Lyric Opera of Chicago

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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)

 

The Buzz is Building for THE SOUND OF MUSIC

Lyric's new production of The Sound of Music opens on April 25, and the excitement around Chicago is reaching a fever pitch. The wonderful cast and crew of the show have been spotted all around town. Check out some highlights of the great media coverage so far. 

Lyric's new production of The Sound of Music opens on April 25, and the excitement around Chicago is reaching a fever pitch. The wonderful cast and crew of the show—Billy Zane, Jenn Gambatese, Christine Brewer, Edward Hibbert, Marc Bruni, and those delightful von Trapp children—have been spotted all around town. Even the Chicago Bulls All-Star Center Joakim Noah is in on the action!

Sports Illustrated 

Joakim Noah dropped by the Civic Opera House for a Sports Illustrated photo shoot and a quick visit to the von Trapp children's rehearsal for The Sound of Music. Lee Jenkins reports in the magazine's April 21 issue>>

Billy Zane on WGN Morning News

 

Jenn Gambatese on Windy City Live 

;

Marc Bruni on Chicago Sun-Times "Curtain Call"

 

Christine Brewer and Edward Hibbert on Chicago Tonight

 

 WCIU's You & Me This Morning

And here's a sampling of the  many print interviews about the show

Need more inside info? Check out our Insider's Guide to The Sound of Music !

An Insider's Guide to THE SOUND OF MUSIC

Go inside Lyric's new production of  Rodgers & Hammerstein's The Sound of Music, on stage like you've never seen it before from April 25 to May 18, with video previews, interviews, behind-the-scenes looks, and more!

Lyric is thrilled to once again celebrate the great American musical with a brand-new production of Rodgers and Hammerstein's The Sound of Music, staged like you've never seen it before starting on April 25. Chicago native Billy Zane, known for his starring roles in Titanic and Chicago on Broadway, plays Captain Georg von Trapp with dazzling cast that includes Broadway stars Jenn Gambatese (Maria) and Edward Hibbert (Max) and opera luminaries Christine Brewer (Mother Abbess) and Elizabeth Futral (Elsa Schraeder). The production comes to life with dancing, costumes, sets, and the glorious sound of the Lyric Opera Orchestra and Chorus—62 members strong, an unprecedented ensemble for most musical theater productions.

Go inside this production with video previews, interviews, behind-the-scenes articles, and more!

Get a sneak peek with our official video trailer:

  

The rehearsal process begins! Director Marc Bruni gives an overview of the show:

                        

A "foyerside" chat with Lyric's Renée Fleming, Anthony Freud, and Sir Andrew Davis:

 

Read these articles for insights from the cast and creative team:

Have you heard? The Sound of Music is a hit!
The reviews are in...and they are spectacular! Critics are loving Lyric's new production of Rodgers and Hammerstein's beloved final masterpiece. Dean Richards from WGN-TV deemed it "the sound of perfection...best stage show we've had in Chicago in years." READ MORE

Buzz is Building for The Sound of Music 
The talented cast and crew of The Sound of Music have been spotted all across Chicago. Here is a sampling of some of the television appearances, interviews, and features on this new production. Chicago Bulls center Joakim Noah even met the von Trapp children! READ MORE

Michael Black preps nuns and kids alike for The Sound of Music
Lyric's talented chorus master talks about the process of preparing the huge chorus of nuns and the delightful von Trapp children for their singing roles in The Sound of Music. Plus, he gives us a first-hand account of when Bulls center Joakim Noah stopped by rehearsal. READ MORE

Talkin' Broadway with Jenn Gambatese and Billy Zane
Though they are both making Lyric debuts with The Sound of MusicBilly Zane and Jenn Gambatese bring years of expertise as actors-on the screen and on the stage-to the Civic Opera House as they portray Captain von Trapp and Maria in this eagerly anticipated new production. READ MORE

Bringing The Sound of Music to Life
Lyric continues its lauded American Musical Theater Initiative with The Sound of Music. You might have watched NBC's highly rated live production in December, but nothing can compare to the experience of watching it live on stage. Casting is key, and for this production, Lyric has assembled stars from Broadway and opera to collaborate on Rodgers and Hammerstein's final masterpiece. READ MORE 

Billy Zane on Broadway, Fatherhood, and the Captain's Wicked Sense of Humor
Though he's known for his blockbuster film roles-including Titanic, Back to the Future, and a memorable cameo in Zoolander-Zane has theater in his DNA. His parents were active in regional theater, so he grew up watching them perform, as well as attending Harand Theatre Camp in Kenosha, Wisconsin. READ MORE 

Inside the Mind of Sound of Music Director Marc Bruni  
Director Marc Bruni gives the inside track on what audiences can expect when they come to see The Sound of Music at Lyric-everything from sets to music and characters promises to create an unparalleled theatrical experience. READ MORE 

My Favorite Things: Jenn Gambatese
Our Maria gives some of her must-haves, which include champagne cocktails (don't tell Leisl!), Singin' in the Rain, ice cream, Heidi, and her adorable teacup Yorkie, Killer Marie. And yes, she and her daughter belt out the Frozen soundtrack with Idina Menzel. READ MORE

My Favorite Things: Christine Brewer
One of the world's most acclaimed sopranos, Christine Brewer stars as the Mother Abbess in The Sound of Music. But when she's not solving a problem like Maria, what does she enjoy? Here's a glimpse into her very busy and very fun life from A League of Their Own to the annual Brewer Hootenanny. READ MORE

My Favorite Things: Edward Hibbert
Known for his delightfully droll portrayal of food critic Gil Chesterton on NBC's Frasier, Edward Hibbert brings his quick wit to the role of oily impresario Max Detweiler in this production of The Sound of Music. A few of his favorite things? All About Eve, Amy Winehouse, cashmere, and champagne. Max would be proud! READ MORE

My Favorite Things: Elizabeth Futral
Chicago favorite and an alumna of Lyric's own Ryan Opera Center, Elizabeth Futral is starring as the elegant Elsa Schraeder in The Sound of Music. She gives a glimpse of a few of the things she enjoys most, including Breaking Bad, Annie Dillard, and the unique Chicago Mix (cheese and caramel together) from the legendary Garrett Popcorn. READ MORE

My Favorite Things: Betsy Farrar
Betsy Farrar is no stranger to Chicago stages, having appeared in Million Dollar Quartet and Gypsy, but she makes her Lyric debut as Liesl. When not performing, a nice stiff whiskey ginger, It's a Wonderful Life, and the collected works of Beyoncé are just a few of her favorite things. READ MORE

My Favorite Things: Zach Sorrow
This Northwestern University grad loves Xbox and a capella. Get to know Zach Sorrow, who is currently setting Liesl's heart aflutter as everyone's favorite telegraph delivery boy Rolf. READ MORE

Those Sound of Music Kids
What's more appealing than an American musical filled with great tunes and an engaging and delightful group of kids placed in the very center of the story? Lyric's new production of The Sound of Music has in its cast an assortment of talented young actors who can sing, dance, and, of course, act. Assistant conductor Valerie Maze talks about how the kids balance rehearsal with school and more. READ MORE

Heritage Bicycles and THE SOUND OF MUSIC
A grand-scale production like The Sound of Music means finding some very special props. When the von Trapp children and Rolf needed bicycles, Lyric turned to Chicago's own Heritage Bicycles to manufacture some very special custom-made vehicles. READ MORE

Introducing the Family von Trapp! 
Here are some fun facts about the seven exceptionally talented young actors that makes up the von Trapp Family Singers! This group does everything from stage acting to TV roles to tae kwon doREAD MORE 

The Hills Are Alive with (Covers from) The Sound of Music 
Rodgers and Hammerstein's The Sound of Music is full of some of the most beloved songs in all of musical theater. Many of them have become standards in their own right, appearing in TV shows, movies, and commercials for decades. Here are just a handful of our favorite interpretations of these classic songs. READ MORE 

Oh Captain, My Captain! Getting to Know Billy Zane
The Captain has arrived! The one, the only Billy Zane, star of James Cameron's international blockbuster Titanic and critically acclaimed for his portrayal of Billy Flynn in Broadway's smash hit Chicago, stars as Captain von Trapp in Lyric's brand-new production of Rodgers and Hammerstein's The Sound of Music (April 25-May 18). READ MORE

Billy Zane's Memorable Film Moments
Our Captain, Billy Zane, has appeared in more than 100 film roles. Here are a few highlights from his extremely varied career, including on-screen appearances with Nicole Kidman, Kate Winslet, and Michael J. Fox. READ MORE

How do you solve a problem like Maria…and Liesl?
Ask Dr. Opera!
 

                                                          

Lyric on Parade!

Here are highlights from Lyric's Sound of Music float appearing in Chicago's world-famous St. Patrick's Day Parade:

 

The Hills Are Alive with (covers from) THE SOUND OF MUSIC

The Sound of Music is full of some of the most beloved songs in all of musical theater, including many that have become standards in their own right. Here are just a handful of our favorite interpretations of these classics. 

Rodgers and Hammerstein's The Sound of Music is full of some of the most beloved songs in all of musical theater. Many of them have become standards in their own right, appearing in TV shows, movies, and commercials for decades. Here are just a handful of our favorite interpretations of these classic songs.

"Do-Re-Mi"

Crooners Eddie Fisher, Andy Williams, and Bobby Darin give "Do-Re-Mi" a swingin' sixties vibe in this clip from The Andy Williams Show from January 1966. Bobby Darin even breaks into a few bars of "Oklahoma!"

 

This song also lends itself to a large group performance, as evidenced in this great flash mob from the central train station in Antwerp, Belgium from 2009. And yes, it was all a promotion for a Belgian TV station!

 

"Edelweiss"

The von Trapps, a singing group made up of the great-grandchildren of the original von Trapp Family Singers, are rising stars in the music world. They recently teamed up with Pink Martini on a new album, Dream a Little Dream, which includes covers of "The Lonely Goatherd" and "Edelweiss." Here is the talented quartet—Sofia, Melanie, Amanda, and August von Trapp—singing a beautiful a capella version of "Edelweiss."

 

"My Favorite Things"

The legendary saxophonist John Coltrane took "My Favorite Things" as inspiration for what is one of the greatest jazz recordings in history. Here is his take on the song, which gave his groundbreaking 1961 album its title. Also on this record? Coltrane's take on "Summertime" from Porgy and Bess.

 

Because of its winter-themed lyrics, My Favorite Things has also become a popular holiday song-covered by everyone from Diana Ross and the Supremes to Kelly Clarkson for holiday albums. Here are Herb Alpert and the Tijuana Brass in a live performance of their remake from their 1968 Christmas album:

 

"I Have Confidence"

One of the songs written specifically by Richard Rodgers for the film version of The Sound of Music, "I Have Confidence" has become a welcome addition to the musical—and it will be performed as part of Lyric's production starting on April 25. Here is the brilliant Audra McDonald performing the song live:

 

"Climb Ev'ry Mountain"

It takes a gigantic voice like that of Christine Brewer, who will be portraying the Mother Abbess in Lyric's production, to do this wonderful song justice. But Welsh songstress Shirley Bassey lends it a touch of Vegas with this interpretation:

 

"The Lonely Goatherd"

Julie Andrews hosted The Muppet Show in its second season and, fitting for a show built around puppets, performed "The Lonely Goatherd" with the wacky menagerie:

 

"Sixteen Going on Seventeen"

Dame Judi Dench performs with Brendan O'Hea at the Richard Rodgers Centenary Concert in 2002, giving a hilarious take on a song usually performed by two teenagers in love:

 

Hear all of these great songs—plus many, many more!—when you see Lyric's new production The Sound of Music starting on April 25! 

Sound_of_Music

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

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