Lyric Opera of Chicago

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The critics are raving: ANNA BOLENA “burns with white-hot intensity”

With the new production of  Anna Bolena, Lyric is now "five-for-five" in its 2014-15 season, says the Chicago Sun-Times. Donizetti's bel canto gem is onstage until January 16; the critics are praising the potent, dramatic story that offers plenty for audiences to cheer from vocal fireworks to the compelling staging.

With the new production of Anna Bolena, Lyric is now "five for five" in its 2014-15 season, says the Chicago Sun-Times. Donizetti's bel canto gem is onstage until January 16, and the critics are praising the potent, dramatic story that offers plenty for audiences to cheer from vocal fireworks to the compelling staging.

"Highly recommended" - Chicago Sun-Times

"Anna Bolena frequently burns with white hot intensity" - Chicago Sun-Times 

 "It's a thrilling new production featuring a strong, young, well-integrated all-American cast and a focused and effective pit debut by conductor Patrick Summers." - Chicago Sun-Times

The "Lyric audience [was] on its feet and cheering for five minutes after the final curtain…" - Chicago Sun-Times

"Director Kevin Newbury and set designer Neil Patel have a take on this tragic history opera that makes most of it as engrossing as a contemporary thriller, though it was written in 1830." - Chicago Reader

"Bel canto done right" - KDHX

"Stunning production" … "a major triumph" - Chicago Critic

"If you have not witnessed a bel canto opera - then this is the one to experience." - Chicago Critic

A Sumptuous Musical Feast with a Star-Studded Cast

Sondra Radvanovsky triumphs as Anne Boleyn

"It's all there - coloratura runs, the rapid dynamic and emotional changes required by the score and a confident but giving performance…" - Chicago Sun-Times

"Her high notes blazing, the Berwyn-born soprano tore into the long and diabolically difficult title role…" - Chicago Tribune

"Expertly sung and superbly acted, her Anna moves easily through the wide dynamic and emotional range of this role. Like Callas, Ms. Radvanovsky is not afraid to sacrifice a little technical purity here and there if it enhances the drama." - KDHX

"The visceral quality of Radvanovsky's vocally compelling and dramatically affecting performance was just the ticket to send sparks flying in the coloratura stratosphere." - Chicago Tribune

"Radvanovsky deployed her big, dark, vibrant sound, with its precise coloratura and close attention to text, to potent effect." - Chicago Tribune

Radvanovsky provided "exciting high notes and theatrical frisson" - Chicago Classical Review

Sondra Radvanovsky and Jamie Barton face off as Boleyn and rival Jane Seymour

"The early Act Two duet - or duel? - … is one of those moments you wondered if you'd ever see again: two singers so matched in age and style turning up the heat, feeding off of each other and the orchestra, and yet doing so at the service of the story and not for a mere divas' cat fight." - Chicago Sun-Times

"Mezzo-soprano Jamie Barton is creamy-voiced and appealing as the sorry-but-seduced Jane Seymour; her tell-all duet with Radvanovsky in the opening scene of the second act is a musical and dramatic highlight." - Chicago Reader

"With two sensational roles for women, you almost want to call 'Anna Bolena' 'Anne and Jane,' with Henry VIII's third wife, Jane Seymour, singing epic duets with second wife Anne Boleyn. That's not a knock against the wonderful work of soprano Sondra Radvanovsky, who tears into the massive role of Anna with gusto (her mad scenes at the end are frightening). Rather, it's to acknowledge that Jamie Barton as Jane, a tricky role to act in Donizetti's version of the story, also delivers a big, passionate performance." - Crain's Chicago Business

"The role of the guilt-ridden Jane Seymour offered Barton a splendid opportunity to display her plush, voluminous voice and dulcet bel canto phrasing." - Chicago Tribune

Bryan Hymel makes an impressive Lyric debut

Bryan Hymel "delivered the goods" as Percy - Chicago Sun-Times

"Hymel's voice stood revealed as a tenor of impressively heroic strength, sweetness and style, easily inhabiting the high tessitura." - Chicago Tribune

"In his company debut, Hymel displayed a gleaming tenor, throwing off clarion high C's and bringing firm dramatic conviction to his confrontation with Henry." - Chicago Classical Review

John Relyea smolders as Henry VIII

"Bass John Relyea is smoldering, brutal and appropriately full of himself as a dashing Henry, showing off power in many dimensions." - Chicago Sun-Times

"Bass John Relyea used his truly menacing, black-toned basso to dominate his scenes as the cruel and arrogant Henry." - Chicago Tribune

"Vocally Relyea was first class, his bass richer and even more commanding than previously.." - Chicago Classical Review

The Lyric Opera Orchestra and Chorus shine

Debuting conductor Patrick Summers "led a pliant and stylish account of the score." - Chicago Tribune

"The chorus, prepared by Michael Black, added yet another success to its many accomplishments in this extremely busy opera season." - Chicago Tribune

History Comes Alive 

"Designers Neil Patel (sets and properties) and Jessica Jahn (costumes) have created work both sumptuous and undistracting, giving context for the story while allowing it to unfold before us in human terms first" - Chicago Sun-Times

"The courtly intrigues and suspicions that send Anne to the scaffold are symbolized by a large, ever-present chorus of eavesdroppers and spies, arrayed beneath a huge, coffered ceiling. …The design scheme mixes period realism and modern abstraction, while Jahn's costumes adhere to Tudor fashion: dark leather doublets and jerkins, bejeweled crowns, flared sleeves, an ermine mantle for the king." - Chicago Tribune

"The visuals are a knock out. Patel's sleek sets make use of color and a few period elements to suggest an entire environment or dynamic: a coffered ceiling turns the bare stage into a palace, for example, and the royal throne, on a revolving pedestal, is backed by the royal bed." - Chicago Reader

"The set, with massive pieces that descend out of the golden ceiling, adds its own dimension to the drama, suggesting how these characters can easily be crushed under the power of the king (that idea is cashed in memorably in the opera's final moments)." - Crain's Chicago Business

"Neil Patel's set contributes substantially to that with its imposing Tudor ceiling from which walls and set pieces descend for the scene changes. The illusion of massive weight is convincing and reminds us of how these characters are, in some ways, imprisoned in the splendor of their surroundings." - KDHX

Photo credits

  • Anna Bolena at Lyric Opera of Chicago production photos credit Todd Rosenberg and Robert Kusel

 

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)

 

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.

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. 

Robert Falls's audacious staging 

"Falls' bold, provocative, hot-blooded new production of 'Don Giovanni' opened Lyric's 60th anniversary season Saturday night at the Civic Opera House, and it had the audience cheering for numerous reasons. … This 'Don Giovanni' is as nourishing to the eye as it is to the ear and mind." - John von Rhein, Chicago Tribune

"Director Robert Falls' fresh, boldly conceived staging infused new life into Mozart's dramma giocoso. " - Lawrence A. Johnson, Chicago Classical Review

"Falls’s fast-moving staging has an eye for the opera’s comedy and even more for its sexuality." - George Loomis, Financial Times

"Bob Falls has found a way to connect in a fresh way with a work we know and a work we love." - Andrew Patner, WFMT

"The production of Giovanni, which just opened at the Lyric Opera of Chicago, is a glorious triumph for Falls, and a spectacular opening to the Lyric's 60th season. Falls re-imagination of Don Giovanni has it all—passion, sex, heartbreak, murder, jealousy, and revenge. " - Betty Mohr, Le Bon Travel and Culture

"[Lyric's] cast and crew throw themselves into Falls' approach, and what results is an impressive theatrical and musically intensive brew that will have you laughing one minute while gasping with indignation the next." - Scott C. Morgan, Daily Herald 

"Moving the story of Don Juan from its seventeenth century origins to circa 1920s Spain proves to be a great decision by Falls. It manages to strip the production of stuffy periodicity while placing it into a time more familiar to the contemporary audience yet distant enough that the story’s messy morality seems plausible." - Brian Hieggelke, New City

"This new production proves that modern practice can combine with classic opera to create art of the highest order. This 'Don Giovanni' should not be missed." - M.L. Rantala, Hyde Park Herald

"Run, do not walk, to the Civic Opera House and catch this show." - Lawrence A. Johnson, Chicago Classical Review

The exceptional cast 

"A more appealing cast could hardly have been assembled for Mozart’s 'Don Giovanni' than the vocally resplendent, good-looking singers who inhabit the Lyric Opera of Chicago’s new production and season opener." - Lawrence B. Johnson, Chicago on the Aisle

"Polish baritone Mariusz Kwiecień is one of the world's best Don Giovannis, a trim, handsome bundle of raging testosterone. " - Wynne Delacoma, Chicago Sun-Times 

"The Polish baritone wielded his robust, burnished baritone with such elegant style and tonal beauty, it was easy to understand why all the women of Europe are dropping at his feet." - Lawrence A. Johnson, Chicago Classical Review

"Puerto Rican soprano Ana María Martínez is wonderfully fiery with a dusky sound as the revenge-bent Donna Elvira (she also clearly relishes her 'modern woman' role reconceptualization—even arriving via motorcycle)." - Scott C. Morgan, Daily Herald 

"It's a tribute to Kyle Ketelsen that he held his own with Kwiecień's Don, more than is usually the case. The bass-baritone delivered a nimble and witty Catalog Aria and firmly brought out the servant's seething resentment as well as the men's camaraderie with a natural conversational quality to their rapid-fire exchanges." - Lawrence A. Johnson, Chicago Classical Review

"I found [Marina Rebeka's] Donna Anna superb: The sound was creamy, voluminous and steady as a laser, with plenty of fiery temperament to match the dramatic thrust of her singing." - John von Rhein, Chicago Tribune

Andriana Chuchman "brought a charming yet vixenish quality to the good-girl flirt and sang her two arias with notably youthful spirit." - Lawrence A. Johnson, Chicago Classical Review

"...bass-baritone Michael Sumuel deftly captured Masetto's mix of jealous male and vulnerable lover." - Wynne Delacoma, Chicago Sun-Times

Antonio Poli's "ardent, tender arias shaped Don Ottavio, often a bland cipher, into the opera's sole voice of reason." - Wynne Delacoma, Chicago Sun-Times 

"Andrea Silvestrelli's Commendatore was towering in height and sonorous of voice" - Lawrence A. Johnson, Chicago Classical Review

 Sir Andrew Davis and the Lyric Opera Orchestra and Chorus 

"Lyric music director Sir Andrew Davis conducted the Lyric Orchestra with plenty of panache, bringing out the light and dark colors of Mozart's timeless score with buoyant style." - Scott C. Morgan, Daily Herald

"...conductor Andrew Davis’ eloquent and expressive musical direction was greatly to be savored, as was a precise and buoyant performance by the Lyric Opera Orchestra. Add to that the exuberant yet disciplined singing by the Lyric Chorus and the last element was in place for a musically rewarding night." - Lawrence B. Johnson, Chicago on the Aisle

"…music director Andrew Davis drew lithe, elegant, stylish playing from his fine orchestra that felt all of a piece with the Don's high-stakes games of seduction." - John von Rhein, Chicago Tribune

"the magnificence of the production should also be credited to Sir Andrew Davis, who at the helm of Lyric’s exceptional orchestra, gives his all to Mozart’s delicious score; [and] to Michael Black who brings out the best in Lyric’s chorus..." - Betty Mohr, Le Bon Travel and Culture

The fantastic sets and costumes 

"Walt Spangler's sets and Ana Kuzmanic's costumes persuasively and colourfully suggest urban Seville, including a handsome townhouse for the Commendatore, seen from the street, and a church interior dominated by a statue of Mary for the Sextet scene of Act 2." - George Loomis, Financial Times  

"Not only are the sets something to behold, but so too are the ravishing costumes by Ana Kuzmanic that evoke the carefree flamboyance of the Jazz Age." - Betty Mohr, Le Bon Travel and Culture

"The contributions of frequent Falls collaborators Ana Kuzmanic (costume design) and Walt Spangler (sets) deserve equal billing with the performers. The production lives in black and white and gray, but splashes of color – blood, flowers – transcend decoration and become metaphor for the proximity of sensuality and death herein." - Brian Hieggelke,New City

"Between designer Walt Spangler's fetching Spanish sets and Ana Kuzmanic's stylish 1920s costumes (a temporal relocation that Mozart surely would have adored), this 'Don Giovanni' has an integrated look and feel that not only works but also allows for doses of broad, updated humor." - Lawrence B. Johnson, Chicago on the Aisle

"Walt Spangler's scenic design is consistently imaginative, centered on a traditional balconied facade of a Spanish house as unit set with striking splashes of flowers and color." - Lawrence A. Johnson, Chicago Classical Review

"…in the ball scene, [Ana Kuzmanic's] lavishly stylized, brocade and velvet costumes for Donna Elvira, Donna Anna (Marina Rebeka) and Don Ottavio (Antonio Poli) clearly delineated the chasm between the aristocrats and the common folk, an important point for Mozart and his librettist Lorenzo Da Ponte. " - Wynne Delacoma, Chicago Sun-Times

The spectacular final scene 

"While everything about the opera soars, the climactic scene (which I won't spoil), in which Giovanni is sent to hell, is jaw-dropping stunning. This is the best Don Giovanni I have ever seen. Opera lovers will be talking about it for a long time." - Betty Mohr, Le Bon Travel and Culture

"There is a juicily melodramatic death scene for the Don whose surprising details I will not spoil by revealing." - John von Rhein, Chicago Tribune

Photo credits:

  • Don Giovanni photos credit Todd Rosenberg / Lyric Opera of Chicago

 

Getting to know…Lyric Opera Chorus member Kimberly McCord

As a special season-opening treat this year, Lyric's magnificent Chorus will be featured in  two showcase concerts on September 12 and  November 22. Soprano Kimberly McCord is one of the featured singers, and she took the time to give us a bit of her background—and let us in on her own Lyric love story!

As a special season-opening treat this year, Lyric's magnificent Chorus will be featured in two showcase concerts on September 12 at Chicago's Fourth Presbyterian Church (right on Michigan Avenue) and on November 22 at Northwestern University's Millar Chapel in Evanston.

The concert features excerpts from operas featured in Lyric's 2014-15 Diamond Anniversary season,  plus some beloved choral favorites with solos from certain Chorus members. Soprano Kimberly McCord is one of the featured singers, and she took the time to give us a bit of her background—and let us in on her own Lyric love story!

When did you know you wanted to be a singer?

I always loved singing and as a child would spend hours singing along to the few but diverse LPs my parents had, such as Jo Stafford, The Sound of Music soundtrack, and The Fifth Dimension. My preschool teacher told my parents to get me piano lessons, which they did. I thought music would be a tough career, but, thanks to my parents' support, I decided to pursue singing as a career my junior year in high school. 

(McCord, back row fourth from left, poses with her fellow nuns and Jenn Gambatese, center / Maria, during Lyric's production of The Sound of Music.)

When did you join the Chorus? And what brought you to Lyric or Chicago?

I joined the chorus in 2008. I had been living in Europe for eight years, singing mostly Baroque music, giving recitals, and teaching privately. When I was ready to come back to the States, I thought Chicago would be a friendly, livable, culturally vibrant city. I was right!

What was your background before joining the Chorus?

I earned my Bachelor's of Music from Indiana University and then received a Fulbright grant to study Early Music with Dame Emma Kirkby. I was getting a lot of work singing Baroque music, but I felt that I needed to transition into opera in order to develop my voice and artistry more fully. This process led to a serious vocal crisis but I eventually learned how to integrate my vocal technique and emotional expression more fully. Now singing is even more artistically satisfying.

You're one of the featured singers in Lyric's upcoming Chorus concerts—what about the concerts is most exciting to you?

There is something truly cosmic about sublimating your individuality to express something in sync with 47 other people. It's a thrilling and visceral experience for us and the audience! I'm also excited about performing with Maestro Black conducting and our rehearsal pianist, Jerad Mosbey, accompanying. They prepare us in the crucial daily, behind-the-scenes rehearsal process. The public gets to experience this very intimate working relationship for the first time in these concerts. 

Can you talk a little bit about the piece that you're featured on during the concert: "Placido è il, mar"  from Mozart's Idomeneo?

On the surface, this piece seems like yet another graceful Mozart composition, but I hear real longing in the big vocal leaps upward and weariness in the short repeated phrases. Connecting with these deeper human emotions while performing technically difficult music is what Mozart demands of us. I hope I am able to do his genius justice! 

 

(Salzburg Festival 2006 production of Idomeneo)

What has been your most memorable experience at Lyric so far?

I met the love of my life at Lyric! Dan Pyne, a software salesman by day, supernumerary occasionally by night, walked into our first staging rehearsal of Lohengrin, and I was thrilled to be placed near him in the opening scene. It gave me the chance to strike up a conversation and we've been going strong ever since. (McCord and Pyne pictured right.)

What is the most outrageous costume you've worn on stage?

Probably the witches in Macbeth. In fact, the costumes were so crazy, with all these dangling pieces, that one chorister accidentally performed the first scene with a bra caught on her costume. No one noticed it until we were back up in the dressing room! We had a good laugh about that one!

(Kimberly McCord and her fellow witches having fun at Lyric, both on stage and off. Top photo: the witches on stage. McCord is third from left; Bottom left: Fire witches Laurie Seely Vassalli, McCord, Nina Heebink (the chorister with the "wardrobe malfunction") and Carla Janzen; Bottom right: The three types of witches, Snake, Earth, Fire. L-R Rachel Crim-Holzhausen, McCord, Desiree Hassler, and Pamela Williams.)

What do you enjoy most about being in the Chorus?

I consider it a great privilege to dedicate my energy to singing. Working diligently on giving fresh expression to classic stories of human experience is a deeply rewarding way to earn a living.

When you're not a Lyric, what are some of your hobbies or other projects?

 I enjoy creating things that are more concrete than sound waves! I am a serious cook, I do lots of different crafts, from sewing to embroidery to crochet, and I also love home renovation projects. 

What do you love most about living in Chicago?

The diversity of people.

And a few fun questions:

Do you have a go-to karaoke song?

Anything by Heart

 

("Barracuda" from 1977)

Who is your favorite singer?

Margaret Price

 

What is your favorite opera?

Don Giovanni

 

(Royal Opera House 2014 production of Don Giovanni)

And what is your favorite musical?

South Pacific

 

(Live performance from the 2008 Tony Awards of Lincoln Center Theater's production)

Photos courtesy Kimberly McCord

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

 

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