“Without the singers there is no opera...You also have to have a great orchestra and great conductor…Here, we have the same pool of musicians in the pit for every opera, and each production has the exact same players for the entire run. The sense of ensemble and playing together in a musical entity from having rehearsed together is very important.”
These are the words of the late Ardis Krainik, our former General Director to whom we devoted most of our last issue. What a remarkable comment this is, and one that demonstrates her involvement and training in music. Because no matter how true this statement is, it is an insight that is not obvious to most people.
Forgive me for stating what to some will be the obvious: It is imperative that an orchestra for a major opera company of the caliber of Lyric Opera of Chicago be full-time, professional, and stable. Yes, there are many, many excellent musicians in a city the size of Chicago and thank goodness for that. But the only way to insure consistent quality and efficiency in a production is to have the same musicians there every time; musicians who know the repertoire; who understand the specialized way of playing for singers; musicians who devote their energies to this art form.
Another great example of the value of consistency is the Grant Park Symphony, a remarkable orchestra which only meets for ten weeks each summer, and produces concerts of the highest quality and difficulty that whole time. How is this possible? Because, with the exception of natural, minimal turnover, the orchestra is the same each summer, and that matters.
So, let me say something about my orchestra, the Chicago Lyric Opera Orchestra: it is a privilege to be a part of this group. I do not mean simply that it is great to play the operas, which it is. Nor do I mean that it is a great group of people – although it is that also. What I really mean is that this group, this orchestra, is like one living, breathing organism that exists for one thing - performing opera. When things are working right, this orchestra acts and reacts with a group mentality that borders on the cosmic. It does not happen automatically, but each member must develop the right skills, commit, and totally integrate into the group. The Chicago Lyric Opera Orchestra does that. When that happens, special things occur, and opera is always a special thing to us.