March 06, 2019

Acclaim for Lyric's TURANDOT

Unforgettable music, atmospheric sets and costumes, a compelling story of persistent love melting a frozen heart...Lyric’s performances this month of Puccini’s epic masterpiece, Turandot (featuring the hit tenor aria “Nessun dorma”), are the sure cure for cabin fever, and not to be missed! 

Soprano Janai Brugger portrays Liù in her Lyric debut for the January performances, joining soprano Amber Wagner in the title role and tenor Stefano La Colla as Calaf. 

Here’s what the critics are saying:

Lyric Opera triumphs with sumptuous Turandot…a lushly beautiful, new-to-Chicago production…Here is the intriguing thing about it: While on the one hand the work possesses a dark fairy tale quality that requires a considerable suspension of disbelief...much about the story rings true at this very moment. Just consider its central male-female power play (which resolves itself in full, feverishly romantic fashion, but not before much cruelty and violence), as well as its evocation of the fervor of the mob, the pain of exile and the ache of a society in flux that yearns for a more orderly past. Add complex father-son and master-slave relationships to the mix, stir with a rich infusion of unrequited love, and be assured there is much to sing about.

“There is this above all: Puccini’s melodies are beyond rapturous, with several haunting themes and variations exquisitely laced throughout the opera’s three acts and infused with the sound of Chinese gongs and other Eastern percussion. The opera is given full voice here by a gathering of superb soloists, an adult and children’s chorus, and the impeccable Lyric orchestra led by the seemingly tireless conductor, Sir Andrew Davis.

The Shakespearean in an imperial Chinese sort of way….Turandot is high on grandeur and full of sublime voices….The magical production design...suggests how a ravaged kingdom can be brought back to life by love. Love, death, rebirth and Puccini. The ideal formula for opera. Highly recommended.” — Chicago Sun-Times

“The role of Turandot, with its cruel demand for vocal brilliance, declamatory power and limitless stamina, is one of the great soprano-killers in opera….Amber Wagner rose to the terrifying vocal challenge with remarkable aplomb, pouring out a voluminous alloy of steel and gold. The Ryan Opera Center star alumna nailed the money notes of the princess’s formidable narration, ‘In questa reggia,’ with full, gleaming, laserlike tones that drew a grateful ovation…. it’s good to have her back at Lyric, and she is the prime reason for catching this Turandot….”

Janai Brugger “sang with a meltingly lovely sound, creating a believable portrait of Liù....Brugger deployed her warm, substantial voice with...dramatic presence....the exquisite high pianissimo she floated at the end of Signore, ascolta” made that aria one of the vocal highlights of the show.

“The chorus plays a major role...and [chorus master] Michael Black’s enlarged choral forces rose to its various challenges with stalwart musicianship. Josephine Lee’s Chicago Children’s Choir came through nicely in its own right.” — Chicago Tribune

“Two big-voiced principals along with the Lyric Opera Chorus delivered...vocal firepower….[Amber] Wagner threw out thrilling and powerful top notes in her Act 2 showpiece, and blended gratefully with tenor Stefano La Colla in the final duet….As the suitor Calaf, Stefano La Colla showed he is the real thing in his American opera debut. The singer possesses a lyric tenor with Italianate squillo, ping at the top and ample power in reserve, which at times recalls the young Luciano Pavarotti. La Colla is also a solid actor and sang with imposing strength and flexibility in what has become his signature role….when La Colla and Wagner cut loose together, the effect was electrifying, with two huge voices sailing over the vast orchestra.

“Ultimately, in this grandest of Puccini operas, the evening really belonged to the magnificent Lyric Opera Chorus. With its numerous crowd scenes and majestic ensembles, Michael Black’s singers commanded the stage, bringing jarring intensity to the cries of the bloodthirsty mob as well as glowing delicacy to the more ethereal choruses. — Chicago Classical Review

A classic piece of theater never goes out of style. Everyone will find a part of the story that strikes a personal chord. That tiny fiber of connection will lead them into a world that may seem remote, from which they emerge with a new understanding of others, themselves or the greater consciousness. Puccini’s final epic feels extraordinarily prescient, with its themes of misogyny and sexism, conquest and annexation and emotionalism versus modernism as appropriate reaction to worldwide PTSD. The composer’s art softens what could be an overly replete expedition behind a scrim of the commedia dell’arte tradition, while spinning a fairytale that wanders from his adherence to verismo stories that seep the passions of everyday people….[The production team] creates a palette to delight the senses and accompany Puccini’s mature, lushly layered score….[the composer] struggled in vain to answer his own questions, giving us a majestic opportunity to search our hearts as well.” — NewCity

Lyric presentation of Puccini’s Turandot generously made possible by

Robert S. and Susan E. Morrison

Anonymous Donor

Production owned by Lyric Opera of Chicago, originally created by Bliss Hebert and Allen Charles Klein for Florida Grand Opera, Dallas Opera, Houston Grand Opera, and San Francisco Opera.

Photos: Todd Rosenberg, Andrew Cioffi