While it is the responsibility of major opera companies to advance the art form by commissioning and creating new works, it is also important to re-stage and champion recent creations deemed worthy of such treatment so that ‘they have a chance to gain a lasting place in the lyric repertoire.
This is exactly what Lyric Opera of Chicago (lyricopera.org) made with his production from November 13 to 28 of “Florencia en el Amazonas (Florencia in the Amazon)”, a 1996 opera by one of the greatest Mexican composers, Daniel Catán. In this tale imbued with magical realism, elements of the fantastic intervene as opera diva Florencia Grimaldi takes a boat trip on the Amazon for an engagement where she hopes to reconnect with her lover, Cristóbal.
Anthony Freud, Managing Director, President and CEO of Lyric, called “Florencia” one of the “relatively few recent operas” that deserves a regular cover. “It’s a piece that I love,” he said. “I’ve known that for some time. It is a very accessible, very beautiful piece that combines Puccinian romance in terms of melodic and orchestral writing with a sense of fantasy and a sense of [Gabriel Garcia] Magic realism inspired by Marquez. It’s a truly great opera, and I’m delighted we’re producing it.
This opera will be the first Spanish-language opera the company will present as part of its main season of Lyric Opera House, a milestone that Freud acknowledges could be overdue given the prevalence of Latinx culture and the Spanish language in the States. -United. “I think it’s important in the context of our willingness to tell more diverse stories and engage a more diverse range of storytellers to tell them,” he said.
In the title role, soprano Ana María Martínez, a regular in lyrical opera. “It’s a wonderful role,” said Freud. “Being able to combine an important new piece with one of our favorite and most distinguished artists in that central role is really important. This is another demonstration of the seriousness of our commitment to this piece.
Here’s a look at 10 more classical music presentations to consider this fall:
Until October 4: Ear Taxi Festival, places across the city (eartaxifestival.com). After debuting in 2016 with great success, this nationally announced celebration of Chicago’s vibrant new music scene is back, and it’s bigger and more diverse than before. This year’s edition lasts three weeks and features around 100 events, including more than 20 premieres on its Mainstage series alone.
October 3, 6 and 9: “Macbeth” by Giuseppe Verdi, Enrique Mazzola, conductor, bass baritone Craig Colclough, soprano Sondra Radvanovsky, Lyric Opera of Chicago, Lyric Opera House, 20 N. Upper Wacker Dr. (lyricopera.org). Mazzola begins his tenure as Lyric Opera’s third musical director, leading this Shakespearean adaptation of 1847, which predates Verdi’s best-known operas such as “Rigoletto”. It’s part of Mazzola’s plan to direct a series of Verdi’s early works – one per season.
October 5: “Fanm d’Ayiti (Femmes d’Haïti) ”, Nathalie Joachim and Spektral Quartet, Harris Theater for Music and Dance, 205 E. Randolph (harristheaterchicago.org). Brooklyn-born composer, flautist and singer Joachim developed this one-night work for flute, voice, string quartet and electronics to explore his Haitian heritage. A 2019 recording of “Fanm d’Ayiti” with the Chicago-based Spektral Quartet received a Grammy nomination for Best World Music Album.
October 7 and 9 Collaborative Works Festival, Ganz Hall, Roosevelt University, 430 S. Michigan, and October 8, Driehaus Museum, 40 E. Erie (caichicago.org). This annual festival pays homage to the rich and sometimes underrated world of artistic song – vocal arrangements of poems or other lyrics. This year’s edition, titled “Strangers in a Strange Land,” explores themes of immigration and cultural exchange, and emphasizes various compositional voices.
October 8: Mezzo-soprano Susan Graham and the music of Copland House, University of Chicago Presents, Mandel Hall, 1131 E. 57th (chicagopresents.uchicago.edu). Graham, one of the leading figures in the vocal world, joins a six-member resident ensemble of the historic Copland House for an all-American program. A highlight is the world premiere of Richard Danielpour’s “A Standing Witness,” of poetry compositions by former American poet laureate Rita Dove.
October 17: North Shore Center for the Performing Arts, 9501 Skokie Blvd., Skokie, and October 18, Harris Theater, “Vivaldi & Friends”, Music of the Baroque, John Butt, conductor (baroque.org). Butt, music director of the Dunedin Consort in Scotland and a respected specialist in early music, is joining Music of the Baroque for the first time. He will lead a program that explores the music of the famous Baroque master as well as the composers who influenced Vivaldi and whom he influenced.
November 7: Pianist Yuja Wang and violinist Leonidas Kavakos, Symphony Center Presents, Symphony Center, 220 S. Michigan (cso.org). Few classical music artists are better known to the world than Yuja Wang, a 34-year-old Chinese pianist who electrified audiences with her fiery and technically dazzling style. She joins her frequent recital partner, Kavakos, for this program, which includes works by JS Bach, Ferruccio Busoni and Dmitry Shostakovich.
November 18-21: Chicago Symphony Orchestra, Giancarlo Guerrero, conductor; Daniel Binelli, bandoneon, Center Symphonique (cso.org). Argentinian composer Astor Piazzolla gained lasting fame for transforming tango into a viable concert form. The Chicago Symphony will mark the 100th anniversary of his birth with a program that will include the composer Aconcagua Concerto for Bandoneón – a showcase for a kind of concertina popular in Argentina and Uruguay.
December 9-11: Chicago Symphony Orchestra, Andrés Orozco-Estrada, conductor; Hilary Hahn, violin, Symphonic Center (cso.org). Hahn, an ever-expressive violin soloist and innovative artistic leader, began a two-year appointment as Chicago Symphony Artist-in-Residence on September 1. Her first performances in this role will take place during these concerts, which will also include the world premiere of “Haillí-Serenata” by Gabriela Lena Frank, commissioned by the orchestra.
December 11, 17 and 19: “Becoming Santa Claus” by Mark Adamo, Lidiya Yankovskaya, conductor; Chicago Opera Theater, Studebaker Theater, 410 S. Michigan Ave. (chicagooperatheater.org). The Chicago Opera Theater presents the Chicago premiere of this whimsical holiday opera by composer and librettist Mark Adamo, known for contemporary operas as popular as “Little Women.” Director and choreographer Kyle Lang will oversee this new family production of the work, which premiered at the Dallas Opera in 2015.