"Stars of Lyric Opera" will Shine Bright this Saturday Night

Stars of Lyric Opera Mill. Park 2Stars of Lyric Opera,” the free love-fest of opera singing given every year to the people of Chicago by the Lyric Opera, is scheduled for this Saturday night, May 6, at 7:30 p.m. in Pritzker Pavilion at Millennium Park, Michigan Ave. and Randolph St. Go! Even if you’re not a big fan of opera, or not even sure if you like it — go and listen and open your mind and your ears. If you’re anything like me, you’ll be turned from a non-opera fan into a great admirer and appreciator of this gorgeous singing.

I went to my first “Stars of Lyric Opera” show about 10 or so years ago.  At the time, I was not sure I liked opera singing. In fact, at times, I remember I distinctly disliked it. When listening to classical radio, when Brahms or Beethoven would switch to some opera singer, I would usually quickly turn the radio off, or switch to another station. What were they singing about?, I thought. I can’t understand these songs in Italian, French, German, or whatever language they’re singing in.

My hand would invariably go to the radio, and that was that for opera in Larry’s house that day.

But one year I thought I’d try the free opera concert downtown. Free! A word I was trained to respect by my father, God rest his soul. And opera tickets aren’t cheap, I well knew.

When I was at the concert, on a beautiful early-fall evening, surrounded by hundreds of fellow music-lovers, I tried to listen to the voices, and the instruments. Don’t worry about what they’re saying, I thought. Just listen to the voices and the instruments as music.

Somehow that shift in my thinking opened a doorway into enjoying this type of music. It’s gorgeousRenee Fleming Lyric Opera 2 stuff! For me, the soprano voices — for example, such as those belonging to singers like Renee Fleming — provide a special treat. Listening to one of these singers flit around the upper registers with her vocal chords is like hearing a bird singing atop a tree.

Sir Andrew Davis 2And it’s not just about the singers. Sir Andrew Davis is scheduled to conduct the Lyric Opera Orchestra on Saturday night, and these outstanding musicians are an essential part of what makes opera great. In the same way that Frank Sinatra would not be Frank Sinatra without the Nelson Riddle Orchestra behind him, or Chrissie Hynde would not be Chrissie Hynde without The Pretenders backing her, opera singers rely on the instrumentalists behind them. It’s a band.

So … the weather is forecast to be perfect for opera-singing on Saturday, with highs in the low 70’s and lows near 60. In previous years, crowds of Chicagoans have covered the slightly-rising hills of Millennium Park to bask in the rays of “Stars of Lyric Opera.” (Of course, to stay out of the fray, you can always hang out along the walkways which line the concert space.) Opera-lovers, the opera-curious, and everyone in between — they all gather downtown right smack in the middle of the city’s great architecture to  hear first-rate players and singers perform music from the likes of Giacomo Puccini and Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart.

When I’m downtown at a concert like this, looking up at the skyscrapers around me and the sky above me, I often think to myself, “What a city I live in …”

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