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Lyric Opera, Joffrey Ballet announce return to in-person seasons at opera house

As part of a joint announcement Wednesday, Lyric Opera of Chicago revealed plans for a seven-production season beginning Sept 17; Joffrey Ballet will present a four-program season beginning Oct. 13.

The Joffrey Ballet will present a four-program season at Lyric Opera House highlighted by the April 27-May 8, 2022, world premiere of choreographer Cathy Marston’s adaptation of John Steinbeck’s “Of Mice and Men.”
The Joffrey Ballet will present a four-program season at Lyric Opera House highlighted by the April 27-May 8, 2022, world premiere of choreographer Cathy Marston’s adaptation of John Steinbeck’s “Of Mice and Men.” Pictured are dancers Xavier Núñez and Dylan Gutierrez.
© Todd Rosenberg Photography

Lyric Opera of Chicago and the Joffrey Ballet will take turns performing on the Lyric Opera House stage for the first time in 2021-22, as the two major companies return to live, in-person productions after a more than 1½-year hiatus.

As part of a joint announcement Wednesday, Lyric Opera of Chicago revealed plans for a seven-production season (one in an alternative venue) that includes its first mainstage opera sung in Spanish – Daniel Catán’s “Florencia en el Amazonas (Florencia in the Amazon)” (1996). Among other highlights are Verdi’s “Macbeth,” led by new music director Enrique Mazzola, and the Chicago premiere of “Proving Up,” a 2018 chamber opera by Missy Mazzoli, composer-in-residence at the Chicago Symphony Orchestra.

Greg Cameron, Joffrey Ballet’s president and CEO, speaks during a press conference Wednesday at the Lyric Opera House about the return of live performances as many COVID-19 restrictions are lifted by the city.
Greg Cameron, Joffrey Ballet’s president and CEO, speaks during a press conference Wednesday at the Lyric Opera House about the return of live performances as many COVID-19 restrictions are lifted by the city.
Pat Nabong/Sun-Times

Joffrey Ballet will present a four-program season highlighted by the April 27-May 8, 2022, world premiere of choreographer Cathy Marston’s adaptation of John Steinbeck’s “Of Mice and Men.” It will be paired with the company’s debut of “Serenade,” a 1934 classic by legendary 20th-century choreographer, George Balanchine.

“We are confident that the really exciting season that we’ve planned will be a magnet that will draw people back into the Opera House with great enthusiasm and in very large numbers,” said Anthony Freud, Lyric’s general director, president and CEO.

Lyric Opera’s season is arranged in a such way that it leaves the Opera House stage open for the Joffrey Ballet’s annual monthlong presentation of “The Nutcracker.” Returning Dec. 4-26 will be Christopher Wheeldon’s five-year-old take on the Tchaikovsky classic set during preparations for the 1893 World’s Columbian Exposition.

“I’ve always felt that Christopher Wheeldon’s ‘Nutcracker’ would look spectacular here,” said Joffrey Ballet artistic director Ashley Wheater. “It’s a huge production and it needs a lot of space, and we have everything we could wish for in this beautiful house. For all of us, to bring ‘The Nutcracker’ to the Lyric Opera House is fantastic.”

The plan for the Joffrey Ballet to shift its performances from the Auditorium Theatre, where it had appeared since 1998, to the Lyric Opera House was announced in 2017. The move was supposed to have happened in 2020-21 but had to be postponed because of the coronavirus shutdown.

Audiences attending the Lyric Opera and Joffrey performances will experience an opera house with slightly larger new seats throughout and a staggered configuration and widened aisles on the main floor. The changes, which were carried out in 2020, reduce the theater’s overall capacity from 3,563 to 3,276.

Lyric Opera’s line-up features one less production than what had been announced for the cancelled 2020-21 season, because the company has omitted the presentation of a classic musical as it has done in recent seasons.

“We have not yet announced one for this upcoming season just because of current safety and budget restraints, but there may be a chance that we announce a musical later this year once we have a better idea of how the season is going,” said Lyric Opera spokeswoman Marianna Moroz.

Here are the two companies’ line-ups:

Lyric Opera of Chicago

  • “Macbeth,” Verdi, Sept. 17, 23 and 30, Oct. 3, 6 and 9
  • “The Elixir of Love,” Donizetti, Sept. 26 and 29 and Oct. 2, 5 and 8
  • “The Magic Flute,” Mozart, Nov. 3, 7, 11, 14, 17, 19 and 27
  • “Florencia in the Amazon,” Catán, Nov. 13, 18, 21, 26 and 28.
  • “Proving Up,” Mazzoli, Jan. 22, 26, 28 and 30, 2022 (Goodman Theatre)
  • “Tosca,” Puccini, March 12, 15, 18, 23 and 26 and April 3, 7 and 10, 2022
  • “Fire Shut Up in My Bones,” Blanchard, March 24 and 27 and April 2, 6 and 8, 2022

Info: lyricopera.org

Joffrey Ballet

  • “Home: A Celebration” (mixed repertory), Oct. 13-24 (10 performances)
  • “The Nutcracker,” Dec. 4-26, (28 performances)
  • “Don Quixote,” Feb. 16-27, 2022 (10 performances)
  • “Of Mice and Men” and “Serenade,” April 27-May 8, 2022 (10 performances)

Info: joffrey.org