Go inside this production of Luisa Miller with engaging articles, notes from the director, a complete plot synopsis, artist bios, and more.
Welcome to Lyric! We’re delighted that you’re joining us for the opening of what is sure to be a season of tremendously exciting productions and glorious music-making.
One of the most memorable experiences operagoers can have is hearing a great work for the first time. This will true be for the majority of our audience with Luisa Miller, which Lyric has presented only once before. We’re delighted that this wonderful opera is returning to our stage, particularly since it inaugurates a very exciting development in the life of our company: an exploration of works from the early career of Giuseppe Verdi. Over the next few seasons Lyric will be presenting one early Verdi work per season, in productions that will bring them to life for a new generation of audiences. The riches of these pieces are boundless. In their melodies, their incredibly vivid characters, and their sweeping dramatic excitement, they’re simply irresistible.
One very exciting element of this season’s Luisa Miller is the conducting of Enrique Mazzola, a truly exceptional artist who we are all thrilled to have joining us as Lyric’s music director designate. Enrique will succeed Sir Andrew Davis at the start of the 2021/22 season. Immensely respected and acclaimed internationally as an interpreter of a wide operatic repertoire, Enrique is particularly celebrated for works of Verdi and the bel canto composers. It’s wonderful that he comes to Luisa Miller with such remarkable distinction in the operas of Rossini and Donizetti, since this is the musical foundation on which Verdi built his early operas.
Luisa Miller poses enormous challenges to singers. Consequently, it’s exciting to have such a superb group of Verdians in our cast, headed by Krassimira Stoyanova, Joseph Calleja, and Ryan Opera Center alumni Quinn Kelsey and Christian Van Horn. In Francesca Zambello’s vibrant production, Lyric’s Luisa Miller will launch our early-Verdi adventure in magnificent style.
It’s a wonderful time to be part of Lyric. We’re producing more new types of work than ever before. Our musical-theater productions and other Lyric-produced special events are attracting tens of thousands of new patrons and we’re on the cusp of producing an extraordinary new Ring cycle.
Lyric is a company striving to become a true visionary arts leader in Chicago and throughout America. The real measure of success is how often and in how many different ways people choose to interact with Lyric. The opera house is our home, but our mission is to engage people where they are, reflecting the city and communities we serve. This means making the entire experience welcoming and engaging by looking at the performance through a variety of lenses.
Our goal is to provide new ways to ensure that our audiences’ initial encounter with Lyric is so impactful and entertaining that new patrons will make Lyric a part of their lives. By focusing on building our audience of the future, while we continue to serve our current audiences, we’ll ensure that both Lyric and opera itself remain culturally relevant and artistically important for the next generation.
We hope you feel the drumbeat of progress at Lyric as much as we do. Together we are all part of the Lyric story
General Director, President & CEO
The Women’s Board Endowed Chair
David T. Ormesher
By Francesca Zambello
Luisa Miller is one of Verdi’s great heroines. She is not one of the subtle, complex women we find in his later operas. She is a simple girl, but a girl of enormous strength. Luisa Miller is considered a transitional piece for Verdi – it came before Rigoletto, Traviata and his other “greatest hits” – but the music has tremendous force and color. I’m always very happy to have a chance to revisit it.
I find that the characters in earlier Verdi are very sharp and strong, which makes them exciting to play. Luisa’s feelings for Rodolfo will not be shaken, and her love for her father is even more fierce. Verdi was drawn over and over to these intense father-daughter relationships, but Luisa stands apart in her willingness to fight for her father, to make the ultimate sacrifice.
Of course, Verdi and Cammarano, his librettist, did not invent Luisa out of whole cloth. The opera was based on a play, Kabale und Liebe (“Intrigue and Love”), by Friedrich von Schiller, who’s often called the German Shakespeare. His plays inspired so many operas, including Verdi’s Don Carlos and I masnadieri.
Schiller was a playwright, poet and philosopher. He believed the theater had a vital role in shaping the world we live in, not by showing some kind of utopian dream of how we should live, but rather by forcing us to confront society’s problems. In his essay “On the Theater as a Moral Institution,” Schiller wrote, “Where the influence of civil law ends, that of the stage begins. Where venality and corruption blind and bias justice and judgement, and intimidation perverts its ends, the stage seizes the sword and scales and pronounces a terrible verdict on vice. The fields of fancy and of history are open to the stage; great criminals of the past live over again in the drama, and thus benefit an indignant posterity. They pass before us as empty shadows of their age, and we heap curses on their memory while we enjoy on the stage the very horror of their crimes. When morality is no more taught, religion no longer received, nor laws exist, Medea would still terrify us…Sight is always more powerful to man than description; hence the stage acts more powerfully than morality or law.”
In Schiller’s Kabale und Liebe, we see vice and venality most clearly in the character of Wurm, but I believe the creators are also making a larger statement about class in our society, about the cavalier way in which Luisa is ultimately destroyed. Wurm, the villain, is interesting because he’s not really nobility – he’s a henchman, a climber. He has more power than Luisa and her father, and he dresses like he belongs to the upper classes, but he will never completely ascend the social ranks.
In Luisa Miller, Verdi is painting with bold strokes, and I wanted to do the same thing with this production, contrasting the pastoral, idyllic world of Luisa and her father with the noble world. I think people move differently in these kinds of environments. In our production, the peasants are very real, but when we move into in the world of the Count, it’s a series of postures, as if everyone is always striking a pose. It is a world where Luisa is completely at sea.
Luisa Miller is Verdi’s fifteenth opera, and people often talk about it as a transitional piece. I actually feel the transition happening over the course of the opera. It’s as if we see a talented young composer fully growing into his powers as we move from Act One, which is quite direct, to Act Two, where we begin to see more texture and complexity of character. And Act Three feels to me like an arrival – it is a truly great play wedded to great melodies.
Although we no longer live in a literal world of princes and peasants, the class warfare at the heart of Luisa Miller feels very contemporary to me, which makes the opera’s tragic ending extraordinarily moving. I’m thrilled to have the opportunity to revisit the production here in Chicago with our terrific cast.