Stars of Lyric Opera at Millennium Park Review – Scrumptious Appetizer for the 60th Season

 

Stars of the Lyric Opera, under the curving eaves of the Pritzker Pavilion in Millennium Park, took Chicagoans on an emotional ride through high and low notes and all in between.  

 

 

Geared as a sampler of the upcoming 60th Season, this was yet another flawless performance by the Lyric Orchestra and Chorus under the baton of Sir Andrew Davis.   The divas and divos assembled by the Lyric for the evening’s performance were captivating.  Sirens and city sounds in the surrounds were sometimes faintly heard but could not really compete.

 

Two hours prior to curtain the lawn was crowded and queues for the seats extended to park’s edge, seeming to give testimony to the Lyric’s cherished place in Chicagoans’ hearts. 

 

As concert hour approached the audience was entertained first by the US Air Force Band of MidAmerica, cheerfully playing songs like a Gershwin medley and “America the Beautiful” with a Bourbon Street flair.

 

 

Then the concert and WFMT simulcast began with introductions by the Lyric Opera’s General Director Anthony Freud, including announcements of two cast replacements.  Upon hearing that one last minute replacement, Robert McPherson, had just arrived at O’Hare airport barely more than an hour prior the audience broke into applause.

 

Make note of Freud’s special announcement that the code MP2014 (i.e. MP is for Millennium Park) can be used through Monday September 8 to get 30% discounted tickets for the upcoming season.

 

As the Lyric Orchestra began with Wagner’s Overture to “Tannhäuser”, it was fun for Grant Park Music Festival concert goers to see some of the same orchestra members playing on the Pritzker Pavilion stage but for their more fulltime gig.  This was rousing music, setting a tone of excitement for the evening as a whole, and also showcasing some of the beautiful music to be heard in February and March performances of this opera.

 

 

The operatic journey continued as we saw Don Juan’s voracious carnal appetites on display as a prelude his well-deserved descent to the gates of hell.  This was the Final Scene of the Second Act of Mozart’s “Don Giovanni”, with the title role sung by Mariusz Kwiecien, reputed to be the best living divo playing this historic role on world stages today.  “Don Giovanni” is not only the upcoming season opener for the Lyric this year, but also the very first opera staged by the Lyric in its opening performance 60 years ago.  

 

 

After the intermission the Lyric Opera Chorus (Chorus Master, Michael Black) regaled us with two very contrasting performances.  Mascagni’s “Hymn of the Sun” from “Iris” was joyful and celebratory, while Verdi’s “Patria oppressa” from “Macbeth” was a dirge-like mourning of Scotland’s fate.  Together, these two choral pieces were a spotlight on the chorus’ talent, which admittedly can sometimes be overshadowed by the star power you find in leading roles on the Lyric stage.

 

(Chorus enthusiasts take note--this fall, the Lyric Opera Chorus will give two special concerts that will feature the world-class ensemble performing operatic excerpts from Lyric’s 60th-anniversary season. Led by Chorus Master Michael Black, the Chorus will perform at Chicago’s Fourth Presbyterian Church (North Michigan Avenue and Delaware Place) on Friday, September 12 at 7 pm and at Evanston’s Alice Millar Chapel (1870 N. Sheridan Rd.) on Saturday, November 22 at 3 pm.  Tickets for these performances are still available and are only $20!)

 

Mark Delavan then gave us a taste of his rendition of the evil villain Scarpia that will be staged in the latter part of this 60th season.  He sang “Te Deum Finale” from “Tosca” Act 1 by Puccini, transporting us into his evil lusting for Tosca’s surrender as he dreams of conquering her and killing her lover. 

 

Delavan then sang the very different title role of Verdi’s “Rigoletto”, with especially beautiful accompaniments by Marina Rebeka singing the role of his love-struck daughter, Gilda.   

 

 

It was perhaps the crisp and sterling tenor tones of Robert McPherson making his Lyric debut in the “Rigoletto”role of The Duke that was most delicious.  He sang one of opera’s most popular tunes, “La Donna è Mobile”  (“Woman is Fickle”) and as he did heads bobbed along in the front rows in the seated section.

 

For tickets to performances in this 60th Season call the Lyric Opera box office at 312.827.5600 or visit the Lyric Opera Website.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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