Lyric Opera down to five mainstage operas in 2022-23 season

Fri Feb 04, 2022 at 12:18 pm

By Lawrence A. Johnson

Lyric Opera is presenting “Fiddler on the Roof” in the company’s 2022-23 season. Photo: Komische Oper Berlin

The Lyric Opera of Chicago has announced its 2022-23 season. The schedule consists of just five full-length operas—and one of those is Hansel and Gretel—continuing the diminution of grand opera at the Chicago company under the aegis of Anthony Freud (whose contract was quietly renewed last fall for another five years).

The season will open—earlier than usual—September 9 with Verdi’s Ernani. Not seen at Lyric in 13 years, the cast boasts four vocal heavyweights with Tamara Wilson, Russell Thomas Quinn Kelsey and Christian Van Horn. Music director Enrique Mazzola conducts in an unspecified production.

The season continues September 17 with the musical Fiddler on the Roof in a Barrie Kosky production (we are not making this up.) Kosky, readers will recall, was also responsible for the highly unpopular animated Magic Flute seen last fall, also from his Komische Oper Berlin. Cast TBA.

Verdi’s Don Carlos opens November 9, presented for the first time at the company in the original five-act French version. Joshua Guerrero is Carlos with Rachel Willis-Sørensen as Elisabeth, Clementine Margaine as Eboli, Igor Golovatenko as Rodrigue, Dmitry Belosselskiy as Philippe and Soloman Howard as the Grand Inquisitor. Mazzola conducts in a new David McVicar production, which will debut at the Met February 28. (Check New York Classical Review March 1 for a review.)

Rossini’s comedy Le Comte Ory is up next, starting November 13. Lawrence Brownlee is the title nobleman who disguises himself as a nun to gain entry to the castle and woo the Countess Adele. Kathryn Lewek is Adele with Zoie Reams as Ragonde and Joshua Hopkins as Raimbaud. Mazzola conducts in Bartlett Sher’s Met production.

The ineradicable Richard Jones production of Humperdinck’s Hansel and Gretel opens the new year January 25, 2023. Samantha Hankey and Heidi Stober are the sibling scamps with Michaela Martens as the witch. Sir Andrew Davis conducts.

Bizet’s Carmen returns March 11. Former Ryan Opera Center member J’Nai Bridges stars as the title temptress, a role in which she has been enjoying success, including last month at Palm Beach Opera. Charles Castronovo is Don José with Golda Schultz as Micaela and Andrew Kymach as Escamillo. Henrik Nánási conducts. (Rob Ashford’s showbizzy Carmen staging has apparently been jettisoned by Lyric after its single 2017 appearance).

The season will conclude with “Proximity” on March 24,  a confection of three new one-act operas. These include Git Here by Daniel Bernard Roumian, Four Portraits by Caroline Shaw and Night by John Luther Adams.

Other events include an October 8 concert with Renée Fleming and Rod Gilfry, The Factotum, a “soul opera” retooling of The Barber of Seville that transfers the action to a South Side barbershop, and a revival of Bernstein’s West Side Story in June. lyricopera.org

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18 Responses to “Lyric Opera down to five mainstage operas in 2022-23 season”

  1. Posted Feb 04, 2022 at 12:31 pm by James Weiss

    I am almost speechless. This is the once great company of Carol Fox and Ardis Krainik? No Mozart, no Strauss, no Wagner, and no Puccini? But TWO Broadway musicals. This is sad and pathetic. It almost seems like a deliberate attempt to kill the company. My annual fund donations are at an end.

  2. Posted Feb 04, 2022 at 2:41 pm by John

    I fully agree that this is disastrous. Two Broadway shows for people who don’t want opera; a new work that almost no one wants to hear; another Carmen; and, I’m sorry, but a lot of (though not exclusively) undercasting.

    It’s almost like a suicide pact to undo decades of company building.

  3. Posted Feb 04, 2022 at 8:42 pm by James Weiss

    I remember when the biggest opera stars in the world sang at Lyric. I’m all for giving new singers a chance but this casting is like a provincial house in Hungary. There are some fine singers here but not one single major name. At these prices?

  4. Posted Feb 04, 2022 at 9:43 pm by Cianne

    Gee, it’s almost like some major event happened in the past two years to impact the way arts organizations are planning their programming. Cut them some slack.

  5. Posted Feb 05, 2022 at 3:54 am by Claire B

    This is the death knell of the LYRIC opera of Chicago. Even the company logo seems apologetic that it’s an opera company.

    The 2011/12 Season (the year before Mr. Freud took over) produced 60 mainstage grand opera performances which was a mere four years following a global financial crisis.

    The 2022/23 Season is producing 29 grand opera performances and 37 Music Theatre performances. One of which is in the MIDDLE of the season and not hidden in the summer like the past musical performances as a sort of quiet “money maker”. They are offering ten performances of new “mix-media opera” to somehow sate the woke world in which we now live.

    Look at the San Francisco Opera’s new season announcement to see what shameless opera offerings looks like. In a city filled with tech companies and the wokest people in America, SF Opera continues to be an OPERA company.

    Opera fans seem to be wondering where the opera STARS are? They don’t take contracts that only promise five performances. They will sing elsewhere.

    What will this company look like five years from now?

  6. Posted Feb 05, 2022 at 5:59 am by James Weiss

    This artistic slide into oblivion has been going on for years. It has nothing to do with Covid. I don’t see the MET putting on musicals. Nor San Francisco or Covent Garden or Paris or Vienna as 1/4 of their programming.

  7. Posted Feb 05, 2022 at 9:40 am by Marv

    Seems like someone can’t count, but needs to draw readers.

    6 main stage, 1 chamber, 2 musicals. 2 (or 4) are new! Sounds pretty ambitious considering we’re still going through a pandemic.

    It’s snobs like the ones in these comments who give classical music fans a bad name.

  8. Posted Feb 05, 2022 at 10:53 am by Anne-Marie

    The Lyric Opera of Chicago should henceforth be renamed Lyric Musical Theatre. For years now I’ve watched the agonizing demise of grand opera in Chicago under the tenure of Anthony Freud, who seems to be the champion of Eurotrash productions. This once prestigious center of high vocal art has descended to new lows and I wonder if the 2022-23 season will be the final nail on the coffin.

    I agree with Mr. Johnson’s assessment, as well as with the points made by James and John above. My subscription of over 30 years ends now. What is the value of committing hundreds of dollars to an uncertain quality of productions? Yes, we must open the doors of opportunity to younger, upcoming artists; however, a truly superior arts company must continue to attract the best in seasoned artists as well.

    The Met has undergone the pandemic crisis too, yet comes back with the punch of the world’s premier opera singers. They are presenting Verdi’s Don Carlo in the French version with Matthew Polenzani in the lead.

    So this opera lover will wait for CCR reviews before investing in a Lyric production this upcoming season!

    As an afterthought, is the Board of the Lyric now simply a cozy club of millionaires and billionaires who: a) do not know or love great opera; or, b) is engaged in a conspiracy to destroy the legacy of great opera in Chicago– which is fast becoming the killing metropolis of the Midwest?

  9. Posted Feb 05, 2022 at 1:55 pm by Michael Silhavy

    Let me start by saying it’s disappointing to see Fiddler on the Roof as a mid-season subscription offering. But I’m always glad to see and hear those American pieces that don’t know if their home address is Times Square or 20 N. Wacker Dr. (I’m not sure Fiddler is one of those, and had the season announcement been a live event there probably would have been more gasps and booing than applause when it was announced.)

    Are those who are so opposed to pieces like Candide, Street Scene, Sweeney Todd, Carousel, The Light in the Piazza (among others) equally perturbed when The Merry Widow, Die Fledermaus, The Pirates of Penzance and other such non-operatic offerings are staged by Lyric? I’m not sure we really want to have a debate on the sophistication of West Side Story versus Pirates. WSS wins hands down.

    And enough complaining about the spring musical. It’s not part of your subscription. Simply don’t go. The Renee Fleming event, the Beethoven 9th, the Sunday in the Park Concert, The Factotum, The Wine Auction and whatever else may appear also aren’t part of the season subscription. They’re extras. The CSO has pop concerts outside the regular season subscription. Where’s the angst over that? Please, enough.

    I suppose one needs to fill the coffers for future seasons. (25 performances of Cosi ain’t gonna do it like 25 shows of WSS will….) Sneaking in Fiddler in a 15-production season seems fair but not in an already truncated season. Maybe works from the American musical theatre canon won’t seem so disappointing in a future season that includes something by Handel, Mozart, Wagner, Puccini, Strauss.

  10. Posted Feb 05, 2022 at 2:35 pm by Armand Iaia

    I have to agree with Mr. Weiss. The Lyric is becoming a sad shell of itself. World-class stars are few and far between. Don’t hold your breath to hear Villazon or Diego-Flores or Kaufmann in Chicago.

    Mr. Freud should probably spell his last name Fraud.

  11. Posted Feb 05, 2022 at 4:04 pm by Philip A Kraus

    There’s a difference between musicals and operettas. Operettas require trained singing for the most part and can rightly be part of an opera company’s repertoire. Even some musicals which require operatic singing can be added. However, West Side Story and Fiddler on the Roof simply do not belong on a season of a serious opera company. Contrary to a previous responder’s comment, works like Candide, Pirates of Penzance, Fledermaus etc., do. As to the sophistication level of Pirates vs West Side Story, there is no accounting for taste in this regard and, frankly, the level of sophistication is irrelevant.

    I would agree with many of the previous comments that this season is an embarrassment. I worked at Lyric as an artist for over 20 years under Ardis Krainik and Bill Mason. Mr. Freud has no idea what he is doing and should be replaced asap before the Marriot Lincolnshire people permanently move in to 20 N. Wacker Dr.

  12. Posted Feb 05, 2022 at 8:11 pm by Greg Davis

    I do not disagree with any of the article or comments. However, perhaps in these times when opera continues to decline as an art form at the box office, maybe give oneself a break and view things as half full rather than circling the drain. I’m pressed to think of many other American cities who have an opera company presenting five MainStage operas, one of them a rare French Verdi, all with the impressive talents singing them. Yes, I would love to have again the seven-to-eight productions from pre-Covid days, including more Wagner, but willing donors with the funds to make that happen, it appears, are scarce. That the donors who are giving continue to do so must say something about their trust in Freund, however mixed I feel about his effectiveness in his role.

    For those who raise comparisons with the Met, maybe first take a close, hard look at their finances. This info is readily available in the press.

    Those here who protest by withholding future Lyric donations have every right to do so, but to me that feels the equivalent of taking my toys and going home by myself. If many others feel so inclined to spitefully protest with their dollars, then Lyric’s demise i guess would only accelerate. That is not an ending I find appealing, but I guess that is what it will take to satisfy some.

  13. Posted Feb 05, 2022 at 9:26 pm by John

    Yes, operetta is quite different from Broadway productions. Christine Goerke, the formidable Brunhilde in the Lyric’s sadly truncated Ring cycle, was glorious in a San Francisco Fledermaus in 2006. I don’t think she’s yet appeared with a microphone in WWS. And since when did the Lyric cast a Carmen who recently triumphed in Palm Beach? A sad fall from the company’s opening night in the 50s with Callas and Simionato.

  14. Posted Feb 06, 2022 at 11:41 pm by Peter DG

    Since 90% of the sentiments expressed here match my concerns, I was not motivated to comment, until the last note by John about the artist listed to singing the title role in Carmen. She may be “home grown” but she is now a top-tier mezzo internationally. She’s still young and her fabulous voice is getting even better. And her acting is ideal for the role.

    My gripe is that you should not cast a superb artist like that without backing her up with a complete top-tier cast. I don’t thing any of the other artists in the Carmen cast are at her level.

  15. Posted Feb 07, 2022 at 7:16 pm by Tim

    This year and last the official introduction was accomplished via webcast. Though such stuff is intended as a promotional puff piece, I appreciate the opportunity it offered for viewers to ask questions.

    In each instance, I think Freud and Mazzola missed opportunities to define Lyric, and put its best foot forward. Admittedly, this is a difficult tightrope to walk. They want to attract a wide audience and not offend longtime subscribers with strong opinions.

    Yet, if you can’t clearly express a vision, you’ll come off as aimless.

    Questions about core repertoire in which the company specializes or trends in opera across the country aren’t hardball “gotcha” attempts. Rather, it’s an invitation to articulate an image, even a niche, which sets the company apart and should attract attention. These are the kinds of conversations which one would, reasonably, expect every production house to have, amongst themselves.

    Yet, we received little to no real specific ideas, illustrating a sense of self–just generalizations and marketing pablum. Such calls into question the direction of Lyric. It leaves one to wonder whether leadership is even thinking about it seriously. On the surface front, it also seems that they need to spend more time with public relations professionals to prep them better in effectively messaging their brand.

    Right now, I’m left with the impression, however, that Lyric is sort of an uncomfortable adolescent unsure of itself, and trying to find some direction in life.

  16. Posted Feb 08, 2022 at 9:23 pm by Richard

    Tenor Charles Castronovo is certainly a name artist with an international reputation who is presented at leading houses.

  17. Posted Feb 09, 2022 at 6:36 pm by Erem E Bobrakov

    Napoleon Bonaparte allegedly said on a freezing night at the end of an infamous flight from Moscow: “From great to ludicrous but a small step” He lamented the loss of the Grand Armee and the campaign.

    That applies rightfully to the Lyric Opera of today.

    No one is dying. But the Lyric is.

  18. Posted Feb 11, 2022 at 1:28 pm by Erem E Bobrakov

    For different reasons I happen to go to London rather frequently. In order to procure tickets-which are more expensive than in Chicago or New York- I became a member of ROH Covent Garden- otherwise obtaining seats is very difficult. Tickets are flying and house is ALWAYS full–including standing room only section. Casting is superb as well in nearly all the productions.

    They too went through COVID-related draconoian restrictions.

    I believe conclusions are obvious. Artistic value and integrity of the management

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