Anthony Freud, general director of Lyric Opera of Chicago, today announced details of its new world premiere. Bel Canto, by the gifted young Peruvian composer Jimmy López, with a libretto by Pulitzer Prize-winning playwright Nilo Cruz, is based on the best-selling novel by Ann Patchett. To premiere in Lyric’s 2015-16 season, the new opera, commissioned as part of Lyric’s Renée Fleming Initiative, will be conducted by Lyric music director Sir Andrew Davis and directed by Stephen Wadsworth.
Both the 2001 book and the new opera are inspired by the Lima Crisis of 1996-97, when members of a revolutionary movement in Peru held hostages at the Japanese ambassador’s house for 126 days (Dec. 17, 1996-April 22, 1997). Central to the story is the fictional famed American soprano Roxanne Coss, who will be portrayed by Australian-born American soprano Danielle de Niese. Like the novel, the opera will explore the tensions and unexpected alliances that develop when a group of culturally disparate strangers – the terrorists and their hostages – are confined in close quarters for months.
I read the book when it was popular (and I had a Costco membership so I bought it for very little) and enjoyed it. It’ll be interesting to hear the opera eventually … if it succeeds past its opening, of course.