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Lyric U: Baritones in opera

Have you tuned into Lyric U? Check out our new video library, which starts with an in-depth exploration of the baritone in opera with Sir Andrew Davis, Anthony Freud, and Renée Fleming. Plus, check out some video highlights of the greatest baritone arias on stage this season.

Have you tuned into Lyric U? It's Lyric's new resource for things opera, giving everyone an easy way to explore, discover, and engage. Whether you're new to the art form and looking for Opera 101 or an aficionado who wants to earn a PhD in Advanced Opera Studies, let Lyric U guide the way with this ever-expanding video library.

One of the new features on Lyric U is "From Soprano to Bass: Exploring Voice in Opera." Sir Andrew Davis, Renée Fleming, and Anthony Freud are your guides through the seven different categories of the human voice in this in-depth video series.

The first video in the series focuses on the baritone. This vocal range might be stuck in the middle of tenor and bass, but the baritone is definitely not a voice that can be easily overlooked. Some of the most famous roles in opera are portrayed by baritones-the ultimate bad boy in Mozart's Don Giovanni, the resourceful fixer Figaro in Rossini's The Barber of Seville, the king of the gods Wotan in Wagner's Ring cycle, and the great title roles in Verdi's Rigoletto, Falstaff, and Simon Boccanegra

 

Want to hear more? Below are video samples of some of the great baritone showcases that you can hear as part of Lyric's 2014-15 season.

Il Trovatore  - "Il balen del suo sorriso"

In Act 2 "The Gypsy" of Verdi's Il Trovatore, the villainous Count di Luna sings of his devotion to Leonora, who has decided to enter a convent because she believes her true love Manrico is dead. Though di Luna's song speaks to a beautiful love, he is actually plotting to kidnap her - thinking that the convent is the only obstacle to their happiness. Ryan Opera Center alum Quinn Kelsey takes on the role at Lyric from October 27 to November 29. 

 

(Dmitri Hvorostovsky, Metropolitan Opera, 2011)

Porgy and Bess  - "I Got Plenty O' Nuttin'"

This quintessential American opera has many timeless songs, including "Summertime" and "Bess, You Is My Woman Now, but one of Porgy's most famous arias is this ode to his simple life. Lyric favorite Eric Owens brings this iconic role to Chicago from November 17 to December 20. 

 

(Lawrence Winters, Columbia Masterworks recording, 1951)

Tosca - Te Deum

Scarpia, the police chief who is ruthlessly hunting the rebel artist Cavaradossi, sings of his lust and terrible plan to force Tosca into loving him, against the backdrop of a prayer. This season, two singers take on this villianous role: Evgeny Nikitin (Lyric debut, January 24 to February 5) and Mark Delavan (February 27 to March 14). 

 

(George Gagnidze, Metropolitan Opera, 2009)

Tannhäuser  - "O du mein holder Abendstern" (Song of the Evening Star)

This aria from Act 3 of Tannhäuser is in the pantheon of one of the most beautiful arias ever written, and is one of Wagner's most haunting melodies. Wolfram von Eschenbach loves the faithful and chaste Elisabeth, but she is in love with Tannhäuser; in this aria, he has a premonition of her death. Gerald Finley stars as Wolfram at Lyric from February 9 to March 6. 

 

(Peter Mattei, Staatsoper Berlin, 2014)

Don Giovanni  - "Deh vieni all finestra"

While posing as his right-hand man Leporello, Don Giovanni serenades the maid of his former conquest Donna Elvira with this lovely aria from Act Two. Mariusz Kwiecień stars in Lyric's hot-blooded new production through October 29. 

 

(Bryn Terfel, Metropolitan Opera, 2000)

Photo credits:

  • Top row: Quinn Kelsey (credit Dan Rest / Lyric Opera of Chicago); Evgeny Nikitin (credit Ken Howard / Metropolitan Opera)
  • Bottom row: Eric Owens in Porgy and Bess (credit Terrence McCarthy / San Francisco Opera); Mariusz Kwiecień stars as the title role in Don Giovanni (credit Todd Rosenberg / Lyric Opera of Chicago)

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

Critics agree: “The operatic stars are in alignment” for CAPRICCIO

Lyric's production of Strauss's Capriccio is opera at its finest, with a wonderful cast led by Renée Fleming, a sophisticated 1920s setting, and unparalleled musicianship from conductor Sir Andrew Davis  and the Lyric Opera Orchestra. Read what the critics have to say about this "intelligent, tasteful, funny, serious" opera.

The Chicago Tribune raves four stars for Capriccio: "the operatic stars are in alignment ... in Lyric's loving revival." Lyric's production of Strauss's final masterpiece is truly opera at its finest, with a wonderful cast led by Renée Fleming, a sophisticated 1920s setting, and unparalleled musicianship from conductor Sir Andrew Davis and the Lyric Opera Orchestra. This sophisticated drawing room comedy is at once "intelligent, tasteful, funny, serious" (Andrew Patner, Chicago Sun-Times), but it's only at Lyric through October 28, so grab your seat today!

Here's what else the critics are saying:

"Highly recommended" - Andrew Patner, Chicago Sun-Times 

This production makes a "lush argument for shaking hands across waters, for the marriage of words and music." - Aaron Hunt, New City

Renée Fleming is "as witty and charming as she is beautiful" with "peaches-and-creamy tone and melting phrases." - John von Rhein, Chicago Tribune 

Renée Fleming is "radiant … One can't imagine any singer today better suited to the role of the Countess Madeleine " - Lawrence A. Johnson, Chicago Classical Review 

"In the famous final aria, Fleming spins the silver threads of lyricism that Strauss made his unique gift to the soprano repertoire." - Aaron Hunt, New City

Sir Andrew Davis leads "a veritable master class in Strauss conducting." - John von Rhein, Chicago Tribune 

"Andrew Davis, always a superb Strauss conductor, and the Lyric Orchestra ... have outdone themselves" - Andrew Patner, Chicago Sun-Times

"More than anyone else, this was Sir Andrew Davis's show. Few conductors can equal the Lyric Opera's music director in Strauss, and Davis's fluent, spirited yet light-footed account of this score was masterful, maintaining a fleet, conversational pace and rising seamlessly to the breakout lyrical moments." - Lawrence A. Johnson, Chicago Classical Review 

 "Fully inside the opera's conversational ebb and flow, Davis elicited exceptionally sensitive, refined playing from the Lyric Orchestra, beginning with the sublime sextet that opens the opera and continuing through the touching final pages." - John von Rhein, Chicago Tribune 

"Even by their standard, the playing of the Lyric Opera Orchestra was beyond reproach, with a refined quicksilver quality that suits this restless music." - Lawrence A. Johnson, Chicago Classical Review 

"Lyric has surrounded its starry soprano with a top-drawer supporting cast" - Lawrence A. Johnson, Chicago Classical Review 

"Anne Sofie von Otter brought a natural vocal ease and willowy presence to the glamorous actress Clairon." - Lawrence A. Johnson, Chicago Classical Review 

"…the splendid Swedish mezzo-soprano played Clairon with a flamboyant hauteur to match her over-the-top flapper outfits." - John von Rhein, Chicago Tribune 

"American tenor William Burden captured the self-confidence and musicality as the composer Flamand." - Andrew Patner, Chicago Sun-Times

"Audun Iversen made a most impressive company debut as Olivier. The Norwegian baritone displayed a warm and flexible voice and deftly balanced the comedy with sincerity" - Lawrence A. Johnson, Chicago Classical Review 

"Peter Rose was ideal casting for the cynical yet savvy impresario La Roche" - Lawrence A. Johnson, Chicago Classical Review 

Bo Skovhus "provided the funniest moments of the evening with the gauche dilettante's atrocious acting." - Lawrence A. Johnson, Chicago Classical Review 

Photo credits:

  • Capriccio production photos credit Todd Rosenberg / Lyric Opera of Chicago

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

 

Sir Andrew’s Busy Summer

Lyric's eminent music director, Sir Andrew Davis, is back in Chicago preparing for our spectacular season-opening production of Don Giovanni. But where has he been all summer? Learn about his incredibly busy summer of globetrotting. 

Lyric's eminent music director, Sir Andrew Davis, is back in Chicago preparing for our spectacular season-opening production of Don Giovanni. He's been in town since late August to start preparations for Giovanni and to lead the annual Stars of Lyric Opera at Millennium Park on September 6. He ended last season with an acclaimed production of Mozart's La Clemenza di Tito on March 23—but where has he been in between Mozart operas? Perhaps it's better to ask, "Where hasn't he been?"

In the span of a few short months, he's traveled from Chicago to Boston to London to New York to Toronto to Leipzig to Bergen to Manchester to Berlin back to Bergen to Melbourne back to Chicago back to London back to Melbourne to Edinburgh back to London back to Edinburgh to Amsterdam to Ulrichshusen to Copenhagen to Chicago! 3 continents, 14 cities, 34 performances, 2 recordings—all in 59 days…with a few precious moments in the middle for vacation.

Here are just three concert highlights from his incredible summer.

First Night of the Proms 

On July 18, Sir Andrew had the distinct honor of conducting the First Night of the BBC Proms. Davis was a familiar face on the podium in the 1990s as the former chief conductor of the BBC Symphony Orchestra, so this season marked a triumphant return. The Proms are the largest classical music festival in the world, and the evening was a showcase for Sir Andrew and the BBC Symphony Orchestra and Chorus, and the National Chorus of Wales. They performed Elgar's biblical oratorio The Kingdom with soloists Erin Wall (a Ryan Opera Center alumna!), Catherine Wyn-Rogers, Andrew Staples, and Christopher Purves

This was only the second time that this piece had been performed at the BBC Proms in its entirety (the first time also had Sir Andrew on the podium), and the result was magnificent. Here is just some of the praise from critics:

 "Once again balancing sumptuousness and transparency, he drew vivid playing from the orchestra, from the silvery violins down to the lowest depths of the Albert Hall organ, which was sometimes a big beast but often quiet enough merely to disturb the sweltering air in the hall." - Erica Jeal, The Guardian

"Andrew Davis made sure Elgar's amazingly colourful orchestration was touched in with a delicate chiaroscuro…. It would be easy to indulge the swirling harps and slithering chromatic basses, but by keeping the whole thing on a tight rein Davis ensured the integrity of the whole was preserved." Ivan Hewitt, The Telegraph

Melbourne Symphony Orchestra Tour

In addition to his role here at Lyric, Sir Andrew is also Chief Conductor of the Melbourne Symphony Orchestra, a position he took on in 2013. This summer, he conducted a number of concerts in Melbourne, but he also lead the orchestra on an incredible European tour. Stops included the Edinburgh International Festival, the Concertgebouw in Amsterdam, the Mecklenburg-Vorpommern Festival at Ulrichshusen in Germany, and the Tivoli Concert Hall in Copenhagen. Here's a short preview of their appearance from the Edinburgh Festival:

 

In addition to these prestigious festivals, the tour opened with the orchestra's BBC Proms debut on August 19  at Royal Albert Hall in London. As John Allison pointed out in his interview with Sir Andrew in The Telegraph, "No orchestra making its  Proms debut could wish for a better guide to that institution's rituals than Sir Andrew Davis, one of the most familiar faces in recent Proms history and a particular favourite of Last Night  audiences."

Read more about this tour at MSO's Backstage Blog from reporter Michael Shmith.

The Dream of Gerontius in Berlin 

As if the BBC Proms and a triumphant tour weren't enough, Sir Andrew found time to pop over to Germany to lead another great Elgar composition, The Dream of Gerontius, at the  Deutsches Symphonie-Orchester Berlin on June 1. Joining them were the combined choruses of the Rundfunkchor Berlin and RIAS Kammerchor and featured soloists Sarah Connolly, Brindley Sherratt, and Jeffrey Lloyd-Roberts.

 

The piece, which describes a dying man of faith reflecting on his life, is widely considered Elgar's greatest choral work-one that cemented his reputation as a great composer—and is a great favorite of Sir Andrew's. This performance in Berlin was part of what could be called a "summer of Elgar" for Sir Andrew. He also performed The Dream of Gerontius with the the BBC Symphony Orchestra, with whom he also performed The Kingdom (at the Proms) and The Apostles, thus performing all three of Elgar's oratorios in the span of just a few months!

But wait...there's more!

In addition to these highlights, Sir Andrew led concerts with the New York Philharmonic, Toronto Symphony Orchestra, Leipzig Gewandhaus Orchestra, Bergen Philharmonic, and found time for recording sessions with the BBC Philharmonic and Bergen Philharmonic. Plus, he even managed to come back to Chicago for the working sessions for Bel Canto, the world premiere opera that is part of Lyric's 2015-16 season.

Photo credits:

  • Top L: Sir Andrew Davis puts on his shoes before a concert on the Melbourne Symphony Orchestra tour.  Courtesy Melbourne Symphony Orchestra.
  • Top R: Sir Andrew leads the First Night of the Proms. Courtesy BBC.
  • Bottom: Melbourne Symphony Orchestra rehearses at Royal Albert Hall for the BBC Proms. Courtesy Melbourne Symphony Orchestra.

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

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