Lyric Opera of Chicago

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The “Stars” are aligning September 6

Can't wait for this year's free Stars of Lyric Opera at Millennium Park concert? Here are a few tips and tricks to make this evening of opera enjoyable. Be there early on Saturday, September 6 to hold your place on the lawn before concert time of 7:30pm.

Can't wait for this year's free Stars of Lyric Opera at Millennium Park concert? It's the official kickoff to Lyric's Diamond Anniversary Season and part of Millennium Park's 10th Anniversary Summer Celebration, so this is the perfect night to hear opera under the stars. Here are a few tips and tricks to make this evening memorable. 

Arrive fashionably early

We recommend coming downtown early on Saturday, September 6 to hold your perfect place on the lawn before concert time of 7:30pm. This year there will be pre-concert entertainment provided by members of the United States Air Force Band of Mid-America between 6:45 and 7:10pm. If you're looking for a seat in the pavilion, it opens up at 6pm—and they go fast!

Don't forget your phone 

This year, you'll be able to follow along with all of the English translations at lyricoperalive.org. There will be titles in real time, a link to the entire program to peruse at your leisure, and even a contest to win tickets for next season. And of course you'll need your phone to take that perfect selfie so you can show off your perfect "night at the opera under the stars" pic on social media! Use #LyricStars to connect with fellow opera lovers. No matter how you use it, your mobile is a must-have this year.

A good picnic is essential 

Whether you're making everything from scratch or picking up nibbles from Mariano's, Jewel, Whole Foods, Trader Joe's, or even ordering a picnic from Pastoral, it always pays off to come early and bring a wonderful spread for friends.

Love is in the air 

During last year's concert, there was a wedding proposal on the lawn (evidence below)! An evening of opera under the stars is the ideal setting to show your special someone you care.

Babies love opera 

Bring your kids! Millennium Park is a great way to get children of all ages to listen to opera with plenty of park to enjoy.

Costumes are encouraged 

Here's an enthusiastic audience member sporting his best Brünnhilde headgear. You can hit up Lyric's Costume Sale earlier in the day to get some fabulous threads to show off at the evening's concert. September 6 from 9 a.m. to 6 p.m. at the Civic Opera House—be there or be square!

And the music will be amazing 

This year's program features some of the stars from the upcoming season, including the incredible cast of the season-opening Don Giovanni and singers from the  Ryan Opera Center. Lyric's music director Sir Andrew Davis leads the Lyric Opera Orchestra and Chorus in all of their musical splendor. 

Looking for a preview? Here are just some of the selections you will hear on September 6.

"Te Deum" Finale from Tosca (Metropolitan Opera, 2010)

 

Wagner's Tannhäuser Overture (Christian Thielemann conducts the Munich Philharmonic)

 

"Patria oppressa" from Verdi's Macbeth (Gran Teatre del Liceu, 2005)

 

Photos credit Robert Kusel / Lyric Opera of Chicago. 

(Lyric Opera of Chicago does not own copyrights to any of the above videos.)

Opera 101: Inside tech week

Opera secrets revealed! What happens at Lyric during the summer? Each opera has a week-long summer tech. Read on to for a day-by-day breakdown of the preparations for Verdi's Il Trovatore.

Lyric's opera season doesn't officially start until Saturday, September 27, when the eagerly anticipated new production of Mozart's Don Giovanni opens the Diamond Anniversary season. However, the staff is already busy behind the scenes. For Lyric's technical department, the most intensive period is the eight weeks of tech—one week for each mainstage opera.

Here's a day-by-day breakdown of the tech week for Verdi's Il Trovatore. Wondering what exactly tech week is? It's the period of time where the sets are assembled so that the lighting and automation cues can be programmed. One of the key elements of Trovatore that dominates the preparations: the giant turntable that houses almost the entire set. It rotates to change scenes and transition between acts without a break in the action.

(A look at ll Trovatore in performance)

Wednesday, July 23 and Thursday, July 24

The trucks carrying the sets for Il Trovatore arrived at Lyric for unloading.  As one of the largest shows being presented this year, it took two full days to unload. The sets for Porgy and Bess were still on Lyric's stage at the time, finishing up their tech week touches while Trovatore was delivered.

Friday, July 25

The Porgy and Bess set was dismantled starting at 8 a.m. It took the stage crew most of the day on Friday (and even part of the day Saturday!) to completely take apart and pack up Porgy.

(The scenery handling area backstage is always busy during tech.)

Saturday, July 26

As soon as the crew finished taking down Porgy, assembly of the Trovatore sets began. During any tech week, the crew first tackles anything that needs to be flown in (meaning items that will need to come in from above during the performance), while the stage is completely empty. For Trovatore, this includes the Goya-inspired show drop curtain that greets audience members when they arrive and the wraparound cyclorama—the half-cylinder show backdrop that is raised when not in use. There is also a gate and part of a wall that are brought in during part of the show—an impressive technical feat.

(These items need to fly! Clockwise from upper left: The Goya-inspired show curtain; the cyclorama from the stage looking up and from the top of the fly space, looking down.)

Sunday, July 27

The show deck was assembled. Very few operas actually take place on Lyric's real stage floor. A show either has a floor (any covering 0 to 2" in height) or a deck (anything over 2"). Because Trovatore's sets are on a rotating turntable, the show has a 12" deck so that the motorized elements can fit underneath. The deck for Trovatore is divided into pieces that are 6 ft x 6 ft and then assembled to cover most of the stage. Once the deck is built, the rest of the show's elements (walls, rocks, gates, etc.) are put into place. 

(One blueprint of the show's deck and a look at the turntable's motor on stage.)

Monday, July 28

Monday was completely devoted to lighting. The lighting crew comes in and figures out the various lights that need to be focused on stage.

Tuesday, July 29; Wednesday, July 30; and Thursday, July 31

Once the set was completely assembled. work began in earnest. The lighting cues and automation cues were written and programmed. The set was checked for improvements, with detailed notes on what needs to be repaired or retouched for when it is actually back on stage.

(On set repairs in progress)

Friday, August 1

Goodbye Trovatore, hello Tannhäuser. The sets were completely dismantled to make room for the next opera, and the cycle starts again. 

Where does it all go?

 After tech week,Il Trovatore's sets were divided up for storage. Some pieces are still here at Lyric in the cavernous space underneath the theater. Other pieces of the set were loaded into trucks and taken to Lyric's storage yard on the south side. Some portions of what went offsite were set aside in rehearsal trucks so that they can come back for the start of rehearsals and be assembled in Room 200, Lyric's main rehearsal space. The rest will come back about a week before onstage rehearsals begin.

Photo credits:

  • Il Trovatore production still credit Dan Rest / Lyric Opera of Chicago
  • Il Trovatore show curtain photo credit Robert Kusel / Lyric Opera of Chicago
  • Backstage photos by Carrie Krol / Lyric Opera of Chicago

Ryan Opera Center’s Busy Summer

The members of Lyric's Ryan Opera Center are keeping busy this summer. Read more about what they've been up to, plus two opportunities to see these talented young musicians in performance. 

Though the stage at Lyric might be dark until September, The Patrick G. and Shirley W. Ryan Opera Center 2014-15 ensemble has already been hard at work. Summer activities have included voice lessons and coachings, as well as instruction and classes in languages, movement, and acting--including improv with The Second City. Ensemble members have also performed a concert with the Civic Orchestra of Chicago and a workshop production of Don Giovanni. They most recently participated in a weeklong working session for Bel Canto, the new Lyric commission that has its world premiere in December 2015. Read more about the Bel Canto creative process

Want to see the fruits of their labors? Here are two opportunities to watch the ensemble members perform live this summer:

Lyric Shorts - Rush Hour Concerts Summer Music Series
Tuesday, July 29 at 5:45pm
St. James Cathedral (65 E. Huron St., Chicago)

The popular ongoing Lyric Shorts program, a staple of Rush Hour's summer series, returns with excerpts from Mozart's Don Giovanni, which opens Lyric's 2014-15 season on Saturday, September 27. Ensemble members Anthony Clark Evans, John Irvin, Will Liverman, Julie Anne Miller, Hlengiwe Mkhwanazi, Richard Ollarsaba, Laura Wilde, and Maureen Zoltek (piano) perform selections with narration by Roger Pines, Lyric's dramaturg. This presentation is free and open to the public, and will also be broadcast live on 98.7WFMT and streamed online at wfmt.com

Bolcom and Mozart - Grant Park Music Festival
Wednesday, August 13 at 6:30pm
Pritzker Pavilion, Millennium Park

J'nai Bridges, Julie Anne Miller, Anthony Clark Evans and Will Liverman will join the Grant Park Orchestra in a performance of a collection of William Bolcom's Cabaret Songs, conducted by Carlos Kalmar. Mozart's Symphony No. 25 and Piston's Suite from The Incredible Flutist are also on the program. Bolcom is a Pulitzer Prize-winning composer; Lyric commissioned and premiered three of his operas: A Wedding (2004-05), A View from the Bridge (1999-2000), and  McTeague (1992-93).

To reserve a seat in the Pritzker Pavilion for $25, call 312-742-7638 or visit gpmf.org. Seating on the lawn is free and open to the public. This concert will also be broadcast live on 98.7WFMT and streamed online at wfmt.com.

Photo credit: 

  • The 2014-15 Ryan Opera Center Ensemble. Bottom row: J'nai Bridges, Maureen Zoltek, Will Liverman; Middle row: Laura Wilde, Tracy Cantin, Hlengiwe Mkhwanazi, Julie Anne Miller; Top row: Richard Ollarsaba, Bradley Smoak, Jesse Donner, Anthony Clark Evans, John Irvin, Jonathan Johnson (credit Dan Rest / Lyric Opera of Chicago)

 

 

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Inside the BEL CANTO working sessions

The week of July 7, the creative team for Lyric's world premiere opera Bel Canto  (opening in 2015!), gathered in Chicago for several days of intensive work on the project. Read on to get a glimpse of this work-in-progress.

The week of July 7, the creative team for Lyric's world premiere opera Bel Canto (opening in December 2015!), gathered in Chicago for several days of intensive work on the project. Composer Jimmy López, librettist Nilo Cruz, and director Kevin Newbury were on hand to listen to the completed portions of the score in a version for two pianos and vocals, conducted by Sir Andrew Davis.

This was the first time that any members of the team had heard the music sung. Almost the entire Ryan Opera Center ensemble participated in these working sessions, taking on not only the main roles but doubling the minor characters plus chorus parts as well.

The days of work culminated with a reading of four scenes (two from Act One and two from Act Two) that have been completed. The session was opened up to a small group of journalists and sponsors and was followed by a Q&A with the creative team and Lyric's general Director Anthony Freud.

Here are just a few of the fascinating details that were revealed:

  • A polyglot opera! The opera will be performed in seven languages: English, Spanish, French, German, Russian, Japanese, and Quechua—one of the indigenous languages of Peru, where the opera is set. Sir Andrew Davis noted that this could be the first opera to use Quechua!
  • Reinvention, not adaptation. Nilo Cruz talked about how he's not simply adapting the novel, but making something completely different. Anthony Freud added that the aim for the project is to make Bel Canto stand on its own terms as an opera, rather than just reproduce the book as a play set to music. 
  • Ann Patchett's positive reaction. Anthony Freud shared that author Ann Patchett, who was initially afraid to read the libretto when it was sent to her, has declared it even more beautiful than her original novel.
  • Bel Canto is the new black? Director Kevin Newbury says that the story is really about creating a community within captivity, and how he is excited to show the small private moments that can happen in the middle of a very public space. He drew a comparison to the hit TV show Orange is the New Black, which gives characters' background within the larger story of life in prison.
  • It will be crowdedon stage, at least! During the real-life captivity, all of the hostages were made to stay in the same space, which means that all cast members will be on stage together for virtually the entire opera.

Learn more about Bel Canto from the creative team:

 

Photo credits:

  • Bel Canto libretto (credit Todd Rosenberg / Lyric Opera of Chicago)
  • The Bel Canto creative team: librettist Nilo Cruz, composer Jimmy López, and director Kevin Newbury (credit Andrew Cioffi / Lyric Opera of Chicago)
  • Ryan Opera Center members are conducted by Sir Andrew Davis during the workshop (credit Todd Rosenberg / Lyric Opera of Chicago). For the workshop, Ryan Opera Center members Hlengiwe Mkhwanazi, J’nai Bridges, Jonathan Johnson, Bradley Smoak, Jesse Donner, and Anthony Clark Evans sang principal roles. Laura Wilde, Julie Anne Miller, John Irvin, Will Liverman, and Richard Ollarsaba sang multiple roles. Ensemble member Maureen Zoltek and Ryan Opera Center Music Director Craig Terry were pianists. 
  • Anthony Freud and Sir Andrew Davis during the discussion (credit Todd Rosenberg / Lyric Opera of Chicago)
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