This one-hour radio program traces the creation of composer Jimmy López’ opera Bel Canto, a Lyric Opera of Chicago commission premiered in the 2015-2016 season. The opera is based on a novel, adapted from actual events, and it examines the unique challenges and opportunities that come with each adaptation. You will meet all the principals through interviews with Renee Fleming, Jimmy López, Nilo Cruz, conductor Sir Andrew Davis, director Kevin Newbury, and others. The program features music from the premiere performances at Lyric as well as examples of the opera in development and other works by López.
On the night of December 17, 1996, the residence of the Japanese Ambassador in Lima, Peru was seized by members of the Túpac Amaru Revolutionary Movement, an incident which seems even more terrifying today than it was in the last century. Some hostages were released over time, but the residence was occupied for over four months before the siege was ended in a government raid. In her novel Bel Canto, Pen/Faulkner Award winner Ann Patchett (The Magician’s Assistant, Truth & Beauty) re-imagines these events, focusing not on the terror but on the personalities and relationships that develop between captors and captives.
With the character of Roxanne Coss, the opera world’s most revered soprano, Patchett introduces one significant dramatic element to her story. Ms. Coss had been hired to perform as a gift to the evening’s guest of honor, and her beautiful singing mesmerizes not only the invited guests but also the terrorists crouched in hiding. Taking cues from magical-realist themes, the opera shows the power of music to bridge gaps between language, culture, class, and ideology; the power of music to be the catalyst that allows relationships and bonds to form where even simple communication is otherwise difficult.
The opera Bel Canto was commissioned by Lyric Opera of Chicago and curated by Renée Fleming. The first premier at Lyric in over a decade, Bel Canto was written by Peruvian composer Jimmy López with a libretto by Cuban-born, Pulitzer Prize winner Nilo Cruz. Bel Canto premiered during Lyric’s 2015-2016 season.