Lyric Opera of Chicago

Lyric and The Second City collaboration

For Immediate Release:
June 10, 2013 


Collaboration between Lyric Opera of Chicago and The Second City 
extends beyond the stage 
with Lyric’s Ryan Opera Center and area high-school students 


You never know where a great idea will take you. 

Renée Fleming’s inspiration to have Lyric Opera of Chicago mix it up with The Second City resulted in a wildly successful collaborative show, The Second City Guide to the Opera. That one-night stand last January, co-hosted by Fleming and actor Patrick Stewart, sold out the full opera house with extra seating added over the orchestra pit for a capacity of about 3700. 

Since then the collaboration has blossomed and grown onstage as well as behind the scenes via performances and workshops. 

First, the two iconic Chicago institutions decided to turn the one-night success into a month-long run presented on a more intimate scale without the big-name hosts. The resulting show, also called The Second City Guide to the Opera, opened May 31, with 23 performances through June 30. The stage of the Ardis Krainik Theatre in the Civic Opera House has been transformed into a cabaret-style space. Up to 350 audience members can sit onstage on loveseats, at small tables, or on risers, enjoying a view of the theater as an elegant backdrop. 

Then, as the relationship between the two companies developed, it became clear that the collaboration could extend into other areas, to mutual benefit. Starting in May, two instructors from The Second City began holding weekly improvisation classes with ensemble members of The Patrick G. and Shirley W. Ryan Opera Center, the professional artist-development program at Lyric Opera of Chicago. The instructors are Tim Sniffen, one of the writers and performers in The Second City Guide to the Opera, and Anne Libera, director of comedy studies for Second City’s program with Columbia College. “They love what they’re learning and how it greatly benefits them as performers,” says Dan Novak, director of the Ryan Opera Center. “It’s also bringing them closer as a group.” Novak noted that it’s The Second City’s first workshop with opera singers. “This is why you do these collaborations—the benefits keep evolving.” 

Through the partnership between Lyric Unlimited and The Second City, a small group of high-school voice students have been invited to attend a special workshop designed just for them this month. They will learn essential improv techniques and how to apply these new skills to their current music training, increasing and enhancing their communication abilities onstage and offstage. In addition, participating students will have the opportunity to learn from the artists and staff involved in bringing this unusual combination of art forms together. PNC Bank is making this workshop possible and free of cost to participating students. 

The Second City Guide to the Opera—5 performances/week through June 30, Thursdays through Mondays, with audiences seated onstage cabaret style at the Civic Opera House, 20 N. Wacker Dr., Chicago. Some performances sold out. Tickets $35, $45, $75. Doors open 75 minutes before show; beverage & light food service available throughout the evening. Performances start at 7:30pm except for Saturdays at 7pm. or 312-332-2244 for tickets.