Lyric Opera unveils 2014-2015 season of old and new
Sondra Radvanovsky as Anne Boleyn/Cade Marin/Washington National Opera
BY ANDREW PATNER
Lyric Opera of Chicago will mark its 60th anniversary season with a wider array of works than offered this year, but one that still reflects past planning as much as new ideas.
Although three new productions -- and three productions new to Chicago -- will be presented, only the previously announced rediscovered Holocaust-related opera The Passenger will be new to the repertoire at the Civic Opera House. A number of rising singers, Ryan Opera Center alumni, and others new to or long absent from Lyric are cast as leads or in role débuts.
Contracting singers and conductors, fundraising and other planning means that many aspects of opera seasons are set years in advance. And even though Lyric general director Anthony Freud is in his third year heading the company, he won't have a full season that originated with him to report until the 2015-2016 program. Responding to the economic downturn of the last decade and changes in ticket-buying habits, Freud's predecessor William Mason had made a heavy shift to conservative choices and revivals in his last years as Lyric boss.
Freud said at a Monday morning press conference that all but one of next season's operas had been chosen before his arrival although he and music director Andrew Davis had some flexibility on productions and casting.
Three Italian works, three German/Austrian (though one with an Italian libretto), one American, and one from Eastern Europe and Russia make up the eight opera season. A new production by Goodman Theatre artistic director Robert Falls of the first work produced by what was then Lyric Theatre in 1954, Mozart's Don Giovanni, will open the season in late September. The popular 1787 drama is also the oldest work on the series. Falls made his debut as an opera director at Lyric 20 years ago with Carlisle Floyd's Susannah. (The Lyric début of one Renée Fleming in the title role.)
Four very different 19th century works -- Verdi's Il trovatore with an all-star cast of mostly younger singers, a rare revival -- and new production -- of Donizetti's bel canto Anna Bolena, only the third Lyric presentation of Wagner's Tannhäuser and Puccini's turn-of-the-century box-office guaranteed Tosca in a new production with some much coveted new singers in two casts -- are on the bill.
Three 20th century compositions -- the 1942 Capriccio by Richard Strauss with a make-good Chicago operatic return by Lyric creative consultant and Super Bowl diva Fleming (as previously announced); a return of the hit production of Porgy and Bess from five seasons ago, this time with Lyric's future Wotan Eric Owens as Porgy; and Mieczysław Weinberg's The Passenger, completed in 1968 but not produced until 2010 -- are also set.
Davis will conduct four operas including the opening Mozart, the Strauss and Wagner, and the Weinberg première. Chorus master Michael Black will lead the Lyric chorus in all performances except Capriccio, which has no chorus.
Speaking from New York via Skype, Fleming said that she has never "been so inundated with congratulations and recommendations" as she has for her impending Super Bowl gig. "People are glad that I won't 'embellish' the national anthem, but how could I except with Baroque ornamentation?" she asked with a laugh.
There is no operetta this year, but the previously announced post-season Rodgers & Hammerstein musical, the rather operatic Carousel, will star a popular Carmen, Denyce Graves. In other audience development news, an all-new mariachi opera is being commissioned for March 2015, a gala 60th anniversary concert and "Diamond Ball" are set for November 1, a new children's operatic collage, The Magic Victrola, will premiere in January 2015, and pianist Lang Lang will return for a recital complete with video projection screens in May of next year.
The mariachi opera follows the great success downtown and in community performances last season of the first such work imported from Houston, Freud's former home base. Jose “Pepe” Martínez and librettist Leonard Foglia this time will create El pasado nunca se termina (“The Past Is Never Finished”) set in 1910, the year of the Mexican Revolution.
Among those singers making debuts or important returns: Andriana Chuchman, Anna Sofie von Otter, Yonghoon Lee, Amber Wagner (in two major roles), Quinn Kelsey, Gwendolyn Brown, Sondra Radvanovsky, Jamie Barton, Bryan Hymel, John Relyea (twice), Riccardo Muti favorite Tatiana Serjan, Hui He, Evgeny Nikitin, and Gerald Finley.
Casting was also announced for The Passenger, with local rising star soprano Amanda Majeski in the lead role joined by Daveda Karanas, Brandon Jovanovich, Joshua Hopkins, Kelly Kaduce, and Judith Forst.
Lyric again offers subscription savings of up to 40 percent on all series and this year is freezing both fixed-date subscription and individual ticket prices. Some subscription prices are lowered. Reduced children's prices ($20-$50) for all operas will be offered for the first time.
Sixty-eight performances of eight operas -- the same numbers as this season -- will run from September 27, 2014 to March 15, 2015.
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 2015.
Subscriptions are on sale online at lyricopera.org, by phone at (312) 827-5600, or by mail or in person at Lyric, 20 N. Wacker Dr., Suite 840, Chicago, 60606.
2014-15 LYRIC OPERA SEASON RUNDOWN
Mozart's Don Giovanni Sep. 27-Oct. 29, with Mariusz Kwiecien, Marina Rebeka, Ana María Martínez, Kyle Ketelsen, Andriana Chuchman, Antonio Poli, Michael Sumuel, Andrea Silvestrelli. Davis conducts. New Robert Falls production sets by Walt Spangler, costumes by Ana Kuzmanic.
Richard Strauss's Capriccio Oct. 6-28, with Renée Fleming, Anne Sofie von Otter, Bo Skovhus, William Burden, Audun Iversen, Peter Rose. Davis conducts. Peter McClintock directs John Cox's Metropolitan Opera production.
Verdi's Il Trovatore Oct 27-Nov. 29, with Yonghoon Lee, Amber Wagner, Stephanie Blythe, Quinn Kelsey, Andrea Silvestrelli. Asher Fisch conducts. Leah Hausman is director and choreographer of the revival of David McVicar's Lyric production.
George Gershwin, Ira Gershwin, and DuBose Heyward's Porgy and Bess Nov. 17-Dec. 20, with Eric Owens, Adina Aaron, Jermaine Smith, Eric Greene, Angel Blue, Karen Slack, Norman Garrett, Gwendolyn Brown. Ward Stare conducts. Francesca Zambello directs the revival of her own Washington Opera production.
Donizetti's Anna Bolena Dec. 6-Jan. 16, 2015, with Sondra Radvanovsky, Jamie Barton, Bryan Hymel, John Relyea, Kelley O’Connor. Patrick Summers conducts a new production by director Kevin Newbury and designer Neil Patel.
Puccini's Tosca Jan. 24-Feb. 5 and Feb 27-March 14, 2015, with double casts of Tatiana Serjan/Hui He, Misha Didyk/Jorge de Leon, Evgeny Nikitin/Mark Delavan. Dmitri Jurowski makes his Lyric conducting debut with John Caird and designer Bunny Christie's new production, commissioned by Freud in Houston.
Wagner's Tannhäuser Feb. 9-March 6, 2015, with Johan Botha, Amber Wagner, Michaela Schuster, Gerald Finley, John Relyea. Davis conducts and Tim Albery directs his Covent Garden, London, production.
Mieczysław Weinberg's The Passenger Feb. 24-March 15, 2015, with Amanda Majeski, Daveda Karanas, Brandon Jovanovich, Joshua Hopkins, Kelly Kaduce, Judith Forst. Davis conducts and David Pountney stages his own international production.
Rodgers & Hammerstein's Carousel April 2015, with Denyce Graves and remaining cast to be announced. Rob Fisher conducts, Rob Ashford directs the all-new production.