conductor Patrick Summers take you inside their preparations for Donizetti's work. Though both Newbury and Summers are officially debuting with this production, neither is a stranger to each other—or to Chicago. Learn more about their Lyric connections in this article from the Fall 2014 issue of Lyric Opera News.  READ MORE 

Vocal Feast: Anna Bolena 
Bel canto! It means literally "beautiful singing," and we think of it whenever Rossini, Bellini, and Donizetti come to mind. When you experience Anna Bolena, what exactly will you be hearing? Fabulously beautiful sounds, of course, but in this opera, a beautiful voice is just the beginning. READ MORE 

Backstage Look: Prepping costumes for Anna Bolena
Lyric's costume director Maureen Reilly discusses what she and her team do every summer to help make sure the beautiful period costumes for Bolena are ready for the December opening night. READ MORE

 

Anna Bolena Audio Preview

Music director Sir Andrew Davis shares the synopsis and excerpts from Donizetti's Anna Bolena. Recordings used by permission of EMI Classics.

Experience the “vocal thunder” and “visceral grit” in IL TROVATORE

"It seems like Lyric Opera can do no wrong this season"  - or so says the Chicago Classical Review. Lyric's production of Verdi's epic  Il Trovatore  is another bonafide hit. Your fall is not complete without seeing this "blazing romantic drama" (Chicago Stage Standard), now at Lyric through November 29.

"It seems like Lyric Opera can do no wrong this season"- or so says the Chicago Classical Review. Lyric's production of Verdi's epic Il Trovatore is another bonafide hit. Your fall is not complete without seeing this "blazing romantic drama" (Chicago Stage Standard), now at Lyric through November 29.

"Lyric's 'Il Trovatore' is grand opera at its finest" - Wynne Delacoma, Chicago Sun-Times

"Lyric Opera delivers the vocal thunder in a dark and combustible 'Trovatore'" - Lawrence A. Johnson, Chicago Classical Review

"an effective amalgam of visual beauty and visceral grit" - Mark Thomas Ketterson, Chicago Tribune

 "This is a performance worth seeing, if only for the tremendous performances by each star in the ensemble. Whether this is your first opera or your 60th, the Lyric's Il Trovatore does not disappoint." - Tim Corpus, Chicago Stage Standard

The Can't-Miss Cast 

Yonghoon Lee as Manrico

" Tall, slim and handsome, Lee unleashed his agile tenor with youthful ardor." - Wynne Delacoma, Chicago Sun-Times

" the Korean tenor sang with imposing power and lyric sensitivity" - Lawrence A. Johnson, Chicago Classical Review

"he is like a reborn Golden Age tenor having returned to the opera stage." - William Burnett, Opera Warhorses

Quinn Kelsey as Count di Luna

"Kelsey has now fully graduated into the leading Verdi baritone roles he was clearly born to sing." - Mark Thomas Ketterson, Chicago Tribune

"the Ryan Center alum proved an explosive presence as Count di Luna" - Lawrence A. Johnson, Chicago Classical Review

"While singing his heartfelt aria about his love for Leonora, his performance shakes you to the point where, for a moment, you forget he is the bad guy." - Tim Corpus, Chicago Stage Standard  

Amber Wagner as Leonora

"Amber Wagner spun reams of gorgeous, creamy tone"  - Mark Thomas Ketterson, Chicago Tribune

"Amber Wagner brought the crowd to a roaring applause" - Tim Corpus, Chicago Stage Standard

"…she belongs in any list of the world's great Verdian sopranos" - William Burnett, Opera Warhorses

Stephanie Blythe as Azucena

Stephanie Blythe's "big, rich mezzo-soprano combined both ringing clarity and smoky depths as the tormented gypsy poured out her tale of sorrow and vengeance." - Wynne Delacoma, Chicago Sun-Times

"Stephanie Blythe's projection of the gypsy with a dark secret was melancholic but also full of rage" - Tim Corpus, Chicago Stage Standard

"Stephanie Blythe sang…with great feeling and a thunderous chest voice" - Mark Thomas Ketterson, Chicago Tribune

The Lyric Opera Orchestra and Chorus

"Conductor Asher Fisch drew a most satisfying account of the score from his players (not to mention those anvils!)." - Mark Thomas Ketterson, Chicago Tribune

"Even by their current elevated standard, Michael Black's chorus sang with tremendous strength and sonorous impact, with the soldier's choruses especially resounding."  - Lawrence A. Johsnon, Chicago Classical Review

"Soft-edged, plangent woodwinds underscored the opera's melancholy mood, and pulsing strings were a comforting presence its opera's quiet moments. But when the famous Anvil Chorus erupted, the dry ring of massive hammers on unforgiving metal was both thrilling and chilling." - Wynne DelacomaChicago Sun-Times

Photo credits

  • Lyric Opera of Chicago's production of Il Trovatore (credit Michael Brosilow)

 

Your guide to an operatic Halloween

No need to go as a superhero or your favorite president for Halloween this year - opera is full of larger-than-life characters, from Azucena to the Commendatore, that will make you the talk of your costume party.

No need to go as a superhero or your favorite president for Halloween this year - opera is full of larger-than-life characters, from Azucena to the Commendatore, that will make you the talk of your costume party. 

Azucena from Il Trovatore

 
The revenge-obsessed gypsy 

 
Costume: Think of it as peasant-chic. A colorful bohemian blouse and skirt with beaded necklace. Bed head is encouraged!

Must-have accessory: Convince some friends to join in the fun and sing the Anvil Chorus wherever you go. Or just carry around a knife to lend that authentic touch.

Optional: Make it a night to remember by orchestrating the demise of your adopted son, who is actually the brother of your sworn enemy.

Henry VIII from Anna Bolena

 
The lustful king

Costume: An ermine robe is the only way to go, plus the latest in 16th century fashion: doublet, jerkin, and hose.

Must-have accessory: Crown and scepter.

Optional: Have a second date lined up for later in the night just in case you have to move on to plan B...for Boleyn. 

 Floria Tosca from Tosca


The ultimate diva

Costume: A diva never leaves the house in anything less than her best gown. Hair and jewelry should be over-the-top. Think bling!

Must-have accessory: A handsome painter who calls you his muse.

Optional: A willingness to take a big leap in the name of love

Venus from Tannhäuser

The goddess of love

Costume: A seductive goddess gown will help lure men into your realm.

Must-have accessory: A giant bed always helps when you're encouraging people to give in to the pleasures of the flesh.

Optional: To truly mimic the pleasure of Venusburg, surround yourself with a coterie of attractive ballet dancers at your Halloween bacchanal.

Manrico from Il Trovatore


The warrior-troubadour and devoted son

Costume: A puffy shirt, tight pants, and leather boots are your preferred look.

Must-have accessories: A lute to serenade your beloved and a sword to fight your enemies.

Optional: An ongoing feud with your arch-nemesis, who also happens to be your brother.

Donna Elvira from Don Giovanni

 
The independent lady

Costume: Think 1920s chic…pants, pin-curled hair, and a take-no-prisoners attitude. Donna Elvira would probably love hanging out with a young Amelia Earhart.

Must-have accessory: Motorcycle

Optional: If you can recreate the Picasso dress from Lyric's new production, go nuts!!!

The Commendatore from Don Giovanni


The murdered father / escort to the underworld

Costume: Channel your inner statue - paint any suit or military outfit green and gray and be sure to cover your face and hair in a ghost-like sheen.

Must-have accessory: Bring your own pedestal, for better lurking in a cemetery.  

Optional: We're not saying that you have to condemn someone to hell, but it's nice to know you have the power.

Photo credits

  • Stephanie Blythe in Lyric's production of Il Trovatore; credit Michael Brosilow / Lyric Opera of Chicago
  • Kyle Ketelsen as Henry VIII in Anna Bolena; credit Michal Daniel / Minnesota Opera
  • Doina Dimitriu (left) and Violeta Urmana at Lyric; credit Dan Rest / Lyric Opera of Chicago
  • Michaela Schuster in 

    Tannhäuser; credit 

     Clive Barda / Royal Opera House
  • Yonghoon Lee in Il Trovatore at Lyric; credit Michael Brosilow / Lyric Opera of Chicago
  • Ana María Martínez in Don Giovanni at Lyric; credit Todd Rosenberg / Lyric Opera of Chicago

  • Andrea Silvestrelli 

    Don Giovanni at Lyric; credit Todd Rosenberg / Lyric Opera of Chicago

 

Craig Terry takes you “Beyond the Aria”

Ryan Opera Center music director Craig Terry takes you on a guided tour of the new cabaret series Beyond the Aria, which kicks off on Oct. 21 with performances by Ana María Martínez, Bo Skovhus, and J’nai Bridges.

This season, Lyric is proud to collaborate with the Harris Theater for Music and Dance at Millennium Park for their production of Beyond the Aria, a series of four intimate cabaret-style performances that showcase opera singers in the repertoire they enjoy outside of the operatic realm. Selections will range from a variety of genres, from Broadway to jazz to folk, so audiences can expect the unexpected.

The series kicks off on Tuesday, October 21 with Ana María Martínez (currently on stage in Don Giovanni), Bo Skovhus (on stage in Capriccio), and Ryan Opera Center ensemble member J'nai Bridges. The series continues on November 10, January 14, and March 10. Ryan Opera Center music director Craig Terry is artistic director for this new series, and he gives us some insight into this unique program.

How did the series come about?

Last October, I played on the Harris Theater's 10th anniversary gala with Stephanie Blythe, and afterwards, Michael Tiknis approached me about ways he thought we might collaborate together.  When I suggested a recital series with stars from Lyric and including the Ryan Opera Center, it seemed like a perfect match! For someone who does what I do, an incredible opportunity such as this rarely presents itself. Lucky me indeed!   

How have you approached song selection for the series?

As I have performed previously with many of the singers on this first series, I had an idea of the way that some of the recitals might be successfully programmed. Each artist has a different way of telling stories through singing, and sharing these stories with an "up close and personal" audience aspect is the aim of these programs. To take the first concert as an example, I hoped that Bo Skovhus might sing some Schubert, Ana María would sing a bit in Spanish, and that they might together sing some duets that would surprise the audience. I pitched some ideas to them, and they were immediately game, made some suggestions of their own, and voilà, we had a program! 

Has anything surprised you about the planning process? Have anyone's song choices or preferences been unexpected?

My personal goal in the planning process was to be sure that the singers LOVE every song they sing, and that the process and performance are a joyful music making experience for everyone. To give a specific example, there is one piece that I'm certain hardly anyone will have ever heard that has very special meaning for Ana María. I'm thrilled that she will be able to share it with this audience. And I must say, I was worried that I might have asked for a couple selections that were out of the group's collective comfort zone, but those have perhaps been the MOST fun to rehearse!

This seems like an amazing moment for the Ryan Opera Center members - how has the collaboration and rehearsal process affected them as young singers on their way to great careers?

The most fun for the Ryan Opera Center members is the ability to stand side by side with these incredibly accomplished artists and collaborate with them in a way that raises their level and expectation of performance. To give one example, J'nai Bridges sang her set of songs last week for Bo, who offered some incredibly helpful and invaluable insight.  That opportunity alone was worth the entire experience.  

For each performance, what can people expect?

People can expect to hear and FEEL the visceral effects of experiencing world class voices in an intimate, stunningly beautiful space.  Audiences can also expect a wide range of repertoire, with some certain fun to be had along the way! I also believe that the audience will leave feeling as though they truly got to know the artists on a personal level.  

What do you think is most special or unique about this series? 

As the music director of the Ryan Opera Center, what I find the most special about the series is the unparalleled opportunity ANYWHERE for a gifted young singer to stand beside two absolute titans of the opera world, and experience what it feels like to share words, music, and joy with them as an equal. The Harris has given us a tremendous gift, and I couldn't be more grateful (or EXCITED!) for the possibilities! 

Beyond the Aria 2014-15 season

Tuesday, October 21, 2014, 7:30PM 
Featuring Ana María Martínez, soprano • Bo Skovhus, baritone • J'nai Bridges, mezzo-soprano

Monday, November 10, 2014, 7:30PM 
Featuring Stephanie Blythe, mezzo-soprano • Quinn Kelsey, baritone • Laura Wilde, soprano  

Wednesday, January 14, 2015, 7:30PM 
Featuring Jamie Barton, mezzo-soprano • Bryan Hymel, tenor • Anthony Clark Evans, baritone  

Tuesday, March 10, 2015, 7:30PM 
Featuring Amber Wagner, soprano • Brandon Jovanovich, tenor  • Will Liverman, baritone

Photo credits:

  • Top: Craig Terry at the piano (credit Jaclyn Simpson / Lyric Opera of Chicago)
  • Oct. 21 performance: Bo Skovhus (credit Balmer and Dixon), Ana María Martínez (credit Tom Specht), J'nai Bridges (credit Devon Cass)
  • Nov. 10 performance: Stephanie Blythe (courtesy Opus 3 Artists), Quinn Kelsey (credit Ken Howard), Laura Wilde (credit Devon Cass)
  • Jan. 14 performance: Jamie Barton (credit Jonathan Timms), Bryan Hymel (credit Dario Acosta), Anthony Clark Evans (credit Devon Cass)
  • Mar. 10 performance: Will Liverman (credit Devon Cass), Amber Wagner (courtesy IMG Artists), Brandon Jovanovich (credit Peter Dressel)
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