March 06, 2019

Truly Epic: A Look Back at Lyric’s 2016/17 Season

It’s been a season of epic works and fabulous firsts. Tales of grand passions and obsessions, warring factions, ghostly apparitions, impossible dreams, love gone wrong, and even love gone right captivated the attention and lifted the spirits of Lyric’s audiences from October through May.

Led by general director Anthony Freud, music director Sir Andrew Davis, and creative consultant Renée Fleming, Lyric launched its 2016/17 season with Das Rheingold, the dazzling first installment of a brand-new Ring cycle; presented the company premiere of Berlioz’s massive drama The Trojans in a stunning new production; and brought fresh meaning to The Magic Flute with an imaginative new spin (literally) on the beloved Mozart masterpiece. 

A wealth of new-to-Chicago productions also thrilled audiences at the Lyric Opera House: Donizetti’s romantic tragedy Lucia di Lammermoor, Massenet’s deeply touching Don Quichotte, Bellini’s fiery Norma, Bizet’s sizzling Carmen, and Lerner & Loewe’s “loverly” My Fair Lady. Additionally, Robert Carsen’s poignant production of Eugene Onegin made a welcome return to Lyric.

Each production was brought to life by a cast of internationally-acclaimed artists - both familiar to Lyric and debuting - with some of today's most sought-after voices garnering rave reviews. The brilliant forces of the Lyric Opera Orchestra and Chorus shone throughout the season (guided by Sir Andrew Davis, guest conductors, and chorus master Michael Black), while the company’s production and technical staffs worked closely with guest directors and designers to ensure the exceptional quality of each and every performance. 

Lyric Unlimited presented outstanding new works away from the mainstage, as well: Jason and the Argonauts, an opera for young people by Gregory Spears that had its world premiere at Vittum Theater; the Chicago premiere of Charlie Parker’s Yardbird by Daniel Schnyder, starring tenor Lawrence Brownlee in sold-out performances at the Harris Theater; and the world premiere of Longer! Louder! Wagner!, a new collaboration with The Second City, presented backstage at the Lyric Opera House in a rehearsal-room-turned-cabaret.

Here’s a small sample of critical praise for Lyric’s 62nd season:

“This... is nothing short of a triumph on all fronts, intelligently conceived by the creative team, brilliantly executed by a top-flight international cast representing the new generation of Wagner singers.” – Chicago Tribune

"Andrew Davis led a performance of vigor and heft.” – The New Yorker

“…lean-textured and urgent performance.” – The New York Times

“...90 giddy minutes of belly laughs and music...[by] a half dozen flawlessly funny Second City veterans and a pair of operatic singers.” – The Reader

“Shagimuratova ascended to the vocal stratosphere with liquid ease….Beczała defines the meaning of bel canto — beautiful singing.” – Chicago Tribune

“This production nails it in a high point of the Lyric Opera’s recent history.” – Chicago on the Aisle

“…compelling musical, dramatic and scenic brilliance…staged with superb clarity and emotional heat…the cast could not be more sublime.” – Chicago Sun-Times 

“Chicago opera lovers have waited a long time for a fully staged Les Troyens. With this production, Lyric has given them one for the ages.” – Musical America

“The ultimate spoils belong to Sir Andrew Davis, leading a spectacular orchestra and an augmented chorus that sounded like thousands, both brilliantly clambering and heart-stopping.” – NewCity

Furlanetto sings with such truthfulness and vocal warmth that you never doubt him for a moment.” – Chicago Sun-Times

“Lyric’s colorful Quichotte was an unqualified success, a comedy with an emotional impact that touches the heart.” – Chicago Classical Review

“A whimsical, funny, and musically enchanting new Flute.” – Classical Voice America

“A delightful brew of youthful energy, spontaneity and imagination.” – Musical America

“Lyric's Bellini team is as good as it gets in today's opera world.” – Chicago Tribune

“Radvanovsky is a thoughtful, graceful actress, and when she blends voices with DeShong – absolutely sublime.” – Chicago Sun-Times

“She is the stuff that opera is made of, and the Lyric Opera of Chicago production of Carmen…captures her, and all those caught in her web, at their very best, with Bizet’s ravishing score driving this fateful love-and-death story with ideal dramatic force and vocal beauty.´– Chicago Sun-Times

“End to end, this work of white-hot theater centers on Bird, its effect dependent on an almost Herculean vocal performance; and in Brownlee’s galvanic effort, it gets nothing less.” – Chicago on the Aisle

“Lyric Opera owns all the advantages of staging a grand classic musical in an opera house, and this is a production that does not hold back in any area – it’s altogether opulent.” – PerformInk

“Like our beloved Cubs, Chicago’s Lyric Opera is in the midst of a championship season.” –

“Clearly, opera has a very bright future in this culture-loving city.” – Opera Traveler

Lyric thanks its patrons, subscribers, donors, sponsors, artists, and staff for making the 2016/17 season such a success. We are grateful for another year of unforgettable music and look forward to having you join us for our upcoming 2017/18 season!

Photos: Andrew Cioffi, Todd Rosenberg, Kyle Flubacker