With Mazzola Extended, Lyric Opera Explores Contrast in 2024-2025 Season

By Adela Skowronski |

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Lyric Opera of Chicago

Lyric Opera of Chicago (Photo: Keegan Morris)

Lyric Opera of Chicago has announced its 2024-2025 season: a mix of 18th century mainstays and contemporary premieres presented across 9 programs at the Lyric Opera House. It is the first season in Lyric Opera history that features two operas by female composers.The company also plans to honor the 50th anniversary of the Patrick G. and Shirley W. Ryan Opera Center artist development program with a celebratory concert.

2024-2025’s season will be the first following the 13-year tenure of Anthony Freud, who wraps up as general director of Lyric following this season. Freud's contract had originally been extended through 2026 before he announced his decision to retire following the current 2023-2024 season. No successor has yet been chosen.

On the heels of this recent announcement, Lyric Opera has also revealed a contract extension for Music Director Enrique Mazzola. The Italian conductor's contract now extends through the 2030-2031 season.

Photo of Enrique Mazzola on an empty stage at Lyric Opera.

Enrique Mazzola (Photo: Joe Mazza)

The 2024-2025 Lyric Opera season begins on September 14th with Verdi's Rigoletto. Conducted by Enrique Mazzola, and directed by Mary Birnbaum in her Lyric debut, the politically-charged drama will star Mané Galoyan, Javier Camarena, and Igor Golovatenko. The production will run through October 6, 2024.

From September 26 to October 10, 2024, Beethoven's Fidelio returns to the Lyric stage for the first time in 20 years. Director Matthew Ozawa joins forces with music director Enrique Mazzola to bring to life a production never-before seen in Chicago. Lovers Leonore and Florestan will be played by Elza van den Heever and Russell Thomas, while Brian Mulligan stars as the villainous Pizarro.

Before the next staging of operas, music-lovers are invited to Lyric's Season Opening Gala on Friday, October 4, 2024. Musical theater legend Patti LuPone will headline an intimate show prior to the event, singing a program that she nicknames her "personal musical memoir."

November at the Lyric Opera will begin with laughter. From November 9 to 30, 2024, Mozart's The Marriage of Figaro will be onstage and performed by an all-star cast, from Peter Kellner in the titular role, to Ying Fang, Federica Lombardi, Gordon Binter, and Kayleigh Decker. Director for this production is Barbara Gaines, founder of the Chicago Shakespeare Theater; Erina Yashima, former CSO conducting apprentice under Riccardo Muti, will conduct the production in her Lyric debut.

Rounding out 2024 is Blue, on stage from November 16 to December 1, 2024. The new work by composer Jeanine Tesori and librettist Tazewell Thompson appears at Lyric after a long awaited hiatus. It was initially scheduled to conclude the Lyric's 2019-2020 season, but postponed because of the pandemic. Blue is a contemporary work fusing opera with gospel-influenced music and will star bass Kenneth Kellogg, conductor Joseph Young, and director Tazewell Thompson, all in their Lyric debuts.

A tall African-American man hugs a shorter African-American woman from behind. The woman is crying. The man is looking off into the distance. They are standing by a white, closed casket with flowers on top.

Production of Blue at the Washington National Opera (Photo: Scott Suchman)

In 2025, superstar soprano Sondra Radvanovsky returns to the opera house for a unique concert built around Puccini's legendary's heroines. The three-concert run will feature arias from all 12 of Puccini's operas from February 8 to 16, 2025.

The company returns in the new year for a modern production of Puccini's La Bohème from March 15 to April 12, 2025, directed by Melanie Bacaling and conducted by Jordan de Souza. Pene Pati will have his Lyric debut in the role of Rodolfo; the cast also features returning stars Ailyn Pérez, Gabriella Reyes, Will Liverman, and Peixin Chin.

Springtime will also bring with it the Chicago premiere of a work co-commissioned and co-produced by the Lyric. The Listeners by composer Missy Mazzoli and librettist Royce Vavrek is based on a short story of the same name by Jordan Tannahill. It is a work that both Enrique Mazzola and Matthew Ozawa expressed a lot of excitement for during Lyric's press conference on March 12. Ozawa was present the premiere of "The Listeners" in Norway; Mazzola, who got his start in conducting contemporary works, mentioned a particular affinity for Mazzoli's work. The opera's Lyric production will be onstage from March 30 to April 11, 2025 and star Nicole Heaston, Kyle Ketelsen, Jasmine Habersham, Jonas Hacker, and Daniela Mack.

A large crowd in Renaissance attire, standing and sitting in various positions around the stage.

Production of Rigoletto at the Lyric Opera (Photo: Dan Rest)

Two April concerts round out the Lyric Opera's 2024-2025 season. On April 16 and 18, 2025, Maestro Mazzola will lead the Lyric Opera Orchestra and Chorus in a program titled Lyric in Concert: A Wondrous Sound. The concert will contain selections of opera's most well-known overtures and choruses to celebrate the over 100 members of the Lyric Opera Orchestra and Chorus.

Finally, the Ryan Opera Center's annual Rising Stars in Concert will close out the season on a particularly high note. 2025 marks 50 years since the start of the Lyric's artist-development program. Maestro Mazzola will bring the 2024/25 ensemble together with the Lyric Opera Orchestra, and some as-of-yet-unnamed familiar faces, to celebrate the program's impact over the last five decades.

Still to come in this year’s 2023-2024 season is the remainder of the Aida run (through April 7), and the Mozart Requiem (March 22 & 24). Enrique Mazzola will conduct all performances through April 1; Francesco Milioto will conduct the final two performances of Aida on April 4 and 7.

For ticketing and information, visit lyricopera.org. This piece has been edited to add context and commentary from Lyric's season announcement press event.