Lyric History - Lyric Opera of Chicago


Lyric Opera of Chicago Vision and Mission


• To be the great North American opera company for the twenty-first century, uniquely placed to provide an indispensable cultural service to the city of Chicago and the nation. 

• To be recognized globally for our world-class artistic excellence and innovation, for engaging and inspiring large and diverse audiences, and for the quality and relevance of the enrichment that we offer to communities throughout the Chicago region. 

• To make a significant and groundbreaking contribution to the development of our art form. To achieve growth and longevity through fiscal responsibility and increased financial capacity.


We believe in the life-changing, transformational, revelatory power of great art and opera. Lyric Opera of Chicago exists to provide a broad, deep and relevant cultural service to the Chicago region and the nation, and to advance the development of the art form of opera by:

• Producing and performing consistently thrilling, world-class opera, with a balanced repertoire that encompasses core classics, lesser-known masterpieces, and new works.

• Creating a diverse, innovative, wide-ranging program of community engagement and education activities that reaches the widest possible public.

• Developing exceptional emerging operatic talent.


Lyric History

Civic Lobby Photo

Lyric Opera of Chicago is one of the world’s great opera companies. It is renowned internationally for its artistic excellence and financial strength. Founded in 1954, since its earliest years Lyric has distinguished itself by presenting the finest international singers, directors, and designers in classic and less-familiar operatic repertoire and in world-premiere productions. Lyric Opera has operated in the black for 24 of the past 25 years, a record among the country’s major not-for-profit music and performing-arts companies. For more than two decades the company has achieved unparalleled success in its ticket sales, averaging 100% attendance from 1988 through 2002. In 2011/12 the company sold a grand total of 233,113 tickets for the season, which comprised 72 performances of eight operas.

Anthony Freud, Lyric’s general director, began his tenure on October 1, 2011. The celebrated British conductor Sir Andrew Davis has served as Lyric’s music director since 2000. Renowned American soprano Renée Fleming became Lyric’s first creative consultant in December 2010 (see biographical information below).

In addition to planning repertoire and productions for future seasons at the Civic Opera House, Anthony Freud in his first year as Lyric’s general director has laid the groundwork for a new, long-term initiative that will provide a relevant cultural service to communities throughout Chicago that haven’t previously been touched by opera. While these plans are still evolving, they encompass collaboration with other cultural organizations and an exploration of ways to make opera as an art form resonate more powerfully and broadly with people of all backgrounds, ethnicities, and interests.

Freud is widely recognized for his achievements as general director of both Houston Grand Opera (2006-2011) and Welsh National Opera (1994-2005), where he previously served as director of opera planning and company secretary. At both companies he was hailed for spearheading important artistic initiatives, impressive increases in attendance and fundraising, and visionary community-engagement programs to reach diverse new audiences. Freud is chairman of Opera America (2008-present) and former chairman of Opera Europa (2002-05), the only person ever to have served as chairman of both organizations. He has chaired the jury for the BBC Cardiff Singer of the World Competition (1995-2005) and was an executive producer for Philips Classics (1992-94), where he managed recording projects for some of the world’s leading classical artists. Freud began his professional life at London’s famous Sadler’s Wells Theatre (1980-84), where his duties included those of theater manager and company manager. A London native, Freud was made an Officer of the Order of the British Empire (OBE), in recognition of his services to music, by Queen Elizabeth II in her 80th Birthday Honors (2006).

Sir Andrew Davis, Lyric’s music director since 2000, was elected to the Board of Directors as a vice president in 2010. At Lyric Opera, Davis has conducted 45 productions between 1987 and March 2012, including three in 2011-12: Boris Godunov, Ariadne auf Naxos, and The Magic Flute. In the 2012-13 season he conducts Elektra, Simon Boccanegra, Werther, and Die Meistersinger von Nürnberg at Lyric Opera.

Maestro Davis is conductor laureate of the Toronto Symphony (having previously served as principal conductor), the conductor laureate of the BBC Symphony Orchestra, and the former music director of Glyndebourne Festival Opera, and was recently named chief conductor of the Melbourne Symphony Orchestra. He has conducted all of the world’s major orchestras, at opera houses and festivals around the globe, and maintains a vigorous international schedule. Davis has recorded for Decca, Deutsche Grammophon, Warner Classics International, Capriccio, EMI, and CBS, and now records exclusively for Chandos. His 2008 recording of Elgar’s Violin Concertos with violinist James Ehnes and London’s Philharmonia Orchestra (Onyx Classics) won Gramophone’s coveted “Best of Category – Concerto” award. Also in 2008, his recording of operatic favorites sung by Ryan Opera Center alumna soprano Nicole Cabell with the London Philharmonic Orchestra (Decca) won the Solti Prize from the French Académie du Disque Lyrique. In 1992, Maestro Davis was created a Commander of the British Empire for his services to British music, and in 1999 he was made a Knight Bachelor in the New Year Honours List.

Renée Fleming became Lyric Opera’s first-ever creative consultant in December 2010 and was elected to the Board of Directors as a vice president at that time. Under the Renée Fleming Initiative, she has an active leadership role in developing new projects designed to increase opera audiences and awareness of the art form, while sharing in the company’s artistic vision. In collaboration with her Lyric colleagues, Fleming has worked to establish a prominent presence for Lyric in a variety of web-based marketing projects, and in print and broadcast media; expand the education activities of Lyric to include a joint program with the Merit School of Music devoted to finding and nurturing young, talented singers in the Chicago area, and to making Lyric more accessible to the children and young adults involved in all areas of music education at Merit; present non-operatic and off-season performances at the Civic Opera House; foster an annual commitment to American music theater, starting with a new production of Rodgers and Hammerstein’s Oklahoma! in May 2013; curate an operatic world premiere for the 2015-16 season; collaborate with other Chicago-based arts institutions to send a special message about the strength of culture in Chicago; and further develop Lyric’s young-professionals initiative, which takes opera into the workplace and provides entry-level experiences for the curious adult.

Fleming also continues her onstage presence at Lyric with annual subscriber-appreciation performances; staged concert performances of André Previn’s A Streetcar Named Desire in the role created for her, Blanche DuBois, in spring 2013; a production of Capriccio for fall 2014, in which she will sing the Countess (both A Streetcar Named Desire and Capriccio will be part of Lyric’s subscription season); and participation in Lyric’s 60th Anniversary Gala on November 1, 2014.

Lyric Opera of Chicago sold 88% of its seating capacity for the 2011-12 season and surpassed its $20.6-million fundraising goal. A grand total of 233,113 tickets were sold for the season, which comprised 72 performances of eight productions: The Tales of Hoffmann, Lucia di Lammermoor, Boris Godunov, Ariadne auf Naxos, The Magic Flute, Aida, Show Boat, and Rinaldo; plus two student matinees of The Magic Flute and a subscriber-appreciation concert featuring Renée Fleming and Dmitri Hvorostovsky with the Lyric Opera Orchestra conducted by Sir Andrew Davis.

From 1988 through 2001 Lyric exceeded 100% of capacity, and is also distinguished for having operated in the black for 24 of the past 25 years. The company has approximately 25,000 subscribers for its six-month season, which offers 68 performances of nine operas in 2012-13: Elektra,Simon Boccanegra, Werther, Don Pasquale, Hansel and Gretel, La Bohème, Die Meistersinger von Nürnberg, Rigoletto, and A Streetcar Named Desire. Additionally, a new production of the classic Rodgers and Hammerstein musical Oklahoma! will receive 16 performances in May 2013, following the regular opera season.

In March of 1996, Lyric Opera of Chicago presented Wagner’s Ring cycle for the first time in its entirety, starring James Morris, Eva Marton/Jane Eaglen, and Siegfried Jerusalem. Zubin Mehta conducted the August Everding production. The three Ring cycles sold out months in advance to 10,500 subscribers. The 1996 Ring cycles had a total economic impact of $34.7 million on the Chicago metropolitan area, according to a study conducted by the Regional Economic Applications Laboratory.

Three complete cycles of Lyric’s Ring were remounted following the 2004/05 season, to mark the company’s 50th anniversary. Sir Andrew Davis conducted. The cast included James Morris, Jane Eaglen, Plácido Domingo, and John Treleaven. The 2005 Ring cycles sold out completely.

After a four-year absence, Lyric Opera’s opening performances returned to the radio airwaves in 2006. A virtually limitless worldwide audience can hear the broadcasts each year – live on opening nights during the season (on 98.7WFMT in the Chicago area and worldwide via live streaming on, and again during an eight-week rebroadcast period beginning in May.

The Lyric Opera Orchestra and Chorus are considered among the finest in the world. The orchestra comprises 75 musicians. Robert Hanford is concertmaster. The regular chorus consists of 48 members plus a core supplementary chorus of 12 and a supplementary chorus of 43. Michael Black is chorus master.

The Patrick G. and Shirley W. Ryan Opera Center was established in 1974 as the professional artist-development program for Lyric Opera of Chicago. Since its inception, the Ryan Opera Center has been recognized as one of the premier programs of its kind in the world. That standing is maintained by providing the finest up-and-coming singers and pianists with unparalleled training and experience. The program is administered by Dan Novak, Director; Craig Terry, Music Director; and Renée Fleming, Advisor.

Selected from some 400 singers who audition annually, the Ryan Opera Center Ensemble members are in residence for nearly twelve months. Over the course of the year they receive advanced instruction in numerous aspects of operatic performance, including voice lessons and coachings, language and acting training, and master classes with some of opera's most renowned artists.

During Lyric Opera's mainstage season, Ryan Opera Center members perform and understudy a significant number of principal and supporting roles. This presents an extraordinary opportunity to work with the world's greatest opera singers, conductors, directors, orchestra, and chorus. They also gain valuable performing experience by participating in recitals and concerts at many Chicago-area venues. The Ryan Opera Center Ensemble was recently expanded to include a pianist, who likewise receives advanced training and performance opportunities throughout the year.

A testament to the Ryan Opera Center's caliber and success is the roster of distinguished alumni who perform regularly on the stages of leading international opera houses. It includes René Barbera, Harolyn Blackwell, Nicole Cabell, Elizabeth DeShong, Mark S. Doss, Christopher Feigum, Elizabeth Futral, Roger Honeywell, Joseph Kaiser, Maria Kanyova, Quinn Kelsey, Gregory Kunde, Dina Kuznetsova, Emily Magee, Amanda Majeski, Susanna Phillips, Matthew Polenzani, Christian Van Horn, Amber Wagner, and Erin Wall.

Lyric Opera of Chicago annually employs about 900 seasonal, parttime and fulltime staff, including orchestra musicians, chorus members, stagehands, production and technical staff, stage management, ushers, etc.  There are approximately 90 fulltime year-round administration staff.

The company, originally known as The Lyric Theatre of Chicago, was formed in 1954 by Carol Fox, Lawrence V. Kelly, and Nicola Rescigno. The latter two founders withdrew after the 1955 season, and the company was renamed Lyric Opera of Chicago prior to the 1956 season. Carol Fox served as founding general manager (1954-80); she died in 1981.

Ardis Krainik was Lyric’s second general director from 1981 until her death in early 1997. Previously Krainik worked as the company’s artistic administrator and before that as assistant manager. She joined Lyric as a clerk-typist and mezzo-soprano in 1954, and sang comprimaria roles in 11 productions (1955-59).

William Mason was Lyric’s third general director from 1997 until his retirement in 2011. Aside from a brief hiatus he worked at Lyric 1962-2011, most recently as director of operations, artistic and production. Mason first came to Lyric as a member of the Children’s Chorus (1954-56) and as a boy-soprano soloist, singing the Shepherd Boy in Lyric’s 1954 and 1956 productions of Tosca.

Bruno Bartoletti served as artistic director from 1975 until his retirement in 1999. The Italian conductor made his American debut at Lyric in 1956, and was co-artistic director with Pino Donati (1964-75). Bartoletti conducted more than 600 performances of 55 operas at Lyric (1956-2007.)

Over the course of the company’s 58-year history, Lyric Opera of Chicago has consistently offered its patrons a world-class roster of singers, conductors, directors, designers, choreographers, and dancers in a wide-ranging repertoire.


The singers include:


Theo Adam

Roberto Alagna

Sir Thomas Allen

Carlos Álvarez

June Anderson

Gabriel Bacquier

Agnes Baltsa

Ettore Bastianini

Kathleen Battle

Piotr Beczala

Kim Begley

Carlo Bergonzi

Walter Berry

Jussi Björling

Rockwell Blake

Stephanie Blythe

Inge Borkh

Olga Borodina

Johan Botha

Christine Brewer

Gré Brouwenstijn

Sesto Bruscantini

Renato Bruson

Grace Bumbry

Montserrat Caballé

Nicole Cabell*

Maria Callas

Joseph Calleja

Piero Cappuccilli

José Carreras

Rosanna Carteri

Charles Castronovo

Anita Cerquetti

Boris Christoff

Alice Coote

Alessandro Corbelli

Franco Corelli

Fernando Corena

Fiorenza Cossotto

Ileana  Cotrubas

Régine Crespin

Lucy Crowe

José Cura

Ildebrando D’Arcangelo

David Daniels

Iestyn Davies

Neal Davies

Stèphane Degout

Mark Delavan

Mario Del Monaco

Lisa Della Casa

Natalie Dessay

Mariella Devia

Michelle DeYoung

Giuseppe di Stefano

Joyce DiDonato

Plácido Domingo

Mark S. Doss*

Jane Eaglen

Sir Geraint Evans

Maria Ewing    

Eileen Farrell

Giuseppe Filianoti

Gerald Finley

Sylvia Fisher

Renée Fleming

Juan Diego Flórez

Clifton Forbis

Bruce Ford

Mirella Freni

Ferruccio Furlanetto

Elizabeth Futral*   

Vladimir Galouzine

Leyla Gencer

Nicolai Ghiaurov

Marcello Giordani

Tito Gobbi

Katharine Goeldner

Susan Graham

Denyce Graves

Greer Grimsley

Reri Grist

Jill Grove

Paul Groves

Edita Gruberova 

Franz Grundheber

Maria Guleghina

Nathan Gunn

Nancy Gustafson

Jerry Hadley

Håkan Hagegård

Eric Halfvarson

Thomas Hampson

Franz Hawlata

Hui He

Ben Heppner

Marilyn Horne

Hans Hotter

Dmitri Hvorostovsky

Siegfried Jerusalem

Brandon Jovanovich

Raina Kabaivanska

Vesselina Kasarova

Jonas Kaufmann

Kyle Ketelsen

James King

Kathleen Kim*

Dorothy Kirsten

Alfredo Kraus

Dina Kuznetsova*

Mariusz Kwiecien  

Jennifer Larmore

Evelyn Lear

Richard Leech

Sergei Leiferkus

Salvatore Licitra

Marjana Lipovšek

Frank Lopardo

Pilar Lorengar

Dame Felicity Lott

Christa Ludwig

Cornell MacNeil

Emily Magee*

Catherine Malfitano

Richard Margison

Ana María Martínez

Eva Marton

Peter Mattei

Karita Mattila

Johanna Meier

Susanne Mentzer

Robert Merrill

Chris Merritt

Nadja Michael

Aprile Millo

Sherrill Milnes

Anna Moffo

Kurt Moll

James Morris

Birgit Nilsson 

Timothy Nolen

Jessye Norman

Eric Owens

Felicity Palmer

René Pape

Luciano Pavarotti

Marlis Petersen

Susanna Phillips*

Paul Plishka

Matthew Polenzani*

Leontyne Price

Dame Margaret Price

Sonia Prina

Patricia Racette

Sondra Radvanovsky

Ruggiero Raimondi

Samuel Ramey

Margherita Rinaldi

Morris Robinson

Gianna Rolandi

Jan-Hendrik Rootering

Dorothea Röschmann

Peter Rose

Nicola Rossi-Lemeni

Leonie Rysanek    

Giuseppe Sabbatini
Matti Salminen

Bidú Sayão

Paul Schoeffler

Eike Wilm Schulte

Michaela Schuster

Elisabeth Schwarzkopf

Renata Scotto

Franz-Josef Selig

Neil Shicoff

Anja Silja

Giulietta Simionato

Léopold Simoneau

Bo Skovhus

Robert Dean Smith

Elena Souliotis

Eleanor Steber

Thomas Stewart

Teresa Stich-Randall

Ebe Stignani

Richard Stilwell

Kurt Streit

Dame Joan Sutherland

Ruth Ann Swenson    Giuseppe Taddei

Italo Tajo

Martti Talvela

Dame Kiri Te Kanawa

Renata Tebaldi

Bryn Terfel

Anna Tomowa-Sintow John Treleaven

Tatiana Troyanos

Richard Tucker    

Theodor Uppman  

Carol Vaness

Astrid Varnay

Shirley Verrett

Jon Vickers

Ramon Vinay

Deborah Voigt

Anne Sofie von Otter Frederica von Stade

Eberhard Waechter

Amber Wagner*

Erin Wall*

Claire Watson

Felicia Weathers

Ruth Welting

Ingvar Wixell

Gösta Winbergh

Dolora Zajick

Georg Zeppenfeld

Teresa Zylis-Gara

*Alumni, The Patrick G. and Shirley W. Ryan Opera Center at Lyric Opera of Chicago

Among Lyric's guest conductors have been


Harry Bicket

Richard Bonynge

Semyon Bychkov

Riccardo Chailly

James Conlon

Dennis Russell Davies

Sir Andrew Davis

Sir Mark Elder

Christoph Eschenbach

Asher Fisch

Daniele Gatti

Gianandrea Gavazzeni

Paul Gemignani

Emanuelle Haïm
(first female conductor at Lyric)

Marek Janowski

Eugen Jochum

Christopher Keene

Josef Krips

Louis Langrée

Ferdinand Leitner

Fabio Luisi

Jesús López Cobos

Sir Charles Mackerras

Zubin Mehta

Dimitri Mitropoulos

John Nelson

Renato Palumbo

Antonio Pappano

Michel Plasson

Georges Prêtre

Sir John Pritchard

Nicola Rescigno

Artur Rodzinski

Julius Rudel

Nino Sanzogno

Tullio Serafin

Leonard Slatkin

Sir Georg Solti

Robert Spano

Markus Stenz

Christian Thielemann

Michael Tilson Thomas

Emmanuel Villaume

Christoph von Dohnányi

Antonino Votto

Massimo Zanetti


Stage directors at Lyric have included:


Christopher Alden David

Robert Altman

Neil Armfield

Luc Bondy

Robert Carsen

Giulio Chazalettes

Liviu Ciulei

John Copley

Frank Corsaro

John Cox

Paul Curran

Giorgio De Lullo

Willy Decker

John Dexter

August Everding

Robert Falls

Jürgen Flimm

Götz Friedrich

Barbara Gaines

Frank Galati

Herbert Graf

Colin Graham

Gary Griffin

Sir Peter Hall

Nicholas Hytner

Nicolas Joël

Richard Jones

Stephen Langridge

Nikolaus Lehnhoff

Yuri Ljubimov

Lotfi Mansouri

David McVicar

Nathaniel Merrill

Jonathan Miller

Elijah Moshinsky

Francisco Negrin

Charles Newell

Julia Pevzner

Jean-Pierre Ponnelle

David Pountney

Harold Prince

Virginio Puecher

Chas Rader-Shieber

Renata Scotto

Peter Sellars

Andrei Serban

Peter Stein

Olivier Tambosi

Graham Vick

Robert Wilson

Stein Winge

George C. Wolfe

Francesca Zambello


Set and costume designers whose work has been seen at Lyric include:


Nicola Benois

Moidele Bickel

Paul Brown

Zack Brown

John Bury

Alison Chitty

John Conklin

Peter J. Davison

Louis Désiré

William Dudley

Charles Edwards

Ezio Frigerio

Jane Greenwood

John Gunter

Pet Halmen

Desmond Heeley

David Hockney

Tobias Hoheisel

Richard Hudson

Robert Israel

Virgil C. Johnson

Florence Klotz

Ming Cho Lee

Michael Levine

Adrianne Lobel

Scott Marr

Tanya McCallin

John Napier

James Noone

Martin Pakledinaz

Robert Perdziola

Pier Luigi Pizzi

Jean-Pierre Ponnelle

Dunya Ramicova

Brigitte Reiffenstuel

Pier Luigi Samaritani

Ulisse Santicchi

Frank Philipp Schlössmann

Gunther Schneider-Siemssen

George Souglides

Franca Squarciapino

Paul Tazewell

Brian Thomson

Mark Thompson

Carl Toms

George Tsypin

Robin Wagner

Tony Walton

Michael Yeargan

Franco Zeffirelli

Jörg Zimmermann


Lighting designers for Lyric productions have included:


Christopher Akerlind

Ken Billington

Christine Binder

Jason Brown

Vinicio Cheli

Paule Constable

Wolfgang Göbbel

Gilbert V. Hemsley Jr.

James F. Ingalls

Jean Kalman

Mark McCullough

Peter Mumford

Bruno Poet

Duane Schuler
(resident lighting designer 1977-2001)

Jennifer Tipton

Gil Wechsler

Robert Wierzel


Choreographers and dancers include:


Sonia Arova

George Balanchine

Ray Barra

Patricia Birch

Debra Brown

Erik Bruhn

Lucinda Childs

Carla Fracci

Antonio Gades

Andrew George

Philippe Giraudeau

Michele Lynch

Dame Alicia Markova

Wayne McGregor

Rudolf Nureyev

Ruth Page

Daniel Pelzig

Denni Sayers

Maria Tallchief

Kenneth von Heidecke

Ana Yepes

Vera Zorina


Chorus masters at Lyric have been:


John Halloran (1954, “calling card” performances, Don Giovanni)

Michael Lepore (1954-74)

Herbert Handt (1975)

Douglas Robinson (1976)

Giulio Favario (1977-86)

Robert Page (1978, Paradise Lost)

Philip Morehead (1986-91)

Donald Palumbo (1991-07)

Donald Nally (2007-11)

Michael Black (interim, 2011-12)

Martin Wright (2012 - 13)

Michael Black (2013- present)


In 1989 Lyric Opera of Chicago launched its “Toward the 21st Century” artistic initiative – the most important artistic initiative the company had undertaken to date, and one with far-reaching impact on American opera in North America as well as in the international opera community. Throughout the 1990s Lyric produced one 20th-century European and one American opera each season as part of the regular subscription series. Within this initiative Lyric commissioned three new works. The first, McTeague, composed by Pulitzer Prize-winner William Bolcom and directed by renowned filmmaker Robert Altman, premiered during the 1992-93 season to great critical and popular acclaim. The next, Anthony Davis’s Amistad, premiered during the 1997-98 season.

The final commission of the “Toward the 21st Century” artistic initiative, Bolcom’s A View from the Bridge, based on the Arthur Miller play, was triumphantly received in its world premiere during the 1999-2000 season. The Lyric production was subsequently remounted at the Metropolitan Opera (2002) and released on CD; and was also seen at Washington National Opera (2007). The opera was first performed in Europe at Theater Hagen (2003, in German translation). The first English (original) language version produced in Europe opened at the Rome Opera (2011).

In December of 1999, Lyric Opera of Chicago’s general director William Mason, music director designate Sir Andrew Davis, and then-artistic director Matthew A. Epstein announced major artistic plans for the new decade, including two new initiatives. The “Renaissance Project” called for a rejuvenation of several productions in the standard repertoire; and “American Horizons” continued to make American opera integral in Lyric’s programming.

Composer William Bolcom’s third large-scale opera, A Wedding – based on the 1978 Robert Altman film of the same name, and directed by Altman – premiered during Lyric’s 50th-anniversary season in 2004-05. Existing operas presented under “American Horizons” included Harbison’s The Great Gatsby (2000-01), Weill’s Street Scene (2001-02), Floyd’s Susannah and Sondheim’s Sweeney Todd (2002-03), Blitzstein’s Regina (2003-04), John Adams’s Doctor Atomic, a Lyric co-production with San Francisco Opera and Netherlands Opera (2007-08), and Gershwin’s Porgy and Bess (2008-09).

The Civic Opera Building, at 20 North Wacker Drive on the east bank of the Chicago River between Washington and Madison streets, is the permanent home of Lyric Opera of Chicago. The 3,563-seat capacity of the theater makes it second only to New York’s Metropolitan Opera as the largest opera auditorium in North America.

Lyric Opera purchased the Civic Opera House and adjacent backstage spaces from the building’s owner in 1993, the first time in the history of the opera house (built in 1929) that the resident opera company has actually owned the space. Lyric simultaneously launched a $100-million capital campaign: “Building on Greatness...An Opera House for the 21st Century,” to finance the purchase and renovation of the art-deco house. The renovation was completed in time for the 1996-97 season. In 1996 the Civic Opera House auditorium was named the Ardis Krainik Theatre for Lyric’s second general director.

Civic Opera House

Civic Opera HouseThe world-renowned Lyric Opera of Chicago performs in one of North America's most beautiful opera houses, the Civic Opera House, at 20 North Wacker Drive. The opera house was the vision of utility magnate Samuel Insull (1859-1938), a populist billionaire known as "the Prince of Electricity." Insull, the president of the Chicago Civic Opera Association, wanted to erect a new opera house to replace Louis B. Sullivan's Auditorium Building on South Michigan Avenue as the home of the Chicago Civic Opera--one that would be democratic in scope, and would be housed in and supported by a commercial office building. He mandated five requisites for the new opera house: safety, excellent sight lines, comfortable seating, gracious surroundings, and premium acoustics.

The design team chosen by Insull, the Chicago architectural firm of Graham, Anderson, Probst & White, wanted the Civic Opera Building to symbolize "the spirit of a community which is still youthful and not much hampered by traditions." The firm was already famous for designing the Field Museum of Natural History, the Wrigley Building on North Michigan Avenue, and the Continental Illinois Bank Building on South LaSalle Street. In the 1930s the firm created the massive Merchandise Mart Building, also on the Chicago River.

From its opening on Nov. 4, 1929 (just six days after the stock-market crash) until Lyric Opera of Chicago was founded in 1954 (as Lyric Theatre), the Civic Opera House was home to the Chicago Civic Opera, Chicago Grand Opera Company, Chicago City Opera Company and Chicago Opera Company. Over the years the Civic Opera House has also hosted visiting opera and dance companies, as well as touring operettas, musical shows, and a great number of orchestral, dance, and vocal concerts. The adjoining Civic Theatre, at the north end of the block-long building, was used to present plays (including the premiere of Tennessee Williams' The Glass Menagerie), dance performances, and films; for a considerable time it also served as a television studio.

The Civic Opera Building is a majestic limestone skyscraper with a 45-story office tower and two 22-story wings. Shaped like a gigantic throne facing the Chicago River between Washington and Madison streets, it was completed after just 22 months of planning and construction. The auditorium and its backstage areas occupy approximately one-third of the total space of the building. The distinguishing feature on the Wacker Drive side of the Civic Opera Building is the colonnaded portico that runs the entire length of the building. At the south end, large bronze doors open onto the grand foyer of the Civic Opera House, whose gilt cornices glitter beneath the sparkling lights of Austrian crystal chandeliers and elaborately stenciled ceilings. The magnificent space features a floor and wainscoting of pink and gray Tennessee marble, and fluted Roman travertine columns and pilasters. The 40-foot-high columns are topped with carved capitals covered in gold leaf. In early 1994 the space was named the Daniel F. and Ada L. Rice Grand Foyer in honor of major benefactors. An imposing grand double staircase leads to the mezzanine foyer, where there are thirty-one boxes. Above this box level are two more balconies, each with 800 seats. The Civic Opera House seats 3,563.

The decorative character of the entire building is a hybrid of Art Nouveau and Art Deco styles. Comedy-tragedy masks and cornucopia of instruments abound as playful ornaments around entrances, inspired by the Paris Opera House designed by Jean-Louis-Charles Garnier. The famous painted fire curtain (depicting the parade scene from Aida) and the interior decoration details of the Civic Opera House were created by American artist Jules Guerin in a palette of salmon pinks, roses, olives, golds and bronzes.

In 1993, Lyric Opera of Chicago purchased all of the theater and backstage space in the Civic Opera Building. Previously Lyric Opera had rented the auditorium and backstage areas. A massive $100-million renovation of the backstage area commenced in 1993, and continued during Lyric's off-seasons (mid-March through early September) through 1996. The improvements made during this project allow Lyric Opera to continue producing world-class opera well into the 21st century. The purchase and renovation was made possible by Lyric's $100-million "Building on Greatness" capital campaign. The Lyric Opera of Chicago/Chicago Symphony Orchestra Facilities Fund helped launch Lyric's campaign with a $50 million commitment.

The renovation includes the creation of a large rehearsal hall that duplicates the dimensions of the mainstage; the creation of a stage-level scenery handling area that has ended Lyric's need to often store valuable sets on city sidewalks; the replacement of outdated stage rigging and lighting; updating of electrical and mechanical systems; installation of new heating, ventilation and air conditioning systems throughout the backstage areas and in the Civic Opera House itself; improved and expanded patron restrooms; updating of facilities for persons with disabilities; redesign of the mezzanine lobby; and the addition and renovation of dressing rooms, locker space and lounges for artists, orchestra, chorus, ballet and stagehands, as well as the renovation of backstage office space for production and rehearsal personnel. These improvements were made during the first three phases of the renovation.

The final phase took place between early April and early August of 1996. All 3,563 seats and carpeting were removed from the auditorium. As soon as the seats were out, 20,000 square feet of scaffolding went upseven stories high — so that artisans could clean and completely repaint the auditorium (including elaborate stenciling). The theater had never been fully repainted since it opened in 1929 — just patched and touched up as needed over the years. During the summer of 1996 more than 30 highly skilled artisans from around the country worked in the Civic Opera House six days a week, 10 hours a day, applying 2,000 gallons of gold paint to the elegant ornamentation of the auditorium, Rice Grand Foyer, and all lobbies. The painters also hand-stenciled and hand-detailed the exquisite ornamentation that adorns the Civic Opera House ceilings — in a dozen colors, no less.

Every seat in the auditorium was beautifully refurbished for the first time since 1929. The metal portions were repainted and the wood arms were refinished; the upholstery, seat and back of each chair were replaced. 6,000 square yards of new deep-red carpeting were installed in the theater and lobbies of the Civic Opera House. The 31 boxes on the mezzanine level were rebuilt and enlarged by 18 inches. A new mainstage curtain was installed, made of 580 yards of heavy-weight wool velour and silk fringe to replicate the original 1929 curtain. Each side of the curtain weighs approximately 500 pounds; the hung dimensions are 64 x 45 feet. All the bronze decorative features and railings in the Civic Opera House were polished to a just-like-new sheen. The beautiful travertine marble was thoroughly cleaned.

Backstage, a 40-foot-high, 40,000-pound soundproof door was installed to acoustically separate the scenery handling area from the mainstage. During the renovation 32 miles of new rope and cable were installed backstage to update the scenery rigging system. Additionally, 170 miles of electrical wiring and 38 miles of electrical conduit were installed throughout the Civic Opera House.

In October 1996, the main auditorium of the Civic Opera House was named the Ardis Krainik Theatre in honor of Miss Krainik, who had been the company's general director since 1981. Following her death January 18, 1997, William Mason was named general director of Lyric Opera of Chicago.

Major Events at Lyric Opera of Chicago


  • Carol Fox, Lawrence Kelly, and Nicola Rescigno, co-founders of the Lyric Theatre of Chicago, produce two “calling-card” performances of Don Giovanni presented in February. Guests of honor include retired star soprano Rosa Raisa (creator of the title role of Turandot), who had interpreted the title role of Aida for the November 4, 1929, opening of the Civic Opera House.
  • Lyric Theatre’s first official season runs Nov. 1-20, with eight operas presented (two performances each), thus ending an eight-year resident opera drought in Chicago, following Chicago Opera Company’s closing after its 1946 season.
  • Maria Callas’s American debut season (Norma, La traviata, Lucia di Lammermoor).


  • A dozen productions presented Oct. 31-Dec. 3 (25 performances), including two triple bills. World’s first opera production “lend-lease” plan initiated; stage settings borrowed from and exchanged with other major U.S. and foreign companies.
  • Maria Callas’s only staged performances of Madama Butterfly.


  • Lyric Theatre becomes Lyric Opera of Chicago.
  • Lawrence Kelly and Nicola Rescigno leave to found Dallas Civic Opera.
  • Maestro Bruno Bartoletti makes American debut conducting Il trovatore.
  • Lyric Opera Women’s Board created.
  • Eleven operas presented Oct. 10-Nov. 17 (24 performances).
  • Lyric’s November Gala Concert recorded by Decca/London Records.


  • 13 productions presented Oct. 11-Nov. 30, including one double bill (29 performances).


  • Pino Donati named musical assistant to the general manager.
  • First Lyric radio broadcast, on WBBM-AM & FM: opening night, Falstaff.
  • Eleven productions presented Oct. 10-Nov. 29, including one double bill (29 performances).
  • Italian government awards $16,000 grant to Lyric Opera, first of its kind ever for a U.S. company. This foreign financial support causes a sensation, as there were no U.S. governmental subsidies for the arts at that time.


  • Sets for Jenůfa (first American production in English), on loan from the Royal Opera House/Covent Garden, comprise the first theatrical cargo to reach Chicago via the St. Lawrence Seaway.
  • Ten productions presented Oct. 12-Nov. 28 (28 performances).


  • In the spring, Lyric Opera presents New York City Opera productions in the Civic Opera House: The Ballad of Baby Doe, Susannah, and Street Scene.
  • Ten productions presented Oct. 14-Dec. 3 (29 performances).


  • World premiere of Vittorio Giannini’s The Harvest, featuring Marilyn Horne and Geraint Evans, the first Lyric production under a Ford Foundation program for the promotion of American opera.
  • Nine productions presented Oct. 14-Dec. 1 (28 performances).


  • Dancer Rudolf Nureyev’s American opera debut in Prince Igor, plus three works in a gala ballet performance.
  • Nine productions (including the gala ballet performance) presented Oct. 12-Nov. 30 (29 performances).


  • Lyric Opera of Chicago, 1954-1963 published.
  • Eight productions presented Oct. 4-Nov. 29 (33 performances).


  • Maestro Bruno Bartoletti and Pino Donati named co-artistic directors.
  • Nine productions presented Oct. 9-Dec. 5 (28 performances).


  • Nine productions presented (including a double bill with first Chicago performances of Carmina Burana) Oct. 8-Dec. 8 (33 performances).


  • Alfred Glasser named Lyric’s first director of education.
  • Nine productions presented Oct. 7-Dec. 15 (39 performances).
  • Lyric Opera sponsors Italian Flood Benefit Concert, to aid victims of the Arno River flood in Florence.


  • The season is cancelled because of the failure of management and the musicians’ union to reach an agreement.


  • Eight productions presented (including Stravinsky double bill) Sept. 27-Dec. 14 (39 performances).


  • Lyric Opera tour to Ames, Iowa, at the behest of J.W. Fisher of the Gramma Fisher Foundation of Marshalltown, Iowa. The company transports full cast, orchestra, chorus, stagehands, and sets for a single performance of Madama Butterfly, paid for entirely by the Fisher Foundation.
  • Eight productions presented (including double bill) Sept. 26- Dec. 13 (45 performances)


  • Eight productions presented (including double bill and American professional stage premiere of Billy Budd) Sept. 25-Dec. 12 (45 performances).


  • Lyric Opera’s first Ring cycle begins; one Ring opera presented per season through 1974.
  • For the first time, WFMT-FM broadcasts the opening-night performance of Lyric Opera (Semiramide, starring Joan Sutherland and Marilyn Horne, opening the 17th season); the program wins a Peabody Award.
  • Eight productions presented Sept. 24-Dec. 18 (44 performances).


  • Eight productions presented (including premiere of Lyric’s longest-running production, of La bohème) Sept. 22-Dec. 16 (48 performances).


  • WFMT-FM begins broadcasting each opening night of Lyric Opera of Chicago’s entire season.
  • Lyric Opera creates the Apprentice Artist Program to train promising young singers for operatic careers.
  • New York City Ballet prima ballerina Maria Tallchief named Lyric’s director of ballet, creates and oversees company’s new ballet corps.
  • The education department’s Lecture Corps is formed, dispatching knowledgeable volunteers to schools, libraries, and other venues throughout Chicago and suburbs.
  • Eight productions presented Sept. 21-Dec. 14 (48 performances).


  • The Apprentice Artist Program is renamed the Lyric Opera School of Chicago, and is incorporated. Tenor/conductor Herbert Handt is appointed director of the school.
  • Lyric Opera of Chicago hosts 4th International Verdi Congress, first time in U.S.
  • Eight productions presented Sept. 20-Dec. 14 (48 performances).


  • Following Maestro Pino Donati’s death, Bruno Bartoletti is named the company’s sole artistic director and principal conductor.
  • Seven productions presented Sept. 19-Dec. 13 (48 performances).


  • Seven productions presented Sept. 25-Dec. 18 (48 performances).


  • First North American syndicated rebroadcasts (by WFMT-FM) of a Lyric Opera season to 250 stations.
  • Memorial tribute to Maria Callas at Lyric Opera.
  • Maestro Lee Schaenen is named director of the Opera School.
  • Seven productions presented Sept. 23-Dec. 16 (50 performances).


  • Penderecki’s Paradise Lost, commissioned by Lyric Opera, receives its world premiere; the production (with chorus) later travels to La Scala in Milan, and is presented before Pope John Paul II at the Vatican in a command performance.
  • Luciano Pavarotti recital.
  • Seven productions, including double bill, presented  Sept. 22-Dec. 16 (49 performances).


  • Luciano Pavarotti recital.
  • Lyric Opera travels to Guanajuato, Mexico, to open Cervantes Festival with Don Pasquale.
  • 25th Anniversary Season, marked with the publication of Lyric Opera of Chicago by Claudia Cassidy, with foreword by Saul Bellow, highlighting the company’s achievements under Carol Fox’s general management.
  • Lyric Opera’s Faust filmed for national and international telecasts.
  • Lyric hosts Gala Concert featuring many great opera personalities, including Judith Blegen, José Carreras, Geraint Evans, Mirella Freni, Tito Gobbi, Alfredo Kraus, Sherrill Milnes, Luciano Pavarotti, Krzystof Penderecki, Leontyne Price, Margaret Price, Katia Ricciarelli, Elisabeth Schwarzkopf, and Jon Vickers. Staged by Sam Wanamaker.
  • Seven productions presented Sept. 22-Dec. 15 (53 performances).


  • Lyric Opera hosts Italian Earthquake Relief Benefit Concert broadcast via satellite, raising $200,000 for victims.
  • Five productions presented Sept. 20-Dec. 13 (39 performances).
  • Recitals given by Luciano Pavarotti, Alfredo Kraus, Leontyne Price, and Renata Scotto.


  • In early January general manager Carol Fox retires, and Ardis Krainik becomes general director; William Mason becomes director of operations, artistic and production. Fox dies July 21.
  • The Lyric Opera School is renamed the Lyric Opera Center for American Artists to more fully reflect the organization’s professional activities.
  • City of Chicago presentation of The Merry Widow, six performances, May 28-June 6.
  • Seven productions presented Sept. 25-Dec. 19 (52 performances).


  • City of Chicago presentation of Die Fledermaus, six performances, May 14-22.
  • Seven productions presented, including double bill, Sept. 18-Dec. 18 (54 performances).


  • City of Chicago presentation of The Mikado in contemporary new production by Peter Sellars, six performances, May 11-21.
  • Luciano Pavarotti in concert.
  • Lyric Opera co-hosts (with La Scala, Covent Garden, and L’Opéra National de Paris) the live international telecast, “Maria Callas: An International Celebration,” on the 60th anniversary of her birth.
  • Seven productions presented Sept. 23-Dec. 17 (53 performances).


  • Lyric Opera initiates its Composer-in-Residence program, Hugo Weisgall, director; William Neil is named Lyric’s first Composer-in-Residence.
  • Lyric Opera’s Eugene Onegin (starring Mirella Freni, Wolfgang Brendel, Peter Dvorsky, and Nicolai Ghiaurov) filmed and offered for sale on video.
  • Handel’s Rinaldo in concert starring Marilyn Horne, one performance, May.
  • Marilyn Horne in recital and in concert; Luciano Pavarotti in concert.
  • Schubert’s Winterreise sung by Jon Vickers, one performance.
  • Seven productions presented Sept. 21-Dec. 15 (54 performances).


  • Dame Kiri Te Kanawa in concert, Plácido Domingo in concert.
  • Projected English titles introduced at Lyric Opera of Chicago (La rondine).
  • Eight productions presented Sept. 21-Jan. 19 (66 performances).
  • World premiere of Lyric Composer-in-Residence William Neil’s opera, The Guilt of Lillian Sloan, with libretto by Frank Galati and the composer, performed by the Lyric Opera Center for American Artists.


  • Luciano Pavarotti in concert.
  • Nine productions presented Sept. 20-Jan. 31 (73 performances).


  • Luciano Pavarotti in recital.
  • Lyric becomes first major American opera company to present Philip Glass’s Satyagraha (Christopher Keene/cond., David Pountney/dir.).
  • Nine productions presented Sept. 18-Feb. 6 (69 performances).


  • Lyric Opera produces its first Tannhäuser in a quarter-century in an all-new production (Ferdinand Leitner/cond., Peter Sellars/dir.).
  • Eight productions presented Sept. 17-Feb. 3 (65 performances).
  • Lyric Opera sells out its entire 1988-89 season, reaching 103% of box-office capacity in the 3,563-seat Civic Opera House with 32,500 series-ticket subscribers—a historic achievement in the opera field.
  • World premiere of Lyric’s Composer-in-Residence Lee Goldstein’s opera The Fan, with libretto by Charles Kondek, performed by the Lyric Opera Center for American Artists.


  • To open the 35th anniversary season, the Madison Street Bridge in downtown Chicago is named the “Lyric Opera Bridge” by Mayor Eugene Sawyer.
  • Lyric Opera launches its “Toward the 21st Century” artistic initiative, scheduling 20 mainstage 20th-century productions for the 1990s and additional contemporary productions through Lyric’s Center for American Artists, including several world premieres.
  • Lyric Opera announces a new Ring cycle, to begin in the 1992-93 season, with Zubin Mehta/conductor, August Everding/director, and John Conklin/designer. The $6.5-million production is made possible with extraordinary support from Cynthia Wood (a $2.5-million gift) plus generous support from Ameritech.
  • The company severs its relationship with Italian tenor Luciano Pavarotti, who had canceled 26 out of 41 scheduled performances at Lyric since 1981.
  • Eight productions presented Sept. 16-Feb. 3 (65 performances); Lyric sells 102.7% of tickets.


  • Lyric Opera produces the first opera of its “Toward the 21st Century” initiative to great acclaim: Dominick Argento’s The Voyage of Edgar Allan Poe, only the third time the opera has been produced, following revision by the composer. Lyric Opera Center for American Artists alumnus Donald Kaasch performs the title role (Christopher Keene/cond., Frank Galati/dir.).
  • Eight productions presented Sept. 14-Feb. 3 (67 performances); Lyric sells 102.7% of tickets.


  • Internationally celebrated bass Andrew Foldi is named director of the Lyric Opera Center for American Artists.
  • Donald Palumbo is named chorus master.
  • Lyric Opera continues its “Toward the 21st Century” initiative with a second American opera, Barber’s Antony and Cleopatra (in a new production telecast by PBS on Great Performances; Richard Buckley/cond., Elijah Moshinsky/dir.), and the first European opera of the initiative, Prokofiev’s The Gambler (Bruno Bartoletti/cond., Liviu Ciulei/dir.) – both Lyric Opera premieres.
  • Marilyn Horne recital.
  • Eight productions presented Sept. 14-Feb 2 (71 performances); Lyric sells 102% of tickets.
  • Lyric Opera presents the world premiere of Composer-in-Residence Bright Sheng’s The Song of Majnun, with libretto by Andrew Porter, performed by the Lyric Opera Center for American Artists.


  • Lyric Opera presents the world premiere of McTeague, by Pulitzer Prize-winning composer William Bolcom, with libretto by Arnold Weinstein and Robert Altman, directed by Altman, conducted by Dennis Russell Davies, starring Ben Heppner and Catherine Malfitano. The new opera is commissioned as part of the “Toward the 21st Century” artistic initiative.
  • “Toward the 21st Century” initiative continues with a new production of Debussy’s Pelléas et Mélisande starring Teresa Stratas and Jerry Hadley (James Conlon/cond., Frank Galati/dir.) as the European 20th-century work.
  • Eight productions presented Sept. 19-Feb. 14 (71 performances); Lyric sells 102.7% of tickets.
  • Massenet’s Le Cid in concert, three performances.
  • Lyric Opera Center for American Artists gives first concerts abroad at Théâtre Musical de Paris/Châtelet.
  • “The Real McTeague,” a one-hour film telecast on PBS’s Great Performances, features director Robert Altman’s perspective of Frank Norris’s novel, McTeague; the Erich von Stroheim film, Greed; and the William Bolcom opera the novel spawned. Sequences of Lyric Opera of Chicago’s world premiere highlighted and narrated by Chicago’s oral historian and radio personality Studs Terkel.


  • $100-million commitment from Lyric Opera of Chicago/Chicago Symphony Orchestra Facilities Fund, pledged by business community and foundations towards major renovation and expansion of performing arts spaces.
  • Lyric becomes new owner of Civic Opera House in April 1993, marking the first time that the opera house, built in 1929, has actually been owned by a resident Chicago opera company. With its $50 million portion of the Facilities Fund, Lyric launches a $100-million capital campaign, Building on Greatness: An Opera House for the 21st Century, to finance the purchase and renovation of the Civic Opera House.
  • Chicago Bulls basketball superstar Michael Jordan is featured with Ardis Krainik on the cover of the Operathon catalogue.
  •  “Toward the 21st Century” initiative continues with Carlisle Floyd’s Susannah starring Renée Fleming in her Lyric debut and Samuel Ramey (George Manahan/cond., Robert Falls/dir.), and Alban Berg’s Wozzeck (Richard Buckley/cond., David Alden/dir.) both in new productions.
  • Eight productions presented Sept. 18-Feb. 19 (76 performances); Lyric sells 103.2% of tickets.
  • World premiere of Brena and Lee Freeman Sr. Composer-in-Residence Bruce Saylor’s Orpheus Descending, based on the Tennessee Williams play, with libretto by J.D. McClatchy, performed by the Lyric Opera Center for American Artists.


  • Lyric Opera receives a $5-million grant from the Rice Foundation for its Building on Greatness Capital Campaign, and names foyer of opera house the Daniel F. and Ada L. Rice Grand Foyer.
  • Lyric Opera’s Gala 40th Anniversary Season opens in September with the publication of BRAVI!, a commemorative book marking the Krainik general directorship, with portrait photographs by Victor Skrebneski, production photographs by Tony Romano and Dan Rest, and commentary by Andrew Porter and John von Rhein.
  •  “Toward the 21st Century” initiative continues with a new production of Stravinsky’s The Rake’s Progress (Dennis Russell Davies/cond., Graham Vick/dir.) and the Harold Prince production of Leonard Bernstein’s Candide (George Manahan/cond.).
  • Eight productions presented Sept. 17-Feb. 19 (78 performances); Lyric sells 103.23% of tickets.


  • Lyric Opera and Ardis Krainik receive “European Union Friendship Award” from the Consuls General of the European Union Member States in Chicago. This is only the second time the award has been presented.
  • Noted stage director Richard Pearlman is named director of the Lyric Opera Center for American Artists.
  • As the 41st season begins, 80% of the $100-million goal for the Building on Greatness Capital Campaign has been achieved, and the second of the four renovation phases has been completed.
  • “Toward the 21st Century” initiative continues with John Corigliano’s The Ghosts of Versailles, with libretto by William M. Hoffmann (commissioned by the Metropolitan Opera and co-owned by Lyric, Ghosts was first produced at the Met in 1991); and Janáček’s The Makropulos Affair, the latter in a new production (Bruno Bartoletti/cond., David Alden/dir.).
  • Lyric Opera enters its fourth decade with a $37-million budget, offering 79 performances of nine productions Sept. 15-Mar. 9, followed by three entirely sold-out Ring cycles Mar. 11-30, adding up to 91 performances in its 3,563-seat house. Lyric reaches 103% ticket sales.
  • Lyric Opera’s first complete Ring cycle attracts audiences and critics from all 50 states and 22 foreign countries. The artistic team includes conductor Zubin Mehta, director August Everding, set and costume designer John Conklin, lighting designer Duane Schuler, and choreographer Debra Brown (from Cirque du Soleil). The cast includes James Morris, Eva Marton/Jane Eaglen, Siegfried Jerusalem, Marjana Lipovšek, and Matti Salminen. An all-day international symposium precedes the first cycle, and educational events and exhibitions are staged throughout Chicago during March. Lyric’s Ring cycles generate $34.7-million economic impact for Chicago area. No Ring cycle had been presented in Chicago in a single week, or even a single year, since before World War II. All three cycles were virtually sold out by August 1995.
  • The company’s education department launches its ambitious “Operareach 2000” project, envisioning a 100% increase in the entire range of its already-considerable activities by the end of the present decade, encompassing matinees for high-school students and senior citizens; symposia in connection with major productions; and several curriculum programs.


  • General director Ardis Krainik announces in June that she will retire April 30, 1997.
  • Renovation of Civic Opera House completed in September 1996.
  • Ardis Krainik Celebration Gala Concert on Oct. 13, 1996; international opera greats assemble to pay tribute to Lyric’s general director. Civic Opera House auditorium named the Ardis Krainik Theatre.
  • “Toward the 21st Century” artistic initiative continues with Gian Carlo Menotti’s The Consul (new production, Richard Buckley/cond., Robert Falls/dir.) and Luciano Berio’s Un re in ascolto (American premiere, Dennis Russell Davies/cond., Graham Vick/dir.).
  • “Opera in the Neighborhoods” program launched in October 1996, as part of “Operareach 2000” educational initiative, reaching up to 15,000 schoolchildren with adapted performances of The Magic Flute and solo presentations. Program garners extensive local, national, and international media coverage.
  • William Mason named to succeed Ardis Krainik as general director in November 1996, following extensive international search. Director of operations, artistic and production, since 1981, Mason has been associated with the company for more than three decades.
  • The City of Chicago presents a $2.5-million gift to Lyric Opera’s Building on Greatness Capital Campaign; and Ardis Krainik receives the Medal of Merit from Mayor Richard M. Daley in November, her final public appearance.
  • Ardis Krainik dies Jan. 18, 1997, at the age of 67. William Mason becomes general director.
  • Eight productions  “Toward the 21st Century” initiative continues with John Corigliano’s The Ghosts of Versailles, with libretto by William M. Hoffmann (commissioned by the Metropolitan Opera and co-owned by Lyric, Ghosts was first produced at the Met in 1991); and Janáček’s The Makropulos Affair, the latter in a new production (Bruno Bartoletti/cond., David Alden/dir.).
  • Sept. 21-Mar. 8 (80 performances), with ticket sales at 102.4%.
  • World premiere of Between Two Worlds (The Dybbuk), by Pulitzer Prize-winning composer Shulamit Ran, Brena and Lee Freeman Sr. Composer-in-Residence, with libretto by Charles Kondek, performed by the Lyric Opera Center for American Artists, June 20, 22 at the DePaul Merle Reskin Theater.


  • General director William Mason announces the new artistic team for Lyric Opera of Chicago: internationally celebrated conductor Andrew Davis will become music director-designate on May 1, 1999, and principal conductor and music director on September 1, 2000; and Matthew A. Epstein, Lyric’s longtime artistic advisor, will become artistic director on May 1, 1999. Maestro Bartoletti will retire as Lyric’s artistic director on April 30, 1999, becoming artistic director emeritus.
  • Lyric launches its first website Aug. 1.
  • Lyric Opera presents the world premiere of Amistad by Anthony Davis, with libretto by Thulani Davis, conducted by Dennis Russell Davies, directed by George C. Wolfe, starring Thomas Young, Mark S. Doss, and Florence Quivar. The new opera was commissioned as part of the “Toward the 21st Century” artistic initiative. Extensive educational outreach efforts include publication of the Amistad Sourcebook and study guides, an all-day symposium, training sessions for Chicago public school teachers, full-length student matinee performances at the Civic Opera House, and 55-minute “Opera in English” performances seen by more than 15,000 students in the city and suburbs.
  • Lyric Opera sells out its eight-opera season for the tenth consecutive year, with the 1997-98 season reaching 103.2% of capacity, a record unequaled by any North American performing-arts company.
  • Eight productions presented Sept. 20-March 8 (82 performances). 
  • Building on Greatness Capital Campaign closes triumphantly on March 30, having exceeded its goal by raising $100,700,000 since 1993. “Ardis Krainik Celebration Gala” recording released on CD and cassette.


  • A commemorative bust of Lyric founder Carol Fox is unveiled by Fox’s daughter Victoria Flanagan on Opening Night, and later installed permanently in the entrance lobby of the Civic Opera House.
  • Lyric Opera presents the new-version premiere of Mourning Becomes Electra by Marvin David Levy (based on the Eugene O’Neill trilogy) as part of the “Toward the 21st Century” artistic initiative (Richard Buckley/cond., Liviu Ciulei/dir.). Also presented as part of the initiative: the Lyric Opera premiere of Rise and Fall of the City of Mahagonny, in a new production (Sylvain Cambreling/cond., David Alden/dir.).
  • Michael John LaChiusa named Lyric’s sixth Freeman Composer-in-Residence, begins work on score and libretto for Enigma Variations, an original piece.
  • Music director-designate Andrew Davis is appointed a Knight Bachelor in Britain’s New Year’s Honours.
  • Eight productions presented Sept. 26-Mar. 13 (81 performances); Lyric exceeds capacity, with 102.7% ticket sales.


  • Lyric Opera presents the world premiere of A View from The Bridge by Pulitzer Prize-winning composer William Bolcom, with libretto by Arnold Weinstein and Arthur Miller, based on Miller’s play, as the concluding commission of the “Toward the 21st Century” artistic initiative, starring Kim Josephson and Catherine Malfitano (Dennis Russell Davies/cond., Frank Galati/dir.).
  • Company premiere of Handel’s Alcina, starring Renée Fleming in the title role.
  • Samuel Ramey “A Date with the Devil” concert with Lyric Opera Orchestra.
  • Eight productions Sept. 25-Mar. 18 (84 performances); ticket sales reach 103%.
  • Ricky Ian Gordon named Lyric’s seventh Freeman Composer-in-Residence, begins work on Morning Star, an adaptation of a play by Sylvia Regan, with libretto by William M. Hoffman.


  • Lyric Opera presents its first-ever free pre-season outdoor concert, “The Stars of Lyric Opera in Grant Park,” Sept. 9 with Bruno Bartoletti, Lyric’s artistic director emeritus, leading the Lyric Opera Orchestra, Chorus, and soloists from the 2000-01 season. Attendance approximately 20,000.
  • Lyric Opera premiere of Harbison’s The Great Gatsby starring Jerry Hadley in the title role (David Stahl/cond., Mark Lamos/dir.).
  • New productions of Verdi’s Rigoletto (Fabio Luisi/cond., Christopher Alden/dir.) and Wagner’s The Flying Dutchman (Sir Andrew Davis/cond., Nikolaus Lehnhoff/dir.).
  • Eight productions presented Sept. 23-Mar. 18 (84 performances), with ticket sales exceeding 102%.
  • World premiere of Lovers and Friends (Chautauqua Variations) [formerly titled Enigma Variations] by composer-librettist Michael John LaChiusa, Brena and Lee Freeman Sr. Composer-in-Residence; performances June 29-30 by the Lyric Opera Center for American Artists, DePaul Merle Reskin Theater.


  • Lyric Opera presents second annual free pre-season outdoor concert in Grant Park on Sept. 8 with Sir Andrew Davis, Lyric’s music director, leading the Lyric Opera Orchestra, Chorus, and soloists from the 2001-02 season. Attendance approximately 30,000.
  • New production of Verdi’s Otello, starring Ben Heppner and Renée Fleming (Sir Andrew Davis/cond., Sir Peter Hall/dir.).
  • Lyric Opera premiere of Weill’s Street Scene (Richard Buckley/cond., David Pountney/dir.)
  • New production of Britten’s Billy Budd (Sir Andrew Davis/cond., David McVicar/dir.) marks 50th anniversary of world premiere and 25th anniversary of composer’s death. Theodor Uppman, who created the title role in 1951, attends.
  • Lyric Opera premiere of Humperdinck’s Hansel and Gretel (Mark Elder/cond., Richard Jones/dir.)
  • Alfred Glasser, Lyric’s esteemed founding director of education (1966-96), dies Jan. 23 at the age of 70.
  • Eight productions presented Sept. 22-Mar. 16 (84 performances), selling 100.3% of tickets.


  • Lyric Opera Center for American Artists names internationally celebrated soprano Gianna Rolandi director of vocal studies, a new position.
  • Lyric’s Brena and Lee Freeman Sr. Composer-in-Residence program concludes following the workshop performance of Morning Star by Ricky Ian Gordon.
  • Lyric Opera presents third annual free “Stars of Lyric Opera at Grant Park” concert on Sept. 8 with music director Sir Andrew Davis and artistic director emeritus Bruno Bartoletti leading the Lyric Opera Orchestra, Chorus, and soloists from the 2002-03 season.
  • Lyric Opera premiere and new production of Sondheim’s Sweeney Todd, starring Bryn Terfel and Judith Christin (Paul Gemignani/cond., Neil Armfield/dir.).
  • First Lyric Opera production of Massenet’s Thaïs since 1959, starring Renée Fleming and Thomas Hampson (Sir Andrew Davis/cond., John Cox/dir.).
  • Lyric Opera premiere of Handel’s Partenope, starring Elizabeth Futral and David Daniels in his Lyric debut (Harry Bicket/cond., Francisco Negrin/ dir.).
  • Nine productions presented (including double bill) Sept. 21-Mar. 22 (86 performances); Lyric sells 97.4% of tickets.
  • Due to lack of sponsorship for the first time since 1973, no Lyric productions are broadcast.


  • Lyric Opera presents fourth annual free “Stars of Lyric Opera at Grant Park” concert on Sept. 6 with music director Sir Andrew Davis leading the Lyric Opera Orchestra and soloists from the company’s present and past seasons.
  • Lyric Opera premiere/new production of Blitzstein’s Regina (John Mauceri/cond., Charles Newell/dir.)
  • Eight productions presented Sept. 20-Mar. 21 (83 performances); Lyric sells 98.2% of ticket sales.


  • Lyric announces Look to the Future $50-million Endowment Campaign; $12.2 million already raised.
  • Lyric Opera’s Golden Jubilee 50th-anniversary season commences Sept. 18 with new production of Mozart’s Don Giovanni (Christoph Eschenbach/cond., Peter Stein/dir.).
  • The Gala Concert (Oct. 30, 2004) commemorates company’s 50th anniversary, honoring Lyric history and legendary “Jubilarians” (artists from Lyric’s early years) with performances by many of today’s most outstanding artists, including Olga Borodina, David Daniels, Jane Eaglen, Renée Fleming, Elizabeth Futral, Susan Graham, Andrea Gruber, Carlo Guelfi, Thomas Hampson, Ben Heppner, Vincenzo La Scola, Richard Margison, Karita Mattila, James Morris, Samuel Ramey, Andrea Rost, Bryn Terfel, Gregory Turay, Deborah Voigt, and Frederica von Stade, under the batons of Sir Andrew Davis and Bruno Bartoletti. The Gala Concert raises $5 million net for the season’s general operating funds, an all-time record.
  • Publication of Lyric Opera – 50 Years of Grand Opera in Chicago, commemorative program/book chronicling the company’s history in photographs, essays, and articles.
  • Lyric Opera world premiere of William Bolcom’s A Wedding (Dec. 11) based on the 1978 Robert Altman film, libretto by Arnold Weinstein (Dennis Russell Davies/ cond., Robert Altman/dir.)
  • Lyric Opera premiere/new production of Janáček’s The Cunning Little Vixen (Sir Andrew Davis/cond., Chas Rader-Shieber/dir.).
  • Lyric revives its landmark 1996 production of Wagner’s Der Ring des Nibelungen in three weeklong cycles, March 28-April 16.
  • Eight productions presented Sept. 18-Mar. 26 (78 performances), followed by three Ring cycles Mar. 28-Apr. 16 (12 performances). Lyric’s subscription ticket sales reach 95%, Ring and Gala both reach 100% sales.


  • Lyric Opera presents fifth free “Stars of Lyric Opera” concert for the first time in the Pritzker Pavilion of Millennium Park on Sept. 10, with guest conductor John Mauceri leading the Lyric Opera Orchestra and soloists from the company’s present and future seasons.
  • Lyric launches NExT – “Discount Student Tickets for the Next Generation” program – $20 tickets for selected performances available to fulltime college students, marketed and administered exclusively via the internet.
  • Lyric premiere/new production of Tippett’s The Midsummer Marriage (Sir Andrew Davis/cond., Sir Peter Hall/dir.) presented in celebration of the British composer’s centenary.
  • Eight productions presented Sept. 24-Mar. 26 (83 performances); Lyric sells 95% of tickets.
  • Richard Pearlman, director of the Lyric Opera Center for American Artists, dies April 8, at the age of 68. On May 9 Gianna Rolandi is named the new director of the Opera Center, after four years as director of vocal studies for the program.
  • Look to the Future Endowment Campaign is completed, acquiring more than $50 million in commitments to the company’s endowment.


  • Lyric Opera presents its sixth free “Stars of Lyric Opera” concert at the Pritzker Pavilion of Millennium Park on Sept. 9, with guest conductor Richard Buckley leading the Lyric Opera Orchestra and soloists from the company’s present and future seasons.
  • On Sept. 16, the opening night of Lyric Opera’s 52nd season, general director William Mason announces that the Lyric Opera Center for American Artists will henceforth be known as The Patrick G. and Shirley W. Ryan Opera Center at Lyric Opera of Chicago, in recognition of a personal gift of unprecedented generosity.
  • Lyric premiere/new production of Gluck’s Iphigénie en Tauride starring Susan Graham (Louis Langrée/cond., Robert Carsen/dir.).
  • Subscriber Appreciation Concert starring Renée Fleming and the Lyric Opera Orchestra on Oct. 6.
  • After a four-year hiatus, Lyric resumes live broadcasts on 98.7WFMT with the opening-night performance of Salome Oct. 21, 2006, thanks to The Bucksbaum Family Lyric Opera Broadcasts, made possible by the Matthew Bucksbaum Family, with matching funds provided for 2006-07 by Richard P. and Susan Kiphart. Subsequent live opening-night performances air locally through the season, and are rebroadcast locally, regionally, nationally, and internationally by The WFMT Radio Network (via XM satellite, CBC, and EBU) May 12-June 30. Expected annual listenership: more than 25 million.
  • New production of Verdi’s Il trovatore (Bruno Bartoletti/cond., David McVicar/dir.); production marks 50th anniversary of Bartoletti’s American debut, conducting the same opera at Lyric.
  • Lyric box office named for legendary press agent and public relations counsel Danny Newman in honor of his 88th birthday.
  • Lyric premiere of Poulenc’s Dialogues of the Carmelites (Sir Andrew Davis/cond., Robert Carsen/dir.), Netherlands Opera production. 
  • Lyric initiates free pre-performance lectures with Dialogues of the Carmelites.
  • Eight productions presented Sept. 16-Mar. 27 (82 performances); Lyric sells 98% of tickets.
  • Lyric’s OPERAREACH education outreach programs reach nearly 85,000 adults and children throughout the Chicago area.


  • Lyric secures $2 million matching funds for The Matthew Bucksbaum Family Lyric Opera Broadcasts, ensuring continuity of live broadcasts and rebroadcasts at least through 2011-12 season; The Crown Family, Richard P and Susan Kiphart, and The Andrew W. Mellon Foundation pledge matching funds.
  • Lyric receives its largest gift ever – $10 million bequest from Lyric board member Nancy W. Knowles; opera-house lobby named in her honor; brings Campaign for Excellence fundraising to $36 million.
  • Lyric Opera presents seventh free “Stars of Lyric Opera” concert at the Pritzker Pavilion of Millennium Park on Sept. 8, with Sir Andrew Davis leading the Lyric Opera Orchestra & Chorus, and soloists from the company’s present and future seasons.
  • Lyric receives A1 public credit rating from Moody’s Investors Service – the only American opera company to be assigned a Moody’s rating.
  • Donald Nally commences first season as Lyric’s chorus master.
  • Bruno Bartoletti, Lyric’s artistic director emeritus, conducts his final opening night and subsequent performances of La traviata at Lyric.
  • The company fires soprano Angela Gheorghiu for missing several rehearsals of La bohème; understudy Elaine Alvarez triumphs in her Lyric debut as Mimὶ, directed by legendary soprano Renata Scotto.
  • Lyric launches new podcast series, “Backstage at Lyric.”
  • Andrew Foldi, retired director of the Lyric Opera Center for American Artists (1991-95) and internationally renowned opera singer, dies Nov. 21 at the age of 81.
  • Danny Newman, Lyric’s founding press agent and public relations counsel emeritus, dies Dec. 1 at the age of 88.
  • Lyric Opera premiere of John Adams’s Doctor Atomic starring Gerald Finley (Robert Spano/cond., Peter Sellars/dir.).
  • Lyric Opera premiere of Handel’s Julius Caesar starring David Daniels and Danielle de Niese in her Lyric debut (Harry Bicket/cond., David McVicar/dir.).
  • Eight productions presented Sept. 29-Mar. 30 (79 performances); Lyric sells 98% of seating capacity for 2007-08 season.
  • Free pre-opera lectures are offered  before La bohème, Julius Caesar, Die Frau ohne Schatten, and Doctor Atomic.


  • Lyric co-founder and conductor Nicola Rescigno dies Aug. 4 at the age of 92; also co-founded The Dallas Opera.
  • Lyric Opera presents eighth free “Stars of Lyric Opera” concert at the Pritzker Pavilion of Millennium Park on Sept. 9, with Sir Andrew Davis leading the Lyric Opera Orchestra and Chorus, and soloists from the company’s present and future seasons.
  • New production of Berg’s Lulu, starring Marlis Petersen (Sir Andrew Davis/cond., Paul Curran/dir.).
  • Lyric Opera premiere of Gershwin’s Porgy and Bess, starring Gordon Hawkins/Lester Lynch and Morenike Fadayomi/Lisa Daltirus all in their Lyric debuts (John DeMain/cond., Francesca Zambello/dir.) – 13 scheduled performances sell out, Lyric adds a performance, making the Gershwin opera the highest-selling production in Lyric history.
  • “Holly and Ivy” Subscriber Appreciation Concert Dec. 14, starring Lyric Opera Chorus; Donald Nally/cond.
  • Lyric’s redesigned website debuts in February.
  • Free pre-opera lectures offered for all productions.
  • Nine productions presented (including double bill) Sept. 27-Mar. 28 (81 performances); Lyric sells 93% seating capacity.
  • Lyric Opera of Chicago’s Wine Auction (Mar. 6, 2009) raises an unprecedented $1.2 million in net proceeds.


  • Norman Pellegrini, host of `Lyric’s broadcasts on 98.7WFMT since 1971, dies July 2 at the age of 79.
  • Lyric Opera presents ninth free “Stars of Lyric Opera” concert at the Pritzker Pavilion of Millennium Park on Sept. 11, dedicated to the men and women of the armed services, with Sir Andrew Davis leading the Lyric Opera Orchestra and soloists from the company’s present and future seasons.
  • Lyric opens two new restaurants for patrons with opera-themed décor: The Sarah and Peer Pedersen Room (by reservation only), street level, offering an elegant pre-fixe menu; and the Florian Opera Bistro, third floor, serving sophisticated à la carte fare.
  • Lyric Opera premiere/new production of The Damnation of Faust starring Susan Graham, Paul Groves, and John Relyea (Lyric debut). (Sir Andrew Davis/cond., Stephen Langridge/dir., debut.)
  • 98.7WFMT radio host George Preston and Lyric dramaturg Roger Pines are named the new host and commentator, respectively, for The Bucksbaum Family Lyric Opera Broadcasts.
  • Lyric debuts on Facebook and Twitter.
  • Eight productions presented Sept. 27-Mar.27 (77 performances); Lyric sells 86% of tickets.


  • General director William Mason announces his plan to retire.
  • Chorus master Donald Nally announces he will leave his position at the conclusion of 2010-11 season.
  • Lyric Opera presents tenth free “Stars of Lyric Opera” concert at the Pritzker Pavilion of Millennium Park on Sept. 11, dedicated to the men and women of the armed services, with Sir Andrew Davis leading the Lyric Opera Orchestra and soloists from the company’s present and future seasons.
  • Musician and humanitarian Bono featured on the cover of Lyric’s 2010 Operathon catalog.
  • Renée Fleming is named Lyric Opera’s first-ever creative consultant on Dec. 9, and announces details of the new Renée Fleming Initiative.
  • Renée Fleming Subscriber Appreciation Concert on Dec. 10 sold out in advance to subscribers.
  • Lyric Opera premiere/new production of Handel’s Hercules, starring Alice Coote and Eric Owens (Lyric debut), (Harry Bicket/cond., Peter Sellars/dir.).
  • Eight productions presented Oct. 1-Mar. 27 (68 performances) with ticket sales reaching 91%.
  • Anthony Freud named general director designate on April 21, 2011, becoming general director on October 1, at which time William Mason becomes Lyric’s first general director emeritus.
  • A collaboration between Lyric Opera and Merit School of Music is formed as part of the Renée Fleming Initiative.


  • Michael Black named interim chorus master for 2011-12 season, with Martin Wright to become chorus master in 2012.
  • Lyric Opera launches major marketing campaign under the banner “Long Live Passion” as part of the Renée Fleming Initiative.
  • Lyric Opera presents 11th free “Stars of Lyric Opera” concert at the Pritzker Pavilion of Millennium Park on Sept. 10, dedicated to the men and women of the armed services, with Sir Andrew Davis leading the Lyric Opera Orchestra and soloists from the company’s present and future seasons, including creative consultant Renée Fleming.
  • Anthony Freud begins his tenure as Lyric’s fourth general director on the opening night of Lyric’s 57th season.
  • Renée Fleming-Dmitri Hvorostovsky Subscriber Appreciation Concert in honor of William Mason on Jan. 7 sold out in advance to subscribers.
  • Lyric Opera of Chicago’s Wine Auction (Mar. 6, 2009) raises a record $1.8 million in net proceeds.
  • Anthony Freud announces world-premiere commission of Bel Canto by the gifted young Peruvian composer Jimmy López, with libretto by Pulitzer Prize-winning playwright Nilo Cruz, based on the best-selling novel by Ann Patchett. To premiere in Lyric’s 2015-16 season, conducted by Lyric music director Sir Andrew Davis and directed by Stephen Wadsworth.
  • Lyric Opera premiere/new production of Kern and Hammerstein’s Show Boat (John DeMain/cond., Francesca Zambello/dir.) breaks company individual-ticket sales records.
  • Lyric-CSO collaboration brings soprano Renée Fleming and cellist Yo-Yo Ma together at Lake View High School for classroom visits and at Thompson Center/State of Illinois Building for “pop-up” performance.
  • Eight productions presented Oct. 1-Mar. 25 (72 performances) with ticket sales reaching 88%.
  • Ryan Opera Center ensemble members debut with Chicago Civic Orchestra under Sir Andrew Davis in concert May 7 at Symphony Center.
  • Lyric presents acclaimed Chinese pianist Lang Lang in recital May 12.

Major American Debuts and American Operatic Debuts* at Lyric Opera of Chicago

1954:  Léopold Simoneau, tenor* (Don Ottavio) / Don Giovanni (calling-card  performance); Maria Callas, soprano (title role), Mirto Picchi, tenor (Pollione) / Norma; Carlo Badioli, bass-baritone (Dr. Bartolo) / Il barbiere di Siviglia; Giangiacomo Guelfi, baritone (Marcello) / La bohème

1955:  Carlo Bergonzi, tenor (Luigi) / Il tabarro; Teresa Stich-Randall, soprano* (Gilda)/Rigoletto; Anita Cerquetti, soprano (Amelia) / Un ballo in maschera

1956:  Georg Solti, conductor* / Salome; Bruno Bartoletti, conductor / Il trovatore

1957:  Anna Moffo, soprano (Mimì); Aldo Protti, baritone (Marcello) / La bohème

1958:  Walter Berry, bass-baritone (title role); Hans Hartleb, director / Le nozze di Figaro; Kiril Kondrashin, conductor / Madama Butterfly

1959:  Christa Ludwig, mezzo-soprano (Dorabella) / Così fan tutte; Georges Prêtre, conductor / Thaïs

1960:  Antonino Votto, conductor / Don Carlo; Eberhard Wächter, baritone (Count Almaviva) / Le nozze di Figaro; Renata Scotto, soprano (Mimì) / La bohème

1961: Piero de Palma, tenor (Arturo) / Lucia di Lammermoor; Ilva Ligabue, soprano (Margherita) / Mefistofele; Sesto Bruscantini, baritone (title role) / Il barbiere di Siviglia

1962: Rudolf Nureyev, dancer / Prince Igor; Régine Crespin, soprano (title role) / Tosca; Alfredo Kraus, tenor (Nemorino) / L’elisir d’amore

1963: Danica Mastilovic, soprano (Abigaille); Carlo Cossutta, tenor (Abdallo) / Nabucco; Nicolai Ghiaurov, bass (Méphistophélès) / Faust

1964: Fiorenza Cossotto, mezzo-soprano (Leonora) / La favorita; Ivo Vinco, bass (Ferrando) / Il trovatore

1965: Elena Souliotis, soprano (Elena) / Mefistofele

1966: Christiane Eda-Pierre, soprano (Leïla) / Les pêcheurs de perles; Karl Ridderbusch, bass (Sarastro) / Die Zauberflöte

1969: Christoph von Dohnányi, conductor* / Der fliegende Holländer

1970: Yvonne Minton, mezzo-soprano* (title role), Hans Neugebauer, director / Der     Rosenkavalier

1972: Katia Ricciarelli, soprano (Lucrezia) / I due Foscari; Anne Howells, mezzo-soprano (Dorabella) / Così fan tutte

1973: Ileana Cotrubas, soprano (Mimì) / La bohème

1974: Wladimiro Ganzarolli, bass-baritone (title role), Eduardo de Filippo, director*/Don Pasquale

1975: John Copley, director / Lucia di Lammermoor

1976: Matteo Manuguerra, baritone (title role) / Rigoletto; William Johns, tenor* (title role) / Les contes d’Hoffmann; Giulio Chazalettes, director, Ulisse Santicchi, designer / The Love for Three Oranges

1977: Maria Chiara, soprano (title role) / Manon Lescaut

1980: Marek Janowski, conductor / Lohengrin

1983: Luciana Serra, soprano (title role) / Lakmé

1984: Willy Decker, director / Arabella; Cheryl Studer, soprano (Micaëla) / Carmen

1985/86: Cecilia Gasdia, soprano (Giulietta) / I Capuleti e i Montecchi

1987/88: Yuri Ljubimov, director*/ Lulu

1988/89: Nadine Secunde, soprano* (Elisabeth), Ben Heppner, tenor* (Walther) /Tannhäuser

1990/91: Frank Galati, director*/The Voyage of Edgar Allan Poe

1992/93: Giuseppe Sabbatini, tenor (Rodolfo); Ildebrando D’Arcangelo, bass-baritone (Colline) / La bohème

1993/94: Dmitri Hvorostovsky, baritone* (Germont) / La traviata; Robert Falls, director* /Susannah

1994/95: José Cura, tenor (Loris) / Fedora

1995/96: Kim Begley, tenor (Albert Gregor) / The Makropulos Affair

1996/97: Bernadette Manca di Nissa, contralto (Princess) / Suor Angelica; Luc Bondy, director / Salome; Olaf Bär, baritone* (Papageno) / Die Zauberflöte

1997/98: Vesselina Kasarova, mezzo-soprano (Idamante) / Idomeneo

1998/99: Laura Aikin, soprano* (Zerbinetta) / Ariadne auf Naxos; György Györiványi Rath, conductor / Mefistofele; Kurt Horres, stage director /Die Meistersinger von Nürnberg

1999/00: Gwyn Hughes Jones, tenor (Fenton), Olivier Tambosi, stage director, Frank Philipp Schlössmann, designer / Falstaff

2000/01: Richard Jones, stage director* / Jenůfa.

2001/02: Jonas Kaufmann, tenor (Cassio) / Otello; Fabio Sartori, tenor (Tebaldo) /I Capuleti e i Montecchi; Leah Hausman, choreographer* / Billy Budd; Alice Coote, mezzo-soprano (Hansel) / Hansel and Gretel; Dorothea Röschmann, soprano* (Pamina) / The Magic Flute

2002/03: Patrizia Ciofi, soprano (Violetta) / La traviata

2003/04: Tómas Tómasson, bass (Raimondo) / Lucia di Lammermoor; Neal Davies, baritone* (Major-General) /The Pirates of Penzance; Oleg Bryjak, bass-baritone (Alberich) / Siegfried

2004/05: Ferdinand Wögerbauer, set designer, Moidele Bickel, costume designer / Don Giovanni.

2005/06: Cornelia Götz, soprano (Queen of the Night) / Die Zauberflöte; Ofelia Sala*, soprano (Sophie) / Der Rosenkavalier.

2007/08: Maite Beaumont, mezzo-soprano (Sesto) / Julius Caesar

2008/09: Wolfgang Schöne, bass-baritone (Dr. Schön/Jack the Ripper) / Lulu, Jan Buchwald, baritone (Animal Trainer/Athlete) / Lulu

2009/10: Giacomo Prestia, bass (Silva) / Ernani

2010/11: Rory Macdonald, conductor / A Midsummer Night’s Dream

American and World Premieres at Lyric Opera of Chicago

1955: Lord Byron’s Love Letter, Raffaele de Banfield: American Premiere; Il ballo delle ingrate, Claudio Monteverdi: American Premiere

1961: The Harvest, Vittorio Giannini: World Premiere

1970: Billy Budd, Benjamin Britten: American Professional Stage Premiere

1978: Paradise Lost, Krzysztof Penderecki: World Premiere/Commissioned by Lyric Opera

1992: McTeague, William Bolcom: World Premiere/Commissioned by Lyric Opera

1996: Un re in ascolto, Luciano Berio: American Premiere

1997: Amistad, Anthony Davis: World Premiere/Commissioned by Lyric Opera and the American Music Theatre Festival of Philadelphia

1999: A View from the Bridge, William Bolcom: World Premiere/Commissioned by Lyric Opera

2004: A Wedding, William Bolcom: World Premiere/Commissioned by Lyric Opera