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An Insider's Guide to IL TROVATORE

Lyric's production of Verdi's Il Trovatore runs October 27 through November 29. Here is your complete insider's guide with articles, photos, audio previews, and more.

Everyone has heard the Anvil Chorus, but Verdi's epic Il Trovatore (on stage October 27-November 29) is so much more than its signature choral piece. Learn more about Lyric's monumental production, originally conceived by director Sir David McVicar and conducted by Asher Fisch.

A cruel curse separates two brothers at birth. One is the privileged Count di Luna (Quinn Kelsey), and the other, the troubadour Manrico (Yonghoon Lee), is raised by the revenge-obsessed gypsy Azucena (Stephanie Blythe). Now bitter enemies, they clash over the love of the same woman, the beautiful Leonora (Amber Wagner). And that's just Act One! Kidnapping, imprisonment, mistaken identities, gypsies, poisonings, witches burning at the stake, star-crossed lovers, revenge—this opera has everything, including some of Verdi's most irresistible music. 

Articles with insights from the cast and creative team

Il Trovatore: A Vocal Feast
Verdi fans have joked for decades that all you need for the composer’s Il Trovatore are the greatest voices in the world – but there’s actually some truth in that! And if you’ve got the right voices, then the feast offered by this opera is sumptuous indeed.  
READ MORE

Lyric’s Chorus delights in Il Trovatore and beyond
Il Trovatore is a choral feast and provides one of the biggest showpieces for the amazing Lyric Opera Chorus this season. Chorus Master Michael Black takes us through some of the many choral highlights in Verdi's masterpiece. READ MORE

Opera 101: Inside tech week
 Opera secrets revealed! What happens at Lyric during the summer? Each mainstage opera has a week-long summer tech period. Lighting cues are set, sets are repaired, and everything is made ready for performances later in the season. Read on to for a day-by-day breakdown of the preparations for Verdi's Il TrovatoreREAD MORE 

Il Trovatore: A Lyric Photo History
Il Trovatore was a hugely popular success when it premiered, and it today remains one of the 20 most-performed operas around the world. Before you come and see Yonghoon Lee, Amber Wagner, Stephanie Blythe, and Quinn Kelsey in Sir David McVicar's production later this season, take a look at some past productions of this great opera throughout Lyric's history, including Maria Callas as Leonora and Jussi Björling as Manrico. READ MORE

Catching up with Chorus Master Michael Black
In this Lyric Lately exclusive, read more about Michael Black's history with Il Trovatore and how he keeps busy during the summer months away from Lyric. READ MORE

"Patter Up!" with Quinn Kelsey

Get to know Lyric's future Count di Luna as he answers rapid fire questions and sings a little Elvis!

 

 

Il Trovatore Audio Preview

Music director Sir Andrew Davis shares the synopsis and excerpts from Verdi's Il Trovatore. Recordings used by permission of EMI Classics.

Catching up with Chorus Master Michael Black

Even more Michael Black! Lyric's chorus master was featured in the August edition of Lyric Notes, and here is some bonus info from that interview.

In our August edition of Lyric Notes, Lyric's Chorus Master Michael Black takes us through some of the choral highlights of the 2014-15 season, including Lyric's mainstage production of Verdi's Il Trovatore and the two very special Chorus showcases at Chicago's Fourth Presbyterian Church on September 12 and Evanston's Alice Millar Chapel on November 22.

Here are some tidbits that we couldn't fit into the article, including his history with the opera, why he loves Sir David McVicar's productions, and what this Aussie has been doing over his Lyric vacation.

Il Trovatore is one of the standards of the operatic repertoire—what is your history with the piece?

I've prepared Trovatore perhaps five or six times on two different productions at Opera Australia. The first production was a delightful Elijah Moshinsky production and, a few years earlier, premiered with Dame Joan Sutherland as Leonore. Coincidentally when I first worked on the piece the conductor was Dame Joan's husband Richard Bonynge. I have also had the dubious distinction of being one of two anvil players at every performance of Trovatore I have been involved in. [Black will stay behind the scenes in Lyric's production. Watch for some talented supernumeraries to provide the signature anvil clash!]

Reading about Sir David McVicar's production of Trovatore, one of the advantages of moving the action to the early 1800s is that the gypsies in the Anvil Chorus are actually forging weapons.  How do you prepare the Chorus for this iconic scene?

Fortunately, as with all amazing directors, Sir David uses actors to give the illusion that the chorus is moving and performing strenuous moves. He lets the chorus sing! They just have to keep out of the way of the anvils!

How have you been keeping busy this summer? Can you let us in on some of your travels and the musical projects that keep you busy in the off-season?

I arrived back in Sydney the day of my son Liam's 18th birthday, and then took off to thaw out after the incredibly cold Chicago winter by relaxing by a pool in Bali with my Kindle catching up on some reading whilst getting some sun. Apart from the Bali trip I was in Sydney the entire time where I was lucky enough to do a short stint as répétiteur [rehearsal pianist and coach] on a terrific Harry Kupfer production of Otello at the Sydney Opera House. It was a treat listening to my old chorus from a distance and having absolutely no responsibility for them!

Photo credits:

  • Michael Black poses with Lyric Opera Chorus members backstage during various productions from last season: Otello, Madama Butterfly, and Parsifal. (Photos courtesy Michael Black.)

Chorus Master Michael Black preps nuns and kids for THE SOUND OF MUSIC

Lyric's Chorus Master Michael Black has been preparing the chorus of nuns and the von Trapp children (14 total, including main cast and understudies!) for the upcoming production of The Sound of Music—no easy feat! He talks about the power of an opera chorus, his favorite parts of the show, and when he met Joakim Noah during rehearsal. 

Lyric's Chorus Master Michael Black has been preparing the chorus of nuns and the von Trapp children (14 total, including main cast and understudies!) for the upcoming production of The Sound of Music—no easy feat!

As Lyric's chorus master since 2013 (after filling in as interim chorus master during the 2011/12 season), Black comes into The Sound of Music with a wealth of experience in the operatic world from his work with Opera Australia. He's a long-time admirer of Rodgers and Hammerstein's beloved musical. "This is my first time working on The Sound of Music, although I must have watched the movie at least a dozen times whilst growing up and am very familiar with the original Broadway cast recording, so it almost feels as though I know it as well as La Traviata or Madama Butterfly!" he says. "There's not a note of it that was unfamiliar to me when it came to preparing the music for this production."

The power of an opera chorus

Black approaches the preparations for this beloved Broadway musical with the same focus and discipline he brings to every mainstage opera. "With The Sound of Music, the chorus music is exclusively the nuns singing and therefore it has to be clean, precise, blended; all things you would expect of an opera chorus," he elaborates. "And the wonderful thing about the musicals here at Lyric is that we always offer 12 places in the chorus of the musical to members of the Regular Chorus who come to audition to be part of the production. So the sound you get is going to be the same wonderful sound you get when you come to hear one of the operas in the season."

Sound of Music's operatic connection

The original Broadway production of The Sound of Music also has a curious operatic connection, one that Black was quick to relay to the chorus for this production. "More experienced Lyric subscribers and opera lovers may remember the wonderful Tatiana Troyanos," he continues. "I love the fact that she began her professional stage career as a nun in the original Broadway production of The Sound of Music In our first ensemble music rehearsal, I spoke about this to the nuns to highlight the fact that the caliber of our work has to be this good."

Becoming a family

In addition to his work with the nuns, he reports that "working with the von Trapp children has been an absolute delight." Black was able to sit in on the audition process, so he met the actors three or four times before they were officially cast and got to know their individual personalities. "As you would expect," he adds, "each one of them is an amazingly talented individual, so to see them take all this individuality and then become an onstage family in a short space of time has been nothing short of miraculous."

An unexpected visitor

One of the highlights of the rehearsal process was in the second week, when Chicago Bulls star center Joakim Noah was in the building for a Sports Illustrated photo shoot. His changing room was next door to where Black and conductor Rob Fisher were just about to start a rehearsal von Trapp children and understudies.

Black quips, "I'm not entirely sure who was more excited meeting Joakim Noah, the kids or myself. I know I was certainly the first person in the rehearsal room to pull out their iPhone to ask to have a picture taken with him! Since moving to Chicago, I've seen three Bulls games and Joakim and Carlos Boozer are my favorites and so when Joakim walked into the room, it was unbelievable."

The children were able to perform "Do Re Mi" for Noah, and the professional athlete was even able to connect their two seemingly different worlds: "He listened to them sing and then spoke to them of the importance of teamwork, having a good coach and then being able to listen to the coach and then performing as a team, all things in common with both sport and opera or stage work."

His favorite things

When asked about his favorite part of the show, Black confesses to being "an old sentimental sucker. I always mist up when Captain von Trapp and Maria realize they're in love and in this production it's a very beautiful moment with Billy and Jenn." Unable to choose just one moment, he also notes that "Christine Brewer will bring the house down with 'Climb Ev'ry Mountain' and I'm getting goose bumps right now thinking about the reprise right at the end of the opera with the entire ensemble singing with her."

Finally, he can't help but put in a bid for the youngest von Trapp: "Little Gretl , as you would expect, steals every scene she's in."

Photo credits:

  • Michael Black (credit Kurt Sneddon)
  • Nuns in rehearsal (credit Todd Rosenberg / Lyric Opera of Chicago)
  • Joakim Noah visits Lyric Opera (credit Carrie Krol / Lyric Opera of Chicago)
  • Nicole Scimeca (Gretl) in The Sound of Music (credit Todd Rosenberg / Lyric Opera of Chicago)

 

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