Lyric Opera of Chicago

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Critics' guide to THE GUIDE

"The Guide has proven itself to be a superb idea—...in both formats, breaking down barriers....[It's] sure to bring more first-timers to next season’s series of eight major works in Lyric’s 'Operaland' and give much amusement to that world’s present inhabitants. Let’s hope this becomes an annual enterprise with fresh material each year." – Andrew Patner, Chicago Sun-Times

Second City stage

Why are Chicago critics and audiences raving about Jeff Recommended The Second City Guide to the Opera?

The comedy:

 • "[I]mprovisers and actors Joey Bland, Molly Brennan, Lili-Anne Brown, Beth Melewski, Timothy Sniffen and Tim Ryder...send up the tropes of their discipline with precision blackout sketches, traditional Second City-style songs and recurring bits like 'Dr. Opera,' featuring classic characters in therapy." – Kris Vire, Time Out Chicago

• "One had the sense that some in the crowd were experiencing the manifestation of their wildest dreams: a chance to laugh, all night long, at a 'Ring Cycle' curtain announcement." – Chris Jones, Chicago Tribune  

The music:

• Ryan Opera Center alumnus "tenor Bernard Holcomb['s]...comedic chops and 'let’s put on a show!' enthusiasm are...infectious. Prominent Ryan alumna mezzo Lauren Curnow has joined the cast, and both singers...have solo musical turns. [T]he musical numbers are...quite touching and in the small setting, even poignant."             – Andrew Patner, Chicago Sun-Times

The onstage seating:

• "...[A] soprano's-eye view from the stage of [the Civic Opera House,] one of Chicago's most essential treasures, illuminated for the occasion. Sketch comedy never looked classier." – Chris Jones, Chicago Tribune

The spirit of collaboration and fun: 

• "...[M]asterful in the way it rides the line between catering to Lyric regulars and opera newbies." – Kris Vire, Time Out Chicago

• "The Guide has proven itself to be a superb idea...in both formats, breaking down barriers....[It's] sure to bring more first-timers to next season’s series of eight major works in Lyric’s 'Operaland' and give much amusement to that world’s present inhabitants. Let’s hope this becomes an annual enterprise with fresh material each year." – Andrew Patner, Chicago Sun-Times

Summer escapism= Opera-themed comedy at Lyric this June!

A "revue of opera-based sketch comedy, improv and unlikely operatic musical interludes...Two indefatigable cultural landmarks coming together....Lyric and Second City are teaming up once again this summer; this time for an entire month of performances.– Johnny Oleksinski, New City Stage

Second City preview

"Right away I knew something was up at the Civic Opera House on January 5. The lights dimmed and the familiar, soothing British brogue of Lyric Opera principal conductor Sir Andrew Davis boomed its usual, prerecorded message prohibiting the use of cellphones in the Ardis Krainik Theatre. So far, so good. Then Davis announced that a vehicle with the license plate “FLEMING DIVA 1″ was blocking Wacker Drive. Wait, what? No, this was not opening night of La bohème or Die Meistersinger von Nürnberg or even the closing of Don Pasquale; this was The Second City Guide to the Opera, another exciting product of the fledgling Lyric Unlimited program.

"The revue of opera-based sketch comedy, improv and unlikely operatic musical interludes... sure seemed like a one-night event....However, Lyric and its audience found on that night...the special element of...two indefatigable cultural landmarks coming togetherSo, Lyric and Second City are teaming up once again this summer; this time for an entire month of performances.

          – Johnny Oleksinski, Newcity Stage

Classical music critic Wynne Delacoma called the January 5th performance of The Second City Guide to the Opera "a resounding success," and an audience member shared online: "Absolutely outstanding! I have NEVER been to the opera . . . and yet I enjoyed every moment of this extremely creative, hilarious performance. BRAVO!!" 

Escape to Operaland throughout the month of June! Laugh the night away onstage, Thursdays through Sundays in the Ardis Krainik Theatre.

Pictured: Ryan Opera Center mezzo-soprano J’nai Bridges and Second City actor Joey Bland in the January 5, 2013 performance of The Second City Guide to the Opera. (Photo: Todd Rosenberg Photography)

CRUZAR by the numbers

"...[A] moving story with universal appeal, performed with enormous zest and color..." – John von Rhein, Chicago Tribune                                   

Cruzar

 • "...[A] moving story with universal appeal, performed with enormous zest and color..." – John von Rhein, Chicago Tribune

• "...[A] remarkably compelling and compact work... [A] persuasive immigration story told in heartfelt musical terms..." – Dennis Polkow, Newcity Stage

• "...[A]n emotional journey for the audience, especially for those who are reminded of their own story or that of a relative..."– Gisela Orozco, Hoy Chicago 

• "The energy of Martinez and his fellow musicians was tremendous. ...All the songs were beautifully performed by the Vargas group and the actor-singers." – Andrew Patner, Chicago Sun-Times  

Cruzar la Cara de la Luna, the world's first mariachi opera, first commissioned by Lyric general director Anthony Freud when he was with Houston Opera, is the story of "one family, two countries, one life-changing secret."  Presented in April by Lyric Unlimited, the new audience development and community engagement branch of Lyric Opera. Let's look a little bit closer at Cruzar by the numbers

• Approximately 7520 total audience members attended Cruzar la Cara de la Luna at one of 5 performances.

• Cruzar was presented at 3 venues in 3 different neighborhoods: the Civic Opera House in Chicago's Loop, Benito Juárez Academy in Pilsen on Chicago's South Side, and the Genesee Theatre in Waukegan on Chicago's North Shore.

• 42% of the Cruzar audience members at the Civic Opera House were attending their first performance at Lyric.

• 2 internationally renowned mariachi groups performed in Cruzar in Chicago: Mariachi Vargas de Tecalitlán and Mariachi Aztlán.

• Cruzar is the 1st Spanish-language composition performed at Lyric Opera of Chicago.

Chicago Tribune classical music critic John von Rhein summarizes: "By presenting the Midwest premiere of Cruzar la Cara de la Luna (To Cross the Face of the Moon) as the latest project of its Lyric Unlimited program, the company fulfilled several objectives. It reached out to members of the city’s Mexican and Latino communities through an art form many of them had never experienced before. It promoted cross-cultural understanding. It called attention to the multicultural diversity and vitality that help to make Chicago unique among major American cities. It made potential new friends for the company while exposing Lyric regulars to a more populist form of entertainment than they are used to." BRAVO to all who made Cruzar a tremendous success

Lyric beyond the Loop

In April, Lyric guest artists gave spirited performances at alternative Chicago venues, and Lyric-affiliated artists have garnered major international opera awards.

Aztlan at Jumping Bean

In April, Lyric guest artists gave spirited performances at alternative Chicago venues, and Lyric-affiliated artists have garnered major international opera awards:

• While in town to perform at Lyric in the world's first mariachi opera,Cruzar la Cara de la Luna, University of Texas Pan-American Mariachi Aztlán also made time to play brunch at the Café Jumping Bean in Pilsen. Cruzar cast members Vanessa Cerda-Alonzo and Octavio Moreno joined Mariachi Aztlán for the impromptu performance. Earlier this year, Mariachi Aztlán performed during President Obama's second term inauguration festivities and won their third consecutive first prize in the Houston Mariachi Invitational. 

• Mezzo-soprano Isabel Leonard, who next season will make her Lyric debut as Rosina in the new production of The Barber of Seville, has won the 2013 Richard Tucker Award.  "Often referred to as the 'Heisman Trophy of Opera,' it is conferred annually on an opera singer at the threshold of a major international career;" according to the Richard Tucker Foundation, which awards the honor and $30,000 prize. 

• Lyric continued its collaboration with The Second City on April 21 with Improv and Arias: A Sneak Peek, an evening of sketch comedy and song.  Held at The Second City's home in Old Town, Improv and Arias allowed The Second City writers/improvisers/ensemble members and Ryan Opera Center alums Bernard Holcomb and Emily Birsan an opportunity to workshop material for the June run of The Second City Guide to the Opera at the Civic Opera House.

• The inaugural International Opera Awards were held in London on April 22, 2013, and tenor Jonas Kaufmann took home the prize for Best Male Singer.  The German heartthrob is scheduled to sing with Renée Fleming at the Civic Opera House in the 2013-14 Subscriber Appreciation Concert. The International Opera Awards were launched by London businessman Harry Hyman and Opera Magazine editor John Allison as a way to generate public excitement about opera and raise funds for the international opera community.  Kaufmann also won the first inaugural Opera Magazine Readers' Award.

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