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FOR the first time in a decade, the Lyric Opera of Chicago’s main stage is offering a world 
​premiere, this time with the production of Bel Canto, the Lyric’s seventh full-length operatic world premiere. Based on the best-selling novel of the same name, the novel and opera were inspired by the Lima, Peru, hostage crisis of 1996-97. Internationally acclaimed soprano Danielle de Niese stars as the American opera diva Roxane Coss, performing at a diplomatic gathering in Lima when terrorists invade the birthday party of the Japanese ambassador to Peru that was attended by more than 600 VIPs. The ensuing hostage situation becomes a siege when government forces surround the compound. The production’s creators are music composer Jimmy López and Pulitzer Prize-winning playwright Nilo Cruz. “Bel Canto has its own very individual voice,” says Anthony Freud, the opera’s director. “It’s accessible, it’s theatrical, and it’s extremely moving. The subject matter of Bel Canto is extraordinarily topical, to a greater extent than any of us could have imagined.” The remaining performance dates are January 8 and 17 at 2 p.m., and January 13 at 7:30 p.m. For tickets and information call 312/827-5600 or visit lyricopera.org/belcanto.

Chicago Is Talking About . . .
The World Premiere of Bel Canto 
Don McLean's Scheduled Performance at City Winery
ONE of the most festive events of the holiday season for years has been the Chicago Assembly Holiday Ball, and the recent gathering of members and their guests turned out to be one of the most successful celebrations in the organization's history. On the day after Christmas, 1,200 spirited attendees jammed into the grand ballroom at the Hyatt Regency Chicago to continue the holiday tradition that's often described as "the party of the season." In the midst of the celebration, the infectious sound of the popular band Gentlemen of Leisure had dancers exhibiting their best moves throughout the night. As one of the oldest social groups in Chicago (officially chartered May 4, 1932), the Assembly's members include some of the city's most accomplished African-American men who value academic and professional achievement. Further, they understand the importance of community service and providing support for those in need, including the assistance of financially challenged students. One of the group's efforts is the creation of a scholarship foundation for African-American youngsters who are seeking various degrees in education. 
The Chicago Assembly Holiday Ball  
INTERNATIONALLY renowned and legendary singer/songwriter Don McLean makes a stop in Chicago as part of his celebrated "American Troubadour Tour" that includes a performance at City Winery on January 27. Although he has an impressive repertoire of memorable songs, McLean is perhaps best known for 1971 tunes “American Pie”––which was voted No. 5 in a poll of the 365 “Songs of the Century” compiled by the Recording Association of America and the National Endowment for the Arts––and “Vincent (Starry, Starry Night),” a song about the life, work and death of enigmatic artist Vincent van Gogh. In this show, he’s also likely to perform other favorites such as “And I Love You So” and “Castles in the Air.” For more information and tickets, go to www.citywinery.com.
Photograph by Dennis Boston
'Too Hot to Handel: The Jazz-Gospel Messiah'
Marking its 11th year at the Auditorium Theatre, "Too Hot to Handel: The Jazz-Gospel Messiah" returns on January 16-17 to honor and celebrate the life and legacy of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Featuring the dynamic voices of Rodrick Dixon, Alfreda Burke and Karen Marie Richardson, the annual tradition is an audience favorite, which is noted for bringing attendees to their feet to sing and dance in the aisles. The production is a unique collaboration that blends the soloists' voices with the music of a jazz combo, an orchestra and the Too Hot to Handel Chicago Choir, an amazing 100-person choir that's comprised of singers from several communities throughout Chicago. For tickets and more information about one of Chicago's most anticipated performances, go to www.auditoriumtheatre.org. 
Sharon and Danny Briggs enjoying the festivities at the Chicago Assembly Holiday Ball.