CHICAGO – The Patrick G. and Shirley W. Ryan Opera Center at Lyric Opera of Chicago celebrates its 40th season with its annual Rising Stars in Concert program Saturday, March 21, at 7:30pm at the Civic Opera House. The talented singers and pianist of the 2014-15 ensemble will perform with members of the Lyric Opera Orchestra in works of Bellini, Berg, Berlioz, Bizet, Debussy, Donizetti, Floyd, Gounod, Handel, Korngold, Mozart, Puccini, Rodgers and Hammerstein, and Rossini. Rising Stars in Concert is offered in celebration of an exceptionally successful year of study and performance for these up-and-coming artists.
The local broadcast of the performance on 98.7WFMT will be on Sunday, March 22, at 7 pm and is generously sponsored by the Donna Van Eekeren Foundation (also the concert’s lead sponsor). WFMT’s Suzanne Nance and Lyric’s dramaturg Roger Pines will serve as host and commentator respectively.
Lyric audiences have seen the 2014-15 Ryan Opera Center members perform critically acclaimed principal and supporting roles during Lyric Opera of Chicago’s 60th season. Ensemble members also served as understudies for major and minor roles. This concert provides a unique opportunity to hear these artists performing arias and ensembles with the Lyric Opera Orchestra. The orchestra will be conducted by Michael Christie, named first-ever music director of The Minnesota Opera in 2012 and a frequent guest conductor with orchestras and opera companies internationally.
Please note that the Rising Stars in Concert performance is offered only to Lyric Opera of Chicago donors who annually contribute $75 or more. Tickets are not available to the general public, but donors of $75 can still receive two complimentary tickets. For information on giving, please visit lyricopera.org/risingstars2015.
Ryan Opera Center members who will be performing are sopranos Tracy Cantin, Hlengiwe Mkhwanazi, and Laura Wilde; mezzo-sopranos J’nai Bridges and Julie Miller; tenors Jesse Donner, John Irvin, and Jonathan Johnson; baritones Anthony Clark Evans and Will Liverman; bass-baritone Richard Ollarsaba; and bass Bradley Smoak. Ryan Opera Center pianist Maureen Zoltek will perform Gerald Finzi’s “Eclogue for Piano and Strings, Opus 10.” All vocal selections will have projected English translations.
Rising Stars in Concert is generously sponsored by Lead Sponsor Donna Van Eekeren Foundation,sponsors Richard Pearlman Trust, Julie and Roger Baskes, Catamaran, Ann M. Drake, Sue and Melvin Gray, Patricia A. Kenney and Gregory J. O’Leary, Susan and Richard Kiphart, Chauncey and Marion D. McCormick Family Foundation, and Frank B. Modruson and Lynne C. Shigley.
Rising Stars in Concert is cosponsored by Susan M. Miller, with additional support from Mr. and Mrs. Allan Drebin.
Of the 13 members in the 2014-15 ensemble, seven will return to the program for 2015-16: sopranos Hlengiwe Mkhwanazi and Laura Wilde, tenors Jesse Donner and Jonathan Johnson, baritone Anthony Clark Evans, bass-baritone Richard Ollarsaba, and bass Bradley Smoak. Eight new ensemble members will join them: soprano Diana Newman, mezzo-sopranos Lindsay Metzger and Annie Rosen, tenors Alec Carlson and Mingjie Lei, baritone Takaoki Onishi, bass Patrick Guetti, and pianist Mario Antonio Marra.
At 14 singers plus one pianist, the 2015-16 group comprises the largest ensemble class ever. The roster includes three international singers – Hlengiwe Mkhwanazi from South Africa, Mingjie Lei from China, and Takaoki Onishi from Japan – representing the continued evolution of the Ryan Opera Center, which in addition to cultivating American-trained singers, is also identifying exceptional talent from around the globe.
About the Ryan Opera Center
The Patrick G. and Shirley W. Ryan Opera Center at Lyric Opera of Chicago was established in 1974 as the professional artist-development program for Lyric Opera of Chicago. Since its inception, the Ryan Opera Center has been recognized as one of the premier programs of its kind in the world. That standing is maintained by providing the finest up-and-coming singers and pianists with unparalleled training and experience. The program is administered by Director Dan Novak, Music Director Craig Terry, Advisor Renée Fleming, and Director of Vocal Studies Julia Faulkner.
Selected from some 400 singers who audition annually, the Ryan Opera Center ensemble members are in residence for nearly 12 months. Over the course of the year they receive advanced instruction in numerous aspects of operatic performance, including voice lessons and coachings, language and acting training, and master classes with some of opera’s most celebrated artists, including Stephanie Blythe, Sir Andrew Davis (Lyric’s music director), Renée Fleming (Lyric’s creative consultant), Thomas Hampson, Ana María Martínez, Eric Owens, and Matthew Polenzani (a Ryan Opera Center alumnus), among others.
During Lyric Opera’s mainstage season, Ryan Opera Center members perform and understudy a significant number of principal and supporting roles. This presents an extraordinary opportunity to work with the world’s greatest opera singers, conductors, directors, orchestra, and chorus. They also gain valuable performing experience by participating in recitals and concerts at many Chicago-area venues.
Ryan Opera Center members participate in the Harris Theater’s Beyond The Aria concerts, a popular new series of cabaret-style performances on the stage of the Pritzker Pavilion (with Craig Terry, artistic director of Beyond the Aria, as pianist). The ensemble is featured in monthly broadcasts of the Ryan Opera Center’s 98.7WFMT Recital Series, also streamed at wfmt.com. Previously broadcast programs are online at lyricopera.org/ryancenter.
The Ryan Opera Center ensemble was expanded in 2013 to include a pianist, who likewise receives advanced training and performance opportunities throughout the year.
A testament to the Ryan Opera Center’s caliber and success is the roster of distinguished alumni who perform regularly on the stages of leading international opera houses. It includes René Barbera, Harolyn Blackwell, Nicole Cabell, Elizabeth DeShong, Mark S. Doss, Christopher Feigum, Gregory Frank, Elizabeth Futral, Roger Honeywell, Joseph Kaiser, Maria Kanyova, Quinn Kelsey, Dina Kuznetsova, Emily Magee, Amanda Majeski, Marlin Miller, Susanna Phillips, Matthew Polenzani, Franco Pomponi, Christian Van Horn, Amber Wagner, and Erin Wall.
Founded in 1954, Lyric Opera of Chicago’s mission is to express and promote the life-changing, transformational, revelatory power of great opera. Lyric exists to provide a broad, deep, and relevant cultural service to Chicago and the nation, and to advance the development of the art form.
Lyric is dedicated to producing and performing consistently thrilling, entertaining, and thought-provoking opera with a balanced repertoire of core classics, lesser-known masterpieces, and new works; to creating an innovative and wide-ranging program of community engagement and educational activities; and to developing exceptional emerging operatic talent.
Under the leadership of general director Anthony Freud, music director Sir Andrew Davis, and creative consultant Renée Fleming, Lyric strives to become The Great North American Opera Company for the 21st century: a globally significant arts organization embodying the core values of excellence, relevance, and fiscal responsibility.