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The reviews are in: TANNHÄUSER is “sexy and striking” with “powerhouse voices”

Wagner's Tannhäuser is a bucket-list opera, full of some of the composer's most dramatic and moving music, from the opening overture to the Pilgrim's Chorus. This opera has not been seen at Lyric since the 1988-89 season, and critics are calling this epic production (on stage through March 6) a must-see event.

Wagner's Tannhäuser is a bucket-list opera, full of some of the composer's most dramatic and moving music, from the opening overture to the Pilgrim's Chorus. This opera has not been seen at Lyric since the 1988-89 season, and critics are calling this epic production (on stage through March 6) a must-see event.

Chicago on the Aisle  gave it four (out of five stars), calling it "potent, sensual and yet strikingly unromanticized production." The Chicago Tribune  says that "the musical performance is glorious." The Chicago Sun-Times says this production "conveys the opera's compelling drama and transcendent vocal beauty."

Chicago Splash  simply says, "Lyric's current production is about as strong a case as you're ever going to hear for [Tannhäuser], a reminder of Wagner's ability to provide us with the same delights his title character experiences in his hedonistic paradise. Too bad we have to return to the real world."

Sir Andrew Davis and the Lyric Opera Orchestra and Chorus 

"[Tannhäuser's] true hero way well be music director Andrew Davis, drawing floods of sumptuous sound and deep-piled lyricism from the admirable Lyric Opera Orchestra. The no less demanding choral writing found Michael Black's finely disciplined chorus singing its collective heart out." - Chicago Tribune

" Lyric music director Andrew Davis conducts Tannhäuser for the first time with the dramatic conviction, musical assurance and fluent lyricism of one whose knows his Wagner inside out. The Lyric Opera Orchestra delivers at a very high level, indeed." - Chicago on the Aisle

"Longtime Lyric music director Andrew Davis, who is conducting Tannhäuser for the first time, adroitly shapes the complex, unfolding drama, paying due attention to the all-important balances in this opera and highlighting its many intimate musical moments." - Chicago Sun-Times

The Glorious Cast 

"Johan Botha offered his finest Lyric performance to date" - Chicago Classical Review

"Botha is today's definitive Tannhäuser, and he has the vocal heft, lung power and stamina to make it through to the end of a very long opera without a hint of strain." - Chicago Tribune

"Tannhäuser is one of the most difficult Wagner roles to sing, yet Johan Botha is a revelation in the role" - Chicago Splash

"The vocal pillar of this production is soprano Amber Wagner, with her commanding stage presence and forceful, affecting voice." - Chicago Sun-Times

"With her impressive performance as Elisabeth, Amber Wagner showed that she is coming into her own as a complete, major artist." - Chicago Classical Review

"A Ryan Opera Center breakout star, [Amber Wagner] produced a gleaming, ample and effortless sound that also was warm and womanly when it needed to be" - Chicago Tribune

"Gerald Finley…possesses a wonderfully expressive bass-baritone voice with surprising lightness and grace" - Chicago Sun-Times

Gerald Finley's "Wolfram was a masterful work of dramatic singing" - Chicago Classical Review

"As Wolfram, Gerald Finley threatened to run away with the show. His vocal strength was complimented by a dramatic sense that shaded the facets of the character hopelessly in love with Elisabeth, a moral paragon whose goodness is essentially unrewarded." - Chicago Splash 

Michaela Schuster "swathed in a slinky, sequined black gown, threw herself into this ungrateful role with riveting intensity and panache" - Chicago Tribune

 "John Relyea anchored the ensemble at the low end with his sonorous bass" - Chicago Classical Review

The Sensual Opening Dance 

"a sexy and striking coup de theatre" - Chicago Tribune

"A high point of the production is the beginning bacchanal, which features a swirling, electrifying dance, smartly choreographed by Jasmin Vardimon." - Chicago Sun-Times

"Vardimon perfectly captures an all-consuming love in her erotic spectacle." - The Fourth Walsh

 

Photo credits

  • Tannhäuser production photos credit Robert Kusel and Todd Rosenberg / Lyric Opera of Chicago

 

An Insider's Guide to TANNHÄUSER

Wagner's magnificent Tannhäuser is an epic tale of sin and redemption that is truly a monumental experience. Learn more about this new-to-Chicago production conducted by Sir Andrew Davis, directed by Tim Albery, and starring Johan Botha with interviews, audio previews, and more.

 

Wagner's magnificent Tannhäuser is on stage at Lyric February 9 through March 6. In this tale of sin and redemption, a wandering musician (Johan Botha) is lured into the erotic realm of the goddess Venus (Michaela Schuster). When he grows tired of her sensual delights, he returns home to his saintly beloved Elisabeth (Amber Wagner). However, he soon learns that true forgiveness is not so easily won. 

Sir Andrew Davis conducts this monumental vocal, choral, and orchestral feast that also stars Gerald Finley as Wolfram and John Relyea as the Landgrave in a new-to-Chicago production from director Tim Albery, who makes his Lyric debut. 

Click here to read the full plot synopsis, director's note, and more
in the complete Tannhäuser program book
.

Articles with insights from the cast and creative team

Closing the Circle: Sir Andrew Davis conducts Tannhäuser
Musically, stylistically, dramatically, and intellectually, there's no greater challenge for an opera conductor than the works of Richard Wagner. Sir Andrew Davis knows this very well—he waited to take them on until he became Lyric's music director in 2000. "The prospect of doing the Wagner operas was one of the most exciting things about coming to Lyric," he recalls. Fourteen years into his tenure—after The Flying Dutchman, Parsifal, the Ring, Tristan und Isolde, Lohengrin, and Die Meistersinger von Nürnberg—only one of Wagner's mature operas was left to tackle: Tannhäuser, which returns to Lyric's stage this season for the first time since 1988-89, from February 9 through March 6. READ MORE

The reviews are in: Tannhäuser is “sexy and striking” with “powerhouse voices”
Wagner's Tannhäuser is a bucket-list opera, full of some of the composer's most dramatic and moving music, from the opening overture to the Pilgrim's Chorus. This opera has not been seen at Lyric since the 1988-89 season, and critics are calling this epic production (on stage through March 6) a must-see event. Chicago on the Aisle   gave it four (out of five stars), calling it "potent, sensual and yet strikingly unromanticized production." READ MORE

Opera 101: Behind the scenes of Tannhäuser with August Tye
Wagner's Tannhäuser, which runs through March 6 at Lyric, has been earning rave reviews, especially for its epic opening dance sequence. August Tye, Lyric's ballet mistress for more than 10 years, takes us through the process of creating this sensuous depiction of Venusburg from auditions to rehearsals to opening night. READ MORE 

Tannhäuser Tweets: Why fans love this opera
Lyric's new-to-Chicago production of Wagner's Tannhäuser is the talk of Chicago. Read these tweets and posts from attendees to see why this is a can't-miss event. Our fan Miriam Scott says it best: it's a "veritable Wagner music hit parade and it's not even that long. Don't miss it." READ MORE 

Chorus member Jeffrey Taylor on Tannhäuser
As a bass with the Lyric Opera Chorus since 1981, Jeffrey Taylor has experienced countless thrilling performances firsthand. He's enthusiastic about this season's biggest choral challenge, Wagner's Tannhäuser, and why Lyric audiences should be excited to experience this massive masterpiece, unheard here since 1988. READ MORE 

Who is your Tannhäuser Valentine?
Wagner's Tannhäuser runs February 9 through March 6 at Lyric, including a performance on February 14! The hero of the opera must choose between the sensual goddess Venus and his saintly beloved Elisabeth. Who is your Tannhäuser Valentine? Take this quiz and find out! READ MORE 


Lyric U: Sopranos—how high can you go?
Get to know the soprano voice type with Renée Fleming, Anthony Freud, and Sir Andrew Davis in this Lyric U voice series installment. Plus hear examples of great soprano arias from some of the operas still on deck for this season, including "Dich, teure Halle" from Tannhäuser. READ MORE

 

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, including Wolfram's beautiful aria "O du mein holder Abendstern" (Song of the Evening Star) from Tannhäuser. READ MORE

 "Patter Up!" with Amber Wagner

Get to know the lighter side of Tannhäuser star and Ryan Opera Center alumna Amber Wagner, who also triumphed earlier this season in Verdi's Il Trovatore

 

Tannhäuser Audio Preview

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

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Lyric Libations: IL TROVATORE

Nothing says fall like Verdi's epic drama Il Trovatore (on stage until November 29). This opera truly has everything you could possibly ask for: a larger-than-life plot and blockbuster music to match. Get into the spirit with one of these delightful concoctions. You'll be singing along to The Anvil Chorus while tipsy in no time.

Nothing says fall like Verdi's epic drama Il Trovatore (on stage until November 29). This opera truly has everything you could possibly ask for: a larger-than-life plot and blockbuster music to match. Get into the spirit with one of these delightful concoctions. You'll be singing along to The Anvil Chorus while tipsy in no time. 

The Troubadour 

Channel your inner Manrico with this blackberry and white rum concoction. Warning: This drink may cause civil strife and mistaken identities. It will not cause witches to be burned at the stake or babies switched at birth.

  • 6 fresh blackberries
  • fresh mint leaves
  • 1.5  ounces white rum
  • 1/2 cup cranberry juice

In a cup or shaker, mash 3 blackberries (just enough to get the juice) and mix with mint leaves. Add shot of rum and ice, then shake. Pour into wine goblet. Add cranberry juice and sugar (to taste). Put 3 blackberries on a bamboo pick, and lay bamboo pick across the top of the goblet. Garnish with mint sprigs. (Recipe from Smarty Had a Party)

The Gypsy's Curse 

This tangy, spicy drink has nothing on Azucena's life-long bitterness. It's the perfect way to quench your thirst for revenge without plotting to have your arch-nemesis kill his long-lost brother.

  • 1 orange wedge
  • 13 cranberries
  • Three 1-inch pieces crystallized ginger- 2 minced and 1 whole for garnish
  • 2 ounces Aperol
  • 1 ounce Lillet Blanc
  • Ice
  • 4 ounces hard cider
  • 4 dashes Cranberry-Anise Bitters or Peychaud's bitters

In a cocktail shaker, muddle the orange wedge with 10 of the cranberries and the minced ginger. Add the Aperol, Lillet Blanc, bitters and ice. Shake well. Double-strain the drink into an ice-filled Collins glass and top off with the hard cider. Garnish with the 3 remaining cranberries and the slice of ginger skewered on a toothpick. (Recipe from Food & Wine)

Count di Luna's Cider Punch 

This recipe can feed an entire army of soldiers while they are waiting for you to kidnap your beloved from a convent. The combination of hard cider, whiskey, and ginger beer will keep even the sleepiest minion awake on a dark, dark night.

  • 8 cups apple cider
  • 1 750 ml. bottle of dry hard cider
  • 3 12-ounce bottles of ginger beer 
  • 1 1/2 cups whiskey
  • Juice of one lemon 
  • Several dashes orange bitters
  • 1 orange sliced into rounds, for garnish
  • Cinnamon sticks, for garnish

Combine the ciders, ginger beer, whiskey, lemon juice, and bitters in a large punch bowl or pitcher. Stir to combine. Top with orange slices and cinnamon sticks. Ladle into ice-filled punch glasses. (Recipe from Saveur)

Leonora's Amberjack

In honor of Il Trovatore star Amber Wagner, the perfect drink for the lovelorn is this cocktail that mixes two fall flavors: apple and maple syrup. It's not quite as extreme as Leonora's method for getting out of a sticky situation, but drinking a few of these will quickly wash away all of your troubles. 

  • Ice
  • 1 ounce apple vodka
  • 1/2 ounce Macallan Amber (Scotch-based maple-flavored liqueur)
  • 1/2 ounce Calvados (apple brandy)
  • 1/2 ounce fresh lime juice
  • 1 1/2 ounces chilled apple lambic
  • 1 thin green apple slice

Fill a cocktail shaker with ice. Add the vodka, Macallan Amber, Calvados and lime juice; shake well. Strain into a chilled martini glass, stir in the lambic and garnish with the apple slice. (Recipe from Food & Wine)

Photo credits:

  • Lyric's 2014-15 season production of Il Trovatore (credit Michael Brosilow)

 

 

Experience the “vocal thunder” and “visceral grit” in IL TROVATORE

"It seems like Lyric Opera can do no wrong this season"  - or so says the Chicago Classical Review. Lyric's production of Verdi's epic  Il Trovatore  is another bonafide hit. Your fall is not complete without seeing this "blazing romantic drama" (Chicago Stage Standard), now at Lyric through November 29.

"It seems like Lyric Opera can do no wrong this season"- or so says the Chicago Classical Review. Lyric's production of Verdi's epic Il Trovatore is another bonafide hit. Your fall is not complete without seeing this "blazing romantic drama" (Chicago Stage Standard), now at Lyric through November 29.

"Lyric's 'Il Trovatore' is grand opera at its finest" - Wynne Delacoma, Chicago Sun-Times

"Lyric Opera delivers the vocal thunder in a dark and combustible 'Trovatore'" - Lawrence A. Johnson, Chicago Classical Review

"an effective amalgam of visual beauty and visceral grit" - Mark Thomas Ketterson, Chicago Tribune

 "This is a performance worth seeing, if only for the tremendous performances by each star in the ensemble. Whether this is your first opera or your 60th, the Lyric's Il Trovatore does not disappoint." - Tim Corpus, Chicago Stage Standard

"I've experienced the delirious pleasure of Il Trovatore many times before, but never get tired of it—especially when the intoxicating masterpiece is mounted with Lyric's magnificent attention to detail and flair for exceptional dramatization." - Betty Mohr, Le Bon Travel and Culture

The Can't-Miss Cast 

Yonghoon Lee as Manrico

" Tall, slim and handsome, Lee unleashed his agile tenor with youthful ardor." - Wynne Delacoma, Chicago Sun-Times

" the Korean tenor sang with imposing power and lyric sensitivity" - Lawrence A. Johnson, Chicago Classical Review

"he is like a reborn Golden Age tenor having returned to the opera stage." - William Burnett, Opera Warhorses

Quinn Kelsey as Count di Luna

"Kelsey has now fully graduated into the leading Verdi baritone roles he was clearly born to sing." - Mark Thomas Ketterson, Chicago Tribune

"the Ryan Center alum proved an explosive presence as Count di Luna" - Lawrence A. Johnson, Chicago Classical Review

"While singing his heartfelt aria about his love for Leonora, his performance shakes you to the point where, for a moment, you forget he is the bad guy." - Tim Corpus, Chicago Stage Standard  

Amber Wagner as Leonora

"It was clear from the first time Lyric put her on a Chicago stage that Wagner has that rarity, a voice that's not just excellent but—in its power and unique timbre—actually thrilling over most of its range. That voice, like a searchlight in a room full of candles, is magnificently on display in Lyric Opera's current production of Giuseppe Verdi's Il Trovatore." - Deanna Isaacs, Chicago Reader

"Amber Wagner spun reams of gorgeous, creamy tone"  - Mark Thomas Ketterson, Chicago Tribune

"Amber Wagner brought the crowd to a roaring applause" - Tim Corpus, Chicago Stage Standard

"…she belongs in any list of the world's great Verdian sopranos" - William Burnett, Opera Warhorses

Stephanie Blythe as Azucena

Stephanie Blythe's "big, rich mezzo-soprano combined both ringing clarity and smoky depths as the tormented gypsy poured out her tale of sorrow and vengeance." - Wynne Delacoma, Chicago Sun-Times

"As Azucena, Stephanie Blythe comes through with a delicious mezzo-soprano that reverberates with her tale of woe and desire for revenge." - Betty Mohr, Le Bon Travel and Culture

"No singer can sing everything, with just one caveat: Stephanie Blythe. Her characterization of the gypsy Azucena was appropriately gripping, and I’m certain she could have been heard in the theater at any vocal level she desired from the comfort of her dressing room." - Aaron Hunt, New City

The Lyric Opera Orchestra and Chorus

"Conductor Asher Fisch drew a most satisfying account of the score from his players (not to mention those anvils!)." - Mark Thomas Ketterson, Chicago Tribune

"Even by their current elevated standard, Michael Black's chorus sang with tremendous strength and sonorous impact, with the soldier's choruses especially resounding."  - Lawrence A. Johsnon, Chicago Classical Review

"Soft-edged, plangent woodwinds underscored the opera's melancholy mood, and pulsing strings were a comforting presence its opera's quiet moments. But when the famous Anvil Chorus erupted, the dry ring of massive hammers on unforgiving metal was both thrilling and chilling." - Wynne DelacomaChicago Sun-Times

Photo credits

  • Lyric Opera of Chicago's production of Il Trovatore (credit Michael Brosilow)

 

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