Lyric Opera of Chicago

Lyric's Rising Stars in Concert on Saturday, March 29

For immediate release:
Wednesday, March 26, 2014



The Patrick G. and Shirley W. Ryan Opera Center at Lyric Opera of Chicago presents 
Rising Stars in Concert 
with the Lyric Opera Orchestra conducted by Kelly Kuo
7:30 p.m. Saturday, March 29, 2014
at the Civic Opera House.

Performance broadcast on 98.7WFMT and streamed on   
Sunday, March 30, 2014, at 7 p.m.

On Saturday,  March 29, at 7:30 p.m., the talented singers and pianist of The Patrick G. and Shirley W. Ryan Opera Center 2013-14  ensemble will perform with members of the Lyric Opera Orchestra in works of Adams, Bizet, Copland, Donizetti, Gershwin, Gounod, Handel, Lehár, Massenet, Mozart, Ravel, Stravinsky, and Walton. Rising Stars in Concert is offered in celebration of an extraordinarily successful year of study and performance for these up-and-coming artists.

The local broadcast of the performance on 98.7WFMT will be on Sunday, March 30, 2014, at 7 p.m. and is generously sponsored by the Donna Van Eekeren Foundation, which is also the concert's lead sponsor. WFMT's chief announcer Peter Van de Graaff and Lyric's dramaturg Roger Pines will serve as host and commentator respectively.

Lyric audiences have seen the 2013-14 Ryan Opera Center members perform critically acclaimed principal and supporting roles during Lyric Opera of Chicago's 59th season. Ryan Opera Center members also served as understudies for major and minor roles. This concert provides a unique opportunity to hear these artists performing arias and ensembles with the Lyric Opera Orchestra. The orchestra will be conducted by Kelly Kuo, who is  entering his second season as artistic director of the Oregon Mozart Players and music director and conductor of the Butler Opera Center at The University of Texas at Austin.

Please note that the Rising Stars in Concert  performance is offered only to Lyric Opera of Chicago donors who annually contribute $75 or more. Tickets are not available to the general public, but donors of $75 can still receive two complimentary tickets. For information on giving, visit

Ryan Opera Center members who will be performing are sopranos Emily Birsan, Tracy Cantin, and Laura Wilde; mezzo-sopranos J'nai Bridges and Julie Anne Miller; tenor John Irvin;  baritones Anthony Clark Evans and Will Liverman; and bass-baritone Richard Ollarsaba. Ryan Opera Center pianist Maureen Zoltek will perform the first movement of Ravel's Piano Concerto. (Ensemble member Adam Bonanni will not be performing due to a conflict.) All vocal selections will have projected English translations.

Rising Stars in Concert is generously sponsored by Lead Sponsor the Donna Van Eekeren Foundation, sponsors Accenture, Julie and Roger Baskes, Catamaran, Ann M. Drake, Sue and Melvin Gray, Howard Family Foundation, the Chauncey and Marion D. McCormick Family Foundation, and Frank B. Modrusonand Lynne C. Shigley.

Rising Stars in Concert is cosponsored by Patricia A. Kenney and Gregory J. O'Leary in honor of Julie and Roger Baskes, with additional support from Mr. and Mrs. Allan Drebin. 

Of the 11 members in the 2013-14 ensemble, nine will return to the program for 2014-15: sopranos Tracy Cantin and Laura Wilde, mezzo-sopranos J'nai Bridges and Julie Anne Miller, tenor John Irvin, baritones Anthony Clark Evans and Will Liverman,  bass-baritone Richard Ollarsaba, and  pianist Maureen Zoltek.  Four new ensemble members will join them: soprano Hlengiwe Mkhwanazi, tenors Jesse Donner and Jonathan Johnson, and bass Bradley Smoak.

The Patrick G. and Shirley W. Ryan Opera Center at Lyric Opera of Chicago was established in 1974 as the professional artist-development program for Lyric Opera of Chicago. Since its inception, the Ryan Opera Center has been recognized as one of the premier programs of its kind in the world. That standing is maintained by providing the finest up-and-coming singers with unparalleled training and experience. The program is administered by Director Dan Novak, Music Director Craig Terry, and Advisor Renée Fleming.

Selected from some 400 singers who audition annually, the Ryan Opera Center ensemble members are in residence for nearly 12 months. Over the course of the year they receive advanced instruction in numerous aspects of operatic performance, including voice lessons and coachings, language and acting training, and master classes with some of opera's most celebrated artists, including David Daniels, Sir Andrew Davis (Lyric's music director), Renée Fleming (Lyric's creative consultant), Thomas Hampson, Matthew Polenzani (a Ryan Opera Center alumnus), and Renata Scotto,  among others.

During Lyric Opera's mainstage season, Ryan Opera Center members perform and understudy a significant number of principal and supporting roles. This presents an extraordinary opportunity to work with the world's greatest opera singers, conductors, directors, orchestra, and chorus. They also gain valuable performing experience by participating in recitals and concerts at many Chicago-area venues. The ensemble is featured in monthly broadcasts of the Ryan Opera Center's 98.7WFMT Recital Series, also streamed at Previously broadcast programs are online at  

A testament to the Ryan Opera Center's caliber and success is the roster of distinguished alumni who perform regularly on the stages of leading international opera houses. It includes René Barbera, Harolyn Blackwell, Nicole Cabell, Elizabeth DeShong, Mark S. Doss, Christopher Feigum, Elizabeth Futral, Roger Honeywell, Joseph Kaiser, Maria Kanyova, Quinn Kelsey, Dina Kuznetsova, Emily Magee, Amanda Majeski, Susanna Phillips, Matthew Polenzani, Christian Van Horn, Amber Wagner, and Erin Wall

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