Rising Stars in Concert Review - A Glimpse of the Future

Approaching the Lyric Opera of Chicago’s Rising Stars in Concert program, our group anticipated a lovely evening of listening to the voices of the opera stars in training. This Lyric Opera culminating event closed a spectacular 2008-09 season.  Ensemble members of The Patrick G. and Shirley W. Ryan Opera Center at Lyric Opera of Chicago brought to a close an extraordinarily successful year of study and performance with the Rising Stars in Concert for donors only.  Donors appeared to be very pleased with performance, which was, beautiful, uplifting and inspiring.  Look out world, here come the “rising stars” ready to fill opera houses around the globe with their song.

Paul Mavros and David Valkema of the Pauls Foundation congratulate Amber Wagner whom the Pauls Foundaton sponsors along with her mother, Stephanie Wagner and Amber's husband, Gabe Salazar

As we entered the Ardis Krainik Theatre of the Civic Opera House, we noted the beautiful red velvet backdrop curtain and three chandeliers that gave the stage an elegant look. It was very impressive to experience the unadulterated voices that with only body language created drama and a sense of the opera from which the aria was selected.  Andriana Chuchman, Angela Mannino and Amber Wagner (sopranos), Kathryn Leemhuis and Katherine Lerner (mezzo-sopranos), Edward Mout (tenor), Daniel Billings and Corey Crider (baritones), and Paul Corona, Sam Handley and Craig Irvin (bass-baritones) performed selections from operas by Donizetti, Gounod, Mozart, Offenbach, Rossini, Richard Strauss, Verdi, and others.  Projected English translations for all the selections performed were very helpful. The singers were accompanied by members of the Lyric Opera Orchestra, conducted by Philip Morehead. The orchestra was in its element, a joy to listen to and a perfect support to the singers.

This performance was dedicated to the memory of 2008-09 ensemble member tenor Ryan Smith.

Katherine Lerner with her sponsors Bill and Orli Staley and Katherine A. Abelson, president of the Ryan Opera Center Board

Several 2008-09 Ryan Opera Center ensemble members sang critically acclaimed principal and supporting roles during Lyric Opera of Chicago’s 54th season, which ended March 28. These included:
Manon: Andriana Chuchman (Poussette), Angela Mannino (Maid), Kathryn Leemhuis (Javotte), Katherine Lerner (Rosette), Edward Mout (1st Guard), David Portillo (2nd Guard), Paul Corona (Archer), Sam Handley (Innkeeper), Craig Irvin (Sergeant)
Lulu: Angela Mannino (15-year-old girl), Kathryn Leemhuis (Lady Artisan), Katherine Lerner (Mother), Corey Crider (Journalist), Paul Corona (Servant), Craig Irvin (Professor of Medicine/Professor)
Porgy and Bess: Daniel Billings (Lawyer Frazier)
Madama Butterfly: Amber Wagner (Kate Pinkerton), Daniel Billings (The Official Registrar), Corey Crider (Prince Yamadori), Paul Corona (The Bonze), Sam Handley (The Imperial Commissioner, Jan. 21), Craig Irvin (The Imperial Commissioner)
Tristan und Isolde: Edward Mout (Shepherd), David Portillo (Sailor), Daniel Billings (Melot), Paul Corona (Steersman)
Cavalleria rusticana: Katherine Lerner (Lola)
The Abduction from the Seraglio: Angela Mannino (Blonde, March 2 & 10)
Pagliacci/student matinees: Edward Mout (Beppe), Daniel Billings (Silvio)

Ensemble members also served as understudies for major and minor roles throughout the season.  I found it fascinating to listen to Angela Mannino in the three roles she performed this evening.  The roles varied and all were different from the role of Blonde she stepped into on the opening night of The Abduction from the Seraglio.  Her voice was clear and on pitch and lovely to hear.

Kathryn Leemhuis with Ryan Opera Board member Heidi Heutel Bohn and Robert C Marks, one of her sponsors

Of the 13 singers in the 2008-09 ensemble, ten will return to the program for 2009-10 after a brief hiatus: sopranos Andriana Chuchman, Angela Mannino, and Amber Wagner, mezzo-sopranos Kathryn Leemhuis and Katherine Lerner, tenor David Portillo, baritone Corey Crider, and bass-baritones Paul Corona, Sam Handley, and Craig Irvin. Three new ensemble members will join them: soprano Amanda
Majeski, tenor René Barbera, and baritone Paul La Rosa.

The Patrick G. and Shirley W. Ryan Opera Center at Lyric Opera of Chicago (previously known as the Lyric Opera Center for American Artists) was established in 1974 as the professional artist development program for Lyric Opera of Chicago. Since its inception, the Ryan Opera Center has been recognized as one of the premier programs of its kind in the world. That standing is maintained by providing the finest up-and-coming singers with unparalleled training and experience. Gianna Rolandi is director of the Ryan Opera Center, and Dan Novak is manager.

Andriana Chuchman and her husband, Adam Hildebrandt backstage after the concert

Members are selected from some 400 singers who audition annually.   The Ryan Opera Center ensemble members are in residence for twelve months and during this time they receive advanced instruction in numerous aspects of operatic performance, including voice lessons and coachings, language and acting training, and master classes with some of opera’s most renowned artists.  These include Joyce DiDonato, Nathan Gunn, Marilyn Horne, Frank Lopardo, Renata Scotto, Deborah Voigt, and several others. Ryan Opera Center members gain valuable performing experience by participating in recitals and concerts at many Chicago-area venues. During Lyric Opera’s mainstage season, they perform and understudy roles at all levels. This presents an extraordinary opportunity to work with the world’s greatest opera singers, conductors, directors, orchestra, and chorus.

The roster of distinguished alumni who perform regularly on the stages of leading international opera houses include: Harolyn Blackwell, Nicole Cabell, David Cangelosi, Mark S. Doss, Jennifer Dudley, Christopher Feigum, Elizabeth Futral, Roger Honeywell, Joseph Kaiser, Maria Kanyova, Gregory Kunde, Dina Kuznetsova, Cynthia Lawrence, Gary Lehman, Emily Magee, Marlin Miller, Susanna Phillips, Matthew Polenzani, Patricia Risley, Erin Wall, and Guang Yang. On Sunday, April 19, The Metropolitan Opera’s documentary, The Audition, was screened nationally.  Featured in the film are Ryan Opera Center ensemble members Amber Wagner and the late Ryan Smith.

Curtain call

Rising Stars in Concert was generously sponsored by Lead Sponsor: Donna Van Eekeren, the Lester S. Abelson Foundation, Accenture, Accretive Health, The Boeing Company, Harris Bank, Miram U. Hoover, and the Chauncey and Marion D. McCormick Family Foundation, and additional support form Molex incorporated, Mr. and Mrs. Allan Drebin, and Bill and Orli Staley.

Standing (L-R)Angela Mannino, Sam Handley, Kathryn Leemhuis, Katherine Lerner, Corey Crider, Craig Irvin, Paul Corona, Daniel Billlings, Amber Wagner, Edward Mout and Andriana Chuchman;seated(L-R)Sponsor Representatives Katherine Abelson, Anne Roosevelt, Heather Writgh, Lynne Shigley and Dan Buning

This concert is also a kind of sneak preview of the 2009/10 season.  Selections included arias from: Ernani, The Elixir of Love, and Faust.  Many of these stars will also perform in : Tosca, Katya Kabanova, The Merry Widow, The Damnation of Faust and The Marriage of Figaro.  If the thunderous applause at the conclusion of the concert is any indication, seats are likely to be filled with opera enthusiasts.  It would be a good idea to obtain tickets to what promises to be a wonderful season immediately.

Lyric Opera of Chicago
20 N Wacker Dr.
Chicago, IL 60606

Photos: Dan Rest/Lyric Opera of Chicago

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