Fans rejoice for the return of live opera

Opera song


During the COVID-19 pandemic, opera has failed to live up to its status as a “total art form” for four centuries.

Of course, there were online concerts and movies created during the lockdown. But performers, artists, and audiences couldn’t share music safely in the same space.

In recent months, the live opera has returned to the Windy City – with COVID-19 protocols in place such as indoor mask requirements and proof of coronavirus vaccination for audiences aged 12. years and older. Here’s a look at what local opera companies are offering this season:

Ana María Martínez will play the title role of “Florencia en el Amazonas” in her Chicago Lyric Opera debut in November. The 1996 Spanish-language opera by composer Daniel Catán and librettist Marcela Fuentes-Berain is inspired by the work of Gabriel García Márquez.
– Courtesy of Lynn Lane / Houston Grand Opera

Chicago Lyric Opera

You could describe the Chicago Opera flagship season 2021-22 as both cautious and adventurous.

Rather than a full list of eight subscription operas, the Lyric stages only six. Yet each opera presents a new or new physical production in Chicago, and there are several premieres in Chicago.

Lyric’s returning audience will experience a reconfigured auditorium promising better sightlines with new, more spacious seats. It was a gesture to help welcome the Joffrey Ballet, which is now the other main tenant of the opera house.

The Lyric also welcomes this season the Italian conductor Enrique Mazzola as the new musical director of the company. Mazzola conducts two 19th-century Italian classics and a Chicago premiere.

Verdi’s lyrical version of Shakespeare’s “Macbeth” comes to an end in a new production directed by Scottish director Sir David McVicar. Former St. Charles native Sondra Radvanovsky is making her debut as ambitious Lady Macbeth until October 9.

Another locally-born singer is Ailyn Prez, from Elk Grove Village, who plays intelligent businesswoman Adina in Donizetti’s romantic comedy “The Elixir of Love”. This colorful production updates action set in the 1950s at an Italian seaside resort and runs through October 8.

Mozart's world-popular production of Berlin 2012

The internationally popular 2012 Berlin production of Mozart’s “The Magic Flute” debuts at the Chicago Lyrical Opera for just seven performances in November. It is visually inspired by silent films and is filled with projected animation.
– Courtesy of Cory Weaver / Los Angeles Opera

Mozart’s fantastic opera “The Magic Flute” returns for seven performances in November in a dazzling Berlin production from 2012 that ingeniously features projected animation throughout. The design aesthetic is influenced by German expressionist silent films of the 1920s. Conductor Karen Kamensek makes her lyrical debut.

November also sees the local debut of “Florencia en al Amazonas”, a 1996 opera by the late Mexican composer Daniel Catn for five performances. This is Lyric’s first main stage production in the Spanish language and stars Ana Mara Martnez in a magically realist tale of an opera singer hoping to reconnect with a former lover as she travels along the river. Amazon.

Puccini’s political shock “Tosca” returns for eight performances in March and April in a classic production designed by Jean-Pierre Ponnelle. Soprano Michelle Bradley in the title role, baritone Fabin Veloz as Baron Scarpia and San Francisco opera musical director Eun Sun Kim as conductor make their lyrical debuts. Tenor Russell Thomas returns to Lyric as Tosca’s lover, Cavaradossi.

Terence Blanchard and Kasi Lemmons'

Terence Blanchard and Kasi Lemmons’ “Fire Shut Up in My Bones” debuts at the Lyric Opera in Chicago in March and April 2022. The 2019 opera is based on the memoir of New York Times columnist Charles M. Blow.
– Courtesy of Eric Woolsey / Opera Theater of St. Louis

The Chicago premiere of “Fire Shut Up in My Bones” closes the season with five performances in March and April. This 2019 opera by composer Terence Blanchard and librettist Kasi Lemmons is adapted from the acclaimed memoir of New York Times columnist Charles M. Blow and explores his difficult childhood in Louisiana.

In addition to the regular season, there is the Chicago premiere of the chamber opera “Proving Up” at the Goodman Theater. Enrique Mazzola conducts four performances in January of composer Missy Mazzoli and librettists Royce Vavrek’s tale about 1870s Nebraska settlers facing a supernatural crisis.

Former Chicago Lyric Opera musical director Sir Andrew Davis also returns on April 1 to conduct Beethoven’s 9th Symphony and a new choral work composed by his son, Ed Frazier Davis. The performance is dedicated to the memory of Lady Gianna Rolandi Davis.


The Lyric Opera of Chicago presents the 2018 chamber opera "To prove himself" by composer Missy Mazzoli and librettist Royce Vavrek in January 2022. This Lyric Unlimited presentation on the homesteaders of Nebraska will be presented at the Goodman Theater.

The Lyric Opera of Chicago will present the 2018 chamber opera “Proving Up” by composer Missy Mazzoli and librettist Royce Vavrek in January 2022. This Lyric Unlimited presentation on the homesteaders of Nebraska will be presented at the Goodman Theater.
– Courtesy of the Omaha Opera

Chicago Opera Theater

The city’s second-largest opera company presents a local and world premiere at the Studebaker Theater to end its 2021-22 season.

Composer and librettist Mark Adamo’s “Becoming Santa Claus” makes its Chicago debut for three performances in December. This 2015 family opera is a whimsical origin story and features staging and choreography by Kyle Lang under the direction of Chicago Opera Theater musical director Lidiya Yankovskaya.

“Quamino’s Map”, a world premiere by composer Errollyn Wallen and librettist Deborah Brevoort, draws on history as it follows a former colonial slave trying to build a new life for himself in 18th century London. Jeri Lynne Johnson is the conductor and Kimille Howard is directing the production for just three performances in April and May.


Emerging companies

The Chicago Summer Opera and the new Opera Festival of Chicago were among the first companies to bring opera back live in recent months. Other companies like the Chicago Fringe Opera, the Third Eye Theater Ensemble, and the Thompson Street Opera Company have also bounced back with rare or new chamber works.

Although the exact dates have not been announced, the Chicago Fringe Opera is planning to postpone the Chicago premiere of “Two Remain,” a drama about Holocaust survivors by composer Jake Heggie (“Dead Man Walking,” ” Moby Dick “) and librettist Gene Scheer.

And the Thompson Street Opera Company has scheduled a double program in April 2022 of Nicole Murphy’s “The Kamikaze Mind” and Joshua Brown’s absurd comedy “Would You Eat Me?”

It also remains to be seen whether Chamber Opera Chicago will return with its annual holiday production of Menotti’s “Amahl and the Night Visitors,” or whether the Transgressive Theater-Opera plans live productions after its final season of online-only shows.

Online Offers

Opera fans who aren’t quite ready to return in person also have local productions to see virtually.

Baroque music specialist Haymarket Opera Company is selling tickets for his film production of Handel’s “Orlando”, which stars famous countertenor Bejun Mehta until October 31. And the Lyric Opera in Chicago still offers its filmed reimagining. of Leoncavallo’s tragedy “Pagliacci” (reborn from behind the scenes of a 1950s sitcom) and “Twilight: Gods,” the parking-behind-the-wheel adaptation of Wagner’s “Twilight of the Gods”. Both productions are free, but prior registration is required to see the operas.