Lyric Opera of Chicago

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Billy Zane on Broadway, Fatherhood, and the Captain’s Wicked Sense of Humor

In this interview, Lyric's own Captain von Trapp, Billy Zane, talks about his Lyric debut in The Sound of Music, his first theater memories, and his conception of the character's "wicked" sense of humor!

A Chicago native and star of more than 100 films, Billy Zane is making his Lyric debut leading a powerhouse cast as Captain von Trapp in Lyric's all-new production of The Sound of Music, opening on April 25. 

Though he's known for his blockbuster film roles—including Titanic, Back to the Future, and a memorable cameo in Zoolander—Zane has theater in his DNA. His parents were active in regional theater, so he grew up watching them perform, as well as attending Harand Theatre Camp in Kenosha, Wisconsin.

His first stage memory was "being one of five kids playing Curly in a production of Oklahoma! at Harand Theatre Camp, age 10." But he points to watching the legendary Len Cariou in the title role of Sondheim's Sweeney Todd as the definitive moment that made him decide to pursue acting as a career.

When asked if he's nervous about singing on the same stage as opera greats such as Maria Callas, Plácido Domingo, and Luciano Pavarotti, Zane quips, "No pressure!" But he goes on to say that of all the storied places he's performed-including the Shubert Theater in New York and Haymarket Theater in London's West End—"Lyric takes the cake! I am most thrilled to experience the aesthetics and acoustics of the world-renowned Lyric in a way only so few ever get the chance to, from the footlights. A rare privilege indeed."

Zane was lauded by critics as "dazzlingly handsome and effortlessly magnetic" when he portrayed scheming lawyer Billy Flynn in the smash-hit musical Chicago on Broadway in 2002. However, he is quick to share credit with his fellow actors. "Any success that I had was merely a reflection of the strength of the well-seasoned ensemble I had the pleasure of working with," says Zane. "When you work with professionals at the top of their game—as is the caliber of the company assembled for The Sound of Music—then they only raise yours."

While preparing for his Lyric debut as Captain von Trapp, Zane has found a bit of himself in the role, as they both share what he calls "a wicked sense of humor." He elaborates that von Trapp acts as a bit of a foil for the delightful exuberance of Maria: “Those diametrically opposed perspectives are tantalizing and exciting to watch, because much like in love—opposites attract.”

In creating the role of the Captain, Zane will of course draw some inspiration from his own experiences with fatherhood, but jokes that it will be "in only the best ways, I imagine!" However, as a father, he recognizes von Trapp's unconditional love for his children. "From the first act, there's no question that his love for his children and his sense of structure and order carried over from the Navy are not mutually exclusive," notes Zane. "His love doesn't waver; it's just a question of his public displays of affection."

Photo credits: Billy Zane, photo credit Azabra; Billy Zane in Titanic, photo courtesy 20th Century Fox; Billy Zane in Chicago on Broadway, photo courtesy Chicago the Musical. 

Renée Fleming and Jonas Kaufmann – A Night to Remember!

Renée Fleming, Lyric's own creative consultant, joined forces with THE tenor of the moment Jonas Kaufmann for their very first duo recital, a historic event that showcased these two magnificent performers at the height of their artistry.

The Civic Opera House was filled with love for the 2014 Subscriber Appreciation Concert, which featured two stars coming together for a one-night-only event.

Renée Fleming, Lyric's own creative consultant, joined forces with THE tenor of the moment Jonas Kaufmann for their very first duo recital, an historic event that showcased these two magnificent performers at the height of their artistry. 

Accompanied by the Lyric Opera Orchestra, superbly led by Lyric Music Director Sir Andrew Davis, Kaufmann and Fleming performed to a sold-out crowd a program that showcased the music of love: duets and arias from Faust, La forza del destino, Manon, Otello, Carmen, and Werther, interspersed with expertly chosen instrumental interludes by Saint-Saëns, Verdi, and Sir Michael Tippett.

In addition to the announced program, the duo delighted the audience with two encores: the Waltz from The Merry Widow and "Marietta's Lied" from Korngold's Die tote Stadt. Fleming's two gorgeous gowns were designed by Vivienne Westwood with jewelry by Ann Ziff for Tamsen Z.

This was a homecoming of sorts for Kaufmann, who made his U.S. debut as Cassio in Lyric's production of Otello to open the 2001-02 season. And playing Desdemona? Fleming, of course!

The next time to see Fleming on stage at Lyric is in Strauss's Capriccio  in October 2014. Subscriptions are available now! Kaufmann's latest album, a recording of Schubert's Winterreise, is due out on April 1.

Photo credits: Todd Rosenberg / Lyric Opera of Chicago

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Adventures in Opera at THE FAMILY BARBER

The whole family can learn about opera and have some fun at  The Family Barber on Saturday, March 22. This brand-new presentation is a backstage pass to a wild and wacky rehearsal of Rossini's beloved comedy The Barber of Seville.

The whole family can learn about opera and have some fun at The Family Barber  on Saturday, March 22. This brand-new presentation is a backstage pass to a wild and wacky rehearsal of Rossini's beloved comedy The Barber of Seville.

Featuring the beautiful sets and costumes from Lyric's recent production of The Barber of Seville,  audience members of all ages can enjoy all of the action in English-with projected English titles above the stage! The Family Barber was specially written for children ages 5 to 10. However, slightly younger or older children will still enjoy it! And there will definitely be laughs for parents and grandparents, too.

What's the story?
José Antonio Garcia plays an opera director who is completely out of his league trying to put on The Barber of Seville. His sidekick, Tutti (Alex Goodrich) is desperate to sing and unwittingly helps the director navigate his way through all that goes into staging an opera. The singing cast includes J'nai Bridges as the beautiful heroine Rosina, John Irvin  as the dashing young Count Almaviva, Will Liverman  as the ultimate fixer Figaro, and Philip Kraus as the buffoonish Dr. Bartolo. Bridges, Irvin, and Liverman are all current members of Lyric's own Ryan Opera Center. The Family Barber also features the brilliant Lyric Opera Orchestra and Chorus.

Don't forget the snacks!! You can buy food in the lobby and bring it right into the theater to enjoy during the show.  

Is this your first time at the opera? Here are some things that you might hear or see!

Listen for:

  • Arias—music sung by one person
  • Duets—music sung by two people either at the same time or taking turns
  • Choruses—a group of voices singing together
  • Different kinds of voices—from very high (soprano) to very low (bass)
  • Different types of instruments in the orchestra—string, brass, woodwind, and percussion

Look for:

  • Actors and singers wearing costumes and disguises
  • Projected English titles—words that appear on a screen above the stage that tell you what the characters are singing
  • The conductor—the person who leads the orchestra

Sometimes at the opera, people wonder when they're supposed to clap. It's time to clap:

  • When the conductor comes out to start the overture
  • After an aria or duet sung by the characters in the opera
  • At the very end of the opera
  • When the singers come out to take their bows
  • When people around you are clapping

Want to learn more about The Family Barber? Read this interview with Cayenne Harris, director of Lyric Unlimited, who gives more behind-the-scenes scoop on the production.

And Lyric's Anthony Freud, Renée Fleming, and Sir Andrew Davis give a quick preview of the show: 

 

Photo credit: Dan Rest / Lyric Opera of Chicago 

The Hills Are Alive with (covers from) THE SOUND OF MUSIC

The Sound of Music is full of some of the most beloved songs in all of musical theater, including many that have become standards in their own right. Here are just a handful of our favorite interpretations of these classics. 

Rodgers and Hammerstein's The Sound of Music is full of some of the most beloved songs in all of musical theater. Many of them have become standards in their own right, appearing in TV shows, movies, and commercials for decades. Here are just a handful of our favorite interpretations of these classic songs.

"Do-Re-Mi"

Crooners Eddie Fisher, Andy Williams, and Bobby Darin give "Do-Re-Mi" a swingin' sixties vibe in this clip from The Andy Williams Show from January 1966. Bobby Darin even breaks into a few bars of "Oklahoma!"

 

This song also lends itself to a large group performance, as evidenced in this great flash mob from the central train station in Antwerp, Belgium from 2009. And yes, it was all a promotion for a Belgian TV station!

 

"Edelweiss"

The von Trapps, a singing group made up of the great-grandchildren of the original von Trapp Family Singers, are rising stars in the music world. They recently teamed up with Pink Martini on a new album, Dream a Little Dream, which includes covers of "The Lonely Goatherd" and "Edelweiss." Here is the talented quartet—Sofia, Melanie, Amanda, and August von Trapp—singing a beautiful a capella version of "Edelweiss."

 

"My Favorite Things"

The legendary saxophonist John Coltrane took "My Favorite Things" as inspiration for what is one of the greatest jazz recordings in history. Here is his take on the song, which gave his groundbreaking 1961 album its title. Also on this record? Coltrane's take on "Summertime" from Porgy and Bess.

 

Because of its winter-themed lyrics, My Favorite Things has also become a popular holiday song-covered by everyone from Diana Ross and the Supremes to Kelly Clarkson for holiday albums. Here are Herb Alpert and the Tijuana Brass in a live performance of their remake from their 1968 Christmas album:

 

"I Have Confidence"

One of the songs written specifically by Richard Rodgers for the film version of The Sound of Music, "I Have Confidence" has become a welcome addition to the musical—and it will be performed as part of Lyric's production starting on April 25. Here is the brilliant Audra McDonald performing the song live:

 

"Climb Ev'ry Mountain"

It takes a gigantic voice like that of Christine Brewer, who will be portraying the Mother Abbess in Lyric's production, to do this wonderful song justice. But Welsh songstress Shirley Bassey lends it a touch of Vegas with this interpretation:

 

"The Lonely Goatherd"

Julie Andrews hosted The Muppet Show in its second season and, fitting for a show built around puppets, performed "The Lonely Goatherd" with the wacky menagerie:

 

"Sixteen Going on Seventeen"

Dame Judi Dench performs with Brendan O'Hea at the Richard Rodgers Centenary Concert in 2002, giving a hilarious take on a song usually performed by two teenagers in love:

 

Hear all of these great songs—plus many, many more!—when you see Lyric's new production The Sound of Music starting on April 25! 

Sound_of_Music

(Lyric Opera of Chicago does not own copyrights to any of the above videos.)

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