Even though it was a while ago, I’m still basking in the afterglow of the last performance we saw at Lyric Opera of Chicago, The Rising Stars Concert.
That’s pretty much the way it is with Lyric. The beauty of it reaches so many touch points—sight, sound, memory, comfort, emotion, luxury—I’m like putty in their skillful hands! That makes me fairly well-positioned to tell you what Lyric Opera of Chicago’s 2008-2009 season felt like—even as seen from our untrained eyes. Here’s a collage of our happy—make that dazzled—memories. If you care to, you can compare this story with my first, written before I ever set foot in Lyric: http://http://tinyurl.com/5vnc9r.
Opulence R us!
Enter the massive, bronze doors of Lyric Opera House and marvel at the dazzling Austrian crystal chandelier, 40-foot high Roman columns and intricately
stenciled ceiling, all greet guests with shimmering opulence.
The Civic Opera House building, designed with a masterfully-crafted blend of Art Nouveau and Art Deco architectural styles, is the vision of Samuel Insull, a
Chicago billionaire who wanted to build an opera house to serve as a home for the Chicago Civic Opera. To achieve his vision, he demanded five requisites:
safety, excellent sight lines, comfortable seating, gracious surroundings and premium acoustics.
Meticulous attention has been paid to every conceivable detail from the art on the walls and sconces to free, high-powered opera glasses available at the coat checks to TV monitors in the lobby for latecomers. If you have experienced it, you know what I mean. If you haven’t, you must.
Great way to spend a weekend
Without realizing it, we did something very wise—we bought tickets for operas on two separate weekends. So we decided to stay in town for the weekend. If you can swing it, we strongly recommend it. It’s the frosting on the cake. In November, we stayed at the Hotel Monaco. To read my review of our
delightful stay there, visit http://http://tinyurl.com/c7grxd.
We checked in Friday afternoon, had dinner, strolled over to see Porgy and Bess, and after the opera, passed all those people standing in line for cabs as we ambled back to our hotel.
Porgy and Bess was such an easy way to be introduced to the opera. But we also took advantage of the fascinating, fact-packed, beautifully presented Porgy
and Bess Symposium. The wealth of information from every conceivable angle enriched our evening immensely. One of several presentations in Lyric’s
Discovery Series (also accessible on Lyric’s website), it made the difference between enjoyable and deeply moving. At the end of the performance, I was
sure Porgy would find Bess. We hummed some of our favorite tunes on the way over to the opera. On the way back, we added some of the lyrics. Its familiarity made it all the more memorable.
But it didn’t begin to prepare us for the opera we saw the next evening, Lulu! Thank goodness we took advantage of this year’s Lyric Season Companion and all the invaluable background information about both operas! Without it, we would have been shell shocked. But with the Companion, we were able to compare and contrast both operas and enjoy them in their own right. To read my review of both operas, visit http://http://tinyurl.com/c5b7v9.
I’d like to add one more resource to the list, Lyric Opera News, a slick, savvy magazine that presents the operas from yet again another angle—the many
talented people behind the scenes from William Mason, General Director to Magda Krance, Manager Media Relations, and Jack Zimmerman, Subscriber Relations Manager and Media Services. Roger Pines, Lyric's dramaturg, contributes to both Lyric Opera News and the Discovery Series in a major way. Their personal observations and day-to-day impressions add up to uncanny insights and brilliant interpretations. All these resources combine to create a short, pleasurable course in the opera.
The Backstage Tour—a Towering Fun House
I don’t know where adults can have more fun indoors than on the Backstage Tour. Honestly, if there was anything we didn’t see, touch, examine, question and thoroughly explore, I don’t know what it was. We tried on costumes, received free posters, walked the catwalk (and looked down! See the picture in the story!) Yes, you can read that story at: http://tinyurl.com/c7u9mr. Whether you’re a lover of opera, theater, costumes, wigs, or Chicago history, you’ll enjoy it.
Add to that the invaluable super titles for all operas--including those in English!-- and there it is—a perfectly lyrical operatic experience.
That said, the coming 2009-2010 season, including new productions of Ernani, The Merry Widow and The Damnation of Faust, promises to be another sensational tour de force. With the added Friday matinees and subscriptions for four operas for at little as $100, there's never been a better time for you to take the plunge! Read on. You'll agree:
- Puccini’s Tosca opens the season followed by
- Gounod’s Faust – one of the season’s two interpretations of the famous Faustian legend.
- Gorgeous sets and costumes transport us to Renaissance Spain for Verdi’s Ernani.
- Janáček’s heartbreaking tale of Katya Kabanova.
- Lehár’s effervescent operetta The Merry Widow.
- Donizetti’s comic gem, The Elixir of Love.
- Berlioz’s “dramatic legend” The Damnation of Faust – which is premiering at Lyric in a brand-new production.
- Mozart’s sublime human comedy The Marriage of Figaro will close the season.
For information and subscriptions to Lyric’s 55th season call 312-332-2244, or visit www.lyricopera.org.
Photos: Lyric Opera of Chicago, Dan Rest