Lyric Opera Stars Glow in Season Preview

United StatesUnited States Mozart, Donizetti, Verdi, Bizet, Gounod, Tchaikovsky, Wagner: Soloists, Lyric Opera of Chicago Orchestra, Lyric Opera of Chicago Chorus, Michael Black (director), Sir Andrew David (conductor), Millennium Park, Chicago. 9.9.2016. (JLZ)

A free, open-air event in the heart of downtown Chicago, the annual Stars of Lyric Opera concert is a preview and celebration of the coming season, and an opportunity to hear the company’s chorus and orchestra, as well as some of the young artists from the Ryan Opera Center. This concert included excerpts from Mozart’s Die Zauberflöte, which will be offered during the holidays, and Sir Andrew Davis opened with a masterful reading of its famous overture, along with Tamino’s aria “Dies Bildnis,” sung by Ryan Opera Center tenor Jonathan Johnson. Johnson’s voice may be familiar because of his recent Millennium Park performances in the title role of Berlioz’s La damnation de Faust, and he offered a passionate reading. Later he was also featured with the chorus in an excerpt from Donizetti’s Lucia di Lammermoor.

While not part of the current season, the chorus “Godiam la pace” from Idomeneo was an opportunity to hear four additional Ryan Center members: Diana Newman, Lindsay Metzger, Alec Carlson, and Patrick Guetti. Continuing with Mozart, German bass Tobias Kehrer gave a powerful reading of Osmin’s aria from Die Entführung aus dem Serail, “Ha, wie will ich triumphieren,” which demonstrated his flexible voice and impressive range, including sometimes treacherous passages below the bass clef. Kehrer demonstrated his accomplished technique by giving the sustained pitches full measure, and showing style, diction and resonance. He also made a spirited exit by turning a cartwheel.

Mezzo-soprano Tanja Ariane Baumgartner will make her Lyric debut this season, and it was a pleasure to hear her sing “O don fatale” from Verdi’s Don Carlo and “L’amour est un oiseau rebelle” from Bizet’s Carmen. The two arias gave the audience a sense of Baumgartner’s wide range, with memorable low notes in the Verdi.

Eric Owens offered the bass aria “O patria” from I vespri siciliani and the familiar “Veau d’or” from Gounod’s Faust. While he was sometimes overshadowed by the orchestra in the Verdi, he interacted well with the men of the chorus in the Gounod. Likewise, Ryan Center alumnus Quinn Kelsey was impressive in Posa’s fourth-act aria from Verdi’s Don Carlo—riveting both for his vocal perfection and sense of line. Kelsey also sang Yeletsky’s love song to Lisa from Tchaikovsky’s The Queen of Spades. (Anna Maria Martínez, slated to sing the “Letter” aria from Eugene Onegin, was unable to perform.)

The concert concluded with two arias from Wagner’s Der fliegende Holländer. Wilhelm Schwinghammer’s rendering of Daland’s “Mögst du, mein Kind” demonstrated accomplished technique. And Korean bass-baritone Samuel Youn gave a vivid performance of the Dutchman’s monologue, “Die Frist ist um,” leaving the audience breathless.

Though the weather at times threatened to spoil the evening, Sir Andrew Davis conducted with finesse, and led the Lyric Opera Orchestra with the assurance that Chicago audiences know well.

James L. Zychowicz

Lyric Opera of Chicago’s 2016–2017 season opens 1 October:

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