November 22, 2021

Q&A with conductor Karen Kamensek

Conductor Karen Kamensek has worked in many of the world's top opera houses including The Metropolitan Opera, San Francisco Opera, English National Opera, and more. This season, she returns to her native Chicago to make her much-anticipated Lyric debut in Mozart's The Magic Flute. We sat down with the acclaimed conductor to ask a few questions about her time here, why she enjoys Mozart's music, and more.

Conductor Karen Kamensek leads the Lyric Opera Orchestra during the final dress rehearsal of Mozart's The Magic Flute

As a Chicagoan, how does it feel to be making your Lyric debut?

While it is true I was born in Chicago, I'm not sure this great city would claim me as a local since I only lived here until I was five. I have often visited all throughout my teen years, so I do have some very fond and precious memories of many landmarks, streets and buildings. Unofficially I assisted a production here in the early 90's, and am of course thrilled and honored to now be making my official debut in this great house.

Musically, what is your favorite moment in The Magic Flute?

The 6 measures — measures 372-377 in big No. 21 to be exact — which Pamina and Tamino sing during the trials by fire and water. Something so tiny, maybe 10 seconds of music, gets very deep inside my soul in the place where no words suffice. I must concentrate very hard when conducting through them — to not cry.

Maestra Kamensek rehearses with the singers and Ryan Opera Center pianist Chris Reynolds ahead of the opening of Mozart's The Magic Flute.

What has been the most difficult aspect of this production for you?

There haven’t been any which are not simply part of the daily and passionate routine of putting on a huge theatrical production where many diverse, talented, creative people and varied components come together within a short and intense timespan with a common goal in mind.

What do you hope audiences take away from these performances of The Magic Flute?

The themes of an opera written in 1791 are as contemporary and acute now as they were back then, even, and perhaps most especially, the difficult themes. Humanity has historically struggled to better itself, and to collectively find ways to overcome troubles, dangers, fears, conflict and obstacles, in the hope for peace, love, abundance and kindness. In that spirit, I hope that the public will walk out reflective and thoughtful, with a feeling of joy, and most especially with hope for the future.

November 3 – 27, 2021

The Magic Flute

The Magic Flute

Mozart’s miraculous blend of the human and the supernatural, comedy and romance, draws us into a world where a prince, Tamino, and a princess, Pamina, triumph over every obstacle in their search for wisdom and enlightenment, and are finally united in love. This is a gloriously varied score, with the lovers’ soulful arias, the stratospheric vocal fireworks of the villainous Queen of the Night, the subterranean depths of the formidable high priest Sarastro, and the folk-like melodies of the lovable birdcatcher, Papageno. Lyric brings you a critically acclaimed production that pays homage to the silent movies of the 1920s, praised by The Guardian as “a joyous yet profound staging in which animation takes centre stage…[taking] live video to new heights on the opera stage.”

Header photo: Pavel Petrov in Lyric's 2021/22 production of Mozart's The Magic Flute; credit: Cory Weaver

Photos: Cory Weaver, Lyric Opera of Chicago