Lyric Opera quietly renews Freud’s contract through 2026

Thu Dec 09, 2021 at 10:34 am

By Lawrence A. Johnson

Anthony Freud has been Lyric Opera general director since 2011. Photo: Todd Rosenberg

Anthony Freud will continue as Lyric Opera’s president, CEO and general director through 2026.

A company spokesman confirmed this week that the Lyric Opera board of directors quietly renewed Freud’s contract for another five-year term earlier this year, giving the controversial administrator a clear vote of confidence.  

No answer was provided as to when Freud’s contract was renewed or why no public announcement was made at the time. [Update: After this article was posted, Lyric Opera stated that the contract was renewed in October.]

Freud’s contract renewal comes at a time of declining subscription and single-ticket sales and mounting criticism of the British administrator over his decade-long leadership of Lyric Opera.

Long simmering beneath the surface, Freud has become an increasingly public target of Lyric Opera audience members’ anger over what many view as the declining artistic fortunes of the Chicago company under his tenure. That antagonism has been evident in online opera forums and scathing public comments on critical reviews.

There has also been growing dismay, so far voiced privately and off the record, from former donors who question both the artistic and financial stewardship of Lyric Opera under Freud’s leadership.

Posted in News

10 Responses to “Lyric Opera quietly renews Freud’s contract through 2026”

  1. Posted Dec 10, 2021 at 2:30 am by Piston1

    The great dirty little secret of Chicago’s cultural life is that the Brits have taken up way too much space in this town, for way too long. And it doesn’t seem to be ending anytime soon. If what they actually gave us was excellence, then honestly, no one would mind; but it does recall as to why Canadians, a hundred years ago, politely but firmly asked them to stay out of their cultural lives (which is why today, we have no Canadian dukes, knights, dames, viscounts or earls, even though QE II is still their Head of State).

  2. Posted Dec 10, 2021 at 10:08 am by Beth

    This is terrible – he is destroying Lyric Opera – bringing in musicals (we have Broadway in Chicago for that) and trying to turn the orchestra into a per-service orchestra which would destroy the quality of performances. Another underhanded move!!!

  3. Posted Dec 10, 2021 at 10:08 am by Matt

    By the end of his tenure, Lyric will be performing 4-5 opera productions a year; 4 performances of each production, performing theatrical works at regional theaters. Production value will get cheaper and “Eurotrash” productions will be shoved down our throats.

    He will bust the union contracts and workers will lose their health insurance like he tried to do during the pandemic; all the while he will continue to earn more than twice his predecessor and be the highest paid general director per actual productions in the country.

    The board is out of touch with the art form they serve and are supposed to be preserving.

  4. Posted Dec 10, 2021 at 10:30 am by Ravi

    Just goes to show how disconnected the board is to the public and how hard it is to create real change in the artistic field.

    So it looks like the actual artists of Lyric Opera of Chicago have to deal with another 5 years of potential strikes, threats of losing healthcare, wage cuts, questionable casting choices (a literal artist diploma student at Juilliard was the Queen of the Night this season), and extended breaks with no pay.

    The only thing they got right was hiring Mazzola as the new music director.

  5. Posted Dec 10, 2021 at 11:00 am by Leslie A Miller

    I am sorry to see so much conflict. I know the first time I attended Lyric, I was so impressed, not only with the performances, but with the way I was treated. Each member of the staff, including those who greeted me at the door, and the ushers, who continually asked me if I were comfortable or needed anything, made me feel as if I had come home.

    I travel from far away, and have to save for a long time to be able to visit Chicago and attend Lyric. Each year I have returned, under Mr Freud’s tenure, I find a change in the “happiness” to put it one way, of the employees.

    Last year I had tickets for many L’Elisirs. As a person from afar, who comes for a specific artist, and has wanted to purchase a subscription with 3 or 4 or maybe 5 tickets for the same opera with different performances, I have always been stymied. I am told that my subscription has to be DIFFERENT operas. I have had a subscriber friend buy the tickets for me, and have come less often. There are operas I would have liked, but… I still am devastated. Not Mr. Freud”s fault, I know.

    Perhaps subscribers, and single ticket patrons are leaving for combinations of the worries I have listed.

  6. Posted Dec 15, 2021 at 10:07 am by Sanda Schuldmann

    Unfortunately, that’s what happens when ignorant people, without any music education other than attending events (he attended opera since age 4!) get prestigious positions. Look at Peter Gelb! Another incompetent running the MET into its grave.

    The best thing Freud has done is hiring MAZZOLA- the greatest musician opera conductor of our time. Pathetic to see they renewed his contract.

  7. Posted Dec 15, 2021 at 4:05 pm by Charlie W.

    The Lyric Opera of Chicago Board is completely out of touch with the mission of the organization. It has become a group of millionaires with no understanding of the art form or non-profit governance whatsoever. They take all of their cues from Freud and he only cares about distracting the public from his lack of leadership skills (that and lining his pockets with money that should be producing art). The atmosphere within the company has become so sad and toxic that it is hemorrhaging talent from the artistic and administrative rosters at an alarming pace.

    There’s a good reason Lyric hasn’t made more news of this extension… they know that it will be immensely unpopular with artists and musicians who are negotiating contracts in 2022. Perhaps they can bring Freud’s failures to public light in a way the Board can’t ignore, even if it means a strike.

  8. Posted Dec 17, 2021 at 9:01 am by LC

    Wow! What is this? The old, crusty bitter queens club!

  9. Posted Dec 18, 2021 at 12:40 pm by Chris Galka

    Depressing! Expect less subscription renewals and more tickets available at HotTix for his Eurotrash productions. Of course, he’ll mitigate that by cutting performances & productions, not bringing in worldwide talent, and cutting musicians’ benefits. Sad.

  10. Posted Dec 19, 2021 at 6:58 am by Erem E Bobrakov

    Quiet and clandestine reappointment of Mr. Freud in my opinion reflects sad times we witness. Decay and dilution of values. Incompetent management at all levels. Disregard of wishes of the public they purportedly serve.

    Used to be a donor and subscriber. That ended after the so-called Magic Flute.

    Remember times when people were looking for extra tickets at the Lyric entrance. Activities of Mr Freud put an end to that.
    Writing from London; went to my wife’s patrimony land for a gulp of culture that is under onslaught in Chicago.

    Should not be blamed on the pandemic. Spanish flu, far more deadly, did not stop music nor closed museums.

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