January 20, 2022

Celebrating Lyric's Rising Stars

The Patrick G. and Shirley W. Ryan Opera Center, Lyric Opera of Chicago’s artist development program, is known and admired around the world. Ryan Opera Center Ensemble members receive rigorous, world-class training in the pillars of opera. They have a demanding preparation schedule, with coaching in music, vocal skills, acting, movement, and languages. They have numerous performance opportunities during the year. They are cast in mainstage opera productions, or they understudy major roles, working with conductors, directors, and established singers who can speak with them and share valuable insights about being on stage. They also have an opportunity, unique among professional artist development programs, to appear regularly in their own radio series on 98.7WFMT: The Ryan Opera Center Recital Series.

The Ryan Opera Center's annual showcase, Rising Stars in Concert, celebrates another exciting year for the Ensemble and the tenures of seven departing artists, who reflect on their experiences at Lyric.

Katherine Beck

"I am so grateful to have been a part of the Ryan Opera Center here at Lyric. It truly is a dream program: We are expected to work hard and show our best, and in turn, we are given incredible support and respect in every way. My time has been unique with the onset of the pandemic and the birth of our first son, but even so, I have found a family here in Chicago and an artistic support system to keep me going. I am inspired by the way the team of directors and coaches push me to take risks and show my true self, and I am certain that I will carry these skills and lessons with me as I continue my career. I am so blessed to be a part of the Lyric family."

Leroy Davis

"I cannot express enough gratitude for all the Ryan Opera Center has done for me. The guidance and mentorship of the administration and faculty have been invaluable. They have helped me discover and develop the artistry I aspire to share. They have taught me how to embrace my sound, how to best express my interpretations, and have opened my eyes to the many ways I can continue to grow. I feel honored to be a part of such an incredibly supportive program, especially throughout the pandemic. As the new year unfolds, I am excited to put into practice what I have learned and continue exploring. I will be forever thankful for all the Ryan Opera Center has given me."

Mathilda Edge

"As I reflect on my time in the Ryan Opera Center, I am filled with immense gratitude. It is no secret that the past two years have been some of the most tumultuous times in our world, particularly in the arts, but the support provided by the Ryan Opera Center and Lyric Opera of Chicago has enabled me and my colleagues to continue developing our talents and skills. The depth of my artistry has grown exponentially over my tenure, in large part due to numerous high-level performing opportunities and extended language training. When I arrived in Chicago, I didn’t quite know what to expect, but quickly realized my life would never be the same. I will be forever grateful for the nurturing care I have received from everyone at Lyric. From the bottom of my heart, thank you!

Kathleen Felty

"Since beginning my pursuit of an operatic career, I have dreamed of becoming a member of the Ryan Opera Center’s esteemed Ensemble – but I never could have imagined how this program would surpass my expectations and change my life. From the first day I walked through the stage door I have felt fully supported. Our mentors are committed to our development, not only as opera singers, but as people. They lead by example, teaching that true artistry comes from honesty and vulnerability in addition to dedication and skill. Through the Ryan Opera Center I have received the highest level of training from some of the greatest in the world, had life-changing opportunities to work alongside my idols, and made connections with people who will be in my heart forever. I feel tremendously privileged to have spent three wonderful years with this company, especially in light of these difficult times, and to be a part of the Lyric family. Thank you."

Rivers Hawkins

"Joining the Ryan Opera Center and singing at Lyric Opera are two of the grandest dreams most young opera singers have, and that was certainly true for me. To actually be here, to sing in the Ardis Krainik Theatre with the most remarkable colleagues only a year after the pandemic shuttered our industry’s doors, still feels unbelievable. Everything I had heard about the Ryan Opera Center is true. The superlatives that current and former Ensemble members use to gush about this place, its administrators, and staff, are in no way hyperbolic. Everyone here genuinely wants you to grow as an artist and will work tirelessly to help get you to places you may not even have realized you could go. But more importantly, they care about you as an individual and welcome you into the Lyric family with open arms. I’m so incredibly grateful for my time in this special program and will treasure the memories I’ve made here for the rest of my life."

Maira Novella Malfatti

"Coming to the Ryan Opera Center from Italy has been one of the best experiences of my life. I am extremely grateful to have been under the tutelage of great mentors who have become, during these past two years, a real family to me. We have had so many opportunities to sing and make music together, learn from remarkable musicians, experiment, open our minds to listen to music in a different way, discover new repertoire, and find new paths for expressing the important message of respect, equality, and humanity through artistry. The work being done by the Ryan Opera Center and Lyric Opera of Chicago is immeasurably valuable and makes me hopeful for the future of opera."

Anthony Reed

"When I came to the Ryan Opera Center my vocal skills were facing some challenges. It seemed to take a long time for my voice to be comfortable learning new music, which was frustrating. But through the patient guidance and support I received here, I was able to overcome those challenges. As I’m completing my three years in the program, I feel like I am able to make the music I've always wanted to make, because my voice is now able to do what I ask of it. Having entered with a lack of confidence, I'm leaving the Ryan Opera Center with assurance and an innate knowledge that what I have to offer is unique, special, and valuable."

Rising Stars in Concert will take place on February 5, 2022, in the Lyric Opera house. This year's program centers on the music of Romantic-era composer Jacques Offenbach and other French repertoire of the time, with conductor Enrique Mazzola. Join us for this beautiful evening of music and celebrate some of the brightest rising stars of the opera world! 

Header photo: 2019/2020 Rising Stars in Concert, taken by Kyle Flubacker

Photos: Kyle Flubacker