Lyric Opera of Chicago

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IL TROVATORE: A Lyric Photo History

Gypsies! Curses! Brothers switched at birth! A love triangle! Tragic deaths! Verdi's Il Trovatore truly has everything. The opera was a huge popular success when it first premiered, and it today remains one of the top 20 operas performed around the world. Learn more about the history of this work at Lyric.

Gypsies! Curses! Brothers switched at birth! A love triangle! Tragic deaths! Verdi's Il Trovatore truly has everything. The opera was a hugely popular success when it premiered, and it today remains one of the 20 most popular operas performed 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.

1955 

Il Trovatore had its company premiere in 1955, the second season of Lyric Theatre of Chicago. This production was conducted by company co-founder Nicola Rescigno and featured an all-star cast that included tenor Jussi Björling. Maria Callas—who had just made her American debut in Chicago in 1954—was making her second of three appearances in the 1955 season as Leonora. Callas had appeared in three productions in Lyric's inaugural season. Her sixth and final opera appearance at Lyric also came in 1955 when she played Cio-Cio San in her only staged performances of Puccini's Madama Butterfly. In the photo below, she is greeting Metropolitan Opera general manager Rudolf Bing after one of her Trovatore performances.

1956 & 1958 

Though there are no pictures of Lyric's 1956 production of Il Trovatore, it was notable in that it was the American debut of Bruno Bartoletti, Lyric's future artistic director and principal conductor. Replacing his mentor, Tullio Serafin, Bartoletti would win rave reviews and the admiration of Carol Fox, who would later appoint him co-artistic director with Pino Donati. 

The 1958 production was conducted by Lee Schaenen and featured Ettore Bastianini and Jussi Björling returning as di Luna and Manrico, with Elinor Ross as Leonora and the great Giulietta Simionato as Azucena.

Pictured below (clockwise from top left): Jussi Björling, Anna-Lisa Björling, and Ettore Bastianini read backstage; Leonora (Ross) and Manrico (Björling); Azucena (Simionato) confronts di Luna (Bastianini) as Leonora (Ross) lies dead.  

1964 

This new-to-Lyric production was imported from the Metropolitan Opera in New York, where it had been performed a few years earlier. Lyric's stage director was Christopher West and the set and costumes were created by the design group Motley, whose sketches are below. 

Grace Bumbry portrayed Azucena, with Franco Corelli as Manrico (one of his signature roles), along with Ilva Ligabue (Leonora), and  Mario Zanasi (di Luna) completing the leading quartet. Bruno Bartoletti returned to conduct in his first season as co-artistic director.

Pictured above (clockwise from left): Azucena (Bumbry) and Manrico (Corelli); Manrico (Corelli) and Leonora (Ligabue); and di Luna (Zanasi) and Leonora (Ligabue).

This production is also notable for featuring in Count di Luna's army some supernumeraries from Chicago's Kelvyn Park High School, including a young Mike Gross. He would, of course, later go on to achieve huge success as Steven Keaton in Family Ties.

1987-88 

After more than a 20-year absence from Lyric's stage, ll Trovatore would return in a new production from director Sonja Frisell (designed by Nicola Benois) with Bruno Bartoletti on the podium. Pictured below (clockwise from top left) are Giuliano Ciannella as Manrico and Shirley Verrett as Azucena; a view of the set;  Leo Nucci as Count di Luna; and Anna Tomowa-Sintow as Leonora.

1993-94 

This was a revival of Frisell's production, last seen in 1987-88 (this time with conductor Richard Buckley), but these performances of Il Trovatore were notable for featuring the new Verdi critical edition that had just been released by the University of Chicago Press. Dolora Zajick portrayed Azucena—one of her most acclaimed roles—with Chris Merritt (Manrico), Paolo Gavanelli (di Luna), and Lyubov Kazarnovskaya (Leonora).

Pictured above (clockwise from top left): Manrico (Merritt) and Azucena (Zajick); Azucena (Zajick) confronts di Luna (Gavanelli); Leonora (Kazarnovskaya) and Manrico (Merritt); and Leonora (Kazarnovskaya), Manrico (Merritt), and di Luna (Gavanelli). 

2006-07 

A decade after its last Lyric performance, Sir David McVicar updated the action to Spain in the early 1800s, during the Peninsular Wars. The sets, designed by Charles Edwards, were inspired by the paintings of Goya and are grounded by an impenetrable castle wall. Due to the change in period, the gypsies actually have something to do during the Anvil Chorus—they are making weapons for the revolution!

Dolora Zajick reprised her 1993-94 role as Azucena, with Walter Fraccaro as Manrico, Sondra Radvanovsky as Leonora, and Mark Delavan as Count di Luna. This production is also notable because it would be Bruno Bartoletti's second-to-last appearance on Lyric's podium. He would return to open the 2007-08 season with La Traviata, his final Lyric appearance.

Pictured above (clockwise from top left): Azucena (Zajick); the Anvil Chorus scene; Manrico (Fraccaro) and Leonora (Radvanovsky); di Luna (Delavan) and Manrico (Fraccaro) duel in front of Leonora (Radvanovsky).

 Photo credits:

  • 1955 - photo courtesy Lyric Opera of Chicago Archives
  • 1958 - Björling/Bastianini backstage photo courtesy Chicago Daily News; production photos credit Nancy Sorensen.
  • 1964 - photos credit David H. Fishman; super photo courtesy Michael Gross
  • 1987-88 - photos credit Tony Romano
  • 1993-94 - photos credit Dan Rest
  • 2006-07 - photos credit Dan Rest, except Anvil Chorus (credit Robert Kusel). 

Ryan Opera Center’s Talented Alums!

Lyric's own Ryan Opera Center  has a long roster of incredibly talented alumni. Here's what some of the singers affiliated with Lyric's prestigious training program have been up to this past season and where you can see them next season in Chicago and beyond!

The Ryan Opera Center's annual Rising Stars in Concert celebration is coming up this Saturday, March 29. It's not too late to donate $75 to Lyric and receive two complimentary tickets to this showcase of opera's future superstars.

The Ryan Opera Center has a long roster of incredibly talented alumni. Lyric's production of Mozart's La Clemenza di Tito, which closed out the 2013-14 season, is just one example. ALL of the cast members had connections to the Ryan Opera Center. Matthew Polenzani (Tito), Amanda Majeski (Vitellia), Christian van Horn (Publio), and Cecelia Hall (Annio) are all alumni of the program, and Emily Birsan (Servilia) is a current member. And Joyce DiDonato (Sesto) was just inducted as an honorary Ryan Opera Center member in a short ceremony after the Clemenza dress rehearsal.  

Here's what some of the other singers affiliated with Lyric's prestigious training program have been up to this past season and where you can see them next season in Chicago and beyond!

Elizabeth Futral 
(Ryan Opera Center member from 1989 to 1991) 

Past season   Highlights of Elizabeth's busy 2013-14 season include her role debut as Desiree Armfeldt in Houston Grand Opera's production of Sondheim's A Little Night Music , a role debut as Zdenka in Minnesota Opera's production of Strauss's Arabella, and a performance of one of her signature roles, Lucia di Lammermoor, for Portland Opera.

Coming soon! — Catch Elizabeth as Elsa Schraeder in Lyric's upcoming all-new production of Rodgers and Hammerstein's The Sound of Music  opening on April 25 right here at the beautiful Civic Opera House.   

Andriana Chuchman
(Ryan Opera Center member from 2007 to 2010)
 

Past season — Andriana had an amazing 2013-14 season. Already slated to debut with the Metropolitan Opera in February 2014 in The Enchanted Island, her debut came a month earlier as Adina in L'Elisir d'Amore when Anna Netrebko was ill for opening night. Andriana stepped in and wowed the New York critics!  

Coming soon! — Andriana is part of the amazing cast that makes up Lyric's new production of Mozart's Don Giovanni  that opens the 2014-15 season, with Robert Falls directing and Sir Andrew Davis conducting. She will also appear with Vancouver Opera in Sondheim's Sweeney Todd in April 2015.

Quinn Kelsey
(Ryan Opera Center member from 2003 to 2006)
 

Past season — Quinn made his role debut as Germont in Lyric's new production of Verdi's La Traviata in October 2013. He also performed the title role in Verdi's Rigoletto for English National Opera and in I vespri siciliani at Oper Frankfurt.

Coming soon! — Catch him at Lyric as Count di Luna in Verdi's Il Trovatore in October 2014. He will also perform as Marcello in the Metropolitan Opera's La Bohème in September 2014.  

Amber Wagner
(Ryan Opera Center member from 2007 to 2010)
 

Past season — In addition to welcoming her first child in summer 2013, Amber performed Verdi's Requiem with Sir Andrew Davis and the Melbourne Symphony in September 2013 and made her Washington National Opera debut in Verdi's La Forza del Destino in October 2013.

Coming soon! — Like Quinn Kelsey, Amber comes home to Lyric next season in Il Trovatore  as Leonora from October 27 to November 29. Then she's back just a few months later, starring in Tannhäuser  as Elisabeth from February 9 to March 6, 2015.

Amanda Majeski 
(Ryan Opera Center member from 2009 to 2011) 

Past season — Amanda was part of the dream cast of La Clemenza di Tito  that wrapped up Lyric's 2013-14 season. She also made her role debut as Donna Elvira in Mozart's Don Giovanni at Opera Philadelphia, as well as making her Carnegie Hall solo recital debut at Weill Recital Hall. 

Coming soon! — This Gurnee native will be back in her hometown to conclude another Lyric season. This time, she stars as Marta in Weinberg's The Passenger  from February 24 to March 15, 2015. She will also make her Metropolitan Opera debut as Countess Almaviva in the Met's new production of Mozart's The Marriage of Figaro in December 2014. 

Photo credits: Elizabeth Futral (credit Karli Cadel), Andriana Chuchman (credit Chia Messina), Quinn Kelsey (credit Dan Rest), Amanda Majeski (credit Dario Acosta).

Operatic Olympians

The Olympics could be seen as the opera of sports—exciting, dramatic, and full of colorful characters. In the spirit of the Sochi Olympics, we've paired some of our favorite operatic characters with their ideal winter sports.

The Olympics could be seen as the opera of sports—exciting, dramatic, and full of colorful characters. In fact, the Nancy Kerrigan-Tonya Harding  saga of 1994 has been turned into a rock opera by a company in Los Angeles.

In the spirit of the Sochi Olympics, we've paired some of our favorite operatic characters with their ideal winter sports.

Figaro_Nordic

Nordic combined - This event combines cross-country skiing with ski jumping, so it's the perfect sport for the man who can do everything, the one, the only Figaro showcased in Rossini's The Barber of Seville and Mozart's The Marriage of Figaro

Biathlon - Eugene Onegin is the obvious choice, though his accuracy with a gun might result in tragedy as often as it does a gold medal.

Adele_Slopestyle

Slopestyle - Adele from Die Fledermaus can certainly give U.S. gold medalist Jaime Anderson a run for her money. Her exuberant nature and willingness to perform makes her the perfect candidate for an event designed for show-offs.

Ladies figure skating - Pretty much any diva in opera would qualify, but we think Tosca has the perfect amount of dramatic flair and true tragedy to really sell that long program.

Don_Giovanni_skiing

Downhill skiing - Don Giovanni, with his relentless pursuit of passion, has the temperament downhill skier, who sacrifices everything in pursuit of the thrilling adrenaline rush of pure speed.  

Carmen_pairs

Pairs figure skating - Don José and Carmen are the perfect figure skating duo. He brings the passion, she brings the reckless abandon needed for the crazy lifts, throw jumps, and death spirals

Bobsled - Papageno and Tamino help save the girl in The Magic Flute, and that's exactly the kind of teamwork that's needed in the two-man bobsled.

Ice Hockey - The gypsies from Il Trovatore are a group of people not to be messed with—plus, the Anvil Chorus makes a perfect goal celebration song!

Falstaff_curling

Curling - This is probably the only Olympic sport that you can also do while drinking on the ice in your own backyard, which makes it perfect for the boisterous and often inebriated Falstaff.

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