Chicago's Lyric Opera and Goodman Theatre will premiere new works by Michael John LaChiusa and Adam Guettel at the beginning of the 21st century in a unique joint venture that celebrates the selection of both composer-lyricists into the Lyric's Brena and Lee Freeman Sr. Composer in-Residence program.
The Lyric will first workshop both productions with full Goodman productions to follow. Both are guaranteed to receive more than 40 performances over a five-week period on the Goodman Mainstage. The companies will agree jointly on casting, director and designers.
Both Guettel and LaChiusa have had numerous award-winning productions in New York and across the country. Guettel will have made the most recent appearance in Chicago, however, with the Goodman's production of Floyd Collins, running on the Goodman Mainstage April 23-May 29, 1999.
LaChuisa is best known for Hello Again, a musical version of "La Ronde," which received an Obie Award and seven Drama Desk nominations including Best Musical for the Lincolon Center production. Other pieces include the Tony-nominated Chronicle of a Death Foretold and the up-coming musicals, Marie Christine, set to star Audra McDonald as a turn-of-the-century Medea at Lincoln Center Theatre, and The Wild Party, which will receive its premiere at the Public Theater. An accomplished librettist, he has written for Robert Moran's Desert of Roses and From the Towers of the Moon as well as Andre Gretry's Zemire et Azor. LaChuisa was the first recipient of the Stephen Sondheim Award in 1989.
Guettel received an Obie and Lucille Lortel Award for Floyd Collins, his musical based on the 1925 entrapment and attempted rescue of a Kentucky caver. Other works include a collaboration with playwright John Guare on a piece for Love's Fire and the song cycle Saturn Returns, soon to be released as a CD entitled Myths and Hymns. He has written for TV and film as well as several PBS documentaries ("Jack," "Arguing the World"). Guettel was awarded the Stephen Sondheim Award in 1990. For the composer-in-residence program, LaChuisa has written a preliminary libretto and some music for his piece entitled The Enigma Variations. Inspired by the story behind Sir Edward Elgar's orchestral piece, Variations tells of an elderly poet laureate who comes to realize the influence his friends and family have held on his life and body of work.
Its workshop is scheduled for August 1999 with a Goodman Mainstage production to follow.
Guettel's production is as yet unnamed, but will feature a libretto by Alfred Uhry (Driving Miss Daisy, Parade).
Guettel himself describes it as a love story. "The goal is to really make the audience feel like they're in love or desperately want to be in love...I just want people to feel that feeling for those two hours."
Guettel's workshop will come in 2000.
Past composers in residence at the Lyric have included Shulamit Ran (Between Two Worlds -- The Dybbuk), Bruce Saylor (Orpheus Descending), Bright Sheng (The Song of Majnun), Lee Goldstein (The Fan) and William Neil (The Guilt Of Lillian Sloan). The Freeman Composer-In-Residence program has existed since 1984.
-- By Christine Ehren