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Chicago Opera picks another Queen for ‘Flute’ after visa flap dethrones new Irish sensation

Submitted by on Aug 28, 2012 – 4:03 pm

Chicago Opera Theater's "Magic Flute" gets a star changeReport: Claudia Boyle (above) is star-crossed as star-blazing Queen of the Night and Louisiana soprano Emily Hindrichs will take over coloratura fireworks when “The Magic Flute” opens Sept. 15 at the Harris Theater. Boyle’s delayed visa’s to blame. 

By Nancy Malitz

Sometimes even queens get caught up in red tape. Fast rising Irish soprano Claudia Boyle, who was to portray the Queen of the Night in Chicago Opera Theater’s new production of Mozart’s “The Magic Flute” in September, was delayed getting her visa by the American consulate in Dublin while Chicago Opera Theater frantically tried to provide additional information the consul requested.

The issue was whether Boyle (at left) was indeed an artist of “extraordinary ability” with a reputation sufficiently distinguished to be awarded an artists visa.

Boyle’s approval did eventually come through. “But by then we had to move on,” says COT general manager Jerry Tietz. He said the company was compelled to protect the new production, which is to be sung in the English  translation of Jeremy Sams, under the stage direction of Michael Gieleta.  Tietz’ concern wasn’t only whether COT could find another Queen of high caliber to sing it in English, but also whether she could arrive in time to take full advantage of the extended rehearsal period that any new production requires.

Thus, COT snapped up Louisiana native Emily Hindrichs, at right, who has sung Queen of the Night with the English National Opera, Oper Frankfurt and the Seattle Opera, among others. (She was in town at the Chicago Lyric Opera last season, on hand to cover Audrey Luna in the same role.)

Hindrichs’ 11th-hour availability made for COT’s lucky save.

“The Magic Flute” opens Sept. 15. But Boyle’s American debut at COT had been highly anticipated by opera fans. Queens of the Night don’t grow on trees.  She sang the Cherubini Requiem under the baton of Chicago Symphony music director Riccardo Muti at the 2011 Salzburg Whitsun Festival, and she starred as the glittering Kostanze in Mozart’s “Die Entführung aus dem Serail” with the Komische Oper Berlin earlier this year.  Her charisma shines through even on Youtube’s tiny screen in bits of “La Cour de Célimène” from the Wexford Festival Opera, in recital arias from “I puritani” and “La traviata” and in Flickr photos from Dublin’s “Pasqual€,” a Donizetti update (Euro symbol intended).

Still, says Tietz, “the O-class artist  visa is really, really broad, covering just about any sort of entertainment performer, and of course opera is its own unique little microcosm. The idea that a 27-year-old soprano was hired by Muti to sing at the Salzburg Festival or showcased by the Wexford Opera might seem like the highest recommendation you can give an artist, and that it speaks volumes to her talent. Yet it’s not that simple.”

COT’s application on behalf of Boyle actually did pass muster in Step 1 of the visa process, receiving written approval from the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services, Tietz explained. But the second step — involving an in-person visit by Boyle to the American consulate in Dublin — hit an unexpected roadblock when the consul cited an insufficient abundance of international awards, big-city reviews, commercial recordings and other evidence traditionally available.

Because of Boyle’s extremely fast rise, Tietz said, those credentials are still being acquired.

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Captions and credits: Home page and top: Chicago Opera Theater’s original promotion of “The Magic Flute” starring Claudia Boyle as Queen of the Night. Descending: Soprano Claudia Boyle in “PASQUAL€,” a 2011 update of the Donizetti opera by Dublin-based Opera Theatre Company. (Photo by Kip Carroll) Soprano Emily Hindrichs has been tapped to take over the role.  Soprano Claudia Boyle as La Comtesse in  “La Cour de Célimène” at Wexford Festival Opera 2011. (Courtesy Wexford Festival Opera) Below: Emily Hindrichs as Queen of the Night with the English National Opera in 2009. (Photo by Richard H. Smith)  Claudia Boyle sings “Qui la voce” from Bellini’s “I puritani” in recital, as captured on YouTube. 

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