Lyric Opera announces non-opera initiative; CSO composer in residence blows deadline for first work

Mon Jan 11, 2016 at 1:30 pm

By Lawrence A. Johnson

Renee Fleming will curate a concert in 2017 as part of the Lyric Opera's "Chicago Voices" project. Photo: Andrew Eccles
Renée Fleming will curate a concert in 2017 as part of the Lyric Opera’s “Chicago Voices” project. Photo: Andrew Eccles

The Lyric Opera of Chicago rolled out its latest non-opera venture with “Chicago Voices” last week. Announced with great fanfare at The Hideout by general director Anthony Freud and creative consultant Renée Fleming, the project promises “a groundbreaking, multi-year initiative celebrating Chicago’s vibrant, diverse vocal music culture.”

With hefty financial backing from the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation and the Ford Foundation, the Lyric Unlimited project will collaborate with Chicago Public Library, Chicago History Museum and Columbia College Chicago to “engage and interact with the entire Chicago community in innovative, resounding ways.” Chicago Voices will “invite the whole city to find common ground in our musical riches, to honor the great voices of our past, and to nurture the evolving musical life of the city today.”

 Though specifics were few, Freud said in a statement that it includes “Community Created Performances for which we are putting creative control into the hands of communities to tell their stories using the building blocks of opera: storytelling through song. It’s a tremendously exciting idea that I hope will cast a spotlight on the untold stories of Chicagoans and the tremendous creativity that exists in our city.” 

In addition to a “city-wide celebration” and “expert panels and master classes,” Chicago Voices will debut officially February 4, 2017, at the Civic Opera House with a gala concert that will showcase an “array of vocal talent with deep ties to Chicago.” Curated by Fleming, the concert will include blues, jazz, soul, rock, folk, hip-hop, gospel, and classical music.


The tenure of Elizabeth Ogonek, one of the Chicago Symphony Orchestra’s new composers in residence, isn’t off to a flying start.

Ogonek, 26, missed the deadline for Lightenings, her first CSO commission, which was to have been performed next month by Riccardo Muti and the CSO. Ogonek’s work will be rescheduled at a later date.

The good news is that replacing the Ogonek premiere at the Feb. 11-16 concerts will be Arvo Pärt’s Orient and Occident, a belated recognition of the Estonian composer’s 80th birthday last September.

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