VOG Chicago Opera Tour
Chicago Lyric Opera, October 26 – 30, 2014
Of the 34 Chicago tour participants, 30 left on a non-stop morning United Airlines while the other four joined us from Toronto.
We were greeted by lovely sunny weather and after a short bus ride to the Crowne Plaza Hotel located in the city’s west loop area, we enjoyed a VOG wine and cheese reception in the hotel’s ballroom. Introductions and an overview of the tour activities launched us into the evening – free to explore the neighbourhood. There are lots of places to eat in the vicinity including an excellent breakfast venue directly across the street and a huge market (Mariano’s) with hot and cold buffets and super wine selection for eat in or take out. The hotel is also in the Greektown area which is home to several fine restaurants. Another dining option was the Bistro at the Opera House which was great especially if dining early before the pre-opera lectures.
The following morning we set out by bus for the Riverside Gardens Dock and boarded our First Lady river cruise boat for a 90 minute architecture river cruise. The weather continued to be warm and sunny and we enjoyed excellent narration from our Chicago Architecture Foundation docent. Following the cruise, many went their own way to start their exploration of this interesting city while others returned to the hotel.
The Chicago Lyric Opera is just a 10 minute walk from the hotel over one of the many Chicago bridges. While some enjoyed the comforts of a taxi, others experienced the infamous windy city climate and arrived back at the hotel somewhat wet (first evening) and windblown – but happy!
The first of three operas was opening night for Il Trovatore and the five principal singers more than met the vocal challenges of the opera. The following evening we attended closing night for Richard Strauss’ last completed opera, Capriccio, with Renee Fleming in her signature role and Anne Sofie von Otter. Composed against the backdrop of World War II, many felt that the story of this opera did not really work in this context. Our third and last opera was closing night for Don Giovanni with a very strong cast including Mariusz Kwiecien, Marina Rebeka and Ana Maria Martinez. This production had received outstanding reviews and it certainly lived up to its billing. We were able to arrange a get-together during the intermission so that people could mingle and bid farewell to those heading off in different directions the following day.
Our good weather continued all week enabling everyone to explore the various museums and walk through parks and along the shoreline. Some people also managed to maximize shopping opportunities along the Magnificent Mile. 27 returned with the United Airlines group, whilst some extended their stay and others headed for more distant destinations.
Submitted by Heather F. Clarke and Genny MacLean, Tour Leaders