Lyric Opera of Chicago

Lyric Lately

Ryan Opera Center’s Talented Alums!

Lyric's own Ryan Opera Center  has a long roster of incredibly talented alumni. Here's what some of the singers affiliated with Lyric's prestigious training program have been up to this past season and where you can see them next season in Chicago and beyond!

The Ryan Opera Center's annual Rising Stars in Concert celebration is coming up this Saturday, March 29. It's not too late to donate $75 to Lyric and receive two complimentary tickets to this showcase of opera's future superstars.

The Ryan Opera Center has a long roster of incredibly talented alumni. Lyric's production of Mozart's La Clemenza di Tito, which closed out the 2013-14 season, is just one example. ALL of the cast members had connections to the Ryan Opera Center. Matthew Polenzani (Tito), Amanda Majeski (Vitellia), Christian van Horn (Publio), and Cecelia Hall (Annio) are all alumni of the program, and Emily Birsan (Servilia) is a current member. And Joyce DiDonato (Sesto) was just inducted as an honorary Ryan Opera Center member in a short ceremony after the Clemenza dress rehearsal.  

Here's what some of the other singers affiliated with Lyric's prestigious training program have been up to this past season and where you can see them next season in Chicago and beyond!

Elizabeth Futral 
(Ryan Opera Center member from 1989 to 1991) 

Past season   Highlights of Elizabeth's busy 2013-14 season include her role debut as Desiree Armfeldt in Houston Grand Opera's production of Sondheim's A Little Night Music , a role debut as Zdenka in Minnesota Opera's production of Strauss's Arabella, and a performance of one of her signature roles, Lucia di Lammermoor, for Portland Opera.

Coming soon! — Catch Elizabeth as Elsa Schraeder in Lyric's upcoming all-new production of Rodgers and Hammerstein's The Sound of Music  opening on April 25 right here at the beautiful Civic Opera House.   

Andriana Chuchman
(Ryan Opera Center member from 2007 to 2010)
 

Past season — Andriana had an amazing 2013-14 season. Already slated to debut with the Metropolitan Opera in February 2014 in The Enchanted Island, her debut came a month earlier as Adina in L'Elisir d'Amore when Anna Netrebko was ill for opening night. Andriana stepped in and wowed the New York critics!  

Coming soon! — Andriana is part of the amazing cast that makes up Lyric's new production of Mozart's Don Giovanni  that opens the 2014-15 season, with Robert Falls directing and Sir Andrew Davis conducting. She will also appear with Vancouver Opera in Sondheim's Sweeney Todd in April 2015.

Quinn Kelsey
(Ryan Opera Center member from 2003 to 2006)
 

Past season — Quinn made his role debut as Germont in Lyric's new production of Verdi's La Traviata in October 2013. He also performed the title role in Verdi's Rigoletto for English National Opera and in I vespri siciliani at Oper Frankfurt.

Coming soon! — Catch him at Lyric as Count di Luna in Verdi's Il Trovatore in October 2014. He will also perform as Marcello in the Metropolitan Opera's La Bohème in September 2014.  

Amber Wagner
(Ryan Opera Center member from 2007 to 2010)
 

Past season — In addition to welcoming her first child in summer 2013, Amber performed Verdi's Requiem with Sir Andrew Davis and the Melbourne Symphony in September 2013 and made her Washington National Opera debut in Verdi's La Forza del Destino in October 2013.

Coming soon! — Like Quinn Kelsey, Amber comes home to Lyric next season in Il Trovatore  as Leonora from October 27 to November 29. Then she's back just a few months later, starring in Tannhäuser  as Elisabeth from February 9 to March 6, 2015.

Amanda Majeski 
(Ryan Opera Center member from 2009 to 2011) 

Past season — Amanda was part of the dream cast of La Clemenza di Tito  that wrapped up Lyric's 2013-14 season. She also made her role debut as Donna Elvira in Mozart's Don Giovanni at Opera Philadelphia, as well as making her Carnegie Hall solo recital debut at Weill Recital Hall. 

Coming soon! — This Gurnee native will be back in her hometown to conclude another Lyric season. This time, she stars as Marta in Weinberg's The Passenger  from February 24 to March 15, 2015. She will also make her Metropolitan Opera debut as Countess Almaviva in the Met's new production of Mozart's The Marriage of Figaro in December 2014. 

Photo credits: Elizabeth Futral (credit Karli Cadel), Andriana Chuchman (credit Chia Messina), Quinn Kelsey (credit Dan Rest), Amanda Majeski (credit Dario Acosta).

Linebacker to Lyric: An Interview with Brandon Jovanovich

Brandon Jovanovich has been earning rave reviews for his portrayal of the Prince in Dvořák's RusalkaIn this Q&A, Jovanovich talks about his favorite moments of this production, what he doesn't like to wear on stage, and why he loves living in Illinois!

Rusalka_Jovanovic

Brandon Jovanovich has been earning rave reviews for his portrayal of the Prince in Lyric's new production of Dvořák's Rusalka: "his artistry seems to soar higher with each Chicago appearance" - Chicago Classical Review

In this Q&A, Jovanovich talks about his favorite moments of this production, what he doesn't like to wear on stage, and why he loves living in Illinois! Rusalka ends its critically acclaimed run on March 16 (tickets are going fast!), but he'll be back next season starring as Walter in Weinberg's dramatic and compelling  The Passenger.

The Prince in Rusalka is a role that's very familiar to you, since you've performed it to great acclaim across the world - how is this production different from ones you have done before?

I've been lucky enough to be involved in two different productions of Rusalka with this being my third. It is an opera that I love to sing and I really enjoying playing the role of the Prince. This production is different in a couple of ways; David is introducing the audience to the idea that the whole story MAY be in the Prince's mind…so the idea of it being a "hallucination vs. reality" really sets the tone of the opera. In this vein, the first scene (taking place in the forest) unfolds to reveal a wild group of wood nymphs set against a gorgeous backdrop (designed by John Macfarlane) in a "wild forest" being infringed upon by "humanity" (as represented by a couple of massive damn-like structures). It is this idea that sets David's production apart of others, "nature vs. humanity." By exploiting the inherent differences between these two ideas, the friction and resulting conflict between the characters develops at very natural pace.

Do you have a favorite moment or moments in this production?

There are some characters that have been inserted into this production that aren't written in the opera, three crows serve as "helpers" to Ježibaba. Watching our choreographer (Andrew George) and David McVicar develop these characters over the course of the rehearsal period was amazing (I'm awed by all of the sharp bird-like physical movements and stamina that they have). For my part, I LOVE the final scene in Act III when I return to the forest, find Rusalka and end up dying. It is so touching, so emotional and laden with such beautiful music, it is one of my favorite scenes to perform in any opera. Couple that with having Ana María sing to me….come on!!!

If you had to sum up the story of Rusalka in one sentence, what would your summary be?

An unparalleled classic masterpiece of longing, love, hope, and loss set to some of the most exquisite music by Dvořák….an unknown masterpiece. 

 Are you jealous of all the prosthetics that your co-stars Jill Grove and Eric Owens wear for this show? What's the most unusual costume you've ever had?

As for prosthetics…unequivocally no! I harbor no ill will or jealously in the slightest!  I have been lucky enough to wear some of the finest costumes throughout my career. I am tall with long legs and it has always been a challenge to find "stock" costumes that look decent, so most of my costumes are tailored and I've been VERY spoiled because of it. I haven't had too many unusual costumes per se…but one thing that always makes me a little nervous is when I am asked to wear very little on stage.  From a towel wrapped around my waist, to a pair of underwear and a robe (open!?), I find it intimidating. The amount of breathing and support needed to sing makes for a plethora of deep diaphragmatic breathing, and it isn't necessarily something that I would want to see as an audience member! But A LOT of directors don't mind asking performers to let it all hang out! 

What is a role that you dream of playing some day in your career?

A dream role that I have yet to play would be Otello.  So many challenges mentally, emotionally and vocally.  It is a role that I hope to tackle before too long.

Some people might not know that you started out with a college football scholarship - can you draw any parallels between the world of football and the world of opera?

Both of them are extremely physical. True, there is no contact in opera (unless you count kissing), but there is a ton of moving around while singing and it requires a lot more stamina than people think—that and the ability to "think on the move." In football, as in opera, you are an individual performing at your best for the betterment (and ultimately the success) of the team. There are set plays where you know what your role is, just as there is staging in opera, "You go here and I go there." Yet with both there is always an element of the unknown. In football you are playing against another team trying to stop your progress, in opera you (and all colleagues around you) are in a constant mental workout trying to juggle vocal production, remembering dialogue, staging, keeping in contact with the conductor, and thus the orchestra, vocal balance, and portraying emotions (and so much more), while trying to make it look like you are living "in the moment." With these different dynamics there is a lot of fluidity involved and being able to think on your feet and adjust is a necessity. If you aren't able to adjust in the moment, you'll ultimately fail to one degree or another in both arenas.

What is a typical day like for you before a performance? Do you have any pre-performance rituals that you can share?

I know there are a lot of people who have very specific rituals that they adhere to before a show. Mine would be normalcy. I don't like to change anything that I would normally do; whether that be going to the gym, shopping, mowing the lawn (if I'm at home,) or shoveling the driveway. Having no ritual would be my ritual (profound!?).

When you're not singing, what do you like to do in Chicago? Any favorite restaurants, museums, or other activities?

I live about an hour west of Chicago on a little ten-acre plot of land.  I travel A LOT throughout the year and I hate to say it, but when I get home…I like to stay home! We've lived in Illinois for just over three years and our house (an old one-room schoolhouse) needs some upgrading.  So you'll typically find me outside cutting down trees (a ton of dead ones were left on our property), remodeling a bathroom (two thus far), playing with my kids, or just hanging out. I know that we WILL get into Chicago more and start enjoying all that this city has to offer, but it hasn't happened yet.

What's your favorite thing about having Illinois as your home base?

I love being able to fly into O'Hare from anywhere in the world. It makes traveling so much easier! I love being able to stay at home when I sing with Lyric. I like the people, the climate (I love having four seasons), and the proximity to great food, culture and sporting events all while being able to raise chickens and bees! It is the best of all worlds for me!

Photo credit: Todd Rosenberg/Lyric Opera of Chicago

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Live-streamed to the world, Lyric announces a new RING and PASSENGER premiere

Ringheads rejoice! Today in a live-streamed press conference Lyric's Anthony Freud and Sir Andrew Davis announced that the company will mount an all-new production of Wagner's epic Der Ring des Nibelungen beginning in the 2016/17 season.

RING press conference

Ringheads rejoice! Today in a live-streamed press conference, Lyric's Anthony Freud and Sir Andrew Davis announced that the company will mount an all-new production of Wagner's epic Der Ring des Nibelungen, led by conductor Sir Andrew Davis and director David Pountney and starring Lyric favorites Christine Goerke and Eric Owens. Rounding out the creative team are set designer Johan Engels, costume designer Marie-Jeanne Lecca, and lighting designer Fabrice Kebour.

Goerke and Owens play Brünnhilde and Wotan, the legendary father-daughter duo whose fraught relationship provides the four-opera cycle with its powerful emotional center.

Along with the entire creative team, Goerke was present at the press conference. Last seen at Lyric absolutely owning Strauss's Elektra in her company debut, Goerke is thrilled to return in such a high-profile role: "I'm beyond excited to do it. Aside from the fact that there's such a familial feeling at Lyric, it's the sight of that house, the space of that house - it's so grand, it suits the music so well, and it suits the scenes so well."   

Goerke shared that her first experience with Wagner was singing the Third Norn, but she always dreamed of being Brünnhilde: "I would stand on the side of the stage and watch the Prologue of Götterdämmerung and think, 'Oh, if some day just once I could do this.' Some day has arrived, which is remarkable."

This Ring cycle marks the first time that Eric Owens will sing Wotan, the king of all the gods. Though Owens has been offered the role of Wotan several times, he was finally tempted to accept Lyric's offer because of the ideal circumstances: "To do one opera per season and then to do the full cycle was the perfect fit, and in a company where I've performed so many times with people I adore, and with the whole atmosphere of the company being so nurturing. When you're stepping out into the unknown and exploring a role that is so iconic, I think this is just a perfect situation."

Owens, who joined the conference live via Skype, also joked that the toughest part of playing Wotan is "keeping straight the names of all the children!"

Freud and Davis also revealed that Pountney will bring his acclaimed production of the newly rediscovered The Passenger  by Mieczysław Weinberg to Lyric in the 2014/15 season. Written in 1967-68 but not fully staged until 2010, The Passenger tells the haunting and deeply powerful story of a chance encounter of a Holocaust survivor and her Nazi overseer. Weinberg was a Holocaust survivor and contemporary of Shostakovich, who lavishly praised Weinberg's work-which was frequently suppressed by the Soviet regime.

This production, first seen at the Bregenz Festival in 2010, shares the same core creative team (Pountney, Engles, Lecca, and Kebour) as Lyric's new Ring cycle. Full casting for The Passenger will be announced on January 27, along with the rest of Lyric's 2014-15 60th anniversary season. Come back to Lyric Lately for more details on that date!

The full schedule of Ring performances is:

2016/17
Das Rheingold
Performances begin October 1, 2016

2017/18
Die Walküre
Performances begin in early November 2017

2018/19
Siegfried
Performances begin in early November 2018

2019/20
Götterdämmerung
Performances begin in late March 2020

2020
Three complete Ring cycles
First cycle begins in April 2020

For those who are truly planning ahead, Das Rheingold goes on sale with the rest of the 2016-17 season in early 2016, and the full Ring cycle will be on sale in 2018. Mark your calendars NOW!

Photo credit: Jaclyn Simpson for Lyric Opera of Chicago. 

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