Lyric Opera of Chicago

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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, originally conceived by director Sir David McVicar and conducted by Asher Fisch.

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. 

Articles with insights from the cast and creative team

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 TrovatoreREAD 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

"Patter Up!" with Quinn Kelsey

Get to know Lyric's future Count di Luna as he answers rapid fire questions and sings a little Elvis!

 

 

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.)

A Day in the Life of Lyric Opera Chorister Pam Williams

Lyric Opera Chorus member Pam Williams describes a typical day for her, which includes rehearsal, tax preparation, and a performance of Rusalka.

Pam Williams has lived in Chicago since 1997 and been a member of the Lyric Opera Chorus since 1999. She is originally from Snellville, Georgia (just east of Atlanta). She did her undergraduate work at Georgia State University and then went to Indiana University for her master's degree. Pam takes us through her schedule on Friday, March 7, a typical day in the life of a working musician!

I love my job! I love that I get to do for a living what I set out to do when I began my studies in music. SING!!! Granted, my path hasn't always been focused on opera, but always on singing.  But this is where my path has led me...right here to the chorus of Lyric Opera of Chicago. And it makes me happy, and I feel quite fortunate!

Each one of the members of the chorus has wildly varying lives within and without the walls of this building. Many teach voice in addition to singing here. Others have other jobs outside of Lyric. But for me, at this phase of life, I have this one job. This doesn't mean this is ALL I do and the rest of the time I sit at home watching Judge Judy eating bon-bons. :)

Here is my today: I started the day out warming up for a coaching on The Old Maid and the Thief that I'll be performing in as part of Opera Up Close concert series at Governors State University at the end of the month. I'm playing Miss Todd. Love it. She's nuts. Now, I'm catching up on some work (tax prep...late!), emails, more music study, recital planning, etc. Later on, I'll be meeting up with some awesome and fun colleagues for a promo video shoot for this upcoming GSU concert. Should be hilarious!  Follow this with a performance of our stunning production of Rusalka  this evening. It will be a day full of music and music-related things! Then…I sleep. :) Tomorrow...a completely different day, but more practicing and another show—La Clemenza di Tito!

One of the fun things about this job in the chorus is the variety. It definitely makes it more interesting to have a couple of shows going at the same time. Early in this season, we were very busy with three different shows on stage at the same time while rehearsing a fourth! A question I am often asked is: Do you forget which show you are singing when juggling multiple shows? Nope. Once in the proper costume and on the proper set, the right words and music seem to know where they belong!

Photo credit: Pam Williams backstage at Lyric in costume for Rusalka. Photo courtesy Pam Williams. 

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Lyric Opera's Got Talent!

What do Lyric chorister Branden James and Chicago’s late-summer weather have in common? Both have been hot, hot, hot!

 

What do Lyric chorister Branden James and Chicago’s late-summer weather have in common? Both have been hot, hot, hot! James has blazed through elimination rounds of NBC’s “America’s Got Talent” this summer, earning a spot in the finals of the national talent show. On Tuesday, September 10, at 8pm CDT , James returns to the Radio City Music Hall stage, competing for a spot as one of 6 finalists—with his sights set on the $1 million prize.

James, a member of Lyric’s chorus since the 2010-11 season, has appeared in 21 operas, concerts, and musicals at Lyric Opera, most recently in the spring 2013 production of Rodgers and Hammerstein’s Oklahoma!.

James’s “Talent”-ed journey began at the Chicago auditions earlier this summer, where he impressed the judges and earned a pass to the next round of competition in Las Vegas. He then advanced to the quarterfinals, which featured the top 60 acts performing live at Radio City Music Hall. James’s performance of Josh Groban’s “You Raise Me Up” earned enough votes from viewers around the country to advance to the semifinals. His operatic rendition of Heart’s “Alone” secured his spot in the Top 12 finals.

Bravo, Branden! Toi toi toi for the finals!

Click here to vote for Branden James starting at 9:55pm CDT.

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