September 12, 2022

Get to know: Fiddler on the Roof

Jerry Bock, Sheldon Harnick, and Joseph Stein's Fiddler on the Roof boasts one of the greatest scores in Broadway history, with melodies that are eternally fresh – "Matchmaker, Matchmaker," "Sunrise, Sunset," "If I Were a Rich Man," and many more. Audiences have been taking those songs and so many others from this show to their hearts ever since Fiddler first conquered Broadway at its opening in 1964. But there's much more to Fiddler than the great songs – there's a humanity that sets the show apart from all others.

Based on the world-famous stories of Sholem Aleichem, Fiddler presents a family in Anatevka, a Russian shtetl (small Jewish town) in 1905: the hardworking milkman Tevye, his iron-willed wife Golde, and their five daughters. This is a family that endures serious stress, but they're survivors, connected by the bonds of love. It's that love that helps to sustain them as long-held traditions break down and things begin to change in harrowing ways for Russian Jews. Tevye is frustrated, angry, but ultimately helpless, as he and his family – as well as everyone else in Anatevka – are finally forced to leave their homes and rebuild their lives, far from everything they've ever known.

This is the story not only of Tevye's family, but also of the whole close-knit community of Anatevka. One of the many miracles of Fiddler is the way the audience experiences this community in depth. Even the minor characters are totally distinctive and memorable. Whether the shtetl's families are praying during the Sabbath, joyously gathering to celebrate Tevye's daughter's wedding, or lamenting the inevitable disintegration of Anatevka as its existence is repeatedly threatened by the authorities, it's a united community, with life experiences that speak to all of us.

Tevye, the heart of this show, is arguably the greatest male role in musical theater. Barrie Kosky, director of Lyric's production, considers it Shakespearean in its complexity, with an astounding range of emotions. This fall, Broadway luminary Steven Skybell brings his exceptional capacity for this role to Lyric. His magnificent performance in the acclaimed off-Broadway Yiddish-language production earned him the coveted Drama Desk, Drama League, and Outer Critics Circle Awards. His Golde will be one of today's most vibrant musical-theater artists, Debbie Gravitte. She's dazzled audiences in seven Broadway shows, earning a Tony for her star-making performance in Jerome Robbins' Broadway.

Lyric's presentation of the Komische Oper Berlin's extraordinary Fiddler production is sure to be one of Chicago's most significant cultural events of the season. Kosky has a personal connection to the show: his grandparents came from a tiny shtetl in Belarus, and his interest in their life there led him to delve very deeply into Fiddler's world. He has peeled away all the preconceived images of this beloved show to give it a completely fresh look, created with dazzling theatrical imagination. In this production, says Kosky, "you can clap, laugh, have joy, and in the next moment be moved to tears...but at the same time you don't leave the show feeling depressed or negative or pessimistic. You leave the show incredibly uplifted."

September 17 - October 7, 2022

Fiddler on the Roof

Fiddler on the Roof

One of the world’s leading opera directors, Barrie Kosky is celebrated from Vienna to Paris and from Bayreuth to London, where his new Ring cycle will take the stage at the Royal Opera starting next year. When his production of Fiddler on the Roof premiered at Komische Oper Berlin in 2017, international critics heralded the arrival of a completely original and unique experience created from this revered, Tony Award-winning masterpiece. “Songs many of us have heard our whole lives sentimentalized...are given weight and take on deep meaning,” raved the Los Angeles Times. Experience a Fiddler like no other, with the full power of the Lyric Opera Orchestra and Chorus as well as a production that is both grand in scale and intimate in its power to bring you directly to the heart of the village of Anatevka. Join us as Tevye, his wife Golde, and their five daughters experience the real joys and sorrows that have made this meaningful work an enduring part of our culture.

All photos: Iko Freese/Komische Oper Berlin