Lyric ends opera season on a glorious Tchaikovsky note

RECOMMENDED

Director Robert Carsen who first did this Eugene Onegin at the Met in 1997, does an interesting presentation of the beloved Tchaikovsky opera.

Tchaikovsky opera 'Eugene Onegin' at the Lyric Opera of Chicago.
Tchaikovsky opera ‘Eugene Onegin’ at the Lyric Opera of Chicago. Lyric photo

The curtain opens to reveal a distant, somewhat shadowy figure of baritone Mariusz Kwiecien as an Onegin who is gloomily leafing through the pages of an old letter.

How he came to this despondency unfolds through about 160 minutes (not including the intermission) of wonderfully lyrical and dramatic acting and singing guided by revival director Paula Suozzi and conductor Alejo Pérez. Read More

Around Town: Now and Coming

There is always so much going on in Chicago it is easy to miss something you will want to see or find that the tickets you wanted are gone. So check out the following events and opportunities.

Tchaikovsky opera 'Eugene Onegin' opens at the Lyric Opera of Chicago. Lyric photo
Tchaikovsky opera ‘Eugene Onegin’ opens at the Lyric Opera of Chicago. Lyric photo

Lyric Opera

If you love the music of Pyotr Ilyich Tchaikovsky, you will love his beautiful, dramatic “Eugene Onegin” opera. The Lyric Opera of Chicago completes its 2016-2017 series with the musically lush opera starting Feb. 26 and going through Mar. 20, 2017.

Based on a Alexander Pushkin’s poetic novel about ill-fated romantic attractions, the Lyric production stars soprano Ana Maria Martinez as Tatiana Larina and baritone Mariusz Kwiecień as Eugene Onegin. The Lyric production is at the Civic Opera House, 20 N. Wacker Drive, Chicago. For tickets and other information visit Lyric Opera.

 

Rolling Stones

Tickets are available for the Chicago stop of “Exhibitionism,” the first major touring exhibit of Rolling Stones memorabilia. Opened first in London and currently in NYC, the show will take over Navy Pier’s Festival Hall April 15 –July 30, 2017. Time dated tickets range from StonesExhibitionism.com.  $25- $35 for adults to $20-$22 for juniors. Special tickets are $80 for two visits, any time, fast-track entry.m Group tickets are available from  Broadway In Chicago Group Sales at (312) 977-1710. Navy Pier is at 600 E. Grand Ave. Chicago.

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Alluring music, seductive leading lady and golden voiced lover makes this ‘Carmen’ a must see

HIGHLY RECOMMENDED

‘Carmen,’ the popular opera by Georges Bizet’ where nearly all the music sounds very familiar, is an audience pleaser at the Lyric Opera of Chicago.

A new production directed and choreographed by Rob Ashford who did the Lyric’s Carousel’ two seasons ago, the opera has the kind of important touches that make Broadway musicals special.

Ekaterina Gubanova (Carmen) teases Joseph Calleja (Don Jose) in 'Carmen' at the Lyric Opera of Chicago. Photo by Todd Rosenberg
Ekaterina Gubanova (Carmen) teases Joseph Calleja (Don Jose) in ‘Carmen’ at the Lyric Opera of Chicago. Photo by Todd Rosenberg

There is fine acting of major roles, an outstanding voice, that of tenor Joseph Calleja as Don José, a leading lady, mezzo-soprano Ekaterina Gubanova who seems born to the part of Carmen, modern dance movements that capture audience attention during musical interludes, and exciting music thrillingly played by the Lyric Opera Orchestra that has people tapping their toes during the opera and humming during intermission.

Ashford’s staging is creative. The final scene where Don José stabs Carmen rather than have her go to her most recent lover, the dashing bullfighter Escamillo (Christian Van Horn), is  set against the dramatic, high back of a bullfighting arena where its audience is silhouetted against a red-orange sky.

Excellent set design by David Rockwell and costumes by Julie Weiss beautifully fit the period, location and atmosphere.

But make no mistake. This is opera. Bizet’s music and the libretto by Henri Meilhac and Ludovic Halévy have turned Prosper Mérimée’s ‘Carmen’ novella about seduction, jealousy and death into a dramatic opera, beautifully sung at the Lyric.

The takeaway from Lyric’s ‘Carmen’, a co-production with the Houston Grand Opera, is Gubanova’s ‘Habanera’ and ‘Seguidilla,’ Van Horn’s ‘Toreador Song’ and Calleja’s gorgeous ‘Flower Song.’

Details: ‘Carmen’ by Georges Bizet is at the Lyric Opera of Chicago in the Civic Opera House, 20 N. Wacker Drive, Chicago, now through March 25. For tickets and other information visit Lyric Opera and call (312) 827-5600.

 

Opening night crowd appreciates Bellini’s challenging bel canto ‘Norma’

 

RECOMMENDED

A love triangle, betrayal, an ominous war, a necessary death – all centered on a strong woman, is perfect opera fare.

Sondra Radvanovsky (Norma) and Elizabeth DeShong (Adalgisa) in Norma at the Lyric Opera of chicago
Sondra Radvanovsky (Norma) and Elizabeth DeShong (Adalgisa) in ‘Norma’ at the Lyric Opera of Chicago

The brilliant 19th century composer Vincenzo Bellini found such a plot in “Norma, ou L’infanticide” a play by Alexandre Soumet.

Don’t worry, in the opera Norma threatens her betraying lover with infanticide but doesn’t kill their children. What Bellini did was to turn the story into what has become the iconic bel canto opera.

Now, the Lyric Opera of Chicago which has only done “Norma” three previous times beginning with Maria Callas in 1954, is doing a new-to-Chicago, co-production starring opera’s current Norma favorite, Sondra Radvanovsky.

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Chicago arts venues celebrate Chinese New Year

UPCOMING

Arts venues from the Art Institute and Auditorium Theatre to the Chicago Cultural Center and Navy Pier are celebrating the Chinese Lunar New Year from mid January to Mid February, 2017.

Griffin Court in the Modern Wing of the Art Institute of Chicago. Photo by Jodie Jacobs
Griffin Court in the Modern Wing of the Art Institute of Chicago. Photo by Jodie Jacobs

Art Institute of Chicago

The Art Institute has a full Chinese menu of activities the last Saturday of January. If you at the Art Institute of Chicago Jan. 28, follow the exotic sounds you hear.

They will pull you into Gallery 101 at 10:30 a.m. and noon for Chinese Guzheng performances and to the Griffin Court in the Modern Wing at 11:30 a.m. for a Lion Dance. Then, it’s back to Griffin Court at 1 and 2 p.m. for the China National Peking Opera.

In addition to the performances there is a Mandarin tour of the museum’s Asian collection at noon and calligraphy demonstrations in the Ryan Learning Center (near the Modern Wing entrance) from 1:30 through 4 p.m.

But even before Jan. 28, the Art Institute is celebrating with drop-in Chinese New Year fun for kids in the Ryan Center, Jan. 17 through Feb. 11.

Best entrance to use for the celebration and Ryan Center is the Art Institute of Chicago’s Modern Wing at 159 E. Monroe St., Chicago, IL 60603.  General admission fee and free to children age 13 and younger and free to Chicago teens 14-17. Visit AIC.

Chicago Cultural Center

If all you have is the lunch hour to celebrate, go over to the Chicago Cultural Center Jan. 30 for Chinese dances, martial arts and music in the very impressive Preston Bradley Hall. Jackie Chan’s Long Yun Fung Fu Troupe will be performing from noon to 1 p.m (free).

For more information visit DCAS  The Chicago Cultural Center is across from Millennium Park at 78 E. Washington St., Chicago, IL 60602.

Celebrate Chinese culture at Navy Pier. Photo complements of Chinese Fine Arts Society
Celebrate Chinese culture at Navy Pier. Photo complements of Chinese Fine Arts Society

Auditorium Theatre

To see the full Long Yun Kung Fu Troupe’s program get tickets to show at the Auditorium Theatre Feb. 4. Tickets start at $33. Show time is 7:30 p.m. The discount code is CFAS. The program blends dance and martial arts. The Auditorium Theatre is  at 50 E Congress Pkwy, Chicago, IL 60605. Visit Auditorium  and call (312) 341-2300.

Navy Pier

The following week, Navy Pier’s ‘Neighborhoods of the World’ series spotlights the Chinese culture on Feb 12, from noon to 4 p.m. Go up to the Crystal Gardens for arts performances and a Chinese marketplace. Navy Pier is at 600 E Grand Ave Chicago, IL 60611. Visit CFA 

 

Unique concert salutes the musical culture of Chicago

UPCOMING

You won’t have to ask what opera star Renée Fleming, Broadway star Jessie Mueller, folk singer/writer John Prine, R&B/gospel artist Michelle Williams, New Queen of Blues Shemekia Copeland, tenor Matthew Polenzani and The Handsome Family husband-wife duo have in common.

Chicago Voices concert features several stars and music genres.
Chicago Voices concert features several stars and music genres.

Merely, snag a ticket to their concert, Feb. 4, 2017 at the Civic Opera House, to see them perform.

You will experience a blend of styles and hear the program is a tribute to Chicago’s musical influence.

Mixing genres might sound unusual but think  ‘Hamilton,’ a blockbuster musical that uses several styles (it’s not just rap or hip hop).

Led by Music Director Doug Peck, a five-time Jeff Award recipient, the eclectic program  features and mixes  musical styles.

Fleming, a creative consultant for the Lyric Opera, has been working with Lyric Unlimited, an outreach branch, to encourage Chicago residents to tell their stories through a variety of musical and rhythmic genres.

The legendary opera singer and Lyric Unlimited call the program Chicago Voices. Click on it to find out more.

“When violence in Chicago and a divided America are the headlines, Chicago Voices offers an example of unity, ” said Fleming. “On Feb. 4, we raise our voices to honor the musical heritage and rich diversity of the city we love,” she said.

For ticket information visit Lyric Opera/Concert or by call (312) 827­-5600. The Civic Opera House is at 20 N. Wacker Drive, Chicago, IL 60606.

 

The magic is in the music and singing at Lyric’s ‘The Magic Flute’

SOMEWHAT RECOMMENDED

There are two ways to consider Lyric’s ‘Magic Flute’ production. On one hand it will likely appeal to youngsters though they will have to sit for three hours and 20 minutes (intermission comes about an hour and 15 minutes into the opera).

Kathryn Lewek as Queen of the Night and Andrew Staples as Prince Tamino in the Lyric Opera of chicago's 'The Magic Flute.' Lyric photo
Kathryn Lewek as Queen of the Night and Andrew Staples as Prince Tamino in the Lyric Opera of Chicago’s ‘The Magic Flute.’ Todd Rosenberg photo

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Four things to do this weekend

It’s easy to get so caught up in holiday shopping and preparations that before you know it you’ve missed a show or program you wanted to see. Here are four events for your calendar. Three will disappear after this weekend. The fourth one will take a winter break if you don’t catch it by next week.

Angela Ingersoll as Judy Garland in Porchlight production of "End of the Rainbow' Photo by Michelle Leatherby
Angela Ingersoll as Judy Garland in Porchlight production of “End of the Rainbow’ Photo by Michelle Leatherby

Experience  ‘It’s A Wonderful Life’  with James Stewart as George Bailey, at Orchestra Hall. The Chicago Symphony Orchestra accompanies the film with Dimitri Tiomkin’s score and the CSO Chorus, Dec. 9 at 7 p.m. or 3 p.m. Dec. 10 or Dec. 11. Chicago Symphony Center, 220 S. Michigan Ave. Chicago. Call (312)294-3000 or visit  CSO.

Reserve a ticket for ‘Handel’s Messiah’ with the Apollo Chorus of Chicago. Performances are 7 p.m. Dec. 10 and 2 p.m. Dec. 11 at the Harris Theater for Music & Dance, 2015 E. Randolph Drive, Chicago. Call (312) 427-5620 or visit Apollo Chorus.

Catch Peter Quilter’s  ‘End of the Rainbow’ musical about Judy Garland before it leaves Dec. 11. It’s a wonderful Porchlight Music Theatre production that brings back her talent, songs and struggles. The show is at Stage 773, 1225 Belmont,  Chicago. Call (773) 327-5252 or visit Stage 773

Watch ‘The Magic Flute,’ a charming fairy tale opera by Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart. The Lyric Opera of Chicago will be performing the opera through Jan, 27, 2017 but to see it in 2016 go Dec. 10, 12 or 14. Running time is 3 hours 20 minutes including 1 intermission. The Lyric is at the Civic Opera House, 20 N. Wacker Drive, Chicago. Call (312) 827-5600 or visit Lyric Opera.

 

‘Les Troyens’ defines grand opera

HIGHLY RECOMMENDED

If lucky enough to still snag a ticket to the Lyric Opera’s ‘Les Troyens’ (The Trojans), Hector Berlioz’ grand opera tribute to Virgil’s Aeneid, don’t worry about its length.

Lucas Meacham and Christine Goerke in Les Troyens. Todd Rosenberg photography
Lucas Meachem and Christine Goerke in ‘Les Troyens.’ Todd Rosenberg photography

Berlioz’s music, grandly interpreted by Lyric Music Director Sir Andrew Davis, sweeps through the Lyric’s hall like a waterfall that fascinates and pulsates with danger.

Add to that, the incredible vocals by Christine Goerke as Trojan Princess Cassandra, Susan Graham as Carthage Queen Dido, Brandon Jovanovich as Trojan hero Aeneas (Énée) and Lucas Meachem as Cassandra’s lover, Chorebus, and the opera has transcended from a good experience to become a once-in-a-lifetime event.

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‘Don Quichotte’ reaches out to dreamers

RECOMMENDED

At a time when opposing philosophies are ridiculed, the Lyric Opera of Chicago steps in with a reminder there must be room in the world for idealists and dreamers.

Jules Massenet’s ‘Don Quichotte,’ based on Cervante’s ‘Don Quichotte’ (Don Quixote) and influenced by Jacques Le Lorrain’s play, ‘Le chevalier de la longue figure,’ is both love story and tale of a knight-errant who seeks chivalrous adventures to right the world’s wrongs.

'Don Quichotte' at Lyric Opera of Chicago. Todd Rosenberg photo
‘Don Quichotte’ at Lyric Opera of Chicago. Todd Rosenberg photo

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