Lyric Opera announces a safety-first 2013-14 season centered on Italian standards

Thu Feb 07, 2013 at 3:00 pm

By Lawrence A. Johnson

Ana Maria Martinez will star in two Lyric Opera productions in 2013-14, Verdi’s “Otello” and Dvořák’s “Rusalka.”

“Long Live Passion!” may be the Lyric Opera of Chicago’s current PR slogan but the conservative lineup for the company’s 59th season suggests something more like, “Long live standard repertoire!”

The Lyric Opera of Chicago will offer another season heavy on populist standards in 2013-14 with a Dvořák premiere and less-often heard works by Mozart and Wagner providing the most interest in a season centered on familiar, largely Italianate fare. American opera, once again, is missing in action in a company that has not mounted a staged homegrown work since Porgy and Bess in 2008.

On the bright side, Dvořák’s Rusalka will finally make its Chicago debut next season with Ana Maria Martinez starring as the tragic water nymph who longs for human love. Wagner’s Parsifal will return to the Lyric boards as will Mozart’s La clemenza di Tito.

The season will open October 5 with Verdi’s Otello. Johan Botha, who had serious vocal issues with this role last fall at the Met, will sing the role of the Moorish general undone by his obsessive jealousy. Ana Maria Martinez will make her role debut as the doomed Desdemona with Falk Struckmann as the evil Iago. Bertrand de Billy conducts.

Puccini’s romantic tear-jerker Madama Butterfly will be presented with two casts in October and January, continuing the company trend toward extended double runs of audience favorites. South African soprano Amanda Echalaz (Chicago debut) and Patricia Racette will portray the tragic geisha Cio-Cio San with tenors James Valenti and Stefano Secco alternating as her caddish lover, Pinkerton. Conductor Marco Armiliato makes his company debut in a Houston Grand Opera production new to Chicago.

Wagner’s Parsifal opens November 9, conducted by Sir Andrew Davis in a new production. Paul Groves will make his role debut as the title knight with Thomas Hampson as Amfortas, Daveda Karanas as Kundry, Kwangchul Youn as Guernemanz and Tomas Tomasson as Klingsor.

Latvian soprano Marina Rebeka will make her Chicago debut starring as Violetta in Verdi’s La Traviata, opening November 20 with Joseph Calleja as Alfredo and Quinn Kelsey as Germont. Massimo Zanetti will conduct in what is promised as a new Lyric Opera production.

Continuing the Lyric’s light-work-in-December tradition, Johann Strauss Jr.’s operetta Die Fledermaus will open December 10. German soprano Juliane Banse makes her house debut as Rosalinde with Adrian Eröd as Falke, Bo Skovhus as Eisenstein, and Emily Fons as Orlofsky. Ward Stare conducts in a production borrowed from San Francisco Opera.

Isabel Leonard will make her company debut, the radiant mezzo-soprano starring as Rosina in a new production of Rossini’s Barber of Seville, opening Feb. 1. Nathan Gunn is the wily barber Figaro with Alek Shrader as Almaviva, Alessandro Corbelli as Bartolo and Kyle Ketelsen as Basilio with Michele Mariotti conducting.

In her second major role next season, Ana Maria Martinez will portray the title role of Dvořák’s melancholy water-nymph in Rusalka, opening Feb. 22. The strong supporting cast includes Brandon Jovanovich, Eric Owens and Jill Grove with a David McVicar production and Sir Andrew Davis conducting.

Joyce DiDonato returns to Chicago in the role of Sesto for the season-closing production of Mozart’s La clemenza di Tito. Amanda Majeski will sing the role of Vitellia with Matthew Polenzani as Tito, Emily Birsan as Servilia and Cecilia Hall as Annio. Davis will conduct.

Lyric creative consultant Renee Fleming will team up with tenor Jonas Kaufmann for next year’s Subscriber Appreciation Concert on March 19.

Lyric Opera also announced their future Broadway musical plans through 2017, which will include a survey of all the major Rodgers and Hammerstein musicals. Following this summer’s production of Oklahoma!, The Sound of Music will be presented in 2014, with Carousel to follow in 2015, The King and I in 2016 and South Pacific in 2017.

For more information, go to or call 312-332-2244.

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4 Responses to “Lyric Opera announces a safety-first 2013-14 season centered on Italian standards”

  1. Posted Feb 07, 2013 at 6:21 pm by Roland Buck

    NO BAROQUE OPERA AGAIN! That means no contribution from me for the Lyric. Hopefully COT will return to its previous policy of presenting a baroque opera next year so that there will be a baroque opera offered in Chicago next season. At least in the coming season they will not completely ignore the 18th century and present a Mozart opera.

  2. Posted Feb 08, 2013 at 7:14 am by jizungu

    @Roland Buck: …no baroque (tho that barn is a lousy venue for it), no 20th-century (I don’t count Madame B), nothing contemporary. When the “rarities” are by Wagner, Dvorak, & Mozart, you know you have a company that lacks imagination. Or is it respect for its audience that it lacks?

  3. Posted Feb 08, 2013 at 7:16 am by jizungu

    BTW, @Roland Buck: for baroque, you might check out Haymarket Opera’s productions in Rogers Park. I haven’t caught a performance yet, but I can vouch for the intimate venue.

  4. Posted Feb 08, 2013 at 9:10 am by Benjamin

    Season is somewhat a disappointment. We subscribed for years to the O series for out of town subscribers. For the last two years it has been hard to put together a series we are interested in attending. Will hope to hear Parsifal and Rusulka, but would not come for another Barbiere or Othello which were so recently given.

    Programming only the top 50 or so tunes without challenging your audiences has the danger of turning off the tried and true opera lover and puts Lyric in the same position as many of the regional companies.

    Lyric has been better than most when it came to interesting programming.

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