Lyric Opera of Chicago

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An Insider's Guide to PORGY AND BESS

Everything you need to know about Lyric's upcoming production of Gershwin's Porgy and Bess (on stage November 17-December 20): video and audio previews, articles, photos, and more.

"Summertime, and the livin' is easy …" With iconic songs that have become jazz and pop standards, Porgy and Bess (on stage from November 17-December 20) is filled with some of George Gershwin's most beloved music. See the iconic American opera in this sumptuous production that brings the colorful characters of Catfish Row to life. Eric Owens stars as Porgy, the good man with a heart of gold who would do anything for the troubled Bess (Adina Aaron). But, when tempted by a former love and her drug addiction, can she remain true to him?

Porgy and Bess also stars Jermaine Smith (Sportin' Life), Eric Greene (Crown), and Hlengiwe Mkhwanazi (Clara). The production is directed by Francesca Zambello and conducted by Ward Stare

Video previews featuring Porgy and Bess star Eric Owens

 

Get to know Eric Owens in this "Patter Up!"

 

Owens talks about his role as a Lyric Unlimited Community Ambassador.

 

Articles with insights from the cast and creative team

Joy in Singing: Hlengiwe Mkhwanazi debuts at Lyric in Porgy and Bess
First-year Ryan Opera Center member Hlengiwe Mkhwanazi makes her Lyric debut as Clara in Porgy and Bess. The character sings what is arguably the opera's most famous aria, "Summertime."  
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Chorister Profile: Kenneth Nichols
Bass-baritone Kenneth Nichols has been a member of the Lyric Opera Chorus for 13 years. We caught up with Nichols this summer in between performances in the chorus of San Francisco Opera's Show Boat,  (a co-production with Lyric Opera, Houston Grand Opera and Washington National Opera), to talk about his experiences as a singer and his thoughts on Lyric's upcoming production of Porgy and Bess. READ MORE

You can never get enough “Summertime”
 "Summertime" has moved beyond the world of opera to become one of the most beloved songs in American music. It's been covered more than 25,000 times...and still counting! This post on our blog Lyric Lately gathered some of the most beautiful and unexpected covers of the song from artists like Miles Davis, The Doors, and Sting.  
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Opera 101: One-hit wonders
Porgy and Bess was Gershwin's only opera, which puts him in the small but distinguished category of composers that only wrote one opera that became a major hit. Also on the list? Beethoven and Dvořák, among others. READ MORE

 

Porgy and Bess Audio Preview

Music director Sir Andrew Davis shares the synopsis and excerpts from Gershwin's Porgy and Bess. Recordings used by permission of EMI Classics.

Matthew Aucoin on SECOND NATURE

Composer and librettist Matthew Aucoin shares his thoughts on Second Nature, the new children's opera coming in 2015 from Lyric Unlimited.

One of Lyric Unlimited's anticipated upcoming projects Second Nature, a new children's opera that will be performed at the Lincoln Park Zoo on August 19 and 20, 2015. Matthew Aucoin is acting as composer and librettist for this commission. The young American composer is also a noted conductor, pianist, and poet. Here are his musings on this work-in-progress: 

On Second Nature

An opera for kids! But is there such a thing as an opera "for adults"? If there is, I don't want to hear it. Opera, by nature, exists in a mythical space—it lives high above and far beneath adult reality. It's sublime and subliminal, it's sacred and obscene, it gives voice and form to the unspeakable and the repressed.

Here's a litmus test for any opera: does it manage to shut down all our rational adult defense mechanisms, so that we innocently submit ourselves to total sensory experience? Are questions of "believability" made irrelevant? Does it speak to us with a voice that cannot possibly be real, yet somehow is?

Opera addresses an ancient innocence in us, and it demands a childlike openness. So to write an opera with kids in mind is just to extend what opera always does. Just like the world of fairy tales, opera is peopled by archetypes-made-flesh, by walking manifestations of our deepest fears and desires. The Queen of the Night. The Grand Inquisitor. The Animal Tamer. The Vixen. Bluebeard and his wives. The androgynous pageboy. The lover in disguise.

One old nightmare of ours seems to be coming true at the moment: Mother Nature is turning on us. Mythology is colliding with reality; it's like all the ancient gods are taking revenge on the human race. Nature, which has always been "the unchangeable," is undergoing a terrible change—at our hands.

Second Nature  is set after the fall of nature. Humankind has found itself in a negative Eden: this time, we're stuck in a virtual "garden" of our own creation. We don't want to deal with big bad Nature anymore. It'll take a couple of kids—born in this bland synthetic world—who have the right blend of innocence, openness and daring to bite the fruit and explore a new world. Actually, those are just the qualities you need to listen to opera...

Photo credit:
  • Matthew Aucoin (credit Social Palates)
 
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Lyric Unlimited 2015 Highlights

2015 is going to be a busy year for Lyric Unlimited, which is presenting three world premieres and a brand-new family performance! Read more about these great new projects, which include a klezmer opera and a zoo opera!

2015 is going to be a busy year for Lyric Unlimited, which is presenting three world premieres and a brand-new family performance! Lyric General Director Anthony Freud and Lyric Unlimited Director Cayenne Harris take you through these exciting new projects:

 

Adapted from the acclaimed graphic novel by Rutu Modan, The Property tells the story of Regina Segal and her granddaughter Mica, who travel to modern Warsaw to try to regain family property lost during World War II. As their journey unfolds, Regina is forced to confront painful truths about her past, while Mica realizes their reasons for coming might not be all that they seemed. 

This world-premiere opera is being composed by Wlad Marhulets and will be in the klezmer style. Stephanie Fleischmann and Eric Einhorn have adapted the novel and will act as librettist and director, respectively.

The Property will be presented in partnership with the Reva and David Logan Center for the Arts at the University of Chicago and will be performed at that venue and at Skokie's North Shore Center for the Performing Arts. Tickets go on sale on July 1!

Let's all go to the zoo! In August 2015, Lyric Unlimited presents world premiere of a new children's opera, Second Nature, at the beautiful and historic Lincoln Park Zoo. Second Nature is set in the not-so-distant future, when the environment has deteriorated and humans have decided it's safer to live in zoo-like habitats that protect them from the outside world. Encouraged by the other animal inhabitants, two young children dare to explore the world outside the walls to see if there is still something worth saving. 

American composer Matthew Aucoin is both composer and librettist, and Matthew Ozawa directs. This new presentation is recommended for families with children ages 8 to 12. And best of all, it's free and open to the public!

But wait - there's more!! 

 

Preview performances for the highly anticipated mariachi opera El Pasado Nunca Se Termina have been added at Benito Juaréz Community Academy in Chicago’s Pilsen neighborhood and Waukegan's historic Genesee Theatre. Tickets for these previews are available July 1. Seats for the world-premiere performances right here at Lyric are available now!

And tickets for The Magic Victrola  are available right now, so save your seats today for this all-new family concert with music from Mozart's The Magic Flute, Bizet's Carmen, and other beloved operatic masterworks.   

Performance Calendar 

The Magic Victrola

lyricopera.org/victrola
With music by Mozart, Bizet, and others
David Kersnar and Jacqueline Russell, writers
Featuring members of the Ryan Opera Center and the Lyric Opera Orchestra

Civic Opera House
20 N. Wacker Dr., Chicago
Saturday, January 17, 2015, 3 p.m.
Tickets: $10-$40

The Property

lyricopera.org/property
Based on the graphic novel by Rutu Modan
Adapted by Eric Einhorn and Stephanie Fleischmann
Wlad Marhulets, composer
Stephanie Fleischmann, librettist
Eric Einhorn, director
Featuring members of Maxwell Street Klezmer Band

World-Premiere Performances
Reva and David Logan Center for the Arts
915 E. 60th St., Chicago
Wednesday, February 25, 2015, 7:30 p.m.
Thursday, February 26, 2015, 7:30 p.m.
Friday, February 27, 2015, 1 p.m.
Tickets start at $20 (on sale July 1)

The North Shore Center for the Performing Arts
9501 Skokie Blvd., Skokie
Wednesday, March 4, 2015, 7:30 p.m.
Thursday, March 5, 2015, 7:30 p.m.
Tickets start at $20 (on sale July 1)

El Pasado Nunca Se Termina

lyricopera.org/pasado
Jose "Pepe" Martínez, composer
Leonard Foglia, librettist and director

 

Preview Performances
Benito Juárez Community Academy
1450 W. Cermak Rd., Chicago
Friday, March 13, 2015, 7:30 p.m.
Saturday, March 14, 2015, 2 p.m.
Saturday, March 14, 2015, 7:30 p.m.
Sunday, March 15, 2015, 2 p.m.
Tickets: $10 (on sale July 1)

Genesee Theatre
203 N. Genesee St., Waukegan
Sunday, March 22, 2015, 2 p.m.
Tickets: $10-$25 (on sale July 1)

World-Premiere Performances
Civic Opera House
20 N. Wacker Dr., Chicago
Saturday, March 28, 2015, 7:30 p.m.
Sunday, March 29, 2015, 2 p.m.
Tickets: $25-$125

Second Nature

lyricopera.org/secondnature
Matthew Aucoin, composer and librettist
Matthew Ozawa, director

 

World-Premiere Performances
Café Brauer at Lincoln Park Zoo
2021 N. Stockton Dr., Chicago
Wednesday, August 19, 2015
Thursday, August 20, 2015
Performances times to be announced.
Free admission.

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Merit School of Music Honors Renée Fleming

On May 8, Chicago's prestigious Merit School of Music awarded Lyric creative consultant Renée Fleming with the Alice S. Pfaelzer Award for Distinguished Service to the Arts as part of the school's 35th anniversary gala celebration at the Palmer House Hilton.

On May 8, Chicago's prestigious Merit School of Music awarded Lyric creative consultant Renée Fleming with the Alice S. Pfaelzer Award for Distinguished Service to the Arts as part of the school's 35th anniversary gala celebration at the Palmer House Hilton.

Lyric's Board President Kenneth G. Pigott presented Fleming with the award, saying that Lyric is "a new and different organization thanks in major part to Renée Fleming."

Fleming, who was appointed Lyric's creative consultant in December 2010, has worked closely with Merit School of Music almost since the beginning of her tenure. Merit was the first school to partner with Lyric in what has now become the Vocal Partnership Program, offered through Lyric Unlimited. The program provides an avenue for high school students at five partner organizations to learn about opera and develop their skills through access to artistry and expertise from Lyric Opera artists and staff. Participants’ interest and passion for singing is supported and nurtured through special events such as attendance at Lyric Opera performances and rehearsals, backstage tours, recitals at partner schools, and master classes and conversations with main stage artists.

As part of this ongoing collaboration, Fleming has led master classes with students from Merit's Alice F. Pfaelzer Tuition-free Conservatory, participated in Lyric's first-ever career day for Merit students, and met with the school's vocal faculty to discuss Lyric's partnership and share pedagogy techniques.  

Fleming's award was the highlight of this gala celebration, which also featured performances from Merit's many music ensembles: brass, opera and musical theater, vocal jazz, conservatory choir, and the honors jazz combo.

Merit School of Music is nationally recognized for providing accessible, high-quality music education to nearly 5,000 Chicago-area students. Merit School of Music is devoted to giving children—especially children living in economically disadvantaged communities—the opportunity to grow through music. To learn more, visit meritmusic.org

Photo credits:

  • Renée Fleming accepts the Alice S. Pfaelzer Award for Distinguished Service to the Arts (Credit Jasmin Shah / Merit School of Music)
  • Renée Fleming with Merit students (Credit Jasmin Shah / Merit School of Music)

 

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