Lyric Unlimited to Present New Commissions & Family Presentation in 2015

Lyric Unlimited to Present New Commissions & Family Presentation in 2015

Anthony Freud, general director of Lyric Opera of Chicago, today announced details around three new commissions and a brand-new family presentation in 2015: The Property, a klezmer opera by composer Wlad Marhulets and librettist Stephanie Fleischmann; Second Nature, a children's opera from composer Matthew Aucoin; El Pasado Nunca Se Termina, a mariachi opera by composer Jose "Pepe" Martínez and librettist Leonard Foglia; and The Magic Victrola, a new family presentation.

"Major opera companies have an imperative to be proactive and dynamic in engaging with the cities in which they are based," said Freud. "Lyric Unlimited allows Lyric Opera of Chicago to collaborate with the many diverse communities in Chicago, creating an array of activities that provide breadth, depth, and quality of cultural service for our audiences members inside and outside the opera house."

Cayenne Harris, director of Lyric Unlimited, noted, "One of the most exciting aspects of Lyric Unlimited is presenting new works that connect to a variety of audiences, written about subjects and in musical languages that resonate with people of all ages and backgrounds."

"Ever since I began working with Lyric as creative consultant, it's been a goal to help opera come alive in different parts of the city. It's rewarding to see that come to fruition through these exciting new projects," said Lyric Creative Consultant Renée Fleming. "I've also been thrilled to introduce young talent like composer Matthew Aucoin to Lyric Unlimited, so that we can cultivate the next generation of creative artists."

These four presentations build on Lyric Unlimited's ongoing community engagement and education activities to create a breadth of programming through which Chicagoans of all ages can connect with Lyric Opera of Chicago in deeper and more relevant ways. In the 2013-14 season, more than 111,000 children, students, and adults participated in Lyric Unlimited activities.

The Property
February and March 2015

Adapted from the acclaimed graphic novel by Rutu Modan, The Property tells the story of Regina Segal and her granddaughter Mica, 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, while Mica realizes their reasons for coming might not be all that they seemed.

As a klezmer opera, The Property will draw 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 seven instrumentalists, and will feature members of Chicago's Maxwell Street Klezmer Band.

The 28-year-old Polish composer (now based in Los Angeles) Wlad Marhulets, winner of the Susan W. Rose Fund Grant, the Peter D. Faith Prize, and five ASCAP Awards (including their prestigious Leonard Bernstein Award), has been commissioned to write the opera. Stephanie Fleischmann, librettist, adapted the novel with Eric Einhorn, who will direct. Like the story itself, Marhulets's vision for the work will incorporate traditional and modern musical styles-from klezmer to funk-to illustrate that the work exists in two places: 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 in December 2009, and he has composed many smaller-scale chamber works that utilize the distinctive klezmer sound.

The Property will be presented in partnership with the Reva and David Logan Center for the Arts at the University of Chicago on Wednesday, February 25 at 7:30 p.m.; Thursday, February 26 at 7:30 p.m.; and Friday, February 27 at 1 p.m. It will also be performed at Skokie's North Shore Center for the Arts on Wednesday, March 4 and Thursday, March 5, both at 7:30 p.m. Tickets start at $20 and will go on sale on July 1 at or 312-827-5600.

The world premiere of The Property is the centerpiece of a series of activities planned around Lyric's mainstage performances of Mieczys?aw Weinberg's The Passenger in February and March 2015. A recently rediscovered work that explores the devastating consequences of the Holocaust from the perspective of both victim and perpetrator, it had its first complete staging at the Bregenz Festival in 2010 directed by David Pountney. Lyric presents the Chicago premiere of this acclaimed production. Weinberg's father worked as a violinist and conductor in Yiddish theater, and it was he who provided Mieczys?aw with practical experience and exposed him to the traditional klezmer and liturgical Jewish music that informed his compositions.

Lyric Unlimited plans to present film screenings, chamber music recitals, symposia, and discussions at venues throughout Chicago in conjunction with the Chicago premiere of The Passenger. More information about these activities will be announced later this year.

Second Nature
August 2015

Lyric Unlimited has commissioned a children's opera, Second Nature, from young American composer and conductor Matthew Aucoin. Second Nature is set in the not-so-distant future, when the environment has deteriorated and humans have decided it's safer to live in zoo-like habitats that protect them from the outside world. Encouraged by the other animal inhabitants, two young children dare to explore the world outside the walls to see if there is still something worth saving.

Geared for children ages 8 to 12, Second Nature will be presented at Chicago's historic Lincoln Park Zoo, the perfect setting for a story focused on the relationship between humans and nature. This partnership with Lincoln Park Zoo supports Lyric Unlimited's mission to collaborate with a wide variety of organizations in the Chicago area and offer opera that explores contemporary themes in unexpected venues.

Matthew Aucoin, the 24-year-old award-winning composer, pianist, poet, and conductor, is both composer and librettist for Second Nature. Among his many projects, he is writing an opera with the Metropolitan Opera/Lincoln Center Theatre's commissioning program and is also working on a commission for the American Repertory Theater's 2014-15 season. He is currently the Solti Conducting Fellow at the Chicago Symphony Orchestra and has served as an assistant conductor at the Metropolitan Opera and Rome Opera.

The world-premiere performances of Second Nature, directed by Matthew Ozawa, will take place on Wednesday, August 19 and Thursday, August 20, 2015, at Café Brauer at Lincoln Park Zoo. Performances will be free and open to the public; times will be announced later. For more information, visit After the performances at Lincoln Park Zoo, Second Nature will also be presented at schools and community venues around Chicago.

El Pasado Nunca Se Termina
March 2015

Previously announced as part of the 2014-15 season, El Pasado Nunca Se Termina (The Past Is Never Finished) is the second mariachi opera presented by Lyric Unlimited, and the first to have its world premiere in Chicago. This new opera is composed by Jose "Pepe" Martínez with a libretto by Leonard Foglia (who will also direct), the same creative team as for the wildly successful Cruzar la Cara de la Luna. El Pasado begins on a hacienda on the eve of the Mexican Revolution and tells the story of two families-one indigenous and one European-whose lives become deeply entwined. The story spans multiple generations; we meet the modern-day ancestors of the two families, now reconciling their pasts in the context of modern life in the U.S. and Mexico.

Lyric Unlimited is announcing five preview performances of El Pasado that will precede the world premiere at the Civic Opera House in March 2015. Four performances will be held at Benito Juaréz Community Academy in Chicago's Pilsen neighborhood on Friday, March 13 at 7:30 p.m.; Saturday, March 14 at 2 p.m. and 7:30 p.m.; and Sunday, March 15 at 2 p.m. A single performance will take place at the historic Genesee Theatre in Waukegan on Sunday, March 22
at 2 p.m.

These performances mark the return to Pilsen and Waukegan, building on the sold-out presentations of Cruzar la Cara de la Luna at these venues in March 2013 and Canciones y Arias at Benito Juaréz in April 2014. To supplement the preview performances of El Pasado, additional community-engagement activities are being planned including lecture-demonstrations at schools, workshops with young mariachi students, and student-matinee performances.

The world-premiere performances are Saturday, March 28 at 7:30 p.m. and Sunday, March 29 at 2 p.m. at the Civic Opera House in downtown Chicago.

Tickets for the Civic Opera House performance are on sale now. The preview performances in Pilsen and Waukegan go on sale July 1. Ticket prices are as follows: Benito Juaréz Community Academy tickets are $10; Genesee Theater tickets are $10 to $25; and Civic Opera House tickets are $25 to $125. For more information or to purchase tickets, visit or call 312-827-5600.

The Magic Victrola
January 2015

Previously announced as part of the 2014-15 season, The Magic Victrola is a brand-new presentation created for families with children ages 5-10. Excerpts from famous operas are woven together with an original story by David Kersnar (Lookingglass Theatre Company) and Jacqueline Russell (Chicago Children's Theatre), performed by members of Lyric's Ryan Opera Center and Lyric Opera Orchestra.

While playing in their grandparents' attic, two children discover a mysterious trunk filled with costumes, props, opera albums, and a beautiful vintage record player. What happens when they start to listen to the music? Scenes from beloved operas-including Mozart's The Magic Flute and Bizet's Carmen-magically come to life! This special concert has a kid-friendly 60-minute running time.

The Magic Victrola will be presented on Saturday, January 17, 2015 at 3 p.m. at the Civic Opera House. It is the third of Lyric Unlimited's offerings especially for families with young children, following the sold-out presentations of Popcorn and Pasquale in the 2012-13 season and The Family Barber in the 2013-14 season.

Tickets for The Magic Victrola are available now, with tickets for children starting at $10. For more information or to purchase tickets, visit or call 312-827-5600.

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