Did you know that Don Giovanni actually was Lyric Opera of Chicago's (then called the Lyric Theatre of Chicago) very first production in 1954? Here's a look at how this monumental opera has evolved throughout Lyric's history.  

Lyric's Diamond Anniversary season opens up in grand style on September 27 with a brand-new production of Mozart's Don Giovanni from the always-innovative directorial mind of Robert Falls, artistic director of Goodman Theatre. 

Did you know that Don Giovanni actually was Lyric Opera of Chicago's very first production in 1954? Here's a look at how this monumental opera has evolved over the years at Lyric. And what's in store for this year? Subscribe now to reserve your seat!

1954 

Lyric Theatre of Chicago's first season opens with Nicola Rossi-Lemeni and Eleanor Steber starring as Don Giovanni and Donna Anna in a production directed by William Wymetal and conducted by company co-founder Nicola Rescigno. Below is an ad proof from the Chicago Daily News and a costume photo of Nicola Rossi-Lemeni in character. Lyric would mount this same production with Rossi-Lemeni again in the title role in 1959, this time with Georg Solti (before he was music director of the Chicago Symphony Orchestra) as conductor.

1961 & 1964 

In 1961, Lyric presented a new production of the opera from director Wolfgang Weber with Peter Maag as conductor.  Eberhard Waechter starred as Don Giovanni.  Pictured below (top left) are Walter Berry as Leporello and Lisa Della Casa as Donna Elvira. The company revived the production in 1964, this time with Nicolai Ghiaurov in the title role. Shown from this production are Ghiaurnov and Nicoletta Panni as Zerlina (top right) and a wide view of the stage during Act 2, when the Commendatore (Bruno Marangoni) confronts Giovanni.

1969 

The multitalented Tito Gobbi both starred as the Don and directed this production, which featured sets and costumes by the legendary designer Peter J. Hall. In this photo, Don Giovanni (Gobbi) seduces Zerlina (Judith Raskin).

Donna Anna (Claire Watson), Don Ottavio (Alfredo Kraus), and Donna Elvira (Ilva Ligabue) in disguise during the party at Don Giovanni's house.

1980, 1988-89, & 1995-96 

In 1980, Lyric mounted a new-to-Lyric production (originally from the Salzburg Festival) by Jean-Pierre Ponnelle, one of the most celebrated directors and set designers in opera. Ponnelle wore many hats for this production as well, both directing and designing sets and costumes, characterized by their somber tone and death-haunted imagery.

The production proved to be so popular that it was revived twice: first with Samuel Ramey in the title role in the 1988-89 season, and then with James Morris as Don Giovanni and an up-and-coming Bryn Terfel as Leporello. Morris was appearing as Wotan in that same season as part of Lyric's first-ever Ring cycle.

Shown above (clockwise starting from top right) are Richard Stilwell as Don Giovanni and Stafford Dean as Leporello in the 1980 presentation; Samuel Ramey as the Don in 1988-89; Richard Stilwell's Don surrounded by his ladies of the night in 1980; Donna Elvira (Carol Vaness), Zerlina (Susanne Mentzer), Masetto (Roberto Scaltriti), Leporello (Terfel), Don Ottavio (Frank Lopardo), and Donna Anna (Luba Organasova) gesture towards the deceased Giovanni (James Morris) in 1988-89); and Leporello and Giovanni sing together (l-r Bryn Terfel and James Morris).

2004-05 

For Lyric's 50th anniversary season, Bryn Terfel returned—this time as Don Giovanni! This new Lyric Opera production from director Peter Stein featured Susan Graham in a role debut as Donna Elvira, Karita Mattila as Donna Anna (with recent Ryan Opera Center graduate Erin Wall filling in for an ill Mattila on opening night), Ildebrando D'Arcangelo as Leporello, and even a young Kyle Ketelsen as Masetto. Christoph Eschenbach made his podium debut, with Sir Andrew Davis stepping in for a few performances.  

(Clockwise from top left) - Graham as Donna Elvira; Leporello (D'Arcangelo) and Giovanni (Terfel) in the cemetery; Giovanni (Terfel) attempts to seduce Zerlina (Isabel Bayrakdarian); Leporello (D'Arcangelo), Masetto (Ketelsen), Zerlina (Bayrakdarian), Don Ottavio (Kurt Streit), Donna Anna (Mattila), and Donna Elvira (Graham) confront Giovanni (Terfel).

Photo credits:

  • 1954 - courtesy Lyric Opera of Chicago archives
  • 1961 - credit Nancy Sorenson
  • 1964 & 1969 - credit David H. Fishman
  • 1980, 1988-89 - credit Tony Romero
  • 1995-96 and 2004-05 - credit Dan Rest