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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Opera 101: How to plan a season

At Lyric, each opera season has eight different productions. So how do you choose just eight from the whole history of opera, plus new operas that are being written each year? Lyric's General Director Anthony Freud and Music Director Sir Andrew Davis take you through the basics of planning a season, which is part science and part subjectivity. 

At Lyric, each opera season has just eight different productions. So how do you choose just eight from the whole history of opera, plus new operas that are being written each year?

In the video below, Lyric's General Director Anthony Freud and Music Director Sir Andrew Davis take you through the basics of planning a season. The process is somewhat like putting together an elaborate puzzle, but one that they both enjoy very much!

The main factors they consider are:

  • Variety - Making sure that the opera season represents the wealth of musical styles (Baroque, Classical, Romantic, or Modern) plus a breadth of dramatic possibilities (comedy, tragedy, fantasy, etc.) and languages (French, Italian, German, Russian, etc.)
  • Passion - Freud and Davis also seek to program operas and productions that they both are truly excited about presenting to the public.
  • Longevity - Lyric is celebrating its 60th anniversary in the 2014/15 season, so it's imperative to take a look at what has been programmed within the last 10 years and what will be programmed in the years to come!

 

What's your fantasy opera season? Tell us on Facebook or Twitter with #dreamseason. Or email us with your picks and any other questions you want to see answered at opera101@lyricopera.org!

Photo credits:

  • Mariusz Kwiecien as Don Giovanni (credit Ken Howard / Metropolitan Opera)
  • Renée Fleming in Capriccio (credit Ken Howard / Metropolitan Opera)
  • Stephanie Blythe in Il Trovatore (credit Terrence McCarthy / San Francisco Opera)
  • A scene from Tosca (credit Robert Millard / LA Opera)
  • Michaela Schuster as Venus in Tannhäuser (credit Clive Barda / Royal Opera House / Arena Pal)
  • Eric Owens as Porgy in Porgy and Bess with cast members (credit Terrence McCarthy / San Francisco Opera)
  • Sondra Radvanovsky as Anna Bolena (credit Cade Martin / Washington National Opera)
  • A scene from The Passenger (credit Karl Forster)

Renée Fleming and Jonas Kaufmann – A Night to Remember!

Renée Fleming, Lyric's own creative consultant, joined forces with THE tenor of the moment Jonas Kaufmann for their very first duo recital, a historic event that showcased these two magnificent performers at the height of their artistry.

The Civic Opera House was filled with love for the 2014 Subscriber Appreciation Concert, which featured two stars coming together for a one-night-only event.

Renée Fleming, Lyric's own creative consultant, joined forces with THE tenor of the moment Jonas Kaufmann for their very first duo recital, an historic event that showcased these two magnificent performers at the height of their artistry. 

Accompanied by the Lyric Opera Orchestra, superbly led by Lyric Music Director Sir Andrew Davis, Kaufmann and Fleming performed to a sold-out crowd a program that showcased the music of love: duets and arias from Faust, La forza del destino, Manon, Otello, Carmen, and Werther, interspersed with expertly chosen instrumental interludes by Saint-Saëns, Verdi, and Sir Michael Tippett.

In addition to the announced program, the duo delighted the audience with two encores: the Waltz from The Merry Widow and "Marietta's Lied" from Korngold's Die tote Stadt. Fleming's two gorgeous gowns were designed by Vivienne Westwood with jewelry by Ann Ziff for Tamsen Z.

This was a homecoming of sorts for Kaufmann, who made his U.S. debut as Cassio in Lyric's production of Otello to open the 2001-02 season. And playing Desdemona? Fleming, of course!

The next time to see Fleming on stage at Lyric is in Strauss's Capriccio  in October 2014. Subscriptions are available now! Kaufmann's latest album, a recording of Schubert's Winterreise, is due out on April 1.

Photo credits: Todd Rosenberg / Lyric Opera of Chicago

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An Insider's Guide to RUSALKA

Video and audio previews, articles, and more at Lyric's Insider's Guide to Rusalka.

Below is your guide to Dvořák's hauntingly beautiful fairy tale Rusalka—including video previews, plot synposis, background articles and interviews, photo gallery, audio guides, and more. This new production and Lyric company premiere is on stage from Saturday, February 22 through Sunday, March 16. 

Ana María Martínez portrays Rusalka, a water nymph who has fallen in love with a human prince (Brandon Jovanovich). Although her father Vodník (Eric Owens) warns her that this may lead to disaster, she begs the witch Ježibaba (Jill Grove) to make her human. Her wish is granted, but the price is her voice. After Rusalka is transformed into a beautiful young woman, the prince grows frustrated with her silence and turns his attention to a foreign princess (Ekaterina Gubanova), a betrayal with tragic consequences. Read the full plot synopsis here.

 

Watch our video trailer (above) and a preview with general director Anthony Freud, music director Sir Andrew Davis (who is conducting this production), and creative consultant Renée Fleming (below).

 


Get to know Rusalka star Eric Owens in this "Patter Up!" video (below): 


Rusalka: Dvořák's darkly sensual fairytale
Learn more about Lyric's eagerly anticipated production of Rusalka, with insights from director Sir David McVicar, in this article. 

Interview with Rusalka star Ana María Martínez 
Ana María Martínez, a Lyric favorite, talks in detail about her character's journey.

Interview with Rusalka star Eric Owens
Eric Owens, who makes his role debut as Vodník in this production, talks about the great cast and what he likes to do when not on stage.

Rusalka and Her Journey
Read Lyric dramaturg Roger Pines's in-depth exploration of Rusalka.

A Conversation with Sir David McVicar
Rusalka's director gives an in-depth interview about how he created this exciting new production. 

 Rusalka

View a photo gallery of this stunning new production (click each image below to enlarge). 

RUSALKA Discovery Series

Water nymph Rusalka falls in love with a mortal and there are dire consequences in this sensual Czech fairytale. Ana María Martínez (Rusalka), Brandon Jovanovich (Prince), and conductor Sir Andrew Davis reveal the subtleties and intricacies of Dvořák’s best-known opera.

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Sir David McVicar speaks about RUSALKA

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Rusalka Audio Preview

Recordings used by permission of EMI Classics.

 

Rusalka Commentary

Rusalka
by Antonín Dvořák

© 2013/14 Lyric Opera Commentaries 

Original sound recordings of musical excerpts used by permission of SUPRAPHON. All rights reserved. Post-production services provided by Mark Travis, Producer.

 

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