Lyric Opera of Chicago

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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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A special invitation from THE MAGIC VICTROLA cast

The Magic Victrola is on stage at Lyric this Saturday, January 17 at 3pm for one performance only! Check out this special invitation to attend from its three stars: Caroline Heffernan, Logan Neuschaefer, and veteran Chicago actor Richard Henzel.

The cast of The Magic VictrolaCaroline Heffernan, Logan Neuschaefer, and Richard Henzel—invites you to attend this family-friendly performance on Saturday, January 17 at 3pm. Opera comes alive for one performance only! 

Why should you see this great production? Here's a few reasons why from Grandfather himself:

Hi, I'm Richard Henzel and I'm excited to be playing the role of the grandfather in a spectacular new production from Lyric Unlimited that has been created just for your kids—The Magic Victrola!

Like you, I love opera—the beautiful scenery and costumes, the passionate stories and exciting characters, and of course the magnificent singing. There's no greater thrill than being able to share my passion for this wonderful art form with the ones I love. That's why I'm so excited to be part of The Magic Victrola and the opportunity to experience it with you and your family.

This special new production brings together scenes from beloved operas in a way that will fill the children in your life with wonder and delight. It stars children who, perhaps like our young audience, don't know what to expect from opera - and just wait until the surprises start to unfold!

You'll hear favorite music from operas like The Magic Flute, The Marriage of Figaro, Carmen, and more—melodies we have all heard in cartoons and on television commercials—come to vivid life as performed by real-life opera stars and a live orchestra. The 60-minute show features sets, costumes, and fun pop-culture twists that will keep everyone engaged!

Plus, you'll be able to see every exciting detail up close through the help of six jumbo video screens throughout the opera house.

Spend a warm afternoon with us at the glorious Civic Opera House, and experience the magical thrill of opera classics this Saturday, January 17 at 3pm.

We look forward to seeing you there!

 

Photo credits:

  • Richard Henznel portrait credit Suzanne Plunkett
  • Caroline Heffernan portrait credit Brian McConkey
  • Logan Neuschaefer portrait credit Carin Silkaitis
  • The Magic Victrola set picture credit Andrew Cioffi / Lyric Opera of Chicago

 

THE MAGIC VICTROLA: Opera Comes Alive

Prepare for Lyric Unlimited's upcoming family presentation The Magic Victrola  on January 17 with this comprehensive guide, which gives an overview of the story and some of the musical excerpts that will be featured.

Children and adults alike will be enchanted by Lyric Unlimited's upcoming family presentation, The Magic Victrola on Saturday, January 17 at 3pm.

This one-afternoon-only event is a delightful way for children to learn about the joys of opera. The production is specifically designed for children ages 5 to 10, but people of all ages will enjoy this brand-new story brought to life by the Lyric Opera Orchestra and singers from Lyric's own Ryan Opera Center

The Story…

Caroline Heffernan and Logan Neuschaefer play Gracie and Sam, two children who are staying with their grandfather (Richard Henzel) for the summer. Though they initially worry they might be bored, they discover their grandfather's collection of opera records in the attic, along with an old-fashioned Victrola player that has magical qualities. When they put on the first record, the bird catcher Papageno (Ryan Opera Center baritone Will Liverman) from Mozart's The Magic Flute appears and encourages Gracie and Sam to play more records, which causes each famous opera scene to magically come to life in colorful vignettes.

The Process 

Curious about how the story and the music make it to the stage? Read this interview with Lyric's production design director Scott Marr and props coordinator Maria da Fabo, who designed the sets and costumes for this presentation.

The Snacks… 

The rumors are true! Kid-friendly snacks will be sold in the foyer and you can even take them with you to enjoy in the theater.

The Music… 

The Magic Victrola is filled with operatic favorites. If you want to introduce your children to the music before they come, here are some video excerpts!

Overture from Mozart's The Marriage of Figaro

The Magic Victrola opens with one of the most famous overtures in opera: Mozart's delightful opening to The Marriage of Figaro.

 

"Der Vogelfänger bin ich ja" from Mozart's The Magic Flute

Papageno sings about his happy life as a birdcatcher.

 

The Doll Song from Offenbach's The Tales of Hoffmann 

Olympia the doll sings a song, but she occasionally needs to be wound up so she can keep going!

 

"Quanto è bella" from Donizetti's L'Elisir d'Amore

This aria has a man singing about the beautiful woman he loves.  

 

The Flower Duet from Delibes's Lakmé

This duet is about all of the wonderful things found in nature.

 

"O mio babbino caro" from Puccini's Gianni Schicchi

In this aria, a young woman asks for help from her father in a way that melts his heart. The title can be translated to "O my dear papa."

 

Habanera from Bizet's Carmen

This opera is set in Spain and this aria has a very catchy rhythm called the Habanera, which is a type of dance music.

 

Papageno Papagena Duet from Mozart's The Magic Flute

Papageno finally finds his perfect match: Papagena!

 

Photo credits:

  • Photos from The Family Barber, Lyric Unlimited's family presentation in the 2013-14 season (Todd Rosenberg / Lyric Opera of Chicago)
(Lyric Opera of Chicago does not own copyrights to any of the above videos.)

 

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Matthew Aucoin on SECOND NATURE

Composer and librettist Matthew Aucoin shares his thoughts on Second Nature, the new children's opera coming in 2015 from Lyric Unlimited.

One of Lyric Unlimited's anticipated upcoming projects Second Nature, a new children's opera that will be performed at the Lincoln Park Zoo on August 19 and 20, 2015. Matthew Aucoin is acting as composer and librettist for this commission. The young American composer is also a noted conductor, pianist, and poet. Here are his musings on this work-in-progress: 

On Second Nature

An opera for kids! But is there such a thing as an opera "for adults"? If there is, I don't want to hear it. Opera, by nature, exists in a mythical space—it lives high above and far beneath adult reality. It's sublime and subliminal, it's sacred and obscene, it gives voice and form to the unspeakable and the repressed.

Here's a litmus test for any opera: does it manage to shut down all our rational adult defense mechanisms, so that we innocently submit ourselves to total sensory experience? Are questions of "believability" made irrelevant? Does it speak to us with a voice that cannot possibly be real, yet somehow is?

Opera addresses an ancient innocence in us, and it demands a childlike openness. So to write an opera with kids in mind is just to extend what opera always does. Just like the world of fairy tales, opera is peopled by archetypes-made-flesh, by walking manifestations of our deepest fears and desires. The Queen of the Night. The Grand Inquisitor. The Animal Tamer. The Vixen. Bluebeard and his wives. The androgynous pageboy. The lover in disguise.

One old nightmare of ours seems to be coming true at the moment: Mother Nature is turning on us. Mythology is colliding with reality; it's like all the ancient gods are taking revenge on the human race. Nature, which has always been "the unchangeable," is undergoing a terrible change—at our hands.

Second Nature  is set after the fall of nature. Humankind has found itself in a negative Eden: this time, we're stuck in a virtual "garden" of our own creation. We don't want to deal with big bad Nature anymore. It'll take a couple of kids—born in this bland synthetic world—who have the right blend of innocence, openness and daring to bite the fruit and explore a new world. Actually, those are just the qualities you need to listen to opera...

Photo credit:
  • Matthew Aucoin (credit Social Palates)
 
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