Lyric Opera of Chicago looks forward to the new season

Enrique Mazzola (left) will become music director of Lyric Opera of Chicago when Sir Andrew Davis (right) retires from that position at the end of the 2020–21 season. 

This week was the scheduled opening of Lyric Opera of Chicago’s new production of Wagner’s “Götterdämmerung,” the final opera in the Ring Cycle. But the three full Ring Cycles as well as two performances of “Götterdämmerung” were cancelled due to restrictions on large gatherings enacted by Gov. J.B. Pritzker in the face of the coronavirus outbreak.

The music will eventually return, and to get ready for that welcome time, this preview will look at Lyric’s upcoming season, recently announced.

Lyric’s 66th season begins with a double bill on Sep. 17: Mascagni’s “Cavalleria rusticana” and Leoncavallo’s “Pagliacci.” They will star Brian Jagde (Turiddu), Russell Thomas (Canio), Elena Pankratova (Santuzza), Evgenia Muraveva (Nedda), Ambrogio Maestri (Alfio and Tonio), and Ricardo Jose Rivera (Silvio). The production, originally directed by Elijah Moshinsky, will feature revival director Robin Tebbutt while Carlo Rizzi conducts.

George Benjamin’s “Lessons in Love and Violence” receives its North American premiere on Sep. 27. It stars Stéphane Degout, Gyula Orendt, Georgia Jarman, William Burden, and Jonas Hacker. Sir Andrew Davis will conduct and Dan Ayling will direct.

Sondra Radvanovsky will sing the title role in “Tosca” beginning Nov. 7. Joseph Calleja will portray Cavaradossi, and Fabian Veloz will be Scarpia. Giampaolo Bisanti will conduct and Louisa Muller will direct.

Verdi’s “Attila” opens on Nov. 15 starring Dmitry Belosselskiy (Attila), Tamara Wilson (Odabella), Nicola Alaimo (Ezio), and Matthew Polenzani (Foresto). Enrique Mazzola (more on him below), will conduct.

In collaboration with Chicago Shakespeare Theater, the Midwest premiere of Missy Mazzoli’s chamber opera “Proving Up” begins on Jan. 16 at Navy Pier. Enrique Mazzola will conduct and James Darra will direct. The cast for the four-performance run will be announced later.

“Samson and Delilah” by Saint-Säens stars Clémentine Margaine, Brandon Jovanovich, and Emmanuel Villaume and will be conducted by Emmanuel Villaume. This Elijah Moshinsky production premiered at the Met in 1998 and will be directed by Peter McClintock. It opens on Jan. 23.

Donizetti’s charming rom-com “The Elixer of Love” begins its run on Jan. 30 and stars Matthew Polenzani, Rosa Feola, Nicola Alaimo, and Andrzej Filończyk. Conductor Eun Sun Kim, the music-director-designate of San Francisco Opera, makes her Lyric debut with this production.

Barbara Gaines, founder and artistic director of Chicago Shakespeare Theater, will direct a revival of her 2015 production of “The Marriage of Figaro” with a new cast featuring Alex Esposito (Figaro), Ying Fang (Susanna), Federica Lombardi (Countess Almaviva), Gordon Bintner (Count Almaviva), and Kayleigh Decker (Cherubino). Sir Andrew Davis will conduct these performances that begin Mar. 11.

Sir Andrew will also conduct one of his favorite operas, one which he has never conducted at Lyric before. Stravinsky’s “The Rake’s Progress” opens Mar. 21 and stars Andrew Staples, Janai Brugger, Luca Pisaroni, and Alice Coote. 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.

The 2020-21 season marks the last for Sir Andrew as Lyric’s music director. Enrique Mazzola is the music director designate and will begin his tenure in the 2021-22 season.

There will be special programs at Lyric as well, including “A Knight to Celebrate,” a special concert conducted by Sir Andrew featuring a performance of Beethoven’s Symphony No. 9 on Apr. 10. Christine Goerke will offer a recital on Mar. 7, accompanied by Malcolm Martineau.

Lyric’s annual free concert in Millennium Park has been moved to the middle of the summer. This year it will be on Sun., Jul. 26 at 6 p.m. and will feature members of Lyric’s Ryan Center and the Lyric Opera Orchestra.

Opening night of the entire season will be a change from years past, when opening night featured an opera. This year it kicks off with a concert featuring Renée Fleming and an after party at the Lyric Opera House on Sep. 12.

The new season will have something else to celebrate: new seats in the Lyric Opera House that Lyric describes as “Lush, state-of-the-art seats … with a pleasing ergonomic design.” On the main floor the seating configuration will be changed to a staggered design to offer better views. The aisles will be widened for better entrance and exit flow and there will be more wheelchair-accessible seating to increase accessibility. These seating improvements will reduce the total number of seats in the theater from 3,563 to 3,276.

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