Lyric Opera of Chicago

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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 our latest Lyric U voice series installment. Plus hear examples of great soprano arias from some of the operas still on deck for this season: Anna Bolena, Tosca, Porgy and Bess, and Tannhäuser.

The soprano voice is one of the most recognizable in opera, with many famous arias and indelible images (Brünnhilde in a Viking hat, anyone?) that are immediately recognizable.

But what exactly is a soprano? And what kind of roles does that voice usually portray in opera? In our latest Lyric U video, Lyric's own Anthony Freud, Sir Andrew Davis, and Renée Fleming discuss the soprano with a few key musical excerpts sprinkled throughout.

 

Looking for some outstanding soprano roles at Lyric?  Here are just a few of the great arias featured this season.

Anna Bolena - "Coppia iniqua"

Donizetti's bel canto gem tells the story of Henry VIII, Anne Boleyn, and Jane Seymour. Though it takes some historical license, all is forgiven when the singers' vocal fireworks are unleashed. Sondra Radanovsky takes on the role here at Lyric from December 6 through January 16. Here is Anna Netrebko performing "Coppia iniqua" from the Metropolitan Opera's 2011 production:

 

Tosca - "Vissi d'arte"

This season features one of the greatest soprano roles, the diva to end all divas: Tosca. Puccini's gut-wrenching story features a number of incredible musical moments, but none is quite so magical as "Vissi d'arte," Tosca's beautiful aria describing how she's lived for art and love, only to have fate turn against her. This season, you have two chances to hear this wonderful piece interpreted with Tatiana Serjan and Hui He both starring in the new-to-Lyric production from January 24 to March 14.

Here's Sondra Radvanovsky performing the aria in the Metropolitan Opera's production from 2011:

 

Porgy and Bess - "Summertime"

"Summertime" is arguably the most famous aria from Gershwin's Porgy and Bess—and it has become a popular tune outside the opera (here's ample evidence!). The great Kathleen Battle performs the opera's opening aria with the Montreal Symphony Orchestra, led by Charles Dutoit:

 

Tannhäuser - "Dich, teure Halle"

Ryan Opera Center alumna Amber Wagner does double-duty this season; in addition to portraying Leonora in Il Trovatore, she comes back in February for Richard Wagner's Tannhäuser, which features some of the composer's most majestic music. If you missed Amber Wagner performing this at Lyric's 60th Anniversary Concert,  here is a historic recording of the incomparable Birgit Nilsson performing Elisabeth's greeting, "Dich, teure Halle":

 

Il Trovatore - "Tacea la notte placida"

Verdi's Il Trovatore is filled with show-stopping numbers, including the Anvil Chorus, but the character of Leonora has a beautiful aria in Act 2 describing the first time she heard the serenade of the troubadour Manrico. Amber Wagner took on the role at Lyric in October and November, and here is Barbara Frittoli in a production from La Scala in 2001:

 

Photo credits:

  • Sondra Radvanovsky in Anna Bolena (credit Todd Rosenberg / Lyric Opera of Chicago)
  • Adina Aaron in Porgy and Bess (credit Todd Rosenberg / Lyric Opera of Chicago)
  • Tatiana Serjan (credit Todd Rosenberg)
  • Hui He (courtesy Zemsky/Green Artist Managment)
  • Amber Wagner at Lyric's 60th Anniversary Concert (credit Michael Brosilow / Lyric Opera of Chicago)
  • Amber Wagner in Verdi's Il Trovatore (credit Michael Brosilow / Lyric Opera of Chicago)

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

Our Diamond Anniversary season has all of the hits

There's something for everyone in Lyric's 2014/15 season, including some of opera's must recognizable music from Don Giovanni, Il Trovatore, Tosca, and more! Read on to see and  hear some of this season's hit tunes. 

There's something for everyone in Lyric's 2014/15 season, including some of opera's must recognizable tunes. You might know some of these selections outside of their operatic homes—come and see these famous songs as you only can see them at Lyric, with the grandest staging and finest musicians.

Don Giovanni 

On stage September 27 to October 29

The Champagne Aria

Mariusz Kwiecień performs the Champagne Aria from Don Giovanni in this video from the Royal Opera House, Covent Garden's 2014 production. The song is an ode to the fabulous party that the Don is planning, yet another occasion for him to add to his list of conquests. Kwiecień plays a Giovanni who has smoldering movie star charisma in Lyric's brand-new production from renowned stage director Robert Falls, which updates the setting to 1920s Spain.

 

 "La ci darem la mano"

This love duet between the duplicitous Don and the naïve Zerlina is one of the most well-known in the operatic repertoire. The odd couple of Luciano Pavarotti and Sheryl Crow have teamed up to perform it in concert! Once again is Mariusz Kwiecień, Lyric's Giovanni, with Mojca Erdmann as Zerlina.

 

(Metropolitan Opera, 2011)

Il Trovatore 

On stage October 27 to November 29

The Anvil Chorus

You've heard it in commercials and in films—now come see it on Lyric's stage! The Anvil Chorus from Verdi's Il Trovatore is one of the most famous tunes in opera. You're sure to be humming it for days after you see it in performance. Here is the incredible scene from director Sir David McVicar's epic production. 

 

(Metropolitan Opera, 2011)

Porgy and Bess 

On stage November 17  to December 20

"Summertime" and more…

Gershwin's Porgy and Bess is filled with an incredible number of songs that have made their way into the popular songbook, including "Summertime," "Bess, You Is My Woman Now," "I Got Plenty o' Nuttin," "It Ain't Necessarily So."  Here's a highlight reel of some of those amazing songs as performed at the San Francisco Opera in 2009 —and this is the very same production that will be right here at Lyric with Eric Owens as Porgy.

 

Tosca 

On stage January 24 to March 14

"Vissi d'arte"

Puccini's gut-wrenching story features a number of incredible musical moments, but none is quite so magical as "Vissi d'arte," Tosca's beautiful aria describing how she's lived for art and love, only to have fate turn against her. This season, you'll have two chances to hear this wonderful piece interpreted with Tatiana Serjan and Hui He both starring in the new-to-Lyric production.

The luminous Sondra Radvanovsky, who will take on the role of Anne Boleyn in Donizetti's Anna Bolena at Lyric later this year, brings this magnificent aria to life. 

 

(Metropolitan Opera, 2011)

Tannhäuser 

On stage February 9 to March 6

The Pilgrim's Chorus

The Pilgrim's Chorus in Act 3 of Tannhäuser is one of Wagner's most beautiful and majestic melodies. The simple melody starts quietly, as the singers are off stage, but grows until the full orchestra and chorus are at full volume. It has become a staple of concert choirs such as the Mormon Tabernacle Choir and was even one of the Wagner melodies quoted in the Bugs Bunny cartoon "What's Opera, Doc?"  We dare you not to be moved.

 

 

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

An Insider's Guide to IL TROVATORE

Lyric's production of Verdi's Il Trovatore runs October 27 through November 29. Here is your complete insider's guide with articles, photos, audio previews, and more.

 

Everyone has heard the Anvil Chorus, but Verdi's epic Il Trovatore (on stage October 27-November 29) is so much more than its signature choral piece. Learn more about Lyric's monumental production, conducted by Asher Fisch and originally conceived by director Sir David McVicar .

A cruel curse separates two brothers at birth. One is the privileged Count di Luna (Quinn Kelsey), and the other, the troubadour Manrico (Yonghoon Lee), is raised by the revenge-obsessed gypsy Azucena (Stephanie Blythe). Now bitter enemies, they clash over the love of the same woman, the beautiful Leonora (Amber Wagner). And that's just Act One! Kidnapping, imprisonment, mistaken identities, gypsies, poisonings, witches burning at the stake, star-crossed lovers, revenge—this opera has everything, including some of Verdi's most irresistible music. 

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

Il Trovatore: The Two-Minute Summary

Stars Amber Wagner and Quinn Kelsey give you the thumbnail version of Il Trovatore's action-packed plot. 

 

"Patter Up!" with Amber Wagner & Quinn Kelsey

Get to know Lyric's Leonora and Count di Luna as they answer rapid-fire questions. Amber demonstrates her signature dance move, and Quinn sings a little Elvis!

 

  

Articles with insights from the cast and creative team

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). "Lyric's 'Il Trovatore' is grand opera at its finest," ravies Wynne Delacoma of the Chicago Sun-TimesREAD MORE

Trovatore Talk
You know what your favorite operatic moments are—now read what our principal artists from Il Trovatore have to say about their favorite moments of Verdi’s opera and what they love about Chicago. Get restaurant tips from Andrea Silvestrelli, find out Amber Wagner's favorite tourist spots, and try to guess what museum Yonghoon Lee will visit while he's in Chicago. READ MORE

Lyric Libations: Il Trovatore
Nothing says fall like Verdi's epic drama Il Trovatore. 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 alcoholic concoctions. You'll be singing along to The Anvil Chorus while tipsy in no time.  
READ MORE

Stephanie Blythe on the Backstory of Il Trovatore: The Gypsy's PTSD
Stephanie Blythe's dishes on her II Trovatore character's backstory. "Azucena is someone who has seen something so truly horrifying that she never gets over it." READ MORE 

Il Trovatore: A Vocal Feast
Verdi fans have joked for decades that all you need for the composer’s Il Trovatore are the greatest voices in the world – but there’s actually some truth in that! And if you’ve got the right voices, then the feast offered by this opera is sumptuous indeed.  
READ MORE
 

Lyric’s Chorus delights in Il Trovatore and beyond
Il Trovatore is a choral feast and provides one of the biggest showpieces for the amazing Lyric Opera Chorus this season. Chorus Master Michael Black takes us through some of the many choral highlights in Verdi's masterpiece. READ MORE 

Opera 101: Inside tech week
 Opera secrets revealed! What happens at Lyric during the summer? Each mainstage opera has a week-long summer tech period. Lighting cues are set, sets are repaired, and everything is made ready for performances later in the season. Read on to for a day-by-day breakdown of the preparations for Verdi's Il Trovatore
READ MORE 

Il Trovatore: A Lyric Photo History
Il Trovatore was a hugely popular success when it premiered, and it today remains one of the 20 most-performed operas around the world. Before you come and see Yonghoon Lee, Amber Wagner, Stephanie Blythe, and Quinn Kelsey in Sir David McVicar's production later this season, take a look at some past productions of this great opera throughout Lyric's history, including Maria Callas as Leonora and Jussi Björling as Manrico. READ MORE

Catching up with Chorus Master Michael Black
In this Lyric Lately exclusive, read more about Michael Black's history with Il Trovatore and how he keeps busy during the summer months away from Lyric. READ MORE

 

Il Trovatore Audio Preview

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

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.)

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