Fall in Chicago was ushered in Friday at Millennium Park with a cool evening, warmed by glowing performances by the “Stars of the Lyric Opera”. Without backdrop or costuming the focus was on the sound and artistry of the performer. Showcased in this way opera is contemporary and the music of Verdi, Puccini, Saint Saens, Mozart timeless. The audience was introduced to Conductor Domingo Hindoyan who made his Chicago debut and who will be on the podium for the opening production of this season’s La Boheme by Puccini. He led the orchestra with elegance and energy treating the audience to selections from the coming season; Mozart’s Idomeneo, showcasing Ryan Center ensemble member Ann Toomey, and the full second act from Puccini’s La Boheme with Maria Agresta and Michael Fabiano joined by Ricardo Jose Rivera, Adrian Sampetrean, Zachary Nelson, Mario Rojas, Jake Gardner and the unforgettable Danielle de Niese, whose Musetta was a thrilling coda.
The audience eased into the music with Conductor Hindoyan leading the Lyric Opera Orchestra in Verdi’s “La Forza del Destino” (“The Force of Destiny”). Revenge was a dish served warm with two Verdi selections, baritone Zachary Nelson singing “Alzati! La tuo figlio … Eri tu” from Verdi’s “Un Ballo in Maschera” (“A Masked Ball”) and bass Adrian Sampetrean following with a malevolent air in “Che mai vegg’io!” from Verdi’s “Emani,”.
A highlight of the evening was Conductor Domingo Hindoyan leading the Lyric Opera Orchestra in an exciting rendition of Saint-Saens’, Bacchanale, from Samson et Delila, taking the listener from castanets to strains of the Middle East. Then the dazzling Mezzo Soprano J’Nai Bridges claimed the stage with a rapturous performance of “Mon Coeur s’ouvre a ta voix” proving that Samson was no match for Delila.
One of opera’s truly 21st century stars, the electrifying soprano Danielle de Niese, sang “O mio babbino caro” (“O my beloved papa”) from Puccini’s Gianni Schicchi in a passionate, showstopping performance.
Since 1974 the Patrick G. and Shirley W. Ryan Opera Center, the professional artist-development program for Lyric Opera of Chicago, has been recognized as one of the premier programs of its kind in the world. The Ryan Center brings Chicago audiences fantastic new talent including two performances this evening. The audience was treated to a piece from Verdi’s La Traviata with a delightful performance by Ryan Center ensemble member Whitney Morrison and Mario Rojas. Introducing us to one of this seasons productions, Ryan Center ensemble member Ann Toomey sang “Placido e il Mar” from Act II of Mozart’s Idomeneo.
Were those real anvils? The dramatic Anvil chorus from Verdi’s Il Trovatore, complete with the Lyric Opera Chorus, under Michael Black, and the Chicago Children’s Choir, led by Josephine Lee, burst into the evening with tremendous force, power and depth, leaving the audience wanting more.
The evening began with a stirring performance by the Members of the United States Air Force Band of Mid-America and ended with a great display of Lyric’s incredible talent gathered together on the stage in the second act of La Boheme. The audience, enveloped in the music of the greatest artists in opera today, with the Lyric Opera Orchestra led by an exciting newcomer to Chicago, framed by the breathtaking architecture of Frank Gehry’s Jay Pritzker Pavilion, surrounded by the spectacular skyline of Chicago, was treated to an evening that was absolutely beautiful.