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La Scena Musicale - Vol. 4, No. 5

Lyric Opera of Chicago

by Philip Anson / February 1, 1999

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Every year the Lyric Opera of Chicago ( www.lyricopera.org ) sells over 100% of its capacity, and its easy to see why. Production values are among the highest in the world, with superb sets and costumes, exquisite attention to detail, and thorough dramatic preparation. The LOC production of Levyís Mourning Becomes Elektra (seen October 22, 1998) was the best new opera production Iíve seen in years. The museum-quality sets and dramatically flawless direction by Liviu Ciulei were a model of what lyric theatre should be. The cast was solid gold, led by red-headed American soprano Lauren Flanagan as the adulterous Christine Mannon and Cynthia Lawrence as her Elektra-complexed sister Lavinia. The rest of the cast was strong, including Canadian baritone Brett Polegato in the small role of Peter Niles. Ponchielliís La Gioconda (seen October 23, 1998) is a turgid melodrama saved by some wonderful vocal pyrotechnics. British soprano Jane Eaglen blasted her way through the title role. She warmed up by Act 4 and gave a respectable "Suicidio!" As Enzo, tenor Johan Botha deployed a huge, steady, clear, slightly nasal tenor, definitely one of tomorrowís superstars. Russian bass Nikolai Putilin was a reliably beefy Barnabas. Richard Straussís Ariadne auf Naxos (seen Oct. 24, 1998) starred the inimitable Debora Voigt as Ariadne, Susan Graham as the Composer, and promising young tenor Jon Villars as Bacchus. Canadian Russell Braun sang Harlequin and his father Victor sang the Music Master. Laura Aiken was a fine Zerbinetta, but not in the league of Natalie Dessay.
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