"Bel Canto the Opera" from Lyric Opera of Chicago Comes to Great Performances

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10 January 2017
Bel Canto the Opera
Danielle de Niese, Jeongcheol Cha and Rafael Davila in Lyric Opera of Chicago’s Bel Canto. Photo: Todd Rosenberg
"Bel Canto the Opera"
Premieres Friday, January 13 at 9 p.m. on PBS
(Check your local Listings)
          The world premiere production of Bel Canto the Opera -- recorded in Chicago last January -- airs on Great Performances Friday, January 13 at 9 p.m. on PBS. (Check local listings.)  Based on Ann Patchett 's bestselling 2001 novel (inspired by the Peruvian hostage crisis of 1996-97), the new opera  was composed by Jimmy López with a libretto by Pulitzer Prize-winning playwright Nilo Cruz and curated by legendary soprano Renée Fleming, Lyric's creative consultant, who hosts the broadcast.


              "One of the greatest joys of my role as creative consultant at Lyric has been to develop this new work for the operatic stage." says Fleming. "When the novel 'Bel Canto' came out, it was a runaway best-seller, and friends from everywhere called me and asked, 'Is this based on you?' A novel with a soprano at the center, singing my repertoire? Naturally, I had to read it. I immediately realized that Ann Patchett had created a classic portrait of an American singer, and told a story of power and relevance - perfect for opera.  So I proposed it as a source when we began the creation of a new work at Lyric. I presented Sir Andrew Davis and Anthony Freud with a huge list of composers. But I had been thinking, what if we ultimately focus on South America for a musical language that would geographically correspond to the piece?  When we awarded the commission to the brilliant Jimmy López, I had no idea that he actually had lived through the crisis as a teenager in Lima. The piece also benefits immeasurably from the intensely musical language Pulitzer Prize-winner Nilo Cruz used in his libretto."

Bel Canto
Courtesy of Andrew Cioffi
              Internationally acclaimed soprano Danielle de Niese stars as the American opera diva Roxane Coss, who is making a special appearance at a multinational diplomatic gathering in Lima when terrorists storm the mansion. The hostage situation becomes a siege as government forces surround the compound. During the months-long crisis, lines blur and unexpected alliances form between captors and captives, with Roxane's singing becoming a powerful, humanizing force. Among the hostages are a Japanese industrialist, Katsumi Hosokawa (who is obsessed with the opera singer and who is the reason she was invited to perform), and his translator Gen Watanabe, portrayed by Jeongcheol Cha and Andrew Stenson respectively.  J'nai Bridges  sings the role of guerilla Carmen; with  Rafael Davila  as General Alfredo; William Burden  as Rubén Iglesias , the vice president; Anthony Roth Costanzo  as César; and  Jacques Imbrailo  as  Joachim  Messner, the Red Cross intermediary for the  hostages, captors, and government officials.

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