Chicago’s Lyric Opera fêted their fabulous creative consultant Renée Fleming last week. She debuted on that stage on October 9, 1993, and has since performed in 10 roles. She’s presided over partnerships with the Second City (referenced with a video clip), as well as Chicago Public Schools initiatives, and shepherded the premiere of the new opera Bel Canto.
In front of a packed house, the singer celebrated her 25 years in the Windy City with performances by other luminaries, up-and-comers from the Patrick G. and Shirley W. Ryan Opera Center, as well as by the ebullient host, Emmy nominee and silver-shod Tituss Burgess, all in front of the Lyric Opera Orchestra, conducted by Patrick Summers.
In the first half of the one-night only, two-hour program, the four-time Grammy Award winner and Tony Award nominee wore a navy Carolina Herrera tulle gown with white orbs on the skirt. Her second gown was a rose-gold sequined column by Vivienne Westwood. The Lyric lobby also featured notable Fleming gowns, including from her performances in Thaïs, an aqua-tinged silver strapless by John Galliano for Dior (2007); a gray-and-white draped 3/4-sleeve by Westwood for a 2017 Carnegie Hall recital; an aquamarine shimmery sheath (also by Westwood) for a 2017 gala; and the Countess’s dark Deco delight by Galliano for the Met’s 2008 season opener. Her lavender 2009 Met Der Rosenkavalier gown and wig were on display downstairs.
Fleming sang selections from her previous Lyric appearances, including “Porgi amor” from Mozart’s The Marriage of Figaro, “Song to the Moon” from Dvořák’s Rusalka, and closed with a rousing rendition of “You’ll Never Walk Alone” from Rodgers and Hammerstein’s Carousel.
Her guests were varied and lively, and included powerful soprano Sondra Radvanovsky, tender tenor Lawrence Brownlee, baritone Quinn Kelsey, and bass-baritones, the commanding Eric Owens and lanky, mischievous Christian Van Horn, who sang Mefistofele.
Radvanovsky’s deep, rich and round sound tackled Tosca and Susannah. Brownless sang from Cosi fan tutte, Kelsey sang from Faust, and Owens sang Verdi. Robert Hanford joined Fleming and Kelsey on violin for a piece from Thaïs.
Burgess nearly stole the show with his one number, “In A Sentimental Mood,” where he accompanied himself on piano.
Fleming also performed a song from a new role she is preparing, singing “Fable,” from The Light in the Piazza, and announced that she would star as Margaret Johnson in a new production of the Tony Award-winning musical, for a 10-performance run in December; tickets are on sale now.