In review: Stars of Lyric Opera
Every September, Chicagoans flock to Millennium Park for the annual Stars of the Lyric Opera concert. This year, unseasonably cool weather in The Loop meant lugging sweaters, hats, and warm blankets along with the customary lawn chairs and wine coolers. Last night’s concert featured enticing excerpts from seven operas from the Lyric's upcoming season along with other crowd-pleasing favorites.
It was a delightful evening of music from the moment Music Director Sir Andrew Davis sprung onto the podium. Davis, always a charming presence, conducted the Lyric Opera Orchestra and the Lyric Opera Chorus with aplomb. The chorus, prepared by Michael Black, contributed three rousing numbers: "Ad Arturo onore" from Bellini's I puritani, "L'Amour triomphe" from Gluck's Orphée et Eurydice, and — apparently just for fun — "Vot tak syurpriz!" from Tchaikovsky's Eugene Onegin.
An early highlight of the evening was Lauren Snouffer's beautifully sweet "Deh vieni," Susanna's aria from Le nozze di Figaro. While the opera is not on the Lyric's upcoming docket, (this season's Mozart offering will be Così fan tutte in March), it made for a lovely concert-opener and it was a treat to hear Snouffer's stylish, warm voice ahead of her performance later this month as Amour in Gluck's Orphée et Eurydice.
Among the concert's brilliant soloists was the captivating Janai Brugger, who will have her house debut this season as Liù in Turandot. Brugger sang Liù's devastating aria "Tu che di gel sei cinta" and Marguerite’s playful Jewel Song, "Ah, je ris de me voir si belle," from Faust; two very different arias that showcased Brugger's plummy lyric soprano.
Another LOC newcomer, Russian tenor Dmitry Korchak, is set to debut very soon as Orphée in Orphée et Eurydice and gave the audience a preview with a performance of the tragic, (and fiendishly difficult) "J'ai perdu mon Eurydice." Korchak's polished, distinctive tenor was also featured in a set from Faust's Werther, during which he romanced the crowd with a stirring rendition of "Pourquoi me réveiller." While he's not set to perform that role at the Lyric this season, I very much look forward to hearing his Orphée in a few short weeks.
The highlight of the evening for me was Matthew Polenzani and Anthony Clark Evans singing the famous tenor/baritone duet from Bizet's The Pearl Fishers. This was old-school opera glamour and Polenzani's elegant tenor found a lovely match in Clark Evans' rich, easy baritone. The Pearl Fishers, with Polenzani as Nadir, comes to LOC in a new-to-Chicago production at the end of November.
The most highly-anticipated offering came at the end of the evening: a sampling of Die Walküre, which will arrive on the Lyric stage in November as Part Two of the company's ongoing four-year roll-out of a new production of Wagner's epic tetralogy, Der Ring des Nibelungen. After the requisite orchestral rendition of "The Ride of the Valkyries", a stoic Eric Owens delivered a powerful and nuanced performance of Wotan's "Leb' wohl." Owens will continue his role debut as Wotan with this season's Walküre, following a triumphant initial turn as the corrupted King of the Gods in last season's Rheingold.
You can read more about the Lyric Opera of Chicago's upcoming season here. We at Schmopera are looking forward to covering their entire performance calendar in 2017-2018! Stay tuned!