Theater, Dance, Comedy and Performance in Chicago

Review: Der Rosenkavalier/Lyric Opera of Chicago

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Sophie Koch/Photo: Cory Weaver

Sophie Koch/Photo: Cory Weaver

RECOMMENDED

Can anyone listen to the uprush of that first glorious phrase in “Der Rosenkavalier” without getting goose flesh? Without feeling a joy so intense it puts one’s heart in one’s mouth?

One is in a fairyland that never was and will never be, the Austro-Hungarian aristocracy not only idealized but transported to an eternal park in the sky. It is Shaw’s “Man and Superman,” the sound of angels laughing. It is Moliere’s “Le Bourgeois gentilhomme” set to fastidious, fantastic, passionate music. It is paradise, an Eden of gaiety, of delicate, indolent sensuousness, a world of endless late-afternoon summer sunshine. Read the rest of this entry »

Review: La Vox Humaine & Gianni Schicchi/Chicago Opera Theater

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Patricia Racette/Photo: Michael Brosilow

Patricia Racette/Photo: Michael Brosilow

La Voix Humaine

RECOMMENDED

I don’t think I was the only one who observed, immediately after the curtain went up Saturday night on the first of two operas at the Harris Theater, that it was a mistake to stage Francis Poulenc’s “La Voix Humaine” in that cavern.

“La Voix” is a chamber opera, fitted for an audience of no more than 500. The Harris has a capacity of 1,500. Much of its effect depends on the proximity of its performers to the audience and to the orchestra—on the spatial intimacy of these three. Read the rest of this entry »

Review: Nabucco/Lyric Opera of Chicago

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Jesse Donner, Laura Wilde, Sergei Skorokhodov, Željko Lu?i?, Tatiana Serjan, Elizabeth DeShong

Jesse Donner, Laura Wilde, Sergey Skorokhodov, Željko Lucic, Tatiana Serjan, Elizabeth DeShong/Photo: Andrew Cioffi

 

RECOMMENDED

“Nabucco” established Verdi’s preeminence as an operatic composer not only with its winding melodies and passionate declamations but because it struck a nerve with a populace embroiled in the fierce pull-and-push of political unrest.

Director Matthew Ozawa and his design team stretch to frame the competing religions and nationalities with a cast of 120, most playing characters from both sects. Each group is costumed in long, simple robes of sharply contrasting colors with more natural movement for one faction and militaristic for the other. Read the rest of this entry »

Review: Bel Canto/Lyric Opera of Chicago

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Danielle de Niese/Photo: Todd Rosenberg

Danielle de Niese/Photo: Todd Rosenberg

RECOMMENDED

As the latest torrents of terrorism shatter our souls with their senseless deaths and enhanced suspicions, Lyric Opera of Chicago’s world-premiere production of “Bel Canto” could not be more poignantly opportune. Drawn from Ann Patchett’s bestselling novel, an opera diva in the center of a hostage situation orchestrates a truce that empowers both captors and captives to see that they are all detainees of a struggle that is void of personhood. Despite differences of race, gender, religion, language and social strata, an unsteady but palpable community emerges. Read the rest of this entry »

Review: The Merry Widow/Lyric Opera of Chicago

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11/11/15 2:49:33 PM -- The Lyric Opera of Chicago Presents "The Merry Widow" Renee Fleming © Todd Rosenberg Photography 2015

Renée Fleming and Thomas Hampson/Photo: Todd Rosenberg

RECOMMENDED

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 »

Review: Wozzeck/Lyric Opera of Chicago

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Tomasz Konieczny, Stefan Vinke/Cory Weaver

Tomasz Konieczny, Stefan Vinke/Photo: Cory Weaver

RECOMMENDED

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 »

Review: Le nozze di Figaro/Lyric Opera of Chicago

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Christiane Karg, Rachel Frenkel, Adam Plachetka c. Michael Brosilow

Christiane Karg, Rachel Frenkel, Adam Plachetka/Photo: Michael Brosilow

RECOMMENDED

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 »

Review: Lucio Silla/Chicago Opera Theater

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Ava Pine & Christine Arand/Photo: Justin Barbin

Ava Pine & Christine Arand/Photo: Justin Barbin

RECOMMENDED

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 »

Review: Andina/Athenaeum Theatre

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Arlen-Parsa

Arlen Parsa/Photo: AndinaLives.com

RECOMMENDED

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 »

Review: The Telephone and Hello Out There/Chicago Theatre-Opera

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David Govertsen, Mary Lutz Govertsen/Photo

David Govertsen, Mary Lutz Govertsen/Photo: Anne Slovin

RECOMMENDED

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 »