Lyric Opera presents “Bel Canto,” world premiere opera based on Ann Patchett’s PEN/Faulkner Award-winning novel


Composed by Jimmy Lopez

Libretto by Pulitzer Prize-winning playwright Nilo Cruz


Performances begin December 7, 2015

CHICAGO – Lyric Opera of Chicago presents the eagerly awaited world premiere of Bel Canto, Dec. 7, 2015–Jan. 17, 2016. Based on Ann Patchett’s PEN/Faulkner Award-winning novel of the same name, the opera was created by composer Jimmy López (music) with a libretto by Pulitzer Prize-winning playwright Nilo Cruz (Anna in the Tropics). This is Lyric’s seventh full-length operatic world premiere.


Lyric’s music director Sir Andrew Davis will conduct the new opera, which was curated by Lyric’s creative consultant Renée Fleming. The production will be directed by Kevin Newbury, whose extensive opera and theatrical credits include the now-touring production of Kansas City Choir Boy starring Courtney Love and Todd Almond.


Bel Canto performance dates are December 7, 10, 12, January 5 and 13 at 7:30 p.m.; and January 8 and 17 at 2 p.m. For tickets and information call (312) 827-5600 or visit


The novel and opera are inspired by the Peruvian hostage crisis of 1996-97, triggered when a diplomatic party at the Japanese ambassador’s mansion was commandeered by revolutionaries posing as waiters. After a siege lasting four months, government troops stormed the mansion, rescuing most of the hostages. López, then an 18-year-old composer, watched the daily news reports at home in Lima. When general director Anthony Freud, Fleming, and Davis asked him in 2011 to write an opera based on the novel, “that was when I felt the stars were aligning,” López recalls. “I had a very personal connection with the material.” He adds that librettist Nilo Cruz “served as a bridge between me and Ann Patchett’s novel.”


Internationally acclaimed soprano Danielle de Niese stars as the American opera diva Roxane Coss, who is making a special appearance at a multinational diplomatic gathering in Lima, Peru. The hostage situation becomes a siege when government forces surround the compound. During the months-long crisis, lines blur and unexpected alliances form between captors and captives, with Roxane’s singing becoming a powerful, humanizing force. Bel Canto will be sung in Spanish, English, Japanese, Russian, German, French, Latin, and Quechua, with projected English translations.


Among the hostages are a Japanese industrialist, Hosokawa (who is obsessed with the opera singer and who is the reason she was invited to perform), and his translator Gen, portrayed by Jeongcheol Cha and Andrew Stenson respectively. J’nai Bridges will sing the role of guerilla Carmen, with Rafael Davila as General Alfredo, William Burden as Rubén Iglesias, Anthony Roth Costanzo as César, and Jacques Imbrailo as Messner, the Red Cross intermediary between the hostages, captors, and government officials.


Sir Andrew Davis conducts the new Lyric production directed by Kevin Newbury. Michael Black is chorus master. The production is designed by David Korins (sets), Constance Hoffman (costumes), Duane Schuler (lighting), and Greg Emetaz (projections).


Bel Canto has its own very individual voice,” says Freud. “It’s accessible, it’s theatrical, and it’s concise. It will be a highly dramatic evening. The designs are absolutely wonderful, involving highly imaginative projection.”


“It’s been exciting to collaborate in bringing this new work from page to stage,” says Davis. “The story is an ideal subject for opera – people in an adverse situation brought together and transformed by music. There are some beautiful arias, including one sung in Japanese. It’s a very exciting and powerful drama.”


Lyric’s world premiere of Bel Canto is generously made possible by The Andrew W. Mellon Foundation, Helen and Sam Zell, Ethel and William Gofen, Ada and Whitney Addington,the Walter E. Heller Foundation,and Roberta L. and Robert J. Washlow,with additional support from the National Endowment for the Arts.


Bel Canto was created with funds from the Prince Prize for Commissioning Original Work, which was awarded to Jimmy López and Lyric Opera of Chicago in 2013.


About Lyric


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.


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