Articles tagged with: Lyric Opera of Chicago
Review: The great power of Richard Strauss’ “Elektra” lies in the transmogrification of a timeless tragedy through harrowing vocal music reinforced by an orchestral score so vivid, so nearly verbal, that it might stand alone as a symphonic drama. The magnificence of Lyric Opera of Chicago’s current production resides in the depth of its humanity – that depth sounded by tremendous vocal performances and orchestral playing, under Donald Runnicles, that is absolutely graphic. ★★★★
Review: When people talk about high-energy spectacle and romantic intensity in Italian opera, “Il Trovatore” is the classic Exhibit A. An instant hit when it opened in Rome, it’s still a winner. Lyric’s three-way production with the San Francisco Opera and the Met is a concept that remains dynamic and fresh, from the flash and wham of gypsy smithies hammering away at their swords in the extravagant Anvil Chorus, to the tragic love triangle that complicates a civil war unfolding. ★★★★
Review: It has been coming on for a while, the increasing élan with which Chicago’s Lyric Opera presents its springtime musical productions. This year’s outsize rock opera, “Jesus Christ Superstar,” launches with the shock and the thrill of a revolution underway, as dozens of young men and women in their athletic prime charge down the aisles and leap joyfully onto the klieg-lit stage.
Review: Leonard Bernstein’s “Trouble in Tahiti” may have been prophetic when it first soared into living rooms via black-and-white TV in 1952, but it can hardly have felt convenient. Married couples of the time – the ones creating the babies of the postwar suburban baby boom – might have felt awkwardly alarmed by the troubles of Dinah and Sam, brought to life by mezzo-soprano Susan Graham and baritone Nathan Gunn, two of opera’s finest singing actors at the height of their powers, in a wry comedy of cold clarity but also generosity of spirit.
Review: The new “Faust” at the Lyric has a strong visual aesthetic and modern psychological insight, conceived by the visionary California artist John Frame and brought to the stage by a young production team led by director Kevin Newbury and set-costume designer Vita Tzykun. The impressive cast under the baton of French conductor Emmanuel Villaume stars tenor Benjamin Bernheim – in his American debut – as the doomed Faust and bass-baritone Christian Van Horn as Hell’s provocative emissary, bent on his destruction. And although the conductor and the impressive star tenor are French, this “Faust” has a bracing American vibe and cinematic feel. ★★★★
Review: It’s essentially chamber music, Mozart’s splendorous opera “Cosi fan tutte,” and it is a stellar sextet of singers that Lyric Opera of Chicago has assembled in a setting that is itself a picture of elegant intimacy. Despite its gender-specific title, “Cosi fan tutte” – or Women Are Like That – is a double-edged satire of the wobbly ways of love. Never mind that the course of true love never did run smooth; this delicious slice of musical mirth contrived by Mozart and librettist Lorenzo Da Ponte declares that affection is inherently mutable: It is the very oiseau rebelle that Carmen celebrates in Bizet’s opera. ★★★★★
Second Look: It was soprano Janai Brugger’s scheduled mid-run insertion as Liù, in Puccini’s “Turandot,” that drew me back for a second look at the Lyric Opera of Chicago production. But while Brugger’s performance rewarded my reprise, the experience also underscored some important truths about this last of Puccini’s operas – and about the real merit of the Lyric’s success with it.
Review: A dark and mythical love story set long, long ago in an imaginary locale in China, Giacomo Puccini’s final opera, “Turandot,” has traditionally brought out the grand in grand opera. And so it does again in Lyric Opera of Chicago’s lavish production, which is dominated by a massive, eye-grabbing sculpture of a serpentine dragon that undulates across and through a steeply raked set with an array of other changing scenic touches. ★★★
Review: For a living, pulsating definition of Romanticism, look no further than the 25-year-old Georges Bizet’s opera “The Pearl Fishers.” Worlds away from the verismo terrain of “Carmen,” which would cap Bizet’s brief life just 12 years later, “Les pêcheurs de perles” is an exotic love poem set in ancient Ceylon, its soaring lyricism consummated in one man’s ultimate sacrifice offered to another in the name of both love and friendship. The whole seductive package – remote enchantment, grand singing, evocative costumes, stylized sets – comes together in a splendid production at the Lyric Opera of Chicago. ★★★★
Review: There are times in opera when great singing rises above problematic production. Voices triumph over Konzept. But not even a glorious performance by bass-baritone Eric Owens – or the exemplary musical leadership of Andrew Davis – could compensate for the sum of gruesome design and muddle-headed staging heaped upon Wagner’s “Die Walküre” at Lyric Opera of Chicago. ★★★
‘Rigoletto’ at the Lyric Opera: Not for the eye, but it’s a triple treat vocally, and that’s no jest
Review: Thanks to the vocally resplendent and emotionally engaged performances by baritone Quinn Kelsey as the hateful and paranoid court jester Rigoletto, soprano Rosa Feola as his sheltered and naïve daughter Gilda and tenor Matthew Polenzani as the sexually predatory Duke of Mantua, the Lyric Opera of Chicago’s take on Verdi’s “Rigoletto” pays significant rewards as psychological drama. But this bleak, objectified production created 20 years ago for the San Francisco Opera with sets by Michael Yeargan – and directed here by E. Loren Meeker – all but nullifies the work as theater. ★★★
Review: Musical artistry at 360º was on display April 9 at the Lyric Opera of Chicago in a joint recital by tenor Lawrence Brownlee and bass-baritone Eric Owens, with the marvelously adroit Craig Terry at the piano. Through a rousing program, the two singers showed their vast, enthusiastic and refreshingly diverse audience a broad and deeply felt repertoire of spirituals, traditional songs and Broadway favorites as well as the opera for which they are celebrated.
Review: Lest any insatiable lover of Bizet’s opera “Carmen” be put off by the idea of a “second cast,” as the Lyric Opera of Chicago has now changed the leads in its continuing production, let me put this as plainly as possible: The mid-run advent of mezzo-soprano Anita Rachvelishvili in the title role, with tenor Brandon Jovanovich now portraying the tragically smitten Don José, isn’t just hot stuff; it is scorched earth. ★★★★
Review: There was palpable energy at the Civic Opera House on March 9 when the Lyric Opera of Chicago presented “Celebrating Placido,” an evening of music and mirth with the remarkable Placido Domingo, who at age 76 still engenders that singular frisson felt upon hearing his first phrases as only the greatest vocalists are able to do.
Review: Love took a glorious beating in the final grand opera of the Lyric Opera of Chicago’s season, but then it has been pretty much that way since October. Prince Tamino and Princess Pamina lived happily ever after, but otherwise things ended badly for the aspiring lovers of 2016-17. Now the Lyric gives us Tchaikovsky’s cynical anti-hero Eugene Onegin, brought to life in a devastating package of elegance and self-deluding condescension by baritone Mariusz Kwiecień. ★★★★
Review: There is much to recommend the new Lyric Opera production of Bizet’s “Carmen,” a joint venture with the Houston Grand Opera. Topping the list is mezzo-soprano Ekaterina Gubanova’s scorching performance in her role debut as the Gypsy femme fatale. But in the final act, where amid much splendor one anticipates a hair-raising pay-off, director-choreographer Rob Ashford loses his way. ★★★
Review: There is no Verdi at the Lyric Opera of Chicago this season, but there is plenty of Italian spectacle from the generation prior. Donizetti’s crazed “Lucia di Lammermoor” bowed earlier this season, and now comes Bellini’s “Norma,” the bel canto saga of a Druid high priestess betrayed in love. Sondra Radvanovsky stars in a majestic turn. ★★★★
Review: The ultimate holiday gift for arts lovers this season is Lyric Opera of Chicago’s rambunctiously retro world premiere production of Mozart’s “The Magic Flute,” set triumphantly in the world headquarters of the baby boom. Which is to say, a backyard of the ’50s and ’60s, as seen through the eyes of a child. This nostalgic feat is an exceptional musical delight and a fine show for families of all ages. What makes this show giftable is its extended January run. ★★★★
Review: Ambitious out of the gate, the 2016-17 Lyric Opera of Chicago season gave us Part I of Wagner’s “Ring” cycle, with Rhinemaidens, giants and a dragon. In December the company will offer Mozart’s “The Magic Flute,” with trials of fire and water, a feathered bird-catcher and another dragon. In between we have seen high-flying coloratura (“Lucia di Lammermoor”) and a new high-tech stage toy in Berlioz’ “Les Troyens.” Time now for some simple old-school tradition? Whyever not? The Lyric’s presentation of Massenet’s “Don Quichotte” is pure operatic comfort food. ★★★★
Review: Berlioz’s grandiose opera “Les Troyens” is a tale of two cities. The ambitious new production mounted by the Lyric Opera of Chicago, the company’s first presentation of this prodigiously demanding work, is an epic venture with two outcomes. Musically, it is resplendent, a huge success by a stellar cast under the leadership of Andrew Davis; conceptually, which is really to say visually, this “Troyens” – The Trojans — struggles to bear its own leaden weight. ★★★
Review: The setting is Transylvania. Oh, wait a minute. I mean Schaumburg, and Bayreuth. I was confusing “Longer, Louder Wagner!,” the wild and crazy Second City-Lyric Opera of Chicago send-up of Wagner’s “Ring” operas, with the Mel Brooks-Gene Wilder film “Young Frankenstein.” Silly me. And yet…he is alive! ★★★
Review: For Donizetti’s bel canto masterpiece “Lucia di Lammermoor,” the Lyric Opera of Chicago has chosen well to wrap the dazzling young Russian soprano Albina Shagimuratova in the vintage production of British director Graham Vick. Despite its age, there’s something very modern about Lucia’s murderous disintegration in Vick’s not-to-miss installment at the Lyric. The role of the innocent and doomed Scottish lass Lucia features one of the greatest mad scenes in all of opera. ★★★★
Review: If the Lyric Opera of Chicago’s enchanting production of “Das Rheingold” proves to be, like the opera itself, an augury of things to come, we’re in for a magical ride across the company’s four-year project to re-create Wagner’s epic tetralogy “The Ring of the Nibelung.” ★★★★
Review: Andrew Davis, music director of the Lyric Opera of Chicago and conductor of the company’s new four-year “Ring” cycle, which gets underway Oct. 1 with “Das Rheingold,” speaks with resolute pride about the focus of this prodigious enterprise. “We all wanted very much to make sure the characters were the most important thing,” says the maestro.
Review: A concert exhibition of “Stars of the Lyric Opera,” which brought down the curtain on this summer’s Grant Park Music Festival on Sept. 9, offered a promising augury of the Lyric’s impending season, which opens Oct. 1 with Wagner’s “Das Rheingold” – herald of the company’s planned “Ring” cycle.
Review: Even amid the multi-year run of successes the Lyric Opera of Chicago has enjoyed in its annual spring offerings of great American musicals, the current production of Rogers and Hammerstein’s “The King and I” is exceptional, a theatrical experience as visually and musically resplendent as it is emotionally true. ★★★★★
Review: The excitement surrounding Dmitri Hvorostovsky’s solo recital presented by the Lyric Opera of Chicago, on Feb. 26, was palpable even blocks away from the opera house, in an enormous din of anticipatory chatter in the parking garage elevator – much of it in Russian as that sizable Chicago community turned out in droves. The celebrated Siberian baritone did not disappoint.
Review: For the authentic meaning of music-drama, as an ideal melding of theater with the emotional accentuation of words buoyed by music, look no further than the Lyric Opera of Chicago’s riveting and vocally splendid production of Gounod’s “Romeo and Juliet.” ★★★★
Review: There was a palpable sense of past, present and future in the Civic Opera House on Feb. 8, when the Lyric Opera of Chicago presented Richard Strauss’ exquisite 1911 opera “Der Rosenkavalier,” his domestic comedy of love and loss in the Mozartean vein. The tale swirls around the gentle crisis of a beautiful but lonely Viennese countess who feels her youth slipping away, sung by Illinois soprano Amanda Majeski, a promising singer at the threshold of a significant career. ★★★★
Review: The best way to experience a performance of Verdi’s “Nabucco” is to think like an actor thinks. Stay in the moment completely. Don’t overthink the logic, the plot complications, the evidence of history. Avoid those traps and the musical impact of “Nabucco” — which is currently on the boards at the Lyric Opera of Chicago, where several mighty singing actors are doing terrific work – will thrill you to your bones.★★★★