Lyric Opera’s general director, Anthony Freud, announced last week that Lyric Opera of Chicago has extended its agreement with world-famous soprano Renée Fleming to serve as its creative consultant through 2017. Ms. Fleming’s original five-year contract with Lyric began in 2010, and she is Lyric’s first creative consultant. This contract renewal allows for a seamless continuation of her work with Lyric, where she serves on the Lyric Board of Directors, the Executive Committee and as an advisor to The Patrick G. and Shirley W. Ryan Opera Center, Lyric’s professional young artist development program.
“During her first term as creative consultant, Renée has designed enormously valuable projects in the areas of arts education and engagement,” noted Freud. “She has curated our new main stage commission, and developed her role as an ambassador for Chicago’s artistic community. Her passion and drive, both on and off stage, bring a great spirit to the company and our art form. Renée is a wonderful partner to music director Sir Andrew Davis, to me, and to our entire organization. I look forward with eager enthusiasm to continuing our wonderful partnership with her.”
As creative consultant, Fleming will continue with her performance schedule while playing an active leadership role in conceiving and implementing projects designed to increase the relevance of opera for a variety of audiences—which has been a key priority for Lyric.
Her plans include curating the December 7, 2015 world premiere of the opera Bel Canto (based on the acclaimed novel by Ann Patchett), with composer Jimmy López, librettist Nilo Cruz, and director Kevin Newbury. As part of this process, Fleming, working closely Freud and Sir Andrew Davis, carried out extensive research to identify young composer López for the Bel Canto project. Fleming has also tapped the talents of another emerging artist, Matthew Aucion, who has been commissioned by Lyric Unlimited to create an opera for a younger audience, Second Nature. The new work will premiere in August 2015.
She is also expected to continue the high-profile collaborations she has nurtured with other Chicago-based arts institutions, reinforcing messaging about the strength of culture in Chicago. This includes her ongoing role as National Cultural Ambassador for the Chicago Public Schools Arts Education Plan.
Further developing Lyric’s young professionals initiative, which takes opera into the workplace and provides entry-level experiences for the opera-curious adult is also on the expanded agenda for Fleming.
Of course, continuing her onstage presence at Lyric will remain part of the extended two-year plan. She will start in the title role in Lehár’s The Merry Widow this fall in a new-to-Chicago production that premiered at the Metropolitan Opera last year with Sir Andrew Davis conducting.
On extending her commitment to Lyric, Fleming noted that, “Since I first performed at Lyric Opera of Chicago, I have been proud to be associated with this great company. Under the dynamic leadership of Anthony Freud, Sir Andrew Davis, and Lyric’s superlative Board, working to present unforgettable performances, discover and nurture outstanding artists, and engage the entire Chicago community, Lyric provides a home where I can hope to make a meaningful impact for this art form I love.”
That impact continues to be felt in Chicago’s cultural and extended communities. This extension of the collaborative powers at play here will mean a greater opportunity to evolve the relationship and its influence on Chicago.
Clef Notes Chicagoland Journal for the Arts
Soprano Renée Flemming at Civic Opera House in Downtown Chicago (photo by Todd Rosenberg).