The Lyric and Harris

It’s been such a gorgeous week: fantastic weather and fun after-work shenanigans. Spring is in the air (and though Chicago will revert to flurries and rain this weekend, I’ll be away in NYC where it will be a balmy 70 degrees)!

On Monday, we caught the final opera of Lyric’s 2009-2010 season: Marriage of Figaro. I first saw it in the breath-taking theater in Santa Fe, where Mariusz Kwiecien also starred as the Count. I fell in love with the music then, and bought the DVD, which we played this past weekend, as a teaser to the live performance on Monday.

We had a thoroughly enjoyable time. Since we were already familiar with the opera, and had also caught the Lyric Discovery Series showcasing Danielle de Niese and Kyle Ketelsen, we did not really need to read the supertitles and could focus our attention on the singing and the music. Which was super fun, since many, if not most of the pieces were really approachable and very easy to get into. And though the theme of the plot is somewhat sad (about marriage and adultery), the music is light-hearted and the acting comedic. It was the Rs’ first opera, and they had a great time too. 😀 Can’t wait for the next season to start!

The Chicago Classical Review writes about Marriage of Figaro:

With a mostly terrific cast, Mozart’s “Figaro” closes Lyric season in style

Is there anything more miraculous in all music than Le nozze di Figaro? The wealth of unforgettable melody, the wit and ingenuity of Lorenzo da Ponte’s libretto, and, especially, the effervescent spirit and depth of Mozart’s music. For all it’s surface frivolity, 224 years after its premiere, Mozart’s opera still has much to say about love, fidelity, forgiveness, and the eternal folly of the human heart.

More than most productions, this Lyric cast is dominated by Mariusz Kwiecien as the volatile, philandering Count. One can go a long time before hearing the tortuous Vedro, mentr’io sospiro delivered with this kind of technical ease and forceful malevolence. With his aristocratic bearing and saturnine presence, the Polish baritone owns this role like no other singer today, and his refined, commanding vocalism brought out the Count’s bluster as well as a surprising, touching vulnerability at the opera’s coda.

As the maid, Susanna, the object of his non-platonic affections, Danielle de Niese was the other standout. In a role that soprano ingenues often tend to walk through, de Niese showed her vaunted star quality, her flashing-eyed, vixenish Susanna making it clear that Figaro probably has good reason to keep tabs on his flirtatious fiancee.

If her animated expressions and vivid characterization at times flirted with excess, the charismatic soprano was consistently alive to the text, responding to every twist and turn of da Ponte’s rapid-fire action. De Niese sang beautifully, her bright, youthful voice technically faultless, with her expressive Deh! vieni, non tardar a highlight of the performance.

After tackling Mephistopheles in the second cast of Faust for the Lyric earlier this season, Kyle Ketelsen also showed himself an admirable Mozartian as the wily Figaro. Ketelsen has the vocal weight for the role, if not always the agility, as with a rather short-breathed Aprite un po’quegli occhi. Otherwise, the Iowa-born bass-baritone was impressive, and proved a fine partner for de Niese’s feisty Susanna, his youthful vigor and firmly focused singing deftly balancing the comedy and vocalism.

Then tonight, I joined Chuck and Colleen, two of my Hubbard Street buddies, for Hubbard Street’s spring series at the Harris Theater. I just cannot say it enough: the Harris Theater is my most favorite-est theater ever. Ever. Though a relatively small theater, it still manages to give the illusion of grandeur and space, whilst affording the audience fantastic views of the stage no matter where they sit. I’ve sat in most sections of the theater – up in the first row, way in the back row at the upper balconies, but I’ve always an excellent view of the entire stage. Best yet, the seats are placed at enough of an incline that I never have to worry about taller folks with big hair sitting in front of me. 🙂

The dances showcased tonight were really great. We couldn’t stop enthusing about each one. It was hard to pick out my favorite, but I did really enjoy the “Kiss” piece, which had two dancers twisting and turning and at times flying through the air as they hung off two ropes. That was somewhat more different than the usual Hubbard Street pieces, like “At ’em” and “First Light”.

Broadway World had a sneak preview of the series, which opened tonight:

The Spring Series opens with the World Premiere of First Light created by HSDC’s resident choreographer and company member Alejandro Cerrudo. Performed by HS2, HSDC’s training ground for young professional dancers and choreographers, First Light is set to a piano transcription of Philip Glass’s opera Orphee. Though not based on the operatic story – a Greek legend about the musician/poet Orpheus and his doomed journey to rescue his wife, Eurydice, from the underworld – there are unique similarities as this piece explores light and darkness. Using only the front half of the stage, Cerrudo aims to focus on the movement and organic partnering of HS2.

Also receiving its World Premiere as part of the Spring Series is At ‘em (Atem) Adam, created and set by Hubbard Street’s own Rehearsal Director and Artistic Associate Terence Marling. Taking inspiration from the colloquial expression “Up and at ‘em;” “atem,” the German word for “breath;” and the biblical Adam; this work appears to be a painters approach to choreography, taking broad strokes while allowing the dancers to create movement. A passionate look at the human experience, this witty piece is composed of music by vocalists Billie Holiday and Ella Fitzgerald; bassist Edgar Meyer; violinist and composer Mark O’Connor; composer Moondog, otherwise known as Louis Thomas Hardin; and Italian composer Luciano Berio.

As the first American dance company, and only the third company in the world, to stage Jirí Kylián’s surreal 27’52”, HSDC is honored to present this Company Premiere as part of the spring program at the Harris Theater. 27’52,” so named because it takes twenty-seven minutes and fifty-two seconds to perform, deals with themes of vulnerability, instability, and immortality. With music by Dirk Haubrich, this work highlights Kylián’s mastery of contrast between sharp and calming movements. 27’52” also includes vocals – pieces of text chosen by the dancers who originally performed this work. These texts are in the home language of the dancers that chose them, giving the piece a multi-lingual, international feel. Cast by Kylián himself and set by Cristina Gallofré Vargas and Gerald Tibbs, this piece creates an urge to see it again, perhaps in disbelief of what appears on the stage. Please note that this work does contain a brief moment of partial nudity.

The final piece being performed as part of the spring program is the company revival of Susan Marshall’s Kiss. This work is a sensuous, provocative duet between a man and a woman, which fuses ballet, modern and post-modern styles to create deep emotional resonance.

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