Lyric Opera of Chicago

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Popera!

What happens when opera goes pop? There's a grand tradition of opera stars teaming up with pop stars to create memorable collaborations. Here are a few of our favorite results when musical genres collide.

What happens when opera goes pop? There's a grand tradition of opera stars teaming up with pop stars to create memorable collaborations. Here are a few of our favorite examples (both exciting and unexpected) of when what happens when musical genres collide!

Lyric's creative consultant Renée Fleming is known for her diverse musical interests. Here she is with the late Lou Reed perform "The Perfect Day" in Prague in 2009. The performance was part of the celebrations of the 20th anniversary of Czechoslovakia's Velvet Revolution. 

 

And she has also partnered with crooner Josh Groban, performing a medley from Brigadoon.

 

The adventurous Anne Sofie von Otter (starring as Clairon in Strauss's Capriccio  from October 6-28)  is not afraid to expand her musical horizons. She collaborated on an album with Elvis Costello in 2001, and they performed the title track, "For the Stars," on The Late Show with David Letterman.

 

As a native of Sweden, it only seems natural that she would release an album of covers of ABBA songs and others written by Benny Andersson and Björn Ulvaeus. Here is her cover of  ABBA's "Like An Angel Passing Through My Room."

 

To celebrate Barcelona being chosen for the 1988 Olympics, pop icon Freddie Mercury and the great soprano (and Barcelona native) Montserrat Caballé teamed up to record a theme song, fittingly titled "Barcelona." They went on to record an entire album together, which would be Mercury's last.

 

Luciano Pavarotti is the king of pop duets. His "Pavarotti and Friends" concerts featured duets with U2, Lou Reed (another "Perfect Day" rendition), Sheryl Crow, and others. Here he is performing "It's a Man's World" with James Brown.

 

And he performed "I Hate You, Then I Love You" with diva Céline Dion.

 

Like Pavarotti, who joined him as one of "The Three Tenors," Plácido Domingo has also achieved a great deal of crossover success. He had a hit on the Billboard Hot 100 with "Perhaps Love," a duet with John Denver recorded in 1981.

 

And he's performed with his Muppet alter ego Plácido Flamingo on Sesame Street.

 

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

Catching up with Chorus Master Michael Black

Even more Michael Black! Lyric's chorus master was featured in the August edition of Lyric Notes, and here is some bonus info from that interview.

In our August edition of Lyric Notes, Lyric's Chorus Master Michael Black takes us through some of the choral highlights of the 2014-15 season, including Lyric's mainstage production of Verdi's Il Trovatore and the two very special Chorus showcases at Chicago's Fourth Presbyterian Church on September 12 and Evanston's Alice Millar Chapel on November 22.

Here are some tidbits that we couldn't fit into the article, including his history with the opera, why he loves Sir David McVicar's productions, and what this Aussie has been doing over his Lyric vacation.

Il Trovatore is one of the standards of the operatic repertoire—what is your history with the piece?

I've prepared Trovatore perhaps five or six times on two different productions at Opera Australia. The first production was a delightful Elijah Moshinsky production and, a few years earlier, premiered with Dame Joan Sutherland as Leonore. Coincidentally when I first worked on the piece the conductor was Dame Joan's husband Richard Bonynge. I have also had the dubious distinction of being one of two anvil players at every performance of Trovatore I have been involved in. [Black will stay behind the scenes in Lyric's production. Watch for some talented supernumeraries to provide the signature anvil clash!]

Reading about Sir David McVicar's production of Trovatore, one of the advantages of moving the action to the early 1800s is that the gypsies in the Anvil Chorus are actually forging weapons.  How do you prepare the Chorus for this iconic scene?

Fortunately, as with all amazing directors, Sir David uses actors to give the illusion that the chorus is moving and performing strenuous moves. He lets the chorus sing! They just have to keep out of the way of the anvils!

How have you been keeping busy this summer? Can you let us in on some of your travels and the musical projects that keep you busy in the off-season?

I arrived back in Sydney the day of my son Liam's 18th birthday, and then took off to thaw out after the incredibly cold Chicago winter by relaxing by a pool in Bali with my Kindle catching up on some reading whilst getting some sun. Apart from the Bali trip I was in Sydney the entire time where I was lucky enough to do a short stint as répétiteur [rehearsal pianist and coach] on a terrific Harry Kupfer production of Otello at the Sydney Opera House. It was a treat listening to my old chorus from a distance and having absolutely no responsibility for them!

Photo credits:

  • Michael Black poses with Lyric Opera Chorus members backstage during various productions from last season: Otello, Madama Butterfly, and Parsifal. (Photos courtesy Michael Black.)

An Insider's Guide to DON GIOVANNI

Lyric's 60th season opens with a new production of Mozart's Don Giovanni. Here is your complete insider's guide with video, articles, photos, and more.

Lyric opens its Diamond Anniversary season with a spectacular new production of Mozart's Don Giovanni. Directed by Robert Falls and conducted by Sir Andrew Davis, the classic story of the charismatic and dangerous seducer is updated to the 1920s. Here is your inside look at the amazing cast, design, and history that are informing Lyric's bold new take.

Don Juan—selfish, arrogant, dangerous. With a list of conquests longer than a phonebook, Don Giovanni (Mariusz Kwiecień) travels the world, seducing thousands of willing (and unwilling) women with the help of his wingman Leporello (Kyle Ketelsen). But when lust turns to murder, three of his victims—Donna Anna (Marina Rebeka), Donna Elvira (Ana María Martínez), and Zerlina (Andriana Chuchman)—join forces for revenge. One of the greatest operas ever written, this darkly comic tale of seduction and punishment is Mozart’s masterpiece.

Stage director Robert Falls discusses the new production

 

Meet the Don Giovanni Design Team

 

Articles with insights from the cast and creative team

Critics love Lyric's “bold, provocative, hot-blooded” Don Giovanni
Lyric's Diamond Anniversary season has started off in style. Critics are raving about the new production of Mozart's Don Giovanni from renowned director Robert Falls of the Goodman Theatre, with Lyric's music director Sir Andrew Davis on the podium. Seductive and stunning, this is the can't-miss event of the fall season. Here are just a few reasons why. READ MORE 

Don Giovanni Breaks Bad: A Conversation with Robert Falls
Known for his visionary and challenging productions as artistic director of the Goodman Theatre, Robert Falls returns to Lyric with Don Giovanni. In this interview, Falls takes us inside the process for reinventing this operatic masterpiece. READ MORE 

Designing Don Giovanni
Opera’s irresistible bad-boy seducer, Don Giovanni, is getting a whole different look at Lyric this fall. In the new production staged by Robert Falls, the Don will suavely work his wiles like a star of the silver screen, circa 1920s—but in living color. READ MORE
 

Ana María Martínez Dishes…
Donna Elvira, the woman scorned by Don Giovanni, holds a special place in the heart of Ana María Martínez, who has a lot to say about her fierce character. “She is a woman ahead of her time, very independent in her thinking, her approach to what she wants, her determination, her clarity,” says the soprano.READ MORE

Rolling with the Don: A wild ride with Mozart's most fascinating character
An in-depth Q&A with barihunk Mariusz Kwiecień, the native of Krakow, Poland, who is starring as the legendary womanizer on stage here at Lyric. READ MORE

Giovanni's Ladies
When Lyric opens the 2014-15 season with Mozart's Don Giovanni, the female roles will be sung by an extraordinary trio of sopranos—Andriana Chuchman, Ana María Martínez, and Marina Rebeka—each beautiful to behold and dazzling to hear. READ MORE

On the Couch: Don Giovanni
He’s opera’s most notorious bad boy—seducing women across the globe and leaving not just broken hearts, but also broken homes in his wake. Here’s a peek at the psyche of this fascinating character from the point of view of his therapist.  
READ MORE

Don Giovanni: A Lyric Photo History
Did you know that Don Giovanni actually was the very first production presented by what would become Lyric Opera of Chicago in 1954? Here's a look at how this monumental opera has evolved over the years. READ MORE

The Enduring Influence of Don Giovanni
Mozart's Don Giovanni, which opens Lyric's 2014-15 season on September 27, has a long history and an even longer legacy. Based on the Don Juan legends that date back to the early 1600s, about 150 years before Mozart's opera premiered, the opera has become an enduring cultural touchstone, perhaps because of its intoxicating mix of comedy, tragedy, and the supernatural. READ MORE

 

Don Giovanni Audio Preview

Music director Sir Andrew Davis shares the synopsis and excerpts from Mozart's masterpiece. Recordings used by permission of EMI Classics.

 

Ryan Opera Center’s Busy Summer

The members of Lyric's Ryan Opera Center are keeping busy this summer. Read more about what they've been up to, plus two opportunities to see these talented young musicians in performance. 

Though the stage at Lyric might be dark until September, The Patrick G. and Shirley W. Ryan Opera Center 2014-15 ensemble has already been hard at work. Summer activities have included voice lessons and coachings, as well as instruction and classes in languages, movement, and acting--including improv with The Second City. Ensemble members have also performed a concert with the Civic Orchestra of Chicago and a workshop production of Don Giovanni. They most recently participated in a weeklong working session for Bel Canto, the new Lyric commission that has its world premiere in December 2015. Read more about the Bel Canto creative process

Want to see the fruits of their labors? Here are two opportunities to watch the ensemble members perform live this summer:

Lyric Shorts - Rush Hour Concerts Summer Music Series
Tuesday, July 29 at 5:45pm
St. James Cathedral (65 E. Huron St., Chicago)

The popular ongoing Lyric Shorts program, a staple of Rush Hour's summer series, returns with excerpts from Mozart's Don Giovanni, which opens Lyric's 2014-15 season on Saturday, September 27. Ensemble members Anthony Clark Evans, John Irvin, Will Liverman, Julie Anne Miller, Hlengiwe Mkhwanazi, Richard Ollarsaba, Laura Wilde, and Maureen Zoltek (piano) perform selections with narration by Roger Pines, Lyric's dramaturg. This presentation is free and open to the public, and will also be broadcast live on 98.7WFMT and streamed online at wfmt.com

Bolcom and Mozart - Grant Park Music Festival
Wednesday, August 13 at 6:30pm
Pritzker Pavilion, Millennium Park

J'nai Bridges, Julie Anne Miller, Anthony Clark Evans and Will Liverman will join the Grant Park Orchestra in a performance of a collection of William Bolcom's Cabaret Songs, conducted by Carlos Kalmar. Mozart's Symphony No. 25 and Piston's Suite from The Incredible Flutist are also on the program. Bolcom is a Pulitzer Prize-winning composer; Lyric commissioned and premiered three of his operas: A Wedding (2004-05), A View from the Bridge (1999-2000), and  McTeague (1992-93).

To reserve a seat in the Pritzker Pavilion for $25, call 312-742-7638 or visit gpmf.org. Seating on the lawn is free and open to the public. This concert will also be broadcast live on 98.7WFMT and streamed online at wfmt.com.

Photo credit: 

  • The 2014-15 Ryan Opera Center Ensemble. Bottom row: J'nai Bridges, Maureen Zoltek, Will Liverman; Middle row: Laura Wilde, Tracy Cantin, Hlengiwe Mkhwanazi, Julie Anne Miller; Top row: Richard Ollarsaba, Bradley Smoak, Jesse Donner, Anthony Clark Evans, John Irvin, Jonathan Johnson (credit Dan Rest / Lyric Opera of Chicago)

 

 

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