Lyric Opera of Chicago

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You can never get enough “Summertime”

Lyric's production of Gershwin's Porgy and Bess might not open until November 17, but July is the perfect time to enjoy the opera's opening aria "Summertime," which has become one of the most beloved songs in American music. Here are just a few of our favorite covers that showcase its versatility from a sampling of diverse artists. 

Lyric's production of Gershwin's Porgy and Bess  might not open until November 17, but July is the perfect time to enjoy the opera's opening aria "Summertime," which has become one of the most beloved songs in American music. Its popularity has grown far beyond the operatic world—it's been covered more than 25,000 times (according to the New York Times) by artists of all genres.

Billie Holiday released the first hit cover in 1936, one year after the opera opened. This started a trend of artists making their mark on this great song.  Here are just a few of our favorites that showcase its versatility from a sampling of diverse artists.  

Miles Davis and arranger Gil Evans created one of the most iconic versions on his 1959 album Porgy and Bess, which featured several selections from the opera.

 


The Ramsey Lewis Trio also did a more up-tempo jazz version in 1961. (You can see Ramsey Lewis here at Lyric at our 60th Anniversary Concert on November 1!)

 


R& B singer Billy Stewart arranged the song to accommodate his distinctive scat singing style in 1966.

 


Beninoise singer Angélique Kidjo completely transformed the song into a choral chant backed with percussion on her 2009 best-of collection.

 


British invasion favorites The Zombies, best known for "She's Not There" and "Time of the Season," covered the song in 1965.

 


Soul singer Sam Cooke recorded a cover as the B-side to his single "You Send Me," released in 1957.

 

 
The Doors covered the song in a way that only they can. It feels like it could morph into "Break on Through" at any moment. This live version is from a 1970 concert in Boston.

 


"Summertime" goes surf in this cover by The Ventures (an instrumental band known for "Hawaii Five-O") from 1963.

 

 
Sting covers the song live in concert with the Dutch Orchestra of the 21st Century in this clip from 1990.

 


Turkish pianist Fazil Say performs a solo piano version as an encore after a performance with the Frankfurt Radio Symphony in January 2013:

 


And finally, this is perhaps our favorite for the sheer novelty: Clara Rockmore covers the song on theremin with her sister on piano! (A theremin is an early electronic instrument, patented in 1928, that has been used by everyone from Shostakovich to Led Zeppelin.)

 

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

Jane Lynch—Double Emmy Nominee

Congratulations to Jane Lynch, who has received nominations in two categories for the 2014 Emmys. She is hosting Lyric's 60th Anniversary Concert on Saturday, November 1.

Congratulations to Jane Lynch, who received two nominations for the 2014 Emmy Awards: Outstanding Narrator for her work on Penguins: Waddle All the Way on the Discovery Channel and Outstanding Host for a Reality or Reality Competition Series as host of the always-hilarious Hollywood Game Night on NBC. These are her fifth and sixth nominations. She was an Emmy winner in 2010 for Outstanding Supporting Actress in a Comedy Series for her role as Sue Sylvester on Glee. This year's Emmys are on August 25, and we'll be hoping for a double win!

If you haven't heard the news, Lynch is hosting Lyric's star-studded 60th Anniversary Concert on Saturday, November 1. This one-night-only celebration features a Sir Andrew Davis leading the Lyric Opera Orchestra and Chorus, a host of incredible operatic talent—plus jazz legend Ramsey Lewis and comedy from The Second City.

Do you have your tickets? Don't delay—they are going fast! Lyric's own Renée Fleming is performing and has a special invitation just for you:

 

Photo credit

  • Jane Lynch on Hollywood Game Night (courtesy NBC.com)

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. Read on to find out which compositions, films, and authors have been influenced by this masterful opera. 

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. And did you know that famous libertine Casanova perhaps even played a small role in the composition of this piece, since he was acquainted with librettist Lorenzo da Ponte?

These tales of a serial womanizer would inspire other great works of art across the centuries, including Molière's comedy Dom Juan ou le Festin de pierre (1665), Lord Bryon's epic poem Don Juan (1821), and the recent film Don Jon (2013), which placed the lover in modern New Jersey. 

Since its premiere to rapturous reviews in Prague in 1787, Don Giovanni remains one of the most widely admired and most influential operas ever written. Playwright George Bernard Shaw deemed it "perfect." Novelist Gustave Flaubert called Don Giovanni one of "the three finest things God ever made." The other two? Hamlet and the sea. In addition to its literary influence, the musical themes woven throughout the work inspired other composers.

Franz Liszt wrote Réminiscences de Don Juan, an opera fantasy for piano, performed here by Lang Lang (who you can see in recital at Lyric on Saturday, May 9, 2015):

 

Frédéric Chopin wrote Variations on "Là ci darem la mano" for Orchestra and Piano, based on the love duet from the opera:

 

And Ludwig van Beethoven was also inspired by this famous duo, writing his own variations: 

 

And here are just a few examples of how music from the opera has been used in some more current adaptations! The composition of the opera is a pivotal moment in the Oscar-winning film by Miloš Forman, Amadeus:

 

 

It also provides the backdrop for an intense scene in Sherlock Holmes: A Game of Shadows, Guy Ritchie's take on the famed detective starring Robert Downey, Jr.

 

The aria that inspired Beethoven and Chopin also pops up on The Muppet Show:

 

And just for fun, here's a famous Don, Luciano Pavarotti, with an unusual Zerlina-singer-songwriter Sheryl Crow.

     

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

 

60th Anniversary Sneak Peek: Jeanne Gang Concert Shell Taking Shape

The new Jeanne Gang-designed concert shell is taking shape! The shell will debut at Lyric's 60th Anniversary Concert on November 1, and work is now well underway on the logistics of building the structure, including choosing materials.

The new Jeanne Gang-designed concert shell is taking shape! The shell will debut at Lyric's 60th Anniversary Concert on November 1, and work is now well underway on the logistics of building the structure, including choosing materials. Pictured above are different wood species, cuts, and stains that Lyric and Studio Gang have been considering for the finished surface. To test how the shell would take to light on stage, a small section of the ceiling of the shell was built, to show how the area with the tightest curves would look.

The winner? Jeanne Gang selected rift cut white oak with a natural clear-coat stain. Rift cut wood is manufactured by milling perpendicular to the log's growth rings, producing a linear grain pattern with no flecking. Rift sawn lumber is the most dimensionally stable cut of lumber available and has a unique linear appearance; both qualities are important for the project's design and construction. 

Here's a look at what the finished product will look like (on the right) with a view of the Ardis Krainik Theatre on the left.

Learn more about Jeanne Gang and this exciting project  

And don't miss out on this one-night-only event that features Jane Lynch, Renée Fleming, Ramsey Lewis, Christine Goerke, Ana María Martínez, Eric Owens, The Second City, and more. Get your seats before they are gone!

Photo credits:

  • New concert shell in progress (credit Carrie Krol / Lyric Opera of Chicago)
  • A view of Lyric's Ardis Krainik Theatre with a rendering of the concert shell design. (Courtesy of Studio Gang Architects, Original Photography - Jon Miller, Hedrich Blessing)

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