Verdi romantic revenge opera at Lyric

 

Luisa Miller at Lyric Opera of Chicago. (Todd Rosenberg photo)
Luisa Miller at Lyric Opera of Chicago. (Todd Rosenberg photo)

4 stars

Love, lust, and quest for power lead to despair and death in Giuseppe Verdi’s “Luisa Miller,” directed by Francesca Zambello at Lyric Opera of Chicago.

The seemingly outlandish story based on the play “Kabale und Liebe” (Intrigue and Love) by Friedrich von Schiller, none-the-less may resonate with modern audiences familiar with such television programs as “American Greed” and “Dateline” that often have devious plots designed and perpetrated by individuals to preserve financial power or exert influence over those they purport to love.

In this case, Rudolfo (Joseph Calleja), the son of Count Walter (Christian Van Horn) falls in love with the peasant girl, Luisa Miller, (Krassimira Stoyanova). However, Count Walter’s aide-de-camp, Wurm, (Soloman Howard) also has designs on the local beauty resulting in love triangle number one.

Luisa’s father (Quinn Kelsey) feels there is something odd about Rudolfo who has been hanging around the village under the pseudo name Carlo.

Meanwhile, knowing that the Count was planning to wed his son to the local Duchess Federica (Alisa Kolosova) who has just inherited a fortune after her father’s death, tattletale Wurm tells Count Walter how Rudolfo has fallen in love with a common village girl.

The alliance between Rudolfo and Federica would increase the power and influence of the family, and secure his son’s future, resulting in love triangle number two.

The Count orders his son to marry Federica while Wurm imprisons Luisa’s fathe. Then coerces her into signing a declaration stating that she never loved Rudolfo but instead loves Wurm in order to gain her father’s release and save him from death.

In her despair, she begins to write a letter to Rudolfo suggesting that he meet her at midnight when the two will die together rather than submit to the unhappy fate that has been thrust upon them.

Finding the letter, Luisa’s father,  persuades her that in the morning the two of them will simply leave town together because the death of his daughter, and seemingly only offspring, would cause him too much anguish.

During the night while her father is asleep, Rudolfo comes to Luisa whom he tricks into drinking poison. He has taken it as well out of revenge for her recanting her love. Thus is the murder suicide that actually fulfills Luisa’s original plan for them.

The couple reconciles and Rudolfo manages to curse his father and mortally shoot Wurm before the poison takes its full effect.

There is little to say about the spectacular quality of the entire ensemble except to add that Stoyanova as Luisa delivers at every opportunity.

Perhaps part of the popularity of Verdi operas is that they are very accessible to the general public because the music is not overly complex. Though this opera does not have any of the popular famous arias such as “La donna e mobile” or “Celesta Aida,” it follows musical lines that are familiar to the ear.

If you are a lover of mid-century American musicals, I think you will find the structure of Verdi’s operas to have a familiar form.

Reflective of opera’s romantic period which introduces more theatricality into the productions, we can enjoy how the composer uses what have become traditional musical dynamics to convey the emotions of the characters in their over-the-top dramatic situations.

For the singers in this production, it is something of an athletic event as they have very little rest and are seemingly on stage all of the time. They are often performing complex imbroglios that at times seem akin to a wrestling match or singing competition.

It has been said that Verdi hoped to break out of the imposed traditional operatic format that for instance dictated that the production begin with a chorus number.

Interestingly, it was my impression that the opening of “Luisa Miller,” though entertaining and important in terms of setting the context and introducing the characters, has an obligatory quality that seems out of place when compared to the more intimate aspects of the rest of the production.

Perhaps, like the audiences in Verdi’s day, we might feel cheated if we did not have an opportunity to hear, in this case, the exceptional Lyric Chorus. They do appear again but actually each time it seems a bit out-of-step with the story.

Of course part of the reason to visit Lyric Opera Chicago is the opportunity to experience their fine orchestra conducted by Enrique Mazzola and led by Music Director Sir Andrew Davis. It is possible that the overture alone is worth the price of admission.

The scenery, painting, construction design and costumes used in this production are the property of the San Francisco Opera.

The primary scenic element, a large painting suspended from a crane in front of a curved panoramic modular background has an overall post-modern quality even though it is in a muted-toned, 19th century pastoral landscape style.

A standout for the costume department was a dramatic profusion of red riding apparel for the equestrian scene as well as the variation on a theme of green uniforms provided to the gentlemen of Count Walter’s court.

Details: “Luisa Miller” is at the Lyric Opera House, 20 N. Wacker Dr., Chicago through Oct.31, 2019. Running time is about 2 hours 45 minutes with one intermission. For tickets or other information call  (312) 827-5600 or visit  lyricopera.org/Luisa .

Reno Lovison

For more shows visit Theatre in Chicago

 

 

Shagimuratova worth the ticket to ‘La traviata’

L-R: Giorgio Berrugi/Alfredo, Mario Rojas/Gastone, Albina Shagimuratova/Violetta -- in La Traviata at Lyric Opera of Chicago. (Photo: Todd Rosenberg)
L-R: Giorgio Berrugi/Alfredo, Mario Rojas/Gastone, Albina Shagimuratova/Violetta — in La Traviata at Lyric Opera of Chicago. (Photo: Todd Rosenberg)

3 stars

Giuseppe Verdi’s music always gets four stars and played by the Lyric Opera orchestra conducted by Michael Christie, the popular La traviata, certainly is no exception.

The music and Francesco Maria Plave’s libretto  beautifully express the emotions of fun-loving, delightful, but doomed (think Camillia ) courtesan Violetta.

Gloriously sung by Russian soprano Albina Shagimuratova, her “È strano! … Ah, fors’ è lui…” (“Ah, perhaps he is the one”) and her famed, declared choice of freedom “Sempre libera” (“Always free”) are opera highlights. Just hearing her is worth the trip.

La traviata also has one of opera’s great drinking songs. Alfredo Germont, who loves Violetta toasts her with the crowd at her party in “libiamo ne’ lieti calici” (“Let’s drink from the joyful cups”).

Italian Giorgio Berruci making his Lyric debut as Alfredo, is OK, but he doesn’t have the full, soaring voice of other tenors who have played the role. However, as the opera ends and the lovers are reunited though Violetta is fading away, their  “Parigi, o cara, noi lasceremo,” (“We will leave Paris, O beloved”) and their “Gran Dio!…morir sì giovane” (“Great God!…to die so young”) are beautiful and touching.Read More

Superb voices meet Verdi’s ‘Il Trovatore’ challenge

Tamara Wilson (Lenora) in Il Trovatori at Lyric Opera of Chicago (Todd Rosenberg photo)
Tamara Wilson (Lenora) in Il Trovatori at Lyric Opera of Chicago (Todd Rosenberg photo)

3.5 stars

Thanks goodness, the Lyric Opera of Chicago’s “Il Trovatore” has much more going for it than the famed “Anvil Chorus” (“Vedi le fosche notturne”) in which some of the workers overdo their loud clangs, forgetting that the gypsies are singing to Verd’s music and the anvils ought to be an interesting accompaniment.

This production is an opportunity to hear Soprano Tamara Wilson, making her Lyric debut as Leonora . Wilson lets the audience know right away that she was well chosen as the doomed heroine with her “Tacea la note placida, a beautiful cavatina with its high c, and the passionate “Di tale amor che dirsi” aria made even more impressive by its trills.

It is also an opportunity to hear mezzo-soprano Jamie Barton, last heard at the Lyric in as Giovanna in Donizett’s Anna Bolena in 2014. Read More

Two concerts preview coming theater season

Jay Pritzker Pavilion is a concert venue in Millennium Park designed by Fran Gehry.
Jay Pritzker Pavilion is a concert venue in Millennium Park designed by Frank Gehry.

Hear the voices from the Broadway and opera stages at two free concerts in Chicago’s Jay Pritzker Paviion at Millennium Park

First, and this comes quickly on the calendar, is the Broadway In Chicago Summer Concert, Aug. 13 at 6:15 p.m. So grab a blanket for the grass or get there early for a seat to hear songs from the following shows on the Broadway tour:

“The Book of Mormon,” “Hello Dolly,” “A Bronx Tale: The Musical,” “ Ronald Dahl’s Charlie and the Chocolate Factory,” “Heartbreak Hotel,” “Dear Evan Hansen,”  “Anastasia,” “ Miss Saigon,” “Fiddler on the Roof,” “Cats,” “ Falsettos” and “Come From Away.”

Hosted by ABC 7 Chicago entertainment reporter Janet Davies Pre=Broadway “Tootsie” star Santino Fontana, the concert is sponsored by Channel 7 and presented by the City of Chicago department of cultural Affairs and Special Events.

The Jay Pritzker Pavilion is at 201 E. Randolph St., Chicago but it’s a can’t miss venue because of its billowing steel ribbons topping The Pavilion was designed for Millennium Park by award-winning architect Frank Gehry. For more information visit Broadway In Chicago.Read More

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.

 

 

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.