Extraordinary Brightness

Brightness of Light at Los Angeles June . 18, 2022 (Photo Credit: Lawrence K. Ho)
Brightness of Light at Los Angeles Opera June . 18, 2022
(Photo Credit: Lawrence K. Ho)

4 Stars

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

For more shows visit Theatre in Chicago


Jodie Jacobs


Around town from an art fest and Ravinia to Edge Fest and Egypt


The Martin Theater is near the Ravinia Festival Gate at the Metra train stop, accessible by St. Johns Avenue and the Green Bay Road parking lot plus Ravinia bus shuttles. (Photo by J Jacobs)
The Martin Theatre  is near the Ravinia Festival Gate at the Metra train stop, accessible by St. Johns Avenue and the Green Bay Road parking lot plus Ravinia bus shuttles. (Photo by J Jacobs)


Celebrate summer while it’s here.  This weekend, art booths fill downtown Glencoe and Renee Fleming is doing Stoppard’s “Penelope” at Ravinia. Next week the Oriental Institute in Hyde Park has Hieroglyphics for kids and the Edgewater neighborhood celebrates summer with food,beverages and music


What: Festival of Art

When: July 27-28 from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. both days.

Where: Center point is 700 Vernon Ave. near Park Avenue west of Green Bay Road in north suburban Glencoe.

Admission: free

Info at: Amdur Productions/Glencoe.


What: Renee Fleming and actress Jennifer Ehle perform Tom Stoppard’s and Andre Previn’s “Penelope” (based on Homer’s Odyseey) at Ravinia Festival.

When: July 28, 4 p.m.

Where: Martin Theatre and carried on large screens on the lawn at Ravinia Festival Park in north suburban Highland Park between Green Bay and Sheridan Roads north of Lake Cook Road.

Admission: Lawn $10 (as of this printing the Martin is sold out)

Info at: Ravinia Festival/Renee Fleming


What: Intro to Hieroglyphs Family Workshop with an Egyptologist (recommended for ages 8-12), then go into the Oriental Institute’s galleries to translate artifacts.

When: Aug. 1, 10:30a.m. to 12:30 p.m.

Where: Oriental Institute of the University of Chicago, 1155 E. 58th St., Chicago

Admission: Registration needed. General $14, members $10 (child and one adult)

Info at: Intro to Hieroglyphs


What: EdgeFest, a music, food, brews party thrown by the Edgewater Chamber of Commerce

When: Aug. 3-4 from noon to 10 p.m. Saturday and noon to 9 p.m. Sunday (Pet Parade Sunday 4 p.m.

Where: Broadway from Thorndale to Ardmore

Admission: Suggested $5 donation at gate (donors receive community discount Edge Card.

Info at: Edgewater/Edgefest.


Jodie Jacobs


Concert saluted singer Renée Fleming

Renee Fleming at the Lyric of Chicago in an anniversary concert. (Photo by Todd Rosenberg)
Renee Fleming at the Lyric of Chicago in an anniversary concert. (Photo by Todd Rosenberg)

Fans of opera, American soprano Renée Fleming and the Lyric Opera of Chicago were treated to an extraordinary program March 23 to honor Fleming on the 25th anniversary of her Lyric debut in1993 with Carlisle Floyd’s “Susannah.”

Chicago audiences may have heard her in other operatic roles such as Marguerite in “Faust” in the 1995-6 season and more recently as Hanna Glawari, in “the Merry Widow” in the 2016-17 season.

But what the program and Lyric President Anthony Freud mentioned during the concert is that  there is a lot more to Fleming’s accomplishments than her vocal talent. As an advisor and innovator of public programs through the Lyric in Chicago and through the Kennedy Center in Washington D.C. Fleming has been behind several outreach initiatives.

Arguably less known is that she was on the soundtrack of Best Picture and Best soundtrack 2018 Academy awards for “Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri” and  “The Shape of Water,” is a 16-time Grammy nominee (four-time winner) and is on the movie soundtrack of the “Lord of the Ring” and “The Return of the King.”

Hosted by Tituss Burges, the program also featured well-known opera stars soprano Sondra Radvanovsky, tenor Lawrence Brownlee, baritone Quinn Kelsey, and bass-baritones Eric Owens and Christian Van Horn,  plus members of the Patrick G. and Shirley W. Ryan Opera Center. Patrick summers conducted the Lyric Opera Orchestra.

Fleming started out with what some consider her trademark piece of “Porgi amor” from Mozart’s “the Marriage of Figaro.”

Other pieces in the first part of the program were Eric Owens doing “O tu Palermo “ from Verdi’s “I vespri sicilarni,” Radvanovsky singing “Vissi d’arte” from Puccini’s Tosca,” Brownlee doing “Ahmes amis…” from Donizetti’s ”La fille du regiment,” Van Horn singing “Eddo il mondo” from “Boito’s La Mefistofele” and the Ryan Opera Center artists doing Faltaff’s “Un oro e terminiam la scena…”

Radvanovsky sang an aria from “Susannah” later in the concert. Then, to herald her role in a special musical production in December, Fleming did “Fable,” from Adam Guettel’s “The Light in the Piazza.” Tickets to the run,  Dec. 14-29, 2019,  go on sale March 28, 2019. For tickets and more information visit LyricOpera/light.

As a bonus Saturday, many of the designer gowns worn by Fleming were on display at the Lyric.  For the concert she wore a  navy tulle gown designed by Carolina Herrera and a rose-gold sequined gown by Vivienne Westwood.

Another interesting not is that the acoustic Pritzker Family Concert Shell designed by Studio Gang for Lyric’s 60th Anniversary Gala Concert in 2014 was the backdrop for Saturday’s concert.

Jodie Jacobs


Oh what a Chicago night


It was Feb., 4, 2017, not December, 1963. But the people who attended the ‘Chicago Voices Concert’ at the Lyric’s Civic Opera House will arguably remember the night.

The Handsome Family, John Pine and Shemekia Copeland were among the performers at the Chicago Voices Concert. Photo by Cory Weaver
The Handsome Family, John Pine and Shemekia Copeland were among the performers at the Chicago Voices Concert. Photo by Cory Weaver

One famed musician after another performed on stage. Their common denominator was a Chicago tie.

Put together by Renée Fleming to showcase sounds of Chicago, the opera star pointed out that music brings people together. “Amongst the fear and heartbreak we do what we do best,” Fleming said.

Continue reading “Oh what a Chicago night”