Dazzling voices seduce Lyric audience

HIGHLY RECOMMENDED

Bitterness, love, seduction, revenge and sorrow seldom have sounded so magnificent as they did Saturday during Lyric Opera’s opening night of “Rigoletto.”

With baritone Quinn Kelsey as jester Rigoletto, tenor Matthew Polenzani as Duke of Mantua and soprano Rosa Feola as Rigoletto’s daughter, Gilda, the only thing that could match the memorable experience is to have a recording to play their performances over and over.

Rigoletto (Quinn Kelsey) center, Duke of Mantana (Matthew Polenzani) right of Rigoletto and couriers in )Lyric Opera production of Verdi's Rigoletto. (Todd Rosenberg photo)
Rigoletto (Quinn Kelsey) center, Duke of Mantana (Matthew Polenzani) right of Rigoletto and couriers in Lyric Opera production of Verdi’s Rigoletto. (Todd Rosenberg photo)

However, opening night, Oct. 7, was on radio (for anyone to record) and there still are seven more performances through Nov. 3, 2017.

The opening night audience didn’t wait for the famed “La donna è mobile” sung by the Duke or the beautiful “Caro nome” by Gilda to yell an emphatic “Bravo.” Enthusiastic applause  followed all  arias of these virtuoso performers and at the quartet near the end.

Written by Giuseppe Verdi in the mid 1800’s, “Rigoletto’s’ music and drama has been appealing to opera lovers since its premiere in Venice in 1851. Melodrama might be a better description but then, many operatic themes fit that category.

To quickly recap, Rigoletto, with a libretto by Francesco Mavia Piave, is based on Victor Hugo’s somewhat scandalous  “Le roi s’amuse.” Verdi substituted a licentious duke for the king.

The character Rigoletto is a bitter, hunchbacked jester who dislikes his position, makes fun of the Duke’s courtiers he is supposed to entertain and is disliked in return.

His only love is for his daughter, Gilda whom he tries to keep from harm by not allowing her out except for church. Because she had fallen in love with the Duke when seeing him stare at her in church, she is happy he comes to the house where her father has been keeping her.

Gilda is abducted by the couriers who mistakenly believe she is Rigoletto’s mistress and she is brought to the court where it is assumed the Duke ravishes her.

Her distraught father plots revenge using Sparafucile (Alexander Tsymbalyuk), an assassin he met earlier. Gilda who is supposed to dress like a boy and meet up with her father in Verona, overhears the assassin’s plan to stab the Duke.

Even though she felt betrayed by the Duke who fell for the assassin’s seductive sister, Maddalena (Zanda Svede), Gilda still loved him and deliberately stepped into Sparafucile’s house to be murdered instead. She had heard Sparafucile agree to kill the next person who walked in because he needed a body and Maddalena had pleaded for the Duke’s life.

The tragedy is blamed on a curse by Count Monterone (Todd Thomas) who had cursed the Duke and Rigoletto after his own daughter had been seduced by the Duke, encouraged by Rigoletto.

Directed by E. Loren Meeker, conducted by Mario Armiliato with stylisticly simple but dramatic back  drops by Michael Yeargan, this new-to Lyric production should match opera aficionados’ expectations and attract new opera goers.

DETAILS: “Rigoletto” is at the Lyric Opera House (also called the Civic Opera House), 20 N. Wacker Dr., Chicago, now through Nov. 3, 2017. Running time is 2 hours, 33 minutes including one intermission. For tickets and more information call (312) 827.-5600 and visit Lyric Opera Rigoletto. For Lyric season visit Lyric.

 

 

Contemporary retelling of Greek myth opens Lyric season

 

RECOMMENDED

Lauren Snouffer (Amour) l, Andriana Chuchman (Eurydice) and Dimitry Korchak (Orhee) at Lyric Opera. (Todd Rosenberg photos)
Lauren Snouffer (Amour) l, Andriana Chuchman (Eurydice) and Dimitry Korchak (Orphee) at Lyric Opera. (Todd Rosenberg photos)

An extraordinary pairing of the Joffrey Ballet with the exceptional voice of tenor Dimitry Korchak opened Lyric Opera’s 2017-2018 season Saturday, Sept. 23.

The opera is the August 1774 Paris version of Chrisoph Willibald Gluck’s ‘Orphée et Eurydice’ with a libretto by Pierre-Louis Moline. However, the production is all John Neumeier.

Longtime director and chief choreographer of the Hamburg Ballet, Neurmeier did the choreography, set, lighting and costume design and directed the production.

In his contemporary production, Orphée is a choreographer rehearsing a ballet based on Arnold Bocklin’s painting, “The Isle of the Dead.” His wife, Eurydice, is his star but when she arrives late they argue and she storms off.

After an impressive auto crash that pushes through the scenery, Eurydice is shown thrown from the car and dead on the ground.

Orphée’s assistant is a jean-clad Amour, with a sprite-like Peter Pan quality. Armour tells him to go to Hades and bring back Eurydice.

Mirrored moving panels create an interesting background in the rehearsal studio. That is, except when they reflect the lights from the opera house’s tiers.

Dimitry Korchak (Orphee) and Andriana Chuchman) with some Joffrey Ballet members.
Dimitry Korchak (Orphee) and Andriana Chuchman) with some Joffrey Ballet members.

Grey and white cutaway panels provide spaces that allow a small stage focus on Orphées bedroom and a moving path for him and Eurydice to wander from Elysium back to life on earth.

Even with its modern take, audiences delighted to get both world-class ballet with the exquisite voices of Korchak as Orphée, Andriana Chuchman as Eurydice and  Lauren Snouffer as Amour, will love the entire experience.

Guests who normally come just for the opera, might find some of the ballet sequences and meanderings to be a bit lengthy. Gluck added ballet sequences to this version including   the “Dance of the Furies” and the “Dance of the Blessed Spirits.” The final dance sequence of Orphée’s ballet is also very long.

Even though the Joffrey dancers perfectly execute what was choreographed, viewers might wonder at some of the mechanical-toy style of some of the movements in the “Dance of the Furies” and at the mix of traditional and contemporary ballet.

The story, frequently told in opera, theater and literature, goes back to Greek mythology when Orpheus, son of Apollo, falls in love and marries the beautiful Eurydice. But when she dies (by a snake bite in the story and a car accident in the Lyric opera) Orpheus is told by Apollo in the myth but by Amour (think Cupid or Eros) in the Lyric opera  to go to Hades and try to bring her back.

Andriana Chuchman, Dimitrhy Korchak and Joffrey Ballet in Lyric opener.
Andriana Chuchman, Dimitrhy Korchak and Joffrey Ballet in Lyric opener.

The myth has Orpheus making his way past the Furies and the three-headed Cerberus (three dancers) through his beautiful playing of lyre. He does so in this opera version with his sorrowful singing.

The obstacle is he can only take Eurydice back with him if he doesn’t look at her or explain that as she follows him out. Eurydice doesn’t understand so cries and bitterly complains until he finally can’t resist so looks back and she dies. Orpheus leaves alone.

At the Lyric Korchak beautifully sings “Che farò senza Euridice?”/”J’ai perdu mon Eurydice” (“What shall I do without Euridice?”/”I have lost my Euridice”). Earlier, before going to Hades, he expressed his love in the magnificent aria “Chiamo il mio ben”/”Objet de mon amour.”

In one version Amour feels sorry for him and returns Eurydice to life. In the Neumeier production, she is returned as a ghostly spirit in his heart and in the ballet he created.

During the ballet Victoria Jaiani and partner Temur Suluashvili, are “doubles” of Eurydice and Orphée.

Through it all are the wonderful voices of the Lyric Opera Chorus who are in the pit with maestro Harry Bicket and the fine orchestra.

DETAILS:  “Orphee et Eurydice” by Chrisoph Willibald Gluck’s, is at the Lyhric Opera House, 20 N. Wacker Dr., through Oct. 15, 2017. Running time: 2 hours, 20 minutes with one intermission. For tickets and other information visit Lyric Opera.

 

Lyric tempts with glorious preview and seals the deal with exciting season

The Lyric Opera of Chicago starts its next season Sept. 23, 2017 but you can get a sneak peek on Sept. 8 at 7:30 p.m. with Stars of Lyric Opera at Millennium Park.

Millennium Park hosts Lyric Stars in the Pritzker Pavilion. Photo by Jodie Jacobs
Millennium Park hosts Lyric Stars in the Pritzker Pavilion. Photo by Jodie Jacobs

A free concert in the Jay Pritzker Pavilion, 201 E. Randolph St., Chicago, the preview includes arias from ‘Orphée et Euridice,’ ‘Rigoletto,’ ‘Die Walküre,’ ‘The Pearl Fishers’ and ‘Faust,’ among others.

Led by Maestro Andrew Davis conducting the Lyric Opera Orchestra and Chorus, the program features such stars as Andriana Churchman, Dmitry Korchak, Eric Owens and Matthew Polenzani.

The concert will also be live on 98.7WFMT and at WFMT.com 

For more information visit  Lyric Opera and the Lyric Stars on Facebook.

 

SEASON

The operas listed for the preview offer just a glimpse of the Lyric’s exciting 2017-18 season. The complete opera schedule exhibits a wide range of styles, moods and composers from Bizet and Mozart to Verdi and Wagner.

‘Orphée (Orpheus) and Eurydice’

'Orphee et Eurydice opens Lyric Season. Lyric Opera photo
‘Orphee et Eurydice’ opens Lyric Season. Lyric Opera photo

By Christoph Willibald Gluck, the opera features The Joffrey Ballet, Sept. 23-Oct. 15, 2017. This is the Paris version directed and choreographed by John Neumeier. It is about the mythological Greek musician/poet, Orpheus, trying to bring back his wife, Eurydice, from the Underworld.

‘Rigoletto’
By Giuseppe Verdi, Oct. 7-Nov. 3, 2017, the opera centers on the revenge-bound, tragic court jester, Rigoletto, daughter Gilda and the evil Duke of Mantua. Opera goers will recognize Mantua’s “La donna è mobile,” Gilda’s “Caro nome” and the opera’s famed quartet.

‘Die Walküre’

By Richard Wagner, Nov.1-30, 2017, the opera continues the Lyric’s Ring cycle which started in 2016 with ‘Das Rheingold.’ Wagner’s powerful music exemplifies the strong emotions and character traits of Siegmund, Sieglinde, Brünnhilde, Wotan, Fricka and Hunding.

‘The Pearl Fishers’ (Les pêcheurs de perles)

By Georges Bizet, Nov. 19-Dec. 10, the opera includes this writer’s favorite duet for tenor and baritone. The opera takes place in Ceylon where two friends fall in love with priestess Leila.

 

‘Turandot’ 

'Turandot,' a fairy tale set in a fantasy version of ancient China is offered by the Lyric in the middle of the 2017-18 season. Lyric Opera photo
‘Turandot,’ a fairy tale set in a fantasy version of ancient China is offered by the Lyric in the middle of the 2017-18 season. Lyric Opera photo

 By Giacomo Puccini, Dec. 5, 2017-Jan. 27, 2018, the opera is a fairy tale that takes place in China where the princess asks suitors to answer three riddles. Incorrect answers lead to execution. The opera features the popular aria, “Nessun dorma.”

‘I Puritani’

By Vincenzo Bellini, Feb. 4-28, 2018, is a bel canto opera calling for exceptional technique as it tells the story of lovers in a England divided by the 1600’s civil war.

‘Cos fan tutte’ (The School for Lovers)

By Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart, Feb. 17-March 16, 2018 the opera is a delightful light treat that works well on the heels of ‘I Puritani’s’ high drama. Mozart’s tale delves into intrigue worthy of Shakespeare’s comedies.

‘Faust’

By Charles Gounod, Mar. 3-21, 2018, the opera revolves around the consequences of selling one’s soul to the devil.  A popular story told in the Grand Opera style, it includes Marguerite’s “Jewel Song” and an exceptional final trio.

‘Jesus Christ Superstar’

By Andrew Lloyd Webber and Jim Rice, Apr. 27-May 20, 2018, the season ends with what has become a Lyric tradtition – a Broadway musical production. This season the show is Webber’s rock opera,

The Lyric Opera is at the Civic Opera House, 20 N. Wacker Dr., Chicago. For additional programs and ticket information visit Lyric or call (312)827-5600.

 

 

 

Glorious voices do justice to Lerner and Loewe music and lyrics

 

RECOMMENDED

The wonderfully lyrical songs and the delightfully fun numbers in Alan Jay Lerner and Frederick Loewe’s ‘My Fair Lady’ plus the gorgeous voice of Lisa O’Hare as Eliza Doolittle and Anthony Powell’s costumes are reasons enough to see the Lyric’s show.

Eliza Doolittle (Lisa O'Hare) and Mrs. Higgins (Helen Carey) and cast at Ascot. Todd Rosenberg Photography
Eliza Doolittle (Lisa O’Hare) and Mrs. Higgins (Helen Carey) and cast at Ascot. Todd Rosenberg Photography

Bryce Pinkham who played  Monty Navarro on Broadway in “A Gentleman’s Guide to Love and Murder,” was a treat to hear as he sang “On the Street Where You Live” as Freddy Eynsford Hill. So was the ensemble, many of whom either hailed from the Lyric Opera Chorus or past Lyric operas.

Powell’s period costumes made exceptional fashion statements that defined the characters.

The voices, music, lyrics and the story based on George Bernard Shaw’s “Pygmalion” make up for some of the production’s deficiencies.

Richard E. Grant as Henry Higgins appears unaccountably childish, particularly when he waves his arms about in his mother’s home and when back at his office.

In addition, the acts don’t flow well. There is a what-are-we-supposed–to-do-now moment when Eliza visits her father after she has become a lady, and the excellent dancers in Alfred Doolittle’s drunken pre-marriage morning scene move in a way more appropriate for a Parisian Apache street then one in London.

Eliza appears dressed for the ball with Henry Higgins (Richard E. Grant) at his desk and Colonel Pickering (Nicholas Le Prevost) standing. Todd Rosenberg Photography
Eliza appears dressed for the ball with Henry Higgins (Richard E. Grant) at his desk and Colonel Pickering (Nicholas Le Prevost) standing. Todd Rosenberg Photography

Set Designer Tim Hatley’s Ascot scene, shown first in silhouette, perfectly emulated the stiff, no emotion can be shown, restraint expected of the British upper class and O’Hare was grandly shocking in her close encounter with the race and Mrs. Higgins friends.

However, that same stiffness seemed to pervade the production except for Hill’s song and when Eliza encounters him outside Henry Higgens home.

The music, conducted by Broadway veteran David Chase, reminded audiences why “My Fair Lady” continues to be a draw more than 60 years after it debuted.

Directed by Olivier Fredj, the Lyric’s show is the Robert Carsen production for Paris’ Théâtre du Châtelet starring a new cast.

Details: ‘My Fair Lady’ is at the Lyric’s Civic Opera House, 20 N. Wacker Drive, Chicago, April 28 through May 21, 2017. For tickets and other information call (312) 827-5600 or visit My Fair Lady.

 

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

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.

 

Theater Week is back with good ticket prices

UPCOMING

Theater Alert! If you’ve heard of a Chicago area theater but haven’t gotten over there or if there is a show you want to see but you thought tickets were beyond budget, check out the places listed on Chicago Theatre Week, right now.

Steppenwolf is among the theatre companies participating in Chicago Theatre Week. Kyle Flubacker photo
Steppenwolf is among the companies participating in Chicago Theatre Week. Kyle Flubacker photo

Tickets to more than 100 area theater productions are on sale beginning 10 a. m. CT Jan. 10, for shows you can see during Theatre Week, Feb. 9 through Feb. 19, 2017.

Tickets are priced at $30 and less. Many are at $15. Shows range from Goodman Theatre and Lyric Opera to The Second City and Steppenwolf.

Click on Chicago Theatre Week then scroll down to see the full list of production company options. But do it now to see what you want to attend. Tickets go on sale starting at 10 a.m. People in the know quickly snap up tickets.

“Theatre Week invites Chicago audiences and visitors to experience the wide range of offerings,” said League of Chicago Theatre Executive Director Deb Clapp

“We are so thrilled to be able to share the amazing work and we equally love hearing from participants that they visited a favorite theatre or discovered a great new one,” Clapp said..

He added, “This is a week that reminds us all that Chicago is known locally, nationally, and internationally for its theatre scene, and especially this season for generating new work, showcasing fresh talent and spotlighting its rich Chicago tradition.”

 

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.

 

This Weekend in Chicago’s music world

Lucia di Lammermoor, Gaetano Donizetti’s tragic tale of star-crossed lovers opens at the Lyric Opera of Chicago, 7:30 p.m. Oct. 15. When a Romeo and Juliet-style love is subverted by a family’s feud and greed, expect the madness that has made the opera famous for its fabulous coloratura scene. Staring Albina Shagimuratova as Lucia, the opera goes through Nov. 6, 2016 at the Lyric’s Civic Opera House, 20 N. Wacker Drive, Chicago. For tickets and other information visit Lyric and call (312) 827-5600.

Go to the Old Town School of Folk Music, 7 p.m.  Oct. 16, to catch a CD release and concert with the Michael Miles Trio with special guest Darol Anger. Old Town School is at 4545 N. Lincoln Ave., Chicago. For tickets and more information visit Old Town and call (773) 728-6000.

There is still time to catch Light Opera works’ “Let Me Entertain You,” a revue of Jules Styne’s hits such as songs for “Gypsy” and “Funny Girl.” This is the last weekend so get tickets at Light Opera Works. The show is at the Nichols concert Hall, 1490 Chicago Ave. Evanston, IL.

  This Weekend: Art, Festivals and Music

Evanston Art & Big Fork Festival… If looking for a fun festival atmosphere with lots of local dishes, beer and wine plus bands plus art to see or buy go downtown Evanston, Sept. 30 through Oct. 2, 2016. The event is a chance to shop for gifts ahead of the holiday crush and try some of the suburb’s restaurant’ fare. The festival center is at 800 Church Street. Hours: Art Fair – Fri. 4 a.m. –dusk, Sat. 10 a.m.-dusk, Sun. 10 a.m.-5 p.m. Food and Music – Fri. 4-9 p.m., Sat. 10 a.m.-9 p.m., Sun. 10 a.m.-5 p.m. For other information visit Art&Fork.

Evanston's Art & Big Fork Festival. Photo Amdur Productions
Evanston’s Art & Big Fork Festival. Photo Amdur Productions

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