Kevin Newbury replaces Stephen Wadsworth as director for Lyric Opera of Chicago’s 2015-16 world premiere of Bel Canto
Anthony Freud, general director of Lyric Opera of Chicago, announced today that the acclaimed American director Kevin Newbury will direct the world-premiere production of Bel Canto during the company’s 2015-16 season. Newbury replaces Stephen Wadsworth.
“Working on a world premiere is a highly collaborative endeavor,” Freud said. “As we began to move through the process, we all came to the conclusion that it wasn’t quite a fit. We at Lyric are most appreciative of Stephen Wadsworth’s contribution. The decision to make the change was both mutual and amicable.”
The new opera Bel Canto, currently being created by the gifted young Peruviancomposer Jimmy López, with libretto by Pulitzer Prize-winning playwrightNilo Cruz, is based on the best-selling novel by Ann Patchett. Lyric music director Sir Andrew Davis will conduct. Bel Canto is the seventh world-premiereopera that Lyric Opera of Chicago has commissioned for its mainstage since 1961.
In 2013 Kevin Newbury has staged world-premiere productions for The Santa FeOpera (Oscar by Theodore Morrison), San Francisco Opera (The Gospel of Mary Magdalene by Mark Adamo), The Minnesota Opera (Doubt by Douglas Cuomo), and Urban Arias in Arlington, Virginia (Paul’s Case by Gregory Sprears). Additional productions this year include I Capuleti e i Montecchi (Lyric Opera of Kansas City, starring Joyce DiDonato), Don Giovanni (Opera Colorado), Mourning Becomes Electra (Florida Grand Opera), and Salome (Utah Opera/Utah Symphony Orchestra). In 2015 he is scheduled to direct the world premiere of The Manchurian Candidate by Kevin Puts/Mark Campbell for The Minnesota Opera.
“I am delighted to welcome Kevin Newbury to Lyric,” said Freud. “He is one of the most outstanding American directors of his generation, with particular distinction in the development and direction of new operas. I am very excited about his partnership with Jimmy López, Nilo Cruz, and Sir Andrew Davis.”
Both the 2001 book and the new opera Bel Canto are inspired by the Lima Crisis of 1996-97, when members of a revolutionary movement in Peru held hostages at the Japanese ambassador’s house for 126 days (Dec. 17, 1996-April 22, 1997). Central to the story is the fictional famed American soprano Roxanne Coss, who will be portrayed by Australian-born American soprano Danielle de Niese. Like the novel, the opera will explore the tensions and unexpected alliances that develop when a group of culturally disparate strangers – the terrorists and their multinational hostages – are confined in close quarters for months.
As Lyric’s creative consultant, Renée Fleming is curator for Bel Canto. She selected the Ann Patchett novel as the subject for the commission because she was moved by it and found it “opera-worthy. It’s about what happens when people are forced to live together for a long time, and how art can raise their level of humanity as a group,” Fleming says. “Most of us crave a cathartic emotional experience when we’re at the theater, and I believe Bel Canto has the components to do that.”
“I am thrilled to be a part of the creation of Bel Canto for Lyric Opera of Chicago,” Newbury said. ”I devoured Ann Patchett’s novel in just a few days when it was first published, and I am confident that Jimmy López’s music and Nilo Cruz’s libretto will make for a potent stage adaptation. Bel Canto is a deeply human story set against a violent, political, international backdrop. Jimmy’s original compositional voice reflects all of the emotion, suspense, and geography of Patchett’s compelling novel, and Nilo’s unique, multi-lingual libretto draws on his heightened, poetic approach to playwriting. I am confident that Bel Canto will be an important, provocative new addition to the opera canon, and I am eager to help bring it to life onstage for the first time.”
Kevin Newbury is a New York-based opera and theater director with a strong commitment to developing new work. In addition to this year’s four world-premiere productions, he has collaborated on world premieres with composers Lewis Spratlan (Life is a Dream, The Santa Fe Opera, 2010), Ricky Ian Gordon(Rappahannock County, Virginia Opera and national tour, 2011), and Paola Prestini (Oceanic Verses, /New York’s River to River Festival and Washington’s Kennedy Center, 2012), among others. Newbury has also directed several world-premiere plays in New York City, including David Johnston’s award-winning Candy & Dorothy.
Newbury’s work has been produced throughout North America as well as in Europe. Highlights of 2012 included new productions of Maria Stuarda/Houston GrandOpera, Anna Bolena and Werther/The Minnesota Opera, and Philip Glass’s Galileo Galilei/Portland Opera. In 2014 he is scheduled to direct Weber’s Euryanthe for Bard Summerscape.
Previous season highlights included Maria Stuarda for The MinnesotaOpera, Roberto Devereux for Minnesota Opera and L’Opera de Montreal, Bernstein’s Mass (with Marin Alsop/Baltimore Symphony, Carnegie Hall, and the Kennedy Center), La Cenerentola/Glimmerglass Opera, Eugene Onegin/Opera Theatre of Saint Louis, and Die Liebe der Danae/Bard Summerscape (Annendale-on-Hudson, NY). In 2010 Newbury’s production of Virginia for the Wexford Opera Festival won the Irish Times Theatre Award for best operaproduction.