A Wondrous Sound Review - The Lyric Opera Chorus Celebrates a New Season

The Lyric Opera of Chicago is sixty years old and special events of all kinds are taking place in and around the city. (Lyric Opera of Chicago website) Among these events were two concerts offered by the Lyric Opera Chorus.  The Lyric Opera Chorus has presented two special concerts featuring the world-class ensemble performing operatic excerpts from Lyric’s 60th-anniversary season. Led by Chorus Master Michael Black, with piano accompaniment by Jerad Mosbey, the Chorus performed at Chicago’s Fourth Presbyterian Church (North Michigan Avenue and Delaware Place) on Friday, September 12 and at Evanston’s Alice Millar Chapel (1870 N. Sheridan Rd.) on Saturday, November 22.


Entering the Alice Millar Chapel, I was immediately awed by the vast ceiling, beautiful lights and the exquisite stained glass windows, which are far more impressive sitting inside than from the outside. It was especially pleasant to be able to enjoy this venue on a day that was dark and foreboding.  It was uplifting and inspiring to be among a filled chapel and experience the music in this setting. 


It was very different to listen to the chorus on its own and not as a part of a Lyric Opera production. “The Lyric Opera Chorus is one of the best in the world. These special concerts highlight the ensemble’s incredible virtuosity, musicianship, and splendor, in two venues perfectly suited for choral performance,” said Anthony Freud, Lyric’s general director.

“I’ve wanted to showcase our wonderful chorus for some time now and do so with repertoire in which they excel. They are an opera chorus, and an incredibly fine one at that, and should be seen and heard singing opera,” said Black. “Soloists from the chorus will perform throughout the concert so that audiences can also get to know the many wonderful individual voices that make up this remarkable ensemble.”


The selections performed were excerpts from Anna Bolena, Tosca, Carousel, and the Anvil Chorus from Il Trovatore, as well as beloved choral favorites from Nabucco, Macbeth, Madama Butterfly, Carmen, Die Fledermaus, and Fidelio, among others. (List of arias below).  It felt like an auditory collage, so many bits of the best of opera.


It was heavenly and uplifting to listen to the rich full sound of the chorus filling this vast space and look at the beautiful windows. It was interesting to learn more about the chorus.  The chorus is featured in seven of the eight Lyric Opera productions during the 2014-15 season.  Many chorus members appear as soloist, as they did in this performance, in greater Chicago and with musical organizations throughout the United States.  The Chorus is very versatile needing to learn to sing in many languages and represent many cultures.


Two of the numbers that particularly caught my attention were the Anvil Chorus from Il Trovatore and “Make Our Garden Grow” from Candide.

The Anvil Chorus is always beautiful and especially sung by this chorus, but I was struck by the contrast between this operatic rendition and that in the opera, itself, with the bare-chested men and the clanking sounds from the hammers. I love “Make Our Garden Grow” from Candide but I have never experienced it with such power and range.  I was a beautiful ending, but wait, there was more.  A standing ovation and an encore followed.  If you ever have the opportunity to see the Lyric Opera Chorus perform, run-don’t walk to get tickets. And, in the meantime you can enjoy this outstanding chorus when you attend the Lyric Opera of Chicago performances.  There are still eight operas and several additional events available this season.


For more information, go to the Lyric Opera of Chicago website or call 312-827-5600 .


A WondrousSound was generously sponsored by Lieselotte N. Betterman and Mr. and Mrs. Tom W. Olofson.


Photos: Courtesy of Lyric Opera of Chicago



The program included:


MASCAGNI   “Inno al sole”  (Hymn to the Sun) from Iris
MOZART   “Placido è il mar” from Idomeneo
BEETHOVEN “O welche Lust” from Fidelio
VERDI   “Va pensiero” from Nabucco
VERDI   “Patria oppressa” from Macbeth
VERDI  “Vedi! le fosche notture spoglie” (Anvil Chorus) from Il Trovatore
J. STRAUSS, JR.   “Brüderlein” from Die Fledermaus
BIZET   “Les voici, voici la quadrille” from Carmen
PUCCINI   “Coro a bocca chiusa” (Humming Chorus) from Madama Butterfly
DONIZETTI   “A voi supremo Giudice” from Anna Bolena
MASCAGNI   “Easter Hymn” from Cavalleria Rusticana
GIORDANO   “Shepherdess Chorus” from Andrea Chénier
PUCCINI   “Te Deum” from Tosca
RODGERS  “You’ll Never Walk Alone” from Carousel
BERNSTEIN  “Make Our Garden Grow” from Candide

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