Fleming to star in “Capriccio” at Lyric Opera; “Tannhäuser,” “Anna Bolena” and “Porgy” also on tap in 2014-15 season

February 01, 2014
Renée Fleming will star in Richard Strauss's “Capriccio” this fall at Lyric Opera. Photo: Ken Howard/Metropolitan Opera

Renée Fleming will star in Richard Strauss’s “Capriccio” this fall at Lyric Opera.
Photo: Ken Howard/Metropolitan Opera

The Lyric Opera of Chicago will mark its 60th anniversary season with a little known 20th-century work, a revival of a popular American opera and Renée Fleming’s first appearance in a fully staged company production in six years.

Unlike the current season’s safety-first emphasis on populist Italian repertory, the 2014-15 Lyric lineup, announced Monday, offers much greater variety and balance.

The season will open September 27 with Mozart’s Don Giovanni in a new production by designer Walt Spangler, to be directed by Robert Falls. Mariusz Kwiecien will star as the sexually prolific Don, a role in which the Polish baritone has become internationally celebrated. Ana María Martínez is Donna Elvira, Marina Rebeka Donna Anna and Andriana Chuchman Zerlina. Andrea Silvestrelli will portray the Commendatore and Sir Andrew Davis conducts.

Renée Fleming, Lyric Opera’s creative consultant, will star in Richard Strauss’s Capriccio beginning October 6, her first appearance in a fully staged Lyric production since La Traviata in 2008. Strauss’s final opera depicts the dilemma of the Countess Madeleine who must choose between the composer Flamand and librettist Olivier. William Burden and Audun Iversen will costar as her rival suitors in a cast that also includes Bo Skovhus as the Count, Anne Sofie von Otter and Peter Rose. The revival of John Cox’s Metropolitan Opera production will be directed by Peter McClintock.

Verdi’s blood-and-thunder Il Trovatore returns to the Lyric boards October 27 with tenor Yonghoon Lee as Manrico, Amber Wagner as Leonora, Quinn Kelsey as Count di Luna and Stephanie Blythe as Azucena. Asher Fisch conducts a revival of the venerable Sir David McVicar production.

The Lyric is responding—sort of—to the criticism of its lack of American repertory with a revival of George Gershwin’s Porgy and Bess, which opens November 17. The 2008 staging was a huge hit for the company and Lyric hopes lightning will strike again, this time with Eric Owens in the title role, and Adina Aaron as Bess, Eric Greene as Crown, and Jermaine Smith as Sportin’ Life. Francesca Zambello directs once again with Ward Stare conducting.

Donizetti’s Anna Bolena has not been heard in Chicago since Joan Sutherland sang the bel canto role at Lyric in 1985. Sondra Radvanovsky will return in the title role of Henry VIII’s ill-fated second wife, with John Relyea as King Henry, fast-rising mezzo Jamie Barton as Jane Seymour and Bryan Hymel as Richard Percy. The entire production team will be making company debuts in this new staging including Houston Grand Opera music director Patrick Summers, director Kevin Newbury and set designer Neil Patel.

Chicago’s most memorable opera performance of 2013 happened not at the Civic Opera House but at Symphony Center with Tatiana Serjan’s riveting performance as Lady Macbeth in Verdi’s opera with Riccardo Muti and the Chicago Symphony Orchestra.

Give Lyric Opera general director Anthony Freud credit for quickly snapping up the Russian soprano for Lyric. Serjan will make her company debut January 24 in Puccini’s Tosca, alternating in the role of the doomed diva with Hui He, who scored an impressive debut in Lyric’s 2012 Aida. Misha Didyk and Jorge de Leon sing Cavaradossi with Evgeny Nikitin and Mark Delavan alternating as Scarpia. Conductor Vladimir Jurowski will make his company debut in a new production by Bunny Christie, directed by John Caird.

Sir Andrew Davis will complete his Lyric traversal of all the major Wagner operas with Tannhäuser, which opens February 9. To no one’s surprise Johan Botha will star in the title role with Michaela Schuster as Venus, Amber Wagner as Eva, Gerald Finley as Wolfram, and John Relyea as the Landgrave. The Royal Opera House production will be directed by Tim Albery with sets by Michael Levine.

The final opera of the season will be Mieczysław Weinberg’s The Passenger, which was previously announced, opening February 24. The cast of the Russian composer’s Holocaust drama will include Daveda Karanas, Brandon Jovanovich, Amanda Majeski and Kelly Kaduce with Davis conducting. The Bregenz Festival production with sets by Johan Engels will be directed by David Pountney.

The company will present a glitzy and star-packed 60th Anniversary Concert on November 1, which will include Renée Fleming, Ramsey Lewis, Susan Graham, Sondra Radvanovsky, Ana Maria Martinez, Johan Botha, Eric Owens and Samuel Ramey. A “Diamond Ball” gala will follow the concert at the Hilton Chicago.

Lyric Opera has also commissioned a new “mariachi opera.” With music by José “Pepe” Martínez and a libretto by Leonard Foglia El Pasado Nunca Se Termina (The Past Is Never Finished) will premiere in March of 2015.

Pianist Lang Lang will return as the Lyric’s instrumental recital presentation on May 9, 2015.

Also Carousel will be the June Rodgers and Hammerstein offering next year, as previously announced.

As has become custom, the season was announced and previewed to the assembled press by general director Anthony Freud and music director Sir Andrew Davis at the Civic Opera House with Lyric creative consultant Renée Fleming participating via video conference from New York where she is appearing in Rusalka at the Met.

In response to press questions after, Freud stated that Weinberg’s The Passenger was his single repertoire contribution to 2014-15, with the rest of the season having already been put together by his predecessor, William Mason. He had a greater hand in next season’s casting, he said, with “50 percent” of the casting done by him in consultation with Davis.

Fleming who will sing the National Anthem at Sunday’s Super Bowl, asked everyone to “wish me luck this weekend.”

She also elicited the biggest laugh of the morning, mentioning that people have said that they’re glad she is not going to add any pop-star-like embellishments. “Of course, the only thing I can bring to it is Baroque ornamentation.”

2014-15 season subscriptions are now on sale. Call 312-827-5600 or log on to lyricopera.org.

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