William Mason is the general director emeritus of Lyric Opera of Chicago, a company renowned internationally for its artistic excellence and financial strength. Founded in 1954, the company has achieved unparalleled success in its ticket sales over the past quarter-century, averaging 100% attendance from 1988 through 2002, and more than 90% attendance since that time. Lyric Opera is also distinguished for having an unparalleled record of operating in the black for 24 of the past 25 years. In 2011/12 the company sold a grand total of 233,113 tickets for the season, which comprised 72 performances of eight operas.
General director since 1997, Mason was with the company for more than four decades. He became general director emeritus on October 1, 2011, when Anthony Freud became general director. Previously Mason served as director of operations, artistic, and production for 16 years. He succeeded Ardis Krainik, Lyric’s general director since 1981, when she died in January 1997. Mason joined the Lyric administration in 1962 under Carol Fox, Lyric’s founding general manager.
Mason was Lyric’s production director from 1974 through 1978. From 1962 through 1966, while pursuing a bachelor’s degree in voice from Roosevelt University’s Chicago Musical College, he worked as assistant to co-artistic director Pino Donati, learning the practical fundamentals of opera administration. From 1968 through 1970 he worked in Lyric’s production department, serving as assistant stage manager during the opera season.
Mason performed on Lyric’s stage as a member of the Lyric Children’s Chorus during the 1954, 1955, and 1956 seasons. He sang the role of The Young Shepherd Boy in the famous 1954 and 1956 productions of Puccini’s Tosca, which starred, respectively, Eleanor Steber, Giuseppe Di Stefano, and Tito Gobbi; and Renata Tebaldi, Jussi Björling, and Tito Gobbi.
While most of his career has been based at Lyric, Mason also served as artistic administrator for the San Francisco Opera from 1979 to 1980. In 1973 he was production manager and assistant director for the Ohio-based Corbett Foundation, which provided funding and production expertise to regional opera companies. In 1972 he worked for Cincinnati Opera as production stage manager. Also that year, he worked for Light Opera of Manhattan, where he assisted in musical preparation, and was also stage manager. In 1971, he was assistant to Felix Popper, music administrator at New York City Opera.
A Chicago native, Mason attended Senn High School and earned his bachelor of music degree in voice from Roosevelt University’s Chicago Musical College. In 2005 he received the Music Institute of Chicago’s Dushkin Award. In 2003 he was awarded the title of Commendatore dell’Ordine Della Stella Della Solidarieta’ Italiana by the Italian government. He is married to Diana Davis.