Led by Lyric Opera and its creative consultant, Renée Fleming, the Chicago Voices initiative celebrates the vocal traditions the city is known for while engaging and interacting with city residents in innovative and resounding ways. The community engagement arts initiative, Chicago Voices aims to create an inclusive platform for celebrating the human voice, while illuminating the legacy of Chicago vocal traditions and amplifying the narratives of everyday Chicagoans. The initiative features multiple programmatic components that unfold over a two-year period.
Through Community Created Performances, an initiative launched by Lyric to produce original music theater works created and performed by community groups using a core element of opera and narrative, Lyric invited groups of Chicagoans to share the untold stories of their communities. Lyric is partnering with the Chicago Public Library on this component of Chicago Voices.
Applicants were asked to use the 2016 One Book, One Chicago theme: Chicago, The City That Gives, to frame their stories. From the initial group of applicants, eight groups were profiled online and three finalist groups were selected through a public voting process in which over 16,000 votes were cast.
With the support of a Lyric-hired professional team and a $10,000 stipend, each group has created an original, fully-staged production that features participants as performers. Working collaboratively with the professional team, comprised of an animateur (facilitator), scriptwriter, songwriter, and director, the three finalist groups have been given creative control to create works that reflect their experiences as a community. Production designer Brandon Wardell and costume designer Rachel Sypniewski utilized input from the groups and their stories to create the visual world for the performance.
As part of their creative process leading up to the final presentation at Harris Theater on September 24, the three groups will each present an unstaged reading of their work. The original works on tap for the fall event include, Harmony, Hope & Healing, a work that takes audiences to the streets of Chicago where the hardships of life can have devastating effects, demonstrating how to use music to bring healing to those who need it most; Kirin-Gornick Band, which tells the rich history of traditional Eastern European tambura music and how it impacts people’s lives in Chicago; and Tellin' Tales Theatre, which creates a common bond among people with and without physical and mental disabilities by encouraging them to share their personal stories with the world in a theatrical setting.
Said Renée Fleming, “These three fantastic, distinctive groups have spent the summer working alongside a professional creative team to bring their unique narratives to life on stage. I’m thrilled that Chicago Voices has helped bring these inspiring stories from the communities where they were born to a larger audience.”
Each of the Chicago Voices events is free and open to the public. More information is available at lyricopera.org.
Lyric Opera's general director, Anthony Freud, Lyric Unlimited director Cayenne Harris, and creative consultant Renée Fleming at the Chicago Voices launch event this summer (photo courtesy of Lyric Opera of Chicago).
Clef Notes Chicagoland Journal for the Arts