Lyric Opera of Chicago

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Don’t miss “the sheer theatrical pizzazz” of PORGY AND BESS

The Gershwins' Porgy and Bess is an American classic, and it's only at Lyric until December 20. This is the can't-miss production of this holiday season, an opera of both "glory and grit" (Chicago Tribune). Read more of what the critics are saying in this post. 

The Gershwins' Porgy and Bess is an American classic, and it's only at Lyric until December 20. This is the can't-miss production of this holiday season, an opera of both "glory and grit" (Chicago Tribune).

"Lyric's vibrant revival of Porgy and Bess should give cheer to all who adore this tuneful slice of American verismo, along with audience members who have yet to discover what a major opera company with all its high-powered resources can bring to the Gershwins' masterpieceNone of the chopped-up, stripped-down versions of 'Porgy' seen on Broadway in recent years can hold a candle to the real thing. And, make no mistake, Lyric's is the real thing." - Chicago Tribune

"The Lyric Opera’s revival of Gershwin's 'Porgy and Bess' is a thing of beauty not to be missed. More than that, it’s a ringing affirmation of this iconic American stage work as a great opera." - Chicago on the Aisle

"Lyric Opera has plenty of something with a moving, vocally resplendent 'Porgy and Bess'" - Chicago Classical Review

 "Kudos to the Lyric Opera of Chicago for reviving this masterpiece. I can't think of a finer, more universally appealing work to introduce people to the majesty of opera." - Chicago Critic

"The Lyric production is the first I've seen that fully captures the power of the Gershwin classic beyond a reprise of the famous songs. The singing is glorious throughout but the impact of the story cements this production as a joy." - Chicagoland Theater Reviews 

"The music and story of Porgy & Bess stuck with me long after I'd left the opera house, and if you're lucky enough to catch this production, it will do the same for you." - Gapers Block

The perfect Porgy and Bess: Eric Owens and Adina Aaron

"The reason to see this show is, unsurprisingly, Porgy and Bess. Eric Owens, soon to tackle Wagner for the Lyric, has an amazing voice, but he's also an expressive actor of depth and subtlety....And Adina Aaron makes Bess a tragic victim of drugs and of the abusive men in her life." Crain's Chicago Business

Eric Owens as Porgy has "the towering strength of a mighty oak" with "unfailing musical and dramatic integrity" - Chicago Tribune

"With his vast voice and burly physique, Eric Owens was born to play the role of Porgy." - Chicago Classical Review

"As Porgy, bass-baritone Eric Owens fills the house as he breaks hearts." - New City

"Listening to Owens’ rich, expressive bass-baritone is pleasure enough" - Chicago Sun-Times

"...Adina Aaron combined vocal and physical allure with vulnerability." - Chicago Tribune

"Adina Aaron's Bess is a concoction mixed of beauty and confusion....Her lovely figure and beautiful face make it easy to believe that her Bess could be perpetually objectified." - New City

"Adina Aaron’s Bess offered a sexy, alluring soprano, desperately torn between her life as a junkie and that of Porgy’s woman." - Le Bon Travel and Culture

"The chemistry between Owens and Aaron is authentic and convincing, a critical component to the revival's success." - Chicagoland Theater Reviews

"one feels very much in the presence of true lovers as Aaron delivers a heart-felt 'I Loves You, Porgy' and Owens’ proud protector of this beauty-in-need declares ardently: 'Bess, You Is My Woman Now.'" - Chicago on the Aisle 

"As interpreted by bass-baritone Eric Owens, Porgy has a voice and a presence that are undeniable, and soprano Adina Aaron's portrayal of Bess is as heartbreaking as it is believable." - Gapers Block

The colorful citizens of Catfish Row

"The Catfish Row community is a major component of Porgy and Bess and has some of the best music, and the singers rose to the challenge with terrific ensemble vocalism, not least in the hurricane and funeral scenes." -Chicago Classical Review

"Porgy and Bess is a story of social issues in a community as much as a love story, and the strength of this society was vividly delivered by the chorus, whether picnicking or taking refuge from a hurricane." - Chicagoist

"Jermaine Smith's Sportin' Life is manically self-serving; Smith creates the character anew, moving beautifully, his deviations from the score excusable in light of his achievement." - New City

"Eric Greene's Crown is wonderfully wild and narcissistic, with a voice and body to match." - New City

Ryan Opera Center member Hlengiwe Mkhwanazi made her company debut as Clara, opening the evening with a lovely, heartfelt rendering of 'Summertime,' that eased us into the Catfish Row milieu. Norman Garrett was a hearty presence as her husband Jake, delivering an energetic 'A Woman Is a Sometime Thing.'" - Chicago Classical Review

As the wily, wise Maria, contralto Gwendolyn Brown bossed the children and bore stoic witness to the adult pain around her." - Chicago Sun-Times

"...soprano Karen Slack, as Serena, lit up the house with her gospel-infused prayer over the languishing Bess, 'Oh, Doctor Jesus.' - Chicago on the Aisle

The Chorus "delivered the vocal goods splendidly while putting a dramatically credible face on each denizen of Catfish Row." -  Chicago Tribune

The Chorus was "bursting with buoyant energy" - Chicago Sun-Times 

The Gershwins' amazing music

 

"Gershwin's colorful score sparkled and surged under conductor Ward Stare" - Chicago Sun-Times

"Those same qualities of natural pacing and emotional empathy also apply to the musical arc constructed by conductor Ward Stare, whose apt tempos and artful points of dramatic emphasis contribute to an unfaltering sense of continuity." - Chicago on the Aisle

"Stare clearly knows his way around the Gershwin idiom and he drew a performance from the Lyric orchestra that did equal justice to the score's melodic richness and rhythmic punch." - Chicago Tribune

The Lyric Opera Orchestra "imbues Gershwin’s bluesy score with the hearty, homey flavors of soul food." - Chicago on the Aisle

Photo credits:

  • Porgy and Bess production photos by Todd Rosenberg / Lyric Opera of Chicago
 

Lyric Libations: IL TROVATORE

Nothing says fall like Verdi's epic drama Il Trovatore (on stage until November 29). This opera truly has everything you could possibly ask for: a larger-than-life plot and blockbuster music to match. Get into the spirit with one of these delightful concoctions. You'll be singing along to The Anvil Chorus while tipsy in no time.

Nothing says fall like Verdi's epic drama Il Trovatore (on stage until November 29). This opera truly has everything you could possibly ask for: a larger-than-life plot and blockbuster music to match. Get into the spirit with one of these delightful concoctions. You'll be singing along to The Anvil Chorus while tipsy in no time. 

The Troubadour 

Channel your inner Manrico with this blackberry and white rum concoction. Warning: This drink may cause civil strife and mistaken identities. It will not cause witches to be burned at the stake or babies switched at birth.

  • 6 fresh blackberries
  • fresh mint leaves
  • 1.5  ounces white rum
  • 1/2 cup cranberry juice

In a cup or shaker, mash 3 blackberries (just enough to get the juice) and mix with mint leaves. Add shot of rum and ice, then shake. Pour into wine goblet. Add cranberry juice and sugar (to taste). Put 3 blackberries on a bamboo pick, and lay bamboo pick across the top of the goblet. Garnish with mint sprigs. (Recipe from Smarty Had a Party)

The Gypsy's Curse 

This tangy, spicy drink has nothing on Azucena's life-long bitterness. It's the perfect way to quench your thirst for revenge without plotting to have your arch-nemesis kill his long-lost brother.

  • 1 orange wedge
  • 13 cranberries
  • Three 1-inch pieces crystallized ginger- 2 minced and 1 whole for garnish
  • 2 ounces Aperol
  • 1 ounce Lillet Blanc
  • Ice
  • 4 ounces hard cider
  • 4 dashes Cranberry-Anise Bitters or Peychaud's bitters

In a cocktail shaker, muddle the orange wedge with 10 of the cranberries and the minced ginger. Add the Aperol, Lillet Blanc, bitters and ice. Shake well. Double-strain the drink into an ice-filled Collins glass and top off with the hard cider. Garnish with the 3 remaining cranberries and the slice of ginger skewered on a toothpick. (Recipe from Food & Wine)

Count di Luna's Cider Punch 

This recipe can feed an entire army of soldiers while they are waiting for you to kidnap your beloved from a convent. The combination of hard cider, whiskey, and ginger beer will keep even the sleepiest minion awake on a dark, dark night.

  • 8 cups apple cider
  • 1 750 ml. bottle of dry hard cider
  • 3 12-ounce bottles of ginger beer 
  • 1 1/2 cups whiskey
  • Juice of one lemon 
  • Several dashes orange bitters
  • 1 orange sliced into rounds, for garnish
  • Cinnamon sticks, for garnish

Combine the ciders, ginger beer, whiskey, lemon juice, and bitters in a large punch bowl or pitcher. Stir to combine. Top with orange slices and cinnamon sticks. Ladle into ice-filled punch glasses. (Recipe from Saveur)

Leonora's Amberjack

In honor of Il Trovatore star Amber Wagner, the perfect drink for the lovelorn is this cocktail that mixes two fall flavors: apple and maple syrup. It's not quite as extreme as Leonora's method for getting out of a sticky situation, but drinking a few of these will quickly wash away all of your troubles. 

  • Ice
  • 1 ounce apple vodka
  • 1/2 ounce Macallan Amber (Scotch-based maple-flavored liqueur)
  • 1/2 ounce Calvados (apple brandy)
  • 1/2 ounce fresh lime juice
  • 1 1/2 ounces chilled apple lambic
  • 1 thin green apple slice

Fill a cocktail shaker with ice. Add the vodka, Macallan Amber, Calvados and lime juice; shake well. Strain into a chilled martini glass, stir in the lambic and garnish with the apple slice. (Recipe from Food & Wine)

Photo credits:

  • Lyric's 2014-15 season production of Il Trovatore (credit Michael Brosilow)

 

 

Meet Steven Pasquale – Lyric’s Billy Bigelow

Lyric’s eagerly anticipated new production of Carousel has its lead! Broadway favorite Steven Pasquale has been cast as Billy Bigelow; here's a taste of some of his past roles on stage and screening, including the FX hit Rescue Me.

Lyric's eagerly anticipated new production of Carousel has its lead! Broadway favorite Steven Pasquale has been cast as Billy Bigelow, the larger-than-life carousel barker who romances the beautiful, innocent millworker Julie Jordan in this Rodgers and Hammerstein masterpiece. Pasquale has a long list of credits on stage and screen, including his current role on the CBS hit The Good Wife as campaign manager Johnny Elfman. Here are three of our favorite Steven Pasquale moments. 

See him work his magic at Lyric along with Tony Award-winning director/choreographer Rob Ashford and international opera star Denyce Graves in April 2015. Grab your seats today!

The Bridges of Madison County

In 2014, Pasquale starred with Kelli O'Hara in the acclaimed new musical The Bridges of Madison County on Broadway. This adaptation of the best-selling Robert James Waller novel  told the story of  Robert (Pasquale), a handsome photographer  who has a brief romance with Italian war bride Francesca (O'Hara) in rural Iowa in 1965. Here he is singing one of the show signature songs, "It All Fades Away."

    

Rescue Me 

Pasquale starred in the long-running hit FX drama as kindhearted and heroic firefighter Sean Garrity, whose many travails over the course of the series included a cancer diagnosis. The series did give him some opportunities to show off his song-and-dance chops over the course of its seven seasons. In this clip, his character hallucinates a musical sequence while comatose after surgery.

 

Steven as Nettie Fowler?

Pasquale performed "You'll Never Walk Alone" at the MCC Theater's 2014 Miscast gala. This annual event features Broadway stars performing songs from roles they would never actually play - in this case, the role of Carousel's Nettie Fowler.

 

Photo credit:

  • Steven Pasquale (courtesy Brookside Artist Management)
(Lyric Opera of Chicago does not own copyrights to any of the above videos.)

 

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.

This production is conducted by Patrick Summers and directed by Kevin Newbury, who are both making their Lyric debuts. 

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

 

From Bolena to Bel Canto: The eclectic tastes of Kevin Newbury
Debuting stage director Kevin Newbury is an in-demand director in both opera and theater, and his first feature film, Monsura is Waiting, has been garnering critical acclaim on the film festival circuit. He recently sat down for a brief Q&A about his many passions, including world premieres, directing bel canto gems like Anna Bolena, and Chicago architecture! 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.

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