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Linebacker to Lyric: An Interview with Brandon Jovanovich

Brandon Jovanovich has been earning rave reviews for his portrayal of the Prince in Dvořák's RusalkaIn this Q&A, Jovanovich talks about his favorite moments of this production, what he doesn't like to wear on stage, and why he loves living in Illinois!


Brandon Jovanovich has been earning rave reviews for his portrayal of the Prince in Lyric's new production of Dvořák's Rusalka: "his artistry seems to soar higher with each Chicago appearance" - Chicago Classical Review

In this Q&A, Jovanovich talks about his favorite moments of this production, what he doesn't like to wear on stage, and why he loves living in Illinois! Rusalka ends its critically acclaimed run on March 16 (tickets are going fast!), but he'll be back next season starring as Walter in Weinberg's dramatic and compelling  The Passenger.

The Prince in Rusalka is a role that's very familiar to you, since you've performed it to great acclaim across the world - how is this production different from ones you have done before?

I've been lucky enough to be involved in two different productions of Rusalka with this being my third. It is an opera that I love to sing and I really enjoying playing the role of the Prince. This production is different in a couple of ways; David is introducing the audience to the idea that the whole story MAY be in the Prince's mind…so the idea of it being a "hallucination vs. reality" really sets the tone of the opera. In this vein, the first scene (taking place in the forest) unfolds to reveal a wild group of wood nymphs set against a gorgeous backdrop (designed by John Macfarlane) in a "wild forest" being infringed upon by "humanity" (as represented by a couple of massive damn-like structures). It is this idea that sets David's production apart of others, "nature vs. humanity." By exploiting the inherent differences between these two ideas, the friction and resulting conflict between the characters develops at very natural pace.

Do you have a favorite moment or moments in this production?

There are some characters that have been inserted into this production that aren't written in the opera, three crows serve as "helpers" to Ježibaba. Watching our choreographer (Andrew George) and David McVicar develop these characters over the course of the rehearsal period was amazing (I'm awed by all of the sharp bird-like physical movements and stamina that they have). For my part, I LOVE the final scene in Act III when I return to the forest, find Rusalka and end up dying. It is so touching, so emotional and laden with such beautiful music, it is one of my favorite scenes to perform in any opera. Couple that with having Ana María sing to me….come on!!!

If you had to sum up the story of Rusalka in one sentence, what would your summary be?

An unparalleled classic masterpiece of longing, love, hope, and loss set to some of the most exquisite music by Dvořák….an unknown masterpiece. 

 Are you jealous of all the prosthetics that your co-stars Jill Grove and Eric Owens wear for this show? What's the most unusual costume you've ever had?

As for prosthetics…unequivocally no! I harbor no ill will or jealously in the slightest!  I have been lucky enough to wear some of the finest costumes throughout my career. I am tall with long legs and it has always been a challenge to find "stock" costumes that look decent, so most of my costumes are tailored and I've been VERY spoiled because of it. I haven't had too many unusual costumes per se…but one thing that always makes me a little nervous is when I am asked to wear very little on stage.  From a towel wrapped around my waist, to a pair of underwear and a robe (open!?), I find it intimidating. The amount of breathing and support needed to sing makes for a plethora of deep diaphragmatic breathing, and it isn't necessarily something that I would want to see as an audience member! But A LOT of directors don't mind asking performers to let it all hang out! 

What is a role that you dream of playing some day in your career?

A dream role that I have yet to play would be Otello.  So many challenges mentally, emotionally and vocally.  It is a role that I hope to tackle before too long.

Some people might not know that you started out with a college football scholarship - can you draw any parallels between the world of football and the world of opera?

Both of them are extremely physical. True, there is no contact in opera (unless you count kissing), but there is a ton of moving around while singing and it requires a lot more stamina than people think—that and the ability to "think on the move." In football, as in opera, you are an individual performing at your best for the betterment (and ultimately the success) of the team. There are set plays where you know what your role is, just as there is staging in opera, "You go here and I go there." Yet with both there is always an element of the unknown. In football you are playing against another team trying to stop your progress, in opera you (and all colleagues around you) are in a constant mental workout trying to juggle vocal production, remembering dialogue, staging, keeping in contact with the conductor, and thus the orchestra, vocal balance, and portraying emotions (and so much more), while trying to make it look like you are living "in the moment." With these different dynamics there is a lot of fluidity involved and being able to think on your feet and adjust is a necessity. If you aren't able to adjust in the moment, you'll ultimately fail to one degree or another in both arenas.

What is a typical day like for you before a performance? Do you have any pre-performance rituals that you can share?

I know there are a lot of people who have very specific rituals that they adhere to before a show. Mine would be normalcy. I don't like to change anything that I would normally do; whether that be going to the gym, shopping, mowing the lawn (if I'm at home,) or shoveling the driveway. Having no ritual would be my ritual (profound!?).

When you're not singing, what do you like to do in Chicago? Any favorite restaurants, museums, or other activities?

I live about an hour west of Chicago on a little ten-acre plot of land.  I travel A LOT throughout the year and I hate to say it, but when I get home…I like to stay home! We've lived in Illinois for just over three years and our house (an old one-room schoolhouse) needs some upgrading.  So you'll typically find me outside cutting down trees (a ton of dead ones were left on our property), remodeling a bathroom (two thus far), playing with my kids, or just hanging out. I know that we WILL get into Chicago more and start enjoying all that this city has to offer, but it hasn't happened yet.

What's your favorite thing about having Illinois as your home base?

I love being able to fly into O'Hare from anywhere in the world. It makes traveling so much easier! I love being able to stay at home when I sing with Lyric. I like the people, the climate (I love having four seasons), and the proximity to great food, culture and sporting events all while being able to raise chickens and bees! It is the best of all worlds for me!

Photo credit: Todd Rosenberg/Lyric Opera of Chicago


An Insider's Guide to LA CLEMENZA DI TITO

Video and audio previews, articles, and more at Lyric's Insider's Guide to La Clemenza di Tito

Below is your guide to Mozart's timeless political thriller La Clemenza di Tito—including including video previews, plot synposis, background articles and interviews, photo gallery, audio guides, and more. This new-to-Lyric production runs March 5–23.

Mozart’s La Clemenza di Tito tells the story of passion and power in the Roman Empire. Matthew Polenzani plays the Emperor Tito. Vitellia (Amanda Majeski) is the power-obsessed daughter of the recently deposed emperor. She is determined to have Tito as her husband so she can have the political power that she feels is her right. When Tito chooses to marry another, Vitellia convinces Tito’s best friend Sesto (Joyce DiDonato in a male role), who is obsessed with her, to assassinate the emperor. When the plot fails and the betrayal is revealed, this traitorous couple must face the consequences. Read the full plot synopsis

Watch the official video trailer (above) and a preview with general director Anthony Freud, music director Sir Andrew Davis (who is conducting this production), and creative consultant Renée Fleming (below).


(Not Quite) Everything You Want to Know about La Clemenza di Tito

It’s exciting to “discover” an opera that isn’t often performed – especially by a composer as familiar as Mozart. Lyric audiences can do just that with La clemenza di Tito, a tour de force operatic docudrama about the Roman Emperor Titus. Read more.

Power Plays: DiDonato, Polenzani, and Majeski star in La Clemenza di Tito

Political intrigue, spurned overtures, murderous plots, and uncertain consequences—if it sounds like a page out of current primetime television listings, it's just confirmation that human nature is as ever-constant as it was in Mozart's time. Read more.

Joyce DiDonato: The Perfect 21st Century Diva

Audience-loved, critically acclaimed, Grammy Award-winning mezzo-soprano Joyce DiDonato is making her much-anticipated return to Lyric Opera of Chicago to open Mozart’s La Clemenza di Tito – and she can’t say enough about this rarely performed gem that marries a scintillating plot about a Roman political scandal with some of Mozart’s most sublimely beautiful music. Read more
 Clemenza di Tito

LA CLEMENZA DI TITO Discovery Series

Mozart's penultimate opera tosses conflicted characters into a thicket of a plot with music that hints at 19th-century romanticism. Join Matthew Polenzani (Tito), Joyce DiDonato (Sesto), and Sir Andrew Davis as they discuss Mozart's once underappreciated two-act opera seria.

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La Clemenza di Tito Audio Preview

Recordings used by permission of EMI Classics.


La Clemenza di Tito Commentary

La Clemenza di Tito 
by Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart

© 2013/14 Lyric Opera Commentaries

Original sound recordings of musical excerpts used by permission of the Salzburger Festspiele. All rights reserved. Post-production services provided by Mark Travis, Producer.


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Oh Captain, My Captain! Billy Zane stars in THE SOUND OF MUSIC

The Captain has arrived! Chicago native and film star Billy Zane will play Captain von Trapp in Lyric's new production of The Sound of Music


The Captain has arrived! The one, the only Billy Zane, star of James Cameron's international blockbuster Titanic and critically acclaimed for his portrayal of Billy Flynn in Broadway's smash hit Chicago, stars as Captain von Trapp in Lyric's brand-new production of Rodgers and Hammerstein's The Sound of Music (opening on April 25). 

A native of Chicago—he even graduated from Francis W. Parker School!—Zane has appeared in over 100 films, including Dead Calm, Back to the Future, Memphis Belle, Tombstone, Sniper, Zoolander, Orlando, and The Phantom. Among the many critically acclaimed independent films he has made, he produced and starred in the celebrated film noir classic This World, Then the Fireworks and the silent film I Woke Up Early the Day I Died,  which he produced with Muse Productions. He co-wrote, produced, and directed the French farce comedy Big Kiss, due for release next year.
On television, Zane appeared in David Lynch's groundbreaking series Twin Peaks, and he also stars in the upcoming Comedy Central series Checked Out from Workaholics creator Craig DiGregorio. In addition to his lauded appearance Broadway's Chicago, he starred in London in The Royal Haymarket Theatre's production of Six Dance Lessons in Six Weeks opposite the legendary Claire Bloom.

Beyond his acting, Zane is also a celebrated abstract expressionist painter. He began painting during his downtime while filming Titanic in Mexico (the shoot lasted 160 days!), and he has been active as an artist ever since. He has most recently seen extraordinary success with his solo exhibition, Seize The Day Bed, in Los Angeles and in London. He made his Art Basel debut in Miami with his Nowness exhibition in December 2013. Summer 2014 will see his new solo exhibition at the iconic Academia of Art in Monaco.

Zane is thrilled to be returning to his home town to star in The Sound of Music, and we are thrilled to have him join the stellar cast that includes Broadway stars Jenn Gambatese (Maria) and Edward Hibbert (Max), as well as opera luminaries Christine Brewer (Mother Abbess) and Elizabeth Futral (Elsa Schraeder).

Photo credit: Azabra

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