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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You can never get enough “Summertime”

Lyric's production of Gershwin's Porgy and Bess might not open until November 17, but July is the perfect time to enjoy the opera's opening aria "Summertime," which has become one of the most beloved songs in American music. Here are just a few of our favorite covers that showcase its versatility from a sampling of diverse artists. 

Lyric's production of Gershwin's Porgy and Bess  might not open until November 17, but July is the perfect time to enjoy the opera's opening aria "Summertime," which has become one of the most beloved songs in American music. Its popularity has grown far beyond the operatic world—it's been covered more than 25,000 times (according to the New York Times) by artists of all genres.

Billie Holiday released the first hit cover in 1936, one year after the opera opened. This started a trend of artists making their mark on this great song.  Here are just a few of our favorites that showcase its versatility from a sampling of diverse artists.  

Miles Davis and arranger Gil Evans created one of the most iconic versions on his 1959 album Porgy and Bess, which featured several selections from the opera.

 


The Ramsey Lewis Trio also did a more up-tempo jazz version in 1961. (You can see Ramsey Lewis here at Lyric at our 60th Anniversary Concert on November 1!)

 


R& B singer Billy Stewart arranged the song to accommodate his distinctive scat singing style in 1966.

 


Beninoise singer Angélique Kidjo completely transformed the song into a choral chant backed with percussion on her 2009 best-of collection.

 


British invasion favorites The Zombies, best known for "She's Not There" and "Time of the Season," covered the song in 1965.

 


Soul singer Sam Cooke recorded a cover as the B-side to his single "You Send Me," released in 1957.

 

 
The Doors covered the song in a way that only they can. It feels like it could morph into "Break on Through" at any moment. This live version is from a 1970 concert in Boston.

 


"Summertime" goes surf in this cover by The Ventures (an instrumental band known for "Hawaii Five-O") from 1963.

 

 
Sting covers the song live in concert with the Dutch Orchestra of the 21st Century in this clip from 1990.

 


Turkish pianist Fazil Say performs a solo piano version as an encore after a performance with the Frankfurt Radio Symphony in January 2013:

 


And finally, this is perhaps our favorite for the sheer novelty: Clara Rockmore covers the song on theremin with her sister on piano! (A theremin is an early electronic instrument, patented in 1928, that has been used by everyone from Shostakovich to Led Zeppelin.)

 

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

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. Read on to find out which compositions, films, and authors have been influenced by this masterful opera. 

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. And did you know that famous libertine Casanova perhaps even played a small role in the composition of this piece, since he was acquainted with librettist Lorenzo da Ponte?

These tales of a serial womanizer would inspire other great works of art across the centuries, including Molière's comedy Dom Juan ou le Festin de pierre (1665), Lord Bryon's epic poem Don Juan (1821), and the recent film Don Jon (2013), which placed the lover in modern New Jersey. 

Since its premiere to rapturous reviews in Prague in 1787, Don Giovanni remains one of the most widely admired and most influential operas ever written. Playwright George Bernard Shaw deemed it "perfect." Novelist Gustave Flaubert called Don Giovanni one of "the three finest things God ever made." The other two? Hamlet and the sea. In addition to its literary influence, the musical themes woven throughout the work inspired other composers.

Franz Liszt wrote Réminiscences de Don Juan, an opera fantasy for piano, performed here by Lang Lang (who you can see in recital at Lyric on Saturday, May 9, 2015):

 

Frédéric Chopin wrote Variations on "Là ci darem la mano" for Orchestra and Piano, based on the love duet from the opera:

 

And Ludwig van Beethoven was also inspired by this famous duo, writing his own variations: 

 

And here are just a few examples of how music from the opera has been used in some more current adaptations! The composition of the opera is a pivotal moment in the Oscar-winning film by Miloš Forman, Amadeus:

 

 

It also provides the backdrop for an intense scene in Sherlock Holmes: A Game of Shadows, Guy Ritchie's take on the famed detective starring Robert Downey, Jr.

 

The aria that inspired Beethoven and Chopin also pops up on The Muppet Show:

 

And just for fun, here's a famous Don, Luciano Pavarotti, with an unusual Zerlina-singer-songwriter Sheryl Crow.

     

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

 

Lyric Unlimited 2015 Highlights

2015 is going to be a busy year for Lyric Unlimited, which is presenting three world premieres and a brand-new family performance! Read more about these great new projects, which include a klezmer opera and a zoo opera!

2015 is going to be a busy year for Lyric Unlimited, which is presenting three world premieres and a brand-new family performance! Lyric General Director Anthony Freud and Lyric Unlimited Director Cayenne Harris take you through these exciting new projects:

 

Adapted from the acclaimed graphic novel by Rutu Modan, The Property tells the story of Regina Segal and her granddaughter Mica, who travel to modern Warsaw to try to regain family property lost during World War II. As their journey unfolds, Regina is forced to confront painful truths about her past, while Mica realizes their reasons for coming might not be all that they seemed. 

This world-premiere opera is being composed by Wlad Marhulets and will be in the klezmer style. Stephanie Fleischmann and Eric Einhorn have adapted the novel and will act as librettist and director, respectively.

The Property will be presented in partnership with the Reva and David Logan Center for the Arts at the University of Chicago and will be performed at that venue and at Skokie's North Shore Center for the Performing Arts. Tickets go on sale on July 1!

Let's all go to the zoo! In August 2015, Lyric Unlimited presents world premiere of a new children's opera, Second Nature, at the beautiful and historic Lincoln Park Zoo. Second Nature is set in the not-so-distant future, when the environment has deteriorated and humans have decided it's safer to live in zoo-like habitats that protect them from the outside world. Encouraged by the other animal inhabitants, two young children dare to explore the world outside the walls to see if there is still something worth saving. 

American composer Matthew Aucoin is both composer and librettist, and Matthew Ozawa directs. This new presentation is recommended for families with children ages 8 to 12. And best of all, it's free and open to the public!

But wait - there's more!! 

 

Preview performances for the highly anticipated mariachi opera El Pasado Nunca Se Termina have been added at Benito Juaréz Community Academy in Chicago’s Pilsen neighborhood and Waukegan's historic Genesee Theatre. Tickets for these previews are available July 1. Seats for the world-premiere performances right here at Lyric are available now!

And tickets for The Magic Victrola  are available right now, so save your seats today for this all-new family concert with music from Mozart's The Magic Flute, Bizet's Carmen, and other beloved operatic masterworks.   

Performance Calendar 

The Magic Victrola

lyricopera.org/victrola
With music by Mozart, Bizet, and others
David Kersnar and Jacqueline Russell, writers
Featuring members of the Ryan Opera Center and the Lyric Opera Orchestra

Civic Opera House
20 N. Wacker Dr., Chicago
Saturday, January 17, 2015, 3 p.m.
Tickets: $10-$40

The Property

lyricopera.org/property
Based on the graphic novel by Rutu Modan
Adapted by Eric Einhorn and Stephanie Fleischmann
Wlad Marhulets, composer
Stephanie Fleischmann, librettist
Eric Einhorn, director
Featuring members of Maxwell Street Klezmer Band

World-Premiere Performances
Reva and David Logan Center for the Arts
915 E. 60th St., Chicago
Wednesday, February 25, 2015, 7:30 p.m.
Thursday, February 26, 2015, 7:30 p.m.
Friday, February 27, 2015, 1 p.m.
Tickets start at $20 (on sale July 1)

The North Shore Center for the Performing Arts
9501 Skokie Blvd., Skokie
Wednesday, March 4, 2015, 7:30 p.m.
Thursday, March 5, 2015, 7:30 p.m.
Tickets start at $20 (on sale July 1)

El Pasado Nunca Se Termina

lyricopera.org/pasado
Jose "Pepe" Martínez, composer
Leonard Foglia, librettist and director

 

Preview Performances
Benito Juárez Community Academy
1450 W. Cermak Rd., Chicago
Friday, March 13, 2015, 7:30 p.m.
Saturday, March 14, 2015, 2 p.m.
Saturday, March 14, 2015, 7:30 p.m.
Sunday, March 15, 2015, 2 p.m.
Tickets: $10 (on sale July 1)

Genesee Theatre
203 N. Genesee St., Waukegan
Sunday, March 22, 2015, 2 p.m.
Tickets: $10-$25 (on sale July 1)

World-Premiere Performances
Civic Opera House
20 N. Wacker Dr., Chicago
Saturday, March 28, 2015, 7:30 p.m.
Sunday, March 29, 2015, 2 p.m.
Tickets: $25-$125

Second Nature

lyricopera.org/secondnature
Matthew Aucoin, composer and librettist
Matthew Ozawa, director

 

World-Premiere Performances
Café Brauer at Lincoln Park Zoo
2021 N. Stockton Dr., Chicago
Wednesday, August 19, 2015
Thursday, August 20, 2015
Performances times to be announced.
Free admission.

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