March 06, 2019


Lyric Unlimited is excited to present the Chicago premiere of Charlie Parker's Yardbird March 24 and 26! Charlie Parker’s Yardbird, based on the story of legendary saxophonist and bebop artist Charlie Parker, is an electrifying and exciting jazz-infused opera. It takes place in the twilight after Parker’s death, and follows the dynamic jazzman as he composes his final masterpiece, revisiting the inspirations, demons, and women who fueled his creative genius. Set in the famed New York City jazz club Birdland, the work stars tenor Lawrence Brownlee in the role of the “Yardbird” himself. Performances take place at the Harris Theater in downtown Chicago, and tickets begin at just $35.

Here are five great reasons to see Charlie Parker’s Yardbird!

1. Lawrence Brownlee stars as Charlie Parker in a role specifically crafted for him and his unique talents. Yardbirdcomposer Daniel Schnyder explained in a 2015 interview with NPR, "Bel canto is a kind of virtuoso art form where you have to sing very fast and very high, and you have to have a very flexible voice. And then...I met Larry and that just came to my mind — that he would be the perfect Charlie Parker." Having made his company debut in Lyric’s 2015 production of the bel-canto fairytale Cinderella,  Brownlee has been called “energetic and bright voiced,” by The New York Times and “owner of one of the most golden tenor voices currently performing” by Chicago Classical ReviewCharlie Parker’s Yardbird also stars soprano Angela Brown as Parker’s mother Addie, and baritone Will Liverman (Ryan Opera Center alumnus) as Dizzy Gillespie, Parker’s fellow jazz legend.

2. Charlie Parker’s Yardbird is the first opera ever performed at New York City’s famed Apollo Theater. The historic Harlem landmark was a stage Charlie Parker performed on frequently over the course of his career. However, while the Apollo Theater is known to present an array of artists from the hip-hop, jazz, pop, blues and soul genres, the venue remained elusive for operatic productions until April, 2015, when Charlie Parker’s Yardbird made history in two nights of performances presented by Opera Philadelphia.

3. Learn about the life of Charlie Parker, one of the greatest jazz musicians in history. It’s a rare treat to hear a story about jazz told in an operatic style. “A 90-minute, swift-paced chamber opera with a pulsing, jazz-infused score,” is how The New York Times described it, and the opera takes audiences on an emotional journey through the highs and lows of Parker’s tumultuously brilliant career. There will also be a free, pre-opera talk featuring a jazz historian available to ticket-holders one hour prior to each show.

4. Experience the music of Charlie Parker after each performance. After experiencing the opera, audience members are invited to remain in the theater for a performance of Charlie Parker’s music by members of Orbert Davis’s Chicago Jazz Philharmonic featuring Rajiv Halim on alto saxophone. After learning about the life of the famed jazz legend through the opera, sit back and enjoy his music — some of it classically influenced — firsthand! 

5. This is the first time this recent opera will be performed in Chicago. Like any new piece, Charlie Parker’s Yardbird brings with it a feeling of excitement and energy. Premiered in Philadelphia, and later presented at the Apollo Theater, Charlie Parker’s Yardbird will have its Chicago premiere in this presentation by Lyric Unlimited in partnership with the Harris Theater for Music and Dance. Be among the first in Chicago to experience a provocative contemporary work that will leave you breathless.

Lawrence Brownlee on Charlie Parker's YARDBIRD

Charlie Parker’s Yardbird is made possible by

Lead sponsor

Lauter McDougal Family Foundation


Eisen Family Foundation

The Ferguson-Yntema Family Charitable Trust

Joseph and Madeleine Glossberg

Eric and Deb Hirschfield

Kenneth R. Norgan

Dan J. Epstein Family Foundation/ Judy Guitelman & ALAS Wings

Scenery designed by Ricardo Hernandez
Costumes designed by Emily Rebholz

Scenery and Costumes constructed by Opera Philadelphia
Production owned by Opera Philadelphia

Photo: Dominic M. Mercier/Opera Philadelphia