Photo: Lang Lang
Lyric Opera of Chicago presents piano superstar Lang Lang at the Civic Opera House May 12, 2012, in his only Chicago-area appearance in the 2011-12 season. Tickets go on sale to subscribers July 22, to general public August 1
The internationally acclaimed Chinese pianist Lang Lang has chosen the Civic Opera House, home to Lyric Opera of Chicago, for his only Chicago-area concert in the 2011-12 season. Not that he will be playing operatic transcriptions or collaborating with singers; Lang Lang’s May 12 solo recital will comprise Bach’s Partita No. 1 in B-flat Major, Schubert’s Last Sonata in B-Flat Major, and a dozen Chopin études. The performance will take place a month before the pianist’s 30th birthday. Tickets for Lang Lang’s May 12 evening recital go on sale to Lyric subscribers July 22 and to the general public August 1. They can be purchased online (www.lyricopera.org) or by calling Lyric’s ticket office (312-332-2244, ext. 5600), and will also be available at Lyric’s box office starting Mon., Sept. 19 at noon.
Regular-priced tickets range from $25 to $125, with premium-priced tickets available for $500, including a post-concert reception with the artist. In addition to the regular theater seating, limited onstage seating will be available to the public for $95 and $125, for which reservations can be made only by calling Lyric’s ticket office (312-332-2244, ext. 5600). A video camera positioned above the keyboard will enable concertgoers seated in the theater to view the pianist’s hands throughout the recital on a large screen above the stage.
Lang Lang has dazzled Chicago-area audiences (and the world) since his 1999 surprise debut here at age 17, when he replaced an ailing colleague in a Tchaikovsky piano concerto with the Chicago Symphony Orchestra under Christoph Eschenbach at the Ravinia Festival’s “Gala of the Century.” He has performed in countless prestigious venues, before numerous heads of state, and for a television audience of four billion during the opening ceremony of the 2008 Olympic games in Beijing. Lang Lang’s management approached Lyric Opera about engaging the pianist, and a mutually agreeable date was decided.
“I am honored and thrilled to have an opportunity to perform at the Civic Opera House, the home of the legendary Lyric Opera of Chicago,” Lang Lang said. “My longtime fascination with opera and its power to transform reality has, in a way, informed my own piano playing. I have been trying to channel the same degree of passion and intensity into my performances, and I see this recital as my tribute to this highly compelling genre. It is also a pleasure to play in front of a new audience and I hope that they will enjoy the experience.”
“Having this brilliant pianist play on the stage of the Ardis Krainik Theatre next spring is just the sort of event that Lyric Opera seeks to present outside the regular opera season and repertoire,” said Anthony Freud, general director designate. “Offering exceptional non-operatic performances by the world’s finest artists to our audience fits the larger vision for this company shared by Lyric’s creative consultant Renée Fleming, music director Sir Andrew Davis, and myself.”
When the Renée Fleming Initiative was unveiled in December 2010, Fleming stated, “Lyric’s Civic Opera House is an architectural treasure; one of the most beautiful theaters in the world. The company is also in the advantageous position of owning the theater, which opens up the possibility of non-operatic programming. This type of presenting is occurring in many major theaters today as a way to bring in audiences who might not otherwise be familiar with the theater or the opera, and who might as a result be less intimidated about expanding their musical horizons. Such concerts also serve to increase revenue during Lyric’s off-season.”
Heralded as the “hottest artist on the classical music planet” by The New York Times and as one of Time magazine’s “100 Most Influential People in the World” (2009), virtuoso pianist Lang Lang, 29, has played sold-out recitals and concerts in every major city in the world. He has collaborated with world-renowned conductors including Christoph Eschenbach, Daniel Barenboim, Zubin Mehta, Sir Simon Rattle, and Seiji Ozawa, among others.
His performance at the opening ceremony for the Beijing Olympics in 2008 was viewed by more than 4 billion people, which inspired more than 40 million Chinese children to take up classical piano – the so-called “Lang Lang effect,” as it was dubbed by NBC’s “The Today Show.”
At the beginning of the 2011-12 season, Lang Lang will perform at the San Francisco Symphony’s 100th Anniversary Gala concert and at the Last Night of the Proms at the Royal Albert Hall in London. Also this season, he will be creative director of the Ascent Series at the Cincinnati Symphony Orchestra. In addition, he will tour with the Concertgebouw, Vienna Philharmonic, and the New York Philharmonic.
In 2010-11, Lang Lang performed at the opening night of Christoph Eschenbach’s inaugural season with the National Symphony Orchestra and at Carnegie Hall’s season opener with the Vienna Philharmonic. The Salle Pleyel in Paris presented the “Lang Lang Festival,” which included a joint concert between Lang Lang and tenor Roberto Alagna. London’s Southbank Center presented “Lang Lang Inspires,” which included the “Massed Piano Project,” during which he played with 100 young pianists on 51 pianos. In addition, he performed on the New Year’s Eve concert with the New York Philharmonic at Lincoln Center, and also held residencies in Milan, Madrid and Sydney.
During the summer of 2009 Lang Lang gave a world tour with jazz legend Herbie Hancock, following their performance at the 2008 Grammy Awards. Also that year he performed at the Nobel Peace Prize ceremony for President Barack Obama, and at the Nobel Peace Prize concert in Oslo. (He’d been a guest soloist at the 2007 Nobel Prize concert in Stockholm.) His autobiographies Journey of A Thousand Miles: My Story and Playing with Flying Keys (for children) were published to critical acclaim by Random House in 2009.
Additional highlights of 2009-10 included performing in the Carnegie Hall festival “Ancient Paths, Modern Voices: Celebrating Chinese Culture,” where he premiered Chen Qigang’s new piano concerto, “Er Huang,” and closed the festival with a performance of Rachmaninoff’s second piano concerto with the Shanghai Symphony Orchestra. He presented “Lang Lang and Friends,” a concert featuring rising talent from the United States and China, performing works by Western and Chinese composers. The Musikverein in Vienna presented the “Lang Lang Fest,” which included a joint concert between Lang Lang and mezzo-soprano Cecilia Bartoli. He was the youngest instrumentalist ever invited for a residency with the Berlin Philharmonic, which comprised several concerts, including one with 100 schoolchildren.
In 2008 he launched the Lang Lang International Music Foundation in New York (with support from the Grammys and UNICEF), with the mission of inspiring the next generation of classical music lovers and performers by cultivating tomorrow’s top pianists, championing music education at the forefront of technology, and building a young audience through live music experiences. Through the strategic work of his new foundation, which is committed to children and music education, Lang Lang works with exceptional partners to inspire young people to believe that music can make life better. The Financial Times has called him “evangelical in his efforts to spread the popularity of classical music.”
He gives master classes regularly at top international conservatories and has held music residencies in numerous cities around the world. Lang Lang is the first ambassador of the YouTube Symphony Orchestra, a project created by YouTube and Google devoted to building new audiences and bringing classical music to young people globally.
Lang Lang began playing piano at the age of three. His interest was spurred by his first contact with Western music, an episode of the classic Tom and Jerry cartoon series entitled “The Cat Concerto,” which features Liszt’s Hungarian Rhapsody No. 2. By the age of five, Lang Lang had won the Shenyang Competition and had given his first public recital. Entering Beijing’s Central Music Conservatory at age nine, he won first prize at the Tchaikovsky International Young Musicians Competition and played the complete 24 Chopin études at the Beijing Concert Hall at age 13.
Since 2010 Lang Lang has recorded exclusively with Sony Music Entertainment. He is the featured soloist on the Golden Globe-winning score of The Painted Veil (Alexandre Desplat, composer) and can be heard on the soundtrack of The Banquet (Tan Dun, composer). All of his albums have entered the top classical charts as well as many pop charts around the globe. His album of Beethoven’s piano concertos No. 1 and No. 4 with L’Orchestre de Paris (Christoph Eschenbach, conductor) debuted at the top of Billboard’s classical chart. Lang Lang also appeared on Billboard’s new-artist chart at the highest position ever for a classical artist.
In 2007, Lang Lang was nominated for a Grammy Award (the first Chinese artist to be nominated for best instrumental soloist). He has recorded the movie soundtrack of the Japanese blockbuster film Nodame Cantabile, Chopin’s 24 études for “Project Chopin” (the largest project in honor of Chopin’s bicentenary) ,”Nuit De Mai” with tenor Plácido Domingo, and performed the opening sequence for Gran Turismo, the highly successful video game.