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Youth Opera Council – A Look at a Great First Season

Lyric Unlimited's Youth Opera Council had a banner first season. This group of 22 high school-aged opera lovers learned about running an opera company, met Lyric guest artists, and—of course—saw a lot of opera! Here are a few of the highlights from the year. 

Lyric Unlimited's Youth Opera Council, a new initiative for the 2013-14 season, had a banner year. This group of 22 high school-aged opera lovers met regularly, speaking with Lyric staff about the operations of an opera company. They also had the opportunity to attend every mainstage production this year and to meet some of Lyric's fantastic guest artists. 

Here are a few of the highlights!

On February 1, the council hosted "A Night at the Opera" before the opening of Lyric's new production of The Barber of Seville (pictured above). At this sold-out event, the council invited 200 of their family and friends for a casual preconcert reception that featured the chance to mingle with members of the Lyric Opera Orchestra and Chorus and try on a few costumes! Here is a video that gives a flavor of this special event: 


The council also had meetings with some of Lyric's great guest artists: Nathan Gunn, Isabel Leonard, and Alek Shrader, all stars of The Barber of Seville. They also spent a very special evening with La Clemenza di Tito star Joyce DiDonato (pictured right). Joyce also ran into some Youth Opera Council members during intermission of a Rusalka student matinee performance and captured their profound thoughts on why opera is important and thriving:


Other special events included a special backstage tour led by Lyric's Audience Education Manager Jesse Gram, as well as regular meetings here at Lyric, some of which included visits with key Lyric staff. Guest speakers have included Lyric General Director Anthony Freud, Lyric Unlimited Director Cayenne Harris, Public Relations Director Alexandra Day, Barber of Seville Assistant Director Elise Sandell, and Assistant Stage Manager Bill Walters. 

Want to be part of this great group? Applications are now being accepted for the 2014-15 Youth Opera Council. Click here to learn more and apply today!

Photo credits:

  • "A Night at the Opera" photo collage (top), photos credit Jenn Gaudreau
  • Joyce DiDonato visits with the Youth Opera Council, photo credit Alejandra Boyer
  • The Youth Opera council chats with Bill Walters and Elise Sandell (photo credit Andrew Cioffi) and gets a backstage tour (photo credit Alejandra Boyer).


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 

Renée Fleming and Yo-Yo Ma Together Again!

On December 11, Lyric Opera of Chicago creative consultant Renée Fleming joined Chicago Symphony Orchestra creative consultant Yo-Yo Ma at a key event supporting arts education in the Chicago Public Schools. 

On December 11, Lyric Opera of Chicago creative consultant Renée Fleming joined Chicago Symphony Orchestra creative consultant Yo-Yo Ma at a key event supporting arts education in the Chicago Public Schools.

To an audience of CPS principals, network chiefs, teachers, and students, Mayor Rahm Emanuel and CPS CEO Barbara Byrd-Bennett announced that 45 schools would be receiving funding for art learning opportunities. These awards are the inaugural grants from the newly created Creative Schools Fund, which is part of the CPS Arts Education Plan. 

Among the 45 grantees are seven schools that have participated in Lyric Unlimited’s educational programs this season: Charles R. Darwin Elementary School, George Armstrong International Studies Elementary School, Henry Clay Elementary School, Hiram H. Belding Elementary School, Jordan Elementary Community School, Kenwood Academy High School, and Lionel Hampton Fine & Performing Arts Elementary School.

After remarks from Lyric Opera general director Anthony Freud and the announcement from the mayor, Renée spoke passionately about the transformative power of arts in schools. The daughter of two public school music teachers, she described being a shy teenager who found her voice and a way of expressing herself through music and poetry.  

The event featured performances from student groups, including a choir from Gallery 37, an afterschool choral program for CPS students that is also one of five participants in Lyric’s Vocal Partnership Program. This expanded program, part of Lyric Unlimited, gives students the opportunity to learn about opera and develop their skills through special events such as Lyric Opera performances and rehearsals, backstage tours, and master classes and conversations with main stage artists.

Kiela Nelson, a member of the Gallery 37 choir, is also part of Lyric’s new Youth Opera Council. She and her fellow singers met and mingled with Renée Fleming after the event.

Renée and Yo-Yo also performed a delightful rendition of “Winter Wonderland,” a nod to the arctic temperatures in Chicago and across the nation.  

Lyric and the CSO are the lead arts partners for the CPS Arts Education Plan. As part of that collaboration, Fleming and Ma have been named National Cultural Advisors, providing guidance to CPS and the Mayor’s Office and raising awareness of the importance of the arts for every child in every classroom.

Both artists were present in October 2012 when Mayor Emanuel first announced the CPS Arts Education Plan at Perez Elementary School. And earlier that year, Renée and Yo-Yo joined members of the CSO and CPS students in a special performance at the Thompson Center designed to bring attention to the importance of the arts in the lives of students.


Get the full details about these grants from the Mayor’s Office. 


Read more from Mark Caro in the Chicago Tribune. 


Photos: Todd Rosenberg Photography

The Second City Guide to the Opera wins two Jeff Awards

The Second City Guide to the Opera, the groundbreaking collaboration by Lyric Opera of Chicago and The Second City, wins Jeff Awards for Best Production: Revue and Best Director: Revue!

The Second City Guide to the Opera, the groundbreaking collaboration by Lyric Opera of Chicago and The Second City, won Jeff Awards for Best Production: Revue and Best Director: Revue during the 45th annual Jeff Equity Awards gala on Monday. The ceremony took place at Drury Lane Theatre in Oakbrook Terrace, Illinois. “This is the first time Lyric Opera of Chicago has been nominated, and to win this prestigious award is truly thrilling,” said Anthony Freud, Lyric’s general director.

The Jeff Awards are billed as “a celebration of excellence in Chicago theatre” and have honored outstanding theater artists annually since 1968. During the 2012-13 season, Jeff Awards judges attended opening nights of 143 Equity productions offered by 52 producing organizations. From these openings, 109 productions were “Jeff Recommended” and eligible for award nominations, resulting in 166 nominations in 36 categories.

The Second City Guide to the Opera premiered in a sold-out, one-night-only performance in the Civic Opera House on January 5, 2013. Lyric Opera creative consultant Renée Fleming had the idea to bring together the world-renowned comedy troupe and opera company, both legendary Chicago institutions, to see what kinds of creative sparks might fly. “This unexpected mash-up of opera and sketch comedy was a great way to show die-hard opera fans – and new audiences – a fun side of our centuries-old art form,” said Fleming.

The resulting revue-style show featured opera-themed comedic sketches performed by ensemble members of The Second City and The Patrick G. and Shirley W. Ryan Opera Center, with Fleming and legendary stage and screen actor Sir Patrick Stewart sharing emcee duties and appearing in sketches and satirical vignettes. Lyric Opera Orchestra musicians and revue music director Jesse Case (music director for The Second City e.t.c.) provided accompaniment. Case, Tim Sniffen, and Kate James wrote the material; The Second City’s Billy Bungeroth directed, and TSC’s Kelly Leonard was executive producer.

The resounding success of the January performance led to a month-long run of cabaret-style performances May 31-June 30, with audience and performers onstage at the Civic Opera House. It was this 23-show run (including new material) that was seen by Jeff-Award judges.

Performers for the extended run were Second City ensemble members Joey Bland*Molly Brennan, Lilli-Anne Brown, Beth Melewski*, Tim Ryder, and Timothy Sniffen*Billy Bungeroth* was director, Jesse Case* was music director and writer, and Kate James* and Timothy Sniffen* were writers. Singers from Lyric were mezzo-soprano Lauren Curnow and tenor Bernard Holcomb*, both former members of the Ryan Opera Center. (*participated in the January show) Musicians for the early-summer shows were Jesse Case/piano and guitar, John Macfarlane/violin, and Laura Deming/cello (both members of the Lyric Opera Orchestra).

The Second City Guide to the Opera is a project of Lyric Unlimited, a multifaceted program of expanded community engagement and artistic initiatives.

All performances of The Second City Guide to the Opera were sponsored by PNC Bank.

For more information on the Jeff Awards, click here.

For more information on Joseph Jefferson III, the 19th-century actor for whom the awards are named, click here.

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