Soprano Renée Fleming and mezzo-soprano Susan Graham, world-renowned stars who are also great favorites of Lyric Opera audiences, will collaborate in Soirée française, an elegant evening of French music on Thursday, January 24, at 8pm at the Civic Opera House. Bradley Moore will be at the piano.
In the opera house, as well as in concerts and recitals, Fleming and Graham have repeatedly shown an extraordinary affinity for French repertoire. Their program at Lyric includes such beloved pieces as the "Flower Duet" from Delibes's Lakmé, the same composer's "Les filles de Cadix," the Barcarolle from Offenbach's Les contes d'Hoffmann, and Debussy's "Mandoline," "Beau soir" and "Clair de lune" (the latter for solo piano). Other material will offer wonderful new discoveries for the audience: solo songs by Reynaldo Hahn and duets by Berlioz, Saint-Saëns, Fauré, and Messager.
Much of the music stems from the "Belle Époque" (1871-1914), a period of dazzling artistic achievement in Paris. Fleming and Graham are especially attracted to that era and to the world of the salon, a vital fixture in Parisian cultural and intellectual life. In presenting the duo recital at Lyric, the artists hope to evoke the captivating spirit of 19th- and early-20th-century performances in which much of this music was heard.
Enhancing the atmosphere of Soirée française and the specific mood of each selection on the program will be images provided by the Art Institute of Chicago, including works by such historically important artists as Delacroix, Puvis de Chavannes, Renoir, Pissarro, Monet, and many more. The stage of the Ardis Krainik Theatre will be "dressed" in the style of a Parisian salon, and there will also be projected translations of the sung texts, as in Lyric's regular performances.
This will be Graham's first appearance in a Lyric Opera Subscriber Appreciation event. The tradition of a once-per-season performance specifically celebrating the company's subscribers was inaugurated by Fleming, who performed Subscriber Appreciation concerts with the Lyric Opera Orchestra in 2006-07, 2010-11, and (with baritone Dmitri Hvorostovsky) 2011-12.
Fleming and Graham both enjoy close associations with Lyric. Appointed the company's first creative consultant in 2010, Fleming debuted with at Lyric as Floyd's Susannah (1993-94). She has since returned as Marguerite/Faust (1994-95), the Countess/Le nozze di Figaro, Desdemona/Otello, title roles/Alcina and Thaïs, and Violetta/La traviata. Graham was first heard at Lyric as Annio/La clemenza di Tito (1989-90) and has returned as Cherubino/Le nozze di Figaro, the Composer/Ariadne auf Naxos, Donna Elvira/Don Giovanni, Octavian/Der Rosenkavalier, the title role/Iphigénie en Tauride, and Marguerite/La damnation de Faust.
The two artists have previously appeared together on the Lyric Stage only in Lyric Opera's Figaro (1997-98) and for the company's 50th Anniversary Gala Concert (2004). With Fleming as the Marschallin and Graham in the title role, the duo's performances in Der Rosenkavalier internationally have been crucial in establishing their remarkable artistic partnership. The two were first heard in a duo recital at Washington's Kennedy Center in 2005.
Limited tickets are still available starting at $35. 312-332-2244 or www.lyricopera.org to reserve.