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Jimmy Lopez's 'Bel Canto' Opera on Terrorism in Peru Debuts at Chicago Lyric Opera

First Posted: Dec 07, 2015 05:04 PM EST
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Bel Canto

Photo : Todd Rosenberg

On Monday, a new opera, "Bel Canto," made its world premiere at the Chicago Lyric Opera.

The new opera was written by Jimmy Lopez, a Peruvian classical composer, who is recognized as one of the most interesting composers of today. The project came about after Renée Fleming, one of the world's most famous sopranos and creative consultant of the company, commissioned the work.

The opera is based on the award-winning novel of the same name by Ann Patchett, which tells the story of an act of terrorism. The opera is inspired by the crisis in Lima, Peru, a time that composer Lopez lived through.

The crisis took place on Dec. 16, 1996. The Túpac Amaru Revolutionary Movement took nearly 500 people hostage in the Japanese embassy. During that crisis, 72 people were held hostage for more than four months, and the hostages were of many nationalities.

The opera comes at a time when the world is living through a number of terrorist attacks. While it is extremely topical, the opera has been in development for over five years. As a result, Lyric Opera general director Anthony Freud decided to have an insert in the programs for the audience.

It is not the first time that terrorism has been displayed in opera. In 1991, John Adams wrote the work "The Death of Klinghoffer," which was extremely controversial. When it was first performed at the Metropolitan Opera in 2014, the opera was met with riots, which forced general manager Peter Gelb to cancel the HD Transmission of the work.

"Bel Canto" is extraordinary in many ways, as it is sung in nine languages, something unheard of in an opera. Among the languages are Spanish, English, Japanese, Russian, German, French, Latin and Quechua. Most works are performed in one language, with the exception of some operas that mix two languages.

The opera was written by Pulitzer Prize-winning playwright Nilo Cruz, a Cuban-American playwright who is best known for "Anna in the Tropics." The production will star an international cast of singers, including acclaimed soprano Danielle de Niese, Rafael Davila, Anthony Roth Costanzo and William Burden.

"Bel Canto" will be performed from Dec. 7 through Dec. 12 and on Jan. 5. It is also scheduled to be presented on PBS through the network's Live Performance broadcast series.

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