The Second City Guide to the Opera: It Actually Works

The Second City and Lyric Opera show has just the right amount of cheesiness.

Photo: Courtesy of LYric Opera of Chicago.

The Second City Guide to the Opera members in action. 

It’s the kind of setup that could either work wonders or fall spectacularly on its face: famed comic institution Second City pairs up with the ornate Lyric Opera to get the younguns to like this old-fashioned thing called opera. A one-time, sold-out event hosted by Renee Fleming and Patrick Stewart back in January, the show went so well, they opted to do it again this summer—sans the famous hosts.

 Good thing the show last night mostly worked! 

The show is ingeniously set up so audience members and performers alike are onstage, which helps foster the intimacy Second City shows are known for. It’s also an opportunity to fully take in the grandeur of the Lyric auditorium stageside. All the performers get to do their thing up close and personal, especially Beth Melewski, whose randiness takes the show to unprecedented obscene levels. As a series of sketches by six Second City ensemble members and two professional opera singers, the show simultaneously flatters opera nerds while keeping novices in the loop. (A memorable stand-up set by a famous composer is based on the idea that not many people get his allusions to Ravel and Toscanini). Even the obvious jokes—a highbrow rendering of a ubiquitous pop song for example—comes across as charming. That’s because they’re all set in the cheesy world of musical theater.  

The show is set up so audience members and performers alike are onstage, which helps foster the intimacy Second City shows are known for. It’s also an opportunity to fully take in the grandeur of the Lyric auditorium stageside. All the performers get to do their thing up close and personal, especially Beth Melewski, whose randiness takes the show to unprecedented obscene levels.

The snippets of actual performances, from tenor Bernard Holcomb and especially mezzo-soprano Lauren Curnow, will make you want to check the Lyric’s upcoming fall season.

So, in that case: Mission accomplished.

The Second City Guide to the Opera runs through June 30. $35—$75. Visit lyricopera.org/secondcity for details. 

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