Lyric Opera of Chicago

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Don’t miss “the sheer theatrical pizzazz” of PORGY AND BESS

The Gershwins' Porgy and Bess is an American classic, and it's only at Lyric until December 20. This is the can't-miss production of this holiday season, an opera of both "glory and grit" (Chicago Tribune). Read more of what the critics are saying in this post. 

The Gershwins' Porgy and Bess is an American classic, and it's only at Lyric until December 20. This is the can't-miss production of this holiday season, an opera of both "glory and grit" (Chicago Tribune).

"Lyric's vibrant revival of Porgy and Bess should give cheer to all who adore this tuneful slice of American verismo, along with audience members who have yet to discover what a major opera company with all its high-powered resources can bring to the Gershwins' masterpieceNone of the chopped-up, stripped-down versions of 'Porgy' seen on Broadway in recent years can hold a candle to the real thing. And, make no mistake, Lyric's is the real thing." - Chicago Tribune

"The Lyric Opera’s revival of Gershwin's 'Porgy and Bess' is a thing of beauty not to be missed. More than that, it’s a ringing affirmation of this iconic American stage work as a great opera." - Chicago on the Aisle

"Lyric Opera has plenty of something with a moving, vocally resplendent 'Porgy and Bess'" - Chicago Classical Review

 "Kudos to the Lyric Opera of Chicago for reviving this masterpiece. I can't think of a finer, more universally appealing work to introduce people to the majesty of opera." - Chicago Critic

"The Lyric production is the first I've seen that fully captures the power of the Gershwin classic beyond a reprise of the famous songs. The singing is glorious throughout but the impact of the story cements this production as a joy." - Chicagoland Theater Reviews 

"The music and story of Porgy & Bess stuck with me long after I'd left the opera house, and if you're lucky enough to catch this production, it will do the same for you." - Gapers Block

The perfect Porgy and Bess: Eric Owens and Adina Aaron

"The reason to see this show is, unsurprisingly, Porgy and Bess. Eric Owens, soon to tackle Wagner for the Lyric, has an amazing voice, but he's also an expressive actor of depth and subtlety....And Adina Aaron makes Bess a tragic victim of drugs and of the abusive men in her life." Crain's Chicago Business

Eric Owens as Porgy has "the towering strength of a mighty oak" with "unfailing musical and dramatic integrity" - Chicago Tribune

"With his vast voice and burly physique, Eric Owens was born to play the role of Porgy." - Chicago Classical Review

"As Porgy, bass-baritone Eric Owens fills the house as he breaks hearts." - New City

"Listening to Owens’ rich, expressive bass-baritone is pleasure enough" - Chicago Sun-Times

"...Adina Aaron combined vocal and physical allure with vulnerability." - Chicago Tribune

"Adina Aaron's Bess is a concoction mixed of beauty and confusion....Her lovely figure and beautiful face make it easy to believe that her Bess could be perpetually objectified." - New City

"Adina Aaron’s Bess offered a sexy, alluring soprano, desperately torn between her life as a junkie and that of Porgy’s woman." - Le Bon Travel and Culture

"The chemistry between Owens and Aaron is authentic and convincing, a critical component to the revival's success." - Chicagoland Theater Reviews

"...one feels very much in the presence of true lovers as Aaron delivers a heart-felt 'I Loves You, Porgy' and Owens’ proud protector of this beauty-in-need declares ardently: 'Bess, You Is My Woman Now.'" - Chicago on the Aisle 

"As interpreted by bass-baritone Eric Owens, Porgy has a voice and a presence that are undeniable, and soprano Adina Aaron's portrayal of Bess is as heartbreaking as it is believable." - Gapers Block

The colorful citizens of Catfish Row

"The Catfish Row community is a major component of Porgy and Bess and has some of the best music, and the singers rose to the challenge with terrific ensemble vocalism, not least in the hurricane and funeral scenes." -Chicago Classical Review

"Porgy and Bess is a story of social issues in a community as much as a love story, and the strength of this society was vividly delivered by the chorus, whether picnicking or taking refuge from a hurricane." - Chicagoist

"Jermaine Smith's Sportin' Life is manically self-serving; Smith creates the character anew, moving beautifully, his deviations from the score excusable in light of his achievement." - New City

"Eric Greene's Crown is wonderfully wild and narcissistic, with a voice and body to match." - New City

"Ryan Opera Center member Hlengiwe Mkhwanazi made her company debut as Clara, opening the evening with a lovely, heartfelt rendering of 'Summertime,' that eased us into the Catfish Row milieu. Norman Garrett was a hearty presence as her husband Jake, delivering an energetic 'A Woman Is a Sometime Thing.'" - Chicago Classical Review

"As the wily, wise Maria, contralto Gwendolyn Brown bossed the children and bore stoic witness to the adult pain around her." - Chicago Sun-Times

"...soprano Karen Slack, as Serena, lit up the house with her gospel-infused prayer over the languishing Bess, 'Oh, Doctor Jesus.' - Chicago on the Aisle

The Chorus "delivered the vocal goods splendidly while putting a dramatically credible face on each denizen of Catfish Row." -  Chicago Tribune

The Chorus was "bursting with buoyant energy" - Chicago Sun-Times 

The Gershwins' amazing music

 

"Gershwin's colorful score sparkled and surged under conductor Ward Stare" - Chicago Sun-Times

"Those same qualities of natural pacing and emotional empathy also apply to the musical arc constructed by conductor Ward Stare, whose apt tempos and artful points of dramatic emphasis contribute to an unfaltering sense of continuity." - Chicago on the Aisle

"Stare clearly knows his way around the Gershwin idiom and he drew a performance from the Lyric orchestra that did equal justice to the score's melodic richness and rhythmic punch." - Chicago Tribune

The Lyric Opera Orchestra "imbues Gershwin’s bluesy score with the hearty, homey flavors of soul food." - Chicago on the Aisle

Photo credits:

  • Porgy and Bess production photos by Todd Rosenberg / Lyric Opera of Chicago
 

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 agree: “The operatic stars are in alignment” for CAPRICCIO

Lyric's production of Strauss's Capriccio is opera at its finest, with a wonderful cast led by Renée Fleming, a sophisticated 1920s setting, and unparalleled musicianship from conductor Sir Andrew Davis  and the Lyric Opera Orchestra. Read what the critics have to say about this "intelligent, tasteful, funny, serious" opera.

The Chicago Tribune raves four stars for Capriccio: "the operatic stars are in alignment ... in Lyric's loving revival." Lyric's production of Strauss's final masterpiece is truly opera at its finest, with a wonderful cast led by Renée Fleming, a sophisticated 1920s setting, and unparalleled musicianship from conductor Sir Andrew Davis and the Lyric Opera Orchestra. This sophisticated drawing room comedy is at once "intelligent, tasteful, funny, serious" (Andrew Patner, Chicago Sun-Times), but it's only at Lyric through October 28, so grab your seat today!

Here's what else the critics are saying:

"Highly recommended" - Andrew Patner, Chicago Sun-Times 

This production makes a "lush argument for shaking hands across waters, for the marriage of words and music." - Aaron Hunt, New City

Renée Fleming is "as witty and charming as she is beautiful" with "peaches-and-creamy tone and melting phrases." - John von Rhein, Chicago Tribune 

Renée Fleming is "radiant … One can't imagine any singer today better suited to the role of the Countess Madeleine " - Lawrence A. Johnson, Chicago Classical Review 

"In the famous final aria, Fleming spins the silver threads of lyricism that Strauss made his unique gift to the soprano repertoire." - Aaron Hunt, New City

Sir Andrew Davis leads "a veritable master class in Strauss conducting." - John von Rhein, Chicago Tribune 

"Andrew Davis, always a superb Strauss conductor, and the Lyric Orchestra ... have outdone themselves" - Andrew Patner, Chicago Sun-Times

"More than anyone else, this was Sir Andrew Davis's show. Few conductors can equal the Lyric Opera's music director in Strauss, and Davis's fluent, spirited yet light-footed account of this score was masterful, maintaining a fleet, conversational pace and rising seamlessly to the breakout lyrical moments." - Lawrence A. Johnson, Chicago Classical Review 

 "Fully inside the opera's conversational ebb and flow, Davis elicited exceptionally sensitive, refined playing from the Lyric Orchestra, beginning with the sublime sextet that opens the opera and continuing through the touching final pages." - John von Rhein, Chicago Tribune 

"Even by their standard, the playing of the Lyric Opera Orchestra was beyond reproach, with a refined quicksilver quality that suits this restless music." - Lawrence A. Johnson, Chicago Classical Review 

"Lyric has surrounded its starry soprano with a top-drawer supporting cast" - Lawrence A. Johnson, Chicago Classical Review 

"Anne Sofie von Otter brought a natural vocal ease and willowy presence to the glamorous actress Clairon." - Lawrence A. Johnson, Chicago Classical Review 

"…the splendid Swedish mezzo-soprano played Clairon with a flamboyant hauteur to match her over-the-top flapper outfits." - John von Rhein, Chicago Tribune 

"American tenor William Burden captured the self-confidence and musicality as the composer Flamand." - Andrew Patner, Chicago Sun-Times

"Audun Iversen made a most impressive company debut as Olivier. The Norwegian baritone displayed a warm and flexible voice and deftly balanced the comedy with sincerity" - Lawrence A. Johnson, Chicago Classical Review 

"Peter Rose was ideal casting for the cynical yet savvy impresario La Roche" - Lawrence A. Johnson, Chicago Classical Review 

Bo Skovhus "provided the funniest moments of the evening with the gauche dilettante's atrocious acting." - Lawrence A. Johnson, Chicago Classical Review 

Photo credits:

  • Capriccio production photos credit Todd Rosenberg / Lyric Opera of Chicago

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

 

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