Lyric Opera of Chicago

Lyric and composer Jimmy López awarded prize

For Immediate Release:
December 4, 2013

Lyric Opera of Chicago and
composer Jimmy López
awarded $75,000 prize for
world-premiere opera Bel Canto 

First time ever Prince Prize awarded for opera commissioning

Lyric Opera of Chicago and composer Jimmy López are the recipients of the Prince Charitable Trusts 2013 Prince Prize for Commissioning New Original Work – the first time ever the Prince Prize has been awarded for an opera commission. The $75,000 award ($25,000 of which goes to the composer) was awarded for the opera Bel Canto, which is based on the best-selling Ann Patchett novel of the same name. The opera will receive its world premiere at Lyric in December of 2015 and will star renowned soprano Danielle de Niese in the central role. The libretto is by Pulitzer Prize-winning playwright Nilo Cruz. Bel Canto will be directed by Kevin Newbury and conducted by Lyric Opera music director Sir Andrew Davis.

The $75,000 Prince Prize is awarded each year to a major cultural institution for the commissioning of a promising mid-career artist. The intent of the Prize program is to serve as a catalyst for creative collaboration between promising artists and Chicago’s highest caliber arts organizations – to provide an opportunity to showcase both the artists and Chicago’s great performing arts companies.  

Funding decisions by Prince Charitable Trusts are made on the basis of the organizational and artistic excellence of the producing company and the promise of the creative artist. The Prince Charitable Trusts were established in 1947 from the bequests of Frederick Henry Prince (1859 - 1953) and his wife, Abbie Norman Prince (1860 - 1949). The three trusts operate as a family foundation with giving programs in the city of Chicago, the Washington D.C. metropolitan area and the state of Rhode Island.The Prince Charitable Trusts sponsored Lyric’s Ring cycle and Gotterdammerung in the company’s 50th-anniversary season. Meredith Wood-Prince (Mrs. Patrick) and Diana Prince (Mrs. Frederick H.) are members of the Lyric Opera Women's Board.

“While this art form is replete with past-centuries masterpieces, nothing tops the excitement surrounding a new opera’s birth.” says Lyric Opera general director Anthony Freud. “Jimmy López’s Bel Canto promises to be a significant contribution to the opera repertory of the 21st century. It is particularly gratifying for Lyric and for Jimmy to receive such a strong vote of confidence from the Prince Charitable Trusts. On behalf of the composer and of Lyric I thank all those who recognize the promise and potential in this commission of ours.”

“This award is extraordinarily encouraging for all of us involved in the creation of Bel Canto, and it’s a reminder that we must continue striving for excellence,” says composer Jimmy López. “I’m deeply grateful for this recognition. No effort is being spared to ensure that Chicago audiences enjoy a world-class premiere in 2015.”

Ann Patchett’s novel Bel Canto was inspired by a 1996-97 incident when revolutionaries held hostages at an ambassador’s house in Lima, Peru. Over the course of the book, the captive audience is drawn together by nightly recitals from an American soprano named Roxanne Coss. The novel won Patchett the PEN/Faulkner Award in 2002 and sold more than one million copies.

Lyric announced the commissioning of Bel Canto in early 2012 as part of its Renée Fleming Initiative. The world premiere will be Lyric’s first since 2004’s A Wedding and Lyric’s seventh since 1961.

Jimmy López’s music has been heard at Carnegie Hall and the Aspen Music Festival, and performed by prestigious orchestras including the Chicago Symphony Orchestra, the Philadelphia Orchestra, the Boston and Atlanta symphony orchestras, and by the leading orchestras of Chile, Peru, and Finland. The New York Times has described López as “an expert in orchestration,” while the Chicago Sun-Times declared that he is “one of the most interesting young composers anywhere today.”

Bel Canto will be the composer’s first opera.