June 17, 2024

Looking back: Lyric during the Anthony Freud years

The conclusion of Lyric Opera of Chicago’s 2023/24 Season, and the imminent retirement of General Director, President & CEO Anthony Freud, provides an excellent chance to look back at his exemplary tenure. Since 2011, the company has reached new artistic heights, expanded its mission across Chicago and beyond, and positioned itself as a leader for the art form's future.

Enjoy this four-part retrospective of the many high points, onstage and off, of the past 13 years.

Part I: New heights, onstage

Part II: Lyric Unlimited

Part III: Notable debuts

Part IV: An opera house for the future — enhancing the visitor experience

Anthony Freud after The Patrick G. and Shirley W. Ryan Opera Center Final Auditions in September 2023.

Part I: New heights, onstage

Over the past 13 years, Lyric Opera of Chicago has presented an extraordinary variety of work — 68 new productions and co-productions, including 32 Lyric premieres and 9 world premieres, to make just a partial tally. Artistic excellence, as always, has been the guiding principle — and, coupled with musicals and new work that have drawn audiences from the most far-reaching corners of Chicago and beyond, the diverse productions at Lyric have drawn critical acclaim and worldwide attention.

Here is a brief look at some of the high notes.

Glorious productions

In the 2014/15 Season, Lyric presented The Passenger, a rarely performed work by composer Mieczysław Weinberg.

A 1968 opera originally based on a radio play by Auschwitz survivor Zofia Posmysz, the story takes place on the deck of an ocean liner and follows a former Auschwitz camp guard who recounts her harrowing past to her husband.

The production played an important role in supporting the legacy of this profound work; after being translated into a handful of languages, the opera had only just begun to enter the global repertoire. Lyric was one of the first American opera houses to produce The Passenger following the Houston Grand Opera premiere in 2014.

Amanda Majeski as Marta in The Passenger.

The colossal scale of Les Troyens (2016/17 Season), based on Virgil’s Aeneid, was another landmark production in Lyric’s recent history. Starring Christine Goerke, Susan Graham, and Brandon Jovanovich, this production was Lyric’s premiere of Berlioz’s five-act tour de force. Lyric’s set weighed 80,000 pounds; the number of costumes worn by the cast totaled 300; the artistic personnel consisted of 77 musicians and over 100 cast members; and the production took three years to plan, design, and construct. The production employed state-of-the-art set construction and projection technology afforded by the Breaking New Ground campaign. Above all, the musical intensity and dramatic power of this great masterpiece swept audiences off their collective feet.

The company of Les Troyens from Lyric's 2016/17 Season.

Also in the 2016/17 Season, Das Rheingold marked the commencement of Lyric’s new Ring Cycle. Grounded in a motif that played with storytelling on the stage of an old theater, the all-new production was scheduled to unfold as the first of the four operas of Wagner's Der Ring des Nibelungen. The installments would be presented each year, culminating in three full cycles in April 2020. The first three operas, Das Rheingold, Die Walküre, and Siegfried, were praised as “uniformly spectacular” (Chicago Sun-Times) with A-list performers, compelling direction, and innovative and spectacular design.

During rehearsals for Götterdämmerung, the fourth chapter of the cycle, the COVID-19 pandemic hit and forced the cancellation of this globally anticipated operatic event. During this unprecedented time, Lyric’s incomparable family of donors showed their generosity and kindness through The Heroes' Fund, helping to mitigate the financial challenges of the time.

The opening scene of Das Rheingold.

In the 2017/18 Season, Lyric announced that the Joffrey Ballet would become the resident ballet company of the Lyric Opera House — two distinguished companies producing high-caliber classic and contemporary works, coexisting under the same roof. Many will remember Lyric's production of Gluck's Orphée et Eurydice, featuring artists from The Joffrey Ballet in Lyric's new production of the work.

Gluck intended Orphée et Eurydice to be a beautiful synthesis of song and dance, giving singers and dancers equal prominence. Orphée et Eurydice was the ideal opera for the occasion; the collaboration “[elevated the piece] to the superlative” (Chicago Stage Review). The production showcased the strengths of both companies and even captured the attention of the PBS Great Performances series, turning the on-stage production into a national offering aired on public television stations across the country.

Dmitry Korchak, Andriana Chuchman, and members of The Joffrey Ballet in Orphée et Eurydice.

The American Musical Theater Initiative

In the 2012/13 Season, Lyric delivered a rousing production of Rodgers and Hammerstein’s Oklahoma! as the inaugural production of the company’s American Musical Theater Initiative.

The implementation of this program marked a commitment to include one musical following each opera season, an initiative recognizing that the success of prior musicals had been a boon to Lyric’s audience base and an exhilarating use of the largest stage in Chicago. (A sold-out run of Jerome Kern and Oscar Hammerstein’s Show Boat had proved a catalyst.)

Curtis Holbrook and the dance ensemble of Oklahoma!.

These early works and their successful Lyric premieres represent a historical and artistic bridge between the operatic and the American musical traditions.

Angela Renée Simpson and the company of Show Boat.

The darkest of Rodgers and Hammerstein’s evergreen collaborations, Carousel, provided a fascinating complement to the darker operas in the 2014/15 Season, which included Tosca, The Passenger, and Tannhäuser. Broadway stars Laura Osnes (Julie Jordan) and Steven Pasquale (Billy Bigelow), led the cast.

In other seasons, Lyric also produced The King and I, The Sound of Music, My Fair Lady, Jesus Christ Superstar, and West Side Story (which became Lyric’s highest-grossing production in its history).

Laura Osnes and Steven Pasquale in Carousel.

Lyric's presentation of Fiddler on the Roof, which originated at the Komische Oper Berlin, was one of Chicago's most significant cultural events of the 2022/23 Season. Director Barrie Kosky, whose grandparents came from a shtetl in Belarus, brought a profoundly personal approach to the work. An internationally known innovator, Kosky peeled away preconceived images of this beloved show to give it a completely fresh look, while managing to center tradition in every aspect of the production.

The wedding scene in Fiddler on the Roof.

Bold new work

On top of executing extraordinary productions of the operatic canon, Lyric has been a driving force for commissioning new work. During Freud’s tenure, Lyric commissioned and produced Bel Canto, The Property, El Pasado Nunca Se Termina, Second Nature, Jason and the Argonauts, Rhoda and the Fossil Hunt, Earth to Kenzie, The Factotum, and Proximity.

The company of Bel Canto from Lyric's 2015/16 Season.

Among these, Bel Canto (2015/16), a new commission curated by the company’s creative consultant Renée Fleming, proved a high water mark for the company's national profile, becoming its first mainstage world premiere in over a decade.

To create the work, based on Ann Patchett’s award-winning novel about the 1996 hostage crisis in Lima, Peru, Lyric enlisted Jimmy López Bellido as composer and Nilo Cruz as librettist. The large-scale, multilingual work, with its eye-popping designs and bravura performances, was later shared with the world through PBS’s Great Performances.

The Factotum

In the 2022/23 Season, Lyric premiered a co-commissioned opera titled The Factotum, which received a three-performance, sold-out run in the Harris Theater.

Inspired by Rossini’s The Barber of Seville, the opera follows brothers Mike and Garby as they clash over the future of their family’s barbershop on Chicago’s South Side. The creators of The Factotum, Will Liverman (an alum of the Patrick G. and Shirley W. Ryan Opera Center) and DJ King Rico, evoke a sense of Black joy in this genre-expanding work. The Factotum comprised a collection of musical styles including gospel, barbershop quartet, R&B, and jazz to funk, hip hop, and trap.

Lucia Lucas and the company of Proximity.

Later that season, Lyric presented Proximity, a triptych of interrelated opera works that put modern societal challenges under a microscope for us to explore through various lenses. Innovative director Yuval Sharon wove together the work of Pulitzer Prize, Grammy Award, and MacArthur Genius Grant-winning artists.

“The audience at Lyric Opera was audibly wowed by the vision and technical mastery on display at the opening of Proximity.” (Around the Town Chicago).

This commission and production demonstrated yet again Lyric’s commitment to excellence, innovation, relevance, and risk-taking.

Part II. Lyric Unlimited

Lyric Opera of Chicago has been deeply engaged with its home city from the very beginning, but in 2012 the company took the commitment to a higher level with the establishment of Lyric Unlimited.

Focused on Learning and Civic Engagement at many levels, Lyric Unlimited works to build awareness for opera within the community and to eradicate barriers of access to the art form. Lyric Unlimited provides a range of programs designed to stimulate curiosity, and make connections between opera and everyday, contemporary life.

In its first decade-plus, Lyric Unlimited has provided valuable opportunities for creative engagement to thousands of community members across the city. On average, the division’s programming reaches approximately 100,000 people each season. There have been numerous, very wide-ranging projects, from new Mariachi and Klezmer operas, to Chicago Voices — a multi-faceted, multi-year initiative that celebrated many Chicago musical and vocal traditions.

Among other opportunities, young students can engage with Lyric’s artistic programming through the Opera in the Neighborhoods and Opera Residency programs in local schools.

Lyric Unlimited champions stories that deserve to be heard, and focuses on building inclusivity within the world of opera.

Opera in the Neighborhoods

Lyric’s Opera in the Neighborhoods program brings youth-friendly works to venues across Chicago, encouraging young people to discover and, hopefully, fall in love with opera. Opera in the Neighborhoods showcases important existing works as well as new Lyric commissions. The demand for Opera in the Neighborhoods has grown significantly since its hiatus during the COVID-19 pandemic; In the 2022/23 Season, Scorpion’s Sting had seven performances across three venues, and the run for the upcoming 2024/25 Season’s production, Frida Kahlo and the Bravest Girl in the World, includes more than 18 performance across eight venues. Every performance of Frida next season will be free of charge.

Last season's production of Jason and the Argonauts was an immense success. A thrilling tale about a boy and his quest to find the Golden Fleece, Jason captained his ship alongside more than 1,000 Chicago students in grades 3-6. The opera was received with enthusiasm by our student attendees; most notably, the 5th grade class at St. Francis de Sales (SFDS) in Lake Geneva wrote letters to encapsulate their gratitude for our production of Jason.

David, a 5th grader from St. Francis de Sales, writes to thank Lyric for his first opera experience.

A handwritten letter from 5th grade student, Anthony, after seeing Jason and the Argonauts.

Like young letter-writers Anthony and David, most SFDS students had never attended an opera. Productions like Jason and the Argonauts help instill an early appreciation for opera and provide an opportunity to learn, experience, and engage with a new art form.

Opera Residency Programs

Lyric Unlimited offers three different in-school educational opportunities for students based on grade level.

For grades 1-5, the Elementary Opera Residency empowers students to create an original opera by integrating curricular content objectives with arts learning in music, drama, and movement. This program bolsters students’ knowledge of opera, reading comprehension, social and emotional development, and group work.

For middle and high school students, the Opera Discovery Project engages students in the study of opera through activities that integrate language arts, music, drama, and performance skills. Working in collaboration with the classroom teacher, a Lyric Unlimited Teaching Artist will guide students through a creative process to reinterpret select operatic scenes with their own words and music. The program also includes a student field trip to a Lyric dress rehearsal or performance of the selected work.

High schoolers can benefit from a year-round choir residency facilitated by a Lyric Unlimited teaching artist. These professionals work collaboratively with choir teachers to deliver student instruction and foster student growth. At the core of this program is Lyric's commitment to supporting music teachers’ efforts and bolstering student success in the arts, in alignment with the CPS Arts Education Plan. The High School Choir Residency aims to improve students’ vocal technique and develop performance skills, and also supports choir teachers in their efforts to strengthen their school’s choir program.

In the 2023/24 Season, the three residency programs in total reached more than 1,100 students across Chicago.

  • Elementary Opera Residencies: 11 schools, 24 classrooms, and 513 students
  • Opera Discovery (grades 6-12): 6 schools, 15 classrooms, and 373 students
  • High School Choir Residencies: 5 schools, 12 classrooms, and 359 students

The need for travel can limit students’ ability to participate in Lyric Unlimited programs, so the residencies provide a valuable and unique opportunity for young people across Chicago.


In a long-running partnership with the Chicago Urban League, teens participate in Lyric’s EmpowerYouth! program. From October through March, a group of participants work with professional artistic staff and program facilitators to learn how principles of performance, theater, music, and dance relate to their everyday lives. These young artists engage in youth-centered co-creation processes to devise an original showcase that tells the story of their experiences as young Black Chicagoans.

EmpowerYouth! in rehearsal.

Next season will mark the eighth year of EmpowerYouth!. More than 100 CPS High Schoolers from the south and west sides have participated in this program, and Lyric plans to continue expanding its reach.

Choreographer Tanji Harper, artistic director at The Happiness Club and founder of Blu Rhythm Chicago, has been with the program since its inception, and captures what makes the program so magical:

Part III: Notable debuts

In recent memory, numerous world-renowned artists have graced the Lyric Opera stage with their star power. U.S., Lyric, and role debuts have played a prominent role in building on Lyric’s national and international reputation, growing Lyric audiences, and drawing attention to Chicago’s opera scene by featuring fresh performances and outstanding work by both emerging and well-established artists.

Let’s take a look back at some of the tremendous talents who have joined the Lyric family with company debuts.

Performers Ferruccio Furlanetto (Boris Godunov), Charles Castronovo (The Magic Flute), Brian Mulligan (Lucia di Lammermoor), Julia Kleiter, Luca Pisaroni, Iestyn Davies, and Elza Van Den Heever (Rinado), and Morris Robinson (Show Boat).

Conductor Massimo Zanetti (Lucia di Lammermoor).


Performers Sophie Koch (Werther), Christine Goerke and J’Nai Bridges (Elektra), Will Liverman and Anna Netrebko (La Bohème).

Conductors Ward Stare (Hänsel und Gretel) and James Lowe (Oklahoma).

Directors Louisa Muller (La Bohème) and Eric Einhorn (Hänsel und Gretel).

Spotlight on Christine Goerke

Lyric has staged Strauss’s Elektra twice in the last 30 years: once in the 2012/13 Season, and again in 2018/19, in a new production directed by Sir David McVicar. The title role of Elektra is a marathon, requiring not only a show of vocal intensity but also terrifyingly visceral acting. Each Lyric production headlined a world-class dramatic soprano in the title role; coincidentally, both productions also served as the stars’ Lyric Opera debuts.

In 2012, Christine Goerke delivered a fierce performance of Elektra that was the impetus for Goerke’s success as one of Lyric’s most celebrated stars.

Christine Goerke as Elektra.

Following this role that garnered widespread acclaim, she went on to perform as Lyric’s Cassandra in Les Troyens (2016/17), as well as Brünnhilde in Die Walküre (2017/18) and Siegfried (2018/19) as part of Lyric’s new Ring cycle.

In 2019, our unforgettable Elektra was the great Swedish soprano, Nina Stemme — see 2018/19 below.


Performers Albina Shagimuratova (Rigoletto), Michael Spyres (Die Fledermaus), Marina Rebeka (La Traviata), Isabel Leonard (The Barber of Seville), and Jenn Gambatese (The Sound of Music).

Conductors Evan Rogister (Rigoletto), Marco Armiliato (Madama Butterfly), and Michele Mariotti (The Barber of Seville).

Set and Costume Designer Johan Engels (Parsifal).

Directors Rob Ashford (The Barber of Seville), Arin Arbus (La Traviata), and Michael Grandage (Madama Butterfly).

Costume Designer Catherine Zuber (The Barber of Seville).


Performers Tatiana Serjan, Brian Jagde, and Evgeny Nikitin (Tosca), Joshua Hopkins (The Passenger), Norman Garrett (Porgy and Bess), Bryan Hymel (Anna Bolena), and Laura Osnes and Steven Pasquale (Carousel)

Conductors Patrick Summers (Anna Bolena) and David Chase (Carousel).

Directors Kevin Newbury (Anna Bolena) and Tim Albery (Tannhäuser).

Costume Designers Jessica Jahn (Anna Bolena) and Marie-Jeanne Lecca (The Passenger), and Lighting Designer Fabrice Kebour (The Passenger).


Performers Christiane Karg and Adam Plachetka (The Marriage of Figaro), Lawrence Brownlee (La Cenerentola), Tomasz Konieczny (Wozzeck), Heidi Stober (The Merry Widow), Dmitry Belosselskiy (Nabucco), Marianne Crebassa (Romeo et Juliet), and Kate Baldwin (The King & I).

Conductors Henrik Nánási (The Marriage of Figaro) and Edward Gardner (Der Rosenkavalier). Composer Jimmy López and Librettist Nilo Cruz (Bel Canto).

Directors Susan Stroman (The Merry Widow) and Bartlett Sher (Romeo et Juliet).

Set Designer David Korins (Bel Canto).

Costume Designers William Ivey Long (The Merry Widow) and Constance Hoffman (Bel Canto).

Spotlight on Lawrence Brownlee

Another recent Lyric performance that garnered rave reviews was that of Lawrence Brownlee in The Daughter of the Regiment (2023/24). His electric “Pour mon âme” cabaletta was so great, audiences demanded an encore at nearly every performance. Brownlee is not a stranger to the Lyric stage; his Lyric debut was in the role of Don Ramiro in Rossini’s La Cenerentola (2015/16), when he charmed his way into becoming Lyric’s favorite virtuosic tenor.

Lawrence Brownlee in La Cenerentola.

Since La Cenerentola, Brownlee’s relationship with Lyric has blossomed into a true partnership. Not only has he wowed audiences with his notable lead roles in Lyric’s mainstage productions, but he has performed in multiple community events, sung in chamber operas, and serves as the ambassador for Lyric Unlimited. While maintaining a flourishing relationship with Lyric, Brownlee also serves as artistic advisor for Opera Philadelphia, as a Peace Ambassador for Opera for Peace, and is a strong advocate for autism awareness.


Perfomers Tanja Ariane Baumgartner, Samuel Youn, Okka von der Damerau and Zachary Nelson (Das Rheingold), Clémentine Margaine (Don Quichotte), Kathryn Lewek (The Magic Flute), Russell Thomas (Norma), Ekaterina Gubanova and Anita Rachvelishvili (Carmen), Alisa Kolosova (Luisa Miller), and Ailyn Pérez (Celebrating Plácido).

Conductors Enrique Mazzola (Lucia di Lammermoor), Riccardo Frizza (Norma), Ainārs Rubiķis (Carmen), and Alejo Pérez (Eugene Onegin).

Spotlight on Enrique Mazzola

Notable debuts do not stop with the performers that grace the Lyric Opera stage; our fabulous music director, Enrique Mazzola, made his Lyric debut in 2016 with the beautiful Lucia di Lammermoor by Donizetti. An expert in bel canto and Verdi, in the 2021/22 Season, Mazzola conducted the flirtatious Elixir of Love, and in 2023/24 he conducted his first fully staged version of Aida.

Mazzola continues to build a lasting legacy as Lyric’s third music director, conducting a wide variety of repertoire, ranging from established classics to contemporary work.

Enrique Mazzola leads the Lyric Opera Orchestra.

Performers Dmitry Korchak (Orphée et Eurydice), Rosa Feola (Rigoletto), Elisabet Strid and Ain Anger (Die Walküre), Stefano La Colla, Maria Agresta, and Janai Brugger (Turandot), Elena Tsallagova (Così fan tutte), and Benjamin Bernheim (Faust).

Conductors James Gaffigan (Così fan tutte) and Tom Deering (Jesus Christ Superstar).

Director, Choreographer, and Production Designer John Neumeier (Orphée et Eurydice), Director Timothy Sheader (Jesus Christ Superstar), and Production Designer John Frame (Faust).


Performers Michael Fabiano (La Bohème), Burkhard Fritz, Matthias Klink, and Ronnita Miller (Siegfried), Tamara Wilson (Il Trovatore), Siobhan Stagg (Cendrillon), Nina Stemme and Iain Patterson (Elektra), Brenda Rae (Ariodante) and Zoie Reams (La Traviata).

Conductors Michael Christie (La Traviata), Nicole Paiement (Dead Man Walking), Domingo Hindoyan (La Bohème), and Sir Donald Runnicles (Elektra).

Director and Costume Designer, Laurent Pelly (Cendrillon).

Spotlight on Nina Stemme

In the 2018/19 Season, the unmatched Swedish soprano Nina Stemme sang the role of Elektra, shortly after receiving the Birgit Nilsson Prize, one of the most prestigious awards in the classical music world. In a noteworthy Lyric debut of a world-renowned star, Stemme’s portrayal of Elektra brought chilling, unharnessed power and tragic beauty to our Chicago audiences.

Nina Stemme as Elektra.

In the 2023/24 Season, Stemme returned as the Kostelnička in Jenůfa, alongside Lise Davidsen, making her debut in the title role; these two powerhouse leads made for an extraordinarily memorable production.


Performers Ryan McKinny (Dead Man Walking), Rachel Willis-Sørensen, Ying Fang, and Mika Kares (Don Giovanni).


Director Yuval Sharon and Poet avery r. young (Twilight: Gods).


Performers Joshua Guerrero (Macbeth), Gabriella Reyes (Florencia en el Amazonas,) and Michelle Bradley (Tosca).

Conductors Karen Kamensek (The Magic Flute), Jordan de Souza (Florencia en el Amazonas), and Eun Sun Kim (Tosca).

Directors Daniel Slater (The Elixir of Love) and Barrie Kosky (The Magic Flute). Co-Director and Choreographer Camille A. Brown (Fire Shut Up in My Bones).


Performers Igor Golovatenko (Don Carlos), Samantha Hankey (Hänsel und Gretel), Golda Schultz (Carmen), and John Holiday and Lucia Lucas (Proximity).

Conductors Kimberly Grigsby (Fiddler on the Roof), Kedrick Armstrong (The Factotum), and Kazem Abdullah (Proximity).

Director Rajendra Ramoon Maharaj (The Factotum).


Performers Lisette Oropesa (Daughter of the Regiment), Lise Davidsen (Jenůfa), Vasilisa Berzhanskaya and Jack Swanson (Cinderella).

Conductors Speranza Scappucci (Daughter of the Regiment), Jakub Hrůša (Jenůfa), and Yi-Chen Lin (Cinderella).

Director Claus Guth (Jenůfa).

Part IV: An opera house for the future — enhancing the visitor experience

Breaking New Ground campaign

Since its inauguration in 1929, the Lyric Opera House has stood as a beacon of musical and theatrical innovation. However, over the years, the stage infrastructure has aged, presenting significant challenges for modern productions and hindering collaborations with technologically advanced opera houses. The urgency to address these matters prompted Lyric to launch a campaign specifically dedicated to stage renovations.

One of the key elements of the Breaking New Ground campaign, initiated in January 2013, aimed to continue to support Lyric’s vision of what it means to be a world-class, 21st-century opera company by focusing on the stage equipment of the Lyric Opera House. Safety, quality, and innovation were priorities, and funds raised were earmarked for crucial upgrades including new stage lifts, a stage turntable, point hoists, counterweight pipe automation systems, and modernized stage lighting. These enhancements were vital for maintaining the highest artistic standards while upholding fiscal responsibility. Through the Breaking New Ground campaign, Lyric raised $16.3 million over five years to revitalize its facilities, with $1.7 million allocated for immediate equipment needs.

In 2016, The Magic Flute unfolds around a 1950s house that rotated upon a brand-new turntable.

Reseating the opera house

Thanks to a generous gift from an Anonymous Donor, brand new seats were installed throughout the house during the COVID-19 pandemic. Improvements in accessibility for all were the primary focus of the project, with the installation of wider, state-of-the-art seats throughout the theater with a pleasing ergonomic design, a new Main Floor seating configuration that provides for better sightlines of the stage, wider aisles for improved entrance and exit flow, and more wheelchair-accessible seating.

The new seats in the Lyric Opera House after installation in 2020.

Clearly Better

Thanks to the exceptional generosity of John “Jack” V. Crowe and Margaret Ann “Peggy” Crowe, Lyric was able to transform the Nancy W. Knowles Lobby last summer, surrounding the space with three custom-built glass walls to enhance comfort for everyone in that space. Jack and Peggy first formally joined the Lyric family in 1992, when they became subscribers. Jack, who passed away in 2017, served on Lyric’s Board of Directors from 1992 to 2007.

Two panels seal the doorways on the north side of the lobby, and an enormous compound panel separates it from the Daniel F. and Ada L. Rice Grand Foyer. A new ventilation system has improved and pressurized the climate inside the well-traveled entryway.

The complex project included sophisticated architectural consulting from the Goettsch Partners firm, who helped to ensure the character of the 1929 Graham, Anderson, Probst and White masterpiece that houses our company and our patrons. All the sconces and chandeliers in the space were carefully removed, each piece of glass getting individually bubble-wrapped, and the fixtures were entirely rewired. A significant portion of the ductwork in the space was rerouted. Along with the seating overhaul completed before the 2021/22 Season, this project was a significant investment in the patron experience.


Touch Tours

Lyric strives to make the opera experience accessible for all patrons by providing services for those who may need assistance. Alongside numerous other programs, including accessible seating, FM and Telecoil loop assistive listening devices, audio-described performances, braille and large-print programs, Lyric is pleased to regularly offer guided touch tours of the opera house.

The touch tours were created as an enhancement to the audio-described performances for audience members who are blind or have low vision, but they are open to all ticket holders for the performance. Lyric’s touch tours take guests backstage to learn more about the opera they are about to experience. Guided by an expert interpreter who will later provide the audio description of the performance, guests hear about the production while touching set pieces, costumes, props, and even musical instruments from the orchestra, For guests who will also be following along with the audio description of the opera, the touch tours prepare attendees to get an up-close and more vivid sense of what the describer is narrating.

Lyric's Costume Director, Kim Buetzow, shares a costume with a Touch Tour guest before before a performance of Jenůfa.

ASL Performances/SoundShirt

For deaf and hard of hearing audiences, there is at least one performance per opera that provides sign language interpretation. In addition, Lyric became the first opera company in the world to offer the SoundShirt, an award-winning article of wearable technology that uses touch sensation to allow audience members to feel music in their upper body in real time with the orchestra and singers.

The SoundShirt pilot program debuted in the 2023/24 Season. A SoundShirt vibrates in sync with the performance, collecting live sonic data from points located on stage and in the orchestra pit. Due to the success of this pilot program, Lyric plans to purchase additional SoundShirt shirts and drive outreach methods to expand the program even further.

A fond farewell

We hope you have enjoyed this four-part retrospective of Anthony Freud’s tenure with Lyric Opera of Chicago.

Even in the face of the pandemic, the company continued to produce and innovate. Lyric is in a strong and stable position for continued growth, bolstered both by generous support from donors and longtime patrons while attracting ever-increasing new audiences.

Above all, there have been breathtaking artistic highpoints, moments when this transcendent art form delivered what only grand opera can deliver — the human voice, raised in song, sharing the powerful emotions and stories that bind us all together through groundbreaking productions and world-class music-making.

Support for artistically excellent and thought-provoking Lyric productions is made possible by our generous donors. You can make a gift today to create more magical moments each time the curtain rises at Lyric.

Support the future of Lyric

Photo credits: Michael Brosilow, Andrew Cioffi, Darris Lee Harris, Robert Kusel, Dan Rest, Todd Rosenberg, and Cory Weaver