September 30, 2021

A magical evening spent under the stars

If you were walking along the Chicago River during the third week in September, you may have noticed the Lyric Opera House coming alive in many ways. In addition to thousands of patrons returning to live performances of Macbeth and The Elixir of Love as Lyric opened a new season, the back of the opera house was frequently awash with vivid projections of both opera imagery and the beauty of the inside of Lyric’s newly renovated Ardis Krainik Theatre. All of the pageantry was in preparation for Lyric Under the Stars, the company’s 2021 gala event.

For many years, the opening of the Lyric Opera of Chicago season has helped to usher in Chicago’s much-anticipated cultural season, and on Saturday, September 25, a thrilling reimagined gala celebration kept that tradition alive while infusing it with new creative energy.

Women's Board Member Christina Kemper Gidwitz & Life Member of the Board of Directors Ambassador Ronald J. Gidwitz

Lyric Under the Stars was hosted by the Lyric Women’s Board under a dazzling pavilion at Two North Riverside Plaza, just across the river from the Lyric Opera House. Led by visionary Gala Chair Karen Gray-Krehbiel and Women’s Board President Caroline Huebner, planning for the event began in November 2020. While the team evaluated many innovative post-COVID formats that ranged from drive-in events to boat-driven river tours, the gala ultimately took shape incorporating the iconic back wall of the Lyric Opera House, known well to tourists who enjoy the city from the vantage point of architectural boat tours throughout the year.

Lyric Board Chair Sylvia Neil, Lyric Under the Stars Gala Chair Karen Gray-Krehbiel, and Women's Board President Caroline Huebner

Hosted under an incredible, 132-foot wide, translucent tent, complete with chandeliers, perched over trains departing from Ogilvie and Union Stations, more than 250 guests — and countless passersby — enjoyed the spirit of Lyric coming alive through vivid projections designed by So Midwest, a film company whose work includes the Van Gogh immersive exhibits which have been enjoying national fame.

Women's Board Member Nancy Santi & Board of Directors Member E. Scott Santi

Guests enjoyed cocktails and dinner, plus performances by artists from Lyric’s mainstage season and The Patrick G. and Shirley W. Ryan Opera Center, one of the premier training grounds for emerging operatic talent in the world. With the skyline of our much-loved City of Chicago creating the perfect backdrop for a return to arts and culture, the weather cooperated for an idyllic evening of music — and even some projected fireworks to complete the evening!

Ryan Opera Center artist Lunga Eric Hallam performs at Lyric Under the Stars

Above all, Lyric is deeply grateful for the tremendous generosity of time and support from the many individuals who made Lyric Under the Stars such a great success this year. The event served to support the full range of work that Lyric Opera does — on stage, in our communities and schools, in training a new generation of young artists, and so much more. Here’s to the return of live performances!

Photos: Bob Kusel, Jaclyn Simpson