Lyric Opera of Chicago

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My Favorite Things: Christine Brewer

One of the world's most acclaimed sopranos Christine Brewer stars as the Mother Abbess in The Sound of Music. But when she's not solving a problem like Maria, what does she enjoy? Here's a glimpse into her very busy and very fun life from A League of Their Own to the annual Brewer Hootenanny.

One of the world's most acclaimed sopranos (BBC Music even named her one of the top 20 sopranos of all time!), Christine Brewer stars as the Mother Abbess in The Sound of Music. With her soaring and powerful voice, she will certainly make "Climb Ev'ry Mountain" one of the show's most memorable moments.

But when she's not solving a problem like Maria, what does she enjoy? Christine Brewer gives us a glimpse into her very busy and very fun life!


It's hard to choose just one favorite movie, but one that is certainly in my top five favorites would be A League of Their Own. Such a fantastic cast! Favorite quote from the film is "There's no crying in baseball!"  I grew up in a family of jocks, so that quote rang true to me as I recalled the times my dad said that when he coached the women's/girl's softball team. My mom was the pitcher on the team, and I was the less-than-adequate right fielder!


TV Shows 

I love watching CBS Sunday Morning. When I'm home, it is a ritual for my husband Ross and me to fix breakfast together and watch the program. My guilty pleasure TV show is Nashville; even though it's pretty much a soap opera, the music on the show is fantastic! 



I'm not sure this is a hobby, but my husband and I have been renovating a home we bought in Lebanon, Illinois [near St. Louis] more than 20 years ago. It was built in 1874 and is in the historic district of Lebanon, about two blocks from McKendree University where I met Ross and where we got married in the Chapel there. It is one of those never-ending projects, and there always seems to be something that needs to be done, but we love the house and its character.


We've always had dogs and cats in our house, mostly strays and rescued. We currently have two old male cats, Don and Ben (named Benjamin Britten by my daughter) and a 12-year-old collie mix named Macy. We travel with Macy whenever possible, but the cats prefer to stay home with the house-sitter!

Historical figure 

One of my favorite historical figures is Susan B. Anthony. Her dedication to women's rights and getting the women's right to vote were so brave and noble. And to think that she didn't live long enough to see the 19th Amendment pass in 1920 makes her life story even more poignant.

Scent or smell 

How my little 7-month-old grandson Oscar smells after he's had a bath.


There's a song by Frank La Forge called "Hills" (poet Arthur Guiterman). I've sung it many times in recitals and have also recorded it. The final phrase is "God give me hills and strength for climbing." My mom used to say when I was struggling with something, "Why, that's no hill for a stepper!" So when I came across this song, that last phrase really stuck with me and has become sort of a motto for me!

Treasured possession 

I have a little framed picture of a four-leaf clover that my mom made for me years ago. Mom told me that she found the lucky clover in their yard. She wrote underneath it, "Good luck, sweet baby girl!" I carried it with me on trips and would put it on my night stand. After my mom died about 15 years ago, my daughter Elisabeth was on a trip with me, and she saw the picture. She said, "You know that's NOT a four-leaf clover, right?" And I told her the story of how Grandma Dee had made it for me. She started laughing and said, "I helped Grandma Dee make that and we just GLUED an extra leaf on that three-leaf clover we picked. Grandma said you would never know, and we laughed our heads off when we made it." That makes me cherish this even more now that my mom is gone, knowing this sweet story of how she and Elisabeth tricked me!

Annual party 

My husband and I host a party every year at the end of the summer in our back yard and we call it the Brewer Hootenanny. Ross plays guitar and dulcimer. I play guitar, mandolin, harmonica and gut bucket. We have around 100 family and friends gather every year, even some members of the St. Louis Symphony Orchestra who join us for some good old bluegrass, gospel, and folk music. We have some great food, drink and music-making.

Recording experience 

I sang "Somewhere Over the Rainbow" with John Williams conducting and Lynn Harrell playing the cello solo to a Randy Kerber arrangement of the great Harold Arlen song. We did the recording in the same studio that Judy Garland recorded the song around 70 years ago! The project was part of a recording for HEARTbeats Organization with other artists like Paul Simon, Joan Baez, Jessye Norman and the Blind Boys of Alabama.



Photo credits:

  • Christine Brewer portrait (credit Christian Steiner)
  • Christine Brewer's home in Lebanon, IL (photos courtesy Christine Brewer)
  • Christine Brewer's dog, Macy (photo courtesy Christine Brewer)
  • Christine Brewer's grandson Oscar (photo courtesy Christine Brewer)
(Lyric Opera of Chicago does not own copyrights to any of the above videos.)


“Listen to your friend Billy Zane, he’s a cool dude.”

Billy Zane, star of Lyric's new production of The Sound of Music has appeared in more than 100 films. Here are some highlights from his incredibly versatile career.

To appropriate a line from Zoolander, Chicago's own Billy Zane—starring as Captain von Trapp in Lyric's production of The Sound of Music  opening on April 25—is an exceptionally cool dude who has appeared in more than 100 films.

Here are just a few of our favorite moments of Zane from his large and versatile filmography.  


The epic blockbuster by James Cameron featured Zane as Cal Hockley, the obstacle standing in the way of Jack and Rose and true love. He was the perfect villain, equal parts devious and debonair—it was hard not to get caught up in his spell. 


Back to the Future 

In his film debut, Billy Zane played Match, one of Biff's three menacing henchman who are constantly bullying George and Marty McFly (Crispin Glover and Michael J. Fox). 



This movie is one masterful comic set piece after another, but Billy Zane's priceless cameo backing up Derek Zoolander (Ben Stiller) as he argues with Hansel (Owen Wilson) might be the movie's best moment. "It's a walk-off."


Dead Calm 

In his breakthrough role, Zane plays the psychotic Hughie, a stowaway who terrorizes a married couple (played by Nicole Kidman and Sam Neill) on the open water in this taught thriller from Australian director Phillip Noyce. You'll never think of "The Lion Sleeps Tonight" in the same way again.


The Phantom 

This big-screen adaptation of Lee Falk's adventure comic featured Billy Zane as the eponymous hero in the purple suit. The role showcased both Zane's enviable physique and his natural comic timing, and the actor has said it was this movie that brought him to Titanic director James Cameron's attention.


Twin Peaks 

Zane had a recurring role as businessman John Justice Wheeler in season 2 of this groundbreaking David Lynch series. In one of the more lighthearted subplots on the show, his character romances Audrey Horne (Sherilyn Fenn) and tries to teach her father Ben (Richard Beymer) how to be truly good. 



Photo credits (clockwise from top left): Billy Zane in The Phantom (courtesy Paramount Pictures); Back to the Future (courtesy Universal Pictures); Ben Stiller and Billy Zane in Zoolander (courtesy Paramount Pictures); Billy Zane in Dead Calm (courtesy Warner Bros.)

(Lyric Opera of Chicago does not own copyrights to any of the above videos.)

My Favorite Things: Jenn Gambatese

Broadway star Jenn Gambatese stars as Maria in Lyric's new production of The Sound of Music. But what are a few of her favorite things? Read on to find out more.

Our Maria, Jenn Gambatese, has an impressive Broadway background that includes creating the role of Natalie in All Shook Up opposite Cheyenne Jackson, creating the role of Jane in Disney's Tarzan, and recently starring as Glinda in the first national touring production of Wicked. But when she's not on stage, here are some of the things she enjoys, besides rain drops, on top of the roses!

See Jenn "climb ev'ry mountain" with Billy Zane, Christine Brewer, Elizabeth Futral, Edward Hibbert, and more in The Sound of Music opening on April 25 at Lyric!


Hot toddys of all sorts make me a happy girl. You also can't go wrong with a champagne cocktail. (Don't tell Leisl!)


Singin' in the Rain is my all-time fave.


Pop songs

My 4-year-old daughter and I are loving the Frozen soundtrack at present. All the songs are great, but Idina's version of "Let It Go" is a real triumph. I immensely enjoy the Christophe Beck orchestral pieces on the soundtrack as well.


I am also really digging The Lone Bellow and their self-titled album.



Ice cream—when I'm not singing, lol! I'm also a sucker for a great egg sandwich.

Vacation spot

I'm just in love with The Mohonk Mountain House, and it's practically in my own back yard!

Television show

I don't watch a ton of TV, but every time I see New Girl I just love it.



I was reluctant to join but man oh man, I'm on Facebook every day.


HOME! My daughter Josephine, my husband Curtis, home cooking.

Childhood toys

I loved my little china tea set and was a real bookworm.  Favorite Christmas present ever was a gorgeous hardcover edition with illustrations of...wait for it...Heidi. I guess I've always had a thing for the Alps. I remember devouring the whole book in 2 days!


Our little teacup Yorkie, Killer Marie.

I'm captivated by Gregory Colbert's "Ashes and Snow" photographs and would love to befriend and ride an elephant one day!  



Photo credits


(Lyric Opera of Chicago does not own copyrights to any of the above videos). 

An Insider's Guide to THE SOUND OF MUSIC

Go inside Lyric's new production of  Rodgers & Hammerstein's The Sound of Music, on stage like you've never seen it before from April 25 to May 18, with video previews, interviews, behind-the-scenes looks, and more!

Lyric is thrilled to once again celebrate the great American musical with a brand-new production of Rodgers and Hammerstein's The Sound of Music, staged like you've never seen it before starting on April 25. Chicago native Billy Zane, known for his starring roles in Titanic and Chicago on Broadway, plays Captain Georg von Trapp with dazzling cast that includes Broadway stars Jenn Gambatese (Maria) and Edward Hibbert (Max) and opera luminaries Christine Brewer (Mother Abbess) and Elizabeth Futral (Elsa Schraeder). The production comes to life with dancing, costumes, sets, and the glorious sound of the Lyric Opera Orchestra and Chorus—62 members strong, an unprecedented ensemble for most musical theater productions.

Go inside this production with video previews, interviews, behind-the-scenes articles, and more!

The rehearsal process begins! Director Marc Bruni gives an overview of the show:


Get a sneak peek with our official video trailer:


A "foyerside" chat with Lyric's Renée Fleming, Anthony Freud, and Sir Andrew Davis:


Read these articles for insights from the cast and creative team:

Buzz is Building for The Sound of Music 
The talented cast and crew of The Sound of Music have been spotted all across Chicago. Here is a sampling of some of the television appearances, interviews, and features on this new production. Chicago Bulls center Joakim Noah even met the von Trapp children! READ MORE

Talkin' Broadway with Jenn Gambatese and Billy Zane
Though they are both making Lyric debuts with The Sound of MusicBilly Zane and Jenn Gambatese bring years of expertise as actors-on the screen and on the stage-to the Civic Opera House as they portray Captain von Trapp and Maria in this eagerly anticipated new production. READ MORE

Bringing The Sound of Music to Life
Starting on April 25, Lyric continues its lauded American Musical Theater Initiative with The Sound of Music. You might have watched NBC's highly rated live production in December, but nothing can compare to the experience of watching it live on stage. Casting is key, and for this production, Lyric has assembled stars from Broadway and opera to collaborate on Rodgers and Hammerstein's final masterpiece. READ MORE 

Billy Zane on Broadway, Fatherhood, and the Captain's Wicked Sense of Humor
Though he's known for his blockbuster film roles-including Titanic, Back to the Future, and a memorable cameo in Zoolander-Zane has theater in his DNA. His parents were active in regional theater, so he grew up watching them perform, as well as attending Harand Theatre Camp in Kenosha, Wisconsin. READ MORE 

Inside the Mind of Sound of Music Director Marc Bruni  
Director Marc Bruni gives the inside track on what audiences can expect when they come to see The Sound of Music at Lyric-everything from sets to music and characters promises to create an unparalleled theatrical experience. READ MORE 

My Favorite Things: Jenn Gambatese
Our Maria gives some of her must-haves, which include champagne cocktails (don't tell Leisl!), Singin' in the Rain, ice cream, Heidi, and her adorable teacup Yorkie, Killer Marie. And yes, she and her daughter belt out the Frozen soundtrack with Idina Menzel. READ MORE

My Favorite Things: Christine Brewer
One of the world's most acclaimed sopranos, Christine Brewer stars as the Mother Abbess in The Sound of Music. But when she's not solving a problem like Maria, what does she enjoy? Here's a glimpse into her very busy and very fun life from A League of Their Own to the annual Brewer Hootenanny. READ MORE

My Favorite Things: Edward Hibbert
Known for his delightfully droll portrayal of food critic Gil Chesterton on NBC's Frasier, Edward Hibbert brings his quick wit to the role of oily impresario Max Detweiler in this production of The Sound of Music. A few of his favorite things? All About Eve, Amy Winehouse, cashmere, and champagne. Max would be proud! READ MORE

My Favorite Things: Elizabeth Futral
Chicago favorite and an alumna of Lyric's own Ryan Opera Center, Elizabeth Futral is starring as the elegant Elsa Schraeder in The Sound of Music. She gives a glimpse of a few of the things she enjoys most, including Breaking Bad, Annie Dillard, and the unique Chicago Mix (cheese and caramel together) from the legendary Garrett Popcorn. READ MORE

My Favorite Things: Betsy Farrar
Betsy Farrar is no stranger to Chicago stages, having appeared in Million Dollar Quartet and Gypsy, but she makes her Lyric debut as Liesl. When not performing, a nice stiff whiskey ginger, It's a Wonderful Life, and the collected works of Beyoncé are just a few of her favorite things. READ MORE

Those Sound of Music Kids
What's more appealing than an American musical filled with great tunes and an engaging and delightful group of kids placed in the very center of the story? Lyric's new production of The Sound of Music has in its cast an assortment of talented young actors who can sing, dance, and, of course, act. Assistant conductor Valerie Maze talks about how the kids balance rehearsal with school and more. READ MORE

Heritage Bicycles and THE SOUND OF MUSIC
A grand-scale production like The Sound of Music means finding some very special props. When the von Trapp children and Rolf needed bicycles, Lyric turned to Chicago's own Heritage Bicycles to manufacture some very special custom-made vehicles. READ MORE

Introducing the Family von Trapp! 
Here are some fun facts about the seven exceptionally talented young actors that makes up the von Trapp Family Singers! This group does everything from stage acting to TV roles to tae kwon doREAD MORE 

The Hills Are Alive with (Covers from) The Sound of Music 
Rodgers and Hammerstein's The Sound of Music is full of some of the most beloved songs in all of musical theater. Many of them have become standards in their own right, appearing in TV shows, movies, and commercials for decades. Here are just a handful of our favorite interpretations of these classic songs. READ MORE 

Oh Captain, My Captain! Getting to Know Billy Zane
The Captain has arrived! The one, the only Billy Zane, star of James Cameron's international blockbuster Titanic and critically acclaimed for his portrayal of Billy Flynn in Broadway's smash hit Chicago, stars as Captain von Trapp in Lyric's brand-new production of Rodgers and Hammerstein's The Sound of Music (April 25-May 18). READ MORE

Billy Zane's Memorable Film Moments
Our Captain, Billy Zane, has appeared in more than 100 film roles. Here are a few highlights from his extremely varied career, including on-screen appearances with Nicole Kidman, Kate Winslet, and Michael J. Fox. READ MORE

How do you solve a problem like Maria…and Liesl?
Ask Dr. Opera!


Lyric on Parade!

Here are highlights from Lyric's Sound of Music float appearing in Chicago's world-famous St. Patrick's Day Parade:


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