The summer we barely had came around in time for the annual free Pritzker Pavilion preview of Lyric Opera’s upcoming productions last Saturday. And when the weather cooperates, there’s no better place to be (except maybe at Ravinia, where they were doing a John Adams oratorio that night).
Based on what Lyric gave us, here’s a short list of what shouldn’t be missed at the opera house:
Tenor James Valenti, who sounds great and looks even better. (If there’s another tenor around with this, um, charisma, he’s not coming to mind.) Valenti will make his Lyric debut as Pinkerton in Madama Butterfly in mid-October, but not with Ana Maria Martinez, who was his bride for this night only. She’ll be opening the season as Desdemona in Otello, and will sing the title role in Rusalka, in February.
Soprano Albina Shagimuratova, whenever she gets back here. She was Gilda in last year’s Rigoletto at Lyric, but unfortunately isn’t on tap this season. The Russian diva, fresh from a performance at the G20 Summit in Petersburg, has dramatic chops along with what counts most: an exceptional, bell-like voice. She brought the pavilion audience to its feet with the mad scene from Lucia di Lammermoor, also not on the Lyric schedule this year.
The Lyric Opera Chorus, humming away under the direction of Michael Black, who was interim chorus master two seasons ago and a welcome choice for the recent permanent appointment. Truth be told, the Butterfly “Humming Chorus” was a tad subtle for this huge, open-air venue, but their postintermission “Anvil Chorus” knocked it out of the park.
The Lyric Opera orchestra, of course, and guest conductor Ward Stare, who threw himself into a highly animated performance. He’ll be back for the holiday production of Die Fledermaus.
Out of sight: Music director Andrew Davis, slated to conduct only three of this season’s eight operas.