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!
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
- 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)