A new opening to the 2020/21 Season August 4, 2020
For the past 65 years, Lyric's opera season has begun with a red carpet, a night of beautiful music, and dancing 'til dawn at the Opening Night Opera Ball. However, even before Lyric made the difficult decision to cancel all in-person performances through December 2020 due to COVID-19, our passionate Women's Board was ready to shake things up. Their mission soon turned from crafting an intimate Opening Night concert to producing an inclusive online event.
Even before we began to imagine the extent of public-health limits on events and performances, the Women's Board was hard at work rethinking what our season-opening event could and should be.
What took shape was For the Love of Lyric—a star-studded virtual concert, set to premiere on Sunday, September 13. Audiences can look forward to familiar and revelatory selections from the worlds of opera, Broadway, popular music, and more, streamed free of charge on Lyric's YouTube and Facebook. This concert is the perfect excuse for an at-home dinner and show—put on your ballgown or tux, and roll out your own red carpet if you're in the mood. Stay up to date with the latest information by RSVPing to our Facebook event or sign up to receive email reminders.
As originally announced, world-renowned soprano Renée Fleming will team up with special guests for an evening of celebration and music-making. Serving as Lyric's special projects advisor and an honorary member of the Women's Board, Fleming celebrated her 25th Anniversary with the company in 2019. The four-time Grammy Award winner has been the driving force behind projects like Lyric's world premiere opera Bel Canto, collaborations with The Second City, and the Chicago Voices initiative. In addition to having a staggering 50 operatic roles under her belt, she has also branched out into musical theater in recent years. She was seen as Margaret Johnson in Adam Guettel and Craig Lucas' The Light in the Piazza in London, Los Angeles, and right here at Lyric in December 2019 and received a Tony Award® nomination for her performance as Nettie Fowler in the hit 2018 revival of Rodgers and Hammerstein's Carousel.
Recorded in high-definition from Lyric's mainstage and venues around the country, the For the Love of Lyric concert will also include performances by Tony Award® and Grammy Award-winning singer-songwriter-actress Heather Headley, soprano Ailyn Pérez, bass Soloman Howard, mezzo-soprano and Ryan Opera Center alumna J'Nai Bridges, as well as members of Lyric's 2020/21 Ryan Opera Center Ensemble and members of the Chicago Children's Choir. All led by music director Doug Peck.
Music director Doug Peck performs in For the Love of Lyric, 2020. (Photo: Todd Rosenberg)
Music director Doug Peck performs with jazz artist Kurt Elling in Lyric's 2016/17 Chicago Voices concert. (Photo: Cory Weaver)
Six-time Joseph Jefferson Award winner Doug Peck serves as music director for the concert. While currently based in Los Angeles, Peck is a familiar face in Chicago having worked with Lyric on the 2016/17 Chicago Voices concert as well as with countless theaters across the city including The Goodman Theater, Chicago Shakespeare Theater, Chicago Humanities Festival, Victory Gardens, and more. "I'm grateful that Lyric is giving me full support, as they did with Chicago Voices, to plan something special that follows Nina Simone's dictum that the artist's duty is to reflect the times," says Peck. "We have a real opportunity to craft a program that is healing, enlightening, and entertaining in perfect proportion."
Peck is especially excited to introduce his longtime friend and collaborator, Heather Headley, to members of the Lyric family who may not be familiar with her work. On Broadway, she originated the role of Nala in Disney's The Lion King and the titular role in Elton John and Tim Rice’s Aida (for which she received the 2000 Tony Award for Best Performance By a Leading Actress in a Musical). Headley has close ties to Chicago. She began her professional career at the Marriott Lincolnshire Theatre, in productions of Dreamgirls and The World Goes Round while still a student at Northwestern University. She’s also been seen as Gwen Garrett on the NBC medical drama television series Chicago Med and as Helen Decatur in the new Netflix series Sweet Magnolias.
Ailyn Pérez performs in the For the Love of Lyric concert, 2020. (Photo: Todd Rosenberg)
Ailyn Pérez as Marguerite in Lyric's 2017/18 production of Gounod's Faust (Photo: Cory Weaver)
Chicago native Ailyn Pérez made her operatic debut with the company as Marguerite in our 2017/18 production of Gounod's Faust. "The star of this production was arguably Ailyn Pérez," said Kyle MacMillan of The Chicago Sun Times, "who winningly captures the wholesomeness, humanity and pathos of the betrayed Marguerite." Pérez won the Richard Tucker Award in 2012, making her the first Hispanic recipient in the award's 35-year history. From there, the distinguished soprano went on to receive the Beverly Sills Award (2016), the Sphinx Medal of Excellence (2017), and was an Opera News Awards Honoree in 2019.
Soloman Howard performs in the For the Love of Lyric concert, 2020. (Photo: Todd Rosenberg)
Soloman Howard in his Lyric debut as Wurm with Ryan Opera Center alumnus Quinn Kelsey (Miller) in the 2019/20 production of Verdi's Luisa Miller. (Photo: Todd Rosenberg)
In the fall of 2019, bass Soloman Howard showed Chicago audiences his impressive range as he took on the role of Wurm in Verdi's Luisa Miller (Lyric debut) and brought a soulful performance to our sold-out community concert Lawrence Brownlee & Friends. He was also set to return to the Lyric stage as Fafner in our 2020 Ring cycle before COVID-19 forced its cancellation.
J'Nai Bridges performs with Craig Terry in Lawrence Brownlee and Friends: The Next Chapter, 2020 (Photo: Lyric Opera of Chicago)
J'Nai Bridges as Carmen in the 2015 world premiere of Jimmy López and Nilo Cruz's Bel Canto. (Photo: Todd Rosenberg)
Hot on the heels of her appearance in Lawrence Brownlee and Friends: The Next Chapter, we are thrilled to welcome back mezzo-soprano and Ryan Opera Center alumna J'Nai Bridges. At Lyric she created the pivotal role of Carmen in the 2015/16 world premiere of Bel Canto by Jimmy López and Nilo Cruz; and, during her three years in the Ryan Opera Center, she performed the roles of Inez in Il Trovatore (Verdi), Flora Bervoix in La Traviata (Verdi), and Vlasta in The Passenger (Weinberg) among others. Bridges represented the United States at the prestigious BBC Cardiff Singer of the World Competition in 2015, and is the recipient of the 2018 Sphinx Medal of Excellence Award, as well as a 2016 Richard Tucker Career Grant. This past season, she made her Metropolitan Opera debut to great acclaim as Nefertiti in Phillip Glass's Akhnaten, and recently sang with Gustavo Dudamel and the Los Angeles Philharmonic at "Global Goal: Unite for Our Future," a globally televised and streamed concert which raised $6.9 Billion for COVID-19 relief.
We hope you'll join us on Sunday, September 13 at 6pm CDT for the premiere of our For the Love of Lyric concert. Comment along with the live-chat or stream the concert on your smart TV for an immersive experience.
A special "first look" screening of the concert will be hosted by Event Chair Mimi Mitchell and Lyric Women's Board President Caroline Huebner on Saturday, September 12 for a select group of sponsors. It is due to their generosity that we are able to stream For the Love of Lyric at no charge to the public on YouTube and Facebook. If you'd like to learn more about this exclusive opportunity, visit lyricopera.org/LoveSponsor.
If you are interested in contributing to Lyric's COVID-19 recovery on any level, we hope you'll consider donating to the For the Love of Lyric Fund. As a non-profit, we rely on tax-deductible donations to help us bring innovative digital programming to audiences around the world and bring world-class art back to the stage in Chicago.