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An Insider's Guide to THE PASSENGER

The Chicago premiere of Weinberg's The Passenger is on stage at Lyric from February 24 through March 15. Discover this poignant, gripping, and intimate 20th-century masterpiece, which portrays the story of the Holocaust from the perspectives of both victim and perpetrator, through interviews with the cast and creative team, audio previews, and more. 

 

The final opera of Lyric's 60th Anniversary season is the Chicago premiere of Mieczysław Weinberg's The Passenger, on stage from February 24 through March 15. This poignant and gripping 20th-century masterpiece portrays the story of the Holocaust from the perspectives of both victim and perpetrator, and was only recently rediscovered after more than 40 years of suppression.

In the early 1960s, Liese (Daveda Karanas) travels aboard an ocean liner bound for Brazil with her diplomat husband Walter (Brandon Jovanovich) while hiding a terrible secret: she was once an SS officer at Auschwitz. When she thinks she recognizes a fellow passenger as Marta (Amanda Majeski), one of her former inmates, she is forced to confront the truth about her past. The story moves back and forth from the ship to the camp, focusing on key events including Marta's reunion with her lover, Tadeusz (Joshua Hopkins), and Marta's friendships with Katya (Kelly Kaduce) and Bronka (Liuba Sokolova).

The Passenger is conducted by Sir Andrew Davis and directed by David Pountney, with set designs by the late Johan Engels, costumes by Marie-Jeanne Lecca, and lighting by Fabrice Kebour.

To supplement the mainstage performances of The Passenger, Lyric also presents "Memory and Reckoning," a confluence of activities that will add resonance and perspective to the themes and messages in Weinberg's opera through musical performances, a film screening, exploratory discussions, and the world premiere of The Property, a newly commissioned klezmer opera. Click here to learn more about these supplemental events, which run January through March.

Click here to read the plot synopsis, director's note, and more
in the complete program book for The Passenger.
 

Learn more about the world of The Passenger with this opera companion
 

Click here to learn more about The Property in the complete program book. 

Director David Pountney invites you to The Passenger

 

Articles with insights from the cast and creative team:

Pathways to Discovery: Exploring The Passenger and The Property
Lyric's general director Anthony Freud discusses the importance of presenting The Passenger and "Memory and Reckoning" events in this article from Lyric Opera News: "As the son of a Holocaust survivor, Freud notes that he can 'be rather cynical about works of art that have been inspired by the Holocaust. However, The Passenger is different from most. It's not sentimental or simplistic or melodramatic. It's a complex, very moving, very human story.'" READ MORE  

Zofia Posmysz and The Passenger: A Survivor's Story
7566. If you listen to the roll call of prisoners in Act One of The Passenger, you'll hear a series of numbers called over a loudspeaker (in German) by the overseer. 7566 is the number Zofia Posmysz was assigned in Auschwitz. At age 91, she still bears the tattoo on her left arm. In 1942, Posymsz, an 18-year-old student in Krakow, was accused of distributing flyers for the Polish resistance and arrested. She would spend the next three years of her life in Nazi concentration camps, first Auschwitz and later Auschwitz-Birkenau (an extermination camp in the Auschwitz network), where she worked as a bookkeeper in the kitchen. READ MORE   


In the Footsteps of Evil: Daveda Karanas visits Auschwitz
When Daveda Karanas appears in the Lyric premiere of The Passenger, she'll perform with a special perspective on the opera. Her portrayal of Liese&mdsah;a former overseer of inmates at Auschwitz concentration camp during World War II—will be significantly influenced by the American mezzo-soprano's recent visit to Auschwitz itself. READ MORE

Lyric Opera Orchestra Members on Weinberg and The Passenger
This season, Lyric Unlimited has teamed up with a number of cultural institutions for an incredible series of discussions, a film screening, the world premiere of a new klezmer opera, The Property, and chamber music performances featuring members of the Lyric Opera Orchestra. The chamber music concerts feature more of Weinberg's compelling and emotional music. We reached out to the members of the Lyric Opera Orchestra who are participating in these "Memory and Reckoning" concerts to gain insight on their experience with this music. READ MORE

Backstage Look: Creating Hair and Makeup for The Passenger
Lyric's wigmaster Sarah Hatten, now entering her fourth season as the head of this crucial department, takes us inside the process for creating the hair and makeup for Weinberg’s The Passenger. With an opera based on historical events, the challenge is to make every aspect of the production look as realistic as possible. And as surprising as it might seem, recreating real life on stage is usually more difficult than creating whimsical or fantastic wigs and makeup. READ MORE

Behind the Scenes of The Property
Lyric Unlimited has commissioned a new opera, The Property, to be presented in tandem with the Chicago premiere of Mieczsław Weinberg's The Passenger on the Lyric mainstage. A true fusion of opera and klezmer music, The Property brings Israeli author Rutu Modan's graphic novel to life in a captivating story about reclaiming the past, and finding your future. READ MORE

The Passenger Audio Preview

Music director Sir Andrew Davis shares the synopsis and excerpts from Weinberg's The Passenger. Recordings used by permission of EMI Classics and Peermusic Classical.

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An Insider's Guide to CAROUSEL

Rodgers and Hammerstein's Carousel at Lyric (on stage April 10 through May 3) is the most eagerly anticipated musical event of the spring season. Learn more about this new production and its outstanding cast and creative team through articles, video, and more. 

Rodgers and Hammerstein's Carousel at Lyric is the most eagerly anticipated musical event of the spring season. This brand-new production is helmed by eminent director/choreographer Rob Ashford and features the Lyric debuts of conductor David Chase (a New York favorite and longtime collaborator of Ashford's) and artist Paolo Ventura as set designer, plus costumes from Catherine Zuber, the acclaimed designer who has won multiple Tony Awards and who costumed Ashford's delightful Barber of Seville in Lyric's 2013-14 season. 

The behind-the-scenes talent is amazing, and the cast is astounding. Broadway favorite Steven Pasquale and two-time Tony nominee Laura Osnes star as carousel barker Billy Bigelow and his beloved Julie Jordan. International operatic star Denyce Graves, known for her fiery interpretations of the title role in Bizet's Carmen, takes on her first full-length musical theater role as Nettie Fowler. 

Carousel is on stage at Lyric from April 10 through May 3, and this page is your source for all of the behind-the-scenes info. 

 Director Rob Ashford on Carousel

 

 Articles with insights on the cast and creative team

Carousel Comes to Lyric
Director Rob Ashford talks about the creative process for Carousel in this article from Lyric Opera News. "Every new production of a musical or opera has a unique journey to the stage but some, like Lyric's Carousel, are especially unusual. Five years ago director-choreographer Rob Ashford saw an exhibition in New York, 'Winter Stories,' by Italian artist Paolo Ventura. 'Part of it was set around a carnival,' Ashford recalls. 'It was so moving and beautiful. I was so captivated by it, I said, 'If I ever do Carousel,  that is the person who must design it.'" READ MORE

Broadway at Lyric: Steven Pasquale and Laura Osnes tackle Carousel
Carousel is coming to Lyric April 10 through May 3—and its two leads are bringing a bit of the Great White Way to Wacker Drive. Steven Pasquale and Laura Osnes star as carousel barker Billy Bigelow and his true love, innocent millworker Julie Jordan. Pasquale most recently stole hearts starring in The Bridges of Madison County on Broadway opposite Kelli O'Hara, and he's currently playing the handsome and passionate campaign manager Johnny Elfman on CBS's The Good Wife. At just 29, Osnes is already a two-time Tony nominee, first for Bonnie and Clyde and then for the recent revival of Rodgers + Hammerstein's Cinderella, and she is thrilled for this opportunity to "check another R&H heroine off my dream-role list." READ MORE

Meet Steven Pasquale – Lyric’s Billy Bigelow
Billy Bigelow is one of the most demanding roles in musical theater. Lyric's leading man Steven Pasquale has a long list of credits on stage and screen. You might recognize him from his current role on the CBS hit The Good Wife —here are three of our favorite Steven Pasquale moments from past projects including Rescue Me and the Tony-nominated musical The Bridges of Madison County. READ MORE

Denyce Graves Breaks All the Rules
Superstar mezzo Denyce Graves returns to Lyric for the first time since 2005 to star in Lyric's new production of Carousel. Joining Broadway star Steven Pasquale's Billy Bigelow, Graves anchors the cast as Nettie Fowler, who acts as a mother hen to the New England waterfront community depicted by Rodgers and Hammerstein. READ MORE

From Broadway to Lyric: Exploring musical theater
Carousel marks Lyric's third production in its American Musical Theater Initiative, following 2012-13's Oklahoma! and last season's The Sound of Music. General director Anthony Freud talks about the genesis of this project and how it is changing the face of the company in this article from the Porgy and Bess program book. READ MORE

An Insider's Guide to TANNHÄUSER

Wagner's magnificent Tannhäuser is an epic tale of sin and redemption that is truly a monumental experience. Learn more about this new-to-Chicago production conducted by Sir Andrew Davis, directed by Tim Albery, and starring Johan Botha with interviews, audio previews, and more.

 

Wagner's magnificent Tannhäuser is on stage at Lyric February 9 through March 6. In this tale of sin and redemption, a wandering musician (Johan Botha) is lured into the erotic realm of the goddess Venus (Michaela Schuster). When he grows tired of her sensual delights, he returns home to his saintly beloved Elisabeth (Amber Wagner). However, he soon learns that true forgiveness is not so easily won. 

Sir Andrew Davis conducts this monumental vocal, choral, and orchestral feast that also stars Gerald Finley as Wolfram and John Relyea as the Landgrave in a new-to-Chicago production from director Tim Albery, who makes his Lyric debut. 

Click here to read the full plot synopsis, director's note, and more
in the complete Tannhäuser program book
.

Articles with insights from the cast and creative team

Closing the Circle: Sir Andrew Davis conducts Tannhäuser
Musically, stylistically, dramatically, and intellectually, there's no greater challenge for an opera conductor than the works of Richard Wagner. Sir Andrew Davis knows this very well—he waited to take them on until he became Lyric's music director in 2000. "The prospect of doing the Wagner operas was one of the most exciting things about coming to Lyric," he recalls. Fourteen years into his tenure—after The Flying Dutchman, Parsifal, the Ring, Tristan und Isolde, Lohengrin, and Die Meistersinger von Nürnberg—only one of Wagner's mature operas was left to tackle: Tannhäuser, which returns to Lyric's stage this season for the first time since 1988-89, from February 9 through March 6. READ MORE

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. Chicago on the Aisle   gave it four (out of five stars), calling it "potent, sensual and yet strikingly unromanticized production." READ MORE

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 of creating this sensuous depiction of Venusburg from auditions to rehearsals to opening night. READ MORE 

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." READ MORE 

Chorus member Jeffrey Taylor on Tannhäuser
As a bass with the Lyric Opera Chorus since 1981, Jeffrey Taylor has experienced countless thrilling performances firsthand. He's enthusiastic about this season's biggest choral challenge, Wagner's Tannhäuser, and why Lyric audiences should be excited to experience this massive masterpiece, unheard here since 1988. READ MORE 

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. Who is your Tannhäuser Valentine? Take this quiz and find out! READ MORE 


Lyric U: Sopranos—how high can you go?
Get to know the soprano voice type with Renée Fleming, Anthony Freud, and Sir Andrew Davis in this Lyric U voice series installment. Plus hear examples of great soprano arias from some of the operas still on deck for this season, including "Dich, teure Halle" from Tannhäuser. READ MORE

 

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, including Wolfram's beautiful aria "O du mein holder Abendstern" (Song of the Evening Star) from Tannhäuser. READ MORE

 "Patter Up!" with Amber Wagner

Get to know the lighter side of Tannhäuser star and Ryan Opera Center alumna Amber Wagner, who also triumphed earlier this season in Verdi's Il Trovatore

 

Tannhäuser Audio Preview

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

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THE MAGIC VICTROLA: Opera Comes Alive

Prepare for Lyric Unlimited's upcoming family presentation The Magic Victrola  on January 17 with this comprehensive guide, which gives an overview of the story and some of the musical excerpts that will be featured.

Children and adults alike will be enchanted by Lyric Unlimited's upcoming family presentation, The Magic Victrola on Saturday, January 17 at 3pm.

This one-afternoon-only event is a delightful way for children to learn about the joys of opera. The production is specifically designed for children ages 5 to 10, but people of all ages will enjoy this brand-new story brought to life by the Lyric Opera Orchestra and singers from Lyric's own Ryan Opera Center

The Story…

Caroline Heffernan and Logan Neuschaefer play Gracie and Sam, two children who are staying with their grandfather (Richard Henzel) for the summer. Though they initially worry they might be bored, they discover their grandfather's collection of opera records in the attic, along with an old-fashioned Victrola player that has magical qualities. When they put on the first record, the bird catcher Papageno (Ryan Opera Center baritone Will Liverman) from Mozart's The Magic Flute appears and encourages Gracie and Sam to play more records, which causes each famous opera scene to magically come to life in colorful vignettes.

The Process 

Curious about how the story and the music make it to the stage? Read this interview with Lyric's production design director Scott Marr and props coordinator Maria da Fabo, who designed the sets and costumes for this presentation.

The Snacks… 

The rumors are true! Kid-friendly snacks will be sold in the foyer and you can even take them with you to enjoy in the theater.

The Music… 

The Magic Victrola is filled with operatic favorites. If you want to introduce your children to the music before they come, here are some video excerpts!

Overture from Mozart's The Marriage of Figaro

The Magic Victrola opens with one of the most famous overtures in opera: Mozart's delightful opening to The Marriage of Figaro.

 

"Der Vogelfänger bin ich ja" from Mozart's The Magic Flute

Papageno sings about his happy life as a birdcatcher.

 

The Doll Song from Offenbach's The Tales of Hoffmann 

Olympia the doll sings a song, but she occasionally needs to be wound up so she can keep going!

 

"Quanto è bella" from Donizetti's L'Elisir d'Amore

This aria has a man singing about the beautiful woman he loves.  

 

The Flower Duet from Delibes's Lakmé

This duet is about all of the wonderful things found in nature.

 

"O mio babbino caro" from Puccini's Gianni Schicchi

In this aria, a young woman asks for help from her father in a way that melts his heart. The title can be translated to "O my dear papa."

 

Habanera from Bizet's Carmen

This opera is set in Spain and this aria has a very catchy rhythm called the Habanera, which is a type of dance music.

 

Papageno Papagena Duet from Mozart's The Magic Flute

Papageno finally finds his perfect match: Papagena!

 

Photo credits:

  • Photos from The Family Barber, Lyric Unlimited's family presentation in the 2013-14 season (Todd Rosenberg / Lyric Opera of Chicago)
(Lyric Opera of Chicago does not own copyrights to any of the above videos.)

 

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