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Stars of the Lyric Opera at Millennium Park Review – Uplifting Tease of the Coming Season

By Amy Munice

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Elizabeth DeShong sings the final aria from La Cenerentola (Cinderella). She will portray Fenena in Nabucco at Lyric this season


With crisp voices that sometimes catapulted into opera’s vocal gymnastics that always astound, the 14 soloists and Lyric Opera Chorus performed teasers for the upcoming Lyric season mixed with a few opera standards.


Adam Plachetka as Figaro from Mozart's "Marriage of Figaro"


Arriving in Millennium Park we may not have realized we’d been suffering from an opera drought.  By concert’s end it’s likely that many in the audience in the park or listening to WFMT made feverish note of the 25% discount coupon being offered to concert attendees, as well as pick-your-3 season ticket possibilities.    Who cared that it was suddenly cold outside!  This was Lyric Opera treating the city to a taste of opera’s magical ability to transcend the here and now with the power of song.


Sir Andrew Davis conducting the Lyric Opera Orchestra


While all of the performances were enthralling, starting with the tight delivery by the Lyric Opera Orchestra of the Overture of Rossini’s “La Cenerentola” (Cinderella), tenor Lawrence Brownlee, who plays the Prince in that production, in both bearing and voice was an early favorite.  (Note: There will be 8 performances of this opera in October.)


Lawrence Brownlee/Ramiro and Elizabeth DeShong/Cinderella in a scene from the Rossini opera


More tenor thrill came later from Jonathan Johnson, a second-year Ryan Opera Center member, whose fresh face seemed impossibly young to create the strong performance of a famous drinking song (“Libiamo, libiamo ne ‘lieti calci”) from Verdi’s “La Traviata” that he did so ably with South African Soprano Hlengiwe Mkhwanazi, who also brought a magnetic presence to the stage. 


Ryan Opera Center members Jonathan Johnson/Alfredo and Hlengiwe Mkhwanazi/Violetta in a scene from La Traviata


Anthony Freund, General Director of the Lyric Opera, introduced all pieces in the program, including a pithy run-down of the madcap action in Act Two of Mozart’s “The Marriage of Figaro”, as well as other enticing capsules of what is to come in this 2015 /2016 Lyric Season.   His straightforward and friendly presentation seemed to underline how accessible the Lyric is making the opera genre.


Christiane Karg/Susanna, Amanda Majeski/Countess, Sir Andrew Davis, and Luca Pisaroni/Count with Lyric Opera Orchestra


Already walking on air, we were astonished to see that as we swarmed to the CTA at the concert’s conclusion we were surrounded by 20-somethings.   That’s certainly new!


That was only one sign that the Lyric is doing an admirable job to cultivate a future opera audience, with these free concerts and more.  Wearing the same “Lyric Rocks” t-shirts that the professional Lyric staff wore, we also saw many of the High Schoolers that the Lyric is now collecting into a Youth Opera Council.



As if this evening of uplifting performance were not enough, the Lyric Opera even distributed CDs to attendees,  “Lyric 2015/16 Season Sampler”. 


Let’s certainly hope that The Lyric Opera and Chicago’s Department of Cultural Affairs keep these yearly concerts in Millennium Park going.  This year the concert was on September 11, with an appropriate cheerful warm-up act, in all senses, by the United States Air Force Band of MidAmerica “Airlifter Brass”.   Given what a gem these Millennium Park concerts are, it’s probably not too early to make a tentative note in your 2016 calendar.


For information on the complete 2015/ 16 Lyric Opera Season visit The Lyric Opera website




Photos:  Todd Rosenberg

Published on Sep 13, 2015

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