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Youth Opera Council – A Look at a Great First Season

Lyric Unlimited's Youth Opera Council had a banner first season. This group of 22 high school-aged opera lovers learned about running an opera company, met Lyric guest artists, and—of course—saw a lot of opera! Here are a few of the highlights from the year. 

Lyric Unlimited's Youth Opera Council, a new initiative for the 2013-14 season, had a banner year. This group of 22 high school-aged opera lovers met regularly, speaking with Lyric staff about the operations of an opera company. They also had the opportunity to attend every mainstage production this year and to meet some of Lyric's fantastic guest artists. 

Here are a few of the highlights!

On February 1, the council hosted "A Night at the Opera" before the opening of Lyric's new production of The Barber of Seville (pictured above). At this sold-out event, the council invited 200 of their family and friends for a casual preconcert reception that featured the chance to mingle with members of the Lyric Opera Orchestra and Chorus and try on a few costumes! Here is a video that gives a flavor of this special event: 


The council also had meetings with some of Lyric's great guest artists: Nathan Gunn, Isabel Leonard, and Alek Shrader, all stars of The Barber of Seville. They also spent a very special evening with La Clemenza di Tito star Joyce DiDonato (pictured right). Joyce also ran into some Youth Opera Council members during intermission of a Rusalka student matinee performance and captured their profound thoughts on why opera is important and thriving:


Other special events included a special backstage tour led by Lyric's Audience Education Manager Jesse Gram, as well as regular meetings here at Lyric, some of which included visits with key Lyric staff. Guest speakers have included Lyric General Director Anthony Freud, Lyric Unlimited Director Cayenne Harris, Public Relations Director Alexandra Day, Barber of Seville Assistant Director Elise Sandell, and Assistant Stage Manager Bill Walters. 

Want to be part of this great group? Applications are now being accepted for the 2014-15 Youth Opera Council. Click here to learn more and apply today!

Photo credits:

  • "A Night at the Opera" photo collage (top), photos credit Jenn Gaudreau
  • Joyce DiDonato visits with the Youth Opera Council, photo credit Alejandra Boyer
  • The Youth Opera council chats with Bill Walters and Elise Sandell (photo credit Andrew Cioffi) and gets a backstage tour (photo credit Alejandra Boyer).


“Clemenza” Stars Offstage

Matthew Polenzani, Joyce DiDonato, and Amanda Majeski are currently heating up the stage in Lyric's new-to-Chicago production of Mozart's  La Clemenza di Tito. In addition to their electric performances, they've been a busy trio off stage as well!

Matthew Polenzani, Joyce DiDonato, and Amanda Majeski are currently creating sparks on stage in Lyric's new production of Mozart's La Clemenza di Tito. In its review of the production, the Chicago Tribune praised all three for delivering "one terrific vocal showpiece after another." In addition to creating magic on stage, they've been a busy trio offstage as well.  

North shore native Matthew Polenzani took a trip down memory lane with Chicago Tonight's Eddie Arruza, talking about growing up in the Chicago suburbs and the beginnings of his operatic career, capped with a performance of Tito's aria "Ah, se fosse intorno al trono" from Act One of La Clemenza di Tito with Bill Billingham: 


He stayed after the segment to perform “Danny Boy” for this web extra:


Joyce DiDonato grabbed a drink with Chicago Magazine's Graham Meyer during the February 22 opening of Lyric's new production of Rusalka and chatted about her recent trip to Africa and the things she loves most about Chicago.

She also took time to visit with Lyric's new Youth Opera Council, tweeting after her experience: "Opera is dead?!?! HA! Take THAT naysayers! Totally inspired by these young, TALENTED opera lovers from @LyricOpera."

And DiDonato was very busy on March 12, giving a live performance on Chicago classical music station 98.7 WFMT as part of their Impromptu series and then going to Northwestern University's Pick-Staiger Concert Hall for a master class that was also broadcast live around the web!  

Amanda Majeski talked with the Daily Herald's Jamie Sotonoff and Dann Gire about being rejected from her first high school audition and how much this Ryan Opera Center alumna enjoys making Chicago her home base. 

Plus, she hit a personal milestone as she and her husband Sam Handley celebrated their first wedding anniversary on March 9. They met while members of Lyric's own Ryan Opera Center! You can read more about their love story, along with a few other Lyric couples, in this Chicago Sun-Times story from last year

Photo credits:
(top) Amanda Majeski credit Dario Acosta, Matthew Polenzani credit Dario Acosta, Joyce DiDonato credit Nick Heavican.
(center) Joyce DiDonato with the Youth Opera Council credit Andrew Cioffi / Lyric Opera of Chicago.
(bottom) Amanda Majeski and Sam Handley backstage at Lyric. Photo credit Rich Hein / Chicago Sun-Times.

Cocktails and “Clemenza”

The passion, drama, and intrigue of ancient Rome awaits in Lyric's new-to-Chicago production of Mozart's La Clemenza di Tito  (on stage now through March 23). Get into the spirit with these beverages inspired by this magnificent opera.


The passion, drama, and intrigue of ancient Rome awaits in Lyric's new-to-Chicago production of Mozart's La Clemenza di Tito (on stage now through March 23). Get into the spirit with these beverages inspired by this magnificent opera.

A Dash of Betrayal


Vitellia and Sesto should have toasted their plan to assassinate the emperor with this blood-red delight. A sweet and spicy concoction, it perfectly captures their all-consuming passion and its tragic consequences.

  • 1 1/2 ounces jalapeño-infused tequila
  • 1/2 ounce blood orange liqueur
  • 1 ounce freshly squeezed lime juice
  • 3/4 ounce honey
  • 1/2 ounce Monin blood orange syrup

Combine ingredients in a shaker over ice, shake vigorously and strain into a chilled cocktail glass or over fresh ice in a rocks glass and garnish with a lemon twist. (Recipe from Drew Levinson, Wirtz Beverage Nevada)

Bloody Tito 


Vitellia and Sesto were unsuccessful in their attempt to murder the emperor, but this take on the Bloody Mary reminds us of what might have been.

  • 2 ounces vodka
  • 3 ounces Clamato juice
  • 1/4 teaspoon horseradish
  • 3 to 5 dashes hot sauce
  • 3 dashes Worcestershire sauce
  • Ice
  • Pickled green beans, for garnish (optional)
  • Lemon wedge, for garnish (optional)

Combine all ingredients except ice and garnishes in a shaker, fill with ice, shake vigorously, and pour into an 8-ounce glass. If desired, garnish with pickled green beans and a lemon wedge. (Recipe from



In honor of the two trouser roles in La Clemenza di Tito, excellently portrayed by Joyce DiDonato and Cecelia Hall, here's a cocktail that indulges the masculine and feminine sides of the taste spectrum with a good-quality whiskey and a slightly sweet homemade sour mix and maraschino cherries.

  • 3/4 cup whiskey
  • 1/2 cup freshly squeezed lemon juice (4 lemons)
  • 1/2 cup freshly squeezed lime juice (4 limes)
  • 2/3 cup sugar syrup (see note)
  • Ice cubes
  • Maraschino cherries

Combine the whiskey, lemon juice, lime juice, and syrup. Fill a cocktail shaker halfway with ice and pour in the drink mix 2/3 full. Shake for 15 seconds and pour into four glasses. Add a maraschino cherry and serve ice cold. Note: To make the sugar syrup, bring 1 cup of water and 1 cup of sugar to a boil, and simmer until the sugar is completely dissolved. Chill before using. (Recipe from Ina Garten at Food Network)



All Romans love the distinctive taste of Campari, so you can channel some of the Italian spirit (and toast Emperor Titus's health) with this classic cocktail.

  • 1 ounce Campari
  • 1 ounce sweet vermouth
  • 1 ounce gin
  • Orange peel for garnish

Combine all of the ingredients in a short glass filled with ice and stir. Run the orange peel around the edge of the glass, lightly squeezing to express the oils. Drop the peel into the glass and enjoy. (Recipe from The Kitchn)

Photo credits:

  • Amanda Majeski and Joyce DiDonato in La Clemenza di Tito (photo by Todd Rosenberg / Lyric Opera of Chicago)
  • Matthew Polenzani in La Clemenza di Tito; Chorus and sets from Clemenza (photo by Todd Rosenberg / Lyric Opera of Chicago)
  • Joyce DiDonato...and Joyce DiDonato (photo copyright Nick Heavican)
  • The Lyric Opera Chorus in La Clemenza di Tito (photo by Todd Rosenberg / Lyric Opera of Chicago

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