By Dawnette Chambers
Lindsay Metzger is a mezzo soprano with The Patrick G. and Shirley W. Ryan Opera Center.
Music is known by many as the “universal language.” No matter where we come from, music is something that is either background noise or theme song for our lives. Music is so transcendent that it has been known to charm snakes, quiet crying children, inspire deep affection – even love and admiration for the vilest criminals.
The opera “Bel Canto” is no different. In sitting down and talking with one of the members of The Patrick G. and Shirley W. Ryan Opera Center, one gets a glimpse at how special, intricate, daunting and transformational the professional world of music is and how the cast gets ready to perform a world premiere opera at the Lyric Opera of Chicago.
Lindsay Metzger is one of 14 trainees who are a part of the coveted Patrick G. and Shirley W. Ryan Opera Center. Being a part of this elite program, trainees work full-time on the various productions throughout the opera season, usually as an understudy for certain parts of the several productions year round. During the summer, they do various recordings, concerts, take classes and network.
Only days before the world premiere of “Bel Canto,” everyone is getting ready for the first practice with the full cast in the production, something that Metzger explains is cutting things close.
“With world premieres we have a longer rehearsal time, we are in our fifth week of rehearsal…this is our first day with orchestra,” she said.
“Bel Canto” is not an ordinary piece. It is considered a modern opera.
“Unlike a standard piece of repertoire, like the Marriage of Figaro where you are familiar with an aria or ensemble, with this, it’s completely new,” Metzger said. “Not to mention the music is a little challenging.”
According to Metzger, to learn the music for this opera, performers rehearsed from a piano score, which is a reduction of what the sitzprobe actually sounds like. It is challenging, but being apart of a world premiere does not come around often, if ever, in the career of a young artist.
Metzger credits this awesome opportunity to the Patrick G. and Shirley W. Ryan Opera Center’s program for young artists.
“What this program does for us is big. We get to work on stage – with conductors, directors, and make connections for our future careers,” she said.
Music has always been apart of Metzger’s life, from playing the violin at age three to performing in high school show choirs.
However, opera and music as a career wasn’t a thought for Metzger until her mother encouraged her to pursue music in college. Her first voice lesson was to audition for schools and she only auditioned at DePaul University.
“That’s where I discovered opera,” she said.
This being her first year as a member of the Ryan Opera Center is a dream coming full circle, Metzger said.
“I saw my first opera here at Lyric Opera in 2006… to this day it (Turandot) is the most amazing thing I have ever seen and I haven’t look back,” she said.
Metzger thinks that the show’s debut is timely and relevant.
“I know that people will be affected by this piece. It’s about terrorism which is especially relevant right now and it’s about coming to a place where people don’t understand each other. ‘Bel Canto’ is a sensory overload at times, but in a good way…the nature of the piece, just the nature of the subject matter will grab people immediately,” she said.
From seeing the set to getting ready in costume, Lindsay’s favorite part of the entire production is the sitzprobe – it’s a German word meaning “seated rehearsal.”
“It is the first time that the orchestra is with the singers.. no moving, no set, just chairs and stands and you sing the whole piece with the orchestra for the first time. It is nice to go back to the music and just the music,” she said.
Metzger believes her role in “Bel Canto” relates to her civic duty.
“My hope for future generations as it relates to justice, social or otherwise causes me to think of a Leonard Bernstein quote which says, ‘This will be our reply to violence: to make music more intensely, more beautifully, more devotedly than ever before.’ I can’t solve terrorism, I can’t solve the problems of the world but I can sing and perform with my whole heart.”
“Bel Canto” opened Monday, Dec. 7 and will run at the Lyric Opera through January of 2016.