Program Book

Welcome to Sunday in the Park with Lyric, an evening of beautiful music featuring The Patrick G. and Shirley W. Ryan Opera Center 2023/24 Ensemble accompanied by the Lyric Opera Orchestra and conducted by Enrique Mazzola, Lyric's music director. Thank you for joining us and we hope you enjoy the concert.

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Program notes

The Flying Dutchman (Der fliegende Holländer)

On stage September 23, 2023 - October 7, 2023
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By Richard Wagner

Selections performed:

  • Overture
  • “Mögst du, mein Kind”
  • “Johohoe!...Traft ihr das Schiff”

In his first three stage works, Richard Wagner moved from a fairytale romance (Die Feen) to an adaptation of Shakespeare’s Measure for Measure (Das Liebesverbot) to a five-act historical drama (Rienzi). The Flying Dutchman (1843), Wagner’s first acknowledged masterpiece, found him achieving new emotional depths in his two protagonists, whose music enabled him to pull away from previous styles of opera.

Dutchman is launched with a uniquely stirring overture, centered on themes that will become familiar during the opera. These include the Dutchman’s own jagged identifying motif, the heroine Senta’s soulful theme, and the lively tune sung by the carousing sailors.

One of the work’s few genuine arias belongs to Daland, a Norwegian sea captain. Midway in the opera, he brings another seaman  the mysterious Dutchman  home as a guest and presents him to his daughter, Senta. Daland’s aria  sung with lively, buoyant rhythms, and endearing charm  reveals his hope that the two will soon marry.

In her first scene, Senta distracts her friends from their spinning wheels by singing her ballad. It begins strikingly — indeed, eerily — with an a cappella voicing of the Dutchman’s motive. The obsessed young woman’s three dramatic verses tell of the cursed Dutchman’s unhappy wanderings: He comes ashore from his ship only once every seven years, searching for a woman who can be faithful to him. Between each verse is a quiet, legato melody, expressing Senta’s hope that the Dutchman will one day find the woman he’s seeking. Senta cuts the ballad off with a sweeping outburst, proclaiming that she is that woman.


Cinderella (La Cenerentola)

On stage January 21, 2024 - February 10, 2024
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By Gioachino Rossini

Selections performed:

  • “Tutto è deserto…Un soave non so che”
  • “Un segreto d’importanza”
  • “Siete voi…Questo è un nodo avviluppato”
  • “Nacqui all’affanno…Non più mesta”

One of the most celebrated versions of this well-known story is Gioachino Rossini’s, first heard in 1817. He labeled Cinderella a dramma giocoso (humorous drama). There are numerous comic scenes, but the heroine and her prince express themselves, both individually and together, with touching sweetness and sincerity throughout the opera.

The prince, Don Ramiro, and his valet, Dandini, have exchanged clothes so Ramiro can determine whether a young woman can be found who will love him for himself, rather than for his royal position. At the home of Cinderella’s pompous father, Don Magnifico, prince Ramiro sees the heroine for the first time. The two fall in love in the course of a captivating duet.

Another duet later in the opera finds Dandini finally revealing to Don Magnifico that he’s only the valet, not the prince, leaving Magnifico spluttering and irate.

Back at Magnifico’s home, Ramiro recognizes Cinderella as the beautiful young woman who had enchanted him at a ball the evening before. Her father and two stepsisters are stunned, leading into a delightful sextet. When Ramiro proclaims that Cinderella will be his bride, Magnifico and his other daughters object, but Cinderella begs the prince to forgive them.

At the prince’s palace, Cinderella lets her family know that they’ll find in her a daughter, a sister, and a friend. She can hardly believe that in only a moment, her life has so totally changed. Her overwhelming happiness emerges in the opera’s glorious closing aria, which requires not only superhuman vocal technique, but also radiant femininity and generosity of spirit.


“Be My Love”

Music by Nicholas Brodszky and lyrics by Sammy Cahn

As late as the 1950s, a popular song used in a film could still become a classic as part of the so-called “American Songbook.” Hollywood’s most spectacularly successful singing star of that time was tenor Mario Lanza, for whom the soaring “Be My Love” was written. The world was introduced to the song in one of Lanza’s most charming films, The Toast of New Orleans (1950). A smash hit, “Be My Love” delighted an audience of millions and was Oscar-nominated for Best Original Song. Its lyricist, Sammy Cahn, would go on to earn more than 20 Oscar nominations, winning for “Three Coins in the Fountain,” “All the Way,” and “Call Me Irresponsible.” His creative partner for “Be My Love,” the Ukraine-born emigré Nicholas Brodszky, composed music for more than 40 films, as well as for many stage works. He, too, was hugely successful in Hollywood, with five Oscar nominations between 1950 and 1955.



By Agustín Lara 

Agustín Lara, who wrote the music and text of “Granada” in 1932, was one of the superstars of Spanish-language song. A native of Veracruz, Mexico, he enjoyed a career of nearly seven decades, complementing his vast output of music with successes as a pianist and even as a film actor. Musically he excelled in many different styles, among them blues, jazz, tango, and bolero, this last being romantic ballads written in a style that originated in Cuba. While many Lara songs exemplified the soul of Mexico, he was nearly as devoted to Spain. A longtime favorite of the world’s best-known tenors, “Granada” has been performed by seemingly every vocalist capable of presentable sung Spanish, from Bing Crosby to legendary Italian soprano Renata Tebaldi. It was many years after writing this celebration of a great city that Lara finally saw Granada itself for the first time.


The Daughter of the Regiment (La fille du régiment)

On stage November 4, 2023 - November 25, 2023
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By Gaetano Donizetti

Selection performed: “Au bruit de la guerre”

Ever since the mid-1960s, when soprano Joan Sutherland and tenor Luciano Pavarotti first appeared together in The Daughter of the Regiment, this opera has been an audience favorite. It now enjoys a popularity nearly matching that of Donizetti’s two most famous comedies, L’elisir d’amore (The Elixir of Love) and Don Pasquale. The heroine, Marie, and her beloved, Tonio, require not only gleaming tone and elegant style, but also irresistible personality.

Marie, whom the 21st regiment discovered as a foundling, has been raised by them as their “daughter.” (Later in the opera, she learns that she’s actually of noble birth.) Her opening scene, after she has been made their “vivandière” (“canteen girl”), includes an exuberant duet with the regiment’s sergeant, Sulpice, in which she asserts that she has the heart of a soldier. The two unite their voices in the “Rataplan,” which delightfully imitates the sounds of military drums.



On stage March 9, 2024 - April 7, 2024
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By Giuseppe Verdi

Selection performed: Ballet music from Act Two, scene two

Although Giuseppe Verdi’s third-to-last opera, Aida (1871), boasts numerous scenes between just two or three characters, it’s generally regarded as the grandest of grand operas. That view stems largely from the second half of Act Two, the spectacular “Triumphal Scene,” in which the general Radamès and his army return home after victory in battle. They’re celebrated with a ballet, to which Verdi brings all of his typical rhythmic energy and drive. It presents the ideal bridge between the scene’s massive opening chorus and the drama that follows.



January 27, 2024 - February 11, 2024
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Opera by Terence Blanchard. Libretto by Michael Cristofer.

Selection performed: “What makes a man a man?”

One of today’s most acclaimed jazz artists, trumpeter/composer Terence Blanchard’s second opera, Fire Shut Up in My Bones, triumphed at Lyric in the 2021/22 Season. Blanchard’s Champion, his first “opera in jazz,” premiered in 2013 at Opera Theatre of Saint Louis, with a libretto by Pulitzer-Prize-winning playwright Michael Cristofer. The pair found their dramatic source in the tragic life of professional boxer Emile Griffith (1938-2013).

Champion begins by presenting Emile at age 70, suffering from dementia. Throughout the opera, he comments on the actions and feelings of his younger self. At home in the Virgin Islands, young Emile hopes for a career as a milliner. He pursues it in New York City, until his talent for boxing is discovered and promoted. Confused and tormented by his still-hidden bisexuality, Emile is stunned during a weigh-in when opponent Benny “Kid” Paret repeatedly insults him and hurls gay epithets at him. In the fight itself, Emile knocks Benny out to win the fight, but his blows are so intense that Benny dies shortly thereafter, a catastrophe from which the distraught Emile never recovers.

Shortly before the fight, the young Emile sings an exceptionally powerful monologue. Looking deeply into himself, he wonders if the strength of his heart  rather than anything he shows on the outside — can make him a man. Blanchard brilliantly sets Cristofer’s achingly moving text, beginning the aria with heartrending intimacy before expanding into thrillingly grand-scale lyricism.



On stage November 12, 2023 - November 26, 2023
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By Leoš Janáček

Selection performed: “Odesli. Jdi také!”

Few operas pack the emotional wallop of Leoš Janáček’s Jenůfa (1904). While exploring characters’ feelings with the sensitivity of a born musical dramatist, Janáček was also brilliant in using the folk idiom of his native Moravia. He combined it with the soaring lyrical lines that audiences accustomed to standard operatic repertoire would have expected.

The pregnant Jenůfa hopes the handsome but feckless Števa, her child’s father, will marry her. Števa’s half-brother, Laca, who loves Jenůfa, slashes her cheek out of jealousy. Jenůfa’s foster-mother, Kostelnička, keeps her hidden during the pregnancy, fearing the shame if the child’s illegitimacy is discovered. Once Jenůfa’s son is born, Kostelnička implores Števa to marry Jenůfa, but he’s now engaged to the mayor’s daughter. In desperation, Kostelnička drugs Jenůfa, drowns the baby, and then, when Jenůfa wakes, tells her that, during the two days when she was ill with fever, the child died. Encouraged by Kostelnička, the devastated Jenůfa agrees to marry Laca, but moments after the wedding ceremony, the child’s body is discovered. Kostelnička then confesses her crime and is led away. Once the newlyweds are alone, Jenůfa insists that Laca leave her forever, but he refuses. As the two agree to face the future together, Janáček’s soaring music achieves a catharsis for the audience that equals that of the two characters onstage.



Roger Pines, formerly the longtime dramaturg for Lyric, writes regularly for Opera News, Opera (U.K.), programs of America’s most distinguished opera companies, and major recording labels. A lecturer for numerous prestigious schools and organizations, he has been a faculty member of Northwestern University’s Bienen School of Music since 2019.


Sunday in the Park with Lyric is generously supported through an endowment by an Anonymous Foundation with additional support from the Rhoda & Henry Frank Family Foundation, the Chicago Department of Cultural Affairs & Special Events, and The Recording Industry’s Music Performance Trust fund, and the Film Trust Fund.

Maestro Enrique Mazzola is generously sponsored by Alice & John Butler, H. Gael Neeson, Sylvia Neil & Daniel Fischel, and the Robert and Penelope Steiner Family Foundation as members of the Enrique Circle. The Enrique Circle is comprised of Lyric's most dedicated supporters who are committed to championing Maestro Enrique Mazzola's exciting artistic vision and legacy.

Lyric Opera of Chicago thanks its Official Airline, American Airlines, and acknowledges support from the Illinois Arts Council Agency

Presented in cooperation with the City of Chicago and Millennium Park.


Projected English text provided by: Roger Pines, Vienna State Opera, The Metropolitan Opera
and the Royal Opera House.