Risking Everything for Opera – Chicago Reader


“Well, here we are,” was how Lyric CEO Anthony Freud greeted an audience deeply happy to be back at the Opera for the first time, 18 months after the COVID shutdown – despite revolutionary masks and infections.

Then the curtain rose on a grim and dreary new production of Verdi’s relentlessly grim and dreary opera, Macbeth. An appropriate way to mark Lyric’s first season under the direction of its new musical director, Enrique Mazzola, one of Verdi’s first specialists? Sure.

But after a year and a half of our grim pandemic reality? In the surprisingly clumsy production of director David McVicar and designer John Macfarlane, which confines the entire opera in four acts and nearly three hours to the sparse gray interior of the same 19th-century ‘ruined Presbyterian chapel’ ?

After all this isolated time, brooding in our own crooked heads, staring at our own sparse walls? Traps, zombie children, one room?

A program book essay gives this concept a tough sell, and it’s probably not cheap, but it looks like Lyric must have skimped on the sets at best. Blame the pandemic.

Still, it’s wonderful to be in the room with Lyric’s great orchestra, superb chorus, and world-class cast. Soprano Sondra Radvanovsky (in her first role in the role) is a powerful Lady Macbeth; bass-baritone Craig Colclough is her fatally weak husband; tenor Joshua Guerrero is an obviously distressed Macduff; and Ryan Opera Center alumnus bass-baritone Christian Van Horn makes a loyal Banquo, whether alive or as undead.

Macbeth, Thu 9/23, 2 p.m., Thu 9/30, 7 p.m., Sun 10/3, 2 p.m., Wed 10/6, 2 p.m. and Sat 10/9, 7:30 p.m., Lyric Opera, 20 N. Wacker, 312-827-5600, $ 39 to $ 319; lyricopera.org.
The infinite energy of Ada Lovelace and Petticoats and crimps, through October 3, Friday through Saturday at 7:30 p.m., Sunday at 3:00 p.m., The Edge Theater, 5451 N. Broadway; $ 30, seniors and students $ 25; Thirdeyete.com

Jamie Barton and Stephanie Blythe in the Chicago Opera Theater Carmen. Credit: Michael Brosilow

Meanwhile, this past weekend saw the only two performances of Bizet’s semi-staged concert version of Chicago Opera Theater. Carmen– a production that has proven that if you’re creative enough, you don’t need any scenery to wow an opera audience. Just place two great mezzo-sopranos in roles that each dreamed of playing but thought they would never get the chance, give them a nice little supporting cast (cleverly led by Joachim Schamberger) and an orchestra. full (led by COT musical director Lidiya Yankovskaya) and watch the fireworks display. Jamie Barton – her sneering sneer and creamy tone – ruled like an iconoclastic Carmen; Stephanie Blythe, a tenor alter ego, a blatant fake beard and a stunning tenor voice, was fully convincing as her dangerously rejected lover, Don José. If you were lucky enough to be in the Harris Theater audience for this, you won’t forget it.

The infinite energy of Ada Lovelace with the Third Eye Theater Ensemble. Credit: Clint Funk

On the stage of bolder than glory opera, the Third Eye Theater Ensemble has opened a double list of contemporary works by women composers that takes as its subject pioneering women scientists. Petticoats and crimps is a two-handed short, in which Chicago composer Elizabeth Rudolph set to music the words of mechanical engineer Lois Graham and suffragist and writer Elisabeth Woodbridge, and The infinite energy of Ada Lovelace is a one-act opera with music by Kamala Sankaram and libretto by Rob Handel. Originally commissioned by Opera Ithaca, the opera tells the story of Ada Lovelace, the mathematically gifted daughter of Lord Byron and married mother of young children, who braved conventional mores to work with inventor Charles Babbage. on a first computer machine. Her situation as a “bird in a cage” is of dramatic interest, and the score, beautifully performed by a chamber ensemble conducted by Alexandra Enyart, includes some beautiful moments, but these two pieces would gain greatly from the addition of projected titles. .


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