Lyric Opera of Chicago

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Happy Valentine’s Day from Figaro and Rosina!

Nathan Gunn and Isabel Leonard, our wonderful Figaro and Rosina in Lyric's new production of Rossini's  The Barber of Seville treated fans to some Valentine's Day delights. 


Nathan Gunn and Isabel Leonard, our wonderful Figaro and Rosina in Lyric's new production of Rossini's The Barber of Seville  treated fans to some Valentine's Day delights.

Nathan Gunn answered questions from his devoted followers in a live Facebook chat right here at Lyric headquarters. Lyric creative consultant Renée Fleming even stopped by to say hello! 



On the WGN Midday News, seen not only in Chicago but nationwide, Isabel Leonard chatted with Steve Sanders about Barber and beautifully performed "I Loved You Once in Silence" from Lerner and Loewe's Camelot



Still looking for a last-minute Valentine's Day gift? A romantic night at the opera is sure to please. Tickets for the final four performances of The Barber of Seville are available, as well as seats for the darkly sensual fairy tale Rusalka and Mozart's La Clemenza di Tito, which tells a story of passion, power, and forgiveness. 

Photo credit: Dan Rest/Lyric Opera of Chicago




Isabel Leonard talks “Seville” and Sesame Street

Isabel Leonard (Rosina in Lyric's new production of The Barber of Seville) talks rehearsals, what she'd do if she wasn't a singer, and her appearance on Sesame Street in this Q&A.

The gorgeous and exceptionally talented Isabel Leonard—crowned "opera's new 'it' girl" by CBC Music—makes her eagerly anticipated Lyric debut as Rosina in the new production of The Barber of Seville. Also starring baritone Nathan Gunn and tenor Alek Shrader and directed by Tony winner Rob Ashford, this sumptuous new production runs from February 1-28 at Lyric. In this Q&A, she talks rehearsals, what she'd do if she wasn't a singer, and her appearance on Sesame Street!

Want more Isabel? Check out our "Patter Up!" video.

You've worked with Nathan Gunn and Alek Shrader in the past, but this is Rob Ashford's first opera, though he has an amazing Broadway background. What's it like to combine the familiar and the new?

Rob has been an ideal addition to an already familiar and warm cast. He has inspired us all with fresh and clever ideas for the show.   

Is Rob Ashford, who in addition to directing is also a wonderful choreographer, making you exercise your dance skills for this Barber

This particular production does not have heavy choreography in it, but I hope one day to work again with Rob and dance it out!! :)

This is your Lyric debut - what do you think about the process and Chicago overall so far?

I'm so happy to be here at the Lyric. This is a perfect debut! This company is so wonderful and kind to their singers, being here is a joy.  

Who will be in the audience for your Lyric premiere—anyone special to you?                              

I have lots of family who live out here from my father's side. So, they will make it at different times throughout the run, maybe even for the performance that lands on my birthday! Woo!

You are this year's Richard Tucker Award winner and sang at the centennial gala. Can you give us a window into that experience?

The Tucker Award was a total shock to me and flying back from San Francisco the night before the Gala performance was also a shock! It was a complete whirlwind trip where I did not have a moment to think twice. What an honor and gift the foundation has given to me.

When did you know you wanted to be an opera singer?

I never knew I wanted to be an "opera" singer. I knew I wanted to be in the theater, on stage, movies, recordings, anything that had to do with performing. Since I went to Juilliard and studied classical voice it was a natural progression to follow opera and classical music as a career but I have not closed ANY of those other doors. 

If you were not a singer, what do you think you would like to be doing as a career?

This is a hard question, because the answer has really gone evolving over the years. When I was younger, I wanted to be an anthropologist, but now years into my career, I would really love to direct at some point. It is such a creative process and very challenging. I don't know if I would succeed at it, but at some point I would love to try. 

How much fun was appearing on Sesame Street last year? Do you get recognized by preschoolers (or their parents!) now?

Sesame Street was the highlight of my year…or many years :). I, of course, watched Sesame Street as a kid and in fact, in high school, I had the opportunity to go down to their sets and meet Big Bird and Mr. Snuffleupagus! The experience brought tears to my eyes and now laughter when I watch it with my son.  


Photo credit: Dan Rest/Lyric Opera of Chicago


An Insider's Guide to THE BARBER OF SEVILLE

Video and audio previews, articles, and more at Lyric's Insider's Guide to The Barber of Seville.

Below is your complete guide to all things Barber. Lyric Opera of Chicago's brand-new production of The Barber of Seville  runs February 1-28. 


Watch Lyric's official video trailer for The Barber of Seville  (above). 

The barber Figaro (Nathan Gunn) is the ultimate fixer, running around solving everyone's problems and boasting about it, "Figaro, Figaro, Figaro!" He involves himself in a love triangle, helping Count Almaviva (Alek Shrader) woo the beautiful Rosina (Isabel Leonard) away from her old lecherous guardian Dr. Bartolo, who keeps her under lock and key. All hell breaks loose not once but twice—first, when Almaviva disguises himself as a drunken soldier, and then when he presents himself as a replacement for Rosina's supposedly indisposed music teacher, Don Basilio. Find out who gets the girl in this delightful farce! Read the complete plot synopsis.


Watch "Patter Up!" with Isabel Leonard, who makes her Lyric debut as Rosina (above).


Watch a preview with general director Anthony Freud, music director Sir Andrew Davis, and creative consultant Renée Fleming (above).


Figaro pays a visit to Dr. Opera (above). 

Rossini's Biggest Hit
By Jack Zimmerman
According to opera lore, Gioachino Rossini liked to compose in bed. Occasionally he’d drop a sheet of completed manuscript on the floor, and rather than throw back the covers and get up to retrieve it, he’d simply compose a new page. The composing-in-bed story sounds farfetched, until you listen to Rossini’s music. Just a few bars of Il barbiere di Siviglia are all it takes to realize that music simply poured out of the man. READ MORE

A Conversation with Director Rob Ashford
By Roger Pines
This production marks your eagerly awaited operatic debut. Have you been going to opera most of your life, or are you a new convert?
When I was in college in Pittsburgh, I danced in the corps de ballet at Pittsburgh Opera – that was my first taste of it. Then, when I moved to New York, one of my first jobs was dancing at the Met for a year. My first show there was Hal Prince’s production of Faust. I feel as if my operatic education happened in the Met canteen, sitting with other dancers and seeing everyone in costume – that was where I felt I began to learn. READ MORE

Learn more about Rossini as a foodie and Rossini's music in pop culture

The Barber of Seville Discovery Series

Jack-of-all-trades barber gets into the thick of things with a starry-eyed young couple and a lecherous old uncle. Alek Shrader (Almaviva), Isabel Leonard (Rosina), and conductor Michele Mariotti talk about Rossini’s comedic gift to us all.

Download (right click and "Save Target As" / "Save Link As")

The Barber of Seville Audio Preview

Recordings used by permission of EMI Classics.



Lyric beyond the Loop

In April, Lyric guest artists gave spirited performances at alternative Chicago venues, and Lyric-affiliated artists have garnered major international opera awards.

Aztlan at Jumping Bean

In April, Lyric guest artists gave spirited performances at alternative Chicago venues, and Lyric-affiliated artists have garnered major international opera awards:

• While in town to perform at Lyric in the world's first mariachi opera,Cruzar la Cara de la Luna, University of Texas Pan-American Mariachi Aztlán also made time to play brunch at the Café Jumping Bean in Pilsen. Cruzar cast members Vanessa Cerda-Alonzo and Octavio Moreno joined Mariachi Aztlán for the impromptu performance. Earlier this year, Mariachi Aztlán performed during President Obama's second term inauguration festivities and won their third consecutive first prize in the Houston Mariachi Invitational. 

• Mezzo-soprano Isabel Leonard, who next season will make her Lyric debut as Rosina in the new production of The Barber of Seville, has won the 2013 Richard Tucker Award.  "Often referred to as the 'Heisman Trophy of Opera,' it is conferred annually on an opera singer at the threshold of a major international career;" according to the Richard Tucker Foundation, which awards the honor and $30,000 prize. 

• Lyric continued its collaboration with The Second City on April 21 with Improv and Arias: A Sneak Peek, an evening of sketch comedy and song.  Held at The Second City's home in Old Town, Improv and Arias allowed The Second City writers/improvisers/ensemble members and Ryan Opera Center alums Bernard Holcomb and Emily Birsan an opportunity to workshop material for the June run of The Second City Guide to the Opera at the Civic Opera House.

• The inaugural International Opera Awards were held in London on April 22, 2013, and tenor Jonas Kaufmann took home the prize for Best Male Singer.  The German heartthrob is scheduled to sing with Renée Fleming at the Civic Opera House in the 2013-14 Subscriber Appreciation Concert. The International Opera Awards were launched by London businessman Harry Hyman and Opera Magazine editor John Allison as a way to generate public excitement about opera and raise funds for the international opera community.  Kaufmann also won the first inaugural Opera Magazine Readers' Award.

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