Lyric Opera of Chicago

Lyric Lately

From Seville to RUSALKA in 60 Seconds or Less!

If you thought moving was hard, you can't imagine what goes into shifting thousands of pounds of sets that are the backbone of Lyric's magnificent productions. Here is what it takes to go from The Barber of Seville to Rusalka in just one minute.


If you thought moving was hard, you can't imagine what goes into shifting thousands of pounds of sets that are the backbone of Lyric's magnificent productions. Here is what it takes to deconstruct the wrought-iron creations of Scott Pask from The Barber of Seville—including a 300-gallon reflecting pool!—to make way for John Macfarlane's gothic wonderland for Rusalka, which incorporates a forest, lake, gigantic kitchen, and ballroom complete with fireplace and 59 mounted deer heads. Through the magic of time lapse, you can watch these nine hours of intense work condensed to one minute!


Photo credits:
(top row) Act One, The Barber of Seville by Dan Rest / Lyric Opera of Chicago.
(bottom row, l-r) Rusalka, Act One by Todd Rosenberg / Lyric Opera of Chicago; Rusalka, Act Two by Robert Kusel / Lyric Opera of Chicago


Cocktails and “Clemenza”

The passion, drama, and intrigue of ancient Rome awaits in Lyric's new-to-Chicago production of Mozart's La Clemenza di Tito  (on stage now through March 23). Get into the spirit with these beverages inspired by this magnificent opera.


The passion, drama, and intrigue of ancient Rome awaits in Lyric's new-to-Chicago production of Mozart's La Clemenza di Tito (on stage now through March 23). Get into the spirit with these beverages inspired by this magnificent opera.

A Dash of Betrayal


Vitellia and Sesto should have toasted their plan to assassinate the emperor with this blood-red delight. A sweet and spicy concoction, it perfectly captures their all-consuming passion and its tragic consequences.

  • 1 1/2 ounces jalapeño-infused tequila
  • 1/2 ounce blood orange liqueur
  • 1 ounce freshly squeezed lime juice
  • 3/4 ounce honey
  • 1/2 ounce Monin blood orange syrup

Combine ingredients in a shaker over ice, shake vigorously and strain into a chilled cocktail glass or over fresh ice in a rocks glass and garnish with a lemon twist. (Recipe from Drew Levinson, Wirtz Beverage Nevada)

Bloody Tito 


Vitellia and Sesto were unsuccessful in their attempt to murder the emperor, but this take on the Bloody Mary reminds us of what might have been.

  • 2 ounces vodka
  • 3 ounces Clamato juice
  • 1/4 teaspoon horseradish
  • 3 to 5 dashes hot sauce
  • 3 dashes Worcestershire sauce
  • Ice
  • Pickled green beans, for garnish (optional)
  • Lemon wedge, for garnish (optional)

Combine all ingredients except ice and garnishes in a shaker, fill with ice, shake vigorously, and pour into an 8-ounce glass. If desired, garnish with pickled green beans and a lemon wedge. (Recipe from



In honor of the two trouser roles in La Clemenza di Tito, excellently portrayed by Joyce DiDonato and Cecelia Hall, here's a cocktail that indulges the masculine and feminine sides of the taste spectrum with a good-quality whiskey and a slightly sweet homemade sour mix and maraschino cherries.

  • 3/4 cup whiskey
  • 1/2 cup freshly squeezed lemon juice (4 lemons)
  • 1/2 cup freshly squeezed lime juice (4 limes)
  • 2/3 cup sugar syrup (see note)
  • Ice cubes
  • Maraschino cherries

Combine the whiskey, lemon juice, lime juice, and syrup. Fill a cocktail shaker halfway with ice and pour in the drink mix 2/3 full. Shake for 15 seconds and pour into four glasses. Add a maraschino cherry and serve ice cold. Note: To make the sugar syrup, bring 1 cup of water and 1 cup of sugar to a boil, and simmer until the sugar is completely dissolved. Chill before using. (Recipe from Ina Garten at Food Network)



All Romans love the distinctive taste of Campari, so you can channel some of the Italian spirit (and toast Emperor Titus's health) with this classic cocktail.

  • 1 ounce Campari
  • 1 ounce sweet vermouth
  • 1 ounce gin
  • Orange peel for garnish

Combine all of the ingredients in a short glass filled with ice and stir. Run the orange peel around the edge of the glass, lightly squeezing to express the oils. Drop the peel into the glass and enjoy. (Recipe from The Kitchn)

Photo credits:

  • Amanda Majeski and Joyce DiDonato in La Clemenza di Tito (photo by Todd Rosenberg / Lyric Opera of Chicago)
  • Matthew Polenzani in La Clemenza di Tito; Chorus and sets from Clemenza (photo by Todd Rosenberg / Lyric Opera of Chicago)
  • Joyce DiDonato...and Joyce DiDonato (photo copyright Nick Heavican)
  • The Lyric Opera Chorus in La Clemenza di Tito (photo by Todd Rosenberg / Lyric Opera of Chicago

Linebacker to Lyric: An Interview with Brandon Jovanovich

Brandon Jovanovich has been earning rave reviews for his portrayal of the Prince in Dvořák's RusalkaIn this Q&A, Jovanovich talks about his favorite moments of this production, what he doesn't like to wear on stage, and why he loves living in Illinois!


Brandon Jovanovich has been earning rave reviews for his portrayal of the Prince in Lyric's new production of Dvořák's Rusalka: "his artistry seems to soar higher with each Chicago appearance" - Chicago Classical Review

In this Q&A, Jovanovich talks about his favorite moments of this production, what he doesn't like to wear on stage, and why he loves living in Illinois! Rusalka ends its critically acclaimed run on March 16 (tickets are going fast!), but he'll be back next season starring as Walter in Weinberg's dramatic and compelling  The Passenger.

The Prince in Rusalka is a role that's very familiar to you, since you've performed it to great acclaim across the world - how is this production different from ones you have done before?

I've been lucky enough to be involved in two different productions of Rusalka with this being my third. It is an opera that I love to sing and I really enjoying playing the role of the Prince. This production is different in a couple of ways; David is introducing the audience to the idea that the whole story MAY be in the Prince's mind…so the idea of it being a "hallucination vs. reality" really sets the tone of the opera. In this vein, the first scene (taking place in the forest) unfolds to reveal a wild group of wood nymphs set against a gorgeous backdrop (designed by John Macfarlane) in a "wild forest" being infringed upon by "humanity" (as represented by a couple of massive damn-like structures). It is this idea that sets David's production apart of others, "nature vs. humanity." By exploiting the inherent differences between these two ideas, the friction and resulting conflict between the characters develops at very natural pace.

Do you have a favorite moment or moments in this production?

There are some characters that have been inserted into this production that aren't written in the opera, three crows serve as "helpers" to Ježibaba. Watching our choreographer (Andrew George) and David McVicar develop these characters over the course of the rehearsal period was amazing (I'm awed by all of the sharp bird-like physical movements and stamina that they have). For my part, I LOVE the final scene in Act III when I return to the forest, find Rusalka and end up dying. It is so touching, so emotional and laden with such beautiful music, it is one of my favorite scenes to perform in any opera. Couple that with having Ana María sing to me….come on!!!

If you had to sum up the story of Rusalka in one sentence, what would your summary be?

An unparalleled classic masterpiece of longing, love, hope, and loss set to some of the most exquisite music by Dvořák….an unknown masterpiece. 

 Are you jealous of all the prosthetics that your co-stars Jill Grove and Eric Owens wear for this show? What's the most unusual costume you've ever had?

As for prosthetics…unequivocally no! I harbor no ill will or jealously in the slightest!  I have been lucky enough to wear some of the finest costumes throughout my career. I am tall with long legs and it has always been a challenge to find "stock" costumes that look decent, so most of my costumes are tailored and I've been VERY spoiled because of it. I haven't had too many unusual costumes per se…but one thing that always makes me a little nervous is when I am asked to wear very little on stage.  From a towel wrapped around my waist, to a pair of underwear and a robe (open!?), I find it intimidating. The amount of breathing and support needed to sing makes for a plethora of deep diaphragmatic breathing, and it isn't necessarily something that I would want to see as an audience member! But A LOT of directors don't mind asking performers to let it all hang out! 

What is a role that you dream of playing some day in your career?

A dream role that I have yet to play would be Otello.  So many challenges mentally, emotionally and vocally.  It is a role that I hope to tackle before too long.

Some people might not know that you started out with a college football scholarship - can you draw any parallels between the world of football and the world of opera?

Both of them are extremely physical. True, there is no contact in opera (unless you count kissing), but there is a ton of moving around while singing and it requires a lot more stamina than people think—that and the ability to "think on the move." In football, as in opera, you are an individual performing at your best for the betterment (and ultimately the success) of the team. There are set plays where you know what your role is, just as there is staging in opera, "You go here and I go there." Yet with both there is always an element of the unknown. In football you are playing against another team trying to stop your progress, in opera you (and all colleagues around you) are in a constant mental workout trying to juggle vocal production, remembering dialogue, staging, keeping in contact with the conductor, and thus the orchestra, vocal balance, and portraying emotions (and so much more), while trying to make it look like you are living "in the moment." With these different dynamics there is a lot of fluidity involved and being able to think on your feet and adjust is a necessity. If you aren't able to adjust in the moment, you'll ultimately fail to one degree or another in both arenas.

What is a typical day like for you before a performance? Do you have any pre-performance rituals that you can share?

I know there are a lot of people who have very specific rituals that they adhere to before a show. Mine would be normalcy. I don't like to change anything that I would normally do; whether that be going to the gym, shopping, mowing the lawn (if I'm at home,) or shoveling the driveway. Having no ritual would be my ritual (profound!?).

When you're not singing, what do you like to do in Chicago? Any favorite restaurants, museums, or other activities?

I live about an hour west of Chicago on a little ten-acre plot of land.  I travel A LOT throughout the year and I hate to say it, but when I get home…I like to stay home! We've lived in Illinois for just over three years and our house (an old one-room schoolhouse) needs some upgrading.  So you'll typically find me outside cutting down trees (a ton of dead ones were left on our property), remodeling a bathroom (two thus far), playing with my kids, or just hanging out. I know that we WILL get into Chicago more and start enjoying all that this city has to offer, but it hasn't happened yet.

What's your favorite thing about having Illinois as your home base?

I love being able to fly into O'Hare from anywhere in the world. It makes traveling so much easier! I love being able to stay at home when I sing with Lyric. I like the people, the climate (I love having four seasons), and the proximity to great food, culture and sporting events all while being able to raise chickens and bees! It is the best of all worlds for me!

Photo credit: Todd Rosenberg/Lyric Opera of Chicago


An Insider's Guide to LA CLEMENZA DI TITO

Video and audio previews, articles, and more at Lyric's Insider's Guide to La Clemenza di Tito

Below is your guide to Mozart's timeless political thriller La Clemenza di Tito—including including video previews, plot synposis, background articles and interviews, photo gallery, audio guides, and more. This new-to-Lyric production runs March 5–23.

Mozart’s La Clemenza di Tito tells the story of passion and power in the Roman Empire. Matthew Polenzani plays the Emperor Tito. Vitellia (Amanda Majeski) is the power-obsessed daughter of the recently deposed emperor. She is determined to have Tito as her husband so she can have the political power that she feels is her right. When Tito chooses to marry another, Vitellia convinces Tito’s best friend Sesto (Joyce DiDonato in a male role), who is obsessed with her, to assassinate the emperor. When the plot fails and the betrayal is revealed, this traitorous couple must face the consequences. Read the full plot synopsis

Watch the official video trailer (above) and a preview with general director Anthony Freud, music director Sir Andrew Davis (who is conducting this production), and creative consultant Renée Fleming (below).


(Not Quite) Everything You Want to Know about La Clemenza di Tito

It’s exciting to “discover” an opera that isn’t often performed – especially by a composer as familiar as Mozart. Lyric audiences can do just that with La clemenza di Tito, a tour de force operatic docudrama about the Roman Emperor Titus. Read more.

Power Plays: DiDonato, Polenzani, and Majeski star in La Clemenza di Tito

Political intrigue, spurned overtures, murderous plots, and uncertain consequences—if it sounds like a page out of current primetime television listings, it's just confirmation that human nature is as ever-constant as it was in Mozart's time. Read more.

Joyce DiDonato: The Perfect 21st Century Diva

Audience-loved, critically acclaimed, Grammy Award-winning mezzo-soprano Joyce DiDonato is making her much-anticipated return to Lyric Opera of Chicago to open Mozart’s La Clemenza di Tito – and she can’t say enough about this rarely performed gem that marries a scintillating plot about a Roman political scandal with some of Mozart’s most sublimely beautiful music. Read more
 Clemenza di Tito

LA CLEMENZA DI TITO Discovery Series

Mozart's penultimate opera tosses conflicted characters into a thicket of a plot with music that hints at 19th-century romanticism. Join Matthew Polenzani (Tito), Joyce DiDonato (Sesto), and Sir Andrew Davis as they discuss Mozart's once underappreciated two-act opera seria.

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La Clemenza di Tito Audio Preview

Recordings used by permission of EMI Classics.


La Clemenza di Tito Commentary

La Clemenza di Tito 
by Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart

© 2013/14 Lyric Opera Commentaries

Original sound recordings of musical excerpts used by permission of the Salzburger Festspiele. All rights reserved. Post-production services provided by Mark Travis, Producer.


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