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Exterior of the Civic Opera House
Lyric Opera of Chicago is one of the leading opera companies in the United Statesmarker. It was founded in Chicagomarker in 1952, under the name 'Lyric Theatre of Chicago' by Carol Fox, Nicolà Rescigno and Lawrence Kelly, with a season that included Maria Callas's American debut in Norma. The company was re-organized by Carol Fox in 1956 under its present name.

Production history

In addition to the standard operatic repertoire, Lyric also presents contemporary works. Recent productions have included Harbison's The Great Gatsby (2000-2001), Weill's Street Scene (2001-2002), and Floyd's Susannah and Sondheim's Sweeney Todd (2002-2003), and John Adams' Doctor Atomic directed by Peter Sellars.

Composer William Bolcom wrote his most recent opera for Lyric, A Wedding, based on the 1978 film of the same name directed by Robert Altman. It premiered during Lyric's 50th-anniversary season.

The Lyric Opera productions were broadcast and nationally syndicated by WFMT Radio Network, from 1971 until 2001. The broadcasts ceased then because of a labor dispute with the Chicago Federation of Musicians, American Guild Musical Artists and the International Alliance of Theatrical Stage Employees, over broadcast fees for musicians. The dispute was resolved at the 11th hour for the October 21, 2006 premiere of Richard Strauss's opera Salome starring Deborah Voigt.

Syndicated broadcast of the Lyric Opera resumed in May 2007 on the WFMT network, which includes XM Satellite Radio.


William Mason is the current General Director of Lyric Opera, a position he has held since November 1997. Mason has been with the company for over 40 years and succeeded Ardis Krainik, after whom the interior opera house is named. Sir Andrew Davis is Lyric's music director and principal conductor, a post he has occupied since in September 2000. He led three complete cycles of Der Ring des Nibelungen in the 2004-2005 season to mark the company's 50th anniversary. Danny Newman was the company's long-time press agent from 1954 until his retirement in the 2001/02 season; Newman is largely credited as the founder of subscription-based arts marketing, the standard economic model for not-for-profit arts organizations in the United States. Philip David Morehead is head of music staff.

Civic Opera House

The Ardis Krainik Theatre
For details, see Civic Opera Housemarker

The company's permanent home is the Civic Opera Housemarker, a building which it rented from 1954 until after the 1993 renovations. It is a 1929 structure with an Art Deco interior. Its 3,563-seat capacity makes it the second-largest opera auditorium in North America after the Metropolitan Opera House in New York City. The interior was named The Ardis Krainik Theatre in 1996 in honor of Ardis Krainik, the General Director from 1982 to 1997, who was responsible for its renovation from 1993 onwards.

Lyric Opera Center for American Artists

The Lyric Opera Center for American Artists (LOCAA), founded in 1973, is the professional artist-development program for Lyric Opera of Chicago. The Ryan Opera Center, which houses the LOCAA program and performances, was established in 1974.

LOCAA is considered one of the most prestigious vocal programs in America, and has produced a number of notable singers. A few of LOCAA's many acclaimed alumni include:

Each year a dozen young singers are selected from the 500 who audition annually, and the selectees are in residence for twelve months. Over the course of the year they receive advanced instruction in numerous aspects of operatic performance, including voice lessons and coachings, language and acting training, and master classes with some of opera’s most renowned artists. The singers gain valuable performing experience by participating in recitals and concerts at many Chicago-area venues. During Lyric Opera’s mainstage season, they perform and understudy roles at all levels. The singers work with the world’s greatest opera singers, conductors, and directors, thus advancing the young artists’ professionalism. In 2005, author William Murray wrote a book about a year in the life of an entering class at LOCAA, entitled Fortissimo: Backstage at the Opera with Sacred Monsters and Young Singers.

Andrew Foldi was Director of the LOCAA from 1991 to 1995. He was succeeded by Richard Pearlman, who was Director of the program from 1995 until his death in 2006. Renowned soprano Gianna Rolandi, who had been LOCAA's Director of Vocal Studies and principal instructor since 2002, was appointed Director of the program in 2006.


  1. "New Contract Could Mean Return of Lyric Opera to Radio," Chesterton Tribune, 21 September 2006 (AP source)
  2. Bruce Weber, "Arts in America; The Unsung Hero of Nonprofit Theater Is Still Selling", New York Times, 23 December 1997.
  3. The Patrick G. and Shirley W. Ryan Opera Center – Lyric Opera of Chicago
  4. Ketterson, Mark Thomas. "Lyric Opera Center for American Artists Trains the Opera Singers of the Future." usOperaweb. Autumn 2003.
  5. "Gianna Rolandi Named as New Lyric Opera Center for American Artists Director." Opera News. May 09, 2006.
  6. Murray, William. Fortissimo: Backstage at the Opera with Sacred Monsters and Young Singers. 2006.


  • Warrack, John and West, Ewan (1992), The Oxford Dictionary of Opera, 782 pages, ISBN 0-19-869164-5

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