Lyric Opera of Chicago

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An Insider's Guide to THE PASSENGER

The Chicago premiere of Weinberg's The Passenger is on stage at Lyric from February 24 through March 15. Discover this poignant, gripping, and intimate 20th-century masterpiece, which portrays the story of the Holocaust from the perspectives of both victim and perpetrator, through interviews with the cast and creative team, audio previews, and more. 

The final opera of Lyric's 60th Anniversary season is the Chicago premiere of Mieczysław Weinberg's The Passenger, on stage from February 24 through March 15. This poignant and gripping 20th-century masterpiece portrays the story of the Holocaust from the perspectives of both victim and perpetrator, and was only recently rediscovered after more than 40 years of suppression.

In the early 1960s, Liese (Daveda Karanas) travels aboard an ocean liner bound for Brazil with her diplomat husband Walter (Brandon Jovanovich) while hiding a terrible secret: she was once an SS officer at Auschwitz. When she thinks she recognizes a fellow passenger as Marta (Amanda Majeski), one of her former inmates, she is forced to confront the truth about her past. The story moves back and forth from the ship to the camp, focusing on key events including Marta's reunion with her lover, Tadeusz (Joshua Hopkins), and Marta's friendships with Katya (Kelly Kaduce) and Bronka (Liuba Sokolova).

The Passenger is conducted by Sir Andrew Davis and directed by David Pountney, with set designs by the late Johan Engels, costumes by Marie-Jeanne Lecca, and lighting by Fabrice Kebour.

To supplement the mainstage performances of The Passenger, Lyric also presents "Memory and Reckoning," a confluence of activities that will add resonance and perspective to the themes and messages in Weinberg's opera through musical performances, a film screening, exploratory discussions, and the world premiere of The Property, a newly commissioned klezmer opera. Click here to learn more about these supplemental events, which run January through March.

Articles with insights from the cast and creative team:

Pathways to Discovery: Exploring The Passenger and The Property
Lyric's general director Anthony Freud discusses the importance of presenting The Passenger and "Memory and Reckoning" events in this article from Lyric Opera News: "As the son of a Holocaust survivor, Freud notes that he can 'be rather cynical about works of art that have been inspired by the Holocaust. However, The Passenger is different from most. It's not sentimental or simplistic or melodramatic. It's a complex, very moving, very human story.'" READ MORE  

In the Footsteps of Evil: Daveda Karanas visits Auschwitz
When Daveda Karanas appears in the Lyric premiere of The Passenger, she'll perform with a special perspective on the opera. Her portrayal of Liese—a former overseer of inmates at Auschwitz concentration camp during World War II—will be significantly influenced by the American mezzo-soprano's recent visit to Auschwitz itself. READ MORE

Backstage Look: Creating Hair and Makeup for The Passenger
Lyric's wigmaster Sarah Hatten, now entering her fourth season as the head of this crucial department, takes us inside the process for creating the hair and makeup for Weinberg’s The Passenger. With an opera based on historical events, the challenge is to make every aspect of the production look as realistic as possible. And as surprising as it might seem, recreating real life on stage is usually more difficult than creating whimsical or fantastic wigs and makeup. READ MORE

The Passenger Audio Preview

Music director Sir Andrew Davis shares the synopsis and excerpts from Weinberg's The Passenger. Recordings used by permission of EMI Classics.

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A special invitation from THE MAGIC VICTROLA cast

The Magic Victrola is on stage at Lyric this Saturday, January 17 at 3pm for one performance only! Check out this special invitation to attend from its three stars: Caroline Heffernan, Logan Neuschaefer, and veteran Chicago actor Richard Henzel.

The cast of The Magic VictrolaCaroline Heffernan, Logan Neuschaefer, and Richard Henzel—invites you to attend this family-friendly performance on Saturday, January 17 at 3pm. Opera comes alive for one performance only! 

Why should you see this great production? Here's a few reasons why from Grandfather himself:

Hi, I'm Richard Henzel and I'm excited to be playing the role of the grandfather in a spectacular new production from Lyric Unlimited that has been created just for your kids—The Magic Victrola!

Like you, I love opera—the beautiful scenery and costumes, the passionate stories and exciting characters, and of course the magnificent singing. There's no greater thrill than being able to share my passion for this wonderful art form with the ones I love. That's why I'm so excited to be part of The Magic Victrola and the opportunity to experience it with you and your family.

This special new production brings together scenes from beloved operas in a way that will fill the children in your life with wonder and delight. It stars children who, perhaps like our young audience, don't know what to expect from opera - and just wait until the surprises start to unfold!

You'll hear favorite music from operas like The Magic Flute, The Marriage of Figaro, Carmen, and more—melodies we have all heard in cartoons and on television commercials—come to vivid life as performed by real-life opera stars and a live orchestra. The 60-minute show features sets, costumes, and fun pop-culture twists that will keep everyone engaged!

Plus, you'll be able to see every exciting detail up close through the help of six jumbo video screens throughout the opera house.

Spend a warm afternoon with us at the glorious Civic Opera House, and experience the magical thrill of opera classics this Saturday, January 17 at 3pm.

We look forward to seeing you there!

 

Photo credits:

  • Richard Henznel portrait credit Suzanne Plunkett
  • Caroline Heffernan portrait credit Brian McConkey
  • Logan Neuschaefer portrait credit Carin Silkaitis
  • The Magic Victrola set picture credit Andrew Cioffi / Lyric Opera of Chicago

 

THE MAGIC VICTROLA: Opera Comes Alive

Prepare for Lyric Unlimited's upcoming family presentation The Magic Victrola  on January 17 with this comprehensive guide, which gives an overview of the story and some of the musical excerpts that will be featured.

Children and adults alike will be enchanted by Lyric Unlimited's upcoming family presentation, The Magic Victrola on Saturday, January 17 at 3pm.

This one-afternoon-only event is a delightful way for children to learn about the joys of opera. The production is specifically designed for children ages 5 to 10, but people of all ages will enjoy this brand-new story brought to life by the Lyric Opera Orchestra and singers from Lyric's own Ryan Opera Center

The Story…

Caroline Heffernan and Logan Neuschaefer play Gracie and Sam, two children who are staying with their grandfather (Richard Henzel) for the summer. Though they initially worry they might be bored, they discover their grandfather's collection of opera records in the attic, along with an old-fashioned Victrola player that has magical qualities. When they put on the first record, the bird catcher Papageno (Ryan Opera Center baritone Will Liverman) from Mozart's The Magic Flute appears and encourages Gracie and Sam to play more records, which causes each famous opera scene to magically come to life in colorful vignettes.

The Process 

Curious about how the story and the music make it to the stage? Read this interview with Lyric's production design director Scott Marr and props coordinator Maria da Fabo, who designed the sets and costumes for this presentation.

The Snacks… 

The rumors are true! Kid-friendly snacks will be sold in the foyer and you can even take them with you to enjoy in the theater.

The Music… 

The Magic Victrola is filled with operatic favorites. If you want to introduce your children to the music before they come, here are some video excerpts!

Overture from Mozart's The Marriage of Figaro

The Magic Victrola opens with one of the most famous overtures in opera: Mozart's delightful opening to The Marriage of Figaro.

 

"Der Vogelfänger bin ich ja" from Mozart's The Magic Flute

Papageno sings about his happy life as a birdcatcher.

 

The Doll Song from Offenbach's The Tales of Hoffmann 

Olympia the doll sings a song, but she occasionally needs to be wound up so she can keep going!

 

"Quanto è bella" from Donizetti's L'Elisir d'Amore

This aria has a man singing about the beautiful woman he loves.  

 

The Flower Duet from Delibes's Lakmé

This duet is about all of the wonderful things found in nature.

 

"O mio babbino caro" from Puccini's Gianni Schicchi

In this aria, a young woman asks for help from her father in a way that melts his heart. The title can be translated to "O my dear papa."

 

Habanera from Bizet's Carmen

This opera is set in Spain and this aria has a very catchy rhythm called the Habanera, which is a type of dance music.

 

Papageno Papagena Duet from Mozart's The Magic Flute

Papageno finally finds his perfect match: Papagena!

 

Photo credits:

  • Photos from The Family Barber, Lyric Unlimited's family presentation in the 2013-14 season (Todd Rosenberg / Lyric Opera of Chicago)
(Lyric Opera of Chicago does not own copyrights to any of the above videos.)

 

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Craig Terry takes you “Beyond the Aria”

Ryan Opera Center music director Craig Terry takes you on a guided tour of the new cabaret series Beyond the Aria, which kicks off on Oct. 21 with performances by Ana María Martínez, Bo Skovhus, and J’nai Bridges.

This season, Lyric is proud to collaborate with the Harris Theater for Music and Dance at Millennium Park for their production of Beyond the Aria, a series of four intimate cabaret-style performances that showcase opera singers in the repertoire they enjoy outside of the operatic realm. Selections will range from a variety of genres, from Broadway to jazz to folk, so audiences can expect the unexpected.

The series kicks off on Tuesday, October 21 with Ana María Martínez (currently on stage in Don Giovanni), Bo Skovhus (on stage in Capriccio), and Ryan Opera Center ensemble member J'nai Bridges. The series continues on November 10, January 14, and March 10. Ryan Opera Center music director Craig Terry is artistic director for this new series, and he gives us some insight into this unique program.

How did the series come about?

Last October, I played on the Harris Theater's 10th anniversary gala with Stephanie Blythe, and afterwards, Michael Tiknis approached me about ways he thought we might collaborate together.  When I suggested a recital series with stars from Lyric and including the Ryan Opera Center, it seemed like a perfect match! For someone who does what I do, an incredible opportunity such as this rarely presents itself. Lucky me indeed!   

How have you approached song selection for the series?

As I have performed previously with many of the singers on this first series, I had an idea of the way that some of the recitals might be successfully programmed. Each artist has a different way of telling stories through singing, and sharing these stories with an "up close and personal" audience aspect is the aim of these programs. To take the first concert as an example, I hoped that Bo Skovhus might sing some Schubert, Ana María would sing a bit in Spanish, and that they might together sing some duets that would surprise the audience. I pitched some ideas to them, and they were immediately game, made some suggestions of their own, and voilà, we had a program! 

Has anything surprised you about the planning process? Have anyone's song choices or preferences been unexpected?

My personal goal in the planning process was to be sure that the singers LOVE every song they sing, and that the process and performance are a joyful music making experience for everyone. To give a specific example, there is one piece that I'm certain hardly anyone will have ever heard that has very special meaning for Ana María. I'm thrilled that she will be able to share it with this audience. And I must say, I was worried that I might have asked for a couple selections that were out of the group's collective comfort zone, but those have perhaps been the MOST fun to rehearse!

This seems like an amazing moment for the Ryan Opera Center members - how has the collaboration and rehearsal process affected them as young singers on their way to great careers?

The most fun for the Ryan Opera Center members is the ability to stand side by side with these incredibly accomplished artists and collaborate with them in a way that raises their level and expectation of performance. To give one example, J'nai Bridges sang her set of songs last week for Bo, who offered some incredibly helpful and invaluable insight.  That opportunity alone was worth the entire experience.  

For each performance, what can people expect?

People can expect to hear and FEEL the visceral effects of experiencing world class voices in an intimate, stunningly beautiful space.  Audiences can also expect a wide range of repertoire, with some certain fun to be had along the way! I also believe that the audience will leave feeling as though they truly got to know the artists on a personal level.  

What do you think is most special or unique about this series? 

As the music director of the Ryan Opera Center, what I find the most special about the series is the unparalleled opportunity ANYWHERE for a gifted young singer to stand beside two absolute titans of the opera world, and experience what it feels like to share words, music, and joy with them as an equal. The Harris has given us a tremendous gift, and I couldn't be more grateful (or EXCITED!) for the possibilities! 

Beyond the Aria 2014-15 season

Tuesday, October 21, 2014, 7:30PM 
Featuring Ana María Martínez, soprano • Bo Skovhus, baritone • J'nai Bridges, mezzo-soprano

Monday, November 10, 2014, 7:30PM 
Featuring Stephanie Blythe, mezzo-soprano • Quinn Kelsey, baritone • Laura Wilde, soprano  

Wednesday, January 14, 2015, 7:30PM 
Featuring Jamie Barton, mezzo-soprano • Bryan Hymel, tenor • Anthony Clark Evans, baritone  

Tuesday, March 10, 2015, 7:30PM 
Featuring Amber Wagner, soprano • Brandon Jovanovich, tenor  • Will Liverman, baritone

Photo credits:

  • Top: Craig Terry at the piano (credit Jaclyn Simpson / Lyric Opera of Chicago)
  • Oct. 21 performance: Bo Skovhus (credit Balmer and Dixon), Ana María Martínez (credit Tom Specht), J'nai Bridges (credit Devon Cass)
  • Nov. 10 performance: Stephanie Blythe (courtesy Opus 3 Artists), Quinn Kelsey (credit Ken Howard), Laura Wilde (credit Devon Cass)
  • Jan. 14 performance: Jamie Barton (credit Jonathan Timms), Bryan Hymel (credit Dario Acosta), Anthony Clark Evans (credit Devon Cass)
  • Mar. 10 performance: Will Liverman (credit Devon Cass), Amber Wagner (courtesy IMG Artists), Brandon Jovanovich (credit Peter Dressel)
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