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Critics love Lyric's “bold, provocative, hot-blooded” DON GIOVANNI

Lyric's Diamond Anniversary season has started off in style. Critics are raving about the new production of Mozart's Don Giovanni from renowned director Robert Falls of the Goodman Theatre, with Lyric's music director Sir Andrew Davis on the podium. Seductive and stunning, this is the can't-miss event of the fall season. Here are just a few reasons why.

Lyric's Diamond Anniversary season has started off in style. Critics are raving about the new production of Mozart's Don Giovanni from renowned director Robert Falls of the Goodman Theatre, with Lyric's music director Sir Andrew Davis on the podium. Seductive and stunning, this is the can't-miss event of the fall season. Here are just a few reasons why. 

Robert Falls's audacious staging 

"Falls' bold, provocative, hot-blooded new production of 'Don Giovanni' opened Lyric's 60th anniversary season Saturday night at the Civic Opera House, and it had the audience cheering for numerous reasons. … This 'Don Giovanni' is as nourishing to the eye as it is to the ear and mind." - John von Rhein, Chicago Tribune

"Director Robert Falls' fresh, boldly conceived staging infused new life into Mozart's dramma giocoso. " - Lawrence A. Johnson, Chicago Classical Review

"Falls’s fast-moving staging has an eye for the opera’s comedy and even more for its sexuality." - George Loomis, Financial Times

"Bob Falls has found a way to connect in a fresh way with a work we know and a work we love." - Andrew Patner, WFMT

"The production of Giovanni, which just opened at the Lyric Opera of Chicago, is a glorious triumph for Falls, and a spectacular opening to the Lyric's 60th season. Falls re-imagination of Don Giovanni has it all—passion, sex, heartbreak, murder, jealousy, and revenge. " - Betty Mohr, Le Bon Travel and Culture

"[Lyric's] cast and crew throw themselves into Falls' approach, and what results is an impressive theatrical and musically intensive brew that will have you laughing one minute while gasping with indignation the next." - Scott C. Morgan, Daily Herald 

"Moving the story of Don Juan from its seventeenth century origins to circa 1920s Spain proves to be a great decision by Falls. It manages to strip the production of stuffy periodicity while placing it into a time more familiar to the contemporary audience yet distant enough that the story’s messy morality seems plausible." - Brian Hieggelke, New City

"This new production proves that modern practice can combine with classic opera to create art of the highest order. This 'Don Giovanni' should not be missed." - M.L. Rantala, Hyde Park Herald

"Run, do not walk, to the Civic Opera House and catch this show." - Lawrence A. Johnson, Chicago Classical Review

The exceptional cast 

"A more appealing cast could hardly have been assembled for Mozart’s 'Don Giovanni' than the vocally resplendent, good-looking singers who inhabit the Lyric Opera of Chicago’s new production and season opener." - Lawrence B. Johnson, Chicago on the Aisle

"Polish baritone Mariusz Kwiecień is one of the world's best Don Giovannis, a trim, handsome bundle of raging testosterone. " - Wynne Delacoma, Chicago Sun-Times 

"The Polish baritone wielded his robust, burnished baritone with such elegant style and tonal beauty, it was easy to understand why all the women of Europe are dropping at his feet." - Lawrence A. Johnson, Chicago Classical Review

"Puerto Rican soprano Ana María Martínez is wonderfully fiery with a dusky sound as the revenge-bent Donna Elvira (she also clearly relishes her 'modern woman' role reconceptualization—even arriving via motorcycle)." - Scott C. Morgan, Daily Herald 

"It's a tribute to Kyle Ketelsen that he held his own with Kwiecień's Don, more than is usually the case. The bass-baritone delivered a nimble and witty Catalog Aria and firmly brought out the servant's seething resentment as well as the men's camaraderie with a natural conversational quality to their rapid-fire exchanges." - Lawrence A. Johnson, Chicago Classical Review

"I found [Marina Rebeka's] Donna Anna superb: The sound was creamy, voluminous and steady as a laser, with plenty of fiery temperament to match the dramatic thrust of her singing." - John von Rhein, Chicago Tribune

Andriana Chuchman "brought a charming yet vixenish quality to the good-girl flirt and sang her two arias with notably youthful spirit." - Lawrence A. Johnson, Chicago Classical Review

"...bass-baritone Michael Sumuel deftly captured Masetto's mix of jealous male and vulnerable lover." - Wynne Delacoma, Chicago Sun-Times

Antonio Poli's "ardent, tender arias shaped Don Ottavio, often a bland cipher, into the opera's sole voice of reason." - Wynne Delacoma, Chicago Sun-Times 

"Andrea Silvestrelli's Commendatore was towering in height and sonorous of voice" - Lawrence A. Johnson, Chicago Classical Review

 Sir Andrew Davis and the Lyric Opera Orchestra and Chorus 

"Lyric music director Sir Andrew Davis conducted the Lyric Orchestra with plenty of panache, bringing out the light and dark colors of Mozart's timeless score with buoyant style." - Scott C. Morgan, Daily Herald

"...conductor Andrew Davis’ eloquent and expressive musical direction was greatly to be savored, as was a precise and buoyant performance by the Lyric Opera Orchestra. Add to that the exuberant yet disciplined singing by the Lyric Chorus and the last element was in place for a musically rewarding night." - Lawrence B. Johnson, Chicago on the Aisle

"…music director Andrew Davis drew lithe, elegant, stylish playing from his fine orchestra that felt all of a piece with the Don's high-stakes games of seduction." - John von Rhein, Chicago Tribune

"the magnificence of the production should also be credited to Sir Andrew Davis, who at the helm of Lyric’s exceptional orchestra, gives his all to Mozart’s delicious score; [and] to Michael Black who brings out the best in Lyric’s chorus..." - Betty Mohr, Le Bon Travel and Culture

The fantastic sets and costumes 

"Walt Spangler's sets and Ana Kuzmanic's costumes persuasively and colourfully suggest urban Seville, including a handsome townhouse for the Commendatore, seen from the street, and a church interior dominated by a statue of Mary for the Sextet scene of Act 2." - George Loomis, Financial Times  

"Not only are the sets something to behold, but so too are the ravishing costumes by Ana Kuzmanic that evoke the carefree flamboyance of the Jazz Age." - Betty Mohr, Le Bon Travel and Culture

"The contributions of frequent Falls collaborators Ana Kuzmanic (costume design) and Walt Spangler (sets) deserve equal billing with the performers. The production lives in black and white and gray, but splashes of color – blood, flowers – transcend decoration and become metaphor for the proximity of sensuality and death herein." - Brian Hieggelke,New City

"Between designer Walt Spangler's fetching Spanish sets and Ana Kuzmanic's stylish 1920s costumes (a temporal relocation that Mozart surely would have adored), this 'Don Giovanni' has an integrated look and feel that not only works but also allows for doses of broad, updated humor." - Lawrence B. Johnson, Chicago on the Aisle

"Walt Spangler's scenic design is consistently imaginative, centered on a traditional balconied facade of a Spanish house as unit set with striking splashes of flowers and color." - Lawrence A. Johnson, Chicago Classical Review

"…in the ball scene, [Ana Kuzmanic's] lavishly stylized, brocade and velvet costumes for Donna Elvira, Donna Anna (Marina Rebeka) and Don Ottavio (Antonio Poli) clearly delineated the chasm between the aristocrats and the common folk, an important point for Mozart and his librettist Lorenzo Da Ponte. " - Wynne Delacoma, Chicago Sun-Times

The spectacular final scene 

"While everything about the opera soars, the climactic scene (which I won't spoil), in which Giovanni is sent to hell, is jaw-dropping stunning. This is the best Don Giovanni I have ever seen. Opera lovers will be talking about it for a long time." - Betty Mohr, Le Bon Travel and Culture

"There is a juicily melodramatic death scene for the Don whose surprising details I will not spoil by revealing." - John von Rhein, Chicago Tribune

Photo credits:

  • Don Giovanni photos credit Todd Rosenberg / Lyric Opera of Chicago

 

Have you heard? THE SOUND OF MUSIC is a hit!

The reviews are in…and they are spectacular! Critics are raving about Lyric's new production of  The Sound of Music. Here's a sampling of what they are saying about the fantastic cast, lavish sets, and gorgeous music.

The reviews are in…and they are spectacular! Critics are raving about Lyric's new production of The Sound of Music. Here's a sampling of what they are saying:

The larger-than-life production

"The Lyric Opera of Chicago finds a sweet Alpine spot with director Marc Bruni's admirably lively new production of 'The Sound of Music,' a lavish yet accessible and family-oriented affair that features…gorgeous picture-book design from Michael Yeargan…" - Chris Jones, Chicago Tribune

"Lyric’s extraordinary production, elegantly directed by Marc Bruni, takes all the great qualities of the show to present a grand scale, stunning production the likes of which we haven’t seen in a long time." - Betty Mohr, Le Bon Travel and Culture 

The Sound of Music "make[s] full use of the Civic Opera House's grand stage, from towering tableaus of the abbey to the irresistible moment when all seven of the von Trapp children ride onstage on matching but custom-sized bicycles—talk about commitment to a production aesthetic." - Kris Vire, Time Out Chicago

"Lyric Opera of Chicago's 'The Sound of Music' is every bit the grand production you'd expect from one of the country's leading opera companies." - Barbara Vitello, Daily Herald

The beloved story

"It's remarkable how such a well-known story can still generate chuckles and gasps, even upon the umpteenth viewing" - Elizabeth Diffin, Chicago Parent 

The fantastic cast

"I can't recall a revival so perfectly cast." - Roy Leonard, Chicago Now

"…pert-yet-powerful [Jenn] Gambatese…makes this role her own. She has a broad smile that matches her captivating performance that leaves the heart warmed and the spirited lifted with her every song note." - Phil Potempa, Northwest Indiana Times

"…tying it together, providing that intangible element allowing this 'Music' to really sing, is Gambatese’s brilliant portrayal of Maria." - Barry Reszel, Make It Better

"Billy Zane…has just the right tone for the stern Captain whose militaristic demeanor melts away when he realizes that Maria has brought back music into his life" - Roy Leonard, Chicago Now

"…the seven von Trapp children—pros beyond their years—are the production's greatest delight…" - Deanna Isaacs, Chicago Reader

"Beautifully majestic…Christine Brewer as the Mother Abbess. Her operatic 'Climb Ev'ry Mountain' will bring tears to your eyes." - Dean Richards, WGN-TV

Elizabeth Futral "moved with the studied grace of one who is accustomed to having all eyes on her in the room.…This soprano is also a bitingly clever actor, one who knows how to fling a casual aside to the back of the house." - Nancy Malitz, Chicago on the Aisle

Edward Hibbert "is superb as character man/comic relief/realist/impresario Max Detweiler, showing he is a true pro in every sense of the word." - Paul W. Thompson, Broadway World

"Betsy Farrar is a lovely, believable Liesl … 'Sixteen Going on Seventeen' [is] beautifully sung and danced with a charming Zach Sorrow as Rolf, thankfully avoiding the angry young man syndrome found in most portrayals" - Colin Douglas, Chicago Theatre Review

The beautiful music

"…Richard Rodgers himself couldn't imagine a more ideal way of hearing his score…" - Kris Vire, Time Out Chicago

"The Lyric Orchestra, under the masterful conductor Rob Fisher, does justice to Richard Rodgers fabulous score." - Tom Williams, Chicago Critic

"…probably the best chorus of Nonnberg nuns the world has ever heard" - Paul W. Thompson, Broadway World

Don't miss it!

"The sound of perfection...best stage show we've had in Chicago in years." - Dean Richards, WGN-TV

"In the Lyric Opera’s capable hands, The Sound of Music has retained its appeal for audiences of all ages. The hills are alive, indeed." - Elizabeth Diffin, Chicago Parent 

"…fans of the film and stage show—especially those introducing their children to it—will find it faithful, beautiful, and bigger than they're ever likely to see it again." - Deanna Isaacs, Chicago Reader

"Who knew that the Lyric would do more than just revive the musical but give it the definitive production that the stage show has always deserved." - Michael J. Roberts, Showbiz Chicago

 "This production is absolutely wonderful." - Andrew Patner, WFMT

Photo credit: 

  • Maria and the von Trapp children perform "The Lonely Goatherd" in The Sound of Music. Top row: Isabelle Roberts, Julia Schweizer, Brady Tutton. Middle row: KyLee Hennes, Jenn Gambatese, Nicole Scimeca. Bottom: Michael Harp. (credit Todd Rosenberg / Lyric Opera of Chicago)

 

Critics' guide to THE GUIDE

"The Guide has proven itself to be a superb idea—...in both formats, breaking down barriers....[It's] sure to bring more first-timers to next season’s series of eight major works in Lyric’s 'Operaland' and give much amusement to that world’s present inhabitants. Let’s hope this becomes an annual enterprise with fresh material each year." – Andrew Patner, Chicago Sun-Times

Second City stage

Why are Chicago critics and audiences raving about Jeff Recommended The Second City Guide to the Opera?

The comedy:

 • "[I]mprovisers and actors Joey Bland, Molly Brennan, Lili-Anne Brown, Beth Melewski, Timothy Sniffen and Tim Ryder...send up the tropes of their discipline with precision blackout sketches, traditional Second City-style songs and recurring bits like 'Dr. Opera,' featuring classic characters in therapy." – Kris Vire, Time Out Chicago

• "One had the sense that some in the crowd were experiencing the manifestation of their wildest dreams: a chance to laugh, all night long, at a 'Ring Cycle' curtain announcement." – Chris Jones, Chicago Tribune  

The music:

• Ryan Opera Center alumnus "tenor Bernard Holcomb['s]...comedic chops and 'let’s put on a show!' enthusiasm are...infectious. Prominent Ryan alumna mezzo Lauren Curnow has joined the cast, and both singers...have solo musical turns. [T]he musical numbers are...quite touching and in the small setting, even poignant."             – Andrew Patner, Chicago Sun-Times

The onstage seating:

• "...[A] soprano's-eye view from the stage of [the Civic Opera House,] one of Chicago's most essential treasures, illuminated for the occasion. Sketch comedy never looked classier." – Chris Jones, Chicago Tribune

The spirit of collaboration and fun: 

• "...[M]asterful in the way it rides the line between catering to Lyric regulars and opera newbies." – Kris Vire, Time Out Chicago

• "The Guide has proven itself to be a superb idea...in both formats, breaking down barriers....[It's] sure to bring more first-timers to next season’s series of eight major works in Lyric’s 'Operaland' and give much amusement to that world’s present inhabitants. Let’s hope this becomes an annual enterprise with fresh material each year." – Andrew Patner, Chicago Sun-Times

Critics sing OKLAHOMA!'s praises

"There has to be an entry for 'Yee-HA!' in the critic’s lexicon, or there’s no adequate word for the stylish, funny, handsomely sung production of Rodgers and Hammerstein’s Oklahoma! at Lyric Opera of Chicago. Lyric again demonstrates a serious commitment of resources and the highest standard of theatrical excellence in the most embracing sense. This high-spirited, downhome Oklahoma! is an absolute joy." – Lawrence B. Johnson,Chicago on the Aisle

• "Gary Griffin's grand production by Lyric Opera [is] a joyous revelation." – John Olson, Chicago Theater Beat

• "Under the direction of Gary Griffin, the baton of James Lowe, the choreography of Gemze de Lappe, this is as good as it gets. The romance charms. The comedy crackles. And the singing enchants. I grinned the entire time. I knew exactly what was going to happen every moment but I stayed on high alert. I didn’t want to miss one note, one step, one kiss. Oklahoma! is like stepping back into a favorite memory and having a superior ensemble reenact it for your personal pleasure. And this ensemble is superior." – Katy Walsh, ChicagoNow      

• "There has to be an entry for 'Yee-HA!' in the critic’s lexicon, or there’s no adequate word for the stylish, funny, handsomely sung production of Rodgers and Hammerstein’s Oklahoma! at Lyric Opera of Chicago. Confirming the impression it made a year ago with Show Boat, its splendid first venture into the American musical, Lyric Opera again demonstrates a serious commitment of resources and the highest standard of theatrical excellence in the most embracing sense. This high-spirited, downhome Oklahoma! is an absolute joy." – Lawrence B. Johnson, Chicago on the Aisle

Congratulations to the entire Oklahoma! team on a triumphant production and an auspicious launch to Lyric's five-year exploration of Rodgers & Hammerstein's oeuvre.

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