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Lyric Unlimited to Premiere Klezmer Opera THE PROPERTY, 2/25

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Lyric Unlimited presents the world premiere of The Property, a klezmer opera by composer Wlad Marhulets and librettist Stephanie Fleischmann. It opens Wednesday, February 25, with five performances through Thursday, March 5. World premiere presentations of The Property are presented in partnership with the Reva and David Logan Center for the Arts in Chicago's Hyde Park neighborhood Feb. 25, 26, 27, with additional performances at the North Shore Center for the Performing Arts in suburban Skokie Mar. 4-5.

The world premiere of The Property is the centerpiece of Lyric Unlimited's Memory and Reckoning events, which surround the Lyric premiere of The Passenger by Miecys?aw Weinberg, Feb. 24-Mar. 15.

Adapted from the acclaimed graphic novel by Israeli author Rutu Modan, The Property tells the story of Regina Segal (mezzo-soprano Jill Grove) and her granddaughter Mica (soprano Anne Slovin), who travel to modern Warsaw to try to regain family property lost during World War II. As their journey unfolds, Regina is forced to confront painful truths about her past, including her history with Roman Gorski (baritone James Maddalena). Meanwhile, Mica navigates a relationship with their Polish tour guide, Tomasz (baritone Nathaniel Olson), and realizes their reasons for coming might not be all that they seemed. Additional characters are portrayed by bass-baritone Sam Handley (a Ryan Opera Center alumnus) and soprano Julianne Park.

The Property draws on the Eastern European and Jewish references from Modan's original story. The work is scored for a cast of six singers and an ensemble of six instrumentalists, including members of Chicago's Maxwell Street Klezmer Band. The opera will be performed in English with some Hebrew and Polish text. It is approximately 80 minutes in length with no intermission.

The 28-year-old Los Angeles-based Polish composer Wlad Marhulets, winner of the Susan W. Rose Fund Grant, the Peter D. Faith Prize, and five ASCAP Awards (including the prestigious Leonard Bernstein Award), was commissioned by Lyric Unlimited to compose The Property. Stephanie Fleischmann, librettist, adapted the novel with Eric Einhorn, who directs. Michael Lewanski will conduct The Property with set designs by William Boles, projection designs by Hillary Leben, costume designs by Izumi Inaba, and lighting design by Eric Watkins.

Like the story itself, Marhulets's score for The Property incorporates traditional and modern musical styles - from klezmer to funk - to illustrate that the work exists on two planes: memory and modern day. Marhulets is known for incorporating klezmer influences into his work. His Concerto for Klezmer Clarinet and Orchestra had its world premiere by clarinetist David Krakauer with the Detroit Symphony Orchestra in December 2009 (when Marhulets was studying composition at Juilliard with John Corigliano), and he has composed many smaller-scale chamber works that utilize the distinctive klezmer sound.

Stephanie Fleischmann is a New York-based playwright and librettist whose works have been seen internationally. She is the recipient of numerous fellowships, grants, and commissions, including an NEA Opera/Music-Theater commission and two New York Foundation for the Arts fellowships. She wrote the libretto and co-adapted The Property with Eric Einhorn, director. He remounted the Richard Jones production of Hansel and Gretel at Lyric and at the Metropolitan Opera, and has directed productions for Milwaukee's Florentine Opera and the Pacific Symphony. He has worked on a range of productions for Pittsburgh Opera, Portland Opera, Austin Lyric Opera, Utah Opera, Glimmerglass Festival, Forth Worth Opera, Wolf Trap Opera, and others. Einhorn has directed several Holocaust-themed works.

Jill Grove received rave reviews for her performances as Ježibaba in Lyric's 2014 production of Rusalka and the Witch in the company's 2013 production of Hansel and Gretel. James Maddalena is internationally known for his performances in American opera, particularly the works of John Adams. He was last seen at Lyric as Jack Hubbard in the company premiere of Doctor Atomic in the 2007-08 season; he also created the role of Richard Nixon in Adams's Nixon in China at Houston Grand Opera in 1987.

Lyric Unlimited's commissioning of The Property and choice to present it concurrently with The Passenger was inspired by the life and cultural identity of Passenger composer Mieczys?aw Weinberg. As a Polish Jew and the son of a Yiddish theater conductor, Weinberg's formative years were steeped in klezmer and Jewish liturgical music -- defining influences that later informed his compositions. And he, like The Property character Regina Segal, fled his homeland to escape the Nazi occupation.

World Premiere performances will play the Reva and David Logan Center for the Arts, 915 E 60th Street, Chicago on Wednesday, February 25, 7:30pm; Thursday, February 26, 7:30pm and Friday, February 27, 1pm. Tickets start at $20, on sale now at lyricopera.org/property or 312-827-5600. The February 25 and 26 performances will be followed by talkbacks featuring artists and University of Chicago faculty.

The Property will also be presented at The North Shore Center for the Performing Arts, 9501 Skokie Blvd, Skokie on Wednesday, March 4, 7:30pm; Thursday, March 5, 7:30pm. Tickets start at $20, on sale now at NorthShoreCenter.org or 847-673-6300.

About Lyric and Lyric Unlimited - Founded in 1954, Lyric Opera of Chicago's mission is to express and promote the life-changing, transformational, revelatory power of great opera. Lyric exists to provide a broad, deep, and relevant cultural service to Chicago and the nation, and to advance the development of the art form.

Lyric is dedicated to producing and performing consistently thrilling, entertaining, and thought-provoking opera with a balanced repertoire of core classics, lesser-known masterpieces, and new works; to creating an innovative and wide-ranging program of community engagement and educational activities; and to developing exceptional emerging operatic talent.

Under the leadership of general director Anthony Freud, music director Sir Andrew Davis, and creative consultant Renée Fleming, Lyric strives to become The Great North American Opera Company for the 21st century: a globally significant arts organization embodying the core values of excellence, relevance, and fiscal responsibility. For more information, visit lyricopera.org.

Launched in 2012, Lyric Unlimited is a long-term, evolving initiative that encompasses company activities that are not part of Lyric's mainstage season. Its mission is to provide a relevant cultural service to communities throughout the Chicago area and to advance the development of opera by exploring how opera as an art form can resonate more powerfully with people of multiple backgrounds, ethnicities, and interests. Lyric Unlimited leads the development of innovative partnerships with a wide range of cultural, community, and educational organizations to create a breadth of programming through which Chicagoans of all ages can connect with Lyric. In the 2013-14 season, more than 111,000 children, students, and adults participated in Lyric Unlimited activities. For more information, visit lyricopera.org/LyricUnlimited.


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