CHICAGO (9/24/2020) — In light of ongoing 2020 health considerations and regulations that have forced Lyric to cancel live mainstage performances through December 31, 2020, Anthony Freud, Lyric Opera of Chicago’s general director, president and CEO, is pleased to announce the company’s reimagined slate of exciting artistic activities.
The centerpiece of these new projects is a drive-through experience inspired by Richard Wagner’s opera Götterdämmerung, titled Twilight: Gods. This original work is conceived in partnership with Michigan Opera Theatre and directed by Yuval Sharon, Michigan Opera Theatre’s new artistic director. Chicago performances will take place in April 2021. A Chicago native and MacArthur “Genius Grant” recipient, Sharon has worked over the past few months as Lyric’s Creative Catalyst, helping to devise Lyric’s new programming.
“Our mission has been clear, given the current public-health crisis,” says Freud. “We have needed to harness all of the company’s creative and artistic forces to create original projects and productions designed specifically for digital platforms and reinvent how an immersive live-performance event could be possible. I’m proud to say that our upcoming slate of programming brings exciting, fresh, and experimental new takes on our artform to life and also provides some new approaches to the core repertoire.”
Twilight: Gods, in its Chicago premiere, promises part live performance, part art installation, and an unexpected new performance venue. Audiences will drive through the immersive work, allowing them to navigate through an industrial parking garage in the safety of their own cars, while experiencing this reimagining of the final chapter of Wagner’s epic Ring cycle. The complete drive-through experience is planned to last just over an hour, with sets of discrete scenes interpreted by singers, small instrumental groups, and actors. Sung in English, with a mixture of live and pre-recorded elements, Twilight: Gods will comprise several distinct installations, each its own, self-contained, designed world. Lyric has commissioned new texts written by Yuval Sharon with poetic transitions written and performed by Chicago interdisciplinary artist avery r. young, who will be a prominent part of the experience by recontextualizing Wagner’s original story and placing it in a local context, as his narration links the scenes together. There will also be a film created of the project to enable the widest possible audience to experience it. Casting and venue information for Twilight: Gods will be shared at a later date.
Lyric will offer a series of virtual and digital experiences for audiences around the world to access, featuring a variety of original works:
Breaking Down the Score: Attila with Maestro Enrique Mazzola — An original, engaging, and delightful web series conceived by and starring Enrique Mazzola, Lyric’s music director designate. Each episode features a personal interpretation and reading by Maestro Mazzola of one of the twelve musical numbers of Verdi’s opera, Attila. The series will offer unique insights into this marvelous score from the conductor’s perspective. (Premiering October 2020)
Master Classes with Sir Andrew Davis — Lyric’s music director Sir Andrew Davis will share a behind-the-scenes look at high-level operatic training with members of the Ryan Opera Center Ensemble. The artists will enjoy the opportunity to work with Sir Andrew, one on one, through excerpts of one of his favorite operas, Mozart’s The Marriage of Figaro, which he is scheduled to conduct at Lyric in the spring of 2021. (Premiering October 2020)
Attila Highlights in Concert: Explore More with Enrique Mazzola — Music Director Designate Enrique Mazzola leads world-renowned principal artists and Lyric favorites—soprano Tamara Wilson/Odabella, tenor Matthew Polenzani/Foresto, baritone Quinn Kelsey/Ezio, and bass-baritone Christian Van Horn/Attila (the latter three are Ryan Opera Center alumni)—in a performance of piano-accompanied excerpts from the work. (A fully staged presentation of Attila was originally programmed as part of Lyric’s early Verdi series.) This performance event will also feature members of the Lyric Opera Chorus, under the direction of Chorus Master Michael Black, and original commentary from Maestro Mazzola. (Premiering December 13, 2020, at 6:00 pm CT on Lyric’s YouTube and Facebook)
Creating The Factotum — Follow the development of a new opera that transcends the limits of traditional repertoire. The Factotum will reinvigorate an established operatic comedy by giving it a fresh fade. Ryan Opera Center alumnus Will Liverman and DJ/recording artist K-Rico reimagine Rossini’s The Barber of Seville by placing their work in a present-day Black barbershop in Chicago while combining operatic singing with hip-hop, barbershop, gospel, funk, neo soul, and R&B music. Working with the authors, the Ryan Opera Center will hold a music workshop for The Factotum in December. The behind-the-scenes process of creating the new work will be documented and shared with audiences at a future date.
“Lyric’s new programming is designed to be enjoyed virtually, all complementary to the type of programming we normally present on our stage,” says Freud. “Rather than creating compromised substitutes for a lost fall season, these experiences allow our artists to present their work in imaginative and innovative ways that reflect our time, while both celebrating and expanding our artform.”
In conceiving a new slate of programs, Anthony Freud engaged director Yuval Sharon, who has been described by The New York Times as "opera's disrupter in residence," to collaborate with Lyric in the role of Creative Catalyst. Sharon's embrace of new approaches and his reputation for artistic innovation strike the perfect note in a world where arts organizations are being more flexible and imaginative than ever before. As Creative Catalyst, Sharon brought to the table a range of imaginative new ideas and approaches, which have directly impacted the breadth of Lyric’s alternative programming. Sharon will also direct the upcoming Twilight: Gods experience.
“It has been a pleasure to work with Lyric’s team during the summer to think in new ways about the presentation of opera,” says Sharon. "When Anthony invited me to become Creative Catalyst for the alternative programming, he encouraged me to bring new ideas that would broaden the company’s horizons and to use the virtual opportunities of the dark period to push boundaries beyond the conventional. This company is capable of great contributions to the evolution of opera, and I am delighted to be part of it.”
“Yuval was brought on to challenge the company to think differently about the immediate future of our artform and we couldn’t be more grateful for his imagination and creativity,” says Freud. “We are thrilled that he will direct Twilight: Gods, as well.”
This new lineup of virtual and digital experiences prominently features Lyric Music Director Sir Andrew Davis and Music Director Designate Enrique Mazzola, highlighting their expertise and providing very personal insights into their thinking and working processes. “I am extremely proud of how Lyric is moving forward and keeping the music alive,” says Davis. “This season will be filled with new opportunities for our existing audiences and for new audiences to experience the power of opera.”
“It has been a joy to prepare ‘Breaking Down the Score’ for Lyric audiences, and I can’t wait to be back in Chicago to continue the early Verdi series in a new and creative way,” says Mazzola. “I look forward to the day when we are all able to gather in the beautiful Lyric Opera House once again.”