On the evening of September 8, Lyric Opera's Orchestra and Chorus journeyed to Millennium Park for a one-night concert to showcase their 2017/2018 season. The event was also played live on 98.7 WFMT. But for those who came out, it was a beautiful night to enjoy the wonderfully talented voices of Lyric Opera of Chicago in the park. With free seating on the lawn, this event was a perfect way to end the summer – and an excellent preview of what’s to come. The evening presented glorious arias from seven operas from Lyric’s upcoming season including: Rigoletto, I Puritani, Turandot, Faust, Orphée et Eurydice, The Pearl Fishers, and Die Walküre.
Lyric Opera Pays Tribute to the Armed Forces
Before the stars of Lyric Opera took the stage, the United States of America Airforce Band of Mid-America entertained the amassing crowds with jazz, swing, and brassy ballads. We were transported directly into the 1940s with this military band’s exceptional performance of Boogie Woogie Bugle Boy and Stars and Stripes Forever. The Band of Mid-America came to us from the Scott Airforce base in Southern Illinois.
Iconic Beginning and Ending
There was no better way to begin such an evening than with The Marriage of Figaro. Lyric Orchestra’s swelling overture quickly put us in the mood for opera. This was followed by an incredibly heartfelt rendition of “Giunse Alfin…Deh vieni, non tardar” (Mozart) sung by Lauren Snouffer.
The concert ended with another icon from the opera repertoire— “Ride of the Valkyries” from Wagner’s Die Walküre. “There is no bigger project an opera house can take on than a new production of Wagner’s cycle of four operas, The Ring,” says Anthony Freud General Director of Lyric Opera. The Lyric Orchestra again enthralled with an instrumental rendition of this famous piece. We can just imagine the mythic goddesses flying above us on the dynamic swells of trumpet and violin.
Top Tier Entertainers
Not only did the Stars of Lyric Opera astound us with their soaring tones and elegant melodies, but they brought their dramatic personas to the stage. Watching them proclaim the emotion of the lyrics with their whole bodies is inspiring. They told us stories. It was as if they had transported us to the Opera House for moments of joy. Janai Brugger was particularly fascinating to watch. In her performance of “O Dieu! Que de bijoux!” (also known as the Jewel Song) from act three of Gounod’s Faust, when she used her own necklace and bracelet as props to illustrate her ecstasy at finding the devilish Faust’s gift.
Yet, Brugger wasn’t the only one to delight us with her musical story-telling. Andriana Chuchman flitted on stage after intermission as Norina from Don Pasquale – a clever and minxy young woman obsessed with romance novels – with a book in her hand. Her aria was filled with sass and soaring high notes. After this inspiring performance she offered her novel to the conductor, Sir Andrew Davis, who took one look at it and tossed it off stage. This was the kind of lively fun the Stars of Lyric Opera brought with them to Millennium Park that so delighted.
Other singers similarly charmed with fun and sassy body language to accompany their arias. Matthew Polenzani regaled us as the caddish Duke of Mantua (Rigoletto). His persona of this character made the entire performance of “La Donna é Mobile” hilarious and entertaining. Then he returned toward the end of the evening with Anthony Clark Evans to sing a very different kind of piece from The Pearl Fishers. “Au Fond Du Temple Saint” lifted our heart from our bodies, carrying it along waves of melody. Polenzani and Evans’ voices merged into stunning harmony in ways that wouldn’t leave a dry eye in the house.
J’Nai Bridges and Dmitry Korchak also gave mesmerizing performances as Charlotte and Werther from Jules Massenet’s Werther – a story of forbidden and futile love. These counterpart arias had soared above us like prayers for happier days. Though Werther is not a part of Lyric Opera’s 2017/2018 season, both these artists are featured in performances this year. Korchak will spearhead this year’s season with Andriana Chuchman in Orphée et Eurydice, coming to Lyric Opera on September 23.
Lyric Opera's Chorus
In addition to a resounding orchestra and talented individual performers, Lyric Opera boasts a triumphant chorus of body and depth. The chorus sang two pieces on their own and in tandem with other performers. From the flirty gossip of “Vot tak Syurpriz” (Tchaikovsky) to the jubilant “L’Amour Triomphe” from Orhpée et Eurydice, the Lyric Chorus was an integral part of the evening.
Every time this collection of gifted singers joined the music, the intensity and atmosphere consumed us.
The night wrapped up with the farewell lament of Wotan from Wagner’s Die Walküre sung by Eric Owens. As the King of Asgard bids goodbye to his favorite daughter, we feel he is also singing a farewell to his adoring audience. Yet, we know this is not goodbye forever. The Stars of Lyric Opera will return to their stage towards the end of this month to open what promises to be an absolutely breathtaking season.
Visit Lyric Opera's Website for more information on their upcoming season!