On October 8, 2022, Lyric Opera of Chicago (20 N. Wacker Drive) featured a very special one-night-only performance featuring new work and Broadway favorites. The award winning and world renowned soprano, Renée Fleming, Lyric’s own special projects advisor, was joined by the very talented and charismatic baritone, Rod Gilfry, for the Midwest premiere of the song cycle, The Brightness of Light. Composed by Pulitzer Prize winner, Kevin Puts, this amazing concert was followed by a program featuring songs from the Great American Songbook, as well as Broadway favorites. The Lyric Opera Orchestra was conducted by Music Director Enrique Mazzola.
The Brightness of Light was based on letters between legendary painter, Georgia O’Keeffe, and her husband, the world-renowned photographer, Alfred Stieglitz. These letters and Puts’ remarkable music offered a marvelous showcase for the sensitive and combined artistry of Fleming and Gilfry, as they performed against evocative projections that mingled O’Keeffe and Stieglitz’s art, photos and letters, to create a cinematic backdrop for the evening.
The entire concert was a true treat and delight to attend. My guest and I are huge fans of Fleming, and it was an honor to see her perform live for the first time.
The first part of the evening, The Brightness of Light, was composed of haunting and resilient music and lyrics, bringing to life two artists’ almost forty years of correspondence, including their courting, brief marriage, his infidelity and their communication after they parted ways.
My guest and I learned new things about Georgia and Alfred’s life together and apart. Their story and letters were brought to life with visual display, with not only lovely music and song, but also with projected images of Georgia’s soulful paintings, including photographs of them and video clips. The images matched the music perfectlymas their correspondence was shown.
When they ended their marriage, Alfred stayed in New York and Georgia moved to the American Southwest for the remainder of her artistic life. This was the space that inspired some of her greatest and most famous paintings. The artwork on screen also gave the audience that feeling of change in her life as well.
The second half of the program that evening was completely different from the first half, and was composed of classic, golden age musical theater numbers. You could see the chemistry and friendship between Renee and Rod, who share a rich history together. They started the second half with a performance they had shared years ago. Musical numbers included favorites from The Sound of Music, Oklahoma, Brigadoon, A Streetcar Named Desire, and much more.
Besides the brilliant performances of Renee and Rod as the principal singers, the orchestra was the star of the show, with exceptionally talented musicians. They took the audience along on a magical, musical journey of art, love and friendship.
The entire experience of The Brightness of Light was different and amazing and I wish more people could have had the chance to see it. If only it had been performed more than one evening. But, sometimes the best of the best performances only get one opportunity to shine on the stage at a time.
Photos are courtesy of: www.lyricopera.org
For more information on Lyric Opera’s current season, please visit the website.