Henson Keys

Henson Keys (AKA "actfive") is a Chicago-based actor and director who fell in love with opera while working for the Met Ticket Service in NYC in the early 80's. An Equity actor since 1974, he has performed in over 130 roles in New York and regional repertory including 46 productions of Shakespeare. From 1999-2015 he was Chair of Acting Programs at the University of Illinois, Urbana-Champaign, having previously led programs at Ohio University and the Alabama Shakespeare Festival. He also writes opera CD/DVD reviews for Opera News.


Give me libertine Give me libertine

Ryan McKinny’s Don is subtler, slyer, smoother, with a sharp wit and sense of dark humor that gives added dimension to the role.

on December 07, 2019 at 1:25 PM
The three faces of Sondra The three faces of Sondra

It was a gloomy, chilly, rainy day in Chicago on Sunday afternoon, a perfect reflection of the sad and gloomy fates of the title characters in Lyric Opera of Chicago’s presentation of The Three Queens.

on December 03, 2019 at 9:00 AM
Darkness on the edge of town Darkness on the edge of town

Lyric Opera of Chicago’as Don Giovanni lands smack dab in the middle of our current debate about wanted or unwanted sexual advances and outright sexual abuse.

on November 19, 2019 at 11:51 AM
“Haven’t we all suffered enough?” “Haven’t we all suffered enough?”

Sunday’s matinee at Lyric Opera of Chicago was my first experience of Heggie and McNally’s 2000 opera Dead Man Walking. It certainly won’t be my last.

on November 12, 2019 at 9:00 AM
The Wurm turns The Wurm turns

Luisa Miller snowballs toward disaster and death.

on October 14, 2019 at 9:00 AM
Sparkle, Lyric, sparkle! Sparkle, Lyric, sparkle!

It’s an old chestnut of a joke that applies even more to opera than to the theatre: A veteran actor is on his deathbed.

on September 30, 2019 at 10:00 AM
Lakeside story Lakeside story

In our current political climate with issues of immigration, tribalism, and white nationalists, the 1957 musical West Side Story has a distinctly contemporary feel.

on May 07, 2019 at 2:04 PM
Ryan’s hope Ryan’s hope

Sunday’s “Rising Stars in Concert”, featuring the Ryan Opera Center ensemble and members of the Lyric Opera Orchestra, was a stirring and entertainingly musical afternoon.

on April 11, 2019 at 3:34 PM
Silver lining Silver lining

Saturday night, Lyric Opera of Chicago gave us a wonderful evening of vocalism in honoring Renée Fleming’s 25th anniversary at Lyric. 

on March 25, 2019 at 10:58 AM
In dreams In dreams

All these events are simply too big for a one-act opera.

on March 19, 2019 at 9:18 AM
In the baroque midwinter In the baroque midwinter

It’s been a rough winter in Chicago, and an especially rough one for lead singers at Lyric Opera of Chicago

on March 07, 2019 at 10:30 AM
Cover girl Cover girl

Those of us who were hoping for “a star is born” performance were, alas, disappointed.

on February 22, 2019 at 8:41 AM
Revenge served cold Revenge served cold

Of course, Stemme had the character’s frenzied fury at her father’s murderers in hand, but she had far more nuance—at times this Elektra was seductive, sympathetic, loving, even humorous in her bitterness. 

on February 04, 2019 at 9:00 AM
Dream a little dream Dream a little dream

Jules Massenet’s version of the Cinderella fairy tale, Cendrillon, seems to be back in vogue after many years of obscurity.

on December 07, 2018 at 10:35 AM
A starred day’s night A starred day’s night

Anna Netrebko sang throughout with a palpable sense of joy and ease in vocal production, never a hint of strain or any moment forced. 

on December 03, 2018 at 5:24 PM
Great Chicago fire Great Chicago fire

If sheer clarion vocalism is what draws you to the opera, then hie thee to Lyric Opera of Chicago’s rousing revival Of Verdi’s Il Trovatore, the oddly plotted but musically sublime opera that opened last night in the David McVicar production, originally seen in 2006.  

on November 19, 2018 at 10:30 AM

Director David Pountney and his splendid designers have brought Lyric Opera of Chicago a visually spectacular Siegfried full of daring ideas.

on November 09, 2018 at 11:23 AM
Beyond the sea Beyond the sea

Those readers who know my musical tastes will not be shocked to find that I have a somewhat conflicted view of Mozart’s operatic works.

on October 23, 2018 at 11:29 AM
Best in snow Best in snow

Lyric Opera of Chicago resumed its season on Wednesday evening with the new-to-Chicago production of Puccini’s perennial audience pleaser La bohème.

on October 19, 2018 at 9:47 AM
E lucevan le stelle E lucevan le stelle

The Stars of Lyric Opera weren’t under the stars last night, prevented by a persistent cloud bank, but they nonetheless provided a stirring evening of music in Chicago’s Millennium Park.

on September 09, 2018 at 8:25 AM
Jesus hopped the L train Jesus hopped the L train

Just a few years back it would have been seen as ridiculous to put “Lyric Opera of Chicago” and “Jesus Christ Superstar” in the same sentence.

on April 30, 2018 at 11:50 AM
Thanks for scaring Thanks for scaring

I found Fellow Travelers intellectually and politically riveting, musically thrilling, and profoundly moving. It was a triumph. 

on March 27, 2018 at 10:54 AM
Reframing Reframing

The production is at all times visually arresting, but it’s also extremely distracting.

on March 06, 2018 at 1:13 PM
Puritani, as the driven snow Puritani, as the driven snow

It was an afternoon of spectacular singing, particularly from the two principals and the glorious Lyric Opera Chorus.

on February 07, 2018 at 8:00 AM
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