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Lyric Opera of Chicago announced today that when Tristan und Isolde opens January 27, we'll be seeing American baritone Jason Stearns as Tristan's buddy Kurwenal, instead of Finnish bass-baritone Juha Uusitalo. Uusitalo withdrew in the aftermath of surgery December 10, described as the removal of a cyst on his head. He had a similar operation last June. Stearns spent 21 years in the military, where he was a featured singer with the U.S. Army Band, before launching a major opera career by joining the Metropolitan Opera chorus. He says his army experience gives him a jump on Kurwenal's "rather militaristic" character.