Lyric Opera of Chicago

2014/15: The Year of the Diva

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Amber Wagner is the romantic Leonora in Il Trovatore

Sondra Radvanovsky as the title role in Anna Bolena

Michaela Schuster is the ever-seductive Venus.

Tatiana Serjan (left/Jan-Feb) and Hui He (right/Feb-Mar) share the title role in Tosca

Next season, the women take charge.

Lyric Opera’s Diamond Anniversary is full of strong female roles and stellar singers who sparkle on stage. With so many leading ladies to choose from, there’s bound to be someone for everyone! 

Ever been dumped and wanted payback? Donna Elvira has. After being loved and left by Don Giovanni, she tricks him into confronting her about his infidelity and then chases after him when he runs away. She continues to thwart him, keeping the women around her from his advances and saving the day each time. Her character will shine with superstar Ana María Martínez at the helm this fall. 

For those who prefer a more subtle heroine, there’s the Countess in Capriccio. Intelligent and poised, she commands the attention of two men as they vie for her affection, deliberating over the importance of music and poetry in art. Celebrated soprano and Lyric’s creative consultant Renée Fleming takes the stage. Joined by famed mezzo-soprano Anne Sofie von Otter, this classy duo is sure to impress. 

Romantics unite! One of the women next season who will do anything for love is Il Trovatore’s Leonora. In love with a troubadour but desired by the Count, she inadvertently fuels their rivalry and in a series of twists and turns, her beloved Manrico is imprisoned. In exchange for his freedom, she offers herself to the Count, secretly taking poison to avoid such a fate. In the end, she perishes in Manrico’s arms, confessing that she’d rather die than live without him. 

Next year also features a historical character who’s popular among history buffs and theater lovers alike – Anne Boleyn. One of Shakespeare’s favorite women, she’s ostracized, betrayed, wrongfully accused, and sentenced to death by her husband King Henry VIII. Anne Boleyn exhibits an enviable strength of character, and renowned soprano Sondra Radvanovsky is just right to portray her onstage. 

If you like revenge look no further than Wagner’s Tannhäuser. Here we find Venus, the goddess who has seduced Tannhäuser into living with her for the past year. He asks to return to the life of man, and she uses all her power to try and stop him. When that fails, she curses him. In possession of his soul, she thwarts his attempts at reconciliation with his true love Elisabeth and keeps him from finding redemption for his lustful deeds. Hell truly hath no fury like a woman scorned. 

And of course there’s Tosca, another true romantic who’ll do anything for love. She’s a famous opera singer who’s enamored with the painter Cavaradossi. He’s arrested and sentenced to death for harboring an escaped prisoner and friend. Tosca tries everything to save him – but to no avail. After his execution, she hurls herself off a castle ledge and joins him in death. 

Strong, elegant, impressive, and bold – these ladies never give up. And regardless of whether they’re seeking revenge, exhibiting bravery in the face of danger, or sacrificing themselves for love, Lyric’s pantheon of women makes 2014-15 the ultimate year of the diva.

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Photos by Clive Barda, Cade Martin, and Dan Rest.