Lyric Opera of Chicago

BEL CANTO, Lyric's world-premiere opera, has first workshop

For immediate release:
Thursday, July 24, 2014


Lyric Opera of Chicago's world premiere Bel Canto
has first workshop

Opens December 2015

CHICAGO - Composer Jimmy López and librettist Nilo Cruz heard their words and music come to life recently when members of The Patrick G. and Shirley W. Ryan Opera Center at Lyric Opera of Chicago sang through portions of Bel Canto backstage at the Civic Opera House on Friday, July 11. Sir Andrew Davis conducted the workshop, with pianists Maureen Zoltek and Craig Terry accompanying 11 singers performing multiple roles.

The new opera Bel Canto, by composer Jimmy López, with libretto by Pulitzer Prize-winning playwright Nilo Cruz, is based on the best-selling novel by Ann Patchett. Sir Andrew Davis is conductor and Kevin Newbury is stage director for the new production. Curated by Renée Fleming, Lyric's creative consultant, Bel Canto is the seventh world-premiere opera that Lyric Opera of Chicago has commissioned for its mainstage since 1961. It opens in December 2015, as part of Lyric's 2015-16 season.

"It was thrilling to spend time with Jimmy López, Nilo Cruz, Kevin Newbury, and Sir Andrew Davis, going through Bel Canto and hearing the parts of the piece that have already been written," says Anthony Freud, Lyric's general director. "The premiere is still 18 months away and there is still a great deal of work to be done, but it is already clear that Jimmy's haunting, moving, and compelling music and Nilo's beautiful, poetic and gripping libretto will result in a thrillingly operatic reinvention of Ann Patchett's brilliant novel."

The singers navigated several languages during the workshop, including English, Spanish, Japanese, German, French, Russian, and Quechua. 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.

In the actual performances of Bel Canto all roles will be individually cast, and there will be a chorus.

Central to the story is the fictional famed American soprano Roxane Coss, who will be portrayed by Australian-born American soprano Danielle de Niese. Additional casting and the design team will be announced at later dates.

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Read more about the working session on Lyric Lately, Lyric's blog >>