September 14, 2020

Lyric Opera of Chicago announces reimagined season programs

At the core of Lyric’s mission and vision is a commitment to redefining what it means to experience great opera today. Though our stage may be dark through December 31, 2020 due to public health considerations, Lyric is thrilled to present an exciting slate of virtual performance experiences giving you a multitude of ways to continue to make music, opera, and Lyric a part of your life.

“The mission was clear,” says Anthony Freud, Lyric Opera of Chicago’s president, general director and CEO, “given our current public health crisis, we needed to harness all of the company’s creative and artistic forces to create original projects and productions designed specifically for digital platforms and reinvent how an immersive live performance event could be possible. I’m proud to say that our upcoming slate of programming brings exciting, fresh and experimental new takes on our artform to life and also provides some new approaches to the core repertoire.”

Included in these new programs are: a drive-through experience inspired by Richard Wagner’s opera Götterdämmerung, titled Twilight: Gods; a web series conceived by and starring Enrique Mazzola titled Breaking Down the Score: Attila with Maestro Enrique MazzolaAttila Highlights in Concert: Explore More with Enrique Mazzola led by—and featuring special commentary from—Enrique Mazzola; a series of filmed Master Classes with Music Director Sir Andrew Davis and members of the Ryan Opera Center; and a behind the scenes look at the development of a new opera from Will Liverman and DJ/recording artist K-Rico titled Creating The Factotum.

In conceiving these new programs, Anthony Freud engaged director Yuval Sharon, who has been described by The New York Times as "opera's disrupter in residence" to partner with Lyric in the role of Lyric’s Creative Catalyst. Sharon's embrace of new approaches and his reputation for artistic innovation strike the perfect note in a world where arts organizations are being more flexible and imaginative than ever before.

Yuval Sharon, Lyric's Creative Catalyst and director of the upcoming Twilight: Gods.

“It has been an honor to work with Lyric’s artistic team this summer to think radically about the presentation of opera,” said Sharon. “Arts companies around the globe are being forced to think in very different ways, but change has been needed in the world of this artform. This company is capable of great contributions to that evolution and I am proud to be part of it.”

“Yuval was brought on to challenge the company to think differently about the immediate future of our artform and we couldn’t be more thankful for his imagination and creativity,” explained Freud. “We are honored to have him directing one of our upcoming projects, as well—a true testament to his investment in Lyric’s success.”

A centerpiece of these new projects is Twilight: Gods. Part live performance and part art installation, this original work is conceived in partnership with Michigan Opera Theatre and directed by Yuval Sharon. Audience members will navigate through an industrial parking garage in the safety of their own cars as they experience this reimagining of the final chapter of Wagner’s epic Ring cycle. The complete experience is planned to last just over an hour with sets of discrete scenes brought to life by singers, small instrumental groups, and actors. Sung in English, with a mixture of live and pre-recorded performances, each installation will comprise its own self-contained, designed world. 

The work features new texts in English written by Yuval Sharon, and poetic transitions written and performed by Chicago interdisciplinary artist avery r. young, who will be a prominent part of the Twilight: Gods experience, serving to recontextualize Wagner's original story and place it in a local context. Young is an award-winning teaching artist who has been an Arts and Public Life Artist-In-Residence at the University of Chicago. Performances of Twilight: Gods, a project of Lyric Unlimited, will take place in April 2021, and there will be a film created from the project to allow the widest possible audience the chance to experience it.

Music Director Designate Enrique Mazzola will lead two new projects. First, Lyric’s deep dive into early Verdi continues virtually with  a new web series titled Breaking Down the Score: Attila with Maestro Enrique Mazzola, conceived by and starring Maestro Mazzola. Each episode offers a personal reading and interpretation by the conductor of one of the twelve musical sections of Attila. Through these engaging and delightful videos, viewers will gain unique insights into this marvelous score from the conductor’s perspective. “It has been a joy to prepare ‘Breaking Down the Score: Attila with Maestro Enrique Mazzola’ for Lyric audiences, and I can’t wait to be back in Chicago to continue the early Verdi series in a new and creative way,” said Mazzola. “I look forward to the day when we are all able to gather in the beautiful Lyric Opera House once again.” The web series will premiere in October 2020.

Lyric's Music Director Designate, Enrique Mazzola, who will be leading "Breaking Down the Score: Attila with Maestro Enrique Mazzola" and "Attila Highlights in Concert: Explore More with Enrique Mazzola" this fall.

Maestro Mazzola then leads a phenomenal cast of world-renowned principal artists and Lyric favorites in Attila Highlights in Concert: Explore More with Enrique MazzolaThe performance features piano-accompanied excerpts from the work originally programmed as part of Lyric’s early Verdi series, with members of the Lyric Opera Chorus. The star-studded cast includes soprano Tamara Wilson as Odabella, tenor Matthew Polenzani as Foresto, baritone Quinn Kelsey as Ezio, and bass-baritone Christian Van Horn in the title role as Attila. Polenzani, Kelsey and Van Horn are all alumni of the Ryan Opera Center. The virtual concert will premiere December 13, 2020 at 6:00 pm CT on Lyric’s YouTube and Facebook channels.

Offering a behind-the-scenes look at the way professional singers hone their skills, Lyric presents a series of Master Classes with Sir Andrew Davis. Ensemble members of the Ryan Opera Center, one of the premier operatic voice training programs of its kind in the world, will enjoy the opportunity to work one-on-one with Sir Andrew, as he leads them through excerpts of one of his favorite operas, Mozart’s The Marriage of Figaro. “I am extremely proud of how Lyric is moving forward and keeping the music alive,” said Davis. “This season will be filled with new opportunities for our existing audiences and for new audiences to experience the power of opera.” Master Classes with Sir Andrew Davis will premiere in October 2020.

Lyric's Music Director, Sir Andrew Davis, who will be leading master classes with Lyric's Ryan Opera Center Ensemble this fall.

Opera fans hungry for something completely new can get an inside view as baritone Will Liverman and DJ/recording artist K-Rico work through the early stages in development of their new work, The Factotum, in a workshop commissioned by Lyric’s Ryan Opera CenterCreating The Factotum. Reinvigorating a timeless operatic comedy by giving it a fresh fadeThe Factotum is a new opera that expands the limits of traditional opera repertoire. Liverman and K-Rico will reimagine Rossini's The Barber of Seville to take place in a present-day barbershop on Chicago’s South Side, featuring hip-hop driven music intertwined with musical elements of barbershop, gospel, funk, neo soul, and R&B. The Factotum will hold a workshop in December 2020 and the behind-the-scenes process of creating the new work will be documented and shared with audiences at a future date.

Ryan Opera Center alumnus, Will Liverman

DJ/recording artist K. Rico

Ryan Opera Center alumnus, Will Liverman, and DJ/recording artist, K. Rico

More details and confirmed dates will be announced in the weeks and months to come, so be sure to check back often for the latest news. In the meantime, for those craving great music on demand, Lyric’s Lawrence Brownlee and Friends: The Next Chapter and For the Love of Lyric concerts are still available on demand. We can’t wait to be together again for live performances, but until then, we look forward to sharing the thrill of performance together in these new and innovative ways.

Photo credit: MacArthur Foundation, Joe Mazza, Dan Rest, Todd Rosenberg, Jaclyn Simpson