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Lyric Opera of Chicago Has Announced 2020-21 Season

Lyric Opera of Chicago Has Announced 2020-21 Season

A season filled with thrilling music, captivating stories, world-class singers, and exciting productions goes on sale by subscription Thursday, February 13. Eight new-to-Chicago productions, including three Lyric premieres plus two original Lyric Productions, will entertain and thrill audiences from September 2020 through June 2021.

Lyric Opera of Chicago's 66th season will feature:

Cavalleria rusticana (Mascagni) & Pagliacci (Leoncavallo) - double bill, original Lyric production

Lessons in Love and Violence (Benjamin/Crimp) - North American premiere, Lyric co-commission and coproduction

Tosca (Puccini) - new-to-Chicago production

Attila (Verdi) - new-to-Chicago production

Proving Up (Mazzoli/Vavrek) - Chicago premiere

Samson and Delilah (Saint-Saëns) - new-to-Chicago production

The Elixir of Love (Donizetti) - new-to-Chicago production

The Marriage of Figaro (Mozart) - original Lyric production

The Rake's Progress (Stravinsky) - new-to-Chicago production

Singin' in the Rain (Comden/Green/Freed/Brown) - Lyric premiere, new-to-Chicago production


Sunday in the Park with Lyric's Rising Stars - a midsummer concert featuring the Ryan Opera Center in Millennium Park

Opening Night 2020 - a new way to start the season, with a glittering concert and afterparty at the Lyric Opera House, featuring Renée Fleming in performance

Christine Goerke in Recital - her first-ever at Lyric

A Knight to Celebrate - a special concert featuring Beethoven's Symphony No. 9, conducted by Sir Andrew Davis

Wine Auction 2021 - an exciting Lyric tradition since 1988

Lyric's esteemed music director, Sir Andrew Davis, will conclude his illustrious tenure conducting three mainstage productions - Lessons in Love and Violence, The Marriage of Figaro, and The Rake's Progress - as well as a special concert featuring Beethoven's Symphony No. 9.

Lyric's music director designate, Enrique Mazzola, will conduct Attila and Proving Up next season.

General Director Anthony Freud and Sir Andrew Davis announced the repertoire and casting for the company's 2020/21 season. "We are thrilled to offer so many new-to-Chicago productions to our audiences next season, with world-class casts and creative teams collaborating in a wide range of musical and dramatic styles," Freud said. Two 21st-century operas and one from the mid-20th century are highlights of the new season; all three are written and performed in English.

The casting for Lyric's 66th season is full of exceptional world-renowned artists. Said Freud, "We will welcome back to Lyric an outstanding roster of singers, including Nicola Alaimo, Dmitry Belosselskiy, Janai Brugger, William Burden, Joseph Calleja, Alice Coote, Stéphane Degout, Ying Fang, Rosa Feola, Brian Jagde, Brandon Jovanovich, Quinn Kelsey, Clémentine Margaine, Luca Pisaroni, Matthew Polenzani, Sondra Radvanovsky, Andrew Staples, Russell Thomas, and Tamara Wilson.

"We are also thrilled to welcome a large number of exciting artists for their Lyric debuts," Freud continued. "These include Gordon Bintner, Alex Esposito, Andrzej Filończyk, Georgia Jarman, Federica Lombardi, Ambrogio Maestri, Evgenia Muraveva, Gyula Orendt, Elena Pankratova, and Fabian Veloz."

Lyric's roster of guest conductors for the 2020/21 season includes Carlo Rizzi (Cavalleria rusticana & Pagliacci), Giampaolo Bisanti (debut, Tosca), Emmanuel Villaume (Samson and Delilah), and Eun Sun Kim (debut, The Elixir of Love).

The 2020/21 season will feature productions created by internationally acclaimed and award-winning directors including Elijah Moshinsky (Cavalleria rusticana & Pagliacci and Samson and Delilah), Katie Mitchell (debut, Lessons in Love and Violence), Louisa Muller (Tosca), Daniele Abbado (debut, Attila), James Darrah (debut, Proving Up), Daniel Slater (debut, The Elixir of Love), Barbara Gaines (The Marriage of Figaro), John Cox (The Rake's Progress), and Robert Carsen (Singin' in the Rain).

"At the heart of every great operatic performance is a great conductor, and the relationship between an opera company and its music director is fundamental to its distinction and success," Freud said. "Andrew made his Lyric debut conducting The Marriage of Figaro in 1987 and has been our music director since 2000. In those 30+ years, he has conducted 690 performances of 60 operas by 21 different composers at Lyric, plus ten concerts. Under his musical leadership, the company has blossomed and developed, and our relationship with Sir Andrew has been treasured by all of us - artists, technicians, and administrators alike.

"The 2020/21 season will be Sir Andrew's last as our music director, and it is fitting and entirely typical that he will conduct three dramatically contrasting operas that demonstrate yet again his versatility and distinction in a huge variety of repertoire," Freud continued. "In the North American premiere of Sir George Benjamin's Lessons in Love and Violence, Sir Andrew will renew his longstanding musical relationship with one of the foremost composers of our time. Stravinsky's The Rake's Progress, one of the twentieth century's greatest masterpieces and a charming, whimsical, and moving eighteenth- century pastiche, returns to our repertoire for the first time in nearly 25 years, and is one of Sir Andrew's 'desert island' pieces. Mozart's The Marriage of Figaro, the towering masterpiece which marked the start of Sir Andrew's 32-year relationship with Lyric, brings his wonderfully distinguished music directorship to a fitting conclusion. I am thrilled that Sir Andrew's relationship with Lyric will continue in the future, when he returns to us as a guest conductor, beginning in 2021/22." Enrique Mazzola will become Lyric's music director at the start of the 2021/22 season.

Freud and Davis are especially excited to present the North American premiere of Lessons in Love and Violence next season. "George Benjamin's previous opera, Written on Skin, is a real masterpiece, and has been hugely successful; as soon as we learned he was composing a new opera, we immediately expressed our interest in co-commissioning and coproducing it," Freud recounted. Very unusually for a new piece, and because of Benjamin's reputation and distinction, a partnership of major international houses formed quickly, led by the Royal Opera House, with Lyric Opera of Chicago, Dutch National Opera, Amsterdam, Staatsoper Hamburg, Opéra de Lyon, Gran Teatre del Liceu, and Teatro Real Madrid as co-commissioners and coproducers.

Davis has known Sir George Benjamin over the course of the composer's 40-year career. "His music is brilliantly written," Sir Andrew said. "He writes for the orchestra with an extraordinary virtuosity and sense of color that is very appealing."

Freud described Lessons in Love and Violence as "immediate, beautiful, immersive, compelling. It's cinematic and evocative. Audiences will be drawn into it, moved by it, excited by it." Freud called the opera's story "a dramatic, intense, political thriller about power, the abuse of power, and teaching the next generation the worst possible lessons." Renowned theater and opera director Katie Mitchell created the production; Dan Ayling (Lyric debut) is the revival director. French baritone Stéphane Degout (King) and Hungarian-Romanian baritone Gyula Orendt (Gaveston/Lyric debut) created the roles of the monarch and his lover for the world premiere; American soprano Georgia Jarman (Isabel/Lyric debut) has portrayed the queen in the Hamburg and Lyon performances. American tenor William Burden will portray Mortimer, a military leader who joins forces with the queen. The teenaged son and future king will be played by American tenor Jonas Hacker.

In early 2021 Sir Andrew will return for The Marriage of Figaro. "My relationship with it goes back to 1973 - it's one of my five favorite operas, and also the very first opera I conducted at Lyric!" Barbara Gaines, founder and artistic director of Chicago Shakespeare Theater, created an original production for Lyric in 2015/16. "Barbara is very keen to continue exploring the piece and relishes the prospect of working with Sir Andrew and a brand-new cast." Italian bass-baritone Alex Esposito (Lyric debut) will portray Figaro, with Chinese soprano Ying Fang as Susanna (following her triumphant November debut here as Zerlina/Don Giovanni). Also making company debuts will be Italian soprano Federica Lombardi as Countess Almaviva and Canadian baritone Gordon Bintner as Count Almaviva. Current Ryan Opera Center mezzo-soprano Kayleigh Decker will portray Cherubino in her first engagement here after leaving the program.

Davis will conclude his storied tenure as Lyric's music director with another of his favorite works, The Rake's Progress, which has been presented at Lyric only once previously, in 1994. "It is one of the greatest operas ever written! And this legendary production is fantastic," he said. Lyric will present the production that was artist David Hockney's first theatrical design, which visually recalls the famous series of William Hogarth etchings (reproducing Hogarth's popular paintings) that inspired the opera. As Freud noted, "it is an iconic production. Given Andrew's long relationship with director John Cox, there is a wonderful synchronicity in having this be the production Andrew will conduct here." English tenor Andrew Staples will portray Tom Rakewell opposite Chicago-native soprano Janai Brugger as Anne Trulove. Italian bass-baritone Luca Pisaroni's Nick Shadow will lead Tom astray, and English mezzo-soprano Alice Coote will play Baba the Turk; these Lyric favorites will both make role debuts.

Lyric's music director designate, Enrique Mazzola, is currently rehearsing Meyerbeer's Le Prophète in Berlin, Freud noted. Mazzola launched Lyric's Early Verdi Series with Luisa Miller earlier this season, and will return next fall for Attila, which has been presented at Lyric only twice previously, in 1980 and in 2000/01.

"This opera is one of the most exciting early Verdi titles, with the impressive characterization of Attila, the unique presence of Odabella, the magnificent arias for Ezio, and the powerful choral scenes," Mazzola has said about Attila, which he will conduct for the first time at Lyric. Russian bass Dmitry Belosselskiy will sing the title role, with American soprano Tamara Wilson as Odabella. Italian baritone Nicola Alaimo will play the Roman general Ezio, and American tenor/Ryan Opera Center alumnus Matthew Polenzani will portray Foresto, Odabella's beloved.

Mazzola will also conduct the Chicago premiere of the important contemporary opera Proving Up by composer Missy Mazzoli and librettist Royce Vavrek. "Enrique was already familiar with Mazzoli's work and he fell in love with this score," Freud said. "It's a brilliant, intense piece, a supernatural thriller. This is a historic story that is extraordinarily topical and contemporary in its subtext and its power. And it's a beautiful piece."

Mazzola has noted that "it's so important to give space and voice to contemporary opera, and it will be a privilege to conduct this wonderful chamber work by Missy Mazzoli. Missy and Royce created a masterpiece of music, drama, and mystery around the American Dream, with many implications and parallels with today's life."

Casting will be announced at a later date. Proving Up will be presented at Chicago Shakespeare Theater on Navy Pier.

Sir Andrew noted that Lyric's 2020/21 season will also encompass "a broad range of operas that will be familiar to many of our audience members, and exciting discoveries for those who are newcomers to the wonderful world of opera." These include the verismo double bill, Cavalleria rusticana & Pagliacci, which returns to Lyric to open the season; and new-to-Chicago productions of Tosca, Samson and Delilah, and The Elixir of Love.

"We always want to launch the season with something impactful, spectacular, and thrilling - and our production of Cavalleria rusticana & Pagliacci packs a huge punch," said Freud. "Each one-act opera is a masterpiece, and the two pieces are very different from each other. 'Cav' is focused and intense, almost like a Greek tragedy. 'Pag' is much splashier and showier - equally melodramatic but in a very different way. They personify verismo in their subject matter, impact, and brevity - it's real operatic blood and guts."

Freud commissioned the original version of this production when he was general director of Welsh National Opera. Carlo Rizzi was music director there at the time and conducted the opening performances of the production; he returns to Lyric to conduct the season opener next fall. "Carlo is a master of verismo style - this is perfect repertoire for him," Freud said. Lyric's production of Cavalleria rusticana & Pagliacci has been seen previously here in 2002/03 and 2008/09. Director Elijah Moshinsky created the production; Robin Tebbutt (Lyric debut) is the revival director. The exceptional American tenors Brian Jagde (Turiddu/Cavalleria) and Russell Thomas (Canio/Pagliacci) will costar with two outstanding Russian artists in their Lyric debuts: mezzo-soprano Elena Pankratova (Santuzza/Cavalleria) and soprano Evgenia Muraveva (Nedda/Pagliacci). The distinguished Italian baritone Ambrogio Maestri will make his Lyric debut as both Alfio/Cavalleria and Tonio/Pagliacci.

Next season's Tosca will combine scenery from a classic Jean-Pierre Ponnelle production with costumes designed by Marcel Escoffier for a legendary Franco Zeffirelli production. "Director Louisa Muller will direct her own production in these existing sets and costumes," Freud noted, adding that "it will be exciting to have Sondra Radvanovsky bring one of her most widely performed roles to our stage for the first time." Maltese tenor Joseph Calleja will portray Mario Cavaradossi, and the Argentine baritone Fabian Veloz will make his Lyric debut as Baron Scarpia. Also debuting will be the Italian conductor Giampaolo Bisanti. On Nov. 28, American artists Alexandra LoBianco and Russell Thomas will portray Tosca and Cavaradossi.

The French opera Samson and Delilah "is the operatic equivalent of a Cecil B. DeMille movie," Freud said. "It's a highly romantic take on the biblical story, with wonderful tunes and great spectacle. In Clémentine Margaine and Brandon Jovanovich, we have really exciting protagonists who have huge presence and tremendous vocal resources" to meet the demands of both title roles. Davis noted that Emmanuel Villaume has conducted several French operas at Lyric to great acclaim, "and is outstanding in this repertoire." It's been 17 years since this masterpiece was last presented here.

Donizetti's delightful romantic comedy The Elixir of Love arrives at Lyric in a wonderfully fresh production that director Daniel Slater (Lyric debut) has set in the 1950s in a charming Italian town. Tenor Matthew Polenzani returns as the endearingly naive Nemorino (a waiter in this reimagining), who is besotted by his boss, the hotel owner Adina - Italian soprano Rosa Feola, who made a triumphant Lyric debut as Gilda/Rigoletto opposite Polenzani's Duke in 2017. Polish baritone Andrzej Filończyk (Lyric debut) will portray Belcore, Nemorino's romantic rival, and Italian baritone Nicola Alaimo will purvey the title elixir as the quack "Doctor" Dulcamara. Conductor Eun Sun Kim will make her Lyric debut with this production; in late 2019 she was named music director designate of San Francisco Opera.

Lyric's Opening Night 2020 will be a first-of-its-kind concert and glittering party at the Lyric Opera House on Saturday, September 12, preceding the season's first opera performance on September 17. The internationally celebrated soprano Renée Fleming will be featured in an unforgettable night of music making, followed by a champagne toast and an afterparty with dancing at the opera house.

The opening-night celebration will be the first opportunity for Lyric patrons to experience the new seats that will be installed over the summer. After 42nd Street closes in late June, the company will renovate the seating in the Ardis Krainik Theatre as part of its Patron Accessibility Initiative, thanks to generous funding by an Anonymous Donor. Plush state-of-the-art seats with a pleasing ergonomic design will be installed throughout the auditorium. On the main floor, a new staggered configuration will result in better sightlines, widened aisles, and increased wheelchair accessibility.

The extraordinary soprano Christine Goerke will present her first-ever Lyric recital in the 2020/21 season. "As thrilling as it is to hear her magnificent voice soaring over Lyric's orchestral forces, as we will do with the fast-approaching Ring cycles this spring, it will be splendid to experience Christine's exceptional artistry in the relative intimacy of a recital with the celebrated pianist Malcolm Martineau," said Davis.

"A truly once-in-a-lifetime event will take place with A Knight to Celebrate," Freud promised. "Sir Andrew will be on the podium to conduct the Lyric Opera Orchestra and Chorus, along with four outstanding soloists, in the company premiere of Beethoven's Symphony No. 9. It promises to be an unforgettable musical celebration."

The special concert celebrating Lyric's music director will begin with the world premiere of a short a cappella choral work by Sir Andrew's son, composer Ed Frazier Davis (b. 1989), performed by the Lyric Opera Chorus. The British-American composer, baritone, and conductor currently lives and works in Kansas City, Missouri. His newest choral-orchestral work, Fire of the Spirit, was commissioned to celebrate Sir Andrew Davis's final season as chief conductor of the Melbourne Symphony Orchestra, and premiered in late November. Davis currently serves as composer-in-residence for the William Baker Choral Foundation, which consists of nine ensembles in Georgia, Kansas, and Missouri. Previously, Davis was composer-in-residence for the Chicago Chamber Choir for four seasons.

Lyric's 2020/21 season concludes with the Lyric premiere of the classic American musical Singin' in the Rain "in a scintillating new-to-Chicago production from the Théâtre du Châtelet in Paris that will delight our audiences," said Freud.

Lyric's chorus master Michael Black will prepare the Lyric Opera Chorus for all productions and concert performances in the 2020/21 season (except for Lessons in Love and Violence and Proving Up, which do not include chorus).

The 2020/21 season marks the start of The Joffrey Ballet's residency at the Lyric Opera House. "We are delighted to welcome The Joffrey Ballet to the Lyric Opera House next fall," Freud said. Lyric will present its first two productions in repertory Sept. 17 through Oct. 10, followed by The Joffrey's season-opening production. Lyric's next two works will be presented in repertory Nov. 7 - 27, with The Joffrey's Nutcracker onstage December through early January. The alternating schedule will continue through the spring, with Lyric's annual musical capping the season in June of 2021.

As Freud stated in 2017, when the seven-year rental agreement was announced, "With the Joffrey's arrival at the start of the 2020/21 season, the Lyric Opera House will take its rightful place among the great opera houses of the world which frequently are home to magnificent ballets as well as thrilling opera productions. This serves to further solidify Chicago as a cultural hub. It also marks a significant step in Lyric's strategic plan as we identify new opportunities to grow our audience base through more regular interactions with dance patrons, who are already committed to the arts, and maximize the use of our magnificent opera house. It is sure to be a win-win for the Joffrey, for Lyric, and for our city," Freud said.

In May 2021, Lyric's Women's Board will host its thirteenth Wine Auction, an exceptionally elegant event on the stage of the Ardis Krainik Theatre. A dazzling array of extraordinary wines, luxury items, unique dining experiences, and more will be auctioned, with proceeds supporting the productions and community-engagement programs of Lyric. Since its inception in 1988, Wine Auction has raised over $11 million and was named as one of the Top 10 US Charity Wine Auctions. "We are thrilled to present another Wine Auction in our opera house next season, under the leadership of the Women's Board, our Wine Auction 2021 Chair, Erica L. Sander, and our Wine Auction 2021 Vice Chairs, Suzanne Mulshine and Eileen Murphy," said Freud. "Lyric would not be the internationally acclaimed opera company that it is without the remarkable work of our extraordinary Women's Board, and the generous support and passion for opera from our donors and community."

Lyric Opera of Chicago's 2020|21 Season

Original Lyric Production
Cavalleria rusticana by Pietro Mascagni and Pagliacci by Ruggero Leoncavallo
7 performances, September 17, 20, 26 and October 1, 4, 7, 10
Sung in Italian with projected English titles

Lyric opens the season with the scale, spectacle, and choral magnificence of these two gloriously paired works, which have not been seen here for more than a decade. In Cavalleria, seduced and abandoned by irresponsible Turiddu, Santuzza is desperate for her lover to leave seductive Lola and return to her. Pagliacci's Canio, the clown, laughs on the outside but inside he's seething with jealousy once he realizes that his wife loves another man. Mascagni and Leoncavallo have created two searing dramas, revealing the hearts of characters who love and suffer with a passion that is unique in all opera.

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