My Chicago Sun-Times and suntimes.com preview story on Lyric Opera of Chicago's 2013-2014 season.
Posted Thursday February 7, 2013 at 3 p.m. CST. Published Friday February 8, 2013.
Lyric Opera offers tried and true for its 2013-14 season
'Rusalka' is only work new to the rep, but new and new-to Chicago prodiuctions aboundBY ANDREW PATNER
As Lyric Opera of Chicago approaches its 60th anniversary next year, the company on Thursday announced a 2013-14 season of eight operas largely consisting of the tried, the true, and the Italian.
Continuing the conservative programming put into place by retired general director William Mason -- opera seasons are planned and artists contracted years in advance -- Lyric will present only one opera new to its repertoire: an eagerly awaited Rusalka by Antonin Dvořák.
But there are no operas composed after 1904 nor any from earlier than the late 18th century -- nor any American or English-language works. Parsifal will be the Wagner offering and Johann Strauss’s Die Fledermaus the operetta. Otherwise, two Verdis for his anniversary year, Otello and La traviata; one Puccini, Madama Butterfly; one Rossini, The Barber of Seville, and late Mozart, his last operatic creation, in Italian, La clemenza di Tito, not seen here since 1989.
Lyric also announced that its nascent post-season American Musical Theater Initiative will continue for at least four additional years in coöperation with the Rodgers & Hammerstein Organization as a purely R&H enterprise. The series launches in May with Oklahoma! The Sound of Music, Carousel, The King and I and South Pacific will follow through 2017.
There will be a focus on new productions, though. with four débuting and three from elsewhere to be seen here for the first time. Only Peter Hall’s Otello will be a revival, perhaps a first for this cost-conscious company.
General director Anthony Freud pointed out at a press conference Thursday that the company “works on a 10-year plan” and that repertoire is looked at within that frame and context. (The 2015-2016 season will be the first wholly planned by Freud.) Added Lyric music director Andrew Davis, “This is certainly not our most way-out season.”
Freud said as well that “the next few years” would see more rarities and some of the increasingly popular bel canto repertoire of the early 19th century. In the earky 1970s, Lyric and the American mezzo Marilyn Horne played a role in reviving these works.
Lyric creative consultant Renée Fleming again will not appear in any operas but she and German tenor Jonas Kaufmann -- also absent from the opera roster -- will present the annual subscriber concert, with the Lyric Orchestra, in March 2014. Fleming, who also participated in the press conference, will appear in Strauss’s Capriccio the following season, as previously announced.
There are several house débuts and unusual casting choices: mezzo Isabel Leonard debuts as Rosina, Latvian Marina Rebeka as Violetta, Juliane Banse as Rosalinde, South African Amanda Echalaz as Cio-Cio San, and Daveda Karanas as Kundry.
Returning artists Ana María Martínez will sing her first Desdemona, Jill Grove and Eric Owens make role débuts in Rusalka, Matthew Polenzani will take on Tito, and most unexpectedly, tenor Paul Groves moves from a lighter, largely French repertoire to the title role in Parsifal.
Welcome returns also are made by Joyce DiDonato as Sesto in La clemenza; Patricia Racette, also as Cio-Cio San; Thomas Hampson as Amfortas; Joseph Calleja as Alfredo; Nathan Gunn as Figaro; Brandon Jovanovich as the Prince in Rusalka; and two rising Ryan Center alumni, Amanda Majeski in La clemenza and Quinn Kelsey stepping up to the elder Germont in La traviata after break-out appearances at Lyric this season.
Davis leads three works: Parsifal, Rusalka, and La clemenza. Notable conducting débuts include Frenchman Bertrand de Billy for the season-opening Otello and Michele Mariotti, now leading Rigoletto at the Metropolitan Opera.
As with the Met, stage directors with high profile theater and musical experience will shape new productions. John Caird of the Royal Shakespeare Company, London’s Royal National Theatre, and one of Freud’s former homes, Welsh National Opera, will stage Parsifal. Arin Arbus of the alternative Theatre for a New Audience in New York City will be a rare woman directing La traviata. Tony Award-winning choreographer and Broadway director Rob Ashford takes up Barber.
The popular director-designer team of David McVicar and John Macfarlane will be responsible for the brand-new Rusalka. And the Clemenza that McVicar directed and designed at the 2011 Aix-en-Provence Festival will be restaged.
Freud expressed pride in this season’s Lyric Unlimited projects, including the sold-out The Second City Guide to the Opera and Popcorn and Pasquale for families, as well as the upcoming mariachi opera Cruzar la Cara de la Luna (“To Cross the Face of the Moon”), and said additional such programs will be announced for next season “in due course.”
“Innovative schemes and ways of funding them” for local large-screen video transmission are under review, Freud said. Referring to the Met’s “Live in HD” series, he added, “But the type of HD transmission to movie houses around the country and around the world and all that entails does not interest us in that way.”
In an effort to balance costs, income, and audience development, Lyric will now offer subscription savings of up to 40 percent on all series. An overall ticket price increase of 2 percent will be offset by lower or frozen prices in sections of the main floor, balcony, and upper balcony.
The 24-week, 68-performance season opens October 5 with Verdi’s Otello starring Johan Botha, Martínez, and Falk Struckmann and runs through March 23.
Chicago's 98.7WFMT and wfmt.com will broadcast all opening performances live and then will syndicate the full season internationally in May and June 2014.
Subscriptons are on sale online at lyricopera.org, by phone at (312) 332-2244 ext. 5600, fax (312) 332-8120, or by mail or in person at Lyric, 20 North Wacker Drive, Suite 840, 60606.