Program notes


A word from Enrique Mazzola

Who doesn't need a little sun and love in their life? That’s what Lyric’s music director designate, Enrique Mazzola, had in mind when he collaborated with members of The Patrick G. and Shirley W. Ryan Opera Center in planning the repertoire for this semi-staged performance.

The idea of  “Sole e Amore” came directly from Maestro Mazzola himself, and he chose the repertoire for each of the young artists with great care. There was a great deal to choose from: “When you prepare a program like this,” he says, “you have to set some guidelines—you can’t perform everything!”  Many of the songs will be accompanied by Maestro Mazzola, who will be playing the piano publicly for the first time in 20 years.

Mazzola opted to feature Italian operatic composers, but just their songs (no arias are included).  In doing so, he sought “to find a common topic that would guide us in a line from first note to last. That subject is love. We show different shades of the meaning of love and how it can be expressed in different situations, from the straightforward (I love another person) to the troubled (this person abandoned me, or my beloved has died); from the love for our children to the love for the countryside. Also, how love is expressed in a religious context.”

Mazzola notes that studying songs like these differs from the preparation of operatic arias. “In an aria you have to extract it from the context, so an emerging young singer might not have sung what comes before or after that aria. Here, each song is a story in miniature—a micro-plot in two, three, four pages of music.” Also, Italian operatic composers in arias can feel a compulsion to use the extremes in a voice to express a particular feeling or create a particular effect. The vocalism of these songs is more direct, even minimal at times, “but it shows the ability of the composers to write with the greatest efficacy and with different colors.”

Why don’t even the most devoted fans of recital repertoire know these selections as well as the most famous German and French art songs? “I think those composers very often built song cycles, and the Italians never thought of doing that. They were writing single songs, frequently for salons or special occasions. And usually the songs weren’t published in a complete book, like Schubert or Brahms lieder, but were instead maybe given as a present to a girlfriend, a rich friend, a publisher. Puccini’s ‘E l’uccellino’ was actually written for a child.” 

The songs find each composer usually working in a style we might not instantly recognize from their operatic work, but “when you have Bellini songs, it’s a purely bel canto atmosphere,” notes Mazzola. “And then, when you jump into Verdi, you understand how that world has been transformed into a more psychological one. Then, when you get to Puccini, you find the freshness of expression that is typical of the verismo style.” Mazzola calls this repertoire “a treasure trove” for listeners, in that they’ll be able to recognize a number of themes that certain composers also used in their operas. 

“It’s important that we offer something new to our loyal and beloved audience and that first-time listeners could enjoy. I also wanted to present something that featured the artists of the Ryan Opera Center, giving them an opportunity to show their virtuosity. At the same time, I wanted something unexpected and fresh that would speak to my italianità [Italianness]. I can’t help but enthusiastically convey this quality in the concertand in life!”

Meet the artists

*** Ryan Opera Center Ensemble

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The Sole E Amore performance you enjoyed is just one example of how Lyric Opera of Chicago is expanding the definition of what opera means in today's world.

Through a timely and diverse array of programming coupled with our industry-leading artist training program, Lyric Opera of Chicago aims to expand the space for classical music in the 21st century. A space that's more inclusive to artists and audiences alike. Sharing the majesty of opera with all who seek to find it. This collaborative vision will deliver ever more exciting, thought-provoking, and inclusive audience and community experiences.

As a nonprofit organization, Lyric needs your help to bring this vision to fruition. Your gift will support our artists as we navigate through difficult times and help ensure that Lyric can provide opportunities to showcase their immense talent. At the same time, your gift will help make opera more accessible to a broader audience.

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About the Ryan Opera Center

About the Ryan Opera Center

The Patrick G. and Shirley W. Ryan Opera Center is Lyric's preeminent artist-development program that nurtures the talents of some of the most promising operatic singers and pianists of each generation. The program's Ensemble members earn their coveted spot by successfully auditioning among more than 400 artists worldwide. Its alumni are among the dominant names in opera today. Donor generosity ensures continued unparalleled training, performance experience, and professional readiness of Ensemble members. This highly competitive program, established in 1974, is honored to enjoy the support of acclaimed soprano Renée Fleming as Advisor, along with full-time staff Director Dan Novak, Music Director Craig Terry, and Director of Vocal Studies Julia Faulkner.

Sole e Amore is generously presented by

Lyric's Guild Board of Directors

An Anonymous Donor

Mr. and Mrs. Robert S. and Sandra Marjan

Stephen Dunbar

David Marshall and Dr. Maija Freimans

Ropes & Gray, along with Partner and Guild Board member Timothy Farrell

Ilene Simmons

William Blair, along with Guild Board member Marc Lacher

with additional support from

Eisen Family Foundation

Photos: Kyle Flubacker