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Lyric U: Baritones in opera

Have you tuned into Lyric U? Check out our new video library, which starts with an in-depth exploration of the baritone in opera with Sir Andrew Davis, Anthony Freud, and Renée Fleming. Plus, check out some video highlights of the greatest baritone arias on stage this season.

Have you tuned into Lyric U? It's Lyric's new resource for things opera, giving everyone an easy way to explore, discover, and engage. Whether you're new to the art form and looking for Opera 101 or an aficionado who wants to earn a PhD in Advanced Opera Studies, let Lyric U guide the way with this ever-expanding video library.

One of the new features on Lyric U is "From Soprano to Bass: Exploring Voice in Opera." Sir Andrew Davis, Renée Fleming, and Anthony Freud are your guides through the seven different categories of the human voice in this in-depth video series.

The first video in the series focuses on the baritone. This vocal range might be stuck in the middle of tenor and bass, but the baritone is definitely not a voice that can be easily overlooked. Some of the most famous roles in opera are portrayed by baritones-the ultimate bad boy in Mozart's Don Giovanni, the resourceful fixer Figaro in Rossini's The Barber of Seville, the king of the gods Wotan in Wagner's Ring cycle, and the great title roles in Verdi's Rigoletto, Falstaff, and Simon Boccanegra

 

Want to hear more? Below are video samples of some of the great baritone showcases that you can hear as part of Lyric's 2014-15 season.

Il Trovatore  - "Il balen del suo sorriso"

In Act 2 "The Gypsy" of Verdi's Il Trovatore, the villainous Count di Luna sings of his devotion to Leonora, who has decided to enter a convent because she believes her true love Manrico is dead. Though di Luna's song speaks to a beautiful love, he is actually plotting to kidnap her - thinking that the convent is the only obstacle to their happiness. Ryan Opera Center alum Quinn Kelsey takes on the role at Lyric from October 27 to November 29. 

 

(Dmitri Hvorostovsky, Metropolitan Opera, 2011)

Porgy and Bess  - "I Got Plenty O' Nuttin'"

This quintessential American opera has many timeless songs, including "Summertime" and "Bess, You Is My Woman Now, but one of Porgy's most famous arias is this ode to his simple life. Lyric favorite Eric Owens brings this iconic role to Chicago from November 17 to December 20. 

 

(Lawrence Winters, Columbia Masterworks recording, 1951)

Tosca - Te Deum

Scarpia, the police chief who is ruthlessly hunting the rebel artist Cavaradossi, sings of his lust and terrible plan to force Tosca into loving him, against the backdrop of a prayer. This season, two singers take on this villianous role: Evgeny Nikitin (Lyric debut, January 24 to February 5) and Mark Delavan (February 27 to March 14). 

 

(George Gagnidze, Metropolitan Opera, 2009)

Tannhäuser  - "O du mein holder Abendstern" (Song of the Evening Star)

This aria from Act 3 of Tannhäuser is in the pantheon of one of the most beautiful arias ever written, and is one of Wagner's most haunting melodies. Wolfram von Eschenbach loves the faithful and chaste Elisabeth, but she is in love with Tannhäuser; in this aria, he has a premonition of her death. Gerald Finley stars as Wolfram at Lyric from February 9 to March 6. 

 

(Peter Mattei, Staatsoper Berlin, 2014)

Don Giovanni  - "Deh vieni all finestra"

While posing as his right-hand man Leporello, Don Giovanni serenades the maid of his former conquest Donna Elvira with this lovely aria from Act Two. Mariusz Kwiecień stars in Lyric's hot-blooded new production through October 29. 

 

(Bryn Terfel, Metropolitan Opera, 2000)

Photo credits:

  • Top row: Quinn Kelsey (credit Dan Rest / Lyric Opera of Chicago); Evgeny Nikitin (credit Ken Howard / Metropolitan Opera)
  • Bottom row: Eric Owens in Porgy and Bess (credit Terrence McCarthy / San Francisco Opera); Mariusz Kwiecień stars as the title role in Don Giovanni (credit Todd Rosenberg / Lyric Opera of Chicago)

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

Critics agree: “The operatic stars are in alignment” for CAPRICCIO

Lyric's production of Strauss's Capriccio is opera at its finest, with a wonderful cast led by Renée Fleming, a sophisticated 1920s setting, and unparalleled musicianship from conductor Sir Andrew Davis  and the Lyric Opera Orchestra. Read what the critics have to say about this "intelligent, tasteful, funny, serious" opera.

The Chicago Tribune raves four stars for Capriccio: "the operatic stars are in alignment ... in Lyric's loving revival." Lyric's production of Strauss's final masterpiece is truly opera at its finest, with a wonderful cast led by Renée Fleming, a sophisticated 1920s setting, and unparalleled musicianship from conductor Sir Andrew Davis and the Lyric Opera Orchestra. This sophisticated drawing room comedy is at once "intelligent, tasteful, funny, serious" (Andrew Patner, Chicago Sun-Times), but it's only at Lyric through October 28, so grab your seat today!

Here's what else the critics are saying:

"Highly recommended" - Andrew Patner, Chicago Sun-Times 

This production makes a "lush argument for shaking hands across waters, for the marriage of words and music." - Aaron Hunt, New City

Renée Fleming is "as witty and charming as she is beautiful" with "peaches-and-creamy tone and melting phrases." - John von Rhein, Chicago Tribune 

Renée Fleming is "radiant … One can't imagine any singer today better suited to the role of the Countess Madeleine " - Lawrence A. Johnson, Chicago Classical Review 

"In the famous final aria, Fleming spins the silver threads of lyricism that Strauss made his unique gift to the soprano repertoire." - Aaron Hunt, New City

Sir Andrew Davis leads "a veritable master class in Strauss conducting." - John von Rhein, Chicago Tribune 

"Andrew Davis, always a superb Strauss conductor, and the Lyric Orchestra ... have outdone themselves" - Andrew Patner, Chicago Sun-Times

"More than anyone else, this was Sir Andrew Davis's show. Few conductors can equal the Lyric Opera's music director in Strauss, and Davis's fluent, spirited yet light-footed account of this score was masterful, maintaining a fleet, conversational pace and rising seamlessly to the breakout lyrical moments." - Lawrence A. Johnson, Chicago Classical Review 

 "Fully inside the opera's conversational ebb and flow, Davis elicited exceptionally sensitive, refined playing from the Lyric Orchestra, beginning with the sublime sextet that opens the opera and continuing through the touching final pages." - John von Rhein, Chicago Tribune 

"Even by their standard, the playing of the Lyric Opera Orchestra was beyond reproach, with a refined quicksilver quality that suits this restless music." - Lawrence A. Johnson, Chicago Classical Review 

"Lyric has surrounded its starry soprano with a top-drawer supporting cast" - Lawrence A. Johnson, Chicago Classical Review 

"Anne Sofie von Otter brought a natural vocal ease and willowy presence to the glamorous actress Clairon." - Lawrence A. Johnson, Chicago Classical Review 

"…the splendid Swedish mezzo-soprano played Clairon with a flamboyant hauteur to match her over-the-top flapper outfits." - John von Rhein, Chicago Tribune 

"American tenor William Burden captured the self-confidence and musicality as the composer Flamand." - Andrew Patner, Chicago Sun-Times

"Audun Iversen made a most impressive company debut as Olivier. The Norwegian baritone displayed a warm and flexible voice and deftly balanced the comedy with sincerity" - Lawrence A. Johnson, Chicago Classical Review 

"Peter Rose was ideal casting for the cynical yet savvy impresario La Roche" - Lawrence A. Johnson, Chicago Classical Review 

Bo Skovhus "provided the funniest moments of the evening with the gauche dilettante's atrocious acting." - Lawrence A. Johnson, Chicago Classical Review 

Photo credits:

  • Capriccio production photos credit Todd Rosenberg / Lyric Opera of Chicago

Capturing CAPRICCIO's magic on screen

Strauss's Capriccio  (on stage Oct. 6-28) is an intimate and sophisticated opera that takes place at a party at a gorgeous estate. Four presentations will feature live high-definition video broadcast to four screens placed in the balconies. How does the opera go from stage to screen? Matt Hoffman from HMS Media explains the basics of live production.

Richard Strauss's final opera Capriccio  (on stage Oct. 6-28) is an intimate and sophisticated opera that takes place at a party at a gorgeous estate. The stylish production  set in the 1920s and features intricate art deco details and an all-star including Renée Fleming, Anne Sofie von Otter, Bo Skovhus, William Burden, Audun Iversen, and Peter Rose.

For those who do not want to miss a moment, four presentations will feature live high-definition video broadcast to four screens placed in the balconies on Oct. 9, 15, 22, and 28. How does the opera go from stage to screen? Matt Hoffman from HMS Media will be directing all four live broadcasts and took us through some of the basics of live production, which is an art unto itself. 

How many cameras will there be?

We will have 5 cameras: two in the back of the house, one left and one right, and a robotic camera in the orchestra pit.

How do you prepare for the live performance?

The HMS team attended and recorded the Capriccio dress rehearsal. As the television director, I have been studying that recording and making script notes about blocking, timing, and other technical cues that will affect our coverage. 

What does your script look like for the broadcast?

The script contains notes about who is singing and how the performers are blocked in each scene. We will not pre-determine every shot, and our TV production team will be making live decisions based on the actors' performances in the moment. Our coverage will be different each night. We are performing just like the singers on stage.

How do you communicate during the live performance?

My assistant director will be continuously updating us on what's happening next based on the script and our notes. I direct the cameras and call the sequence of shots to be featured on screen. My technical director operates the switcher per my instructions sending the video to the screens. It's a tightly choreographed collaboration among the four camera operators in the house and our technical team in the booth. Unplanned events can happen. We at HMS specialize in covering live theater, music, and dance and are prepared for anything!

What is the biggest challenge you face?

Our biggest challenge on Capriccio will be covering the large scenes featuring many performers, capturing the nuances of what every person is doing on stage.

What about these broadcasts might surprise audiences?

I think that most audience members might not realize just how many people are working behind the scenes to make the television coverage happen. If they were standing in the control booth, I think they might be amazed by the constant high level of communication and activity.

What is the most fun part of the broadcast?

When our television production team is humming along in perfect sync with the performers, it's a beautiful and exhilarating time for all involved.

Learn more about the custom-made video screens for this production in the October edition of Lyric Notes, our monthly enewsletter.

Photo credits:

  • A look at the video screens during the Capriccio dress rehearsal. (Photo by Andrew Cioffi / Lyric Opera of Chicago)

 

Lyric Libations: DON GIOVANNI

Lyric's new production of Don Giovanni is so passionate that you need a cocktail just to relax after the show. Channel your favorite character with these beverages inspired by Mozart's masterpiece.

Lyric's new production of Don Giovanni is so passionate that you need a cocktail just to relax after the show. Channel your favorite character with these beverages inspired by Mozart's masterpiece.

The Don Juan 

Don Giovanni's voracious appetites are his downfall, and this drink might get you in trouble too. Like the lothario weaving his web of seduction, this drink's dangerous combination of tequila and rum has a sweet start, but an end that is not for the faint-of-heart.

  • 1 part dark rum
  • 1 part tequila
  • 1 part pineapple juice
  • ½ part grapefruit juice
  • Orange twist to garnish

Put lots of ice and all ingredients into a shaker and mix well for about 20 seconds.  Strain the mix into a chilled glass and add a twist to garnish. (Recipe from Mixed Cocktails)

Zerlina's Flirtini 

So it's your wedding day, and the champagne is flowing. Sure your peasant fiancé is loving and stable, but you can't help but cast your eyes over to the rich bad boy who just walked into the room. Why shouldn't you have it all? Get your flirt on with this sparkling drink in your hand. 

  • 1 ounce vodka
  • 2 ounces champagne
  • 2 ounces pineapple juice

Combine vodka, champagne, and pineapple juice in a highball or collins glass filled with ice. Makes 1 cocktail. For a party multiply recipe and mix in a pitcher. (Recipe from PopSugar)

The Commendatore's Corpse Reviver 

Whether you're hanging out in a cemetery or preparing for a very special dinner party, this cocktail is the perfect refresher for the recently deceased. 

  • 1 ounce gin
  • 1 ounce Cointreau
  • 1 ounce Lillet Blanc
  • 1 ounce fresh lemon juice
  • 1 dash absinthe
  • Orange peel for garnish

Shake all ingredients in a shaker, strain into a chilled cocktail glass, and garnish. (Recipe from Imbibe Magazine)

Seething Jealousy 

Sometimes the best way to deal with your raging jealousy is to drown it drown it in liquor. Maybe if Masetto would relax and have a few of these, he wouldn't find himself getting beat up and ridiculed at every turn.

  • 1 ounce sweet vermouth
  • ½  ounce Scotch
  • ½ ounce cherry brandy
  • ½ ounce fresh orange juice

Shake all ingredients with ice, then strain into a chilled cocktail glass. (Recipe from Chow.com)

Donna Anna's Vendetta 

This is the perfect way to seal a pact with your long-suffering fiancé to kill the man who murdered your father. The freshness of basil mixes with the richness of brandy to create an intoxicating brew. Possible side effects include the inability to get married for at least a year after drinking.

  • 1 ½ ounces vodka
  • 1 ½ ounces brandy
  • ¼ ounce Pernod
  • ¾ ounce bitters
  • 6 basil leaves, plus a sprig for garnish
  • Ice

Add the vodka, brandy, pernod, bitters, and basil leaves into a shaker loaded with ice. Shake until condensation forms around the shaker. Strain into a rocks glass with fresh ice and garnish with a basil sprig. (Recipe from The Daily Meal)

The Leporello 

Life is hard when your rich, entitled boss with a questionable moral compass is constantly looking to you to clean up his messes-that is when he's not trying to have you killed. When obsessive list making is not enough to calm your nerves, this very strong, very sweet, very complicated drink is another way to get away from it all.

  • ½ ounce white rum
  • 1 ½ ounces golden rum
  • 1 ounce dark rum
  • ½ ounce 151-proof rum
  • 1 ounce lime juice
  • 1 teaspoon pineapple juice
  • 1 teaspoon papaya juice
  • 1 teaspoon superfine sugar

Stir together all these ingredients except the 151 and pour into a 14-ounce collins glass three-fourths full of cracked ice. Float the 151 as a lid (by pouring it into a spoon and gently dipping it under the surface of the drink). Then, if the spirit moves you, take a match to this mixture; it will burn. Garnish with mint (either straight or dipped in lime juice and then superfine sugar) and/or fruit. (Recipe from Esquire)

Photo credits:

  • Don Giovanni production photos credit Todd Rosenberg / Lyric Opera of Chicago

 

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