PerformInk is Chicago's entertainment industry trade publication.
Photo: Todd Rosenberg
Free screening to be held at the Civic Opera House
Lyric’s world premiere production of the opera BEL CANTO – recorded in Chicago last January – will air nationally on Great Performances Friday, January 13 at 9pm CST on PBS. Based on Ann Patchett’s bestselling 2001 novel (which was inspired by the 1996-97 Peruvian hostage crisis), the new opera was composed by Jimmy López with a libretto by Pulitzer Prize-winning playwright Nilo Cruz. Renée Fleming, Lyric’s creative consultant, curated the project from its inception and hosts the broadcast.
Lyric will host a free screening of the broadcast at the Civic Opera House starting at 7:30pm on Friday, January 13. Seating will be reserved and reservations are required at lyricopera.org/belcanto.
“One of the greatest joys of my role as creative consultant at Lyric has been to develop this new work for the operatic stage,” says Fleming. “When the novel BEL CANTO came out, it was a runaway bestseller, and friends from everywhere called me and asked, ‘Is this based on you?’ A novel with a soprano at the center, singing my repertoire? Naturally, I had to read it. I immediately realized that Ann Patchett had created a classic portrait of an American singer, and told a story of power and relevance – perfect for opera. So I proposed it as a source when we began the creation of a new work at Lyric. I presented Sir Andrew Davis and Anthony Freud with a huge list of composers. But I had been thinking, what if we ultimately focus on South America for a musical language that would geographically correspond to the piece? When we awarded the commission to the brilliant Jimmy López, I had no idea that he actually had lived through the crisis as a teenager in Lima. The piece also benefits immeasurably from the intensely musical language Pulitzer Prize-winner Nilo Cruz used in his libretto.”
“All of us at Lyric are delighted to share the excitement of the world premiere of BEL CANTO with the Great Performances audience,” says Anthony Freud, Lyric’s general director, president and CEO. “It is an extraordinary piece – powerful and moving – and I am thrilled that it will be seen and heard by many more people than could attend the live performances here at Lyric.”
“With a history of Lyric Opera of Chicago coproductions dating back to 1980, we are delighted to once again partner with Lyric to bring innovative contemporary opera to a national audience through Great Performances,” says David Horn, executive producer, Great Performances. “Furthermore, given our long association with Renée Fleming, we are especially pleased to present a project curated under Renée’s auspices at Lyric.”
BEL CANTO is sung in Spanish, English, Japanese, Russian, German, French, Latin, and Quechua, with projected English translations. Sir Andrew Davis conducts the Lyric production directed by Kevin Newbury. The production is designed by David Korins (sets), Constance Hoffman (costumes), Duane Schuler (lighting), and Greg Emetaz (projections). Michael Black is chorus master and Nick Sandys is fight director.
Matthew Diamond, who last year directed NBC’s televised live production of The Wiz, directs the television presentation.