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Ryan Opera Center Spotlight: John Irvin

Learn more about Ryan Opera Center member John Irvin, including how he almost becamse a pianist instead of a singer. This third-year ensemble member has been on stage this season in The Passenger, Anna Bolena, and Capriccio. See him as part of Rising Stars in Concert on March 21. 

Tenor John Irvin is a third-year singer in Lyric's renowned Ryan Opera Center. He just completed his Ryan Opera Center mainstage experience by playing one of the SS Officers in Weinberg's The Passenger, but he has also portrayed many memorable roles here at Lyric, including key characters in Anna Bolena, Capriccio, The Family Barber, Die Fledermaus, Parsifal, La Traviata, Otello, Die Meistersinger von Nürnberg, and more. 

John's final performance at Lyric is the upcoming Rising Stars in Concert on Saturday, March 21. (Donate $75 or more today to secure your place at that exciting concert.) 

Name: John Irvin
Age: 30
Voice: Tenor
Year in ROC: 3rd Year
Hometown: Atlanta, Georgia
Dream Role: Title role in Massenet's Werther

When did you start singing? When did you know you wanted to be a singer?

I started singing when I was 23, in choir at Georgia Perimeter College. I was a studying to be a pianist and didn't have any plans on pursuing singing as a career; I just sang for fun at school and in my spare time as a backup singer for a local band. It wasn't until Linda, who is now my wife, introduced me to my first voice teacher, that I considered an operatic career as a possibility. Once I started private lessons, I fell in love with the art and it became my primary focus.

Did you ever consider a career other than singing? And if you had to imagine an alternative career now, what would it be?

I always had a very narrow focus, even from early on. Though I've had many outside interests, I've always known that I would want to pursue a career in music. I started playing the clarinet and piano at a young age and considered everything from composition to performance.

What was the most memorable performance you've been in at this point in your career?

Performing my first Beethoven 9 [Beethoven's Symphony No. 9] in Melbourne, Australia. On my left stood Bryn Terfel and on my right Sir Andrew Davis; both incredible artists in their own right! It was a night I will never forget.

How have you progressed as a singer during your three years in the Ryan Opera Center?

Besides the immense number of performance opportunities I have been given, I've learned to cherish the fundamentals of this art, making the music my number one priority. The network of coaches and artists here at Lyric have helped to me to not only collaborate but to define myself as my own artist, shaping my personal vision and artistic interpretations.

 
Irvin pictured with Juliane Banse in Die Fledermaus (top) and Sondra Radvanovsky during rehearsals for Anna Bolena (bottom)

When you're not performing or rehearsing, where are we likely to find you?

At home, playing piano, watching movies or playing video games!

Photo credits:

  • John Irvin portrait credit Devon Cass
  • Lyric Opera of Chicago production photos credit Todd Rosenberg, Dan Rest, and Robert Kusel. 
  • Backstage photos courtesy John Irvin.
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Ryan Opera Center Spotlight: J’nai Bridges

Learn all about third-year Ryan Opera Center member J'nai Bridges in this artist spotlight. This talented young mezzo-soprano speaks Japanese and will be representing the United States in the upcoming BBC Cardiff Singer of the World competition. She is currently on stage in The Passenger through March 15.

Ryan Opera Center member J'nai Bridges is an exciting young singer who can currently be seen on stage in Weinberg's The Passenger  as Vlasta. You might also recognize her from previous appearances at Lyric in productions ranging from Il Trovatore, The Magic Victrola, The Family Barber, La Traviata, Parsifal, The Second City Guide to the Opera, and more!


J'nai Bridges in The Family Barber and The Second City Guide to the Opera
(top L-R); La Traviata and The Magic Victrola (bottom L-R)

In addition to her hard work on stage at Lyric, she was just named as one of 20 international finalists for the prestigious BBC Cardiff Singer of the World competition in June.

Catch J'nai in The Passenger  through March 15 and at Rising Stars in Concert on March 21, which marks her official "graduation" from the Ryan Opera Center. (Donate $75 or more today to secure your place at this exciting performance.) She'll also make a welcome return to Chicago in the 2015-16 season when she portrays Carmen in the world-premiere performances of Jimmy López's Bel Canto, which opens on December 7. 

Name J'nai Bridges
Age  28
Voice Mezzo-soprano
Year in ROC 3rd Year
Hometown Lakewood, Washington
Dream Role Charlotte in Werther

When did you start singing? When did you know you wanted to be a singer?

I started singing classically when I was 17, my senior year in high school. I knew I wanted to be an opera singer after my freshman year at Manhattan School of Music. 

Did you ever consider a career other than singing? And if you had to imagine an alternative career now, what would it be?

Yes, I considered studying psychology. I find the mind really fascinating. 

What was the most memorable performance you've been in at this point in your career?

I have a couple of most memorable moments. The first is performing Act IV from Carmen at Stars of Lyric Opera in Millennium Park in 2012 and the second is making my Chicago Symphony Orchestra debut under the baton of Matthew Aucoin.

 
J'nai Bridges and Brandon Jovanovich perform in Carmen at Stars of Lyric Opera in Millennium Park

What is something most people don't know about you?

I speak Japanese.

When you're not performing or rehearsing, where are we likely to find you?

At home or in some sort of spa relaxing

Learn more about J'nai and Cardiff Singer of the World in this Lyric Spotlight video:

J'nai Bridges interviewed by WFMT before a performance of The Passenger:

 

Photo credits:

  • J'nai Bridges portrait credit Devon Cass
  • Lyric Opera of Chicago production photos credit Todd Rosenberg (Family Barber, La Traviata, and The Magic Victrola); Dan Rest (The Second City Guide to the Opera); and Robert Kusel (Stars of Lyric Opera at Millennium Park, 2012)

 

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“A game-changer for opera” – Audiences react to THE PASSENGER

See what audiences are saying about Weinberg's gripping opera, The Passenger. Suppressed for over 40 years, this opera is only now receiving the recognition it deserves through this magnificent and moving production on stage at Lyric through March 15. 

See what audiences are saying about Weinberg's gripping opera, The Passenger. Suppressed for over 40 years, this opera is only now receiving the recognition it deserves through this magnificent and moving production from director David Pountney with incredible set designs from the late Johan Engels. It is on stage only through March 15, so do not miss this opportunity to see this rarely performed modern masterpiece. 

Photo credits:

 

  • The Passenger at Lyric Opera of Chicago production photos credit Michael Brosilow and Robert Kusel

 

THE PASSENGER is “virtually flawless” and “profoundly moving”

The Midwest premiere of Weinberg's The Passenger is onstage at Lyric through March 15. The Chicago Tribune gives this production a perfect four stars and deems it "an experience in the theater that is not to be missed." Read more critical praise for this haunting and powerful opera.

 

The Midwest premiere of Weinberg's The Passenger  is onstage at Lyric through March 15. The Chicago Tribune  gives this production a perfect four stars and deems it "an experience in the theater that is not to be missed." Here is more critical praise for this haunting and powerful opera.

"A virtually flawless performance and [David] Pountney's definitive production justify the decision of Lyric general director Anthony Freud to bring 'The Passenger' to Chicago….If this is a harbinger of fresh directions at Freud's Lyric Opera, then bring them on, I say." - Chicago Tribune

"With a faultless large cast and striking and imaginative production, one can't imagine Weinberg's dark yet hopeful opera receiving stronger advocacy." - Chicago Classical Review

The Passenger is "a compelling opera that manages the nearly impossible task of shedding meaningful light on the horror of Auschwitz." - Chicago Sun-Times

"Pountney's staging sweeps us from present to past with the fluidity of film, using an ingenious unit set the late designer Johan Engels based on Medvedev's original concept." - Chicago Tribune

The Passenger "stunningly powerful" and a "tasteful testimony to the courage and heroism of the human spirit." - Chicago Critic

"stunning" -  Chicago on the Aisle

Sir Andrew Davis and the Lyric Opera Orchestra and Chorus 

Sir Andrew Davis "conducted with searing authority" - Chicago on the Aisle

"Davis harnesses the power and sensitivity of his instrumental forces to undergird the emotional trajectory of the work." - Chicago Tribune

"The crisp rhythmic definition and propulsive energy Davis brings to Weinberg's sometimes spiky, sometimes nostalgically jazzy orchestra reminds us he is as much a master of 20th century music as he is of Mozart and Strauss. He secures admirable work from the orchestra and the Michael Black-trained chorus, at the top of their game at the end of a demanding 60th anniversary season." - Chicago Tribune

"The level of scrupulous preparation was manifest in every bar, with Davis's acute balancing bringing out every quirky detail of the score from the haunting celesta tones to the sardonic xylophone writing." - Chicago Classical Review

The impressive cast 

"Lyric has assembled an impressive array of singers who managed to make every Auschwitz inmate and prison guard a vivid, individual character."  - Chicago Sun-Times

 "Amanda Majeski is already on a fast track to a major career, but as Marta, the former Ryan Opera Center member delivered a shattering, star-making performance. " - Chicago Classical Review

 "Her ringing soprano glistened like Waterford crystal, combining transparent fragility with soulful strength." - Chicago Sun-Times

Amanda Majeski's "singing is pure, shining and true.  She has done nothing finer at the company that launched her international career." - Chicago Tribune

"Mezzo-soprano Daveda Karanas, who last season sang Kundry in Wagner's Parsifal, is riveting as the panicked woman Liese" - Chicago on the Aisle

Karanas  "delivered a superbly rounded performance, singing with a big tone and proved credible as both the frightened wife and scarily sadistic Auschwitz guard." - Chicago Classical Review

"The soft edges of Karanas's rich mezzo-soprano conveyed Liese's terror, but her tone became appropriately commanding in her scenes as a manipulative SS guard. " - Chicago Sun-Times

"With his powerful heldentenor Brandon Jovanovich brought daunting vocal strength to the somewhat thankless role of Walter, Liese's diplomat husband." - Chicago Classical Review

"A fine singer with real acting chops, Jovanovich is convincing as a mostly good guy, with a propped-up image of himself that he is keen to defend." - Chicago on the Aisle

 "As Tadeusz, Marta's fiancé, Joshua Hopkins used his rich baritone to create a calm, moral center amid the madness of Auschwitz." -Chicago Sun-Times

"Notable among Marta's richly individualized community of barrack companions are soprano Kelly Kaduce as the tough-minded Russian freedom fighter Katya, who can't quite remember all the words to the old folk song her grandmother used to sing; dramatic soprano Nina Warren as a crazed older woman who's the only survivor from her group of arrivals, and mezzo-soprano Liuba Sokolova as determinedly faithful Bronka, who lights candles to God and insists He will not forget even the ones who have given themselves up utterly to the idea that they are forsaken." - Chicago on the Aisle

Photo credits:

  • The Passenger at Lyric Opera of Chicago production photos credit Michael Brosilow and Robert Kusel

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