Lyric Opera's Bel Canto to Get National Spotlight on PBS's Great Performances  Series


Lyric Opera of Chicago has announced that Thirteen Productions LLC for WNET New York has selected the world-premiere production of Bel Canto – The Opera to be part of the prestigious Great Performances series on PBS. The WNET team will be in Chicago to film the January 5 and 8 performances. Bel Canto will air nationally during the 2016/17 television season.

Now in its 43rd season, PBS’s Great Performances has a history of capturing noteworthy live performances for national broadcast. Matthew Diamond, who also recently directed NBC’s televised live production of  The Wiz, will direct the television presentation of Bel Canto, collaborating with the award-winning production team from WNET and Great Performances executive producer David Horn.

Based on Ann Patchett's best-selling 2001 novel (inspired by the Peruvian hostage crisis of 1996-97), Bel Canto is a new opera composed by Jimmy López with libretto by Pulitzer Prize-winning playwright Nilo Cruz and curated by world renowned soprano Renée Fleming, Lyric's creative consultant. Internationally acclaimed soprano Danielle de Niese will star 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. Soprano J’nai Bridges, Rafael Davila and William Burden will also lend their voices to the world premiere production. A multi-lingual work, Bel Canto is sung in Spanish, English, Japanese, Russian, German, French, Latin, and Quechua, with projected English translations.

Sir Andrew Davis will conduct the new Lyric production directed by Kevin Newbury with design by  David Korins (sets), Constance Hoffman (costumes), Duane Schuler (lighting), and Greg Emetaz (projections). Michael Black is chorus master and  Nick Sandys is fight director.

“All of us at Lyric are delighted to share the excitement of the world premiere of Bel Canto with the Great Performances audience,” says Lyric’s general director Anthony Freud. “It is an extraordinary piece—powerful and moving—and I am thrilled that it will be seen and heard by many more people than can attend the live performances here at Lyric."

Fleming adds, "It is simply stunning to see my good friend Ann Patchett’s novel come to life onstage as an opera written by Jimmy López and Nilo Cruz. We all feel very close to this piece, and are honored that Lyric Opera’s world-premiere production will be aired across the country on Great Performances.”

“I am so proud to present our Lyric Opera Orchestra and Chorus in this exceptional premiere!" says Davis.

“With a history of Lyric Opera of Chicago coproductions dating back to 1980, we are delighted to once again partner with Lyric to bring innovative contemporary opera to a national audience  through Great Performances,”  says Horn.  “Furthermore, given our long association with Renée Fleming, we are especially pleased to present a project curated under Renée’s auspices at Lyric.”

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Cast of Lyric Opera 's world premiere production of Jimmy Lopez's Bel Canto (photo by Todd Rosenberg).