With Mazzola’s contract extended through 2031, Lyric Opera’s 2024-25 season to bring “Fidelio,” “Rigoletto” and “Blue”’

Tue Mar 12, 2024 at 12:35 pm

By Lawrence A. Johnson

Elza van den Heever and Russell Thomas will star in a modern-dress production of Beethoven’s Fidelio in Lyric Opera’s 2024-25 season. Photo: Cory Weaver/San Francisco Opera

Lyric Opera’s 2024-25 season will bring just four grand operas, two contemporary works and three concerts.

The major news is that Enrique Mazzola’s contract as music director, set to conclude in 2026, has been extended by five years. Nice and characteristic move by the departing Anthony Freud to sandbag his yet-to-be-named successor on the way out the door with a conductor that he or she may not want on the job through 2031. 

The fact that the Lyric Opera board signed off on this extension doesn’t inspire confidence that these same people will make an intelligent decision and hire a quality, genuinely independent individual as the company’s next CEO.

Lyric Opera ’s 70th season opens September 14 with Verdi’s Rigoletto starring Igor Golovatenko as the title hunchbacked jester. Mané Galoyan and the celebrated Mexican tenor Javier Camarena will make their Lyric debuts as Gilda and the Duke, with Soloman Howard as Sparafucile and Zoie Reams as Maddalena. Enrique Mazzola conducts.

Fidelio will return to the Lyric stage September 26, the company’s first performance of Beethoven’s sole opera in twenty years. Elza van den Heever and Russell Thomas repeat their roles as Florestan and Leonora in San Francisco Opera’s modern-dress, Matthew Ozawa production. Brian Mulligan is Pizarro with Mika Kares (Rocco), Elbenita Kajtazi (Marzelline) and Alfred Walker (Don Fernando) rounding out the cast; Mazzola conducts.

Barbara Gaines’ low-brow slapstick 2015 staging of Mozart’s Le nozze di Figaro returns, inexplicably, November 9-30. Peter Kellner as Figaro, Federica Lombardi as the Countess, and Gordon Bintner as the Count make their Lyric debuts, as does conductor Erina Yashima. Ying Fang is Susanna and Kayleigh Decker is Cherubino. 

Blue by Jeanine Tesori and Tazewell Thompson makes its Covid-delayed Chicago debut November 16. Kenneh Kellogg, Zoie Reams and Norman Garrett star in the tale of a middle-class Harlem family whose son is shot by a policeman. Joseph Young conducts. 

Puccini’s La Boheme opens the new year March 15. Ailyn Pérez stars as Mimi with Pene Pati (debut) as Rodolfo, Gabriella Reyes as Musetta and Will Liverman as Marcello with Jordan de Souza conducting in a Los Angeles Opera—Dallas Opera production.

The season closes March 30 with the Chicago premiere of Missy Mazzoli’s The Listeners with librettist Royce Vavrek. The 2021 opera tells of the phenomena of a loud  humming that only a few people can hear in a Southwest American suburb, which ultimately leads to the formation of a destructive cult. The cast includes Nicole Heaston (debut), Kyle Ketelsen, Jasmine Habersham, Jonas Hacker and Daniela Mack with Mazzola conducting.

Other season events include soprano Sondra Radvanovsky singing a concert of Puccini heroines (April 4-6), and Patti LuPone’s “A Life in Notes,” called the Broadway chantuese’s “personal musical memoir” on October 4. Mazzola will also conduct “Lyric in Concert: A Wondrous Sound,” a program featuring the Lyric Opera Chorus April 16 and 18.

Subscriptions are now on sale. lyricopera.org.

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16 Responses to “With Mazzola’s contract extended through 2031, Lyric Opera’s 2024-25 season to bring “Fidelio,” “Rigoletto” and “Blue”’”

  1. Posted Mar 12, 2024 at 1:21 pm by c

    What a depressing announcement.

  2. Posted Mar 12, 2024 at 1:43 pm by Richard T

    How absolutely dreadful.

    I guess we can console ourselves with Damnation of Faust (Muti) and Bluebeard’s Castle (Salonen) at CSO.

  3. Posted Mar 12, 2024 at 2:29 pm by P.Ryan

    So the travesty continues….Not a very inspiring season. How far the incredible Lyric Opera has fallen. Brings tears to my eyes.

    The bright spot is Ailyn Perez singing. Sir Andrew where are you?!!

    Will just keep traveling to hear opera. Sorry for the chorus and the most excellent orchestra and the good people who work at the Lyric.

  4. Posted Mar 12, 2024 at 6:07 pm by Lioness

    The Board of Directors must be tone deaf! Appalling! Renewing a principal conductor’s contract before they hire a new General Director is illogical as clearly cited by the article. All the comments above echo my own frustration with this once-great opera company.

    Rigoletto seems to be the promising one with its singer lineup and hopefully the production is not the Las Vegas travesty the Met did.

    Poor Chicago opera lovers!

  5. Posted Mar 12, 2024 at 10:40 pm by Tim

    I wasn’t sure why some people seemed enthused at the subscriber preview this evening. Yes, everyone loves La Boheme. And, ultimately, the greatest applause was for Patti LuPone.

    The only thing that truly excited me, some, was the potential of finally getting to hear an operatic work by Missy Mazzoli. Though the plot summary and review from Ozawa lessened that. The way in which Blue was pumped up, otoh, offered intrigue. One wonders what it would have done for Lyric had they actually gotten to present it when first scheduled. At least I got to clap (unobtrusively) for Freud’s announcement of (forced?) retirement.

    The surprise announcement of Mazzola’s renewal was bewildering. Nice enough guy, it seems. Terrible timing. Doesn’t give me any confidence in Lyric’s future as a company of significance, which was the key question in my mind. I didn’t expect an answer tonight, but I wanted to know what a post-Freud company might look like. Apparently, SOS.

    Maybe I can scrape together a limited series to check out the new works at a decent cost. I’d also like to hear Fidelio again (been too long.) Though the production pictures of that left me more confused than connected. More likely, I’ll let my series drop and wait to see if they can entice me back with some sort of deal I can’t refuse. Ultimately holding out, with the idea that I can use the money for other arts experiences around town, would be wise. This isn’t exactly a “can’t miss” season which makes me want to run and “Subscribe Now!”

    When I first subscribed 20 years ago, I met a man who had been attending since Lyric’s first season. Inspired by his love of opera and historical sharing, I hoped I’d be there 50 years running, like him. It’s sorta sad to know that I’m no longer expecting such.

  6. Posted Mar 13, 2024 at 7:41 am by John

    Even by the low standards one has come to expect from Mr. Freud, this is undoubtedly the lowest point in the history of the Lyric. Four classic operas is all he can come up with? And Patti LuPone? A wonderful Broadway singer and actress, of course. But I don’t subscribe to the Lyric Opera for this.

    I recall the wondrous 50th anniversary concert in 2004 that celebrated this once-great opera house. And now it has diminished to this meagre remnant.

    The Board is ultimately responsible for all of this. The members should all resign.

  7. Posted Mar 13, 2024 at 8:54 am by Randolph W Roller

    I first subscribed to LOC’s season in 1979, but I will not be renewing this year. I will stay home and celebrate Freud’s departure.

    What is wrong with LOC’s Board of Directors?

  8. Posted Mar 13, 2024 at 9:35 am by Peter DG

    It’s like mourning the death of a dear friend. We have enthusiastically supported Lyric Opera for the last 50 years, with our donations topping out in five-figures during the pandemic because we were eager to have opera survive in Chicago.

    But it took one misguided “woke” liberal and his idea of opera’s future to destroy it. I don’t see Lyric coming back as an opera company that I care to support, especially after today’s Aida.

    Much of what’s happening is good progress to the future in my opinion – e.g. the work of Blanchard, Liverman, Mazzoli, Adams, Glass, Corigliano and works like Bel Canto, Amazonas, Dead Man, and Passenger.

    But the Eurotrashing of the classics–defacing them–is just destructive. Write a new opera. Don’t destroy classic art. It’s not acceptable in the graphic arts. Why is it accepted in opera?

    Hope the CSO survives. Otherwise it’s bye-bye Chicago.

  9. Posted Mar 13, 2024 at 11:26 am by Sordino

    While no fan of the current season, a reminder to those who loathe the presence of a Patti LuPone or spring musicals of past seasons: they are not part of your subscription, so don’t go. Why is it that the patrons of the CSO seem to know The Wizard of Oz, Max Raabe, Jazz at Lincoln Center, etc., are simply a part of the organization’s offerings; those events are all extras to a classical subscription one can purchase.

    One thing that seems to have worked for the current administration is getting new people into the opera house via these non-opera events. People may come for a Jesus Christ Superstar and then come back for their first ever opera; ticket sales numbers shared at previous season announced nights have attested to this. Admittedly, getting these new people, and past patrons, to keep coming back seems to be a problem.

    I’m certain that lining up productions, singers and creative teams is far more complicated than patrons realize, but I wish faux-opera offerings in the actual subscription packages (The Three Queens, Mozart Requiem, Puccini night, chorus and orchestra night) would give way to “smaller” pieces in the operatic canon that many of us will never get to see: La Voix Humaine, The Telephone, Bon Apetit!, etc…surely there are skilled singers who can be engaged for the operas that require minimum staging and little or no additional cast.

    If the CSO can offer Bluebeard’s Castle, can’t Lyric find two similar singers alongside seven doors and a lighting designer? Bingo, you’d have another opera. Patrons would feel they are getting a 7-8-9 opera season.

  10. Posted Mar 13, 2024 at 5:42 pm by Kate

    I’ll miss Anthony so much. He did such good for Chicago Lyric Opera. Best of luck friend and may you bring such joy to your next position.

  11. Posted Mar 14, 2024 at 10:27 am by Lawrence A. Johnson

    The Kennedy Center’s 2024-25 season, announced this morning, will include NSO concert performances of Samuel Barber’s Vanessa, starring Sondra Radvanovsky, Matthew Polenzani, J’Nai Bridges, Susan Graham and Thomas Hampson.


  12. Posted Mar 14, 2024 at 12:06 pm by GCMP

    Another poster mentioned: “I recall the wondrous 50th anniversary concert in 2004 that celebrated this once-great opera house. And now it has diminished to this meagre remnant.”

    When we compare the 50th anniversary concert and the 60th, and then with now, you see how far Lyric has fallen.

  13. Posted Mar 14, 2024 at 1:09 pm by Richard T

    This is basically the season of a third-tier opera house. Many smaller cities not just in the Midwest but throughout the US have excellent opera companies considered third- or even fourth-rank that can put together a schedule like this.

    Chicago has not had a first-rank opera house for over a decade. This announcement is like a slap in the face: it confirms that we’re not even second rank anymore. We’re now a third-tier opera city.

    They’re not going to sell all those Bohemes. Mark my words: they’ll be asking people to move down from the upper floors to make orchestra level look fuller.

  14. Posted Mar 15, 2024 at 10:04 am by Erem E Bobrakov

    Presently in New York. Among other things to attend the Metropolitan Opera performances. Enough said.

    Gave up on LOC. And the newest developments confirmed my opinion.

  15. Posted Mar 15, 2024 at 2:33 pm by Richard Sutro Rothschild

    Not sure who is less competent, the Lyric Opera board or the management of the Chicago White Sox. It’s not like Mazzola is the second coming of Sir Georg Solti or even Sir Colin Davis.

    I recall not that long ago when Lyric would schedule eight operas and a Broadway musical. Glad “Fidelio” is back for only the second time at Lyric in the past 40-plus years. But who knows if Mazzola, not exactly a specialist in German opera, can bring out the full glory of Beethoven’s noble score.

    To quote the snooty maitre’d in “Ferris Bueller’s Day Off,” when it comes to Lyric Opera, “I weep for the future.”

  16. Posted Mar 22, 2024 at 10:00 am by Sam

    Mazzola is the real deal. His love and expertise for the art form is real. He’s the best thing that’s happened to Lyric since Ardis’ unfortunate passing. He’s the glimmer of hope I have for this company – Now we need a new CEO who really loves opera and is willing to lead with love for the art form and bring it back to its glory days.

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