Cher Public

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More deceit and intrigue from LOC

La Cieca assumes that it was while changing frocks from citron to sage that America’s Multitasker Renée Fleming approved the above-pictured outdoor advertising for LOC’s impending season. Because, after all, what celebrity screams “Lyric Opera of Chicago” more obviously than Vanessa Williams? (Thanks to AC for the photo!)


  • 1
    operagirl40 says:

    One of the most misguided, wrong-headed, worthless ad campaigns EVER! Maybe they should spend the money on hiring some STARS! …. worth hearing! ….worth $220 a ticket! Instead of lending her air-brushed “kisser” to all these ads, maybe Renee ought to actually SING in an opera at Lyric sometime in the next 2 years!!

    • 1.1
      phoenix says:

      What are you complaining about? Would you rather be coming down the street, look up and see the scrunched-up puss of a Multitasking Muskateer grinning you down?
      — I think that billboard looks wonderful the way it is pictured (and I usually don’t like billbords at all).

    • 1.2
      operaassport says:

      I’m sure a tacky billboard on the side of a road is going to bring in the great unwashed to a Hoffmann cast with a young tenor wrong for the role, a 87 year old bass who made his debut when Callas was still singing, and 4 of the most boring white-voiced sopranos since Mary Curtis-Verna stopped singing.

      • 1.2.1
        Krunoslav says:

        I would be happy to see any of those sopranos sing as “boringly” as this:

          MontyNostry says:

          I’ve never heard it done as a trio with the prompter before. Seriously, it’s interesting how sopranos just don’t sound like that any more -- there’s a brightness to the sound that you’d never hear in a Tosca today. It’s also very ‘proper’-sounding. Not sensuous at all. Her vowels are a bit like Eva Turner’s.

  • 2
    manou says:

    or even Alyson Cambridge?

  • 3
    figaroindy says:

    Yes, per the Lyric’s website, this is actually Ms. Cambridge, who’s appearing in two of their operas this season…seems logical to show her in the ads.

    Lucky for Lyric, they continue to sell well over 80% -- doing something right…contrast that with City Opera…

    • 3.1
      operaassport says:

      LOC subscribers are a variant on Pavlov’s dog. Send them a renewal form and they do so. You don’t even have to dangle any treats in front of them — or decent casts — to get them to do it. They just do. Kind of like a Pavlov’s dog who is mentally retarded (apologies to the mentally retarded).

  • 4
    Clita del Toro says:

    Yes, LOC is doing something right: boring seasons for a boring audience.

  • 5
    Quanto Painy Fakor says:

    Lyric what? Next to City Opera’s Black hole Logo, the old MET Get Civilaized campaign and Dessay’s kisser pasted on every bus and subway in NYC, this bill board from Lyric something or other could have been a little proud of the word O P E R A !

    On the other hand their recent;y released design for the the opera education program with the big music high school in Chicago is really a model of it’s kind for the future. Really super good. Renay will also resume her old roots as a high school teacher and offer three sessions with the teens via skype!!! They wil have a shadow this singer project as the teens pair up with LOC young artists who have roles in Billy Budd or something like that. Sort of like take you kid to work day and find out what daddy does at city halll or the local machine factory so apart from my sarcasm, as Matha Sterwart like to say, it’s a very good thing..

    • 5.1
      MontyNostry says:

      QPF -- you are so right about the ‘O’ word. I was just wondering whether people in Chicago in fact just call the company ‘the Lyric’. (I wouldn’t know, being a f***ing Brit.)

      • 5.1.1
        Quanto Painy Fakor says:

        Yes, in Chicago, we just say “Lyric”; the great unwashed say “don’t give me none a dat op’ra shit”; the rest of the USA would say Lyric Opera or LOC.

  • 6
    Quanto Painy Fakor says:

    And why should I go to an expensive opera about more decet that a Hollywood marriage with all those fat ladies hooting and hollering when I can watch LMN movies round the clock for free? What a shrecky pitch to attend the opera.

  • 7
    OpinionatedNeophyte says:

    If only it had said “More Intrigue and Deceit than a Ryan Seacrest Wedding.”

    That’s something that would actually cause people to slow down and potentially click on a website. Its 2011, there’s nothing “mysterious” about Hollywood marriages anymore, our television is filled with reality shows *about* Hollywood marriages (ironically Ryan Seacrest produces a lot of those shows). You can’t be provocative without stepping on someone’s toes.

  • 8
    Avantialouie says:

    Lyric Opera of Chicago spends big bucks on its Ryan School to develop competent singers. After doing so, the company has the audacity to actually USE them in its productions! Parterriani just love to dis these competent singers simply because they haven’t had international name recognition for at least 15 years, even though they sing far better then many who have. So Lyric gets dumped on routinely in this forum for putting fine singers on its stage to perform for well-sold houses, while the Met gets accolades for opening its season with an artist who simply cannot sing the role she has been assigned. No WONDER opera in American is in trouble!

    • 8.1
      operaassport says:

      LOC doesn’t use Ryan Center singers because they’re “competent” but because they’re cheap or free.

    • 8.3
      Quanto Painy Fakor says:

      Unfortunately, for the vast majority of Americans, opera in general does not exist.
      More and more I hear people in the business despairing that opera is dead.

      • 8.3.1
        mrmyster says:

        Yet, in relative terms, Quanto, opera is doing pretty well in America — since 1950 viable, good quality opera companies have sprung up in every region of the US — Who would have thought 50 years ago that St. Louis, Houston, Minneapolis etc. would be looked upon as high value opera centers?
        What is actually missing is the presentation of opera on television and other popular media — movies, web sources etc. Decades ago, we had lots more opera on television — operas were even written (Menotti) for TV and they were a success. Bell Telephone and Firestone presented classical music and opera scenes on radio, then added TV; the Sunday afternoon live concerts of the NY Philharmonic were broadcast nation wide on CBS every week during the season, even something called The Chicago Theatre of the Air went out across the land most Saturday nights — and so on.
        Electronic and broadcast media these days give the cold shoulder to high brow music, and the classical record business has been in steep decline.
        In all fairness, the Met Saturday broadcasts continue, and with the addition of the Sirius nightly broadcasts of live and recorded Met performances and with Mr Gelb’s highly successful HD moviecasts, live in theatres, doing very well — the net loss is not as big as it may seem. If an American music lover wants to hear symphony or opera, live or otherwise, it is not that hard to do. It’s just not as easy as it used to be to hear/see it at home.
        Want to know what I consider the fundamental problem? Music education in public schools at the grade and high school levels. THAT decline is what is mainly behind waning public interest esp. among the younger audience demographic, that you are concerned about. Talk to your school board! Schools may be deaf to this need, but opera in the US
        is far far from dead. That is unless La Cieca’s Campaign for Far Out Regie has killed it!

          grimoaldo says:

          Laments for lack of interest in opera and classical music combined with laments for the lack of great singers or singers as good as the good old days are frequent on every opera forum. Anyone feel there might be a connection? When even the teensy minority of people interested in opera or classical music has a large number in it who would rather stay at home and listen to recordings of Callas or Toscanini than go out and buy a ticket for a live performance is it any wonder that the form is declining?

          grimoaldo says:

          A couple more thoughts on mymster’s post, just some random thoughts, not claiming that I am necessarily right --

          I do think you have to put some blame on the opera world/ classical music itself. As you say, Menotti used to write for TV. Britten wrote Owen Wingrave for TV. Even if TV wanted to put on a new opera today where are the Menottis or Brittens to write one? I am not saying there are no good composers but are there equivalents of those two?

          “One of the last, and most notable episodes done in the videotape format, was “First Ladies of Opera”, featuring Joan Sutherland, Leontyne Price, Renata Tebaldi and Birgit Nilsson, all on one program. ”

          I don’t think you can just blame dumbed-down media for the fact that there is not a similar program on these days. Does anybody really think that you could put together a show with four “first ladies of opera” of the same star quality, and indeed, just plain quality, today?

          Another quote from the wiki article on Bell telephone hour, listing singers who have appeared on DVD compilations from that series:

          ” Singers: Barbara Cook, Franco Corelli, Régine Crespin, Victoria De Los Angeles, Giuseppe Di Stefano, Eileen Farrell, Nicolai Gedda, Dolores Gray, Mahalia Jackson, Carol Lawrence, George London, Gordon MacRae, Ethel Merman, Robert Merrill, Anna Moffo, Birgit Nilsson, Roberta Peters, Leontyne Price, John Raitt, Dinah Shore, Risë Stevens, Joan Sutherland, Renata Tebaldi, Richard Tucker, Leslie Uggams, Jon Vickers, and Gretchen Wyler.”

          OK make out an equivalent list for today. It is not possible.

          You mention the broadcasts of the NY Phil. Of course they made many famous broadcasts under Bernstein who was of course multi-talented and wrote classic Broadway musicals as well as being a genius at communication. Is anyone really saying that it is the media’s fault alone that there is no similar series today? where is the Bernstein?
          It isn’t just that the media cold shoulders highbrow music, it is also that there just aren’t the same number of charismatic stars.
          Sad but true. I wish I didn’t think that and resisted thinking that for years.
          Who would be our equivalent now for the show on first ladies of opera Sutherland, L Price, Tebaldi, Nilsson?
          Dessay, Netrebko, Gheorghiu, Voigt?
          However much one may admire those ladies can anyone seriously think there is an equivalence?
          Educate kids all you want in classical music and even if it works chances are they will just discover Callas and Flagstad and be quite content to listen to them rather than going to all the trouble to buy a ticket for a live show.
          The only way to counteract that these days is with buzz and media hype and for that we need media-savvy stars as Sill used to be.
          Sorry to sound so jaded, convince me that I’m wrong.

          • CruzSF says:

            BAB, your show would finally compel me to watch the Bravo network.

          • MontyNostry says:

            Well, for a start there’s Ta’u Pupu’a and, if you’re looking for a Koenig Marke, try Keith Miller.

          • Nerva Nelli says:

            “if you’re looking for a Koenig Marke, try Keith Miller.”

            Except that Keith Miller for all his football back story has zero language skills and not so great a voice. A Marke only suitable for the Dancin’ Danielle Isolde, Ginger-Costa Jackson Brangaene and Liam Bonner Kurwenal.

            Now if you’re talking Morris Robinson, we can get somewhere with a real Marke…

          • kashania says:

            BABs: Fabulous. I can see the candid solo interviews now…

            “Man, I thought that running an interception was hard but that second act duet is a bitch!”

            Cut to another contestant

            “I have nightmares about the third act”

          • MontyNostry says:

            Was Mr Robinson also a football player? I haven’t seen his name around much recently, as it happens.

      • 8.3.2
        bobsnsane says:

        Quanto…say it ain’t so!

        To those ‘despairing that opera is dead’
        send them to the MET’s ‘Makropoulos Case’
        in May
        with Karita…’that’ll knock some sense into ’em’

          Quanto Painy Fakor says:

          Too esoteric to claim that opera is thriving in everday life. Back to my Lifetime Movie Network inspiring films.

    • 8.4
      operagirl40 says:

      Couldn’t disagree with you MORE!!! No one pays $220 for fine singers……. and to say that Netrebko can’t sing BOLENA is just plain STUPID. ‘Heard it in Vienna and she’s INCREDIBLE!!…… ‘guess you’d rather hear Erin Wall as Antonia……..sorry, NOT ME!

  • 9
    figaroindy says:

    As for “boring seasons for a boring audience” -- I’d point out that they can at least pay their bills and financially remain sound….is that not better than “cutting edge opera for the paying guests to stay away from in droves?” (That seems to have been NYCO’s concept last year.)

    Giving the people who pay what they want has ALWAYS got to be part of the equation….and then the goal becomes to stretch them somewhat….but you have to get them in the door first….

  • 10
    Quanto Painy Fakor says:

    Here is one of the press releases issued earlier this week for the new education program

    Renée Fleming Unveils Lyric Opera of Chicago’s New Collaboration with Merit School of Music, as Part of Lyric’s “Renée Fleming Initiative”

    Collaboration Benefits Teens, Offering New Opera and Musical Theater Solo Voice Major

    Lyric Opera of Chicago Creative Consultant – and star soprano – Renée Fleming revealed details of a new collaboration between the world-renowned opera company and Chicago’s Merit School of Music in a media conference at the school on Monday, September 12. This collaboration – part of Lyric’s Renée Fleming Initiative – will benefit teenagers in a new Opera and Musical Theater solo voice major at Merit’s Alice S. Pfaelzer Tuition-free Conservatory. Other Merit students will also participate in Lyric offerings.

    Joining Fleming were Lyric President and CEO Kenneth G. Pigott, who also serves on the Merit board; Lyric General Director Designate Anthony Freud; Ryan Opera Center Director Gianna Rolandi; and Merit President Duffie Adelson.

    Since Lyric announced the Renée Fleming Initiative, plans have solidified for the long-term collaboration between Lyric Opera and the highly regarded community music school, which is based on the near-west side of Chicago, less than a mile from the Civic Opera House. Founded in 1979, Merit School of Music is regarded as a principal leader in providing extraordinary music education and life-changing experiences for Chicago-area children through music. Of the more than 6,000 students participating in Merit’s numerous programs, 375 have been selected by audition for Merit’s advanced program, the Alice S. Pfaelzer Tuition-free Conservatory.

    “The collaboration between Lyric and Merit School of Music, one of the country’s best community music schools, creates an exciting and extraordinary environment for teens with vocal potential,” said Fleming. As part of the company’s Renée Fleming Initiative, “Lyric will assist Merit in enhancing its vocal program and will make Lyric Opera more accessible to all Merit students.” Fleming’s background is in music education as well as performance; both her parents were high-school vocal music teachers in public schools.

    Merit’s new solo voice major for teens

    Fleming noted that Merit has always offered vocal instruction through its many choirs as well as a voice major through its Alice S. Pfaelzer Tuition-free Conservatory. Now, though, the Merit-Lyric partnership has inspired the creation of a more intensive opera and music-theater track. The solo voice major program has now enrolled, by audition, 46 students, who receive instruction every Saturday during Merit’s 2011-12 school year, from October through early May.

    “Participants may concentrate on opera and music theater or on jazz, through the American songbook,” said Fleming. Merit’s voice faculty has developed a curriculum that encompasses private and group vocal instruction covering vocal technique and solo repertoire; instruction in language, diction, acting, and movement; and music theory, among other subjects.

    “Merit will provide ongoing weekly instruction for solo voice students, and Lyric will provide an extension of those studies through access to performances and professionals,” Fleming continued. “Many of the learning opportunities provided by Lyric will also be made available to non-vocal students at Merit. Young people won’t just be attending performances; learning opportunities provided by Lyric through its education department will be integrated into their studies at Merit.”

    “As I said when I was named Lyric’s general director last April,” stated Anthony Freud, “my goal is to excite and stimulate the Chicago public – including students such as those at Merit School who previously may never have considered that Lyric Opera can be relevant to their lives. Chicago is a wonderfully diverse and vibrant city, and as one of the city’s truly great institutions, Lyric can and must provide broad and deep cultural service to communities throughout our city – as exemplified by this exciting collaboration with Merit School. We are one of the world’s finest opera companies, and we must also be a community resource, always addressing the unique needs and attributes of our city.”

    Said Fleming, “As you can tell, Anthony shares my passion for arts education and reaching audiences in innovative ways.” She then outlined the details of the multifaceted Lyric-Merit collaboration, which comprises the following elements in its inaugural 2011-12 season:

    Details of Lyric Opera of Chicago’s collaboration with Merit School of Music

    Renée Fleming will work with Merit solo voice major students via Skype, three times during the 2011-12 school year.
    Lyric Opera of Chicago will provide Merit students with access to selected performances at the Civic Opera House.
    375 students will attend an Opera in the Neighborhoods performance of La Cenerentola at Merit on Saturday, October 8, administered by Lyric’s Education Department and Ryan Opera Center.
    200 Merit students will attend the dress rehearsal of The Magic Flute on Saturday, December 3.
    Lyric’s Education Department, which annually serves more than 100,000 children and adults through a range of programs, will offer pre-opera presentations to help prepare Merit students for performances.
    On Saturday, March 17, Lyric’s Education Department will provide special backstage tours for the entire tuition-free conservatory, combined with a “career day” in which Lyric personnel – including Renée Fleming – will speak with the students about the many facets of the art form, from working behind the scenes to performing onstage.
    A Ryan Opera Center Recital Series is being launched this season as part of Merit’s Live from Gottlieb Hall Performance Series, which is presented exclusively for the Merit community.
    During “Opera Buddy for a Day!” Merit solo voice majors will shadow members of the Ryan Opera Center during a typical day in the center’s program and observe them as they prepare for their roles in the 2011-12 opera season.
    Sir Andrew Davis, Lyric’s music director, will conduct a working session with the Merit Symphony Orchestra this season (date TBD).
    Lyric’s Education Director Mark Riggleman will be available to Merit staff throughout the school year.”

    • 10.1
      OpinionatedNeophyte says:

      The Merit program sounds amazing…

      • 10.1.1
        Quanto Painy Fakor says:

        Yes, as I said above, it’s a real model for the future. Here’s hoping they can implement it as described.

      • 10.1.2
        Clita del Toro says:

        QPF and ON, You actually read that press release! LOL I don’t know how you do it??

          Quanto Painy Fakor says:

          Damn right I read it. Initially thinking here is more crap from Renay, but ultimately impressed that she is backing this important new outreach program for Lyric Opera. Mr. Mystery is correct. The vanishing aspects of music education in the schools is taking its toll on the very soul of American youth and their families. Generations exist with no idea of how to access the arts. It’s a very critical situation and the overwhelming problems in other areas and priorities have taken precedence. So if 20,000 + people shell out good money to hear Il Divo and believe that’s what opera is about Opera is dying and a few thousand people in St. Louis or Houston are not going to make a difference to the void that exists. Have you been to a Mall lately in suburbia?

  • 11
    chicagokok says:

    It made my day to see that the photo I took while driving to work yesterday morning made it up on! The risk of driving with one hand and snapping a pic with the other and risking road rage from chicago commuters was worth it!

  • 12
    oedipe says:

    On the subject of opera audiences and the future of opera, here is an entertaining and thoughtful article by Sylvain Fort, the editorialist of the internet magazine Forum Opera (My translation; I am confident Sylvain Fort will not mind a bit of publicity).
    The article addresses specifically the French opera scene, but its bitter-sweet analysis of opera audiences seems valid everywhere.

    “From the outside, fans of opera represent a tribe with customs from another era. They astound with their ability to lock themselves in for long hours in order to listen to fat ladies scream unintelligible words; with their obscure comments they elicit a sometimes irritated disdain; their high average age is a sign that, in a few years, the survivors will be gone, the tribe will be extinct.

    Anthropologists of opera know the divisions, the clans, the differences, the options that sometimes deeply divide the world of opera lovers. This tribe is of a formidable diversity. Reheated rivalries and hatreds stir it in depth. Do not talk to a Wagnerian about Lully, he will laugh in your face: how inane this court music is! Do not mention Wagner to the lullystes: the supporters of the great French style will mock the Germanic fogs. Bellini appals some and exalts others. Puccini induces vomiting or elation. Rossini excites or distresses. Mozart seemed to elicit unanimous approval for a while; the Baroque lovers took upon themselves to drive a wedge among these people with interpretative methods that repulsed some and delighted others [Note: S.F. refers here to HIP Mozart].

    All these nervous, instinctive reactions create a syncretism, feed intolerance, supply exclusive doctrines. The eclecticism displayed by some is only a front. Remember the bitter laughter provoked by Nicolas Joel’s choice to open his era with Gounod. Gounod? Yuk! -- some spit; Yum! -- others grinned. The press echoed the success of the introduction of the Baroque to the Vienna Staatsoper at the start of the reign of Dominique Meyer; behind the press, let us not underestimate the allergies of the worthy Viennese cursing the French and invoking the spirits of Lehar and Johann Strauss to ward off the virus.

    Musicological or historical disputes (dodecaphonists against tonal aficionados, romantic versus baroque fans) are nothing compared to the squabbles about taste, the only ones that are worth while and that have made the history of the arts. But in the case of opera, this kind of squabble takes the strange dimension of a retrospective dispute: it is not the novelty that divides, there is so little of it. It is the old repertory! That’s what counts! It is a war conservatisms, a controversy about the patrimony. If at least we fought about whether ‘Akhmatova’ is a great work or not; but no, noone cares, and we know that ‘Akhmatova’ is destined to the neglect that strikes indiscriminately the works that daring contemporary composers venture to add to the repertory [Note: S.F. refers here to a new opera, ‘Akhmatova’, by the young and gifted French composer Bruno Mantovani, an opera that was savaged by the critics, but which I personally liked very much, and which was rather well received by the Paris Opera public] . Better to trade invectives about the worthlessness of Cavalli or the worth/aberration of Bayreuth productions!

    The poor blokes that happen to land in the midst of a heated opera die-hard discussion quickly lose their naïvité: they thought they were among worthy servants of the Art, and they find themselves in the midst of a domestic scene among insiders imbued with their own certainty. You must try to imagine the face of the ignorant, asking a scholar if ‘La Traviata’ is a beautiful opera and getting the answer: ‘ It depends whose Traviata! ‘

    You may think that the writer of these lines condemns an ill-conceived sectarianism. Should we rebel against these village rivalries that corrupt the territory of opera, already so reduced? Come on! Not at all! In a world flattened by conformism and devastated by unitary thinking, it feels oh! so good to throw the names of divas in each other’s face! It is so pleasant to fight for a high note! It is so sweet to induge in bad faith and irony at the mere mention of a composer, a conductor or a festival! Those who have not tasted these innocent delights do not know what refinement is and deserve our joyous contempt.”