April 18, 2022

Masterful maestri of the 2021/22 Season

What — you may ask — does a conductor actually do? The answer: many things! A conductor is not only there to keep time (or, dictate how fast or slow a piece goes). They are responsible for bringing a piece of music to life. They study the score until they know it inside and out, deciding on their own interpretation. What do they think the composer wanted? What does the production call for? How can the singers best serve the music? How can the orchestra play to their strengths? A conductor needs to be able to answer these questions and more to make sure everyone from concertmaster to chorus member are all on the same page.

For the first time in Lyric history, all of this season's guest conductors were women or people of color. Keep scrolling for a look back at the celebrated maestri who took the podium in the 2021/22 Season.

Enrique Mazzola

In September 2021, Music Director Enrique Mazzola brought the Lyric Opera House blazing back to life, conducting two back-to-back operas: Verdi's Macbeth and Donizetti's The Elixir of Love. The exciting event marked not only his first appearance as music director, but Lyric's return to live performance after more than 19 months. Get to know the Maestro in this interview with former Chicago Tribune critic, John von Rhein. 

A new era at Lyric Opera of Chicago

Lyric Opera could not be in better hands than those of its new Music Director, Enrique Mazzola. From the moment he wielded his baton in the overture, one could sense his measured devotion to the golden passages inscribed before him in the score.

The Times Weekly

Karen Kamensek

Next on the podium was Karen Kamensek in her Lyric debut. Tempo was top of mind, as she matched Mozart's melodies with Barrie Kosky and 1929's complex projections. Learn about the Chicago-born conductor, her favorite moment in The Magic Flute, and more in this Q&A.

Q&A with conductor Karen Kamensek

Each performer displayed masterful vocal quality, emotion, and nuance. The explosive orchestra conducted by Karen Kamensek took my breath away from the very first note, and worked in perfect harmony with the powerful songs performed onstage.

Broadway World

Jordan de Souza

Hailed by the New York Times as part of "the new generation leading Berlin's classical music scene", Maestro Jordan de Souza was at the center of another milestone moment in Chicago this past fall. The Lyric premiere of Daniel Catán's Florencia en el Amazonas marked the first Spanish-language opera to be performed in Lyric's mainstage season. Learn more about the 33 year-old Canadian conductor, his Lyric debut, and more in our filmed conversation series, Mixing it Up.

Mixing it Up with Ana María Martínez and Jordan de Souza

...in his impressive Lyric Opera debut, Canadian conductor Jordan de Souza, along with the sublime Lyric Orchestra musicians, capture the full beauty of Catan's lush and truly magical score.


Eun Sun Kim

Better late than never! While the pandemic might have delayed the Lyric Opera debut of Maestro Eun Sun Kim, the Korean conductor's blazing star has only continued to rise. Recently appointed San Francisco Opera's first female music director, Maestro Kim garnered rave reviews and a host of new fans in Chicago for her performances of Puccini's Tosca this spring. Get to know the talented conductor in this profile from Lyric's longtime dramaturg, Roger Pines.

Making magic on the podium

Enlivening and enriching this production all along the way is 41-year-old conductor Eun Sun Kim, who began her tenure as music director of the San Francisco Opera last year. She is generating considerable buzz in the opera world, and it's not hard to understand why. Kim displays a keen understanding of the dramatic arc of this well-constructed opera and an instinctive sense of tempo, knowing when to pull back and when to key the action with a crackling down beat. Let's hope to see her back in Lyric's pit soon.

Chicago Sun Times

Daniela Candillari

With two Lyric Unlimited chamber operas under her belt (An American Dream, 2018/19 and Fellow Travelers, 2017/18) Maestro Daniela Candillari is no stranger to Chicago audiences. We were thrilled to welcome her back in the 2021/22 Season for her mainstage debut, leading performances of Terence Blanchard and Kasi Lemmons's Fire Shut Up in My Bones. Learn more about this multi-faceted conductor's career, and the excitement of exploring new works in this Mixing it Up conversation.

Mixing it Up with Will Liverman and Daniela Candillari

As always, the Lyric orchestra, seamlessly conducted by Daniela Candillari, was in top form as it finessed this complex, multi-faceted score.


Header photo: Conductor Daniela Candillari takes a bow with the cast of Fire Shut Up in My Bones on opening night. Credit: Jaclyn Simpson

All other photos: Kyle Flubacker, Cory Weaver, Todd Rosenberg