Music ReviewsMUST SEEOperaREVIEWS BYTom Williams

Bel Canto

Bel Canto

World Premiere

Music by Jimmy Lopez

Libretto by Nilo Cruz

Opera in two acts in Spanish, English, Japanese,

Russian, German, French and Quechua

Based on  the novel by Ann Patchert

Commissioned by the Lyric Opera of Chicago

Curated by Renee Fleming

Conductor Sir Andrew Davis

Stage director Kevin Newbury

At the Lyric Opera Chicago

Stunning world premiere sure to become an opera standard around the world


In their first new commission in ten years, the Lyric Opera of Chicago, championed by Renee Fleming, has created a stunningly powerful and completely engrossing new opera! Bel Canto (not composed as a bel canto work) is a creative blend of modern opera styles with enchanting and highly romantic and sentimental arias. Composer Jimmy Lopez, working closely with librettist Nilo Cruz, soprano Renee Fleming, and conductor Sir Andrew Davis, has written fine music to launch the story of a group of leftist guerrilla terrorists who take a group of diplomats and a famous opera singer hostage in the Peruvian Vice President’s residence in Lima.


12/4/15 2:15:12 PM -- Lyric Opera of Chicago World Premier Bel Canto © Todd Rosenberg Photography 2015

American opera soprano Roxane Coss ( soprano Danelle De Niese) is hired to sing at the birthday party of  Katsumi  Hosokawa ( bass-baritone Jeongcheol Cha), attended by Peruvian vice president Ruben Iglesius  (tenor William Burden) and the diplomatic entourage. After a wonderful aria by Coss, the terrorists of MRTA storm the palace and siege the occupants. General Alfredo (tenor Rafael DaVila) and General Benjamin (bass-baritone Bradley Smoak) announce the guests are now hostages.

12/4/15 2:19:25 PM -- Lyric Opera of Chicago World Premier Bel Canto © Todd Rosenberg Photography 2015

Over the course of the 125 day captivity, music and singing help bond the opposites: rural leftists and sophisticated gentry. Lopez’s score contains a variety of styles as it both expresses the emotions of the action and the soothing power of music to express both emerging romances and deep personal human bonding. Add the singing lessons to one of the terrorist Cesar (countertenor Anthony Roth Costanzo), and Bel Canto emerges as a enthralling theatrical story about the bonding and transformative power of art.  The human bond in light of hopeless reality of no escape for both captives and terrorists is expressed powerfully in music.

The singing is expressive and wonderful with excellent performances by Danielle De Niese (Coss), Anthony Roth Costanzo (Cesar0), and Jeongcheol Cha (Hosokawa). This wonderful opera has an impressive set (designed by David Korins) and features a plausible story  (based on a real hostage situation in Lima in 1997). Bel Canto is terrific theatre and wonderful opera. It is a refreshing reminder that modern operas need not be dull noisy affairs but, under talented artists, the best of traditional opera can blend with the ideas and techniques of contemporary artists. Jimmy Lopez sure fills that niche. Bel Canto is a stunning new work that deserves an audience. At the second performance om December 10, 2015, the enthusiasm of the audience was genuine as 99.9 % stayed until the end – A good sign for a modern opera! The creatives at the Lyric Opera of Chicago have  winner. Kudos to Renee Fleming for curating this fine opera!

Highly Recommended

Tom Williams

Talk Theatre in Chicago podcast

Date Reviewed: December 10, 2015

For more info checkout the Bel Canto page at