Lyric Opera of Chicago

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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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Celebrating opera & mariachi in Pilsen!

Lyric Unlimited is proud to present  Canciones y arias, a special performance showcasing the many musical connections between mariachi music and opera on Friday, April 11 and Saturday, April 12 at the beautiful performing arts center at Benito Juárez Community Academy in Chicago's Pilsen neighborhood.

 

Think opera and mariachi music don't have anything in common? Think again! 

Lyric Unlimited is proud to present Canciones y arias, a special performance showcasing the many musical connections between mariachi music and opera on Friday, April 11 and Saturday, April 12 at the beautiful performing arts center at Benito Juárez Community Academy in Chicago's Pilsen neighborhood.

Featuring the award-winning Mariachi Aztlán from the University of Texas Pan-American, along with Suzette Mayobre and classical singers Sonja Krenek (soprano) and Carlos A. Feliciano (tenor), this hour-long performance showcases the drama and intensity of storytelling through song—both traditional mariachi songs and classical arias—using examples of popular Mexican musicians like singer Jorge Negrete and composer Manuel M. Ponce, as well as operatic excerpts from Verdi, Puccini, Donizetti, and more.

The program traces the ties between the traditional art form of opera and the modern sounds of mariachi music, exploring the roots of mariachi—from indigenous folk music, African and European influences to the Western classical musical tradition of opera. 

Plus, before and after each concert, attendees can view an exhibit by youth artists from Yollocalli Arts Reach and Benito Juárez Community Academy  in the lobby. A student mariachi ensemble of the Chicago Mariachi Project will be performing after each of the concerts as well!

Here is a sneak preview of this very special event:

 

Youth Opera Council – A Look at a Great First Season

Lyric Unlimited's Youth Opera Council had a banner first season. This group of 22 high school-aged opera lovers learned about running an opera company, met Lyric guest artists, and—of course—saw a lot of opera! Here are a few of the highlights from the year. 

Lyric Unlimited's Youth Opera Council, a new initiative for the 2013-14 season, had a banner year. This group of 22 high school-aged opera lovers met regularly, speaking with Lyric staff about the operations of an opera company. They also had the opportunity to attend every mainstage production this year and to meet some of Lyric's fantastic guest artists. 

Here are a few of the highlights!

On February 1, the council hosted "A Night at the Opera" before the opening of Lyric's new production of The Barber of Seville (pictured above). At this sold-out event, the council invited 200 of their family and friends for a casual preconcert reception that featured the chance to mingle with members of the Lyric Opera Orchestra and Chorus and try on a few costumes! Here is a video that gives a flavor of this special event: 

 

The council also had meetings with some of Lyric's great guest artists: Nathan Gunn, Isabel Leonard, and Alek Shrader, all stars of The Barber of Seville. They also spent a very special evening with La Clemenza di Tito star Joyce DiDonato (pictured right). Joyce also ran into some Youth Opera Council members during intermission of a Rusalka student matinee performance and captured their profound thoughts on why opera is important and thriving:

 

Other special events included a special backstage tour led by Lyric's Audience Education Manager Jesse Gram, as well as regular meetings here at Lyric, some of which included visits with key Lyric staff. Guest speakers have included Lyric General Director Anthony Freud, Lyric Unlimited Director Cayenne Harris, Public Relations Director Alexandra Day, Barber of Seville Assistant Director Elise Sandell, and Assistant Stage Manager Bill Walters. 

Want to be part of this great group? Applications are now being accepted for the 2014-15 Youth Opera Council. Click here to learn more and apply today!

Photo credits:

  • "A Night at the Opera" photo collage (top), photos credit Jenn Gaudreau
  • Joyce DiDonato visits with the Youth Opera Council, photo credit Alejandra Boyer
  • The Youth Opera council chats with Bill Walters and Elise Sandell (photo credit Andrew Cioffi) and gets a backstage tour (photo credit Alejandra Boyer).

 

Adventures in Opera at THE FAMILY BARBER

The whole family can learn about opera and have some fun at  The Family Barber on Saturday, March 22. This brand-new presentation is a backstage pass to a wild and wacky rehearsal of Rossini's beloved comedy The Barber of Seville.

The whole family can learn about opera and have some fun at The Family Barber  on Saturday, March 22. This brand-new presentation is a backstage pass to a wild and wacky rehearsal of Rossini's beloved comedy The Barber of Seville.

Featuring the beautiful sets and costumes from Lyric's recent production of The Barber of Seville,  audience members of all ages can enjoy all of the action in English-with projected English titles above the stage! The Family Barber was specially written for children ages 5 to 10. However, slightly younger or older children will still enjoy it! And there will definitely be laughs for parents and grandparents, too.

What's the story?
José Antonio Garcia plays an opera director who is completely out of his league trying to put on The Barber of Seville. His sidekick, Tutti (Alex Goodrich) is desperate to sing and unwittingly helps the director navigate his way through all that goes into staging an opera. The singing cast includes J'nai Bridges as the beautiful heroine Rosina, John Irvin  as the dashing young Count Almaviva, Will Liverman  as the ultimate fixer Figaro, and Philip Kraus as the buffoonish Dr. Bartolo. Bridges, Irvin, and Liverman are all current members of Lyric's own Ryan Opera Center. The Family Barber also features the brilliant Lyric Opera Orchestra and Chorus.

Don't forget the snacks!! You can buy food in the lobby and bring it right into the theater to enjoy during the show.  

Is this your first time at the opera? Here are some things that you might hear or see!

Listen for:

  • Arias—music sung by one person
  • Duets—music sung by two people either at the same time or taking turns
  • Choruses—a group of voices singing together
  • Different kinds of voices—from very high (soprano) to very low (bass)
  • Different types of instruments in the orchestra—string, brass, woodwind, and percussion

Look for:

  • Actors and singers wearing costumes and disguises
  • Projected English titles—words that appear on a screen above the stage that tell you what the characters are singing
  • The conductor—the person who leads the orchestra

Sometimes at the opera, people wonder when they're supposed to clap. It's time to clap:

  • When the conductor comes out to start the overture
  • After an aria or duet sung by the characters in the opera
  • At the very end of the opera
  • When the singers come out to take their bows
  • When people around you are clapping

Want to learn more about The Family Barber? Read this interview with Cayenne Harris, director of Lyric Unlimited, who gives more behind-the-scenes scoop on the production.

And Lyric's Anthony Freud, Renée Fleming, and Sir Andrew Davis give a quick preview of the show: 

 

Photo credit: Dan Rest / Lyric Opera of Chicago 

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