Lyric Opera of Chicago announces reimagined programs for the new season

Lyric unveils an exciting slate of virtual concerts, new works, master classes, an original web series, and an in-person immersive experience

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.”

Lyric’s 2020 Season

These projects are generously sponsored by the Eisen Family Foundation and Patricia A. Kenney and Gregory J. O'Leary.

Breaking Down the Score: Attila with Maestro Enrique Mazzola

An original series for Lyric Opera of Chicago
Written, produced and hosted by Enrique Mazzola
Premiering October 2020


Master Classes with Sir Andrew Davis

Excerpts from The Marriage of Figaro (Le nozze di Figaro) by Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart
Featuring members of the Ryan Opera Center Ensemble
Premiering October 2020


Attila Highlights in Concert: Explore More with Enrique Mazzola

Performed in Italian with English closed captions
Composed by Giuseppe Verdi
Conducted by Enrique Mazzola
Odabella: Tamara Wilson
Foresto: Matthew Polenzani
Ezio: Quinn Kelsey
Attila: Christian Van Horn
Featuring members of the Lyric Opera Chorus
Chorus Master: Michael Black
Premiering December 13, 2020 at 6:00 pm CT on Lyric’s YouTube and Facebook

†Ryan Opera Center alumnus

Attila Highlights in Concert: Explore More with Enrique Mazzola is generously sponsored by Julie and Roger Baskes.


Creating The Factotum

Documenting the creative process of a newly commissioned opera, The Factotum
Music and libretto/text by Will Liverman † and K-Rico
Story Consultant: Mary Birnbaum
Workshop in December 2020

†Ryan Opera Center alumnus


Twilight: Gods

3 performances, April 2021 | Sung in English
Concept, direction, and English translation by Yuval Sharon
With new narrative poetry by avery r. young
Production design by PXT Studios (Jason Thompson and Kaitlyn Pietras)
Sound Artist: Lewis Pesacov
Musical arrangement by Ed Windels

“Do you know how this came to pass?” The final opera in Wagner’s epic Ring cycle begins with this question and ends with the dismantling of a corrupt old order. Apocalyptic and cathartic, Twilight: Gods depicts a revolutionary clearing of a path towards a new beginning—a sentiment that feels more necessary than ever at this crossroads of American history. This experience turns Wagner’s opera into an intimate installation unlike anything you’ve ever seen before.

Twilight: Gods is a project of Lyric Unlimited and is generously sponsored by Julie and Roger Baskes and Ethel & William Gofen.


Yuval Sharon

Yuval Sharon, who was recently announced as the first-ever Gary L. Wasserman Artistic Director of Michigan Opera Theater, has amassed an unconventional body of work that expands the operatic form. As founder and Artistic Director of The Industry in Los Angeles, Sharon has brought new and experimental opera into moving vehicles, operating train stations, Hollywood sound stages, and various “non-spaces” such as warehouses, parking lots, and escalator corridors. Sharon conceived, directed, and produced the company’s acclaimed world premieres of Sweet Land, Hopscotch, Invisible Cities, and Crescent City, as well as the “performance installations” In C at the Hammer Museum and Nimbus at Walt Disney Concert Hall. The first American ever invited to direct at Bayreuth, Sharon distinguished himself with  a boldly progressive Lohengrin in 2018, using subtle dramatic direction to completely overhaul the opera into a critique of entrenched power structures. From 2016-2019, Sharon was the first Artist-in-Residence at the Los Angeles Philharmonic, creating nine projects that included newly commissioned works, site-specific installations, and performances outside the hall. His residency culminated in a major revival of Meredith Monk’s opera ATLAS, making him the first director Monk entrusted with a new production of her work. Sharon is the recipient of the 2014 Götz Friedrich Prize in Germany for his production of John Adams’s Doctor Atomic, originally produced at the Staatstheater Karlsruhe and later presented in Seville's Teatro de la Maestranza. He also directed a landmark production of John Cage’s Song Books at the San Francisco Symphony and Carnegie Hall with Joan La Barbara, Meredith Monk, and Jessye Norman. His 2016 production of Peter Eötvös's Three Sisters at the Wiener Staatsoper led Opernwelt to call him "one of the most interesting arrivals on the musical landscape." His production of Cunning Little Vixen, originally produced at the Cleveland Orchestra, was the first fully-staged opera ever presented in Vienna’s Musikverein in October 2017. In 2017, Sharon was honored with a MacArthur Fellowship and a Foundation for Contemporary Art grant for theater.

avery r. young

Interdisciplinary artist avery r. young is an award-winning teaching artist who has been an Arts and Public Life Artist-In-Residence at the University of Chicago. In the foreword of his most recent book neckbone: visual verses (Northwestern University Press), Theaster Gates called young “one of our greatest living street of the most important thinkers on the Black experience.” Black Grooves referred to his most recent album tubman (FPE Records) as “brilliant” and “supremely funky.” young’s poems and essays have been published in Cecil McDonald's In The Company of Black, The BreakBeat Poets, The Golden Shovel Anthology: New Poems Honoring Gwendolyn Brooks, AIMPrint, and other anthologies. His album booker t. soltreyne: a race rekkid engages matters of race, gender, and sexuality in America during the Obama era. young’s work in performance, visual text, and sound design has been featured in several exhibitions and theatre festivals—notably The Hip Hop Theatre Festival, The Museum of Contemporary Art, and American Jazz Museum. He is the featured vocalist on flutist Nicole Mitchell’s Mandorla Awakening (FPE Records) and is one of four directors of The Floating Museum, co-mentoring Rebirth Youth Poetry Ensemble and performing with his band, de deacon board.

About the Ryan Opera Center

About the Ryan Opera Center

The Patrick G. and Shirley W. Ryan Opera Center is Lyric's preeminent artist-development program that nurtures the talents of some of the most promising operatic artists of each generation. The program's Ensemble members earn their coveted spot by successfully auditioning among more than 400 artists worldwide. Its alumni are among the dominant names in opera today. Donor generosity ensures continued unparalleled training, performance experience, and professional readiness of Ensemble members. This highly competitive program, established in 1974, is honored to enjoy the support of acclaimed soprano Renée Fleming as Advisor, along with full-time staff Director Dan Novak, Music Director Craig Terry, and Director of Vocal Studies Julia Faulkner.

About Lyric

About Lyric

Lyric Opera of Chicago is committed to redefining what it means to experience great opera. The company is driven to deliver consistently excellent artistry through innovative, relevant, celebratory programming that engages and energizes new and traditional audiences.

Under the leadership of General Director, President & CEO Anthony Freud, Music Director Sir Andrew Davis, Music Director Designate Enrique Mazzola, and Special Project Advisor Renée Fleming, Lyric is dedicated to reflecting, and drawing strength from, the diversity of Chicago. Lyric offers, through innovation, collaboration, and evolving learning opportunities, ever-more exciting, accessible, and thought-provoking audience and community experiences. We also stand committed to training the artists of the future, through The Patrick G. and Shirley W. Ryan Opera Center; and to becoming increasingly diverse across our audiences, staff, programming, and artists—magnifying the welcoming pull of our art form, our company, and our city.

Through the timeless power of voice, the splendor of a great orchestra and chorus, theater, dance, design, and truly magnificent stagecraft, Lyric is devoted to immersing audiences in worlds both familiar and unexpected, creating shared experiences that resonate long after the curtain comes down.

Join us @LyricOpera on Twitter, Instagram, and Facebook. #Lyric2021 #LongLivePassion 

2020|21 Season programming innovations from Lyric Opera of Chicago are generously supported by

Sylvia Neil and Daniel Fischel

Patricia A. Kenney and Gregory J. O'Leary

Susan and Robert Morrison



Virginia Tobiason

Lyric Opera of Chicago wishes to thank its Official Airline, American Airlines.

Photo: Todd Rosenberg