This past weekend, you may have noticed that I was lucky enough to attend my first opera at the Lyric Opera of Chicago with my dear friend, Sarah, who works in their development division. She also happens to be a trained vocal artist herself! She treated me to a viewing of Giuseppe Verdi’s Il trovatore. I want to tell you about my experience and share my opinions, but please remember, I am the opposite of an opera aficionado. Rather, I am a complete noob!
Firstly, I want to talk about the Civic Opera house itself. The Daniel F. and Ada L. Rice Grand Foyer, which was bustling with people, was decorated tastefully with a few classic, yet giant Christmas wreaths. With our glasses of champagne, Sarah showed me around the building, including the Mezzanine where tea was taking place as well as the Dress Circle. She also explained the boxes and balcony seating. All extremely interesting! Sarah was so sweet to everyone she encountered, from staff members to donors. And it’s clear that everyone adores her! One of the donors I met talked about her passion for opera and how she hoped that I would feel it too. And I did!
Immediately, I was impressed by the set design (by Charles Edwards). The ability to create multiple different environments with a revolving stage, using moody tree trunks, a gated wall, a staircase, etc. to create a fortress, a prison, a blacksmith forge, a church, and more, was astounding. It was often a compromise to look above the stage at the subtitles because the stage looked so incredible.
Now on to the voices! Oh, the voices! Soprano, Tamara Wilson, played Leonora, the woman caught between her love, Manrico (tenor role played by Russell Thomas) and the evil and jealous Count di Luna (played by baritone, Artur Ruciński). The Lyric summarizes the opera as such:
And what wonderful characters—bold and courageous Manrico, his beloved Leonora, the vengeful Count di Luna, and the wild, obsessed gypsy Azucena. Each has thrilling music to sing as the drama unfolds in the smoldering atmosphere of darkly mysterious 15th-century Spain. The “Anvil Chorus,” Leonora’s “Miserere,” Manrico’s stirring call to arms—these are just a few of the fabulous highlights that make Il trovatore a feast of sumptuous singing.
I don’t have the training or education to really analyze opera voices, but Tamara Wilson was incredible. I also loved the rich tones of Artur Ruciński. As mentioned above, the plot was incredibly dramatic with a fever pitch culmination of drama at the end. Frankly, it made me laugh, but in a very satisfying way. The choreographed sword fighting were really fun to watch as well.
I am really looking forward to returning to the Lyric and I would really like to expose myself to more opera. It’s definitely a medium that I thoroughly enjoyed and the voices alone can really transfix you in a way that musical theatre just can’t, as much as I do love it. Thank you again, Sarah, for such a special treat!
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