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by Giuseppe Verdi
Sung in Italian with projected English translations
Verdi’s IL TROVATORE Now Playing at Lyric Opera of Chicago November 17-30 & December 3-9
Review of Opera “Il Trovatore” at Lyric
By Catherine Hellmann, guest critic
Everyone remembers their first time...no, not that...at the opera. The adorable father-daughter duo seated next to us said her first opera was in Detroit. Her dad deliberately took her to see Puccini’s “La Boheme” in the Lincoln seats since it is such a classic and so lovely. Dad saw his first opera at the Lyric, being a Chicago native. His was “Mozart’s “Cosi fan Tutte.” Mine was at Cincinnati’s gorgeous Music Hall, courtesy of my father, a classical music fan. “The Student Prince” by Sigmund Romberg.
And so I was honored to bring my daughter to her first opera at the stunning Art Deco Lyric Opera House on Saturday night for Giuseppe Verdi’s “Il Trovatore.” I assured her that she could read the English subtitles above the stage since the opera would be sung in its native Italian.
“What’s it about?” she asked me on our way to Wacker Drive. “Not sure exactly,” I answered, “but someone will die in song.”
Getting interested in an opera is kind of like what a professor told me about reading Grimm’s fairy tales: you have to suspend belief and just go with it. If a character has a magic mirror in a fairy tale, it makes no sense logically; just don’t question it, and enjoy the ridiculous premise. So if a mother in “Il Trovatore” gets confused at a bonfire and accidentally throws her own baby into the flames instead of the boy she is supposed to be avenging, oy, just accept this plot development.
As a former Lyric subscriber and opera major in college, I just expect this lack of logic. But to teen-ager Camelia, the plot was insanity.
“Okay, so the first half was great like, wow, but the second half, what even was that. You’ve got this woman for 30 minutes talking about how much she loves this guy, like okay, we get it, you miss him, and then she gives herself up for him, which is so sweet. AND THEN FOR 30 MORE MINUTES THIS DUDE IS SO UNGRATEFUL! Like, ‘I hate you! You’re giving your love to someone else!’ Dude. She’s giving up her virtue and her life for you and all you can do is complain. You literally throw away the key, why didn’t you release your mom. AND THEN IN THE LAST TWO SECONDS, she dies, he dies, and ‘Hey, surprise! You just killed your brother.’ ‘What? NOOOOOOOOOOO!’ And scene. Like, um okay, bitch.” - ------Camelia
The Anvil Chorus from IL TROVATORE at Lyric Opera of Chicago.
Photo by Michael Brosilow
While the plot is typical opera-crazy fare, the singing and performances are top-notch in this hot mess of a story. Tamara Wilson in the lead role of Leonora was divine. What a voice! Simply mesmerizing. Obviously, her acting was also effective, as Camelia was so upset by her generosity to the ungrateful Manrico, her lover.
Jamie Barton amazed us with her incredible range as Azucena, the daughter of the accused witch and adoptive mother of Manrico. Artur Rucinski was also noteworthy as the calculating, but sexy, Count di Luna with his marvelous voice and acting.
The Chicago Lyric Opera Chorus was fantastic, especially in the very-recognizable “anvil song” set in the Gypsy camp. (As an added bonus, some of the workers were swinging their anvils without any shirts on. Oh, I long for those days of Samuel Ramey playing a half-naked devil…)
The set design was cool, but at one point, the turntable spun slowly to switch scenes in a drawn-out silence. It seemed weird to not have any music or singing at that part. It is a credit to opera audiences that there was complete silence during this awkward scene change.
But that is a quibble. It is always a treat to see the Lyric in its fabulous home. The downstairs area has great framed photographs of past productions lining its walls as well as costume ball gowns. Coffee is available for sale throughout the lobby areas, if a three-hour opera tests your attention span.
Catherine Hellmann is a teacher, writer, and theater junkie. She has tried to inspire urban and rural middle schoolers for over twenty years. A mother of three, she is thrilled to once again claim Chicago as home.
by Giuseppe Verdi
Sung in Italian with projected English translations
FOR THIS HOT-BLOODED TALE OF LOVE, JEALOUSY, AND RETRIBUTION, VERDI CREATED MUSIC THAT TRULY BURSTS WITH EXCITEMENT!
And what wonderful characters—bold and courageous Manrico, his beloved Leonora, the vengeful Count di Luna, and the wild, obsessed gypsy Azucena. Each has thrilling music to sing as the drama unfolds in the smoldering atmosphere of darkly mysterious 15th-century Spain. The “Anvil Chorus,” Leonora’s “Miserere,” Manrico’s stirring call to arms—these are just a few of the fabulous highlights that make Il trovatore a feast of sumptuous singing.
HENRY AND GILDA BUCHBINDER
EARL AND BRENDA SHAPIRO
A coproduction of Lyric Opera of Chicago, The Metropolitan Opera, and the San Francisco Opera Association.
Lyric Opera of Chicago’s production of Verdi’s Il trovatore opens Saturday, Nov. 17, at 7:30 p.m. There are seven performances November 17 - December 9 at the Lyric Opera House, 20 N. Wacker Dr., Chicago. Tickets start at $39 and are available now at lyricopera.org/Trovatore or at 312-827-5600.
Lyric’s Il trovatore boasts a terrific international cast of new and returning artists to play the vividly drawn characters in this hot-blooded tale of love, jealousy, and mistaken identity, and terrible retribution.
American tenor Russell Thomas is Manrico, the titular troubadour, while American soprano Tamara Wilson (Lyric debut) plays his love, Leonora. American mezzo-soprano Jamie Barton portrays the tortured gypsy Azucena, and Polish baritone Artur Ruciński (Lyric debut) sings the dastardly Count di Luna, who covets Leonora’s affections. Serving as narrator for this twisted tale is Ferrando, sung by Italian bass Roberto Tagliavini (Lyric debut).
Conductor Marco Armiliato and the Lyric Opera Orchestra bring terrific collective experience to the thrilling blood-and-thunder score. The original director of this production, Sir David McVicar, has created a visually powerful production set in tumultuous early 19th-century Spain. Roy Rallo (Lyric debut) directs the revival, with set designs by Charles Edwards, costume designs by Brigitte Reiffenstuel, original lighting design by Jennifer Tipton, and revival lighting design by Chris Maravich.
The Lyric Opera Chorus, prepared by Lyric’s chorus master Michael Black, sings one of the most famous pieces of music, the stirring and hearty “Anvil Chorus.”
Performance dates for Il trovatore are Nov. 17, 21, 25, 30 and Dec. 3, 6, and 9. Performance times vary. For tickets and information call (312) 827-5600 or go to lyricopera.org/Trovatore.