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An Insider's Guide to DON GIOVANNI

Lyric's 60th season opens with a new production of Mozart's Don Giovanni. Here is your complete insider's guide with video, articles, photos, and more.

Lyric opens its Diamond Anniversary season with a spectacular new production of Mozart's Don Giovanni. Directed by Robert Falls and conducted by Sir Andrew Davis, the classic story of the charismatic and dangerous seducer is updated to the 1920s. Here is your inside look at the amazing cast, design, and history that are informing Lyric's bold new take.

Don Juan—selfish, arrogant, dangerous. With a list of conquests longer than a phonebook, Don Giovanni (Mariusz Kwiecień) travels the world, seducing thousands of willing (and unwilling) women with the help of his wingman Leporello (Kyle Ketelsen). But when lust turns to murder, three of his victims—Donna Anna (Marina Rebeka), Donna Elvira (Ana María Martínez), and Zerlina (Andriana Chuchman)—join forces for revenge. One of the greatest operas ever written, this darkly comic tale of seduction and punishment is Mozart’s masterpiece.

Articles with insights from the cast and creative team

Don Giovanni Breaks Bad: A Conversation with Robert Falls
Known for his visionary and challenging productions as artistic director of the Goodman Theatre, Robert Falls returns to Lyric with Don Giovanni. In this interview, Falls takes us inside the process for reinventing this operatic masterpiece. READ MORE 

Rolling with the Don: A wild ride with Mozart's most fascinating character
An in-depth Q&A with barihunk Mariusz Kwiecień, the native of Krakow, Poland, who is starring as the legendary womanizer on stage here at Lyric. READ MORE

Giovanni's Ladies
When Lyric opens the 2014-15 season with Mozart's Don Giovanni, the female roles will be sung by an extraordinary trio of sopranos—Andriana Chuchman, Ana María Martínez, and Marina Rebeka—each beautiful to behold and dazzling to hear. READ MORE

On the Couch: Don Giovanni
He’s opera’s most notorious bad boy—seducing women across the globe and leaving not just broken hearts, but also broken homes in his wake. Here’s a peek at the psyche of this fascinating character from the point of view of his therapist.  
READ MORE

Don Giovanni: A Lyric Photo History
Did you know that Don Giovanni actually was the very first production presented by what would become Lyric Opera of Chicago in 1954? Here's a look at how this monumental opera has evolved over the years. READ MORE

The Enduring Influence of Don Giovanni
Mozart's Don Giovanni, which opens Lyric's 2014-15 season on September 27, has a long history and an even longer legacy. Based on the Don Juan legends that date back to the early 1600s, about 150 years before Mozart's opera premiered, the opera has become an enduring cultural touchstone, perhaps because of its intoxicating mix of comedy, tragedy, and the supernatural. READ MORE

 

Don Giovanni Audio Preview

Music director Sir Andrew Davis shares the synopsis and excerpts from Mozart's masterpiece. Recordings used by permission of EMI Classics.

 

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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