History of Lyric Opera of Chicago

Lyric Opera of Chicago
Lyric Opera of Chicago is one of the world’s great opera companies. It is renowned internationally for its artistic excellence and financial strength. Founded in 1954, Lyric has always distinguished itself by presenting the finest international singers, conductors, directors, and designers in classic and less-familiar operatic repertoire and in world-premiere productions.

The company’s mission is to express and promote the life-changing, transformational, revelatory power of great art and opera. Lyric exists to provide a broad, deep, and relevant cultural service to the Chicago region and the nation, and to advance opera’s development by producing and performing consistently world-class opera, with a balanced repertoire encompassing core classics, less-known masterpieces, and new works; creating a diverse, innovative, wide-ranging program of community engagement and education activities that reaches the widest possible public; and developing exceptional emerging operatic talent.

Anthony Freud, Lyric’s general director, began his tenure in 2011. Sir Andrew Davis has served as Lyric’s music director since 2000. Renée Fleming became Lyric’s first creative consultant in 2010.

The company, originally known as The Lyric Theatre of Chicago, was formed in 1954 by Carol Fox, Lawrence V. Kelly, and Nicola Rescigno. The latter two founders withdrew after the 1955 season, and the company was renamed Lyric Opera of Chicago prior to the 1956 season. Carol Fox served as founding general manager (1954-80); she died in 1981. Fox was succeeded by Ardis Krainik, who had been with the company since its founding and served as general director from 1981 until her death in 1997. William Mason served as general director from 1997 until his retirement in 2011. He is Lyric’s first general director emeritus.

Bruno Bartoletti and Pino Donati were co-artistic directors from 1964 to 1974. Bartoletti served as sole artistic director from 1975 until retiring in 1999. He was artistic director emeritus until his death in 2013. Bartoletti made his American debut at Lyric in 1956 and conducted more than 600 performances of 55 operas at Lyric (1956-2007).  Matthew A. Epstein, who had been Lyric’s artistic adviser beginning in 1980, served as artistic director from 1999 to 2005.

In 2014-15 Lyric presented 69 performances of 8 operas (Don Giovanni, Capriccio, Il Trovatore, Porgy and Bess, Anna Bolena, Tosca, Tannhäuser, and The Passenger). Don Giovanni, Tosca, and Anna Bolena were new productions, and Tannhäuser and The Passenger (a Midwest premiere) were new-to-Chicago productions.  Lyric also presented a 60th-anniversary Gala, 25 performances of Carousel, the world premiere of the second mariachi opera, El Pasado Nunca Se Termina, a special family performance entitled The Magic Victrola, and a piano recital by Lang Lang.

In addition to planning repertoire and productions for Lyric Opera of Chicago’s recent and future seasons at the Civic Opera House, in 2012 Anthony Freud launched Lyric Unlimited, a long-term initiative that provides a relevant cultural service to communities throughout the Chicago area not previously touched by opera.  Lyric Unlimited encompasses collaboration with other cultural organizations and explores ways to make opera as an art form resonate more powerfully and broadly with people of all backgrounds, ethnicities, and interests.

Lyric Unlimited highlights to date include The Second City Guide to the Opera; a pair of  mariachi operas, the commission of The Property, a klezmer opera from Wlad Marhulets and three original family performances at the Civic Opera House; the formation of a special high-school program, the Youth Opera Council; and a Community Ambassador Program, inaugurated by soprano Ana María Martínez and bass-baritone Eric Owens. In August, 2015, Lyric Unlimited will present the world premiere of another new commission, Second Nature, an opera for young audiences by Matthew Aucoin.

2012-13 saw the inauguration of Lyric’s American Musical Theater Initiative, encompassing new productions of classic musicals by Richard Rodgers and Oscar Hammerstein II each spring: Oklahoma! (2013),The Sound of Music (2014), Carousel (2015), The King and I (2016), and Lerner & Loewe's My Fair Lady (2017).

Renée Fleming became Lyric Opera’s first-ever creative consultant in December 2010 and was elected to the Board of Directors as a vice president at that time. Fleming has an active leadership role in developing new projects designed to increase opera audiences and awareness of the art form, while sharing in the company’s artistic vision. In collaboration with her Lyric colleagues, Fleming has worked to establish a prominent presence for Lyric in a variety of web-based marketing projects, and in print and broadcast media; expand the education and community-engagement activities of Lyric to include a joint program with several key community music organizations called the Vocal Partnership Program, devoted to finding and nurturing young, talented singers in the Chicago area, and to making Lyric more accessible to the children and young adults involved in all areas of music education at  Merit School of Music, Music Institute of Chicago, ChiARTS, Gallery 37 Advanced Arts Education Program, Sherwood Conservatory, and Chicago Academy for the Arts; present non-operatic and off-season performances at the Civic Opera House including recitals by major international artists; foster an annual commitment to American music theater; curate the world premiere of Bel Canto, Lyric’s 10th new-opera commission (2015-16 season); collaborate with other Chicago-based arts institutions to send a special message about the strength of culture in Chicago and to promote and expand arts education in the Chicago Public School system; and further develop Lyric’s young-professionals initiative, which takes opera into the workplace and provides entry-level experiences for the curious adult. Most recently Fleming was named Ryan Opera Center Adviser. In May, Fleming extended the tenure of her role as Creative Consultant through 2017.

The Lyric Opera Orchestra and Chorus are considered among the finest in the world. The orchestra comprises 74 musicians. The regular chorus consists of 48 members plus a core supplementary chorus of 12 and a supplementary chorus of several dozen.

The Patrick G. and Shirley W. Ryan Opera Center (originally the Apprentice Artist Program, subsequently The Lyric Opera School of Chicago and the Lyric Opera Center for American Artists) was established in 1973 as the professional artist-development program for Lyric Opera of Chicago. The Ryan Opera Center is recognized as one of the premier programs of its kind in the world. That standing is maintained by providing the finest up-and-coming singers with unparalleled training and experience.

The Civic Opera Building, at 20 North Wacker Drive on the east bank of the Chicago River between Washington and Madison streets, is the permanent home of Lyric Opera of Chicago. The 3,563-seat capacity of the theater makes it second only to New York’s Metropolitan Opera as the largest opera auditorium in North America.

Lyric Opera purchased the Civic Opera House and adjacent backstage spaces from the building’s owner in 1993, the first time in the history of the opera house (built in 1929) that the resident opera company has actually owned the space. Lyric simultaneously launched a $100-million capital campaign: Building on Greatness...An Opera House for the 21st Century, to finance the purchase and renovation of the art-deco house. The renovation was completed in time for the 1996-97 season. In 1996 the Civic Opera House auditorium was named the Ardis Krainik Theatre for Lyric’s second general director.

Lyric Opera of Chicago annually employs about 900 seasonal, part-time and fulltime staff, including orchestra musicians, chorus members, stagehands, production and technical staff, stage management, ushers, etc. There are approximately 90 fulltime year-round administration staff.

Lyric Opera of Chicago’s opening performances have been broadcast live since 1973 (except for a four-year span early in the 2000s). A virtually limitless worldwide audience can hear the broadcasts each year – live on opening nights during the season (on 98.7WFMT in the Chicago area and worldwide via live streaming on www.wfmt.com), and again during an eight-week rebroadcast period beginning in May.

In 1989 Lyric Opera of Chicago launched its Toward the 21st Century artistic initiative – the most important artistic initiative the company had undertaken to date, and one with far-reaching impact on American opera in North America as well as in the international opera community. Throughout the 1990s Lyric produced one 20th-century European and one American opera each season as part of the regular subscription series. Within this initiative Lyric commissioned three new works: William Bolcom’s McTeague (1992-93); Anthony Davis’s Amistad (1997-98); and Bolcom’s A View from the Bridge (1999-00). 

Among other major artistic achievements is Lyric’s first presentation of Wagner’s Ring cycle in a single season within the span of a week, during the 1995-96 season. Sold out months in advance, the three cycles had a total economic impact of $34.7 million on the Chicago metropolitan area. The Ring again sold out when remounted for three cycles during the 2004-05 season.

Over the course of the company’s 60-year history, Lyric Opera of Chicago has consistently offered its patrons a world-class roster of singers, conductors, directors, designers, choreographers, and dancers in a wide-ranging repertoire.

The singers include

Theo Adam

Roberto Alagna

Sir Thomas Allen

Carlos Álvarez

June Anderson

Gabriel Bacquier

Agnes Baltsa

Juliane Banse

Ettore Bastianini

Kathleen Battle

Piotr Beczala

Kim Begley

Carlo Bergonzi

Walter Berry

Jussi Björling

Rockwell Blake

Stephanie Blythe

Inge Borkh

Olga Borodina

Johan Botha

Christine Brewer

Gré Brouwenstijn

Sesto Bruscantini

Renato Bruson

Grace Bumbry

Montserrat Caballé

Nicole Cabell*

Maria Callas

Joseph Calleja

Piero Cappuccilli

José Carreras

Rosanna Carteri

Charles Castronovo

Anita Cerquetti

Boris Christoff

Alice Coote

Alessandro Corbelli

Franco Corelli

Fernando Corena

Fiorenza Cossotto

Ileana  Cotrubas

Régine Crespin

José Cura

Ildebrando D’Arcangelo

David Daniels

Iestyn Davies

Stéphane Degout

Mario Del Monaco

Mark Delavan

Lisa Della Casa

Natalie Dessay

Mariella Devia

Michelle DeYoung

Joyce DiDonato

Giuseppe di Stefano

Plácido Domingo

Mark S. Doss*

Jane Eaglen

Sir Geraint Evans

Maria Ewing    

Eileen Farrell

Giuseppe Filianoti

Gerald Finley

Sylvia Fisher

Renée Fleming

Juan Diego Flórez

Clifton Forbis

Bruce Ford

Mirella Freni

Ferruccio Furlanetto

Elizabeth Futral*   

Vladimir Galouzine

Leyla Gencer

Nicolai Ghiaurov

Marcello Giordani

Tito Gobbi

Christine Goerke

Susan Graham

Denyce Graves

Anthony Dean Griffey

Greer Grimsley

Reri Grist

Jill Grove

Paul Groves

Edita Gruberova 

Franz Grundheber

Ekaterina Gubanova

Maria Guleghina

Nathan Gunn

Nancy Gustafson

Jerry Hadley

Håkan Hagegård

Eric Halfvarson

Thomas Hampson

Franz Hawlata

Hui He

Ben Heppner

Marilyn Horne

Hans Hotter

Dmitri Hvorostovsky

Bryan Hymel

Siegfried Jerusalem

Brandon Jovanovich

Raina Kabaivanska

Vesselina Kasarova

Jonas Kaufmann

Quinn Kelsey*

Kyle Ketelsen

James King

Dorothy Kirsten

Sophie Koch

Alfredo Kraus

Dina Kuznetsova*

Mariusz Kwiecien

Jennifer Larmore

Evelyn Lear

Richard Leech

Sergei Leiferkus

Isabel Leonard

Salvatore Licitra

Marjana Lipovšek

Frank Lopardo

Pilar Lorengar

Dame Felicity Lott

Zeljko Lučič

Christa Ludwig

Cornell MacNeil

Emily Magee*

Amanda Majeski*

Catherine Malfitano

Richard Margison

Ana María Martínez

Eva Marton

Peter Mattei

Karita Mattila

Johanna Meier

Susanne Mentzer

Robert Merrill

Chris Merritt

Mady Mesplé

Nadja Michael

Aprile Millo

Sherrill Milnes

Anna Moffo

Kurt Moll

James Morris

Anna Netrebko

Birgit Nilsson 

Timothy Nolen

Jessye Norman

Eric Owens

Felicity Palmer

René Pape

Luciano Pavarotti

Marlis Petersen

Susanna Phillips*

Paul Plishka

Matthew Polenzani*

Leontyne Price

Dame Margaret Price

Patricia Racette

Sondra Radvanovsky

Ruggiero Raimondi

Samuel Ramey

Marina Rebeka

Margherita Rinaldi

Morris Robinson

Gianna Rolandi

Jan-Hendrik Rootering

Dorothea Röschmann

Peter Rose

Nicola Rossi-Lemeni

Leonie Rysanek    

Giuseppe Sabbatini

Matti Salminen

Bidú Sayão

Paul Schoeffler

Wolfgang Schöne

Eike Wilm Schulte

Michaela Schuster

Elisabeth Schwarzkopf

Renata Scotto

Franz-Josef Selig

Tatiana Serjan

Albina Shagimuratova

Neil Shicoff

Andrew Shore

Anja Silja

Giulietta Simionato

Léopold Simoneau

Bo Skovhus

Robert Dean Smith

Elena Souliotis

Eleanor Steber

Thomas Stewart

Teresa Stich-Randall

Ebe Stignani

Richard Stilwell

Krassimira Stoyanova

Kurt Streit

Falk Struckmann

Dame Joan Sutherland

Ruth Ann Swenson   

Giuseppe Taddei

Italo Tajo

Martti Talvela

Renata Tebaldi

Dame Kiri Te Kanawa

Bryn Terfel

Anna Tomowa-Sintow

John Treleaven

Tatiana Troyanos

Richard Tucker    

Theodor Uppman  

Carol Vaness

Astrid Varnay

Shirley Verrett

Jon Vickers

Ramon Vinay

Deborah Voigt

Anne Sofie von Otter

Frederica von Stade

Eberhard Waechter

Amber Wagner*

Erin Wall*

Claire Watson

Felicia Weathers

Ruth Welting

Ingvar Wixell

Gösta Winbergh

Kwangchul Youn

Dolora Zajick

Georg Zeppenfeld

Teresa Zylis-Gara

*Alumni, The Patrick G. and Shirley W. Ryan Opera Center at Lyric Opera of Chicago

Among Lyric’s guest conductors have been

Marco Armiliato

Harry Bicket

Richard Bonynge

Richard Buckley

Semyon Bychkov

Riccardo Chailly

James Conlon

Dennis Russell Davies

Sir Andrew Davis

Bertrand de Billy

Sir Mark Elder

Christoph Eschenbach

Asher Fisch

Daniele Gatti

Gianandrea Gavazzeni

Paul Gemignani

Emanuelle Haïm (first female conductor at Lyric)

Marek Janowski

Eugen Jochum

Christopher Keene

Josef Krips

Louis Langrée

Ferdinand Leitner

Fabio Luisi

Jesús López Cobos

Sir Charles Mackerras

Michele Mariotti

Zubin Mehta

Dimitri Mitropoulos

John Nelson

Renato Palumbo

Antonio Pappano

Michel Plasson

Georges Prêtre

Sir John Pritchard

Nicola Rescigno

Artur Rodzinski

Julius Rudel

Nino Sanzogno

Tullio Serafin

Leonard Slatkin

Sir Georg Solti

Robert Spano

Ward Stare

Markus Stenz

Patrick Summers

Christian Thielemann

Michael Tilson Thomas

Emmanuel Villaume Christoph von Dohnányi

Antonino Votto


Directors at Lyric include

Tim Albery

Christopher Alden
David Alden

Robert Altman

Arin Arbus

Neil Armfield

Rob Ashford

Luc Bondy

Marc Bruni

John Caird

Robert Carsen

Giulio Chazalettes

Liviu Ciulei

John Copley

Frank Corsaro

John Cox

Paul Curran

Giorgio De Lullo

Willy Decker

John Dexter

August Everding

Robert Falls

Jürgen Flimm

Götz Friedrich

Barbara Gaines

Frank Galati

Herbert Graf

Colin Graham

Michael Grandage

Gary Griffin

Sir Peter Hall

Nicholas Hytner

Nicolas Joël

Richard Jones

Stephen Langridge

Nikolaus Lehnhoff

Yuri Ljubimov

Lotfi Mansouri

Sir David McVicar

Nathaniel Merrill

Jonathan Miller

Elijah Moshinsky

Francisco Negrin

Kevin Newbury

Charles Newell

Jean-Pierre Ponnelle

David Pountney

Harold Prince

Virginio Puecher

Chas Rader-Shieber

Renata Scotto

Peter Sellars

Andrei Serban

Peter Stein

Olivier Tambosi

Graham Vick

Robert Wilson

Stein Winge

George C. Wolfe

Francesca Zambello

Set and costume designers for Lyric include

Nicola Benois

Moidele Bickel

Paul Brown

Zack Brown

John Bury

Alison Chitty

Bunny Christie

John Conklin

Peter J. Davison

Louis Désiré

William Dudley

Charles Edwards

Johan Engels

Ezio Frigerio

Jane Greenwood

John Gunter

Pet Halmen

Desmond Heeley

Riccardo Hernandez

David Hockney

Tobias Hoheisel

Robert Innes Hopkins

Richard Hudson

Robert Israel

Virgil C. Johnson

Florence Klotz

Marie-Jeanne Lecca

Ming Cho Lee

Michael Levine

Adrianne Lobel

John Macfarlane

Tanya McCallin

John Morrell

John Napier

James Noone

Christopher Oram

Robert Perdziola

Pier Luigi Pizzi

Jean-Pierre Ponnelle

Dunya Ramicova

Brigitte Reiffenstuel

Pier Luigi Samaritani

Ulisse Santicchi

Frank Philipp Schlössmann    

Gunther Schneider-Siemssen

George Souglides

Franca Squarciapino

Paul Tazewell

Brian Thomson

Mark Thompson

Carl Toms

George Tsypin

Robin Wagner

Tony Walton

Michael Yeargan

Franco Zeffirelli

Jörg Zimmermann

Lighting designers for Lyric productions include

Christopher Akerlind

Ken Billington

Christine Binder

Paule Constable

David Finn

Wolfgang Göbbel

Gilbert V. Hemsley Jr.

James F. Ingalls

Jean Kalman

Fabrice Kebour

Mark McCullough

Peter Mumford

Duane Schuler (resident lighting designer 1977-2001)

Jennifer Tipton

Gil Wechsler

Robert Wierzel

Choreographers and dancers include

Sonia Arova

George Balanchine

Ray Barra

Patricia Birch

Debra Brown

Erik Bruhn

Val Caniparoli

Lucinda Childs

Gemze de Lappe

Carla Fracci

Antonio Gades

Andrew George

Philippe Giraudeau

Michele Lynch

Dame Alicia Markova

Wayne McGregor

Rudolf Nureyev

Ruth Page

Daniel Pelzig

Denni Sayers

Maria Tallchief

Kenneth von Heidecke

Vera Zorina

Chorus masters at Lyric Opera:
John Halloran (1954, “calling card” performances, Don Giovanni)

Michael Lepore (1954-74)

Herbert Handt (1975)

Douglas Robinson (1976)

Giulio Favario (1977-86)

Robert Page (1978, Paradise Lost)

Philip Morehead (1986-91)

Donald Palumbo (1991-07)

Donald Nally (2007-11)

Michael Black (interim, 2011-12)

Martin Wright (2012 – 13)

Ian Robertson (guest, 2012-13)

Michael Black (2013 - )


Major Events at Lyric Opera of Chicago

  • Carol Fox, Lawrence Kelly, and Nicola Rescigno, co-founders of the Lyric Theatre of Chicago, produce two “calling-card” performances of Don Giovanni presented in February.
  • Lyric Theatre’s first official season runs Nov. 1-20, with eight operas presented (two performances each), thus ending an eight-year resident opera drought in Chicago.
  • Maria Callas’s American debut season (Norma, La traviata, Lucia di Lammermoor).
  • Danny Newman, Lyric’s press agent extraordinaire, initiates subscription sales that become a model for performing-arts companies nationally and internationally. 


  • A dozen productions presented Oct. 31-Dec. 3 (25 performances), including two triple bills.
  • World’s first opera production “lend-lease” plan initiated; stage settings borrowed from and exchanged with other major U.S. and foreign companies.
  • Maria Callas’s only staged performances of Madama Butterfly.
  • Lyric Theatre becomes Lyric Opera of Chicago.
  • Lawrence Kelly and Nicola Rescigno leave to found Dallas Civic Opera.
  • Bruno Bartoletti makes American debut conducting Il trovatore.
  • Lyric Opera Women’s Board created.
  • Eleven operas presented Oct. 10-Nov. 17 (24 performances).
  • Lyric’s November Gala Concert recorded by Decca/London Records.


  • 13 productions presented Oct. 11-Nov. 30, including one double bill (29 performances).


  • Italian opera administrator Pino Donati named musical assistant to the general manager.
  • First Lyric radio broadcast, on WBBM-AM & FM: opening night, Falstaff.
  • Eleven productions presented Oct. 10-Nov. 29, including one double bill (29 performances).
  • Italian government awards $16,000 grant to Lyric Opera, first of its kind ever for a U.S. company. This foreign financial support causes a sensation, as there were no U.S. governmental subsidies for the arts at that time.


  • Sets for Jenůfa (first American production in English), lent by the Royal Opera House/Covent Garden, are first theatrical cargo reaching Chicago via St. Lawrence Seaway.
  • Ten productions presented Oct. 12-Nov. 28 (28 performances).

  • In the spring, Lyric Opera presents New York City Opera productions in the Civic Opera House: The Ballad of Baby Doe, Susannah, Street Scene.
  • Ten productions presented Oct. 14-Dec. 3 (29 performances).


  • World premiere of Vittorio Giannini’s The Harvest, featuring Marilyn Horne (debut), first Lyric production under a Ford Foundation program for promotion of American opera.
  • Nine productions presented Oct. 14-Dec. 1 (28 performances).

  • Rudolf Nureyev’s American opera debut in Prince Igor.
  • Nine productions (including gala ballet performance) presented Oct. 12-Nov. 30 (29 performances).

  • Eight productions presented Oct. 4-Nov. 29 (33 performances).


  • Bruno Bartoletti and Pino Donati named co-artistic directors.
  • Nine productions presented Oct. 9-Dec. 5 (28 performances).


  • Nine productions presented (including a double bill with first Chicago performances of Carmina Burana) Oct. 8-Dec. 8 (33 performances).


  • Alfred Glasser named Lyric’s first director of education.
  • Nine productions presented Oct. 7-Dec. 15 (39 performances).
  • Lyric sponsors Italian Flood Benefit Concert aiding victims of Arno River flood.


  • Season is cancelled after management and musicians’ union fail to reach an agreement.


  • Eight productions presented, Sept. 27-Dec. 14 (39 performances).


  • Lyric Opera tour to Ames, Iowa, at the behest of J.W. Fisher of the Gramma Fisher Foundation of Marshalltown, Iowa.  Single performance of Madama Butterfly id paid for entirely by the Fisher Foundation.
  • Eight productions presented (including double bill) Sept. 26- Dec. 13 (45 performances)


  • Eight productions presented (including double bill and American professional stage premiere of Billy Budd) Sept. 25-Dec. 12 (45 performances).


  • Lyric Opera’s first Ring cycle begins; one Ring opera presented per season through 1974.
  • For the first time, WFMT-FM broadcasts a Lyric opening night (Semiramide, starring Joan Sutherland and Marilyn Horne; the program wins a Peabody Award.
  • Eight productions presented Sept. 24-Dec. 18 (44 performances).


  • Eight productions presented (including premiere of Lyric’s longest-running production, of La bohème) Sept. 22-Dec. 16 (48 performances).


  • WFMT-FM begins broadcasting each opening night of Lyric’s season.
  • Lyric creates the Apprentice Artist Program to train promising young opera singers.
  • Appointed Lyric’s director of ballet, New York City Ballet prima ballerina Maria Tallchief creates and oversees company’s new ballet corps.
  • Education department’s Lecture Corps is formed, dispatching knowledgeable volunteers to schools, libraries, and other venues throughout Chicago and suburbs.
  • Eight productions presented Sept. 21-Dec. 14 (48 performances).


  • The Apprentice Artist Program is renamed the Lyric Opera School of Chicago, and is incorporated. Tenor/conductor Herbert Handt is appointed director of the school.
  • Lyric Opera of Chicago hosts 4th International Verdi Congress, first time in U.S.
  • Eight productions presented Sept. 20-Dec. 14 (48 performances).


  • Following Pino Donati’s death, Bruno Bartoletti is named sole artistic director and principal conductor.
  • Seven productions presented Sept. 19-Dec. 13 (48 performances).


  • Seven productions presented Sept. 25-Dec. 18 (48 performances).


  • First North American syndicated rebroadcasts (by WFMT-FM) of a Lyric season to 250 stations.
  • Lyric presents memorial tribute to Maria Callas.
  • Lee Schaenen is named director of the Lyric Opera School.
  • Seven productions presented Sept. 23-Dec. 16 (50 performances).


  • Penderecki’s Paradise Lost, commissioned by Lyric, is premiered; the production (with chorus) later travels to Milan’s La Scala and is presented before Pope John Paul II at the Vatican in a command performance.
  • Luciano Pavarotti in recital. 
  • Seven productions, including double bill, presented Sept. 22-Dec. 16 (49 performances).


  • Luciano Pavarotti in recital.
  • Lyric opens Cervantes Festival (Guanajuato, Mexico) with Don Pasquale.
  • 25th Anniversary Season, marked with publication of Lyric Opera of Chicago by Claudia Cassidy (foreword by Saul Bellow).
  • Filming of Faust for national and international telecasts.
  • Lyric hosts Gala Concert featuring many world-famous opera personalities.
  • Seven productions presented Sept. 22-Dec. 15 (53 performances).


  • Lyric Opera hosts Italian Earthquake Relief Benefit Concert broadcast via satellite, raising $200,000 for victims.
  • Five productions presented Sept. 20-Dec. 13 (39 performances).
  • Recitals given by Luciano Pavarotti, Alfredo Kraus, Leontyne Price, and Renata Scotto.


  • In early January general manager Carol Fox retires, and Ardis Krainik becomes general director; William Mason becomes director of operations, artistic and production. Fox dies July 21.
  • The Lyric Opera School is renamed the Lyric Opera Center for American Artists to more fully reflect the organization’s professional activities.
  • City of Chicago presentation of The Merry Widow, six performances, May 28-June 6.
    Seven productions presented Sept. 25-Dec. 19 (52 performances).


  • City of Chicago presentation of Die Fledermaus, six performances, May 14-22.
  • Seven productions presented, including double bill, Sept. 18-Dec. 18 (54 performances).


  • City of Chicago presentation of The Mikado in contemporary new production by Peter Sellars, six performances, May 11-21.
  • Luciano Pavarotti in concert.
  • With La Scala, Covent Garden, and L’Opéra National de Paris, Lyric co-hosts live international telecast, “Maria Callas: An International Celebration.”
  • Seven productions presented Sept. 23-Dec. 17 (53 performances).


  • Lyric Opera initiates Composer-in-Residence program -- Hugo Weisgall, director; William Neil is named Lyric’s first Composer-in-Residence.
  • Lyric Opera’s Eugene Onegin, starring Mirella Freni and Wolfgang Brendel, filmed and released for sale on video.
  • Marilyn Horne Festival, including concert performance of Handel’s Rinaldo, Horne in concert, and Horne recital.
  • Luciano Pavarotti in concert.
  • Jon Vickers in recital (Schubert’s Winterreise).
  • Seven productions presented Sept. 21-Dec. 15 (54 performances).


  • Dame Kiri Te Kanawa in concert, Plácido Domingo in concert.
  • Projected English titles introduced at Lyric Opera of Chicago (La rondine).
  • Eight productions presented Sept. 21-Jan. 19 (66 performances).
  • World premiere of Lyric Composer-in-Residence William Neil’s opera, The Guilt of Lillian Sloan, with libretto by Frank Galati and the composer, performed by the Lyric Opera Center for American Artists.


  • Luciano Pavarotti in concert.
  • Nine productions presented Sept. 20-Jan. 31 (73 performances).

  • Luciano Pavarotti in recital.
  • Lyric becomes first major American opera company to present Philip Glass’s Satyagraha (Christopher Keene/cond., David Pountney/dir.).
  • Nine productions presented Sept. 18-Feb. 6 (69 performances).


  • Eight productions presented Sept. 17-Feb. 3 (65 performances).
  • Lyric produces its first Tannhäuser in a quarter-century in an all-new production (Ferdinand Leitner/cond., Peter Sellars/dir.).
  • Lyric sells out its entire 1988-89 season, reaching 103% of box-office capacity in the 3,563-seat Civic Opera House with 32,500 series-ticket subscribers.
  • World premiere of Lyric’s Composer-in-Residence Lee Goldstein’s opera The Fan, with libretto by Charles Kondek, performed by the Lyric Opera Center for American Artists.


  • To open the 35th anniversary season, the Madison Street Bridge in downtown Chicago is named the “Lyric Opera Bridge” by Mayor Eugene Sawyer.
  • Lyric launches its “Toward the 21st Century” artistic initiative, scheduling 20 mainstage 20th-century productions for the 1990s and additional contemporary productions through the Lyric Opera Center, including several world premieres.
  • Lyric announces a new Ring cycle, to begin in the 1992-93 season, with Zubin Mehta/conductor, August Everding/director.
  • Lyric severs its relationship with Luciano Pavarotti, who had canceled 26 out of 41 scheduled performances at Lyric since 1981.
  • Eight productions presented Sept. 16-Feb. 3 (65 performances).

  • Lyric produces the first opera of its decade-long “Toward the 21st Century” initiative:  Dominick Argento’s The Voyage of Edgar Allan Poe, following revision by the composer (Christopher Keene/cond., Frank Galati/dir.).
  • Eight productions presented Sept. 14-Feb. 3 (67 performances).


  • Internationally celebrated bass Andrew Foldi is named director of the Lyric Opera Center.
  • Donald Palumbo is named chorus master.
  • Lyric continues “Toward the 21st Century” with a second American opera, Barber’s Antony and Cleopatra (new production telecast by PBS; Richard Buckley/cond., Elijah Moshinsky/dir.), and first European opera of the initiative, Prokofiev’s The Gambler (Bruno Bartoletti/cond., Liviu Ciulei/dir.) – both Lyric premieres.
  • Marilyn Horne in recital.
  • Eight productions presented Sept. 14-Feb 2 (71 performances).
  • World premiere of Composer-in-Residence Bright Sheng’s The Song of Majnun, libretto by Andrew Porter, performed by the Lyric Opera Center.


  • World premiere of William Bolcom’s McTeague, libretto by Arnold Weinstein and Robert Altman, starring Ben Heppner and Catherine Malfitano (Dennis Russell Davies/cond., Altman/dir.), commissioned by Lyric as part of “Toward the 21st Century.” 
  • Eight productions presented Sept. 19-Feb. 14 (71 performances).
  • Massenet’s Le Cid in concert starring Plácido Domingo, three performances.
  • Lyric Opera Center gives first concerts abroad at Théâtre Musical de Paris/Châtelet.
  • “The Real McTeague,” film telecast on PBS, features Altman’s perspective on Frank Norris’s novel, McTeague; Erich von Stroheim’s film, Greed; and the Bolcom opera the novel spawned; narrated by Chicago oral historian Studs Terkel.
  • $100-million commitment from Lyric Opera of Chicago/Chicago Symphony Orchestra Facilities Fund, pledged by business community and foundations towards major renovation and expansion of performing arts spaces.
  • Lyric becomes new owner of Civic Opera House in April 1993, marking the first time that the opera house, built in 1929, has been owned by a resident Chicago opera company. With its $50 million portion of the Facilities Fund, Lyric launches $100-million capital campaign, Building on Greatness: An Opera House for the 21st Century, to finance purchase and renovation of the Civic Opera House.


  • Michael Jordan is featured with general director Ardis Krainik on the cover of the Operathon catalogue.
  • Eight productions presented Sept. 18-Feb. 19 (76 performances).
  • World premiere of Brena and Lee Freeman Sr. Composer Composer-in-Residence Bruce Saylor’s Orpheus Descending, with libretto by J.D. McClatchy, performed by Lyric Opera Center.

  • Lyric receives a $5-million grant from the Rice Foundation for Building on Greatness  and names Civic Opera House’s  foyer the Daniel F. and Ada L. Rice Grand Foyer.
  • Lyric Gala 40th Anniversary Season opens in September with publication of BRAVI!,  commemorative book marking the Krainik general directorship, with portrait photographs by Victor Skrebneski, production photographs by Tony Romano and Dan Rest, and commentary by Andrew Porter and John von Rhein.
  • Eight productions presented Sept. 17-Feb. 19 (78 performances).


  • General director Ardis Krainik and Lyric receive “European Union Friendship Award” from the Consuls General of the European Union Member States in Chicago.
  • Stage director Richard Pearlman is named director of the Lyric Opera Center.
  • Lyric enters its fourth decade with a $37-million budget, offering 79 performances of nine productions Sept. 15-Mar. 9, followed by three  sold-out Ring cycles Mar. 11-30, adding up to 91 performances.
  • Lyric s first complete Ring cycle attracts audiences and critics from all 50 states and 22 foreign countries: artistic team includes conductor Zubin Mehta, director August Everding, set and costume designer John Conklin, lighting designer Duane Schuler,  choreographer Debra Brown; cast includes James Morris, Eva Marton/Jane Eaglen, Siegfried Jerusalem, Marjana Lipovšek, Matti Salminen; international symposium precedes first cycle; and educational events and exhibitions are staged throughout Chicago during March.  Ring cycles generate $34.7-million economic impact for Chicago area. No Ring cycle had been presented in Chicago in a single week, or even a single year, since before World War II.
  • Lyric’s education department launches “Operareach 2000,” envisioning 100% increase in the entire range of its already-considerable activities by the end of the present decade, encompassing matinees for high-school students and senior citizens; symposia in connection with major productions; and several curriculum programs.
  • Ardis Krainik announces in June that she will retire April 30, 1997.


  • Renovation of Civic Opera House completed in September 1996.
  • Ardis Krainik Celebration Gala Concert on Oct. 13, 1996: opera greats assemble to pay tribute to Krainik, and Civic Opera House auditorium is named the Ardis Krainik Theatre.
  • “Opera in the Neighborhoods” program launched in October 1996, as part of “Operareach 2000” educational initiative, reaching up to 15,000 schoolchildren with adapted performances of The Magic Flute and solo presentations.
  • William Mason named to succeed Ardis Krainik as general director in November 1996, following extensive international search. Director of operations, artistic and production, since 1981, Mason has been associated with the company for more than three decades.
  • The City of Chicago presents a $2.5-million gift to Lyric Opera’s Building on Greatness Capital Campaign; and Ardis Krainik receives the Medal of Merit from Mayor Richard M. Daley in November, her final public appearance.
  • Ardis Krainik dies Jan. 18, 1997, at the age of 67. William Mason becomes general director.
  • Eight productions presented Sept. 21-Mar. 8 (80 performances).
  • World premiere of Between Two Worlds (The Dybbuk), by Shulamit Ran, Brena and Lee Freeman Sr. Composer-in-Residence, with libretto by Charles Kondek, performed by Lyric Opera Center at DePaul Merle Reskin Theater.


  • William Mason announces Lyric’s new artistic team: internationally celebrated conductor Andrew Davis will become music director-designate on May 1, 1999, and principal conductor and music director on September 1, 2000; and Matthew A. Epstein, Lyric’s longtime artistic adviser, will become artistic director on May 1, 1999. Bruno Bartoletti will retire as Lyric’s artistic director on April 30, 1999, becoming artistic director emeritus.
  • Lyric launches its first website August 1.
  • Lyric Opera presents the world premiere of Amistad by Anthony Davis, with libretto by Thulani Davis (Dennis Russell Davies/cond., George C. Wolfe/dir.); commissioned as part of “Toward the 21st Century”; extensive educational outreach efforts include publication of the Amistad Sourcebook and study guides, all-day symposium, training sessions for Chicago public school teachers, full-length student matinee performances, and 55-minute “Opera in English” performances seen by more than 15,000 students in the city and suburbs.
  • Lyric sells out its eight-opera season for the tenth consecutive year, with 1997-98 season reaching 103.2% of capacity, a record unequaled by any North American performing-arts company. Eight productions presented Sept. 20-March 8 (82 performances).
  • “Ardis Krainik Celebration Gala” released on CD and cassette.


  • Commemorative bust of Carol Fox is unveiled by her daughter Victoria Flanagan on Opening Night and is later installed permanently in the Civic Opera House entrance lobby.
  • Music director-designate Andrew Davis is appointed a Knight Bachelor in Britain’s New Year’s Honours.
  • Eight productions presented Sept. 26-Mar. 13 (81 performances).


  • World premiere of William Bolcom’s A View from The Bridge, libretto by Arnold Weinstein and Arthur Miller, as concluding commission of “Toward the 21st Century,” starring Kim Josephson and Catherine Malfitano (Dennis Russell Davies/cond., Frank Galati/dir.).
  • Samuel Ramey “A Date with the Devil” concert with Lyric Opera Orchestra.
  • Eight productions Sept. 25-Mar. 18 (84 performances).


  • Lyric presents its first free pre-season outdoor concert, “The Stars of Lyric Opera in Grant Park,” Sept. 9 with Bruno Bartoletti leading the Lyric Opera Orchestra, Chorus, and soloists from the 2000-01 season; attendance approximately 20,000; except for 2004-05, performances have continued annually ever since.
  • Eight productions presented Sept. 23-Mar. 18 (84 performances).
  • World premiere of Lovers and Friends (Chautauqua Variations) [formerly titled Enigma Variations] by composer-librettist Michael John LaChiusa, Brena and Lee Freeman Sr. Composer-in-Residence; performances June 29-30 by the Lyric Opera Center for American Artists, DePaul Merle Reskin Theater.
  • New production of Britten’s Billy Budd (Sir Andrew Davis/cond., David McVicar/dir.) marks 50th anniversary of world premiere and 25th anniversary of composer’s death. Theodor Uppman, creator of the title role in 1951, attends.
  • Eight productions presented Sept. 22-Mar. 16 (84 performances).
  • Lyric Opera Center names celebrated soprano Gianna Rolandi director of vocal studies, a new position.
  • Brena and Lee Freeman Sr. Composer-in-Residence program concludes with workshop performance of Ricky Ian Gordon’s Morning Star, libretto by William M. Hoffman.


  • Nine productions presented (including double bill) Sept. 21-Mar. 22 (86 performances).
  • Due to lack of sponsorship for the first time since 1973, no Lyric productions are broadcast.


  • Eight productions presented Sept. 20-Mar. 21 (83 performances).


  • Lyric announces Look to the Future $50-million Endowment Campaign; $12.2 million already raised.
  • Lyric Opera’s Golden Jubilee 50th-anniversary season commences Sept. 18 with new Don Giovanni (Christoph Eschenbach/cond., Peter Stein/dir.); Bryn Terfel leads all-star cast.
  • Gala Concert (Oct. 30, 2004) commemorates company’s 50th anniversary, honoring Lyric history and legendary “Jubilarians” (artists from Lyric’s early years) with performances by Renée Fleming, Susan Graham, Thomas Hampson, Ben Heppner, Karita Mattila, James Morris, Samuel Ramey, Bryn Terfel, Frederica von Stade, and other outstanding artists (Sir Andrew Davis and Bruno Bartoletti/cond.); concert raises $5 million net.
  • Publication of Lyric Opera – 50 Years of Grand Opera in Chicago, commemorative program/book chronicling the company’s history.
  • World premiere of William Bolcom’s A Wedding (Dec. 11), libretto by Arnold Weinstein, starring Lauren Flanigan, Catherine Malfitano, and Jerry Hadley (Dennis Russell Davies/ cond., Robert Altman/dir.).
  • Revival of 1996 production of Wagner’s Ring in three week-long cycles
  • Eight productions presented Sept. 18-Mar. 26 (78 performances), followed by three Ring cycles Mar. 28-Apr. 16 (12 performances).


  • Lyric launches NExT – “Discount Student Tickets for the Next Generation” program on the internet – $20 tickets for selected performances available to fulltime college students.
  • Eight productions presented Sept. 24-Mar. 26 (83 performances).
  • Lyric Opera Center director Richard Pearlman dies April 8. On May 9 Gianna Rolandi is named new director, after four years as director of vocal studies
  • Look to the Future Endowment Campaign is completed, acquiring more than $50 million in commitments to the company’s endowment.


  • On Sept. 16, opening night of Lyric Opera’s 52nd season, general director William Mason announces that the Lyric Opera Center will henceforth be known as The Patrick G. and Shirley W. Ryan Opera Center at Lyric Opera of Chicago, in recognition of a personal gift of unprecedented generosity.
  • Subscriber Appreciation Concert: Renée Fleming with the Lyric Opera Orchestra, Oct. 6.
  • After a four-year hiatus, Lyric resumes live broadcasts on 98.7WFMT on Opening Night with  Salome, thanks to The Bucksbaum Family Lyric Opera Broadcasts, made possible by the Matthew Bucksbaum Family, with matching funds provided for 2006-07 by Richard P. and Susan Kiphart. Subsequent live opening-night performances air locally through the season, and are rebroadcast locally, regionally, nationally, and internationally by The WFMT Radio Network (via XM satellite, CBC, and EBU) May 12-June 30; expected annual listenership is more than 25 million.
  • New production of Il trovatore (Bruno Bartoletti/cond., David McVicar/dir.); production marks 50th anniversary of Bartoletti’s American debut, conducting the same opera at Lyric.
  • Lyric box office named for legendary press agent and public relations counsel Danny Newman in honor of his 88th birthday.
  • Lyric initiates free pre-performance lectures with Dialogues des Carmélites.
  • Eight productions presented Sept. 16-Mar. 27 (82 performances).
  • Lyric’s OPERAREACH education outreach programs reach nearly 85,000 adults and children throughout the Chicago area.
  • Lyric secures $2 million matching funds for The Matthew Bucksbaum Family Lyric Opera Broadcasts, ensuring continuity of live broadcasts and rebroadcasts at least through 2011-12 season; The Crown Family, Richard P and Susan Kiphart, and The Andrew W. Mellon Foundation pledge matching funds.
  • Lyric receives its largest gift ever – $10 million bequest from board member Nancy W. Knowles; opera-house lobby named in her honor; brings Campaign for Excellence fundraising to $36 million.


  • Lyric receives A1 public credit rating from Moody’s Investors Service – the only American opera company to be assigned a Moody’s rating.
  • Donald Nally commences first season as Lyric’s chorus master.
  • Bruno Bartoletti conducts La traviata in his final Lyric opening night.
  • Lyric fires soprano Angela Gheorghiu for missing several rehearsals of La bohème; understudy Elaine Alvarez triumphs in her Lyric debut as Mimὶ, directed by legendary soprano Renata Scotto.
  • Andrew Foldi, retired director of the Lyric Opera Center (1991-95), dies Nov. 21.
  • Danny Newman, Lyric’s founding press agent and public relations counsel emeritus, dies Dec. 1.
  • Eight productions presented Sept. 29-Mar. 30 (79 performances).
  • Free pre-opera lectures are offered before La bohème, Giulio Cesare, Die Frau ohne Schatten, and Doctor Atomic.
  • Lyric co-founder and conductor Nicola Rescigno dies Aug. 4.


  • Lyric Opera premiere of The Gershwins’ Porgy and Bess– 13 scheduled performances sell out, Lyric adds a performance; highest-selling production in Lyric history to date.
  • “Holly and Ivy” Subscriber Appreciation Concert Dec. 14, starring Lyric Opera Chorus.
  • Free pre-opera lectures offered for all productions.
  • Lyric Opera of Chicago’s Wine Auction (Mar. 6, 2009) raises an unprecedented $1.2 million in net proceeds.
  • Nine productions presented (including double bill) Sept. 27-Mar. 28 (81 performances).
  • Norman Pellegrini, host of Lyric’s broadcasts on 98.7WFMT since 1971, dies July 2.
  • 98.7WFMT radio host George Preston and Lyric dramaturg Roger Pines are named new host and commentator, respectively, for The Bucksbaum Family Lyric Opera Broadcasts.


  • Lyric opens two new restaurants for patrons with opera-themed décor: The Sarah and Peer Pedersen Room (by reservation only), street level, offering an elegant pre-fixe menu; and the Florian Opera Bistro, third floor, serving sophisticated à la carte fare.
  • Lyric debuts on Facebook and Twitter.
  • Eight productions presented Sept. 27-Mar.27 (77 performances).
  • General director William Mason announces in July his intention to retire.


  • Musician and humanitarian Bono featured on the cover of Lyric’s 2010 Operathon catalog.
  • Renée Fleming named Lyric Opera’s first-ever creative consultant on Dec. 9, and announces details of the new Renée Fleming Initiative.
  • Renée Fleming Subscriber Appreciation Concert on Dec. 10 sells out in advance to subscribers.
  • Eight productions presented Oct. 1-Mar. 27 (68 performances).
  • Anthony Freud named general director designate on April 21, 2011, becoming general director on October 1, at which time William Mason becomes Lyric’s first general director emeritus.
  • A collaboration between Lyric Opera and Merit School of Music is formed as part of the Renée Fleming Initiative.
  • Michael Black named interim chorus master for 2011-12 season, with Martin Wright to become chorus master in 2012.


  • Lyric Opera launches major marketing campaign under the banner “Long Live Passion” as part of the Renée Fleming Initiative.
  • Anthony Freud begins his tenure as Lyric’s fourth general director on the opening night of Lyric’s 57th season.
  • Renée Fleming-Dmitri Hvorostovsky Subscriber Appreciation Concert in honor of William Mason on Jan. 7, sold out in advance to subscribers.
  • Lyric’s Wine Auction (Mar. 6, 2009) raises record $1.8 million in net proceeds.
  • Announcement of world-premiere commission: Bel Canto by Peruvian composer Jimmy López, with libretto by Pulitzer Prize-winning playwright Nilo Cruz, based on Ann Patchett’s best-selling novel; premiere planned for 2015-16 season.
  • Lyric premiere of Kern and Hammerstein’s Show Boat (new production, John DeMain/cond., Francesca Zambello/dir.) breaks company individual-ticket sales records.
  • Lyric-CSO collaboration brings soprano Renée Fleming and cellist Yo-Yo Ma together at Lake View High School for classroom visits and at Thompson Center/State of Illinois Building for “pop-up” performance.
  • Eight productions presented Oct. 1-Mar. 25 (72 performances).
  • Ryan Opera Center ensemble members debut with Chicago Civic Orchestra under Sir Andrew Davis in concert May 7 at Symphony Center.
  • Lyric presents acclaimed Chinese pianist Lang Lang in recital May 12.
  • Lyric Unlimited, a long-term, evolving initiative that encompasses company activities outside of Lyric’s mainstage season, announced in July 2012.


  • Launch of Ryan Opera Center Recital Broadcast Series on WFMT98.7 FM, the only series of its kind in the United States.
  • Lyric presents its first-ever family performance, Popcorn & Pasquale on December 2.
  • The Second City Guide to the Opera is January 5 gala co-hosted by Renée Fleming and Sir Patrick Stewart; “second edition” is given a month of performances in June.
  • Renée Fleming and Susan Graham give Subscriber Appreciation Recital in January.
  • Lyric Unlimited presents Cruzar la cara de la luna, the world’s first mariachi opera, is presented at the Civic Opera House with world-famous Mariachi Vargas ensemble and in community performances in Pilsen and Waukegan with Mariachi Aztlán.
  • Dan Novak appointed director and Craig Terry appointed music director of Ryan Opera Center.
  • New production of Oklahoma! (James Lowe/cond., Gary Griffin/dir.) launches American Musical Theater Initiative.
  • Bruno Bartoletti, Lyric’s artistic director emeritus, dies June 9 in his native Florence.


  • Michael Black returns as Lyric’s permanent chorus master.
  • Marking Verdi’s bicentennial, Lyric opens with Otello; the Otello performances are dedicated to the memory of Bruno Bartoletti, whose artistry and wisdom enriched the company for more than half a century; and to baritone Tito Gobbi, one of the most remarkable artists in Lyric’s history, on his centennial.
  • Plans for Lyric’s Ring cycle announced: Sir Andrew Davis/cond., David Pountney/dir.; performances of individual operas beginning 2016-17 for four consecutive seasons, with three full cycles in 2020.
  • Lyric premiere of Dvořák’s Rusalka, starring Ana María Martínez and Brandon Jovanovich (cond. Sir Andrew Davis, dir. Sir David McVicar).
  • New production of The Sound of Music (Rob Fisher/cond., Marc Bruni, dir.) sells most tickets of any show in Lyric history – 71,074 tickets for 30 performances; 41,223 audience members were attending their first Lyric performance.


  • WFMT announcer Suzanne Nance is Lyric’s new broadcast host.
  • 60th-Anniversary Season opens with same opera that inaugurated the company, Don Giovanni (Sir Andrew Davis/cond., Robert Falls/dir.); Polish baritone Mariusz Kwiecien leads the cast.
  • 60th-Anniversary Gala on Nov. 1 (Sir Andrew Davis/cond., Jane Lynch/host) features Renée Fleming, Ana María Martínez, Stephanie Blythe, Susan Graham, Johan Botha, Eric Owens, other major stars, and special appearances by The Second City and legendary jazz pianist Ramsey Lewis.
  • Midwest premiere of Mieczyslaw Weinberg’s The Passenger; “Memory and Reckoning,” city-wide confluence of activities, explores the historical context and contemporary resonances associated with the opera.
  • Lyric Unlimited presents three world premieres: the mariachi opera, El Pasado Nunca Se Termina by José “Pape” Martínez and Leonard Foglia; The Property by Wlad Marhulets; and Second Nature by Matthew Aucoin.
  • New production of Carousel (David Chase/cond., Rob Ashford/dir.) is Lyric’s most critically acclaimed musical-theater presentation to date.
  • Launch of Chicago Voices, Lyric Unlimited’s multi-year initiative celebrating the city’s diverse vocal traditions. 
  • New production of The Marriage of Figaro, with operatic directorial debut of Chicago Shakespeare Theater artistic director Barbara Gaines
  • World premiere of Jimmy López and Nilo Cruz’s Bel Canto (cond. Sir Andrew Davis, dir. Kevin Newbury), curated by Renée Fleming, based on Ann Patchett’s novel
  • New production of Wozzeck (cond. Sir Andrew Davis/dir. Sir David McVicar)
  • Renée Fleming stars in The Merry Widow (cond. Sir Andrew Davis/dir. Susan Stroman) 
  • Plácido Domingo and Ana María Martínez in concert
  • Dmitri Hvorostovsky in recital
  • Lyric premiere of The King and I in American premiere of Robert Carsen’s production from Paris’s Théâtre du Châtelet


  • WFMT’s Lisa Flynn is Lyric broadcasts’ new co-host.
  • Lyric Unlimited presents world premiere of Gregory Spears and Kathryn Walak’s Jason and the Argonauts and Chicago premiere of Daniel Schnyder and Bridgette A. Wimberly’s Charlie Parker’s Yardbird
  • New production of Wagner’s Ring cycle begins with Das Rheingold (cond. Sir Andrew Davis/dir. David Pountney) 
  • Longer! Louder! Wagner!, Lyric’s second collaboration with The Second City
  • Long-awaited Lyric premiere of Les Troyens in new production (cond. Sir Andrew Davis, dir. Tim Albery) 
  • New production of The Magic Flute (cond. Rory Macdonald, dir. Neil Armfield) 
  • Telecast of Bel Canto on PBS’s “Great Performances”
  • Chicago Voices continues with community-created performances, master classes, expert panels, and Gala Concert on February 4, hosted by Renée Fleming,with performances by Fleming, Kurt Elling, John Prine, Shemekia Copeland, and other celebrated artists
  • Duo recital by Lawrence Brownlee and Eric Owens, April 9
  • Lyric premiere of My Fair Lady in American premiere of Robert Carsen’s production from Paris’s Théâtre du Châtelet


  • New production of Orphée et Eurydice, Lyric premiere of Gluck’s 1774 version, directed, choreographed, and designed by John Neumeier
  • Exceptional season for Ryan Opera Center alumni: starring roles sung by Andriana Chuchman, Matthew Polenzani, Quinn Kelsey, Amber Wagner, Anthony Clark Evans, Christian Van Horn 
  • New production of Faust (cond. Emmanuel Villaume/dir. Kevin Newbury), with theatrical debut of sculptor and filmmaker John Frame as production designer
  • Recital by tenor Piotr Beczała, February 25
  • Celebration 100 Years of Bernstein, concert on March 10, featuring Susan Graham, Nathan Gunn, and Kate Baldwin; program features Lyric premiere of Trouble in Tahiti
  • Lyric premiere of Jesus Christ Superstar in American premiere of Timothy Sheader’s production from London’s Regent’s Park Open-Air Theatre 
  • Lyric Unlimited presents Chicago premieres of Gregory Spears and Greg Pierce’s Fellow Travelers, Dean Burry’s The Scorpions’ Sting, and Lawrence Brownlee in Tyshawn Sorey and Terrance Hayes’s song cycle Cycles of My Being 
  • Lyric Unlimited produces the company’s first Family Day, April 7 
  • In its 30th-anniversary year, Lyric’s Wine Auction is presented onstage at the Lyric Opera House on April 14.


Major American Debuts and American Operatic Debuts*
at Lyric Opera of Chicago

1954:  Léopold Simoneau, tenor* (Don Ottavio) / Don Giovanni (calling-card performance);

Maria Callas, soprano (title role), Mirto Picchi, tenor (Pollione) / Norma;

Giangiacomo Guelfi, baritone (Marcello) / La bohème

1955:  Carlo Bergonzi, tenor (Luigi) / Il tabarro;

Teresa Stich-Randall, soprano* (Gilda)/Rigoletto;

Anita Cerquetti, soprano (Amelia) / Un ballo in maschera

1956:  Bruno Bartoletti, conductor / Il trovatore

1957:  Anna Moffo, soprano (Mimì); Aldo Protti, baritone (Marcello) / La bohème

1958:  Walter Berry, bass-baritone (title role); Hans Hartleb, director / Le nozze di Figaro;

Kiril Kondrashin, conductor / Madama Butterfly

1959:  Christa Ludwig, mezzo-soprano (Dorabella) / Così fan tutte;

Georges Prêtre, conductor / Thaïs

1960:  Antonino Votto, conductor / Don Carlo;

Eberhard Wächter, baritone (Count Almaviva) / Le nozze di Figaro;

Renata Scotto, soprano (Mimì) / La bohème

1961: Piero de Palma, tenor (Arturo) / Lucia di Lammermoor;

Ilva Ligabue, soprano (Margherita) / Mefistofele;

Sesto Bruscantini, baritone (title role) / Il barbiere di Siviglia

1962: Rudolf Nureyev, dancer / Prince Igor; Régine Crespin, soprano (title role) / Tosca;

          Alfredo Kraus, tenor (Nemorino) / L’elisir d’amore

1963: Danica Mastilovic, soprano (Abigaille); Carlo Cossutta, tenor (Abdallo) / Nabucco;

          Nicolai Ghiaurov, bass (Méphistophélès) / Faust

1964: Fiorenza Cossotto, mezzo-soprano (Leonora) / La favorita;

          Ivo Vinco, bass (Ferrando) / Il trovatore

1965: Elena Souliotis, soprano (Elena) / Mefistofele

1966: Christiane Eda-Pierre, soprano (Leïla) / Les pêcheurs de perles;

          Karl Ridderbusch, bass (Sarastro) / Die Zauberflöte

1969: Christoph von Dohnányi, conductor* / Der fliegende Holländer

1970: Yvonne Minton, mezzo-soprano* (title role),

          Hans Neugebauer, director / Der Rosenkavalier

1972: Katia Ricciarelli, soprano (Lucrezia) / I due Foscari;

          Anne Howells, mezzo-soprano (Dorabella) / Così fan tutte

1973: Ileana Cotrubas, soprano (Mimì) / La bohème

1974: Wladimiro Ganzarolli, bass-baritone (title role), Eduardo de Filippo, director*/Don Pasquale

1975: John Copley, director / Lucia di Lammermoor

1976: Matteo Manuguerra, baritone (title role) / Rigoletto;

William Johns, tenor* (title role) / Les contes d’Hoffmann;

Giulio Chazalettes, director, Ulisse Santicchi, designer / The Love for Three Oranges

1977: Maria Chiara, soprano (title role) / Manon Lescaut

1980: Marek Janowski, conductor / Lohengrin

1983: Luciana Serra, soprano (title role) / Lakmé

1984: Willy Decker, director / Arabella;

Cheryl Studer, soprano (Micaëla) / Carmen 

1985-86: Cecilia Gasdia, soprano (Giulietta) / I Capuleti e i Montecchi

1987-88: Yuri Ljubimov, director*/ Lulu

1988-89: Nadine Secunde, soprano* (Elisabeth),  Ben Heppner, tenor* (Walther) / Tannhäuser

1990-91: Frank Galati, director*/The Voyage of Edgar Allan Poe

1992-93: Giuseppe Sabbatini, tenor (Rodolfo), Ildebrando D’Arcangelo, bass-baritone (Colline) / La bohème

1993-94: Dmitri Hvorostovsky, baritone* (Germont) / La traviata;

Robert Falls, director* / Susannah

1994-95: José Cura, tenor (Loris) / Fedora

1995-96: Kim Begley, tenor (Albert Gregor) / The Makropulos Affair

1996-97: Bernadette Manca di Nissa, contralto (Princess) / Suor Angelica;

Luc Bondy, director / Salome;
Olaf Bär, baritone* (Papageno) / Die Zauberflöte

1997-98: Vesselina Kasarova, mezzo-soprano (Idamante) / Idomeneo

1998-99: Laura Aikin, soprano* (Zerbinetta) / Ariadne auf Naxos;

Kurt Horres, stage director / Die Meistersinger von Nürnberg

1999-00: Gwyn Hughes Jones, tenor (Fenton), Olivier Tambosi, director, Frank Philipp Schlössmann, designer / Falstaff

2000-01: Richard Jones, director* / Jenůfa

2001-02: Jonas Kaufmann, tenor (Cassio) / Otello;

Alice Coote, mezzo-soprano (Hansel) / Hänsel und Gretel;

Dorothea Röschmann, soprano* (Pamina) / Die Zauberflöte

2002-03: Patrizia Ciofi, soprano (Violetta) / La traviata

2004-05: Moidele Bickel, costume designer / Don Giovanni.

2008-09: Wolfgang Schöne, bass-baritone (Dr. Schön/Jack the Ripper) / Lulu

2009-10: Giacomo Prestia, bass (Silva) / Ernani

2010-11: Rory Macdonald, conductor / A Midsummer Night’s Dream

2012-13: Sophie Koch, mezzo-soprano (Charlotte) /Werther

2013-14: Juliane Banse, soprano* (Rosalinde), Daniela Fally, soprano (Adele) / Die Fledermaus

2015-16: Christiane Karg, soprano* (Susanna) / The Marriage of Figaro;

Christina Landshamer, soprano (Sophie) / Der Rosenkavalier

2016-17: Tanja Ariane Baumgartner, mezzo-soprano (Fricka), Samuel Youn (Alberich) / Das Rheingold;

Alisa Kolosova (Olga) / Eugene Onegin

2017-18: Elena Tsallagova, soprano (Despina) / Così fan tutte;

Benjamin Bernheim, tenor (title role) / Faust;


American and World Premieres at Lyric Opera of Chicago

Lord Byron’s Love Letter
, Raffaele de Banfield: American Premiere

Il ballo delle ingrate, Claudio Monteverdi: American Premiere

The Harvest, Vittorio Giannini: World Premiere

Billy Budd, Benjamin Britten: American Professional Stage Premiere

Paradise Lost, Krzysztof Penderecki: World Premiere/Commissioned by Lyric Opera

McTeague, William Bolcom: World Premiere/Commissioned by Lyric Opera

Un re in ascolto, Luciano Berio: American Premiere

Amistad, Anthony Davis: World Premiere/Commissioned by Lyric Opera and the American Music Theatre Festival of Philadelphia

A View from the Bridge, William Bolcom: World Premiere/Commissioned by Lyric Opera

A Wedding, William Bolcom: World Premiere/Commissioned by Lyric Opera

El Pasado Nunca Se Termina, José “Pepe” Martínez and Leonard Foglia: World Premiere/Commissioned by Lyric Unlimited

Bel Canto, Jimmy López and Nilo Cruz: Commissioned by Lyric Opera

The Property, Wlad Marhulets and Stephanie Fleischmann: World Premiere/Commissioned by Lyric Unlimited

El Pasado Nunca Se Termina, José “Pepe” Martínez and Leonard Foglia: World Premiere/Commissioned by Lyric Unlimited

Second Nature, Matthew Aucoin: World Premiere/Commissioned by Lyric Unlimited