August 02, 2021

Music and memories in the park

For more than 20 years, Lyric audiences have enjoyed opera under the stars in two of Chicago's most beautiful parks. Beginning in Grant Park at the Petrillo Music Shell and moving to the newly built Jay Pritzker Pavilion in 2005, Lyric's free public concerts have been a highlight of the year for countless music lovers. With upwards of 10,000 annual attendees, the concert offers a taste of the season ahead, and has long served as the unofficial start to the fall classical music season.

On August 29th 2021, Lyric returns to Millennium Park with a revamped program: Sunday in the Park with Lyric's Rising Stars. Kicking off at 6pm CT, this one-night-only concert will feature the 2021/22 Ryan Opera Center Ensemble with the Lyric Opera Orchestra under the baton of Lyric's new music director, Enrique Mazzola. Hear selections from the upcoming season — including favorites like Mozart's The Magic Flute and Puccini's Tosca, and newer titles like Catán's Florencia en el Amazonas and Blanchard/Lemmons's Fire Shut Up in My Bones — as well as some operatic hits and highlights performed by today's emerging stars.

Audiences gather to hear selections from Lyric's 2002/03 Season in Grant Park.

See the stars of tomorrow, today

Chicago is no stranger to stars on the rise. Little did audiences know that when they arrived in Grant Park for Lyric's second-ever pre-season concert, they'd be witnessing one of opera's greatest success stories. In his first U.S. appearance, audiences were introduced to tenor Jonas Kaufmann, who would be making his official American operatic debut as Cassio in Lyric's production of Verdi's Otello the following week. The young German tenor's liquid voice and spotless musicianship helped him stand out alongside established stars like Ben Heppner, Renée Fleming, Susan Graham, Catherine Malfitano, and more.

Year after year, audiences were treated to a mix of internationally renowned stars, up-and-coming talents, and young artists on the verge of major careers. Members of the Ryan Opera Center (formerly known as the Lyric Center for American Artists) have participated in every Stars of Lyric Opera concert since 2000. Chicago audiences can look back at the program's list of starry alumni like René Barbera, Elizabeth DeShong, Nicole Cabell, Christian Van Horn, Quinn Kelsey, and more, and say "I saw them when..."

Artists take a final bow at Stars of Lyric Opera at Millennium Park in 2011.

Celebrate the start of a new era

When Lyric presented its first free pre-season outdoor concert in September 2000, it was led by longtime principal conductor and artistic director Bruno Bartoletti. The following year, Sir Andrew Davis was on the podium in his first appearance as Lyric's new music director. Now, in 2021, Maestro Enrique Mazzola will lead the Lyric Opera Orchestra and members of The Patrick G. and Shirley W. Ryan Opera Center in his first public outing as music director of Lyric Opera of Chicago. Another major milestone? Sunday in the Park with Lyric's Rising Stars marks Lyric's first live public performance in nearly 18 months! The special summer concert is presented in cooperation with The City of Chicago and Millennium Park, as part of Chicago in Tune, a citywide festival celebrating our city's legendary music community.

Long time music director Sir Andrew Davis leads the Lyric Opera Orchestra at Stars of Lyric Opera in Millennium Park in September 2019.

Soak up the last rays of summer with Sunday in the Park with Lyric's Rising Stars, beginning at 6pm CT on August 29, 2021. Ryan Opera Center Ensemble members will perform excerpts from the 2021/22 Season including Verdi's Macbeth, Donizetti's The Elixir of Love, Mozart's The Magic Flute, Catán's Florencia en el Amazonas, Puccini's Tosca, and Blanchard/Lemmons's Fire Shut Up in My Bones. The concert will open with a crowd favorite — Rossini's William Tell Overture, performed by the Lyric Opera Orchestra. Special ensemble selections from Donizetti's Lucia di Lammermoor and Bernstein's Candide will close out the evening. Join us for this special summer concert, and perhaps you'll be able to say you heard the next Jonas Kaufmann at Sunday in the Park!

Header photo: The full cast of the 2018/19 concert, Stars of Lyric Opera in Millennium Park, take a final bow. Credit: Todd Rosenberg

All other photos: Dan Rest, Todd Rosenberg