Lyric Opera goers may not have known what to expect when taking their seats Oct. 8, 2022, for “The Brightness of Light,” a hybrid one-act opera-song cycle by composer Kevin Puts. But it featured popular lyric soprano Renée Fleming and versatile baritone Rod Gilfry, so the house was filled.
It was an extraordinary experience.
For scenery, the program used the gorgeous artwork of Georgia O’Keeffe, the sensuous photography of Alfred Stieglitz and the dramatic letters they wrote to each other compiled in a projection format designed by Wendall Harrigton.
Puts turned to those letters for his libretto. However, it took the still remarkable Fleming voice and artistry and well-matched baritone of Gilfry to pull off Puts’ intense, challenging music.
“The Brightness of Light,” with Fleming and Gilfry was the Chicago premiere. It is worth seeing and hearing again. Unfortunately, this was a one-time program that has been travelling for a few years. It ended the LA Opera season in June.
Some members of the audience left at intermission to catch trains. Those who stayed were entertained by a charming selection of nine Broadway songs ranging from “Almost Like being in Love” (Brigadoon) to “People Will Say We’re in Love” (Oklahoma).
The entire program featured the Lyric Opera Orchestra conducted by Lyric Music Director Enrique Mazzola which is always a treat.
As to how this all started, Puts explained the following in a note:
“In 2015, I received the honor of a commission from my alma mater, the Eastman School of Music in Rochester, New York. The school’s orchestra was planning a trip to perform at Lincoln Center and wanted to include a new work written by an alumni composer to feature an alumni performer. The performer they had in mind was Renée Fleming and—to my great excitement—she accepted the offer, thereby initiating one of the most treasured collaborations of my career.
We wanted to focus on an iconic American woman as the subject, and I happened on a quote by Georgia O’Keeffe: “My first memory is of the brightness of light, light all around.”
For more information visit The Brightness of Light | Lyric Opera of Chicago
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