Tony Award winner Bartlett Sher’s ROMEO AND JULIET opens at Lyric Opera February 22

image002Lyric Opera of Chicago continues its 61st season with Romeo and Juliet in a new-to-Chicago production created by Tony Award-winning director Bartlett Sher, Mon. Feb. 22 through Sat. Mar. 19 (nine performances). This is the eighth and final mainstage opera production of the widely acclaimed 2015-16 season.

Gounod’s 19th-century interpretation of Shakespeare’s immortal classic young-love tragedy will be sung in French with projected English texts. Lyric’s production stars two ardent Romeos, Joseph Calleja (6 performances, Feb. 22-Mar. 8) andEric Cutler (3 performances, Mar. 11-19), wooing the fair Juliet, portrayed by Susanna Phillips. Joshua Hopkins is Romeo’s irreverent best pal Mercutio, and Christian Van Horn portrays the well-intentioned Friar Laurence, who makes a terrible mess of trying to mend the feud between the Capulets and Montagues. Lyric’s production also featuresMarianne Crebassa/Stephano (Lyric debut), Deborah Nansteel/Juliet’s nurse Gertrude (Lyric debut), Philip Horst/Capulet, Jason Slayden /Juliet’s hotheaded cousin Tybalt (Lyric debut), David Govertsen/Duke of Verona, Mingje Lei/Benvolio, Takaoshi Onishi/Paris, and Anthony Clark Evans/Gregorio.

Emmanuel Villaume conducts and Bartlett Sher (Lyric debut) directs the production designed by Michael Yeargan (sets),Catherine Zuber (costumes), and Jennifer Tipton (lighting). Michael Black is chorus master. Choreographer Chase Brockand legendary fight director B. H. Barry are making their Lyric debuts.

“Bartlett Sher will be at Lyric to direct this fantastic production, which I originally saw in Salzburg and which was then presented with great success at La Scala,” says Anthony Freud, Lyric’s general director. “We have beautiful, lavish period costumes by Catherine Zuber, who also designed the marvelous costumes for our production of The Barber of Seville as well as last season’s Carousel. The sets by Michael Yeargan are handsomely architectural – he also designed this season’sNabucco and our Sound of Music production. This romantic French opera is a wonderful piece for all audiences, and it’s a work we haven’t done since 2006-07. We are all very excited to be presenting it at Lyric.”

Freud notes that “Joseph Calleja and Eric Cutler have each had great successes internationally and at Lyric. Susanna Phillips has been doing fantastic work in Europe and the U.S. since she left Lyric’s Ryan Opera Center – and she actually made her role debut when she went on as Juliet on short notice in our previous production while still in the ensemble.”

Of special note, Freud adds, is the Lyric debut of the distinguished fight director B. H. Barry, whose work has been seen in more than three dozen Broadway productions, at the Metropolitan Opera, London’s Royal Opera House and Royal Shakespeare Company, and in numerous films. Barry has served as fight director for Romeo and Juliet nearly 60 times, for stage and screen productions.

Lyric Opera presentation of Gounod’s Romeo and Juliet generously made possible by the NIB Foundation, Julie and Roger Baskes, Mr. and Mrs. W. James Farrell, and PowerShares QQQ.

Production owned by The Metropolitan Opera.

Shakespeare 400 Chicago is a yearlong international arts festival commemorating the quadricentennial of William Shakespeare’s death. Several cultural organizations are presenting more than 800 performances, exhibitions, and other events celebrating Shakespeare throughout the year. For more information, go to Shakespeare400Chicago.

About Lyric

Lyric Opera of Chicago’s mission is to express and promote the life-changing, transformational, revelatory power of great opera. Lyric exists to provide a broad, deep, and relevant cultural service to Chicago and the nation, and to advance the development of the art form.

Founded in 1954, Lyric is dedicated to producing and performing consistently thrilling, entertaining, and thought-provoking opera with a balanced repertoire of core classics, lesser-known masterpieces, and new works; to creating an innovative and wide-ranging program of community engagement and educational activities; and to developing exceptional emerging operatic talent.

Under the leadership of general director Anthony Freud, music director Sir Andrew Davis, and creative consultant Renée Fleming, Lyric strives to become The Great North American Opera Company for the 21st century: a globally significant arts organization embodying the core values of excellence, relevance, and fiscal responsibility.