The audience sang the national anthem through face masks after entering Samuel Insull’s brilliantly renovated Civic Opera House (new, wider seats, YAY!), Having to present COViD vaccine ID cards. They also had to and remain fully masked throughout the performance. Opera fans have been hungry for live performances since the pandemic began 18 months ago and they were like racehorses chomping at the bit to enter the sold-out opera house. All the doors around the massive perimeter of the Opera House opened to let them in.
Sir David McVicar and fellow Scotsman John Macfarlane provided an uplifting dose of lyrical “realpolitik” with a dark and grim new production of Giuseppe Verdi’s reimagining of Shakespeare’s “Macbeth”. You can almost hear the opponents yelling; “Well, I’ve seen it before. No, you didn’t. You haven’t seen this one. First, Lyric used the 1865 score, the “Parisian version”, not the original which was often seen at Lyric, The Met, and other major opera houses. Second, McVicar placed the opera within the decaying confines of a Presbyterian chapel in the mid-19th century, at a time of great political and social upheaval in Europe and still emanating from aftershocks today. In short, Lyric’s Season Opening Macbeth is a very fitting reflection of the times we live in now.
Lyric’s tense and captivating production takes audiences straight into the madness vortex of the Thane of Cawdor, sung with unwavering conviction by bass baritone Craig Colclough in his lyrical debut. Sondra Radvanovsky’s first role as Lady Macbeth is a revelation. Old St. Charles, IL. The resident fully expresses Lady Macbeth’s relentless and bloodthirsty lust for power, using her husband’s cratered moral center to harness her greed. His crazy sleepwalking scene in Act 4 will definitely be remembered as one of the highlights of the new season.
Lyric veteran Christian Van Horn (over a dozen roles, including those of Lucia di Lammermoor, La Clemenza di Tito, Faust, Mephistopheles, Luisa Miller, among many others), “brings it” definitively as than Banquo.
Speaking of ‘bringing it in’, Lyric Opera couldn’t be in better hands than those of its new musical director, Enrique Mazzola. The Italian conductor of Barcelona origin is master of Verdi and champion of the bel canto opera. From the moment he brandished his staff in the opening, one felt his measured devotion to the golden passages inscribed in front of him. The opening scene of the witches, performed by the Lyric Opera Chorus, conducted by choir director Michael Black, establishes the ominous mysticism that reigns everywhere.
Enrique Mazzola signed for a five-year term with Lyric in 2019, the same year he was named Global Ambassador of the Consortium representing the noble wines of Montepulciano, in Tuscany, his country of origin. There you have it, a virtual Renaissance man who is both a champion of great wine and great opera. Chicago couldn’t be luckier.