A Summer of Singing at the Ryan Opera Center

The Ryan Opera Center Ensemble will be hard at work throughout the summer months.

The Patrick G. and Shirley W. Ryan Opera Center is one of the most prestigious professional artist-development programs in the world. It operates nearly year-round, encompassing a summer period of training and performance activities followed by Lyric Opera’s mainstage season from September through March, during which the artists perform and understudy a variety of roles while maintaining their training. 

The 2019/20 Ryan Opera Center Ensemble — 11 singers and one pianist — is comprised of three new artists and nine returning for a second, third, or fourth year. They have much to do during these summer months. They will receive coachings daily with the program’s music staff and Music Director Craig Terry, continue to develop their languages and acting skills, and take voice lessons with Julia Faulkner, Director of Vocal Studies. They also study their Lyric season roles as well as prepare for auditions for other companies. 

Additionally, Ryan Opera Center members showcase their talents with performances at various Chicago-area venues throughout the summer. The training and performing complement each other nicely, says Ryan Opera Center Director Dan Novak: “The summer is a time to focus on a lot of the training components that are essential to the program. And it’s always helpful to have performances mixed in, since the best way to learn is to put into practice onstage what is covered in the studio.”

The 2019/20 Ensemble began its performances with the Scenes Workshops (May 28 and 31, Lyric donor event). Held backstage in the William Mason Rehearsal Hall, the workshops were conducted by Michael Christie and directed by Patricia Racette. Repertoire included selections from Lyric’s upcoming season, along with works by R. Strauss, Donizetti, and more recent works such as Argento’s The Aspern Papers and, as the program’s finale, Mitch Leigh’s Man of La Mancha.

On Wednesday, June 5, the Ensemble joined forces with the Civic Orchestra of Chicago at Symphony Center for an evening of scenes from operas by Mozart, Rossini, Argento, and Donizetti. Conductor Michael Christie led this collaboration between two of the nation's most esteemed training programs for emerging artists. 

Coming up on Tuesday, July 16, the Ryan Opera Center returns to St. James Cathedral for their annual appearance in the International Music Foundation’s Rush Hour Concerts series (5:45 pm, free). Ensemble artists Kayleigh Decker, Christopher Kenney, and Anthony Reed will perform selections from Rossini’s The Barber of Seville, which opens the Lyric season in September. Lyric Dramaturg Roger Pines will narrate.

Outside of Chicago, various Ensemble members will perform in festivals and other engagements throughout the United States, United Kingdom, Europe, and Puerto Rico. Notable appearances include participation in two major competitions: Operalia in Prague by current members Lauren Decker and Mario Rojas (July 21-26), and the BBC Cardiff Singer of the World by alumni Patrick Guetti, Mingjie Lei, and Richard Ollarsaba (June 15-22).

Last but not least, be sure to tune in to WFMT 98.7FM every first Sunday of the month at 7:00pm throughout the summer for rebroadcasts of the Ryan Opera Center Recital Series.

Catch one of the Ryan Opera Center’s summer performances and hear these exciting future stars!

Photo: Todd Rosenberg