November 18, 2020

Meet The Factotum Team: Will Liverman and DJ King Rico

Recently, Lyric's Patrick G. and Shirley W. Ryan Opera Center hosted a workshop for a new work and you'll soon be able to enjoy a documentary about the project in Creating The Factotum. The upcoming documentary follows the development this new opera that transcends the limits of traditional repertiore.

The Factotum, created by Ryan Opera Center alumnus Will Liverman and DJ/recording artist DJ King Rico, reimagines Rossini’s The Barber of Seville by placing the popular operatic rom-com in a present-day Black barbershop in Chicago. A combination of opera, hip-hop, barbershop, gospel, funk, neo soul, and R&B musical styles propel the story. Let's take some time to get to know the artistic team behind this innovative project and explore how a new work is created. Who are Will and DJ King Rico?

Baritone Will Liverman has been called “one of the most versatile singing artists performing today” (Bachtrack). He created the role of Dizzy Gillespie in Charlie Parker’s Yardbird (Schnyder/Wimberly) at Opera Philadelphia and has reprised at London’s English National Opera, Madison Opera, the Apollo Theater, and at Lyric. Liverman will star in the Metropolitan Opera’s production of Terence Blanchard’s Fire Shut Up In My Bones in fall 2021, in addition to reprising his roles in Akhnaten (Horemhab) and The Magic Flute (Papageno) during the Met’s 21-22 season. He is the recipient of the 2020 Marian Anderson Vocal Award, and recently received a 2019 Richard Tucker Career Grant and Sphinx Medal of Excellence. 

Will Liverman in Lyric's Lawrence Brownlee and Friends: The Next Chapter virtual concert.

Liverman was a member of the Ryan Opera Center from 2012-2015. In that time he appeared on Lyric’s mainstage in Capriccio, Die Fledermaus, The Barber of Seville, La Bohéme, La Traviata, Madama Butterfly, Porgy and Bess, and Werther, as well as in multiple concerts and Lyric Unlimited’s The Family Barber and The Magic Victrola. He was also seen at Lyric in Fellow Travelers (Spears/Pierce) as Tommy McIntyre in the 2017/18 Season and in Lawrence Brownlee and Friends: The Next Chapter as one of Lyric’s first virtual offerings during the COVID pandemic. Will received a 2017 3Arts Award, a George London Award, and was recognized as a classical division Luminarts Fellow by the Luminarts Cultural Foundation. In 2015, he won the Stella Maris International Vocal Competition, received the Gerda Lissner Charitable Fund Award, and received a top prize from Opera Index. He was a grand finalist in the 2012 Metropolitan Opera National Council auditions, and additionally was a first prize winner in the Gerda Lissner International Vocal Competition, a grand prize winner of the Bel Canto Foundation Competition, and a recipient of a Sara Tucker Study Grant from the Richard Tucker Music Foundation.

Will Liverman in Lyric's The Family Barber production in the 2013/14 Season.

Born Rocket Jackson, multi-instrumentalist DJ King Rico is one of the most versatile DJs, producers, and artists of his generation. Never afraid to be unorthodox, DJ King Rico has successfully ventured into almost every role imaginable in the music industry. He was selected as one of eight world finalist DJ’s in A-Trak’s “Goldie Awards” in 2018, only six months into his DJ career. Using a DJ controller like no one ever before him, DJ King Rico has proven that musicianship is always more important than the genre of music being performed. He earned his bachelor’s degree in music production at Shenandoah University in Winchester, Virginia.

DJ King Rico working in the studio.

Will and DJ King Rico met as high school students at the Governor’s School for the Arts in Norfolk, Virginia. It was there that each of them fell in love with opera in different ways and became friends. DJ King Rico eventually switched his studies to jazz music and went on to be a producer, while Will started his professional opera career. They reconnected in New York City a dozen years later out of the blue when Will was performing the title role in The Barber of Seville in 2017 and the idea came to him to create an updated version of this opera classic. He called up his old friend and they began work on a storyline and music in DJ King Rico's studio. They also brought in Mary Birnbaum, a professional opera director and Juilliard educator, to help with their storyline.

What a journey they’re on! “From riding on the school bus impressing the girls singing Lil Jon songs as opera remixes, to composing a full-length opera at Lyric Opera of Chicago, we’re creating our own path in this artform together,” says DJ King Rico. "Both Rico and I share a vision of reaching young people of color through music that they can relate to,” Will recently told 3Arts, a Chicago-based organization committed to supporting diversity in the arts through multi-tiered approaches. “Additionally, we’re excited to present this adaptation to traditional opera fans because they will recognize the story’s parallels and certain musical quotes from Rossini’s original that we use throughout the piece."

The safe set-up for The Factotum workshop on Lyric's stage following city and state health protocols.

Will Liverman, Ryan Opera Center Music Director Craig Terry, and DJ King Rico running The Factotum Workshop at Lyric.

“In addition to introducing more young people to the operatic tradition, our hope is that The Factotum will expand audiences for this art form over time and bring opera to new heights,” says Will. We can’t wait to watch the development of The Factotum and Will and DJ King Rico’s exciting artistic reunion. To learn more about Creating The Factotum, visit here.

Photos: Lyric Opera of Chicago, Todd Rosenberg