March 06, 2019

Be the First to See an Original Opera Created with Local Students

Lyric Opera of Chicago and the Chicago Urban League’s first-ever collaboration, EmpowerYouth!, is excited to present Empower, an original opera created with local African-American high-school students. Experience the one-night-only performance on Thursday, May 31 at 7:00pm at the Lyric Opera House.

Launched in October, EmpowerYouth! is a multidisciplinary after-school program for students that develops skills in areas such as singing, acting, dancing, and visual arts. The participants, who reside primarily in the south side of the city, have spent the last few months rehearsing with a team of performing arts professionals including composer Damien Sneed, playwright Ike Holter, director Jess McLeod, and music supervisor/conductor Kedrick Armstrong

Inspired by the participants’ real-life experiences, Empower will chronicle a group of students who band together to change their south-side neighborhood, while fighting against the negative media representation by an overzealous reporter obsessed with corruption. The new work will unfold on Lyric’s mainstage, transformed to reflect scenery inspired by Chicago’s south side. 

Joining the production will be soprano Angela Brown and baritone Will Liverman (Ryan Opera Center alumnus), who starred as Addie Parker and Dizzy Gillespie in Lyric Unlimited’s 2017 presentation of Charlie Parker’s YARDBIRD. A choir from Nicholas Senn High School will also be featured in the production. 

The many weeks of preparation leading up to May 31 included the students attending a performance of Lyric’s Turandot, a meet-and-greet with renowned soprano Janai Brugger, a makeup tutorial from Lyric's Wig and Makeup department, backstage tours, and more. 

EmpowerYouth! students also received mentorship from local artists, including Tanji Harper, choreographer, teacher, and artistic director of The Happiness Club; Melissa Foster, senior lecturer in voice at Northwestern University and vocal coach for several Broadway shows in Chicago and nationally; visual artist, painter, and muralist Rubén Aguirre; rapper and lyricist Add-2; artist, educator, and producer Tony Santiago; and Chicago singer-songwriter Daryn Alexus.

You won’t want to miss this special performance! Click here to purchase Empower tickets and to learn more about the cast, production team, and EmpowerYouth! A portion of all ticket sales will go towards supporting the program’s second year, which will begin in Fall 2018.

Photos: Geoffrey Black