New Lyric general director out
The appointment of Anthony Freud, currently CEO and general director of Houston Grand Opera, to be the next general director of the Lyric Opera of Chicago was big news for Windy City opera fans last week. But for the LGBT community, it was interesting to note that Freud is also an out gay man.
Near the bottom of the Lyric's official press release about the new general director were some personal facts about Freud. The 53 year old is the son of Hungarian immigrant parents who settled in London (Freud's father left Hungary in 1939, while his mother is a survivor of Auschwitz). Freud also studied law and successfully passed exams to become an attorney, but instead chose to pursue a career in opera.
However, what stuck out for LGTB opera fans was this simple statement: "Freud lives with his partner of 26 years, Colin Ure, currently Houston Grand Opera's dramaturg." Now it is a stereotype for gay men to love opera, but Freud has shown throughout his career that he is also a savvy administrator.
Before his Houston appointment in 2006, Freud helming the Welsh National Opera from 1994 to 2005, helping the company attain a more prominent stature along with its move to the new $210-million Wales Millennium Center in Cardiff (so prominently featured in the sci-fi series Torchwood). Before that Freud worked in the classical music division of Philips Classics/PolyGram.
Now Freud's appointment is not without some controversy, since he just broke a contract extension through 2015 with Houston Grand Opera. And jingoist Americans might dismay about the fact that another Brit is helming a major Chicago performing arts institution (others include Sir Andrew Davis as the Lyric's music director, Ashley Wheater as artistic director of the Joffrey Ballet, Jane Glover as music director of Music of the Baroque and Brian Dickie as general director of Chicago Opera Theater).
However, Freud brings a wealth of administrative experience and clout. Since 2008, Freud has been chairman of Opera America, the largest professional opera association in North America. From 2002-05, Freud was chairman of Opera Europa, which grew from fewer than 40 to more than 90 member-companies from 30-plus countries.
Freud starts his five-year contract with the Lyric Oct. 1 as current Lyric General Director William Mason assumes an emeritus position before his official retirement at the end of the 2011-12 season.
Pulitzer pride for Steppenwolf
Playwright Bruce Norris's Chicago-set drama Clybourne Park was announced the 2011 winner of the Pulitzer Prize for Drama on April 18.
Already an Olivier Award winner for Best Play in London, Clybourne Park is Norris' modern-day riff on Lorraine Hansberry's classic drama A Raisin in the Sun. Switching between 1959 (when an African-American family moves into a house in a predominantly white neighborhood) and 2009 (when a white family moves into that same house in a rapidly gentrifying neighborhood), Clybourne Park has been critically acclaimed for its incisive exploration of race and class in Chicago.
This Pulitzer win doesn't exactly give Chicago boasting rights for premiering Clybourne Park (those go to New York City's Playwrights Horizons which premiered the play in 2010), but Monday's Pulitzer news does give Steppenwolf Theatre Company plenty of reasons to be proud.
Steppenwolf Theatre opens its 2011-12 season in the fall with the Chicago premiere of Clybourne Park. But the company's relationship with the Northwestern University graduate includes a string of world premieres starting in 2000 with Norris' play The Infidel. Other Norris world premieres at Steppenwolf include Purple Heart (2002), We All Went Down to Amsterdam (2003), The Pain and the Itch (2004), The Unmentionables (2006) and A Parallelogram (2010).
Another feather in Steppenwolf cap is the news that Lisa D'Amour's dark comedy Detroit was a Pulitzer Finalist. Detroit is aiming for Broadway this fall following its 2010 world premiere production at Steppenwolf.
Stage on screen
Can't make it to London to see Academy Award-winning director Danny Boyle's critically acclaimed and sold-out production of the Royal National Theatre's Frankenstein? Or you don't want to fly to New York or wait to see the national tour of Memphis, last year's Tony Award-winner for Best Musical?
Well, you can just stay home in the Chicago area and this weekend and see them in 2-D at participating movie theaters. True, both productions won't be simulcast live the way that select performances of the Metropolitan Opera are presented via its Live in HD movie theater presentations. But it's still a treat to be able to see Frankenstein and Memphis at a fraction of the cost of a live theater ticket.
Now Frankenstein has more recognizable brand-name talent. It's directed by the aforementioned Boyle (127 Hours, Slumdog Millionaire) and stars Benedict Cumberbatch (BBC-TV's modernized Sherlock Holmes reinvention) and Jonny Lee Miller (Trainspotting) in alternating performances as Dr. Frankenstein and the Creature.
What's neat about his National Theatre Live presentation (which was actually simulcast live to U.K. movie theaters last March) is that local audiences can choose to see one actor over another in the roles they imagine them in (or both, if they choose).
Frankenstein screens at the Music Box Theatre, 3733 N. Southport, at 7:30 p.m. April 27 and 2 p.m. April 30 with Cumbercatch as the Creature, and at 7:30 p.m. May 4 and 2 p.m. May 7 with Jonny Lee Miller as the Creature. Tickets are $15-$18 individually or $25 for both casts. Visit www.musicboxtheatre.com for more information.
Now Memphis may not have any "star names" attached, but it does feature plenty of talent singing the songs of composer David Bryan (of Bon Jovi) and librettist/lyricist Joe DiPietro (Fucking Men, I Love You, You're Pefect, Now Change). Also, with its story of a DJ championing singles of African-American artists during the era of segregation in the South, Memphis also comes with an important message of tolerance.
Memphis is screened to select movie theaters between April 28 and May 3. Visit www.fathomevents.com for exact locations and ticket prices
If you are an opera buff, then you probably already know that gay Scottish director David McVicar's 2006 Lyric Opera of Chicago staging of Verdi's Il Trovatore is to be simulcast in select movie theaters via the Metropolitan Opera's Live in HD series at 12 p.m. Saturday, April 30. Visit www.fathomevents.com for exact locations and ticket prices.
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