Lyric Opera kicks off a starry season at Millennium Park

Lyric Opera kicks off a starry season at Millennium Park

J'Nai Bridges at the Stars of Lyric Opera in Millennium Park. Photo: Todd Rosenberg.

While the Lyric Opera of Chicago's official opening night is still a month away, Chicagoans got a substantial teaser this month at the annual Stars of the Lyric at Millennium Park. Two Chicago-based Schmopera contributors were on hand for the event - below they share their favorite moments from the evening and what they’re looking forward to most this season!

The night's theme, (and requisite hashtag) #LongLivePassion was on-point — we were treated to some of opera's most impassioned moments from Puccini's beloved "O mio babbino caro" to the seductive "Mon coeur s'ouvre à ta voix" from Saint-Saën's Samson et Dalila. It was a glamorous, fun-filled night that featured the headliners of the Lyric's upcoming production of La Bohéme as well as four young artists from the Patrick G. and Shirley W. Ryan Center. The centerpiece of the evening was the second half, which featured the end of Act I and entirety of Act II of Puccini's La Bohéme and starred the principal singers along with LOC chorus and children's chorus, conducted by Domingo Hindoyan.

Domingo Hindoyan conducts the Stars of Lyric Opera in Millennium Park. Photo: Todd Rosenberg.

Favorite moments from the night?

Hannah De Priest: I first heard Danielle de Niese when I was in college - I scored free tickets to a vocal recital she gave and was immediately drawn in by her warm and often-comic stage presence. Fast-forward five years and she still radiates the same charming, deeply earnest expressivity. Her fresh-voiced sound was perfect for "O mio babbino caro" and her hilarious, slightly manic Musetta was utterly scene-stealing. Equally captivating singing "Quando m'en vo" as she was brandishing a bedazzled stiletto heel above her head, I can’t wait to see de Niese chew the scenery in La Bohème.

Michael Pecak: There was an audible gasp when J'nai Bridges came onto the stage—gorgeous in a turquoise gown. For me, her singing in "Mon coeur s'ouvre à ta voix" was an early highlight of the night. Her silken turns of phrase and alluring tone seemed to draw in the whole of the large, outdoor audience. She sang with apparent ease, despite singing to what is essentially a massive field.

Adrian Sâmpetrean, Ricard José Rivera, Jake Gardner, Danielle de Niese, Michael Fabiano, Maria Agresta, Zachary Nelson, and in the Stars of Lyric Opera in Millennium Park. Photo: Todd Rosenberg.

Which productions are you most looking forward to this 2018-19 season?

MP: For me, (an admitted sucker for Puccini), I'm really looking forward to the season opener: La Bohéme, especially after being treated to the whole of Act II on Friday night. There's more Italian opera on the docket to satisfy my cravings for that repertoire: Verdi's Il Trovatore, (conducted by a favorite of mine, Marco Armiliato, who conducted an out-of-this-world Rigoletto here last season) and La Traviata, starring Albina Shagimuratova, who I loved in February's I Puritani. I'm also excited to review Siegfried this fall, the third installment of LOC's new Ring Cycle, conducted by Sir Andrew Davis and starring an world-class cast.

HP: I can't wait for Idomeneo - last year, I was blown away by Janai Brugger's Lìu in Turandot and I'm so eager to hear her sing Ilia in this production of Mozart's myth-tastic opera seria. I'm also looking forward to hearing Alice Coote in not one but two productions: Massenet's Cendrillon and Handel's Ariodante.

Maria Agresta and Michael Fabiano in the Stars of Lyric Opera in Millennium Park. Photo: Todd Rosenberg.

What are you most curious about this season?

MP: As an admirer of the LOC orchestra, I'm eager to hear them led by Harry Bicket in Handel's Ariodante, especially after experiencing his conducting in last season's Orphée et Eurydice. And as a musical theater neophyte, I'm excited to see Bernstein's West Side Story (with Jerome Kern's choreography!) for the very first time.

Whitney Morrison and Mario Rojas in the Stars of Lyric Opera in Millennium Park. Photo: Todd Rosenberg.

HD: I’m curious to see how they’ll carry off depicting Fafner, (the dragon!) in Siegfried. I’m also really interested to catch An American Dream in March. The short opera premiered in Seattle in 2015 to rave reviews. Interweaving the stories of a Japanese-American family forced into an internment camp and a Jewish-American family made to emigrate to escape the Holocaust, I can't think of a more poignant time to view a work of art that grapples so earnestly with issues of immigration, class, and ethnic identity. The presentation also comes at a time when our community is rightly re-assessing how Asian-Americans are represented in the performing arts.

The crowd at Stars of Lyric Opera in Millennium Park. Photo: Todd Rosenberg.

For full details of Lyric Opera of Chicago's 2018/19 season, click here.

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Written by

Hannah De Priest

Hannah De Priest

Hannah De Priest is a writer and emerging soprano currently based in Chicago. A die-hard opera fan, she is especially drawn to the opulence and eccentricity of baroque opera.

Michael Pecak

Michael Pecak

Michael Pecak is a pianist, fortepianist, conductor, collaborator, scholar, and avid opera-lover based in Chicago. When not performing or contemplating music, Michael is most likely tuning his fortepiano.

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