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Chicago's Lyric turns best-seller into opera

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The Lyric Opera of Chicago is commissioning a new opera based on a best-selling book.

Bel Canto 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.

In Patchett’s book, terrorists take people hostage, including a famous opera singer, and some of them fall in love.

Bel Canto will be the Lyric’s first opera by a Latino composer and a librettist.

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.

In Bel Canto, Lopez says, “Music comes as a redeemer. Music comes to unite everyone under just very, very strenuous circumstances. There’s an opera right there.”

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.

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.

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