Joyce Castle and a blockbuster weekend

While Vocal Arts Chicago is rebuilding its inventory, the Editor could not resist weighing in on a fantastic weekend of events around town.

First and foremost, one must get to Evanston to experience the legendary mezzo-soprano Joyce Castle in one of her signature roles – the Old Prioress in Northwestern University’s English language production of Dialogues of the Carmelites. The Bienen School of Music pulled off a true coup in presenting this champion of contemporary opera whose career spans four decades and includes collaborations with the likes of Beverly Sills and Leonard Bernstein.  The Northwestern student cast gets to perform on stage with an American treasure, lifting this production out of the realm of being merely a university opera. Performances are Thursday through Sunday the 26th.

On Saturday, Collaborative Arts Institute of Chicago presents their Winter Lieder Lounge featuring VAC favorite Christian Van Horn and the ebullient Craig Terry. Van Horn takes a day off from donning the traje de luces to show the more intimate and intellectual facets of his artistry. Last spring, Ryan Opera Center alum Van Horn and Terry reunited on stage as part of the Beyond the Aria series in a program that included the Ibert setting of Don Quichotte songs – a set that The Editor of Vocal Arts Chicago would be glad to hear again. 2016’s Winter Lieder Lounge (Paul Appleby and Ken Noda) was rated VAC’s best vocal performance of 2016 not only for the superior singing and program, but for the ideal environment for song offered by the Penthouse at the Logan Center for the Arts.

Chicago Opera Theater continues its world-premiere run of Steward Copeland’s The Invention of Morel at the Studebaker Theater. “Honeyed tenor” Nathan Granner (Chicago Sun-Times) and Valerie Vinzant “a powerful soprano with a supermodel allure” (Chicago Sun-Times) co-star in an ensemble cast which features some of Chicago’s finest: tenor Scott Brunscheen (Chicago Fringe Opera, Haymarket Opera Company), mezzo-soprano Barbara Landis (Chamber Opera Chicago), soprano Kimberly Jones (Chicago Opera Theater’s Fairy Queen), and the ubiquitous and beloved bass-baritone David Govertsen.

Not to be left out of a jam-packed weekend, Lyric Opera of Chicago closes its acclaimed Norma on Friday and opens the Robert Carsen production of Eugene Onegin starring Ana Mara Martínez, Mariusz Kwiecień, and Charles Castronovo.  Martínez broke our hearts last fall when she had to back out of the Stars of Lyric Opera at Millennium Park concert where she was scheduled to sing the Letter Scene.  After her celebrated performance in the title role of Rusalka and as Donna Elvira in 2014, Lyric audiences and TEoVAC are anxious to hear her role debut as Tatyana opposite one of the best Onegins of his generation in Kwiecień. The Carsen production is from 1997 and has already been documented as part of the Met Live in HD series. TEoVAC still finds beauty in its invocation of nature with warm lighting and falling leaves, and remembers the closing scene of Act I to be a gut-punch. The prima is Sunday afternoon running against the final performances of Morel and Carmelites, but, thankfully, not against the Oscar’s.  Plan your weekends carefully, dear readers.