December 15, 2023

Spotlight on Whitney Morrison

Grammy-nominated soprano and The Patrick G. and Shirley W. Ryan Opera Center alumna Whitney Morrison is set to make a highly-anticipated return to the Lyric stage in the upcoming production of Terence Blanchard’s highly anticipated Champion. A celebrated performer, Morrison’s “sublime soprano” (Chicago Reader) distinguishes her as an exceptionally talented artist dedicated to her craft.

Whitney Morrison as Yasmine Miller in Lyric's world-premiere production of Proximity (2022/23).

The passion for opera that defines Morrison’s career grew out of voice lessons at Rich South High School in Richton Park. Under her teacher Lana Manson’s guidance, the soprano studied classical music and developed a love for performing. After high school, she went on to earn bachelor’s and master’s degrees in music (from Oakwood University and Eastman School of Music, respectively). 

Morrison joined Ryan Opera Center in 2017, and soon after made her Lyric debut as Countess Ceprano in Rigoletto. During her time in the Ensemble, Morrison appeared as Confidante in Elektra and First Cretan Woman in Idomeneo, before moving on to portray Sister Rose in Dead Man Walking (2019/20). The soprano would later be seen as Billie in select performances of Blanchard’s Fire Shut Up in My Bones (2021/22), and Yasmine Miller in Lyric's world premiere production of Proximity (2022/23). In addition to her staged performances, Morrison performed in Lyric’s Lawrence Brownlee and Friends concert in 2019, as well as the virtual recital Lawrence Brownlee and Friends: The Next Chapter in 2020. Her performance in the virtual production prompted Opera News to proclaim, “Whitney Morrison was simply astonishing in everything she sang… This is a voice we need to hear live.”

Whitney Morrison as Countess Ceprano in Rigoletto (2017/18)

Morrison’s body of work, artistic curiosity, and rich history with the company brought her to be named Lyric’s first Artist-in-Residence. The theme surrounding her work is Natural Audacity, which she described in an interview with WBEZ as having the nerve to believe in herself “in a way we’re not always taught to in art.” The program invites artists to explore their identities on and off stage, and Whitney Morrison is building the foundation for what Lyric hopes to be an ongoing commitment to highlighting the original work of incredible artists. Morrison’s first project as Lyric’s Artist-in-Residence, Growing Room, involved a series of pop-up installations in Chicago public spaces in Spring 2023 that allowed viewers a rare look into Morrison’s practice and rehearsal.

The soprano boasts an impressive resume, with her performance in Boston Modern Orchestra Project’s recording of X- The Life and Times of Malcolm X earning her a 2023 Grammy nomination. Her studies have taken her everywhere from the Neil Semer Vocal Institute in Germany to the Georg Solti Accademia di Bel Cantom program in Italy, and her passion and dedication show through in all of her performances. Morrison was also seen as Leonie Baker in the world premiere of Freedom Ride (Chicago Opera Theatre), where she “nearly stole the show… with one aria” (Classical Voice North America). Off stage, the soprano continues to bring a refreshing, reflective look into opera, art, and creativity through her podcast, The Artist Sanctuary with Whitney Morrison

Join us in welcoming Lyric’s own Whitney Morrison as Emelda Griffith in Champion, January 27-February 11.

January 27 - FEBRUARY 11, 2024



Champion, an opera by Terence Blanchard with libretto by Michael Cristofer, tells the true story of welterweight boxer Emile Griffith who is haunted by guilt. This “opera in jazz” features a brilliant cast, including Reginald Smith, Jr. and Justin Austin, and is led by Music Director Enrique Mazzola.

Header photo: Headshot of Whitney Morrison Credit: Jaclyn Simpson

All other photos: Todd Rosenberg