Lyric Opera of Chicago

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See why TOSCA is “as pitch perfect as opera gets”

Lyric's Diamond Anniversary season continues with another acclaimed production; this time, critics are loving the new-to-Chicago production of Puccini's Tosca. It's on stage at Lyric until March 14. If you're not convinced yet, here are just a few reasons to see this dramatic, passionate blockbuster.

Lyric's Diamond Anniversary season continues with another acclaimed production; this time, critics are loving the new-to-Chicago production of Puccini's Tosca. It's on stage at Lyric until March 14. If you're not convinced yet, here are just a few reasons to see this dramatic, passionate blockbuster.

"Highly Recommended" - Chicago Sun-Times 

"…a mesmerizing night of music theater imaginatively staged, perceptively conducted and gloriously sung." - Chicago on the Aisle

"this Tosca is as pitch perfect as opera gets" - Le Bon Travel and Culture 

"…this production, staged by John Caird with sets and costumes by Bunny Christie, offers something more: a fresh approach to staging as evocative as the singing." - Chicago Sun-Times 

The Glorious Music

"Let me end by praising one of the great performances of the night: the orchestra's. Under Dmitri Jurowski's baton, this night saw the Lyric's house band find again and again an exquisite late 19th century sound, the winds and brass speaking gorgeously from within beds of strings." - Bachtrack 

" the Lyric's production features Puccini's glorious musical score that soars under the Lyric's exceptional orchestra led by Dmitri Jurowski in his Lyric debut. " - Le Bon Travel and Culture 

"Jurowski consistently and fetchingly underscores the opera's emotional surge, with deft shifts into sweet comedy and arching lyricism. Both the Lyric Opera Chorus, in the grand Te Deum that crowns Act I, and the Orchestra distinguish themselves with performances that bloom and soar." - Chicago on the Aisle  

The Electrifying Cast

Tatiana Serjan and Brian Jagde are "an inspired pairing: two wonderful acting singers with the extraordinary voices that make for opera legend." - Chicago Reader 

"Tatiana Serjan commanded the stage, tracing the arc of Tosca's journey from capricious, jealous diva to a woman driven to desperate action in a frantic effort to save the life of her lover." - Chicago on the Aisle 

"the Russian soprano showed she truly is the complete package as a singer and actress, with her Tosca as affecting and vulnerable as her Lady Macbeth was chilling and evil." - Chicago Classical Review 

"One could go a lifetime and not hear a finer “Vissi d’arte” in the theater than the one Serjan delivered Saturday night." - Chicago Classical Review 

"Making his Lyric debut, the American tenor [Brian Jagde] declares his love for Tosca in his opening aria, unleashing his supple, warm-toned tenor in a passionate outpouring that set the audience cheering." - Chicago Sun-Times 

 

Photo credits:

  • Tosca production photos credit Todd Rosenberg / Lyric Opera of Chicago

 

An Insider's Guide to THE PASSENGER

The Chicago premiere of Weinberg's The Passenger is on stage at Lyric from February 24 through March 15. Discover this poignant, gripping, and intimate 20th-century masterpiece, which portrays the story of the Holocaust from the perspectives of both victim and perpetrator, through interviews with the cast and creative team, audio previews, and more. 

The final opera of Lyric's 60th Anniversary season is the Chicago premiere of Mieczysław Weinberg's The Passenger, on stage from February 24 through March 15. This poignant and gripping 20th-century masterpiece portrays the story of the Holocaust from the perspectives of both victim and perpetrator, and was only recently rediscovered after more than 40 years of suppression.

In the early 1960s, Liese (Daveda Karanas) travels aboard an ocean liner bound for Brazil with her diplomat husband Walter (Brandon Jovanovich) while hiding a terrible secret: she was once an SS officer at Auschwitz. When she thinks she recognizes a fellow passenger as Marta (Amanda Majeski), one of her former inmates, she is forced to confront the truth about her past. The story moves back and forth from the ship to the camp, focusing on key events including Marta's reunion with her lover, Tadeusz (Joshua Hopkins), and Marta's friendships with Katya (Kelly Kaduce) and Bronka (Liuba Sokolova).

The Passenger is conducted by Sir Andrew Davis and directed by David Pountney, with set designs by the late Johan Engels, costumes by Marie-Jeanne Lecca, and lighting by Fabrice Kebour.

To supplement the mainstage performances of The Passenger, Lyric also presents "Memory and Reckoning," a confluence of activities that will add resonance and perspective to the themes and messages in Weinberg's opera through musical performances, a film screening, exploratory discussions, and the world premiere of The Property, a newly commissioned klezmer opera. Click here to learn more about these supplemental events, which run January through March.

Articles with insights from the cast and creative team:

Pathways to Discovery: Exploring The Passenger and The Property
Lyric's general director Anthony Freud discusses the importance of presenting The Passenger and "Memory and Reckoning" events in this article from Lyric Opera News: "As the son of a Holocaust survivor, Freud notes that he can 'be rather cynical about works of art that have been inspired by the Holocaust. However, The Passenger is different from most. It's not sentimental or simplistic or melodramatic. It's a complex, very moving, very human story.'" READ MORE  

In the Footsteps of Evil: Daveda Karanas visits Auschwitz
When Daveda Karanas appears in the Lyric premiere of The Passenger, she'll perform with a special perspective on the opera. Her portrayal of Liese—a former overseer of inmates at Auschwitz concentration camp during World War II—will be significantly influenced by the American mezzo-soprano's recent visit to Auschwitz itself. READ MORE

Backstage Look: Creating Hair and Makeup for The Passenger
Lyric's wigmaster Sarah Hatten, now entering her fourth season as the head of this crucial department, takes us inside the process for creating the hair and makeup for Weinberg’s The Passenger. With an opera based on historical events, the challenge is to make every aspect of the production look as realistic as possible. And as surprising as it might seem, recreating real life on stage is usually more difficult than creating whimsical or fantastic wigs and makeup. READ MORE

The Passenger Audio Preview

Music director Sir Andrew Davis shares the synopsis and excerpts from Weinberg's The Passenger. Recordings used by permission of EMI Classics.

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Opera 101: Q&A with TOSCA Assistant Director Shawna Lucey

It takes a village to put together an opera, and one of the most important roles is the assistant director. Shawna Lucey, who is assistant director for Lyric's production of Puccini's Tosca  (on stage now through March 14) gives a quick overview of her linchpin role as keeper of the "opera playbook."

It takes a village to put together an opera, and one of the most important roles is the assistant director. Shawna Lucey, who is assistant director for Lyric's production of Puccini's Tosca (on stage now through March 14) gives a quick overview of her linchpin role—essentially acting as the translator for the director's desires to the rest of the company and the keeper of the "opera playbook."

Can you give a basic description of what an assistant director does? What is your role in the opera creation process?

An assistant director on an opera has many responsibilities—both assisting the director of the show as well as communicating the desires of the director to many departments of the opera company. The AD creates and maintains the blocking book—this has the entire score as well as pages with diagrams of the set to document the movement and motivation of every character onstage. This book is used as a reference tool when rehearsing understudies or when a production is shown at multiple theaters. It's almost like an NFL playbook!

 
The blocking book and production photo from Act 2 of Tosca with Tatiana Serjan (Tosca) and Evgeny Nikitin (Scarpia)

The AD is responsible for helping the director coordinate the schedule—making sure the correct people are called to rehearsal at the correct times. The AD communicates the director's desires to the chorus as well as to any supernumeraries in the show, making sure that they understand any notes given by the director. The AD also works closely with stage management and the technical staff to execute the necessary technical elements so crucial to the production.

 
The blocking book and production photo for the opening bars of Tosca with
Richard Ollarsaba as Angelotti

How does the assistant director collaborate with the director, in this case John Caird, before and during the rehearsal process?

It's been absolutely wonderful to work with John (pictured right). I think we've both enjoyed the collaboration on this show. John Caird was directing Bohème in San Francisco this fall, where I was assisting on productions of Norma and La Cenerentola, so we went out to dinner and had a great conversation—both about the production and his vision behind it as well as theater, politics, and football (we're both Packers fans). Before and after rehearsals we've discussed major ideas as well as truths about the characters. His patience, kindness, and cleverness have led to a delightful rehearsal process.

What do you find most exciting or thrilling about this production of Tosca?

John's directing is so detailed and so precise; this is a thrilling production of Tosca. He has put his heart and his mind to the text as well as the music, and what's resulted is a Tosca that hits deep in the audience's hearts and minds. I think the design is brilliant as well and welcomes us in. Each act is full of subtlety and excellent storytelling, so that when the opera reaches its tragic conclusion—which most people already know coming into the theater—John's directing creates the tragedy anew, having so delicately built the story to that irreversible point.

 
Scenes from Tosca starring Tatiana Serjan (Tosca), Brian Jagde (Cavaradossi), and Evgeny Nikitin (Scarpia)

What has drawn you to opera more generally? What is your educational background?

I majored in Italian at the University of Texas at Austin. I followed graduation with a post-baccalaureate semester at the Moscow Art Theater. After working in New York theater for two years, I decided to pursue an MFA (Master of Fine Arts). Not satisfied with the choices here in the U.S., I decided to move to Moscow and study there. I had heard that learning a third language is easier than learning your second. I didn't realize that didn't apply if the third language was Russian! While I was completing my MFA in directing at the Boris Schukin Theater Institute of the Vakhtangov Theater, my directing mentor said I should look into directing opera, since languages and music are two of my passions. I went to Santa Fe as a technical apprentice and fell deeply in love with opera. I haven't looked back since! 

Did your fluency in Russian help with this particular production of Tosca, which has several Russian artists? 

Yes—my Russian background did come in handy with this cast. Ms. Serjan speaks Russian & Italian, but not English. I was originally contacted by Lyric to work on this show because they knew they needed an assistant director who spoke Russian. I translated for Tatiana throughout the process. Evgeny Nikitin and Mo. [Dmitri] Jurowski both speak English, but it's been great to have an almost "secret" language that we can joke with each other in.

What's your favorite opera or what opera do you dream of directing one day?

My favorite opera changes all the time! It's so difficult to say because there are so many great operas to choose from.

This is your Lyric debutdo you have any observations about working with the company or being in Chicago so far?

This is my Lyric debut and I'm having a wonderful time. The staging staff, many of whom I knew from other houses, are some of the best in the country. That and the excellent crews here make for a fantastic first experience. The strength of these departments is reflected in the excellence of the productions here at Lyric. It's an honor to be here.

And what about when you're not workinghow do you enjoy Chicago?

I'm really enjoying the city! It seems like a lively place. I saw a puppet show by Blind Summit at Chicago Shakespeare Theater, which was excellent, and I am looking forward to checking out the jazz scene here! 

Photo credits:

  • Shawney Lucey portrait courtesy Shawna Lucey
  • Blocking book photos courtesy Shawna Lucey
  • Production photos from Tosca at Lyric Opera of Chicago credit Michael Brosilow (first photo) and Todd Rosenberg (remaining photos)
  • John Caird portrait courtesy John Caird

 

Lyric Libations: TOSCA

Love. Jealousy. Revolution. Death. It all can be found in Puccini's Tosca (at Lyric January 24 through March 14). Three characters-the rebel, the diva, and the villain-are caught a game of cat-and-mouse with deadly consequences. Non-stop drama could require a cocktail (or three) to unwind. Pick your favorite!

Love. Jealousy. Revolution. Death. It all can be found in Puccini's Tosca (at Lyric January 24 through March 14). Three characters—the rebel, the diva, and the villain—are caught a game of cat-and-mouse with deadly consequences. Non-stop drama could require a cocktail (or three) to unwind. Pick your favorite!

Vissi d'arte 

Floria Tosca lives only for art and for love—her passionate nature leads her to make some impulsive, and ultimately deadly, decisions. This cocktail pays tribute to her over-the-top personality with sweet agave and spicy jalapeno; blood oranges give it an appropriately crimson color (no stabbing required!).  

Ingredients

  • 1 cup (8 fl ounces) fresh squeezed blood orange juice
  • 2 tbs Agave
  • 4 fl ounces whiskey
  • 1 medium sized jalapeño, chopped, stem removed (about 2 tbs)

In a cocktail shaker, add the blood orange juice, agave and whiskey, stir until combined. Add the jalapenos, replace the shaker cap and shake three times, immediately pour through a strainer into two highball glasses filled with ice, straining out the jalapeños. Discard the jalapeño.  (Recipe from Honest Cooking)

The Rebel Artist 

Mario Cavaradossi is hot-blooded and brash; his love for Tosca is only equaled by his fervent political beliefs. Quench your thirst for justice with this fiery cocktail that combines sweet strawberries with spicy Sriracha.

Ingredients

  • Half of 1 ripe strawberry
  • 1 stalk cilantro, chopped in 3 pieces
  • 2 thin slices cucumber
  • 1/2 ounce freshly squeezed lime juice
  • 1/4 ounce agave nectar
  • 1/8 ounce amaro (I used Averna)
  • 2 ounces tequila
  • 2 drops Sriracha, or more to taste
  • Ice
  • Garnish: 3 thin slices cucumber

Muddle strawberry, cilantro, and two cucumber slices. Add lime juice, agave nectar, amaro, tequila, and Sriracha. Fill shaker with ice. Shake vigorously and double-strain into an ice-filled rocks glass. Garnish with remaining cucumber slices. (Recipe from Serious Eats)

Scarpia's Sazerac 

This classic cocktail is as bitter as Scarpia's soul. The strong poison seeps into your veins and can make you susceptible to all kinds of dark insinuations. Those who are easily swayed by their emotions have been warned!

Ingredients

  • 1 sugar cube
  • 2 1/2 ounces rye whisky
  • 2 dashes Peychaud's bitters
  • 1 dash Angostura bitters
  • absinthe
  • lemon peel

In an Old-Fashioned glass (not a mixing glass; it's part of the ritual), muddle a sugar cube with a few drops of water. Add several small ice cubes and the rye whiskey, the Peychaud's bitters, and the Angostura bitters. Stir well and strain into a second, chilled, Old-Fashioned glass in which you have rolled around a few drops of absinthe until its inside is thoroughly coated, pouring off the excess. Garnish with a twist of lemon peel.  (Recipe from Esquire)

Tosca's Kiss 

This drink is deceptively sweet and naive, but ultimately just as potent as the diva for which it is named. It's the perfect cocktail to sip if you want to forget all of your troubles. Or, for a more sinister use, it truly could be the kiss of death for the sadistic man who is plotting to kill your one true love and take his place in your heart…and your bed.

Ingredients

  • 1-1/2 oz Red Vodka
  • 1 tbsp Cointreau
  • 1 tbsp Apricot Brandy

Shake all ingredients well with ice in a cocktail shaker. Strain into a chilled cocktail glass. (Recipe from Spiritdrinks.com)

Photo credits:

  • Tatiana Serjan, Brian Jagde, and Evgeny Nikitin in Puccini's Tosca at Lyric Opera of Chicago (credit Todd Rosenberg) 

 

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