Chicago early-music ensemble Third Coast Baroque will mark its pandemic-delayed return to full-scale mainstage productions with “Lucifera: Illuminating the Darkness,” a new project conceived and headlined by mesmerizing mezzo-soprano Vivica Genaux, with the period-instrument Third Coast Baroque Orchestra, led by its Argentina-born, Vienna-based music director Rubén Dubrovsky conducting from the colascione, a lute-like instrument rarely seen in North America.
“Lucifera” takes its name from the mythical feminine “bringer of light,” Genaux says. Through a carefully curated program of arias, Genaux sets out to illuminate some of Baroque opera’s darker, bolder, and more complexly rendered female protagonists and their struggles.
“The women of ‘Lucifera’ are multifaceted and strong,” Genaux says. “Through this beautiful music, they display their emotions in the deepest possible manner, illustrating their suffering, their remorse, their indignancy, and their fury in the face of darkness.”
Performances are 7:30 p.m. Friday, April 29, 2022, at Nichols Concert Hall, 1490 Chicago Avenue, Evanston, Illinois; and 5 p.m. Saturday, April 30, at First United Methodist Church at the Chicago Temple, 77 W. Washington St., 2nd Floor, Chicago.
Mezzo-soprano Angela Young Smucker, Third Coast Baroque’s executive director and co-founder, says “Lucifera” exemplifies the organization’s intent to “reframe early music,” in this case by eschewing the “happy endings” required of Baroque operas due to social and political constraints.
“With this program, Genaux expresses the depth and range of emotions felt throughout today’s uncertain and troubled world,” Young Smucker says. “And she accomplishes this with astonishing musical virtuosity and vocal athleticism.”
The program includes arias from operas by Pietro Torri, Johann Adolph Hasse, Carlo Francesco Pollarolo, Giovanni Bononcini, Leonardo Vinci, and Giovanni Porta. Bononcini’s “Si, quei ferri a me rendete” and Torri’s “Barbaro, va a provare” “show female characters “taking things into their own hands and stepping forward into the fray,” Genaux says.
Porta’s “Affani del pensier” and Bononino’s “Lasciami un sol momento” are plaintive and filled with pathos. Assertive or analytical arias like Vinci’s “So che il riso e so che il vezzo” examine conflicts of the heart.
You can watch a Youtube of Genaux’s last visit
Some pieces will be receiving their modern-day premieres, according to Third Coast Baroque. The orchestra will open the program with the Overture to Nicola Porpora’s 1735 opera “Polifemo” based on characters from Greek mythology. Midway through the second half they’ll play Francesco Durante’s Concerto No. 2 in G minor for strings and continuo.
“Lucifera” will mark Genaux’s first return to Chicago since she performed with Third Coast Baroque in its critically acclaimed “Vivica and Vivaldi” presentation, applauded as one of “The 10 best classical concerts of 2018” by the Chicago Tribune.
Dubrovsky’s last Chicago appearance was in November 2019 with Third Coast Baroque. Concertgoers will experience the exhilaration they’ve come to expect from Third Coast Baroque productions, Young Smucker says. “With Maestro Dubrovsky back on stage with our ensemble, conducting and playing the colascione and engaging in dynamic interplays with his fellow artists, it’s easy for audience members to get swept up in the good-natured, virtuosic energy.”
Tickets and Information:
Admission to “Lucifera” is $60 per person for premium seating. General admission is on a “Name Your Price” basis to provide accessibility to a broader audience. Suggested payment is $45 per person, with a $5 minimum. Ticket holders will be able to attend the concerts in person and will also have access to an on-demand video stream. Online-only access tickets, providing access solely to the on-demand video stream, are available.
Suggested payment is $20 per person, with a $5 minimum.
All tickets, as well as information about the audience COVID-19 protocols, are available here.