Lyric Opera of Chicago

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“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.

A Day in the Life of Lyric Opera Chorister Pam Williams

Lyric Opera Chorus member Pam Williams describes a typical day for her, which includes rehearsal, tax preparation, and a performance of Rusalka.

Pam Williams has lived in Chicago since 1997 and been a member of the Lyric Opera Chorus since 1999. She is originally from Snellville, Georgia (just east of Atlanta). She did her undergraduate work at Georgia State University and then went to Indiana University for her master's degree. Pam takes us through her schedule on Friday, March 7, a typical day in the life of a working musician!

I love my job! I love that I get to do for a living what I set out to do when I began my studies in music. SING!!! Granted, my path hasn't always been focused on opera, but always on singing.  But this is where my path has led me...right here to the chorus of Lyric Opera of Chicago. And it makes me happy, and I feel quite fortunate!

Each one of the members of the chorus has wildly varying lives within and without the walls of this building. Many teach voice in addition to singing here. Others have other jobs outside of Lyric. But for me, at this phase of life, I have this one job. This doesn't mean this is ALL I do and the rest of the time I sit at home watching Judge Judy eating bon-bons. :)

Here is my today: I started the day out warming up for a coaching on The Old Maid and the Thief that I'll be performing in as part of Opera Up Close concert series at Governors State University at the end of the month. I'm playing Miss Todd. Love it. She's nuts. Now, I'm catching up on some work (tax prep...late!), emails, more music study, recital planning, etc. Later on, I'll be meeting up with some awesome and fun colleagues for a promo video shoot for this upcoming GSU concert. Should be hilarious!  Follow this with a performance of our stunning production of Rusalka  this evening. It will be a day full of music and music-related things! Then…I sleep. :) Tomorrow...a completely different day, but more practicing and another show—La Clemenza di Tito!

One of the fun things about this job in the chorus is the variety. It definitely makes it more interesting to have a couple of shows going at the same time. Early in this season, we were very busy with three different shows on stage at the same time while rehearsing a fourth! A question I am often asked is: Do you forget which show you are singing when juggling multiple shows? Nope. Once in the proper costume and on the proper set, the right words and music seem to know where they belong!

Photo credit: Pam Williams backstage at Lyric in costume for Rusalka. Photo courtesy Pam Williams. 


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

An Insider's Guide to LA CLEMENZA DI TITO

Video and audio previews, articles, and more at Lyric's Insider's Guide to La Clemenza di Tito

Below is your guide to Mozart's timeless political thriller La Clemenza di Tito—including including video previews, plot synposis, background articles and interviews, photo gallery, audio guides, and more. This new-to-Lyric production runs March 5–23.

Mozart’s La Clemenza di Tito tells the story of passion and power in the Roman Empire. Matthew Polenzani plays the Emperor Tito. Vitellia (Amanda Majeski) is the power-obsessed daughter of the recently deposed emperor. She is determined to have Tito as her husband so she can have the political power that she feels is her right. When Tito chooses to marry another, Vitellia convinces Tito’s best friend Sesto (Joyce DiDonato in a male role), who is obsessed with her, to assassinate the emperor. When the plot fails and the betrayal is revealed, this traitorous couple must face the consequences. Read the full plot synopsis

Watch the official video trailer (above) and a preview with general director Anthony Freud, music director Sir Andrew Davis (who is conducting this production), and creative consultant Renée Fleming (below).


(Not Quite) Everything You Want to Know about La Clemenza di Tito

It’s exciting to “discover” an opera that isn’t often performed – especially by a composer as familiar as Mozart. Lyric audiences can do just that with La clemenza di Tito, a tour de force operatic docudrama about the Roman Emperor Titus. Read more.

Power Plays: DiDonato, Polenzani, and Majeski star in La Clemenza di Tito

Political intrigue, spurned overtures, murderous plots, and uncertain consequences—if it sounds like a page out of current primetime television listings, it's just confirmation that human nature is as ever-constant as it was in Mozart's time. Read more.

Joyce DiDonato: The Perfect 21st Century Diva

Audience-loved, critically acclaimed, Grammy Award-winning mezzo-soprano Joyce DiDonato is making her much-anticipated return to Lyric Opera of Chicago to open Mozart’s La Clemenza di Tito – and she can’t say enough about this rarely performed gem that marries a scintillating plot about a Roman political scandal with some of Mozart’s most sublimely beautiful music. Read more
 Clemenza di Tito

LA CLEMENZA DI TITO Discovery Series

Mozart's penultimate opera tosses conflicted characters into a thicket of a plot with music that hints at 19th-century romanticism. Join Matthew Polenzani (Tito), Joyce DiDonato (Sesto), and Sir Andrew Davis as they discuss Mozart's once underappreciated two-act opera seria.

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La Clemenza di Tito Audio Preview

Recordings used by permission of EMI Classics.


La Clemenza di Tito Commentary

La Clemenza di Tito 
by Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart

© 2013/14 Lyric Opera Commentaries

Original sound recordings of musical excerpts used by permission of the Salzburger Festspiele. All rights reserved. Post-production services provided by Mark Travis, Producer.


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