Renée Fleming and Thomas Hampson/Photo: Todd Rosenberg
Franz Lehár’s beloved, wildly successful operetta “The Merry Widow” will woo and then suspend in delicious wistfulness even the staunchest objector to its inclusion in the repertoire of a major opera company. With its melancholy yet hopeful waltz, ample opportunities for mazurkas, can-cans and polkas as well as a generous role for a cherished leading lady of a soprano-bent, “The Merry Widow” will, by the third act, require that handkerchiefs be located. Read the rest of this entry »
Tomasz Konieczny, Stefan Vinke/Photo: Cory Weaver
The Lyric Opera of Chicago launched its season with two confections—cakes appeared on stage in both—and now moves on to meat. If “Le Nozze di Figaro” and “Cenerentola” focused on the strictures of class structure, “Wozzeck” deposits Lyric’s audiences into the madness of war, and the way it destroys body, heart and that elusive imperative, the soul. Read the rest of this entry »
Christiane Karg, Rachel Frenkel, Adam Plachetka/Photo: Michael Brosilow
With a splash of commedia dell’arte, a spoonful of Restoration comedy, and pounds of clowning, director Barbara Gaines has exploded the up-and-downstairs Mozartian confection of two marriages hanging in a balance of power, and “Le nozze di Figaro” may never be the same. Lyric Opera of Chicago opens its 2015/16 season with one of opera-goers’ most beloved chestnuts; Gaines has roasted it, and served it up for the masses. Read the rest of this entry »
Ava Pine & Christine Arand/Photo: Justin Barbin
Chicago’s opera enthusiasts must be collectively humming as the 2015/2016 opera season explodes on the scene with two Mozart operas, “Lucio Silla” at Chicago Opera Theater, and “Le nozze di Figaro” at Lyric Opera of Chicago. “Lucio Silla” is a seldom-heard work of a sixteen year-old boy genius; Lyric shifts focus to Mozart at the height of his operatic, compositional powers. Read the rest of this entry »
Arlen Parsa/Photo: AndinaLives.com
It is actually not easy putting on an opera. That is what producer and best great-grandson-ever Arlen Parsa said when he took the stage at the end of his triumphant production “Andina.” Performed concert style and in Spanish with English subtitles, “Andina” is a very approachable opera written by Eustasio Rosales. The plot, a love triangle involving Don Carlos, a possibly sinister wealthy outsider, and his attempts at wooing the beautiful Rosa away from her mountain home and Juan, her childhood love, is simple. The backstory to the production, however, is anything but. Read the rest of this entry »
David Govertsen, Mary Lutz Govertsen/Photo: Anne Slovin
Who knew the composer Gian Carlo Menotti was a serious, prophetic social critic? Not I. I remember watching his charming fantasy, “Amahl and the Night Visitors,” on black-and-white television as a boy in the 1950s. For decades I avoided looking into his one-act comic operetta, “The Telephone.” Perhaps I should have gotten off the esthetic high horse I was riding to investigate it. Menotti saw—in 1947!—that Americans were device-ridden, tyrannized by the telephone. He showed us obsessed, distracted, driven, controlled by the phone to the point that mutual consideration and conversation, formerly the chief charms of sociability, had died.
Menotti felt the telephone had killed the continuity of existence. Life was now a series of interruptions. Leisure, too, was dead. Politeness, decorum, manners, formality suffered. Casual was king. Yes, it was funny, but it was tragic, too. And Menotti lived long enough to see our sidewalks full of zombies seemingly talking to themselves, eyes fixed downward on a small object in the palm of their hand fifteen inches from their face. Read the rest of this entry »
Frederica von Stade/Photo: Liz Loren
The mythical line between opera and musical theater further fades with Chicago Opera Theater’s mounting of “A Coffin in Egypt.” Is it really an opera, as advertised? The composer, Ricky Ian Gordon, and Leonard Foglia, librettist and director, (who based his libretto on American dramatist Horton Foote’s play) have enjoyed storied Broadway careers. The scenic and costume designer Riccardo Hernandez, and lighting designer Brian Nason are Broadway veterans.
The performers address each other face-to-face, turning upstage, rather than cheating out toward the audience. The portrayals are natural, not exaggerated in body language or counterfeit emotion. “Coffin” contains spoken dialogue. This allows the singing to flow out of narrative that can no longer be expressed with mere words. Isn’t this the type of writing that made “Oklahoma” a success? Read the rest of this entry »
Pass through the ornate 1918 façade of the Chopin Theatre, bounce down a few generously carpeted stairs, and you’ll find yourself in the gregarious Pregnant Buffalo Lounge. Chicago Fringe Opera’s evening begins at the bar. For their program called “Voices in the Dark,” CFO immediately weaves a spell with low lighting and sultry jazz music, accompanied by a fine jazz trio, maestro Codrut Birsan at the piano.
When it’s time to swill down those drinks, the trio becomes an orchestra, and you’ll head into the Studio Theatre’s black box for their production of Leonard Bernstein’s “Trouble in Tahiti.”
Premiered in 1952, Bernstein’s darkest opera flexed his jazz muscles, while exercising his distinctive sense for a detached, melancholy vocal line. For the only time in his career, Bernstein wrote the libretto himself. A scathing judgment of disconnected Capitalism, the piece unjustly became the stuff of university mountings, with its small cast and technical simplicity. Read the rest of this entry »
Photo: Michael Brosilow
The question on my mind as I listened to the second act of Mieczyslaw Weinberg’s opera “The Passenger” at the Lyric Opera Tuesday night was: Am I listening to great musical art?
The answer, unfortunately, was “no.” I say unfortunately because I had hoped for much more. The state of Holocaust education in this country remains dire after sixty-five years of public agonizing. A great work of art can change that listless, dutiful, fitful, guilty public half-resolve to get down to brass tacks on racism. “The Passenger” is the work of an enormously knowledgeable, sincere, very clever, inventive, imaginative artist. But great music?
“The Passenger” falls short for two reasons. One, its subject matter. Two, its subject matter. What do I mean? First, the Holocaust defies Music. It is a true enormity, a breath-bereaving, disgusting, obscene crime of such evil intensity, vastness and finality as to stultify all creative musical thought whatsoever. Second, Weinberg’s undeniable musical genius was not suited to the painting of unrelieved darkness and nihilism—the end of public and private faith, belief and hope forever. Read the rest of this entry »
Jill Grove and James Maddalena/Photo: Robert Kusel
The theme of familial loss, with the potential for reconnection and affirmation, is universal, crossing boundaries of place and creed. As Lyric Opera of Chicago presents the holocaust opera “The Passenger,” their cultural outreach program, Lyric Unlimited, is producing the world premiere of Wlad Marhulets’ klezmer opera “The Property,” which follows the journey of a family displaced by the atrocities of WWII, as they search to reclaim their past, and pronounce their secrets.
Adapted from Rutu Modan’s graphic novel by librettist Stephanie Fleischmann and director Eric Einhorn, the story follows a grandmother who has just lost her son, and a granddaughter who has just lost her father, as they travel to Warsaw to repossess the apartment where the grandmother lived as a child. The women discover themselves at cross-purposes, floundering in a sea of memory and longing. Read the rest of this entry »