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Long-Lost Bach Masterpiece Unearthed, Hailed as Major Discovery

Before the discovery of the St. Mark Passion, this manuscript found in a shoebox in 2005 represents another recent Bach discovery.

Before the discovery of the St. Mark Passion, this manuscript found in a shoebox in 2005 represents another recent Bach discovery.

A complete manuscript version of John Sebastian Bach’s St. Mark Passion (Markus-Passion) was discovered in the National Library of Poland (Biblioteka Narodowa) and constitutes one of the most important recent finds for performers, scholars, and lovers of classical music.

Though Bach’s St. John Passion and St. Matthew Passion, both narrating the events leading up to the crucifixion of Jesus, have long been considered some of the great masterpieces of Western music, a complete manuscript score St. Mark Passion was long thought to be lost.

First performed in Leipzig, Germany on Good Friday, March 23, 1731, the St. Mark Passion contains music from other previously composed works, including the whole of the Trauer Ode “Laß, Fürstin, laß noch einen Strahl,” BWV 198, as well as two arias from “Widerstehe doch der Sünde,” BWV 54.

However, not all of the music was borrowed from earlier works. Bach composed several original arias for the St. Mark Passion, as long as newly composed recitative linking the work’s many arias, ensembles, and grand choruses.

The score for the St. Mark Passion was stored previously with along with a large collection of opera scores by Johann Adolph Hasse, the Kapellmeister at the Dresden court and a friend and colleague of J.S Bach, and was overlooked until the library began digitization efforts earlier this year.

The manuscript will be digitized and published in facsimile by the Bärenreiter-Verlag New Bach Edition, the historical-critical complete edition of all works by the composer. A modern, performing edition of the St. Mark Passion is being planned as well, Bärenreiter reports, though the date that scores will be available for purchase and rental has not yet been confirmed.

Before this landmark discovery, there have been many attempts to reconstruct the St. Mark Passion. Harpsichordist and conductor Ton Koopman, known especially for his interpretations of Bach, reconstructed the work in 1999. The most recent significant attempt at reconstructing the previously lost score was by Alexander Ferdinand Grychtolik in 2010.

The Library has been overwhelmed by the response from Bach lovers around the world. The Editor in Chief of the New Bach Edition of the Bach Archive Leipzig is considering many proposals from various conductors and ensembles to premiere the St. Mark Passion before its digital release later this year. The Editor also added, “Happy April Fools’ Day!”

14 Facts About Haydn


Happy Birthday, Haydn!

As we celebrate Haydn’s Birthday on the air, enjoy these fun facts about the composer from hosts and Haydn lovers Peter Van de Graaff and Carl Grapentine. Share your favorite facts about Haydn with us in the comments below.

  1. Haydn was born the year George Washington was born (1732), and died the year Abraham Lincoln was born (1809).
  2. He grew up very poor in a tiny town in Austria (Rohrau) where his mother was a cook and his father a wheelwright.
  3. He was a very successful boy soprano from age 8 until 17, singing in the choir of St. Stephen’s Cathedral, Vienna.
  4. He was kicked out of the St. Stephen’s choir when his voice changed and he went to live in a poor attic, but at least during his time in the choir he met the famous singing instructor Porpora.
  5. At the age of 29 he was employed by the Esterházy family, one of the wealthiest in all of Europe, and he stayed with them for 30 years, writing the vast majority of his music for them.
  6. Franz Liszt’s father played in Haydn’s orchestra at the Eszterháza for a time.
  7. Johann Nepomuk Hummel succeeded Haydn as Kapellmeister for the Esterházy family.
  8. In the 1770’s and 1780’s he was one of Europe’s leading opera composers, overseeing 150 productions of operas of other composers and writing many of his own.
  9. His last opera, L’anima del filosofo, ossia Orfeo ed Euridice was composed for London, but was never produced in his lifetime.
  10. Both he and his brother Michael were very close friends of Mozart. Michael worked in Salzburg for most of his life where the Mozarts lived.
  11. Haydn wrote more than 104 symphonies! (There are also symphonies “A” and “B”)
  12. Most people know the great oratorios The Seasons and Creation but early in life he also wrote another very fine work, Il ritorno di Tobia!
  13. When the 25-year old Mozart moved to Vienna, he wrote a set of string quartets dedicated to Haydn. There are also accounts of them playing string quartets together—Haydn on 1st violin; Mozart on viola.
  14. A teenage Ludwig van Beethoven was accepted as a pupil of Mozart, but Mozart died before they could begin. Instead, Beethoven began studying with Haydn, but those lessons were short-lived.

Dudamel Signs with LA Philharmonic through 2021-22 season


Friday, March 27, 2015, the Los Angeles Philharmonic announced that Gustavo Dudamel has extended his contract as the orchestra’s music director through the 2021-22 season. The 34-year-old Venezuelan conductor and violinist made his LA Philharmonic debut in 2005. In 2007, the Philharmonic named Dudamel as its next music director, a position which he began with the beginning of the 2009-10 season.

Dudamel has also served as music director of the Orquesta Sinfónica Simón Bolívar in his native Venezuela, where he received his early music education through the well-known youth orchestra and training program, El Sistema.

The young conductor was a likely candidate to succeed Alan Gilbert as music director of the New York Philharmonic in 2017, as well as Simon Rattle as the music director of the Berlin Philharmonic in 2018.


Pianist Orion Weiss Performs LIVE on Impromptu


Pianist Orion Weiss stops by the WFMT Levin Studio for a LIVE concert on Impromptu on Friday, March 27, 2015 at 11:00 AM.

Orion Weiss last appeared at Symphony Center in 2012 with Emmanuel Ax as part of the Keys To The City Festival. His appearances at Symphony Center on Thursday, March 26 and Saturday, March 28 mark his CSO debut. The program, led by guest conductor Edo de Waart, features Mr. Weiss as soloist in Mozart’s Piano Concerto No. 25. He will return to Symphony Center on May 17 for a Symphony Center Presents Chamber Music Concert with Yo-Yo Ma and musicians of the CSO in a French Festival program that features Messiaen’s Quartet for the End of Time.

On Impromptu, Orion shares Debussy’s L’Isle Joyeux, Brahms’s Romance in F major from op. 118, and excerpts from his new album.

More about Orion Weiss

One of the most sought-after soloists in his generation of young American musicians, the pianist Orion Weiss has performed with the major American orchestras, including the Chicago Symphony, Boston Symphony, Los Angeles Philharmonic, and New York Philharmonic. His deeply felt and exceptionally crafted performances go far beyond his technical mastery and have won him worldwide acclaim.

The 2013-14 season will feature Weiss with orchestras around North America, including the Milwaukee and Vancouver Symphonies; in the summer of 2014 he will perform again with the Chicago Symphony Orchestra. The 2012-13 season saw Weiss in repeat engagements with the Baltimore Symphony and New World Symphony, as well as in performances with the Tucson Symphony, Richmond Symphony, Hong Kong Chamber Music Festival, and at the Ravinia Festival. Weiss released a recital album of Dvorak, Prokofiev, and Bartok in spring 2012, and also spearheaded a recording project of the complete Gershwin works for piano and orchestra with his longtime collaborators the Buffalo Philharmonic and JoAnn Falletta. During the 2011-12 season, Weiss performed with numerous orchestras including the Chicago Symphony Orchestra and Mexico City Philharmonic, and also made his recital debut in Washington, D.C., at the Kennedy Center.

Named the Classical Recording Foundation’s Young Artist of the Year in September 2010, in the summer of 2011 Weiss made his debut with the Boston Symphony Orchestra at Tanglewood as a last-minute replacement for Leon Fleisher. In recent seasons, he has also performed with the Los Angeles Philharmonic, San Francisco Symphony, Philadelphia Orchestra, Pittsburgh Symphony, Toronto Symphony Orchestra, National Arts Centre Orchestra, and Orpheus Chamber Orchestra, and in duo summer concerts with the New York Philharmonic at both Lincoln Center and the Bravo! Vail Valley Festival. In 2005, he toured Israel with the Israel Philharmonic Orchestra conducted by Itzhak Perlman.

Also known for his affinity and enthusiasm for chamber music, Weiss performs regularly with his wife, the pianist Anna Polonsky, violinist James Ehnes, and cellist Zuill Bailey, as well as ensembles including the Pacifica Quartet. As a recitalist and chamber musician, Weiss has appeared across the U.S. at venues and festivals including Lincoln Center, the Ravinia Festival, Sheldon Concert Hall, the Seattle Chamber Music Festival, La Jolla Music Society SummerFest, Chamber Music Northwest, the Bard Music Festival, the Bridgehampton Chamber Music Festival, the Kennedy Center, and Spivey Hall. He won the 2005 William Petschek Recital Award at Juilliard, and made his New York recital debut at Alice Tully Hall that April. Also in 2005 he made his European debut in a recital at the Musée du Louvre in Paris. He was a member of the Chamber Music Society Two program of the Chamber Music Society of Lincoln Center from 2002-2004, which included his appearance in the opening concert of the Society’s 2002-2003 season at Alice Tully Hall performing Ravel’s La Valse with pianist Shai Wosner.

Weiss’s impressive list of awards includes the Gilmore Young Artist Award, an Avery Fisher Career Grant, the Gina Bachauer Scholarship at the Juilliard School and the Mieczyslaw Munz Scholarship. A native of Lyndhurst, OH, Weiss attended the Cleveland Institute of Music, where he studied with Paul Schenly, Daniel Shapiro, Sergei Babayan, Kathryn Brown, and Edith Reed. In February of 1999, Weiss made his Cleveland Orchestra debut performing Liszt’s Piano Concerto No. 1. In March 1999, with less than 24 hours’ notice, Weiss stepped in to replace André Watts for a performance of Shostakovich’s Piano Concerto No. 2 with the Baltimore Symphony Orchestra. He was immediately invited to return to the Orchestra for a performance of the Tchaikovsky Piano Concerto in October 1999. In 2004, he graduated from the Juilliard School, where he studied with Emanuel Ax.

WFMT Backstage with the CSO on Boulez’s Birthday

12/8/06 -- CSO Tour Photography New York © Todd Rosenberg Photography 2006

To celebrate the 90th Birthday of Pierre Boulez, WFMT went backstage with musicians of the Chicago Symphony Orchestra to hear some of their favorite memories of working with this illustrious conductor, composer, and musician. Few know Boulez better than these musicians. Watch the video below to learn how working with Boulez impacted the players and the CSO as a whole in his many years at the podium.

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Happy Birthday, Boulez!

CSO 388

Today, WFMT celebrates composer, conductor, and musician Pierre Boulez on his 90th birthday. Boulez, who was recently awarded a 2015 Grammy Lifetime Achievement Award, is one of the most influential figures in modern music. In addition to celebrating the music of Boulez with us on the air, enjoy three podcasts of Boulez in conversation at the WFMT Studios.

Boulez in conversation with former Chicago Sun-Times critic Robert C. Marsh on his 70th Birthday in 1995.

Boulez in conversation with Daniel Barenboim.

Boulez in conversation with Andrew Patner on Critical Thinking in 2009.





Pianist Khatia Buniatishvili Performs Rach 2 with SF Symphony


On tonight’s San Francisco Symphony Radio Broadcastconductor Vladimir Jurowski leads performances of Scriabin’s Reverie, Op. 24 and Rachmaninoff’s Piano Concerto No. 2 in C Minor, Op. 18 featuring pianist Khatia Buniatishvili. Then, conductor Michael Tilson Thomas leads performances of Debussy’s Jeux and La Mer, with an encore of Prokofiev’s  Symphony No. 3 in C Minor, Opus 44. Tune in at 8:00 pm central. For more information about the broadcast series, click here.

Lyric Risings Stars Concert 2015

The 2014-2015 Ensemble of The Patrick G. and Shirley W. Ryan Opera Center

The 2014-2015 Ensemble of The Patrick G. and Shirley W. Ryan Opera Center

WFMT broadcasts the 2015 Rising Starts Concert at Lyric Opera, a showcase performed by members of the 2014-2015 Ensemble of The Patrick G. and Shirley W. Ryan Opera Center, on Sunday, March 22, 2015 from 7:00 – 10:00pm. The concert was performed and recorded on Saturday, March 21, 2015 from 7:30 – 10:30 pm at the Civic Opera House in Chicago, and features songs, arias, duets, and ensembles by some of today’s up-and-coming opera superstars. The broadcast is generously sponsored by the Donna Van Eekeren Foundation (also the concert’s lead sponsor). WFMT’s Suzanne Nance and Lyric’s dramaturg Roger Pines will serve as host and commentator respectively.

Earlier this season, WFMT went backstage with Ryan Opera Center Ensemble member J’nai Bridges, who performed Berlioz and Bellini in the Rising Stars Concert. To hear some exciting news J’nai shared with us from her dressing room before a performance of “The Passenger” at the Lyric Opera of Chicago, watch the video below.

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For program notes, artist biographies for the 2015 Rising Starts Concert, and more about the Ryan Opera Center, read below:


George Frideric Handel’s Orlando, Act Three, Aria: “Sorge infausta una procella,” Bradley Smoak (Zoroastro)

Carlisle Floyd’s Susannah, Act One, Aria: “Ain’t it a pretty night,” Laura Wilde (Susannah)

Rodgers and Hammerstein’s Carousel, Act One: Soliloquy (Orchestration by Don Walker), Anthony Clark Evans (Billy Bigelow)

Giacomo Puccini’s La bohème, Act One, Romanza: “Che gelida manina,” John Irvin (Rodolfo)

Claude Debussy’s Pelléas et Mélisande, Act One, Fountain Scene: Julie Miller (Mélisande) “Vous ne savez pas où je vous ai menée?” Will Liverman (Pelléas)

Georges Bizet’s Les pêcheurs de perles, Act Two, Recitative and Cavatina: “Me voilà seule…Comme autrefois dans la nuit sombre,” Hlengiwe Mkhwanazi (Leïla)

Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart’s La clemenza di Tito, Act Two, Aria: “Se all’impero, amici Dei,” Jesse Donner (Tito)

Hector Berlioz’s La damnation de Faust, Part Four, Romance: “D’amour l’ardente flamme,” J’nai Bridges (Marguerite)

Gaetano Donizetti’s Lucrezia Borgia, Act One, Duet: “Soli noi siamo,” Richard Ollarsaba (Duke Alfonso), Tracy Cantin (Lucrezia)


Gerald Finzi’s Eclogue for Piano and Strings, Opus 10, Maureen Zoltek

Alban Berg’s Lulu, Prologue: “Hereinspaziert in die Menagerie,” Richard Ollarsaba (Animal Trainer)

Donizetti’s L’elisir d’amore Act One, Duet: “Caro elisir, sei mio!…Esulti pur la barbara,” Jonathan Johnson (Nemorino), Hlengiwe Mkhwanazi (Adina)

Charles Gounod’s Faust, Act Four, Trio: “Que voulez-vous, Messieurs?,”Anthony Clark Evans (Valentin),Bradley Smoak (Méphistophélès), Jesse Donner (Faust)

Vincenzo Bellini’s I Capuleti e i Montecchi, Act One, Cavatina and Cabaletta: “Se Romeo t’uccise un figlio…La tremenda ultrice spada,” Julie Miller (Romeo)

Gounod’s Roméo et Juliette, Act Four, Recitative and Aria: “Dieu, quel frisson…Amour, ranime mon courage,” Tracy Cantin (Juliette)

Gioachino Rossini’s La Cenerentola, Act Two, Aria: “Sì, ritrovarla io giuro,” Jonathan Johnson (Ramiro)

Erich Wolfgang Korngold’s Die tote Stadt, Act Two, Pierrot’s Tanzlied: “Mein Sehnen, mein Wähnen,” Will Liverman (Fritz)

Bellini’s Norma, Act Two, Duet: “Mira, o Norma,”J’nai Bridges (Adalgisa), Laura Wilde (Norma)

Donizetti’s Lucia di Lammermoor, Act Two, Sextet: “Chi mi frena in tal momento?,”John Irvin (Edgardo), Anthony Clark Evans (Enrico) Tracy Cantin (Lucia) Richard Ollarsaba (Raimondo) Julie Miller (Alisa) Jonathan Johnson (Arturo) and Full Ensemble


MICHAEL CHRISTIE Featured in Opera News in August 2012 as one of 25 people expected to “break out and become major forces in the field in the coming decade,” Christie began his tenure as the first-ever music director of Minnesota Opera in the 2012-13 season. His 16-year symphonic conducting career has included serving as music director of the Phoenix Symphony, Brooklyn Philharmonic, and Colorado Music Festival, and as chief conductor of the Queensland Orchestra in Australia, as well as guest appearances leading the Los Angeles Philharmonic, National Symphony Orchestra, and the major orchestras of Dallas, St. Louis, Atlanta, Houston, Minnesota, Oregon, Indianapolis, and Cincinnati. His New York Philharmonic debut came in March 2007, when he stepped in on short notice for an ailing Riccardo Muti. His successes in opera include Manon Lescaut, Arabella, and Macbeth with Minnesota Opera, and the world premieres of Kevin Puts’s Silent Night (Minnesota Opera, reprise at Opera Philadelphia, European premiere at Ireland’s Wexford Festival), which he will lead in its Canadian premiere later this season at L’Opéra de Montréal; Mark Adamo’s The Gospel of Mary Magdalene (San Francisco Opera); and Ricky Ian Gordon’s 27 (Opera Theatre of Saint Louis, where he has also conducted works of Corigliano, Adams, and Unsuk Chin). The current season includes La fanciulla del West, Carmen, and the world premiere of Kevin Puts and Mark Campbell’s new opera, The Manchurian Candidate (Minnesota Opera).

J’NAI BRIDGES At Lyric Opera: Ten roles since 2012-13, most recently Vlasta/The Passenger, Carmen and One of the Three Ladies/The Magic Victrola, Inez/ Il trovatore (all 2014-15). Earlier this season, the third-year mezzosoprano performed with musicians of the Chicago Symphony Orchestra at the Art Institute of Chicago, and in June she will represent the United States in the highly prestigious BBC Cardiff Singer of the World competition. The 2013-14 season also brought her to Knoxville Opera, where she earned acclaim as Adalgisa/ Norma. A native of Lakewood, Washington, Bridges made her professional debut in 2008 with Opera North (Die Zauberflöte) and later appeared with the Glimmerglass Festival as Carmen (a role she repeated last summer at Finger Lakes Opera in Geneseo, New York). Other recent engagements include a Ravel/Stravinsky program with the CSO. Bridges is the recipient of a 2013 Luminarts Cultural Foundation Fellowship, a Sara Tucker Grant, a Sullivan Award, and the Marian Anderson Award. J’nai Bridges is sponsored by an Anonymous Donor.

TRACY CANTIN At Lyric Opera: Five roles since 2012-13, most recently title role/ Anna Bolena (2014-15), Berta/Il barbiere di Siviglia, Flowermaiden/ Parsifal (both 2013-14). The third-year soprano won critical acclaim last season at Lyric as Berta/Il barbiere di Siviglia (premiere of Rob Ashford’s new production). She has appeared with the company in Elektra, Rigoletto, Parsifal, and most recently – for the opera’s final two scenes – in the title role/Anna Bolena, in which she replaced Sondra Radvanovsky. She has been heard in Bernstein’s Songfest for her Ravinia Festival debut, and Symphony No. 9 introduced her to Australian audiences, with Bryn Terfel, Sir Andrew Davis, and the Melbourne Symphony Orchestra. Cantin made her Chicago debut singing the Figaro Countess (Act Two) and Mimì/La bohème (Act Four) with the Civic Orchestra. The Canadian soprano is an alumna of McGill University (Don Giovanni, La bohème, The Turn of the Screw), the University of Western Ontario (Don Giovanni), and the University of Alberta (Hänsel und Gretel). Among Cantin’s recent honors are a Sullivan Award, the Lieutenant Governor of Alberta Emerging Artist Award, the Women’s Voice Fellowship from the Luminarts Cultural Foundation, and a grant from the Jacqueline Desmarais Foundation. Tracy Cantin is sponsored by The C. G. Pinnell Family.

JESSE DONNER At Lyric Opera: Walther von der Vogelweide/ Tannhäuser, Servant/Capriccio (both 2014-15). Donner, a native of Des Moines, Iowa, is a first-year tenor. He recently completed graduate and post-graduate studies at the University of Michigan (Bacchus/Ariadne auf Naxos, title role/Der Kaiser von Atlantis, Lucano/L’incoronazione di Poppea). He previously earned a bachelor of music degree from Iowa State University. Donner has received a 2015 Luminarts Cultural Foundation Fellowship, the 2014 George Shirley Award for Opera Performance, a special encouragement award from the 2014 Metropolitan Opera National Council Regional Auditions, and first place in the 2012 Michigan Friends of Opera Competition. Other credits include Pinkerton/Madama Butterfly with Opera in the Ozarks and concerts with the Toledo Symphony, Adrian Symphony, and University of Michigan Symphony Orchestra. Jesse Donner is sponsored by Anne Gross and Robert C. Marks.

ANTHONY CLARK EVANS At Lyric Opera: Six roles since 2013-14, most recently Jailer/ Tosca, Servant/ Capriccio (both 2014-15), Hunter/ Rusalka (2013-14). A native of Owensboro, Kentucky, the second-year baritone studied voice at Murray State University, where he portrayed Falstaff/The Merry Wives of Windsor. He was an apprentice artist with Arkansas’s Opera in the Ozarks in 2008 (Marcello/La bohème, Pish-Tush/The Mikado). In 2013 he made his Chicago-area debut at Ravinia performing in Bernstein’s Songfest. Evans attracted national attention as a grand finals winner of the 2012 Metropolitan Opera National Council Auditions. The baritone has won numerous competitions, including those of the Gerda Lissner Foundation, the Licia Albanese-Puccini Foundation, and the Giulio Gari Foundation, as well as two Chicago-based competitions, Luminarts Cultural Foundation and American Opera Society. He has also recently received the coveted Sara Tucker Study Grant from the Richard Tucker Foundation. Anthony Clark Evans is sponsored by Sanfred and Nancy Koltun and Richard W. Shepro and Lindsay E. Roberts.

JOHN IRVIN At Lyric Opera: 11 roles since 2012-13, most recently Third SS Officer/The Passenger, Lord Hervey/Anna Bolena (both 2014-15), Count Almaviva/The Family Barber (2013-14). Later this season, the third-year tenor debuts at Madison Opera as Count Almaviva/Il barbiere di Siviglia and at Opera Theatre of Saint Louis as Matthew Gurney/ Emmeline. Irvin studied as a pianist at Florida State University before switching to voice at Georgia State University (Don José/Carmen) and continuing at Boston University’s Opera Institute (Chevalier/ Dialogues des Carmélites, Paolino/Il matrimonio segreto, Roméo/Roméo et Juliette, Nick/The Postman Always Rings Twice). As a Boston Lyric Opera Emerging Artist, he portrayed Malcolm/Macbeth. The tenor recently debuted with the Los Angeles Philharmonic (Curzio/Le nozze di Figaro under Gustavo Dudamel) and the Melbourne Symphony Orchestra (Beethoven’s Symphony No. 9 under Sir Andrew Davis). Irvin has participated in the Central City Opera and Santa Fe Opera apprentice-artist programs. John Irvin is sponsored by Stepan Company

JONATHAN JOHNSON At Lyric Opera: Third SS Officer/The Passenger, Nemorino and Tamino/The Magic Victrola, Ruiz/Il trovatore (all 2014-15). The first-year tenor recently completed his tenure as a fellow of the A. J. Fletcher Institute at the University of North Carolina School of the Arts, pursuing a Professional Artist Certificate. His roles there included Ruggero/La rondine, Lechmere/Owen Wingrave, Azaël/Debussy’s L’enfant prodigue, and Fenton/Die lustigen Weiber von Windsor. Other performance credits include Ezekiel Cheever/The Crucible (Piedmont Opera, debut), and the title role/ Candide and Rev. Horace Adams/Peter Grimes (Aspen Summer Music Institute). Johnson received his Bachelor of Music degree from Mercer University’s Townsend School of Music, where he sang the title role/Cavalli’s L’Egisto, Camille de Rosillon/ The Merry Widow, and Nemorino/L’elisir d’amore. He made his Chicago debut performing Les mamelles de Tirésias with the Civic Orchestra of Chicago. Jonathan Johnson is sponsored by Mr. and Mrs. William C. Vance.

WILL LIVERMAN At Lyric Opera: Nine roles since 2012-13, most recently Papageno/ The Magic Victrola, Lawyer Frazier/Porgy and Bess, Servant/ Capriccio (all 2014-15). The third-year baritone, a Virginia native, won critical praise as the Husband/ Poulenc’s Les mamelles de Tirésias last season with the Civic Orchestra of Chicago. Later this season Liverman will appear in the world premiere of Charlie Parker’s Yardbird with Opera Philadelphia. Liverman has also been heard at Utah Opera as Rossini’s Figaro (a role he will reprise at Madison Opera this spring) and at The Santa Fe Opera, The Juilliard School (of which he is an alumnus), the Glimmerglass Festival, and Brevard Music Festival. A 2012 Metropolitan Opera National Council Auditions grand finalist and first-place winner in the 2012 Gerda Lissner Competition, Liverman has won three first-prize awards from the Chicago National Association of Teachers of Singing Competition, a Sullivan Award, and the coveted Sara Tucker Study Grant. Will Liverman is sponsored by an Anonymous Donor, The Pauls Foundation, and Debbie K. Wright.

JULIE MILLER At Lyric Opera: Five roles since 2013-14, most recently Krzystina/ The Passenger, Mother, Mallika, and One of the Three Ladies/The Magic Victrola, (both 2014-15), Ida/ Die Fledermaus (2013-14). The second-year mezzo-soprano’s recent performances include Bolcom’s “Cabaret Songs” at the 2014 Grant Park Music Festival. She has appeared at Carnegie Hall, with the Cincinnati Symphony Orchestra, at the Bard College Conservatory of Music, as Jo/Little Women at the Sugar Creek Festival, and widely in her home state, California: with Sacramento Opera (Rigoletto), West Bay Opera (La traviata), Townsend Opera in Modesto (La traviata, Roméo et Juliette), Marin Symphony (Beethoven’s Symphony No. 9), and VITA Academy in Sacramento (Amahl and the Night Visitors). As an undergraduate at California State University Sacramento, she portrayed Monteverdi’s Ottavia and Mozart’s Donna Elvira. The recipient of a 2015 Richard F. Gold Career Grant, Miller is a winner of the 2014 American Opera Society Competition and the 2010 Pasadena Opera Guild Scholarship Competition. Julie Miller is sponsored by Maurice J. and Patricia Frank.

HLENGIWE MKHWANAZI At Lyric Opera: Olympia, Lakmé, and Papagena/The Magic

Victrola, Clara/Porgy and Bess (both 2014-15). Last year the first-year soprano sang Thérèse/Poulenc’s Les mamelles de Tirésias with the Civic Orchestra of Chicago. A native of KwaZulu-Natal, South Africa, Mkhwanazi earned her diploma in opera and her postgraduate diploma in music performance from the South African College of Music at the University of Cape Town. Among her leading roles in Cape Town have been Fiordiligi/Così fan tutte, Konstanze/Die Entführung aus dem Serail, and Antonia/Les contes d’Hoffmann, all at Cape Town Opera; and Stravinsky’s Anne Trulove/The Rake’s Progress and Rossini’s Madama Cortese/Il viaggio a Reims at the Baxter Theatre. In America she has been heard as Adina/L’elisir d’amore at Virginia’s Barter Theatre and Susanna/Le nozze di Figaro at Brown University. The soprano earned second overall prize, media jury prize, and audience prize in Vienna’s HansGabor Belvedere International Singing Competition (2012). Hlengiwe Mkhwanazi is sponsored by Susan and Richard Kiphart and Drs. Funmi and Sola Olopade.

RICHARD OLLARSABA At Lyric Opera: Ten roles since 2013-14, most recently Second SS Officer/The Passenger, Angelotti/Tosca, Lord Rochford/ Anna Bolena (all 2014-15). This season the second-year bass-baritone went on at the last moment replacing Mariusz Kwiecień in the title role/Don Giovanni and, less than a week later, went on as the Majordomo/Capriccio. The Arizona native portrayed Escamillo/ Carmen last year at Tulsa Opera. He made his professional debut at Opera Cleveland as Antonio/Le nozze di Figaro and was a 2012-13 resident artist at The Minnesota Opera (Nabucco, Anna Bolena, Turandot). He has also been heard at Piedmont Opera (Don Giovanni, The Crucible, Il trovatore). Concert engagements include the Elmhurst Symphony, the St. Paul Chamber Orchestra, Kansas City Symphony, and Greensboro Symphony. A 2013 Metropolitan Opera National Council Auditions grand finalist, Ollarsaba has participated in the young-artist programs at Tanglewood and the Music Academy of the West. He is an alumnus of the Cleveland Institute of Music and the University of North Carolina School of the Arts. Richard Ollarsaba is sponsored by Lois B. Siegel and Drs. Joan and Russ Zajtchuk.

BRADLEY SMOAK At Lyric Opera: First SS Officer/The Passenger, Sciarrone/Tosca, Servant/Capriccio (all 2014-15.) A North Carolina native and first-year bass, Smoak has been heard nationwide, with particular success at Opera Theatre of Saint Louis (King of Hearts/Alice in Wonderland, Pirate King/The Pirates of Penzance, Masetto/Don Giovanni, Antonio/ Le nozze di Figaro, Second Soldier/ Salome). He has also performed with Boston Lyric Opera (Les contes d’Hoffmann), Opera North (Die Zauberflöte, Madama Butterfly), Palm Beach Opera (Otello, Don Giovanni, Così fan tutte, Carmen), Sarasota Opera (La bohème, The Crucible), Opera Charleston (Zuniga/Carmen opposite Denyce Graves), Opera Omaha, Opera Roanoke, Annapolis Opera, DuPage Opera Theatre, and Phoenicia International Festival of the Voice. He made his international operatic debut at Ireland’s Wexford Festival Opera in The Ghosts of Versailles, returning for Donizetti’s Maria Padilla and Smetana’s The Kiss. Smoak is an alumnus of Illinois Wesleyan University. Bradley Smoak is sponsored by The Elizabeth F. Cheney Foundation.

LAURA WILDE At Lyric Opera: Lauretta and One of the Three Ladies/The Magic Victrola, (2014-15), Berta/The Family Barber, Flowermaiden/Parsifal (both 2013-14). Wilde, a second-year soprano, was previously a Marion Roose Pullin Artist in Residence with Arizona Opera, where she portrayed Cherubino/Le nozze di Figaro, Siébel/Faust, Stéphano/Roméo et Juliette, Alisa/Lucia di Lammermoor, and Lola/ Cavalleria rusticana. Having recently switched from mezzo-soprano to soprano, she returned to the Phoenix Symphony in 2013 for Ravel’s Shéhérazade. Wilde has participated in the programs of The Santa Fe Opera (Deaconess/Szymanowski’s King Roger) and Opera Theatre of Saint Louis (Mrs. Segstrom/A Little Night Music, Omar/The Death of Klinghoffer). A 2010 Metropolitan Opera National Council Auditions semi-finalist and third-place winner in the 2011 Palm Beach Opera Competition, Wilde is also a two-time recipient of the Elihu Hyndman Memorial Award from Opera Theatre of Saint Louis. She is an alumna of Indiana University (Jo/ Little Women, Isabella/L’italiana in Algeri, Prince/Cendrillon) and St. Olaf College. Laura Wilde is sponsored by Mrs. J. W. Van Gorkom.

MAUREEN ZOLTEK At Lyric Opera: Musical preparation for Tosca, The Magic Victrola (both 2014-15), La clemenza di Tito (2013-14). Zoltek, in her second year as Ryan Opera Center pianist, served as coachaccompanist for San Francisco Opera’s 2013 world premiere of Mark Adamo’s The Gospel of Mary Magdalene. Zoltek’s appearances as an orchestral pianist with the Chicago Symphony Orchestra have included collaborations with many major conductors, including Boulez, Conlon, Dudamel, and Gergiev. She has appeared with the Elgin Symphony Orchestra; at Chicago’s Latino Music Festival; at the 2010 Fischoff Competition (where she was a semi-finalist); and live on 98.7WFMT. As a Vocal Piano Fellow, Zoltek has attended the Aspen Music Festival and School and Santa Barbara’s Music Academy of the West (first prize, pianist division, 2012 Marilyn Horne Song Competition). She has participated in “The Song Continues,” Horne’s annual series of performances and master classes at Carnegie Hall. Zoltek is an alumna of the Manhattan School of Music, Roosevelt University, and DePaul University. Maureen Zoltek is sponsored by an Anonymous Donor.

About the Ryan Opera Center

The Patrick G. and Shirley W. Ryan Opera Center at Lyric Opera of Chicagowas established in 1974 as the professional artist-development program for Lyric Opera of Chicago. Since its inception, the Ryan Opera Center has been recognized as one of the premier programs of its kind in the world. That standing is maintained by providing the finest up-and-coming singers and pianists with unparalleled training and experience. The program is administered by DirectorDan Novak, Music Director Craig Terry, Advisor Renée Fleming, and Director of Vocal Studies Julia Faulkner.

Selected from some 400 singers who audition annually, the Ryan Opera Center ensemble members are in residence for nearly 12 months. Over the course of the year they receive advanced instruction in numerous aspects of operatic performance, including voice lessons and coachings, language and acting training, and master classes with some of opera’s most celebrated artists, includingStephanie BlytheSir Andrew Davis (Lyric’s music director), Renée Fleming(Lyric’s creative consultant), Thomas HampsonAna María MartínezEric Owens, and Matthew Polenzani (a Ryan Opera Center alumnus), among others.

During Lyric Opera’s mainstage season, Ryan Opera Center members perform and understudy a significant number of principal and supporting roles. This presents an extraordinary opportunity to work with the world’s greatest opera singers, conductors, directors, orchestra, and chorus. They also gain valuable performing experience by participating in recitals and concerts at many Chicago-area venues.

Ryan Opera Center members participate in the Harris Theater’s Beyond The Ariaconcerts, a popular new series of cabaret-style performances on the stage of the Pritzker Pavilion (with Craig Terry, artistic director of Beyond the Aria, as pianist). The ensemble is featured in monthly broadcasts of the Ryan Opera Center’s 98.7WFMT Recital Series, also streamed at Previously broadcast programs are online at

The Ryan Opera Center ensemble was expanded in 2013 to include a pianist, who likewise receives advanced training and performance opportunities throughout the year.

A testament to the Ryan Opera Center’s caliber and success is the roster of distinguished alumni who perform regularly on the stages of leading international opera houses. It includes René BarberaHarolyn Blackwell, Nicole Cabell,Elizabeth DeShongMark S. DossChristopher FeigumGregory Frank,Elizabeth FutralRoger HoneywellJoseph KaiserMaria KanyovaQuinn KelseyDina KuznetsovaEmily MageeAmanda MajeskiMarlin Miller,Susanna PhillipsMatthew PolenzaniFranco PomponiChristian Van Horn,Amber Wagner, and Erin Wall.







Andrew Patner Celebration at Orchestra Hall


Friends, family, fans, and colleagues of WFMT Critic-at-Large Andrew Patner gathered from around the country in Orchestra Hall at Symphony Center on Wednesday, March 18, 2015 to celebrate his life after his sudden passing on February 3, 2015.

Those who were unable to attend the memorial service can download a podcast of a conversation between WFMT Program Director David Polk and Chicago Symphony Orchestra Music Director Riccardo Muti broadcast earlier in the week.

The Celebration was also featured in the Chicago Sun-Times and the Chicago Reader.

Opera en el barrio – Lyric Unlimited Previews “El Pasado” in Pilsen and Waukegan

A young trumpeter performs with one of the Mariachi Academy ensembles of the Chicago Mariachi Project

A young trumpeter performs with one of the Mariachi Academy ensembles of the Chicago Mariachi Project

El Pasado Nunca Se Termina (The Past Is Never Finished), the new mariachi opera commissioned by Lyric Unlimited, was recently unveiled in preview performances in Pilsen’s Benito Juaréz Academy March 13-15, 2015. WFMT attended the first preview performance and went backstage with mariachi singer Vanessa Alonzo during her rehearsals to tell you more about this fresh, new work.

With ticket prices at an affordable $10 each, the diverse audience at the first preview performance of El Pasado at Benito Juaréz Academy included a number of local families. One Pilsen resident, who attended with his wife and three year-old son, said after the performance that, “We usually wouldn’t go see something like this, but we came last year and saw [Cruzar la Cara de la Luna] so we thought we would come and see this one too.”

Cruzar received its Chicago premiere as part of Lyric Unlimited in 2013, and was commissioned by Anthony Freud for Houston Grand Opera during his tenure there as general director. El Pasado is a co-creation of Houston Grand Opera and the Lyric Opera of Chicago, where Freud has been general director since 2011. Both Cruzar and El Pasado share the same creative team of composer José “Pepe” Martínez and librettist Leonard Foglia.

Lyric Unlimited Director Cayenne Harris explained, “By presenting Cruzar, we made friends and found advocates within the Mexican and Latino communities here who have been instrumental in helping us to draw the audiences that we are hoping to attract to El Pasado.”

El Pasado speaks to broad audiences, in part, because of its accessible score, a multicultural blend of opera and mariachi music. Singer Vanessa Alonzo, who performs in El Pasado and who also stared in Cruzar, spoke to WFMT about her passion for mariachi music and how creating the character of Juana for the current production helped her explore her own identity.

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The cast also includes mezzo-soprano Cassandra Zoé Velasco, who appeared earlier this season as Laura in the Metropolitan Opera premiere of Tchaikovsky’s Iolanta alongside Anna Netrebko, and Lyric’s own Ryan Opera Center alumnus Paul La Rosa.

Preview performances of El Pasado featured Mariachi Aztlán as the on-stage mariachi ensemble, which includes violins, trumpets, harps, vihuela, guitarrón, and guitar. The world premiere performances at the Civic Opera House retain the same cast, though featuring the acclaimed Mariachi Vargas de Tecalitlán.

One of the Mariachi Academy ensembles of the Chicago Mariachi Project provided a postlude at Benito Juaréz Academy

One of the Mariachi Academy ensembles of the Chicago Mariachi Project provided a postlude at Benito Juaréz Academy

Following the opening night preview in Pilsen, audiences were serenaded by the young performers of the Mariachi Academy ensembles of the Chicago Mariachi Project, a non-profit whose mission is to elevate the art of mariachi and promote excellence in musicianship through education, coordination and support. The audience could not help but sing along to mariachi classics like “Cielito lindo,” in this charming opera postlude.

After a weekend of previews at Benito Juaréz Academy, El Pasado travels to the Genesee Theatre in Waukegan for a final preview on Sunday, March 22, 2015 before its world premiere. Harris explained that while presenting the opera in Pilsen “was an obvious choice,” that Lyric Ulimited “considered several possibilities before deciding on Waukegan.”

“It’s a city that has seen rapid growth in its Latino population,” she continued. “And the Genesee Theatre, once a movie palace, has been restored beautifully and is truly a gem. I also found that the city of Waukegan was really hungry for partnership and collaboration with a cultural institution like Lyric Opera. The community has been working on a revitalization plan that puts the arts at the forefront of their efforts, so it was really a great fit.”

Harris explained, “One of the great challenges of presenting a brand new work is that it is very difficult to know how the audience will respond before you perform it for a live audience.” She continued, “we are really fortunate to have the opportunity to preview El Pasado in Pilsen and Waukegan and to give the cast several opportunities to perform it before the official world premiere performances. It’s been incredible to see the audiences respond to the work at the previews.”

Though Lyric has presented two mariachi operas recently, Harris said, “We don’t have any immediate plans for new commissions in Spanish, but it’s certainly something that is possible. Through Lyric Unlimited we plan to explore an array of different collaborative projects including new commissions that will resonate with many different communities in Chicago.”

If you are unable to catch a sneak peek of El Pasado during its preview performances, tune into Chicago Tonight next week to see a feature that includes Mariachi Aztlán and two soloists from the show.

The world premiere performances of El Pasado take place at the Civic Opera House March 28 – 29, 2015. For more information about El Pasado or to order tickets, visit: