Lyric Opera of Chicago

Lyric Opera of Chicago’s 58th season opens with Elektra

Thursday, September 13, 2012

A boldly different start to the opera season.
A break with tradition.  

Lyric Opera of Chicago’s 58th season opens with ELEKTRA,
a 100-minute thrill ride of a new production starring
Christine Goerke, Emily Magee, Jill Grove, Alan Held, & Roger Honeywell,
conducted by Sir Andrew Davis and staged by Sir David McVicar

  Lyric Opera of Chicago’s Opening Night Gala Benefit
Saturday, October 6

Doors open at 5:30 pm, performance starts at 6:30 pm (no intermission)
Opera Ball immediately following performance  

New location for Opera Ball:
Atlantic Ballroom, Radisson Blu Aqua Hotel  

Opening Night and Opera Ball are projects of the Women’s Board of Lyric Opera of Chicago
Mrs. J. Christopher Reyes (Anne/Lake Forest), Women’s Board President
Mrs. Lester B. Knight III (Rebecca/Winnetka), Opening Night Chairman
Mrs. King Harris (Caryn/Chicago), Opera Ball Chairman

On Saturday, October 6, elegantly dressed guests will make their red-carpet entrances amidst the paparazzi and onlookers at the Civic Opera House. It’s the opening night of Richard Strauss’s Elektra, which launches Lyric Opera of Chicago’s 58th season. Doors open at 5:30 pm and the performance begins at 6:30 pm., concluding around 8:15 pm.

The Daniel F. and Ada L. Rice Grand Foyer will be boldly transformed for the Opening Night Gala, according to William P. Heffernan, creative director of the event design firm Heffernan Morgan Inc. “The décor will be inspired by the scenic design of Elektra, with a theatrical fusion of decayed architecture and the red of blood, both of which play such important roles in the opera,” Heffernan said. Lighting design is by Heffernan Morgan, executed by Lyric’s technical department. 

Jewell Events Catering will serve an array of delectable savories. During the pre-opera reception, 5:30-6:30 pm, guests on all levels of the opera house will enjoy complimentary hors d’oeuvre. A full array of spirits as well as beers, still and sparkling wines, and non-alcoholic beverages will be available for purchase. A special vodka-based Elektra cocktail is being developed for the evening.

Commencing with opening night, there will be a mezzanine-level wine bar operating at the opera house on performance dates, in addition to the regular full-service bars.

Mrs. Lester B. Knight III (Rebecca) of Winnetka is Opening Night chairman. The Opening Night Benefit is sponsored by Aon Corporation for the 28th consecutive year.

Strauss’s monumental tragedy Elektra is a 100-minute opera is based on the ancient Greek tragedy by Sophocles and is performed without intermission. It is one of the most formidably difficult operas for orchestra as well as for vocal soloists. The heroine (soprano Christine Goerke, debut), princess of Mycenae, is consumed by the desire to avenge the death of her father, King Agamemnon, at the hands of her mother, Klytëmnestra (mezzo-soprano Jill Grove) and Klytëmnestra’s lover Aegisth (tenor Roger Honeywell). She vainly attempts to enlist the aid of her frightened sister, Chrysothemis (soprano Emily Magee), and is ecstatic at the unexpected return of the brother she believed was dead, Orest (bass-baritone Alan Held), which leads to the hair-raising dénouement.

Elektra will be conducted by Sir Andrew Davis. The new production is directed by Sir David McVicar, with sets and costumes by John Macfarlane and lighting by Jennifer Tipton. Chorus master is Martin Wright (debut). Generous sponsors for this new production are The Elizabeth Morse Genius Charitable Trust, The Elizabeth Morse Charitable Trust, the Abbott Fund, Marlys A. Beider, and Stefan Edlis and Gael Neeson.

The opening-night performance of Elektra can be heard live locally on radio 98.7WFMT and globally on, beginning at 6:15 pm. The Lyric Opera of Chicago Broadcasts are generously sponsored by The Hurvis Charitable Foundation with matching funding provided by The Matthew Bucksbaum Family and Richard P. and Susan Kiphart.

For theater and film devotees who have never been to the opera, Elektra may be the perfect first-time experience, as it “delivers maybe the most visceral punch of the entire operatic canon,” says Anthony Freud, Lyric’s general director. “The libretto is faithful to Sophocles, and Strauss is among the strongest music dramatist and orchestrators in the history of music. Elektra may be the most demanding dramatic-soprano role in its length, its technical ferocity, and its combination of extraordinary dramatic outbursts and music of passionate, delicate lyricism.” Adds stage director Sir David McVicar: “It’s like an opera written by Quentin Tarantino, notching up the tension. You know the explosion of violence has to come, and it’s incredibly shocking and cathartic when it does. That’s what is fundamentally gripping about the music and story – it speaks about primal impulses, unhealthy family relationships, and rites of passage.”

Lyric’s first-ever post-performance opening-night reception will take place in the Rice Grand Foyer following Elektra around 8:15 pm. Full bar selections will be available for purchase, and Jewell Events Catering will serve enticing morsels cleverly presented in small to-go cartons (rather than on plates).

Tickets for the Opening Night Gala Benefit performance of Elektra, including the pre- and post-performance receptions, range from $79 to $425. For reservations and more information, please call 312-332-2244 or go to

This year, for the first time, the Opera Ball will be held in the Atlantic Ballroom of the Radisson Blu Aqua Hotel, 221 N. Columbus Dr. (In previous years since 1960 the Opera Ball has been held at the Hilton Chicago on South Michigan Avenue, but with that hotel serving as official headquarters for the Chicago Marathon the following day, on Sun., Oct. 7, Lyric opted for a new alternative.)

Mrs. King Harris (Caryn) of Chicago is Opera Ball chairman. The Opera Ball is generously cosponsored by Illinois Tool Works Inc. for the eleventh consecutive year and by Northern Trust for the fifteenth consecutive year.

Trolleys will convey Opera Ball guests from the Civic Opera House to the Radisson Blu following the opening-night performance. The expected 600+ Opera Ball guests will enjoy stunning views of the city from the Atlantic Ballroom, with décor consisting of “an elegant modern presentation of autumn branches and berries in tones of copper, bronze, and gold,” says Heffernan. “We also hope to include contemporary aerial elements for additional drama and lushness.”

Graff Diamonds is debuting as the sponsor for the Opera Ball Reception. When dinner begins, guests will be welcomed by Lyric President and CEO Kenneth G. Pigott. The opening-night artists will then be presented by Lyric General Director Anthony Freud in the traditional Grand March, which is sponsored by Bartlit Beck Herman Palenchar & Scott LLP. The Bradley Young Orchestra will provide music for dinner and dancing.

Tickets for the Opera Ball ($575) may be reserved by calling the Women’s Board office: 312-827-5682. Information is also available regarding Premium Packages and a Grand Gala Package combining tickets for Opening Night and Opera Ball with special benefits.

Generous sponsors for this new production of Elektra 

The Elizabeth Morse Genius Charitable Trust, The Elizabeth Morse Charitable Trust, Abbott Fund, Marlys A. Beider, and Stefan Edlis and Gael Neeson

Sponsor of the Opening Night Benefit

Aon Corporation (28th consecutive year) 

Sponsors of the Opera Ball

ITW (11th consecutive year)


Northern Trust (15th consecutive year)  

Sponsor of the Opera Ball Reception

Graff Diamonds  

Grand March Sponsor

Bartlit Beck Herman Palenchar & Scott LLP

Media Sponsor

Sun-Times Media, LLC

Sponsor of The Lyric Opera of Chicago Broadcasts on 98.7WFMT and

The Hurvis Charitable Foundation

with matching funding provided by The Matthew Bucksbaum Family and Richard P. and Susan Kiphart