Anthony Freud, Lyric Opera of Chicago's general director, today announced two performance events that exemplify different facets of the ambitious new Lyric Unlimited program being launched this year: Popcorn & Pasquale on December 2 and The Second City Guide to the Opera on January 5.
"Both of these performances will bring new audiences to the Civic Opera House, and, we hope, will stimulate new interest in Lyric and in opera," Freud said during a media conference held at The Second City.
Tickets for both special events will go on sale to Lyric subscribers starting July 18 and to the general public starting August 1, along with individual tickets to Lyric's mainstage operas and Oklahoma!.
Collaboration is central to The Second City Guide to the Opera, a snappy and sometimes irreverent comedy and musical revue that will commandeer Lyric's mainstage on Saturday, January 5 at 7:30pm. "It was the idea of Renée Fleming, Lyric's creative consultant, to bring together the world-renowned comedy troupe and opera company to see what kinds of creative sparks might fly," Freud noted. This project is part of the Renée Fleming Initiative.
The legendary soprano will have a featured role in the proceedings, along with members of The Second City ensemble, opera singers, and instrumentalists. "It's a terrific creative cross-pollination by two leading cultural organizations with different audiences," Freud added. "The performance will blend comedy with operatic excerpts and original music."
The Second City Guide to the Opera will build on the grand tradition of comedy masters Victor Borge, the Marx Brothers, the Muppets, and others taking on the world of opera – its traditions, its stars, and even its audiences.
Fleming has triumphed internationally in opera and concert performances as well as in recordings. She has appeared as Renata Flambé on "A Prairie Home Companion" several times and in a counting song set to Rigoletto's "Caro nome" on Sesame Street. The Second City Guide to the Opera will include Fleming showcasing her virtuosic soprano voice, as well as taking part in the fun.
"It's all too easy to be intimidated by the sheer scale of grand opera," noted Fleming. "This is a great opportunity to show audiences, and especially new audiences, a fun side of our centuries-old art form."
Andrew Alexander, owner & executive producer of The Second City, Inc., said, "We are honored and still a little stunned that Lyric Opera of Chicago has opened their doors to The Second City. But it really is a creative collaboration that is unexpected, intriguing and full of wonderful possibilities."
Tickets for The Second City Guide to the Opera are reasonably priced from $20 to $95, with $250 benefit tickets that include a reception with the artists following the performance.
Popcorn & Pasquale is a 70-minute opera adventure created especially for kids ages 5-12 and their families – a breezy introduction to opera at family-friendly prices – on Sunday, December 2 at 2pm. The fun-filled event will feature the stars of Lyric's Don Pasquale production – Ildebrando D'Arcangelo, Marlis Petersen, René Barbera, and Corey Crider. Popcorn & Pasquale will be hosted by actor Ross Lehman, who debuted as Cap'n Andy in Lyric's Show Boat last season and whose extensive Chicago credits include numerous roles with Chicago Shakespeare Theater, the Goodman Theatre, Steppenwolf Theatre, Marriott Lincolnshire, and Writers' Theatre, plus several Broadway productions.
Lehman will guide the audience through selected scenes from Donizetti's sparkling comedy. He'll ask some of the opera's characters what they really think about each other – a nobleman of a certain age, his young nephew, the pretty girl they both want to marry, and the clever friend who works it out so everyone winds up happy. Kids and their families will even learn a tune from the opera and sing along. They'll also watch a set change and find out how it's done. A special printed program will be chock full of take-home activities for kids and their grownups to enjoy together.
"With Popcorn & Pasquale parents, grandparents, aunts, uncles, and others can share the wonder of opera – the sets and costumes, the storytelling and singing, the beautiful opera house itself – with youngsters as a family outing on a Sunday afternoon," said Freud. "Our cast and orchestra members are delighted to engage in this whimsical 'show and tell' experience, and we're very pleased to have the captivating 'Cap'n Andy' Ross Lehman as our guide." And yes, Freud added, "popcorn will be on sale at the opera house!"