Although Lyric enjoys the largest subscription rolls of any opera company in North America, and sold 88 percent of capacity last season, the push to install more warm bodies in seats continues as the cost of mounting world-class opera continues to rise.
The season schedule, which will run from Oct. 5 to March 23, is built around familiar works by Verdi, Puccini, Wagner, Rossini and Mozart. It was announced by general director Anthony Freud at a news conference Thursday afternoon at the Civic Opera House. Also present to comment on the season were soprano Renee Fleming, Lyric's creative consultant; music director Andrew Davis; and Ted Chapin, president of the Rodgers & Hammerstein organization.
Four of the eight operas will be seen in new productions, and three more productions will be new to Chicago. There will be only one revival, Verdi's “Otello,” which will begin the season. There will be 68 performances over the 24-week subscription season.
One striking aspect of Lyric's 59th season is the large number of stage directors and designers appearing here for the first time. The fact that several bring with them notable reputations in the legitimate theater and Broadway means audiences will be exposed to a wider-than-usual array of theatrical styles.
In an interview with the Tribune before the news conference, Freud conceded the absence of 20th- and 21st-century works in the season he inherited from his Lyric predecessor, William Mason, but explained that he takes the long view when it comes to the repertory Lyric presents.
“With an eight-opera season, inevitably what we can't do is encompass the full range of repertory every time,” said Freud, whose repertory and casting decisions won't take full effect until the 2015-16 season. “That's why I believe very strongly in a rolling, 10-year repertory plan that allows us to get the right range of operas and musical and theatrical styles that I hope will both satisfy our audience and broaden its horizons.”
Lyric will extend its celebration of the 2013 Verdi and Wagner bicentennials into next season. Representing Verdi will be “Otello,” with Johan Botha, Ana Maria Martinez and Falk Struckmann; and a new production of “La Traviata” staged by American theater director Arin Arbus, conducted by Massimo Zanetti and starring Marina Rebeka, Joseph Calleja and Quinn Kelsey.
The season's Wagner entry will be “Parsifal,” also a new production, with Davis conducting, Britain's John Caird directing and a cast headed by Paul Groves, Thomas Hampson and Kwangchoul Youn.
Another new production will be Rossini's “The Barber of Seville,” which will star Nathan Gunn, Isabel Leonard, Alec Shrader and Alessandro Corbelli, in a staging by Broadway director Rob Ashford. Rounding out the season's new productions will be a romantic rarity, Antonin Dvorak's “Rusalka,” in its company premiere.
Other operas to be given next season are Puccini's “Madama Butterfly,” with Amanda Echalaz and Patricia Racette sharing the title role; Johann Strauss Jr.'s “Die Fledermaus”; and Mozart's “La Clemenza di Tito.”
Although commitments elsewhere will prevent Fleming from appearing in any staged opera here next season, the diva will favor Lyric with another subscriber appreciation concert, this time partnered by the renowned German tenor Jonas Kaufmann, who has been absent from the Lyric roster since 2008. Davis will conduct the event, which is set for March 19, 2014, at the Opera House.
Lyric's efforts to build new audiences are ongoing. Subscribers will get first choice of seats and special pricing for post-season performances of Rodgers and Hammerstein's “The Sound of Music,” the next entry in Lyric's American musical theater initiative, scheduled for May 2014. The show will be the second installment (after “Oklahoma!” here this spring) of a Rodgers and Hammerstein cycle that is to include “Carousel” in 2015, “The King and I” in 2016 and “South Pacific” in 2017. Castings and production details are to be announced.
The season will bring an increase in ticket prices of about 2 percent overall, although prices have been lowered or frozen in parts of the main floor, balcony and upper balcony. For the first time, subscribers can save up to 40 percent over single ticket prices in every series, every day of the week. There will be 24 different subscription packages.
“We're being extremely careful not to increase ticket prices across the board,” Freud said. “Rather, we are identifying areas of the house we believe can sustain small ticket price increases. There are more significant chunks of the theater in which prices hopefully will make us more accessible to more people.”
Season brochures for renewing subscribers will be mailed Thursday.firstname.lastname@example.org