February 05, 2021

Lyric love stories

During the 2016/17 Season, we asked audience members to share why they love Lyric and opera in general. The responses poured in and were printed in a four-part series in our program. Many people spoke of memorable performances and the joy that comes from sharing the art form with loved ones. Some were stories of first dates, others were about their love for opera itself. This Valentine's Day, we're taking a look back at a few of our favorites.

We also invite you to share why you love the art form or how Lyric has played a meaningful role in your life. Tell your own Lyric love story by emailing MyLyricMemories@lyricopera.org.

Mozartian marriage

Alan and I went to Lyric for our very first date. Alan, knowing music was a shared interest, had gotten us tickets to The Magic Flute. In doing so, he had actually scored a bigger hit than he thought. Unbeknownst to him, not only had he picked one of my favorite things to do in Chicago, but also one of two operas that I have loved since I was a small child. It was the set-up for a perfect first date. And it was.

I can still remember what it felt like to sit there in the dark, letting the music flow over us, holding hands and sharing the beauty and the fun of The Magic Flute. I remember thinking that no one had ever made me feel this way before, and that I wanted the opera to go on forever.

Although that performance, like all great performances, did have to end, what began that night at Lyric did not. Two years later, I walked down the aisle towards him to the sound of the The Magic Flute.

And now, three years after that, our marriage still involves music, laughter...and going to Lyric.

-Toby Schwartz (Oak Park, Illinois)

Originally printed in the Eugene Onegin program in February 2017

Two years before their wedding, Toby Schwartz and her husband had their first date at a Lyric performance of Mozart's The Magic Flute. Pictured in the 2011/12 production are Stéphane Degout as Papageno and Jennifer Jakob as Papagena.

A special joy

The English poet John Keats said, "A thing of beauty is a joy forever." His words are prophetic for me.

Every time I attend a performance at Lyric Opera, I experience joy! It begins when I enter the magnificent lobby and queue up with the people who have come to pay homage to the world of opera. The music, the arias, the costumes, the story.

Every performance is a mini-vacation, a multi-sensory feast, a magical ride on a merry-go-round, a timeless story to soothe the soul.

We are blessed to live in Chicago. Lyric Opera is a treasure beyond words.

-Anna Winterman Szanto (Highland Park, Illinois)

Originally printed in the Das Rheingold program in September 2016

The true Elixir of Love

I was born on July 13, 1939, to Italian parents. My father came to this country from Sicily when he was 16 knowing many of the Italian opera melodies by heart. When I was a little girl he rocked me to sleep singing his favorite ones.

When I met my husband-to-be, our first real date was to Lyric Opera of Chicago for L'elisir d'amore with Luciano Pavarotti as the tenor. My husband-to-be was an opera loved from high school on. In Europe as a soldier he spent his leave at opera houses. The combination of memories of my Papa, Pavarotti, and my new-found love made Lyric Opera of Chicago a very special place for me. We have kept our subscriptions through the 37 years we have been married. We love opera and Lyric!

-Anna Cholewa (Glenview, Illinois)

Originally printed in the Eugene Onegin program in February 2017

Donizetti's L'elisir d'amore with Luciano Pavarotti (1977), a production that Anna Cholewa and her husband-to-be saw on their first date.

A welcome escape

Why do I love Lyric and opera? It is mesmerizing! The music, the costumes, the performances. The ambience of the Civic Opera House, which is outstanding. You just relax and are transported into a magic world that is exhilarating. How nice to escape the daily hustle and bustle for a few hours of pure pleasure.

-Don Brown (Chicago, Illinois)

Originally printed in the Eugene Onegin program in February 2017

Chorus companions

My husband and I met when we sang in the chorus of the Florentine Opera Company in Milwaukee. We started attending Lyric when we were dating, and I think we're now in our 43rd subscription season. We just celebrated our 40th wedding anniversary. We have six children, and they all came to Lyric. I sang twice with Beverly Sills, my absolute favorite since childhood, and we also sang with Sam Ramey and Sherrill Milnes and many others who we've seen at Lyric. We have seen firsthand what goes into the production of an opera and have seen some around the world. It is great to have a world-class opera house so close to home. We have seen most of the great opera singers, some many times, at Lyric and have enjoyed the depth of your "in house" musical talent. We have brought both family and friends to productions. We hope to be able to attend for many more years. Thank you for continuing to produce such high-caliber operas with such great singers, dancers, and production personnel.

-Janis and Don Crego (Elm Grove, Wisconsin)

Originally printed in the Eugene Onegin program in February 2017

Don and Janis Crego, costumed for Cavalleria rusticana at Milwaukee's Florentine Opera, 1973.

We'd love to hear what inspired your passion for opera! Tell us why you love opera or how Lyric has played an important role in your life by emailing MyLyricMemories@lyricopera.org.

We would also like to invite you to consider ensuring that Lyric can inspire the next generation of opera aficionados by naming Lyric in your will or estate plan. A legacy gift is a wonderful way to support the organization that has brought you so much joy over the years, as well as ensure that others can share that experience far into the future. Visit lyricopera.org/legacy to explore the many ways you can leave your love and legacy at Lyric.

Header image: A couple stands on stage during a Lyric open house (credit: Kyle Flubacker)

All other images: Dan Rest, Tony Romano, Todd Rosenberg