Lucrezia Chicago Fringe Opera

5/6, 5/9, 5/11, 5/13 @ 730 - A game of seduction and love, riddled with humor and coy femininity, "Lucrezia" features the iconic art song style of Bolcom ("McTeague", "A View from the Bridge" and "A Wedding", all commissioned and premiered by Lyric Opera of Chicago), with a pun-laced libretto by Mark Campbell ("Silent Night"). The piece is performed by four hands at two pianos.

Tix $50, Opening 5/6. Reg Run: $20/$40.

More info @ 773-312-3930


05/04/17 - 05/13/17

730p on May 6, 9, 11, 13

Bolcom sex farce draws lively staging from Chicago Fringe Opera - John Won Rhein, Chicago Tribune - "Remember William Bolcom? The composer's voice dominated new American opera in Chicago in the course of a dozen years during the 1990s and early 2000s, when Lyric Opera commissioned and premiered no fewer than three of his operas, beginning with "McTeague" in 1992 and continuing with "A View from the Bridge" in 1999 and "A Wedding" in 2004.

The success of these shows appeared to signal a local renaissance for American opera as a living art form. But the death in 2005 of Arnold Weinstein, Bolcom's longtime lyricist and librettist, crippled his muse and effectively put a halt to his collaboration with Lyric. American opera went back to being pretty much a pariah at Lyric Opera.

Since then, it has fallen to smaller local opera troupes such as Chicago Fringe Opera to keep the flame from sputtering out altogether. So one is delighted to find a relatively recent Bolcom opera, "Lucrezia," turning up at the city's alt-opera company. The hourlong sex farce is having a spirited area debut in a minimalist production at the Chopin Theatre in Wicker Park.

Billed as a riff on Machiavelli's "Mandragola," with a witty libretto by Mark Campbell, "Lucrezia" is one-half of a double bill commissioned and first presented by the New York Festival of Song in 2008. Too bad Fringe Opera is denying us the opportunity to hear its companion piece, John Musto's "Bastianello" (libretto also by Campbell). Filling the void is a pre-show cabaret of some of Bolcom's signature art songs, presented in the theater's cozily cluttered lounge by the five talented cast members of "Lucrezia."

Bolcom's gifts as a composer for the lyric stage are readily apparent regardless of the stylistic nests he raids. "Lucrezia," set in 19th-century Spain, is a sly contemporary take on the popular Spanish music theater tradition known as zarzuela. Tangos, fandangos, waltzes, even snatches of ragtime and jazz pepper Bolcom's musical pastiche, accompanied by piano four hands and punctuating Campbell's pun-laced libretto. Silly sophistication, if you will, and no less enjoyable for it.

Much of the humor is very broadly played in the fast-paced staging by the company's artistic director, George Cederquist. Packed into the tiny black-box theater in the basement of the Chopin Theater, the audience for Saturday's opening performance appeared to be having as much fun as the performers, and that ultimately is all that mattered.

The plot plays like a randy contemporary twist on "The Barber of Seville."

Young Lorenzo (the strong tenor Tobias Wright) seeks help from his friend, the resourceful Chucho (Matthan Ring Black, also very good) to bed the nubile Lucrezia (Ashley Kay Armstrong), the lusty young wife of old Ignacio (Gabriel Di Gennaro). Chucho enlists the aid of Lucrezia's mother, Annunciata (Diana Stoic), to carry out the seduction, playing on the older woman's desire to have a grandchild. Lorenzo dons several disguises to win admittance to Lucrezia's bedchamber - hardly necessary, given her eager participation in the scheme. The farce hurtles to a final plot twist on the back of such groaners as "God sayeth that is OK-eth."

The standout singer here is Armstrong, who wraps her velvety voice around Lucrezia's sexy aria most charmingly, making us root for the wily wife who gets what she wants in the end, amorously as well as financially. The capable pianists are music director Catherine O'Shaughnessy and Cody Michael Bradley. The spare production design of Brad Caleb Lee makes resourceful use of a set of white stacking cubes.

Bolcom's immense skills as a songwriter bestriding the classical and popular realms are on winning display in the cabaret prelude to the show. The intimate lounge, with its open bar and snack counter, is a good fit for such Bolcom-Weinstein classics as "The Song of Black Max," "Amor" and "Lime Jello Marshmallow Cottage Cheese Surprise," most of them nicely taken. A Q&A with librettist Campbell followed Saturday's performance.





From the Director - Chicago Fringe Opera (CFO)'s third season continues with an intimate performance of William Bolcom's 2007 comic gem "Lucrezia", originally composed for the New York Festival of Song. The press is invited to the final dress rehearsal on Thursday May 4, and to opening night on Saturday May 6, both at 7:30 pm.


The 50 minute romp is a zarzuela riff on Machiavelli's story "La Mandragola", in which Lucrezia, an intelligent seductress, takes charge of her own needs and tricks her suitors into not only giving her pleasure, but also their money. A game of seduction and love, riddled with humor and coy femininity, "Lucrezia" features the iconic art song style of Bolcom ("McTeague", "A View from the Bridge" and "A Wedding", all commissioned and premiered by Lyric Opera of Chicago), with a pun-laced libretto by Mark Campbell ("Silent Night"). The piece is performed by four hands at two pianos.


In its unique site-specific style, the CFO production places the audience around the action, with a pre-show cabaret -- complete with cash bar -- featuring the cast of "Lucrezia" singing a selection of Bolcom's best art songs. "Audiences loved our recent take on Bernstein's "Trouble in Tahiti", which paired that jazzy opera with a pre-show set of jazz standards," says Chicago Fringe Opera Artistic Director George Cederquist. "Our performances of "Lucrezia" take that idea to the next level, capturing the sexiness and silliness of Bolcom's wonderful music and Campell's cheeky text by placing it in the immersive and convivial setting. We're thrilled to return to the Chopin Theater for this event."


The opera features five CFO season artists: Ashley Armstrong (from CFO's fall production "Song from the Uproar") in the title role, including Stephen Hobe (baritone), Diana Stoic (soprano) and Tobias Wright (tenor) in the comic cast. CFO Music Director Catherine O'Shaughnessy conducts from the piano, with stage direction by Cederquist and designs by CFO company member Brad Caleb Lee.


William Bolcolm

George Cederquist

Ashley Armstrong (Lucrezia); Diana Stoic (Annunciata); Tobias Wright (Lorenzo); Gabriel Di Gennaro (Ignacio) and Matthan Black (Chucho)bias Wright (tenor). Pianist Catherine

Scenic Design - Brad Caleb Lee; Music Director - Catherine O'Shaughnessy; Stage Director - George Cederquist; Pianist - Cody Bradley. Production Designer - Brad Lee; Lighting Designer - Ted Nazarowski; SM/Board Operations - Amber Treadway

Tags: Theater, American, 2017