Reporter's Notebook: Top Picks for Theater Lovers in Lyric Opera's 2019/20 Season
Lyric Opera announced its 2019/20 season, and theater lovers (like myself) will find some particular highlights to enjoy in the upcoming season. Continuing Lyric's recent tradition of staging an annual Broadway musical, next season will feature the Lyric premiere of the Golden Age classic 42ND STREET, coming in May 2020. The production comes to Lyric from the Théâtre du Châtelet in Paris, which was also the originator behind Lyric's recent productions of THE KING AND I and MY FAIR LADY.
As part of Lyric Opera's commitment to staging new and recent works, the 2019/20 season also features two operas that will certainly appeal to theater fans. DEAD MAN WALKING, a 2000 opera with book by acclaimed playwright Terrence McNally and music by Jake Heggie, comes to the Lyric mainstage in November 2019. The chamber opera follows the story of convicted murderer Joseph De Rocher as he sits on death row and Sister Helen Prejean, who agrees to be his spiritual adviser.
"The subject matter couldn't be more important," Freud said, "DEAD MAN WALKING does not take a stand on the death penalty. The opera asks, 'If the crime is terrible and the [person] is guilty, then what?...Our intention for the chamber opera is that it will be a new or recent piece and to be on topical, relevant subjects." I'm certainly intrigued by DEAD MAN WALKING, and it seems to be a new direction for Lyric.
On that path, Lyric's upcoming season will also feature the new opera BLUE from Tony Award-winning composer Jeanine Tesori (FUN HOME, CAROLINE, OR CHANGE) and writer Tazewell Thompson. BLUE centers on the story of a black family in which the father is a police officer and the son is a politically active teenager. The new opera is inspired by contemporary events and black literature. It also marks a first-time collaboration between Lyric and Chicago Shakespeare Theater. BLUE will be staged at Chicago Shakespeare Theater on Navy Pier as part of Lyric Unlimited in June 2020. The show is a coproduction between the two companies, Glimmerglass Opera, and Washington National Opera.
For fans of the classic opera canon, Lyric's 2019/20 season includes three full RING Cycles. All four of Wagner's operas in the RING CYCLE will be performed three times each in April-May 2020. Lyric also has plenty of related programming in store to accompany this undertaking, including the return of The Second City's LONGER! LOUDER! WAGNER!
And for musical theater junkies like me, rest assured that Lyric Opera's Broadway At Lyric series will continue serving up classic, show-stopping musicals for years to come. In addition to next season's 42ND STREET, Freud stated that Lyric is constantly looking to find crowd-pleasing musicals that will draw new audiences to Lyric...as long as the rights are available. It's comforting to know that Lyric will continue to put its formidable resources and artistry behind musical theater classics for years to come.
Photo by Todd Rosenberg from Lyric Opera's 2018 production of JESUS CHRIST SUPERSTAR