From Handel to Hammerstein, the Lyric Opera of Chicago will just keep rolling along

February 01, 2011

Offenbach's "The Tales of Hoffmann" will open the Lyric Opera's 57th season October 1. Teatro Real production. Photo: Javier Del Real

William Mason’s final season as the Lyric Opera of Chicago’s general director will reflect both the company’s past and its future with a wide-ranging lineup of works slated for the Lyric’s 57th season.

Most striking is that the 2011-2012 schedule will include Jerome Kern and Oscar Hammerstein’s Show Boat, part of the Lyric Opera’s new initiative to incorporate Broadway musicals as part of its regular season. Show Boat will open Feb. 12, 2012 in a new production to be directed by Francesca Zambello, with Nathan Gunn as the gambler, Ravenal, Morris Robinson as Joe and Alyson Cambridge as Julie. The central role of Magnolia is yet to be announced. John De Main will conduct.

The curtain goes up on the Lyric Opera’s season proper October 1 with Offenbach’s The Tales of Hoffmann, absent from the Civic Opera House boards since 1982. Tenor Matthew Polenzani will make his role debut as the romantically ambitious title scribe with James Morris returning as the four villains. This Nicolas Joel production from Madrid will distribute the three female roles among Anna Christy, Erin Wall and Alyson Cambridge. Ryan Center young artist Emily Fons will portray Nicklausse, with Emmanuel Villaume conducting.

Giuseppe Filianoti, who made a sensational company debut in L’elisir d’amore last season returns in another Donizetti work, this time, the tragic Lucia di Lammermoor. Susanna Phillips will star as the doomed title heroine in a new production with Catherine Malfitano making her house directing debut. Gabriele Viviani and Christian Van Horn costar and Massimo Zanetti will conduct.

After an absence of 17 years, Mussorgsky’s Boris Godunov returns to the Lyric, beginning Nov. 7. Celebrated bass Ferruccio Furlanetto will portray the title czar with Sir Andrew Davis conducting the original 1869 version (no Polish scene) in this San Francisco Opera production.

Deborah Voigt, currently appearing in La fanciulla del West, returns to the Lyric Opera for Ariadne auf Naxos, opening Nov. 19, the company’s first Richard Strauss opera in many seasons. The strong cast includes Brandon Jovanovich, Alice Coote, and Anna Christy with Sir Andrew Davis conducting in the sturdy Robert Perziola/John Cox staging.

The beloved August Everding production of Mozart’s The Magic Flute will be revived December 6. Two fast-rising tenors Alek Shrader and Charles Castronovo will split the roles of Tamino with Nicole Cabell as Pamina and Kathleen Kim as the Queen of the Night, Davis conducting.

Sondra Radvanovsky will make her U.S role debut as the heroine of Verdi’s Aida, starting Jan. 21, with costars Marcello Giordani, Jill Grove and Gordon Hawkins. A second Aida cast will field Hui He, Salvatore Licitra, Anna Smirnova and Quinn Kelsey in the Nicholas Joel production, with Renato Palumbo conducting.

The Lyric Opera will close its 57th season with Handel’s Rinaldo making its company stage debut opening Feb. 29. (The Lyric did a one-off concert performance in 1984.) David Daniels will star in the role of the crusader hero with the terrific Italian bass-baritone Luca Pisaroni making his company debut as Argante. Harry Bicket conducts this new production to be directed by Francisco Negrin.

The company’s newly appointed creative consultant Renée Fleming will appear in a subscriber appreciation night along with Russian baritone Dmitri Hvorostovsky Jan. 7. The 2011-2012 season will offer 72 performances of eight productions during its 25-week season, up from 68 performances in the current season.

The Lyric Opera is offering a variety of subscription packages, which start at $100 for a four-opera series. For details, call 312-332-2244 or go to

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