WBEZ | lyric opera of chicago http://www.wbez.org/tags/lyric-opera-chicago Latest from WBEZ Chicago Public Radio en Renowned theater companies pair up for operatic laughs http://www.wbez.org/sections/art/renowned-theater-companies-pair-operatic-laughs-101019 <p><div class="image-insert-image "><img alt="" class="image-original_image" src="http://www.wbez.org/system/files/styles/original_image/llo/insert-images/tragedina2.jpg" style="float: left; margin: 5px; height: 327px; width: 225px;" title="Princess Tragedina (WBEZ/Cassidy Herrington)" />Two Chicago theater companies are joining forces in an unlikely double act.<p>The Second City and Lyric Opera of Chicago announced Wednesday that cheeky comedy and classical singing will share the same stage in <em>The Second City Guide to Opera</em> this winter.</p><p>The Lyric&rsquo;s General Director Anthony Freud said the performance will not only appeal to opera fans, but also those who think &ldquo;an opera house was the last place in the world they would ever be entertained.&rdquo;</p><p>Second City spokesperson Alexandra Day said that each company will do what it does best, but with &ldquo;areas of what we hope will be hilarious overlap.&rdquo; &nbsp;The show will feature the celebrated soprano, Renee Fleming, and a comedy star to be announced at a later date.</p><p>Fleming is also the Lyric&rsquo;s creative consultant. She came up with the idea to unite Second City and the Lyric after hearing one of her recordings play during a Second City skit, Freud said. &nbsp;</p><p>&ldquo;On behalf of everyone (at) The Second City I want to thank Renee for not suing us,&rdquo; Kelly Leonard, Second City&rsquo;s executive vice president said. &ldquo;We are obviously thrilled that our use of unaccredited sampling has become an opportunity rather than a cease-and-desist letter.&rdquo;</p><p>Leonard said the two companies make a surprising but natural partnership because of the experimental nature of Chicago&rsquo;s art scene.</p><p>&ldquo;The city has always thrived when it mixes high art and low art,&rdquo; Leonard said. &ldquo;We are at our best when we are not bound by categories.&rdquo;</p><p>Lyric Opera&rsquo;s General Director Anthony Freud says the collaboration is an effort to bring opera to audiences of different backgrounds.</p><p>&ldquo;You can ask, &lsquo;What possible relevance could it have to a very 21<sup>st</sup> century, very un-European city like Chicago?,&rsquo;&rdquo; Freud said. &ldquo;What I can say is that if you distill opera down to its basics, what is it? It&rsquo;s telling stories through words and music.&rdquo;</p><p>Freud said the collaboration is part of the company&rsquo;s recently announced effort to bring opera to a wider audience. Lyric Unlimited focuses on community partnerships, education and performances at the opera house and around the city.</p><p>&ldquo;Together I think we can try to explore how opera can find a way of becoming truly relevant to people and communities for whom it has had absolutely no relevance up to now,&rdquo; Freud said.</p><p>This year, the Lyric will unveil its first program specifically designed for families, he said. It&rsquo;s an interactive 70-minute version of the classic, <em>Don Pasquale</em>, called <em>Popcorn and Pasquale</em>. The theater is offering lower ticket prices for families and is also partnering with sponsors to provide free tickets to families in need. Lyric Unlimited is funded by a $2 million award from the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation, announced earlier this month.</p><p>The Lyric&#39;s upcoming collaboration with The Second City is an example of these efforts to connect with new audiences and art forms.</p><p>To demonstrate the point, two Second City e.t.c. performers, Tawny Newsome and Michael Kosinski, acted out a musical sketch at the press conference Wednesday. The skit parodied the unlikely flirtation between opera and improv, featuring the operatic caricature,&ldquo;Princess Tragedina,&rdquo; and the improv actor, &ldquo;Gary.&rdquo; The troubled princess remarked how their relationship was hopeless because she requires &ldquo;elaborate sets&rdquo; &ndash; not typically found on an improv stage.</p><p>The fate of the Lyric and the improv relationship will unfold on the Civic Opera House&#39;s stage on Jan. 5.</p></div><p>&nbsp;</p></p> Wed, 18 Jul 2012 18:04:00 -0500 http://www.wbez.org/sections/art/renowned-theater-companies-pair-operatic-laughs-101019 Chicago's Lyric turns best-seller into opera http://www.wbez.org/story/chicagos-lyric-turns-best-seller-opera-96819 <img typeof="foaf:Image" src="http://llnw.wbez.org//story/photo/2012-February/2012-02-28/RS3553_lyricopera-scr.jpg" alt="" /><p><p>The Lyric Opera of Chicago is commissioning a new opera based on a best-selling book.</p><p><em>Bel Canto </em>by author Ann Patchett was inspired by the hostage crisis in the late 1990s in Peru. Guerrillas occupied the residence of the Japanese ambassador during a party. They released some hostages, but held others for more than four months before a raid by Peruvian commandos ended the stand-off.</p><p>In Patchett's book, terrorists take people hostage, including a famous opera singer, and some of them fall in love.</p><p><em>Bel Canto</em> will be the Lyric's first opera by a Latino composer and a librettist.</p><p>The composer, Jimmy Lopez, is a native Peruvian. He remembers being glued to the TV, watching the hostage crisis unfold. He says it left an "indelible mark" on the Peruvian psyche.</p><p>In<em> Bel Canto</em>, Lopez says, "Music comes as a redeemer. Music comes to unite everyone under just very, very strenuous circumstances. There's an opera right there."<br> <br> The Cuban-American playwright, Nilo Cruz, who's won a Pulitzer Prize, is writing the libretto. The noted director, writer and dramaturg, Stephen Wadsworth, will direct.<br> <br> The world premiere is scheduled for the 2015 season. The Lyric's already signed on Danielle de Niese to play the role of the fictional opera singer.</p></p> Tue, 28 Feb 2012 23:22:00 -0600 http://www.wbez.org/story/chicagos-lyric-turns-best-seller-opera-96819 The show won't go on? Lyric Opera's singers, dancers threaten strike http://www.wbez.org/story/show-wont-go-lyric-operas-singers-dancers-threaten-strike-90475 <img typeof="foaf:Image" src="http://llnw.wbez.org//story/photo/2011-August/2011-08-12/Lyric Opera_Flickr_Michael Lehet.jpg" alt="" /><p><p>The union representing singers and dancers at Lyric Opera of Chicago is threatening to strike.</p><p>The American Guild of Musical Artists represents nearly everyone on stage at the Lyric: the singers, the dancers, the actors and the production staff. The union is telling its members to be prepared to picket the annual free concert next month and possibly strike on opening night.</p><p>Union Executive Director Alan Gordon said the Lyric threatened to lock out workers on Aug. 22 over contract negotiations.</p><p>"We've made sacrifice after sacrifice in an effort to help Lyric improve its fiscal position, and we do not expect to be paid back by threats," Gordon said. He said negotiations are stuck because the Lyric wants to cut pay and benefits.</p><p>A Lyric spokeswoman confirmed the company is in contract negotiations, but wouldn't comment because she said it's company policy not to negotiate in the media.</p><p>The Lyric orchestra threatened a strike on the opening night of an opera two years ago over similar issues, saying members couldn't agree to a pay freeze and shorter seasons that would essentially cut pay. The parties resolved that dispute and avoided a strike.</p></p> Fri, 12 Aug 2011 10:00:00 -0500 http://www.wbez.org/story/show-wont-go-lyric-operas-singers-dancers-threaten-strike-90475 Lyric Opera of Chicago announces new general manager http://www.wbez.org/story/lyric-opera-chicago-announces-new-general-manager-85517 <img typeof="foaf:Image" src="http://llnw.wbez.org//story/photo/2011-April/2011-04-21/anthony freud.jpg" alt="" /><p><p>The Lyric Opera of Chicago has selected a new general director, the fourth in the company's history.<br> <br> Lyric officials announced the unanimous selection of Anthony Freud with many superlatives, citing his vision, experience and artistic standing. Freud has been general director of the Houston Grand Opera and the Welsh National Opera.</p><p>He also headed the jury for the BBC Cardiff Singer of the World Competition for a decade, and is the first person to chair both service organizations OPERA America and Opera Europa.</p><p>Freud said he was "absolutely thrilled" by his selection.</p><p>"I don't believe in a generic opera company serving a generic city," Freud said. "Lyric Opera of Chicago must truly be of and for Chicago as well as being a major international force."</p><p>He hopes to make opera accessible to new listeners, and to engage actively with the communities the Lyric serves.</p><p>In Houston, Freud started an initiative to reach out to the community that included opera in schools and commissions like a mariachi opera and a work featuring the voices of Houston's immigrants.</p><p>He said he wants to make sure the Lyric audience continues to enjoy opera of the "highest quality," while offering performances that are thrilling, thought-provoking and at times, provocative.</p><p>New commissions that entail performances of different scales in different places are essential, he said.</p><p>Freud will take over from William Mason, who's retiring after more than four decades. Mason started out in the children's chorus.<br> <br> "This truly has been a dream come true for me," Mason said. "I have spent a lifetime listening to music that I love, working with people who have been exhilarating, exciting --it's just been a great run."</p><p>Freud was chosen after an eight-month search.</p><p>Lyric Executive Vice President Kenneth Pigott said candidates were coming out of "windows and doors," hoping to become the new general director. He said Freud rose "head and shoulders" above the competition.</p><p>Freud's got a five-year contract here, and becomes the new general director in October.</p></p> Thu, 21 Apr 2011 22:01:00 -0500 http://www.wbez.org/story/lyric-opera-chicago-announces-new-general-manager-85517 Lyric Opera names new impresario http://www.wbez.org/blog/onstagebackstage/2011-04-21/lyric-opera-names-new-impressario-85492 <img typeof="foaf:Image" src="http://llnw.wbez.org//blog/photo/2011-April/2011-04-21/Anthony_Freud.jpg" alt="" /><p><p style="text-align: center;"><img alt="" class="caption" height="199" src="http://llnw.wbez.org/blog/insert-image/2011-April/2011-04-21/Anthony_Freud.jpg" title="Lyric Opera's new director Anthony Freud" width="300"></p><p><a href="http://www.lyricopera.org/">Lyric Opera of Chicago</a> today (April 21) named<a href="http://www.houstongrandopera.org/page.aspx?pageid=12017458"> Anthony Freud</a>, 53, as its new general director, effective October 1. The British-born Freud will be only the fourth leader of Lyric Opera in the company’s 58-year history. In a smooth transition, he succeeds <a href="http://www.lyricopera.org/about/william-mason.aspx">William Mason</a> who is retiring after 15 years in Lyric’s top post. Freud will guide a company with an annual budget in excess of $54 million. Lyric presents a seven-month season of eight productions in the 3,700-seat Civic Opera House on Wacker Drive, which the company owns.</p><p>Freud brings a combination of European and American experience which should give him a solid foundation to captain a company with a foot firmly planted on either side of the Atlantic Ocean. Freud was general director of the Welsh National Opera from 1994-2005, and has held the same position at Houston Grand Opera since then. Both companies are known for innovative programming, undoubtedly another plus for Freud in the selection process. Since the late 1980’s, Lyric Opera has commissioned a number of world premiere works and new productions in a series dubbed “Towards the 21st Century.”</p><p>Just within the last year, outgoing general director Mason has committed Lyric Opera to exploring the American musical theater repertory, an area in which the company only has dabbled in the past. But Lyric really will jump into the pond in the 2011-2012 season with a new production of the 1927 <em>Show Boat</em>. Although it was long before Freud’s tenure, Houston Grand Opera mounted a famous production of <em>Show Boat</em> in 1980, and also a staging of George Gershwin’s <em>Porgy and Bes</em>s in 1976. Both productions toured widely, with stops in Chicago.</p><p>Freud will supervise a business, production and artistic team of hundreds which already has several marquee names attached to it, among them music director and principal conductor Sir Andrew Davis, and recently-appointed artistic consultant Renee Fleming. A star soprano, Fleming not only has increased her singing commitments at Lyric over the next five years, but also will be one of the chief architects of the foray into American musical theater. In addition to next season’s <em>Show Boat</em>, a presentation of Rodgers and Hammerstein’s <em>Oklahoma </em>also is in development.</p><p style="text-align: center;"><img alt="" class="caption" height="298" src="http://llnw.wbez.org/blog/insert-image/2011-April/2011-04-21/William Mason Photo.jpg" title="William Mason will leave the position at the end of September" width="200"></p><p>What Freud does not have is Chicago experience. Lyric’s three previous general directors—Mason, Ardis Kranik (1981-1997) and Lyric co-founder Carol Fox (1954-1980)--all were Chicagoans. Indeed, Mason and Kranik started out as singers and learned their opera management chops at Lyric Opera itself, rising through the ranks. However, the absence of local roots is not viewed as an impediment to running a world-class opera company such as Lyric, which deals in an international artistic circle.</p><p>Still, Mason has used his knowledge of local Off-Loop Theater to expand Lyric Opera’s roster of artists, especially directors and designers. Under his tenure, Chicago theater directors such as Robert Falls (Goodman Theatre), Barbara Gaines (Chicago Shakespeare Theater), Charles Newell (Court Theatre) and Gary Griffin (multiple associations) all have staged productions at Lyric. Freud’s background in Cardiff, Wales and Houston strongly suggests that he has a sharp eye for the theatrical qualities of opera as well as the musical qualities, but it nonetheless will take him time to build relationships with local theater artists. Freud’s initial contract is for five years.</p></p> Thu, 21 Apr 2011 15:20:00 -0500 http://www.wbez.org/blog/onstagebackstage/2011-04-21/lyric-opera-names-new-impressario-85492 Renee Fleming dons new operatic hat at Chicago's Lyric http://www.wbez.org/story/culture/art/renee-fleming-dons-new-operatic-hat-chicagos-lyric <img typeof="foaf:Image" src="http://llnw.wbez.org//reneeflemingconcert.jpg" alt="" /><p><p>The world-famous soprano Renee Fleming is about to play a prominent role at the Lyric Opera of Chicago.</p><p>Fleming's voice has filled the opera house in the past. But now Chicagoans will see and hear a lot more of her. Fleming's just been named the Lyric's first creative consultant and elected a vice president of the board. She'll curate a new opera here. <br /><br />&quot;The only thing standing between opera as a living entity and opera as an historic art form is the creation of new works,&quot; Fleming said.<br /><br />Fleming plans to develop a program to find and nurture young singers, expose more people to opera, and present an annual musical, starting with &quot;Oklahoma.&quot; She'll keep singing and touring, and do more performances here.<br /><br />Fleming starts the five-year appointment right away. <br /><br /><br />&nbsp;</p></p> Fri, 10 Dec 2010 00:01:00 -0600 http://www.wbez.org/story/culture/art/renee-fleming-dons-new-operatic-hat-chicagos-lyric