March 06, 2019

Something Wonderful: A Look Back at Lyric’s 15/16 Season

According to the Chicago Tribune, Lyric’s 2015/16 season promised to be “One of the most interesting, diverse and well-balanced seasons Lyric has offered.” Under the leadership of general director Anthony Freud, music director Sir Andrew Davis and creative consultant Renée Fleming, Lyric brought nine new-to-Chicago productions to its stage, including the world-premiere of Bel Canto.

Lyric kicked off the season with two colorful and fun productions: The Marriage of Figaro and Cinderella. Berg’s thrilling and powerful Wozzeck opened soon after, followed by our very own Renée Fleming singing the lead role of Hanna Glawari in The Merry WidowBel Canto opened in December as Lyric’s first main stage world premiere in more than a decade, and will soon be shared with national audiences via PBS’s Great Performances series. Der Rosenkavalier and Nabucco graced the stage with world class singing, proving a night at the opera can make for the perfect winter getaway. In the spring, Lyric presented Romeo and Juliet, coinciding with the citywide Shakespeare 400 festival, a celebration honoring the 400-year anniversary of William Shakespeare’s death. Finally, audiences laughed, cried and sang along to beloved Rodgers and Hammerstein classic The King and I, ending the season on a high note. 

The 2015/16 season featured audience favorites like Susanna Phillips, Amanda Majeski, Thomas Hampson, Alice Coote, Jospeh Calleja, Tatiana Serjan, Isabel Leonard, and Zeljko Lucic, while others like Lawrence Brownlee, Dmitry Belosselskiy, and Heidi Strober all made their Lyric debuts. The Ryan Opera Center’s Rising Stars in Concert was open to the general public for the first time in its history and was indeed a night of musical triumph. Unique, one-night-only performances by Plácido Domingo (with Ana María Martínez and Sir Andrew Davis) and Dmitri Hvorostovsky gave Chicago audiences the chance to see some of the hottest opera singers on Lyric’s stage. 

Without a doubt, the 2015/16 season was one for the books — and critics agreed. Here are some of the best things said about Lyric this season:

Cinderella (Rossini)

“Lyric Opera of Chicago is a world-class organization with a long history of brilliant performances.” –Splash Magazine

“Lyric unquestionably has one of the finest orchestras in the country, if not the world.” –Showbiz Chicago

“Conductor Andrew Davis leads with equal parts of passion and grace.” –Chicago on the Aisle

“The Lyric Opera Chorus has been raised to a new level under chorus master Michael Black.” –Chicago Classical Review

“The Lyric Opera’s 2015/16 season opened...with a dazzling new production of Mozart’s The Marriage of Figaro." –Bachtrack

Bel Canto (López)

"The Marriage of Figaro is such an experience: funny, outrageous, heartfelt, with supertitles that will crack you up and singing that’ll knock your socks off. Not even Mozart could have asked for more than that." –Chicago Stage Review

[On Cinderella] “With [Isabel] Leonard and [Lawrence] Brownlee, two of today's finest young Rossini singers, the show's visual delights found their ideal vocal complement.” –Chicago Tribune 

“This Wozzeck is an uncompromising and important artistic statement executed brilliantly by McVicar (director) and Lyric Opera.” –Chicago Theater Beat

"Renée Fleming is the chanteuse of the ages." –Hollywood Chicago on The Merry Widow

[on Bel Canto] “An exhilarating event and a compelling reaffirmation of the transcendent power of music.” –Opera News 

Romeo and Juliet (Gounod)

“A bold work and an important reminder that opera can be topical and good art.” –Crain’s Chicago Business on Bel Canto

“At the Civic Opera House with Lyric favorite soprano Ana María Martínez, and the Lyric orchestra, Domingo reminded Chicagoans of exactly what they had been missing.” –Chicago Classical Review on Plácido Domingo in Concert 

"The return of Nabucco to Lyric’s stage was worth the nearly 20-year wait." –Chicago Sun Times

"Some of the most thrilling singing heard in Chicago in years." –Chicago Classical Review on Nabucco

“The Lyric Opera Orchestra performed at its peak with polished and idiomatic playing across all sections.” –Chicago Classical Review on Der Rosenkavalier

Nabucco (Verdi)

“With his sexy mane of silver-white hair, tight-fitting tuxedo and easygoing stage manner, the Siberian ‘barihunk’ had the crowd eating out of his hands.” –Chicago Tribune on Dmitri Hvorostovsky in Recital

"This Romeo and Juliet was a grand way to celebrate the 400th anniversary of Shakespeare’s death." –Le Bon Travel & Culture

“One of the strongest pools of pre-professional talent Lyric has nurtured.” –Chicago Tribune on Rising Stars in Concert

The King and I is exceptional, a theatrical experience as visually and musically resplendent as it is emotionally true.” –Chicago on the Aisle

“A visually breathtaking, poignant and charming performance that will leave audiences with an indelible impression on their hearts.” –Chicagoland Musical Theatre on The King and I

The Marriage of Figaro (Mozart)

Photos: Todd Rosenberg, Andrew Cioffi