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Lyric Opera of Chicago Announces 2015-16 Season, World Premiere of 'Bel Canto'; President and CEO Kenneth Pigott Dies at 71

By Louise Burton l.burton@classicalite.com on Feb 16, 2015 07:20 PM EST

Lyric Opera of Chicago's 2015-16 season will feature nine new-to-Chicago productions, including the long-awaited world premiere of Bel Canto, an opera based on the award-winning 2001 novel by Ann Patchett. The season will open on September 26 with The Marriage of Figaro, to be followed by Cinderella, Wozzeck, The Merry Widow, Nabucco, Der Rosenkavalier and Gounod's Romeo and Juliet.

Shortly after Lyric announced their upcoming season, the Chicago Tribune reported that Kenneth Pigott, 71, president and CEO of Lyric's Board of Directors, passed away on February 13. Pigott led the international search for a new general director that resulted in Anthony Freud joining Lyric in 2011. He also was the individual most responsible for persuading star soprano Renée Fleming to become Lyric's first creative consultant in 2010.

A message on Lyric Opera's Facebook page from General Director Anthony Freud stated in part: "We are shocked and deeply saddened to learn and to share the news of the death of Ken Pigott, president and CEO of Lyric Opera. In the few hours since his passing, we have only begun to grasp the depth and breadth of this unimaginable loss. Ken was a truly unique man. He was a visionary whose wisdom and passion transformed the lives of everyone at Lyric, and at the many organizations with which he was associated. He is irreplaceable."

Lyric will close the 2015-16 season with the company premiere of The King and I, opening April 29, 2016. The King and I is the third in a series of Rodgers & Hammerstein musicals that Lyric plans to perform as part of their American Musical Theater Initiative.

Lyric's 61st season will present stellar international artists, Freud said in a statement released by the opera company. "You'll see a tremendous complement of big stars returning to Lyric next season, including Amanda Majeski, Luca Pisaroni, Isabel Leonard, Alessandro Corbelli, Renée Fleming, Thomas Hampson, Elizabeth Futral, Danielle de Niese, William Burden, Željko Lučić, Tatiana Serjan, Sophie Koch, Alice Coote, Joseph Calleja, Susanna Phillips, Eric Cutler, and more, plus special concert appearances by Lyric favorites Ana María Martínez, Plácido Domingo, and Dmitri Hvorostovsky," he said.

Vocal superstars Plácido Domingo and Ana María Martínez will sing in concert with the Lyric Opera Orchestra, conducted by Sir Andrew Davis, on January 9, 2016. Domingo and Martínez sang together at the 2014 World Cup in Brazil, and have appeared in concert together all over the world. Domingo has sung many leading roles at Lyric, and Lyric audiences know Martínez from her recent roles including Donna Elvira, Rusalka and Mimi.

Siberian baritone Dmitri Hvorostovsky will also present a rare solo recital at the Civic Opera House on February 26, 2016. He will be joined by pianist Ivari Ilja, his longtime collaborator, for a program of intimate song.

Fleming will reprise her starring role in The Merry Widow from November 14-December 3, and Elizabeth Futral will take up the role from December 9-13. This all-new Metropolitan Opera production, directed and choreographed by Broadway star Susan Stroman, debuted at the Met last month with Fleming in the title role.

The long-awaited world premiere of Bel Canto will take place on December 7. Written by Peruvian composer Jimmy López, this new opera has been curated by Fleming in her role as Lyric's creative consultant. Danielle de Niese will star as the American diva Roxane Coss, who gets caught in a months-long hostage crisis during which lines blur and unexpected alliances form between captors and captives. Both the novel and opera were inspired by the Peruvian hostage crisis of 1996-97.

For more information about the 2015-16 season, please visit lyricopera.org

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TagsLyric Opera of Chicago, Bel Canto, Ann Patchett, Kenneth Pigott, Anthony Freud, Renee Fleming, Placido Domingo, Ana Maria Martinez, Dmitri Hvorostovsky, The Merry Widow