As one of the largest cities in Chicago, it comes as no surprise that the city would have a highly rated opera house. While I lay no claims to being an opera aficionado, it is nice to visit once in a while! The first time I encountered the Civic Opera House was on a boat tour along the Chicago River (an architecture boat tour I would highly recommend for tourists!). Opened in 1929, the building permanently houses the Lyric Opera of Chicago. As the common folklore goes, the architect built the opera house for his daughter, an opera singer the Metropolitan Opera had rejected. As a result, from the river, the building looks like a throne facing New York with its back.
The Lyric Opera is the second largest opera house in North America, housing just over 3,500 seats. Because it was constructed in the 1920s, the Art Deco movement heavily influenced the exterior design of the building. The interior of the building was most recently renovated in 1996.
One of the most famous operas performing this 2016/17 is Carmen. Composed by Georges Bizet, there are several melodies that are instantly recognizable, from the Habanera to the Toreador Song. I have to say, this was not my favorite performance of Carmen.
While the set and costumes were beautiful, the lead performers fell just a little short. Ekaterina Gubanova was unimpressive. Her Carmen lacked the seductive persuasion the character needs to be believable. How could we believe all these men would lose their minds over her, especially when she lacks the necessary sensuality? While she does have a lovely voice, it seemed a little too weak to fill the vast space. This was her first performance as Carmen. The supporting cast of Eleonora Buratto as Micaëla and Christian van Horn as Escamillo however, delivered very strong performances that made me wish they had more stage time.
For those who have the time, Anita Rachvelishvili will take over the second half of Carmen’s run, who has performed Carmen several times before. From the YouTube videos, her voice is definitely much stronger and she seems to capture the essence of Carmen far more convincingly.
Regardless, the Lyric Opera is always a lot of fun. The costume team always delivers a colorful feast for the eyes. Even halfway back in the audience, it is possible to appreciate the delicate details of the set. Last year I saw the King and I (below), which was absolutely stunning. For those visiting Chicago, see if any of their performances fits in your schedule!
Lyric Opera (February 2017)
Address: 20 North Wacker Drive
Website & reservations: https://www.lyricopera.org/