Lyric Opera of Chicago

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Lyric Welcomes the Matchless Itzhak Perlman

In Hebrew “Yitzchak” means “He will laugh”—and never was a name more appropriate than for the violinist better known as “Itzhak” (changed to make the name easier to spell and pronounce). He has a fabulous laugh, and it’s no surprise to feel in his music making an irrepressible sense of joy. 

Listen to Itzhak Perlman in conversation and you might mistake him for a singer (that deep, rich, sonorous speaking voice could probably fill Carnegie Hall as easily as the soaring tones of Perlman’s Stradivarius). He plays the way a great singer sings; whether in Mozart, Brahms, Tchaikovsky, or on the soundtracks of Fiddler on the Roof and Schindler’s List, the colors in any Perlman performance seems to mirror all the possibilities of the human voice. 

The events leading to Perlman’s spectacular career trajectory make one of music’s great human interest stories: polio, diagnosed when he was four (but every barrier comes down before this kind of talent – and Perlman’s grace in dealing with lifelong disability has set an example to the world for decades); his arrival in New York from his native Tel Aviv to study at Juilliard in his early teens; the 1958 appearance on the “Ed Sullivan Show” that introduced his artistry to America; and his 1964 victory in the hugely prestigious Leventritt Competition that catapulted him to international stardom. 

By now he’s “done it all”—that’s an overused phrase, but in Perlman’s case it actually means something! There’s no important venue that hasn’t welcomed him in concert or recital, no major work in the violin repertoire that he hasn’t played, no audience for classical music whose lives he hasn’t somehow touched, whether in live performances or recordings. His awards are legion, from the Kennedy Center Honors to eight Grammys, including a Lifetime Achievement Award (BTW, if you’re tracking down his CDs, you’ll find a whopping 642 Perlman entries at; four Emmys, most recently for a PBS documentary about the Perlman Music Program at Shelter Island, New York, and his work with young violinists there; America’s National Medal of Arts; and—in a poll by the Israeli news website Ynet – inclusion among the 200 greatest Israelis. 

Some performers are content to contribute to the world only through the glory of their performances. Perlman is different – for example, with “Bows and Batons,” a four-day event for fans, classical-music lovers, and musicians or all levels and ages that he’s hosting in upstate New York this summer. After so many years before the public, Perlman continues to use his stature as an artist to “give back.” His generosity speaks for itself, from his nonstop advocacy on behalf of the disabled to benefit concerts and master classes in all corners of the globe. 

Perlman has been at the top for half a century. It’s about time that he made his Lyric debut, and his arrival at the Civic Opera House will truly be an occasion for rejoicing! We’ll have him for one night only – Sunday, April 6 (2pm). Don’t miss your chance to hear Perlman’s Stradivarius sing! 

Perlman and Barenboim play Brahms Sonata No. 3 in D Minor (allegro movement): 


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First photo by Lisa Marie Mazzucco.

Generously sponsored by The Estates of James L. Stein and Frieda Leider Stein.