Press Room

Lyric Opera of Chicago’s “electrifying opener”

Lyric Opera of Chicago launched its 58th season with a bang on October 6, with a “gripping new production” of Richard Strauss’s Elektra, according to the Chicago Tribune. The “modernist shocker…goes to show that general director Anthony Freud doesn’t mind shaking up audience expectations a bit, while obliging their craving for great singing,” the Tribune continued. The production has already proved a triumph for American soprano Christine Goerke, making her company debut. “Goerke Elektrifies,” declared The Wall Street Journal, noting that “conductor Andrew Davis and soprano Christine Goerke, balancing the tumult with transparency, make this modernist landmark into a complex theatrical exploration of Freudian obsession.” Lyric’s new production at Chicago’s Civic Opera House continues, with performances on October 13, 19, 22, 26 (matinee), and 30.
Musical America praised “the astonishing Christine Goerke” in the title role, stating, “The production, directed by Sir David McVicar and conducted by Sir Andrew Davis, Lyric’s music director, was a thrilling night at the opera from start to finish.”
Elektra is one of those rare evenings in the theater when a bloody mess is just what you want and expect,” wrote Andrew Patner in the Chicago Sun-Times. He observed that after a 20-year absence from Lyric’s schedule, “Elektra came back with a bang Saturday night” with Goerke “staking her claim to this career-defining role in only her second outing in the demanding part.”
For the Associated Press, Mike Silverman praised Goerke’s “voice that’s warm and rich,” while the Chicago Tribune’s John von Rhein admired her “fearlessly and vocally resplendent performance in the grueling title role.” He continued, “She’s one of the few Elektras around who doesn’t sacrifice warm tonal beauty to the knife-edged, gallon-jug singing demanded of every singer who runs this nearly two-hour vocal marathon.”
In The Wall Street Journal, Heidi Waleson concurred:
“As Elektra, who is unhinged by grief over the murder of her father, Agamemnon, Ms. Goerke displays a big, blazing soprano that not only has the gale-force power and sheen to slice through Strauss’s huge orchestra, but also seamless legato and a whole paintbox of colors that makes every one of her interactions different and fascinating. … Ms. Goerke, particularly after this searing and nuanced portrayal, will no doubt have a fascinating career trajectory ahead of her.”
Musical America was similarly awed:
Goerke was riveting from her first moment on stage, crawling from the shadows like a wild beast. Her voice easily cut through [Lyric’s 97-piece] orchestra, piercing the air like a brilliant laser at one moment, turning suave and velvety in the next. She rode the surging orchestral waves like an expert surfer, willfully proud as she plunged and soared.”
But everybody else sharing the stage is just as accomplished,” the Tribune pointed out, “and so, too, is the Lyric Opera Orchestra, pouring out the score’s gnashing dissonances and surges of shimmering lyricism under the baton of its resident Strauss authority, music director Andrew Davis. … This is a high-water mark in Sir Andrew’s odyssey through the Strauss operas at Lyric.
The Associated Press agreed:
“Much of the musical strength of the evening comes from the orchestra, which plays with tremendous precision and power. Andrew Davis, Lyric’s music director, shapes a finely nuanced reading of the fierce score that highlights its more introspective passages to an unusual extent.”
Elektra is far from a one-woman show. Lyric has assembled a fine supporting cast,” continued the Associated Press, and the Chicago Tribune elaborated,
“Taking on the role of the mother from hell is American mezzo-soprano Jill Grove, doing splendidly by music she actually sings rather than screams in the time-dishonored Klytemnestra tradition. … American soprano Emily Magee, a star alumna of Lyric’s Ryan Opera Center who sings all over Europe these days, brought a wealth of gleaming, womanly tone to the role [of Chrysothemis], adding to the thrills of the Elektra-Chrysothemis duet.”
Critical plaudits also went to Lyric’s new production. “Scottish stage director David McVicar has given Chicago some of its best works in recent seasons,” noted the Sun-Times, “and with his countryman John Macfarlane handling sets and costumes and American lighting legend Jennifer Tipton painting in the shadows of Agamemnon’s decaying palace and grounds, we have constant focus on the story and on the essential family dynamics. Big, brooding shapes and harsh angles house the hellish looks of the ‘bad guys’ and the been-through-hell look of the good.”
Musical America summarized the evening in the Civic Opera House as “100 intermissionless minutes stuffed with enough raw-edged revenge, tawdry sex, and blood lust to fill a Quentin Tarantino movie. The Sun-Times urged its readers:
Don’t miss this new production of a great and always disturbing entry in the Modernist canon or these performances. Lyric was brave to launch its season with such a heavy-duty piece. And as she showed in just five minutes of Verdi at Lyric’s outdoor Millennium Park concert last month, Goerke has the goods. Her Elektra literally dances herself to death after her revenge is accomplished. But her voice rings on for the rest of the run here and, one hopes, for many years to come.
Lyric Opera of Chicago’s 2012-13 season
All performances at Civic Opera House
Oct 6–30
Richard Strauss’s Elektra (new production)
Christine Goerke, Jill Grove, Emily Magee, Alan Held, Roger Honeywell
Sir Andrew Davis, conductor; Sir David McVicar, director
Seven performances: Oct 6, 10, 13, 19, 22, 26m, & 30
Oct 15–Nov 9
Verdi’s Simon Boccanegra
Thomas Hampson, Ferruccio Furlanetto, Krassimira Stoyanova, Frank Lopardo, Quinn Kelsey
Sir Andrew Davis, conductor; Elijah Moshinsky, director; Covent Garden production
Eight performances: Oct 15, 20, 24, 28m, 31m; Nov 3, 6, & 9
Nov 11–26
Massenet’s Werther (new production)
Matthew Polenzani, Sophie Koch, Kiri Deonarine, Craig Verm
Sir Andrew Davis, conductor; Francisco Negrin, director; co-production with San Francisco Opera
Six performances: Nov 11m, 14, 17, 20, 23, & 26
Nov 25–Dec 15
Donizetti’s Don Pasquale
Ildebrando D’Arcangelo; Marlis Petersen, René Barbera, Corey Crider
Stephen Lord, conductor; Sir Thomas Allen, director; Jean-Pierre Ponnelle/Dallas Opera production
Six performances: Nov 25m, 28; Dec 6m, 8, 10, & 15
Dec 2
Popcorn and Pasquale
70-minute opera adventure for kids and families
Don Pasquale: selected songs and scenes
Host: Ross Lehman; Ildebrando D’Arcangelo, Marlis Petersen, René Barbera, Corey Crider
Dec 7–Jan 19
Humperdinck’s Hansel and Gretel
Elizabeth DeShong, Maria Kanyova, Jill Grove
Ward Stare, conductor; Eric Einhorn, director; Richard Jones original production; coproduction with Welsh National Opera
Nine performances: Dec 7, 12, 14m, 16 (mat); Jan 8, 11, 14, 17m, & 19
Jan 5
The Second City Guide to the Opera
Featuring Renée Fleming and performers from Lyric Opera and The Second City
Jan 24
Renée Fleming and Susan Graham Subscriber Appreciation Recital
Bradley Moore, piano
Jan 21–March 28
Puccini’s La bohème
Ana María Martínez/Anna Netrebko, Dimitri Pittas/Joseph Calleja, Elizabeth Futral, Lucas Meachem
Emmanuel Villaume, conductor; Louisa Muller, director; San Francisco Opera production
Eleven performances: Jan 21, 24m, 27m; Feb 2, 7; March 9, 12, 15m, 18, 22, & 28m
Feb 8–March 3
Wagner’s Die Meistersinger von Nürnberg (new production)
James Morris, Johan Botha, Amanda Majeski, Bo Skovhus
Sir Andrew Davis, conductor; Marie Lambert, director; Sir David McVicar original production; coproduction with Glyndebourne Festival and San Francisco Opera
Seven performances: Feb 8, 12, 16, 20, 23, 27m; & March 3m
Feb 25–March 30
Verdi’s Rigoletto
Andrzej Dobber/Zeljko Lucic, Albina Shagimuratova, Giuseppe Filianoti, Andrea Silvestrelli
Evan Rogister, conductor; Stephen Barlow, director
Ten performances: Feb 25; March 1m, 4, 7, 10m, 14m, 20, 23, 27m, & 30
March 26–April 6
André Previn’s A Streetcar Named Desire (Lyric premiere, new production, staged concert performances)
Renée Fleming, Susanna Phillips, Teddy Tahu Rhodes, Anthony Dean Griffey
Evan Rogister, conductor; Brad Dalton, director
Four performances: March 26, 29; April 3, & 6m
Post season: May 4–19
Rodgers and Hammerstein’s Oklahoma!
Cast and conductor TBA
Gary Griffin, director; John Lee Beatty, set designer; Mara Blumenfeld, costume designer; Christine Binder, lighting designer; Agnes de Mille, original choreography
Sixteen performances: May 4, 5m, 8m+eve, 9, 10, 11m+eve, 12m, 15m+eve, 16, 17, 18m+eve, & 19m











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