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June 2014
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Lyric Opera Takes It to the Neighborhoods

Pepe Martinez

Pepe Martinez

On Thursday Lyric Opera of Chicago unveiled four new productions with one objective: community. Part of the Lyric Unlimited initiative for 2015 these shows reach beyond Lyric’s mainstage appealing to diverse age and ethnic groups.

“We can’t exist in a hermetically sealed bubble.”

—General Director Anthony Freud


Wlad Marhulets, c. Arthur Moeller

At Thursday’s press conference Lyric announced plans to produce The Property, a klezmer opera based on a graphic novel by Israeli illustrator and comic book artist Rutu Modan. Composer Wlad Marhulets plans to incorporate traditional folk elements like klezmer, but acknowledges using some funk sounds in his musical palette as well. The Property will be staged in Skokie and Hyde Park.

Lyric announced the commission of a second mariachi opera using the same creative team as Cruzar la cara de la luna which was presented two seasons ago. The composer Jose “Pepe” Martínez is working with a libretto by Leonard Foglia. The new work El pasado nunca se termina will be staged in Pilsen and Waukegan before a weekend at the Civic Opera House.


Composer and librettist Matthew Aucoin, c. Social Palates

For families Lyric commissioned a children’s opera, Second Nature by Matthew Aucoin, to be presented at the Lincoln Park Zoo.

A fourth Lyric Unlimited production also focuses on families using an original story woven around famous opera scenes. The Magic Victrola will be performed at the Civic Opera House in 2015.

Lyric Opera of Chicago launched Lyric Unlimited in 2012, a collaboration of creative consultant Renée Fleming, general director Anthony Freud, and music director Sir Andrew Davis. The Lyric Unlimited initiative has been a passion for Mr. Freud who confesses, “We can’t exist in a hermetically sealed bubble. We need to be proactive and dynamic in engaging with the cities which we are here to serve.”

According to Lyric Unlimited Director Cayenne Harris, getting outside that bubble is exciting. Taking opera into the neighborhoods means a different kind of theater, one that doesn’t have to fill the massive stage of an opera house.  It also means presenting music that might resonate with a community by starting with music that’s familiar to that community. Mozart did that when he wrote The Magic Flute. Verdi did the same when he wrote Nabucco. It’s not a bad idea.

Related links:

Read the feature by WFMT Critic-at-Large Andrew Patner.

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