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

 

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

"Dynamic young conductor Ward Stare (a former principal trombonist with the Lyric Opera Orchestra) has a deep affinity for this music and for the players, his former colleagues. He is able to draw a phenomenal performance of Gershwin’s work from the Lyric Orchestra. It embodies a subtlety and style that many in the audience have never encountered in this music before. Who knew there was so much soul in that orchestra pit?" - Chicago Stage Review

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

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