Lyric Opera of Chicago

Lyric Lately

TANNHÄUSER Tweets: Why fans love this opera

Lyric's new-to-Chicago production of Wagner's Tannhäuser is the talk of Chicago. Read these tweets and posts from attendees to see why this is a can't-miss event. Our fan Miriam Scott says it best: it's a "veritable Wagner music hit parade and it's not even that long. Don't miss it."

Lyric's new-to-Chicago production of Wagner's Tannhäuser is the talk of Chicago. Read these tweets and posts from attendees to see why this is a can't-miss event. Our fan Miriam Scott says it best: it's a "veritable Wagner music hit parade and it's not even that long. Don't miss it."

Wagner's magnificent work stars Johan Botha, Amber Wagner, Michaela Schuster, Gerald Finley, and John Relyea, and it's only on stage until March 6. Get your tickets today!

Photo credits:

 

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

 

The reviews are in: TANNHÄUSER is “sexy and striking” with “powerhouse voices”

Wagner's Tannhäuser is a bucket-list opera, full of some of the composer's most dramatic and moving music, from the opening overture to the Pilgrim's Chorus. This opera has not been seen at Lyric since the 1988-89 season, and critics are calling this epic production (on stage through March 6) a must-see event.

Wagner's Tannhäuser is a bucket-list opera, full of some of the composer's most dramatic and moving music, from the opening overture to the Pilgrim's Chorus. This opera has not been seen at Lyric since the 1988-89 season, and critics are calling this epic production (on stage through March 6) a must-see event.

Chicago on the Aisle  gave it four (out of five stars), calling it "potent, sensual and yet strikingly unromanticized production." The Chicago Tribune  says that "the musical performance is glorious." The Chicago Sun-Times says this production "conveys the opera's compelling drama and transcendent vocal beauty."

Chicago Splash  simply says, "Lyric's current production is about as strong a case as you're ever going to hear for [Tannhäuser], a reminder of Wagner's ability to provide us with the same delights his title character experiences in his hedonistic paradise. Too bad we have to return to the real world."

Sir Andrew Davis and the Lyric Opera Orchestra and Chorus 

"[Tannhäuser's] true hero way well be music director Andrew Davis, drawing floods of sumptuous sound and deep-piled lyricism from the admirable Lyric Opera Orchestra. The no less demanding choral writing found Michael Black's finely disciplined chorus singing its collective heart out." - Chicago Tribune

" Lyric music director Andrew Davis conducts Tannhäuser for the first time with the dramatic conviction, musical assurance and fluent lyricism of one whose knows his Wagner inside out. The Lyric Opera Orchestra delivers at a very high level, indeed." - Chicago on the Aisle

"Longtime Lyric music director Andrew Davis, who is conducting Tannhäuser for the first time, adroitly shapes the complex, unfolding drama, paying due attention to the all-important balances in this opera and highlighting its many intimate musical moments." - Chicago Sun-Times

The Glorious Cast 

"Johan Botha offered his finest Lyric performance to date" - Chicago Classical Review

"Botha is today's definitive Tannhäuser, and he has the vocal heft, lung power and stamina to make it through to the end of a very long opera without a hint of strain." - Chicago Tribune

"Tannhäuser is one of the most difficult Wagner roles to sing, yet Johan Botha is a revelation in the role" - Chicago Splash

"The vocal pillar of this production is soprano Amber Wagner, with her commanding stage presence and forceful, affecting voice." - Chicago Sun-Times

"With her impressive performance as Elisabeth, Amber Wagner showed that she is coming into her own as a complete, major artist." - Chicago Classical Review

"A Ryan Opera Center breakout star, [Amber Wagner] produced a gleaming, ample and effortless sound that also was warm and womanly when it needed to be" - Chicago Tribune

"Gerald Finley…possesses a wonderfully expressive bass-baritone voice with surprising lightness and grace" - Chicago Sun-Times

Gerald Finley's "Wolfram was a masterful work of dramatic singing" - Chicago Classical Review

"As Wolfram, Gerald Finley threatened to run away with the show. His vocal strength was complimented by a dramatic sense that shaded the facets of the character hopelessly in love with Elisabeth, a moral paragon whose goodness is essentially unrewarded." - Chicago Splash 

Michaela Schuster "swathed in a slinky, sequined black gown, threw herself into this ungrateful role with riveting intensity and panache" - Chicago Tribune

 "John Relyea anchored the ensemble at the low end with his sonorous bass" - Chicago Classical Review

The Sensual Opening Dance 

"a sexy and striking coup de theatre" - Chicago Tribune

"A high point of the production is the beginning bacchanal, which features a swirling, electrifying dance, smartly choreographed by Jasmin Vardimon." - Chicago Sun-Times

"Vardimon perfectly captures an all-consuming love in her erotic spectacle." - The Fourth Walsh

 

Photo credits

  • Tannhäuser production photos credit Robert Kusel and Todd Rosenberg / Lyric Opera of Chicago

 

Opera 101: Behind the scenes of TANNHÄUSER with August Tye

Wagner's Tannhäuser, which runs through March 6 at Lyric, has been earning rave reviews, especially for its epic opening dance sequence. August Tye, Lyric’s ballet mistress for more than 10 years, takes us through the process from auditions to rehearsals to opening night.

Wagner's Tannhäuser, which runs until March 6 at Lyric has been earning rave reviews, not the least for its epic opening dance sequence, choreographed to the overture and set in the sensual realm of Venusberg. It depicts the kind of libidinous lifestyle that anyone who succumbs to the goddess Venus's charms embraces. The Chicago Sun-Times said, "A high point of the production is the beginning bacchanal, which features a swirling, electrifying dance, smartly choreographed by Jasmin Vardimon" and the Chicago Tribune called it a "sexy and striking coup de theatre."

How does this amazing sequence become reality? August Tye, Lyric's ballet mistress for more than 10 years, takes us through the process from auditions to rehearsals to opening night—and reveals that her work at Lyric is truly a family affair!

Describe your role as ballet mistress. What does that mean and what are your general duties and responsibilities?

As mallet mistress at Lyric, I work closely with the choreographer and dancers to create movement or dance sequences for opera. I record all movement into personal notes and often bits and pieces into the musical score. I give the dancers a warm up class before rehearsals and performances begin. Once the choreographer leaves, often after the opening night, I am in charge of maintaining their work and making sure that the understudies are ready to jump in at any moment. 

What has been your specific role on Tannhäuser as both ballet mistress and movement director?

In Tannhäuser I have worked with the associate choreographer Mafalda Deville to restage earlier production of the Tannhäuser "ballet" choreographed by Jasmin Vardimon. When you see the ballet you notice it is intensely physical. We started working on it in early December in order to give the dancers the strength training and adequate rehearsals they would need to execute the movement. We worked 30 hours a week. We gave the dancers both ballet and pilates classes to prepare them for rehearsal. I spent much of rehearsal time taking notes on the movement and putting landmark movements into the score.

The U.K. Guardian's review of the production called out the "terrifically sexy" choreography. Why should someone come and see it?

From a dancer's perspective you should come see it because it is amazingly athletic, physical and sexy. The dance sequence is 15 minutes long and full of surprises that I am quite sure have not been seen before.


 Scenes from the opening dance of Tannhäuser 

Can you take us through the audition process? What were you specifically looking for in dancers for Tannhäuser? Was it the same as what you do for any other opera or did this opera in particular have special requests/requirements?

Every audition is unique to the work that the dancers have to do within the opera. Due to the physicality of this particular work the audition was two days long and extremely demanding.  We started with over 75 dancers the first day and narrowed it down to about 30 for the second day.  In the end we needed 12 dancers and two understudy dancers.  For the men we were looking for strong partnering skills and complete athleticism. For the women we were looking for very fluid and sensual movement along with excellent stamina. Both Jasmin Vardimon (pictured right) and Mafalda Deville were there to choose the dancers. 

Can you talk about the rehearsal process for Tannhäuser? How long have you been working with the dancers and what have been some of the joys and challenges of this very exhausting and complicated sequence?

We started working with the dancers December 1. We worked for three weeks before the rest of the production team arrived in January. After the holiday break we came back for another 4 weeks of rehearsal. The first three weeks were the most challenging simply because the work is so physically demanding.  It was a bit like dance boot camp getting everyone in shape to execute this movement. We had to work through several injuries during the first three weeks but I am happy to say everyone is healthy and fit to perform. When we resumed in January it went very smoothly because dancers had a chance to rest over the holiday and they knew exactly what they were coming back to do. They were all very excited to meet Ms. Vardimon when she arrived on January 27. At that point the piece was finished and the dancers had built up the stamina to run it two times a day. Ms. Vardimon took a couple days to work with the dancers on clarifying the movement and making a few minor adjustments to dancer placement and spacing.

How do you take the original choreography and translate it into the dancers? Can you describe the collaboration you have with them and with Jasmin Vardimon and Mafalda Deville?

I think there are challenges to re-creating any dance on another group of dancers.  All dancers have their strengths and weaknesses and those are rarely replicated when you move on to another group of dancers. Ms. Deville and Ms. Vardimon were very clear that they wanted our dancers to have their own version and that they should not worry about copying the original. They should feel as though they are part of a new creation for them. If one were to compare the performances they may not notice those subtle differences that made it unique to our Chicago dancers.  It is very much the same choreography as in previous production.  


Athleticism on display in Tannhäuser

Tannhäuser is a long opera, but is it a long night for the dancers?

People equate the name Wagner with long operas, and with Tannhäuser, they're correct; with 2 intermissions, it clocks in at roughly 4.5 hours! But every now and then in opera, there are roles which may occupy only a small length of time, and for the dancers, this is one of them! Our dance happens during the overture, and 30 minutes after the opera begins, our job will be over! Except for opening night (when everyone stays for the company bow at the opera's end), the dancers and I will be headed for home while the opera still has another four hours to go.

How long have you worked at Lyric? And what do you love most about working with the company?

I began working for Lyric when I was a dancer in the 93/94 season.  I danced on and off for several seasons. In 2004, I was asked to assist Pat Birch with the movement for Robert Altman's A Wedding.  I have been here ever since as a ballet mistress, movement director, or choreographer for the past 10 years. I really love working at Lyric because it is a place for me to learn and grow artistically by working with other fantastic artists whether it be choreographers—such as Jasmin Vardimon, Wayne McGregor, Philippe Giraudeau, Lucinda Childs, and Pat Birch—or directors like Robert Altman, Robert Carsen, Sir David McVicar, Francesca Zambello, and Bob Falls. 

Also, the support staff at Lyric is also the best in the business as far as I am concerned; from the administration, assistant directors, music staff to the rehearsal department, they are truly passionate about their work and their support of artists.  It is truly a gift to be so supported; it allows you to really focus on the creative aspects of the work.

What has your favorite experience or production been so far? 

It's really hard to pick a favorite production or experience after so many great ones.  I had the privilege to travel to Madrid in order to learn the movement for a Chicago production of Dialogues of the Carmelites. It was there that I met director Robert Carsen and choreographer Philippe Giraudeau which began a long term professional relationship in which I was trusted to assist and remount Mr. Giraudeau's work in operas in Chicago, San Francisco, Toronto, and London. I was also asked to remount the dance for the Zambello production of Salome at the Saito Kinen Festival in Matsumoto, Japan.  These were very memorable experiences! 

 
Dialogues of the Carmelites at Lyric

I should also mention that I met my husband, Wilbur Pauley, while dancing in Lyric's production of Candide.  We have been married for 17 years and have three children together. Opera has definitely had a profound effect on my life!

 
The Pauley-Tye family at Soldier Field before Wilbur Pauley's performance of the National Anthem at a Bears game in fall 2014.

When you're not at Lyric, what are some of your other professional passions, such as Hyde Park School of Dance?

When I am not at Lyric I am very busy directing the Hyde Park School of Dance which I founded in 1993.  It is a not for profit dance school committed to making sure that dance is accessible to anyone who wants to dance.  I firmly believe that dance can have a profound effect on one's life.   Through the artistry, discipline, sense of self-confidence and teamwork a dancer experiences you gain a foundation for life skills that will stay with you no matter what field you chose as a career. 

Most people may not know that your son was in Madama Butterfly last season. Was that a fun experience for you as a family? Has he gotten the opera bug?

Having our son perform in Madama Butterfly was an amazing experience for him and of course we were very proud of our little guy.  He is always asking when he can work at the opera again.  Everyone treated him like royalty, he had a first floor private dressing room and he was paged to the stage as "Master Pauley." We also rode in a limousine to the opening-night party. Of course he got the opera bug! I'm afraid he will need to work on his singing voice to get that kind of treatment again!  He does like to sing…only time will tell.

 
Tye Oren Pauley as Sorrow, Butterfly's child, in Madama Butterfly with
Mary Ann McCormick (L) and Amanda Echalaz (C)

Photo credits:

  • August Tye portrait courtesy August Tye
  • Tannhäuser production photos credit Todd Rosenberg / Lyric Opera of Chicago
  • Jasmin Vardimon portrait courtesy Jasmin Vardimon
  • Dialogues of the Carmelites production photo credit Robert Kusel / Lyric Opera of Chicago
  • Tye-Pauley family photo courtesy Wilbur Pauley
  • Madama Butterfly production photo credit Dan Rest / Lyric Opera of Chicago

 

Who is your TANNHÄUSER Valentine?

Wagner's Tannhäuser runs February 9 through March 6 at Lyric, including a performance on February 14. The hero of the opera must choose between the sensual goddess Venus and his saintly beloved Elisabeth. Which character is your perfect Tannhäuser valentine? Take this quiz and find out!

Wagner's Tannhäuser runs February 9 through March 6 at Lyric, including a performance on February 14! The hero of the opera must choose between the sensual goddess Venus and his saintly beloved Elisabeth. Who is your Tannhäuser Valentine? Take this quiz and find out!

 

Photo credits:

  • Tannhäuser production photos credit Todd Rosenberg / Lyric Opera of Chicago. Clockwise from top left: Johan Botha, Michaela Schuster, John Relyea, Amber Wagner, and Gerald Finley. 

 

Select an image to pin

    << May 2015 >>
    Sun Mon Tue Wed Thu Fri Sat
              1 2
    3 4 5 6 7 8 9
    10 11 12 13 14 15 16
    17 18 19 20 21 22 23
    24 25 26 27 28 29 30
    31            

    Subjects

    Tags