Fresh from a stint in Houston, the new chief at the Lyric confesses he’s been an opera nut since witnessing a spine-tingling Peter Grimes in 1975. As he settles into his new home in Streeterville, we wondered what cultural influences the London native, 53, might bring to the future of Chicago opera. Here, a glimpse at some of his current amusements.
IN THE PAST YEAR, I TRAVELED TO: Guadalajara, Mexico; Washington, D.C.; New York; East Sussex, England (for the Glyndebourne Festival Opera); Aix-en-Provence, France; Istanbul, Turkey; Bayreuth, Germany; Salzburg, Austria; Baku, Azerbaijan
WHEN I’M HOME IN LONDON: I see the Diego Velázquez and Piero della Francesca paintings at the National Gallery, go to a performance at the National Theatre, and have dinner at Mr Kong’s in Chinatown. “I’ve been going to Mr Kong’s since the mid-1980s. I have no idea if it’s the best Chinese restaurant in London, but it’s the one that I go to again and again.”
MY BUCKET LIST: Learn Spanish, visit India
EVENT I MUST ATTEND ANNUALLY: The all-Wagner Bayreuth Festival. “Wagner created the festival in 1876, and in its history it has only performed his ten mature works. It’s a chance to see some very radical, very extraordinary productions.”
3 BOOKS ON MY NIGHTSTAND: The Devil in the White City: Murder, Magic, and Madness at the Fair that Changed America by Erik Larson; Bel Canto by Ann Patchett; A Great Unrecorded History: A New Life of E. M. Forster by Wendy Moffat
3 FOODS I CAN’T LIVE WITHOUT: 1) duck 2) octopus 3) dim sum
FANTASY OPERA TEAM: Composer and lyricist Stephen Sondheim + film director Pedro Almodóvar
LAST 5 TRACKS I LISTENED TO ON MY IPOD 1. Mahler’s Third Symphony conducted by Claudio Abbado. 2. Wagner’s Tristan und Isolde conducted by Carlos Kleiber. 3. Brahms’s Symphony No. 1 conducted by Vladimir Jurowski. 4. Evgeny Kissin playing Beethoven’s Emperor Concerto. 5. Composer James MacMillan’s St. John Passion.
Photography: (Freud) Bob Stefko; (Sondheim) Wild1/PR Photos; (Almodóvar) Solarpix/PR Photos