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Davis to step down as Lyric’s music director; Italian Enrique Mazzola will take reins in 2021

Submitted by on Sep 13, 2019 – 5:53 pm

Italian conductor Enrique Mazzola becomes music director of Lyric Opera of Chicago in 2021.

Report: Andrew Davis will retain Lyric Opera’s musical leadership through 2020-21; Mazzola to lead Verdi’s “Luisa Miller” this season.
By Lawrence B. Johnson

Andrew Davis will step down as music director of the Lyric Opera of Chicago at the end of the 2020-21 season, to be succeeded by Italian conductor Enrique Mazzola, the company announced on Sept. 12.

Mazzola, principal guest conductor at Deutsche Oper Berlin, and until recently artistic and music director of the Orchestre National d’Île-de-France in Paris, made his Lyric debut in 2016 with Donizetti’s “Lucia di Lammermoor.” He returned in 2018 to lead Bellini’s “I Puritani.”

“I am thrilled that Enrique Mazzola has accepted Lyric’s invitation to become our next music director,” said Lyric general director Anthony Freud. “He has accrued a wealth of international experience in his career to date, and he is tremendously well liked and respected by the Lyric Opera Orchestra and Chorus.

“I am confident that our audiences and the people of Chicago will be captivated by his artistry, his charm and personality, as has certainly been the case during his initial engagements here in the past few years. I look forward with great excitement to working very closely with Enrique. Our artistic partnership has already started, and is proving both very fruitful and extremely enjoyable.”

Outgoing Lyric music director Andrew Davis, who has held the post for two decades: “I couldn’t be more grateful for the opportunities that I have enjoyed here.”

Expressing eagerness to take up his new directorship at Lyric, Mazzola, who plans to make Chicago his principal home, said: “I am so looking forward to working closely with Anthony. (He) has made me feel very much like part of the Lyric Opera family from the beginning, and our working relationship is always an excellent collaboration.”

Mazzola said he felt “love at first sight for Chicago – amore a prima vista, as we say in Italian,” adding that he has enjoyed exploring the city’s neighborhoods, restaurants, and cultural attractions. “I got to know everything you can discover by walking through the Loop, the Gold Coast, Chinatown, what remains of Little Italy,” he said. “I did what every tourist should do – the architectural tour, the Art Institute, the Chicago Symphony, and some rooftop bars after some shows.”

The Lyric season opens with the current and designated music directors on the podium in succession: Davis will conduct Rossini’s “The Barber of Seville” (Sept. 28-Oct. 27) followed by Mazzola leading Verdi’s “Luisa Miller” (Oct. 12-31).

Davis will preside over six productions at the Lyric in the coming season, his 20th with the company, including Tchaikovsky’s “The Queen of Spades” the four operas of Wagner’s “Ring” cycle next spring.

In a relationship that goes back more than three decades, Davis has conducted 674 performances at the Lyric in a vast repertoire ranging from Mozart, Gounod and Mussorgsky to Janacek, Britten and Berg.

General director Anthony Freud. (Todd Rosenberg)

“Andrew’s contribution to opera in Chicago, and internationally, is immeasurable,” said Lyric’s general director Anthony Freud,“ and we all have much to anticipate over the next two years. I look forward to continuing our collaboration in the future.”

Davis said he had originally intended to step down after the Lyric’s three “Ring” cycles, which he will lead in the spring, but that Freud persuaded him to continue through one further transitional season.

“It will be hard to leave,” the conductor said, “but the timing is right for me and I am confident that Enrique will be a splendid music director for Lyric. I am greatly looking forward to working closely with him over the next two years. He’s a fine musician and someone who will continue the tradition of the Lyric Opera family. It’s fantastic to have two years together for our transition.”

Characterizing the Lyric as his personal and artistic home over the last two decades, Davis said: “I couldn’t be more grateful for the opportunities that I have enjoyed here, professionally and personally. It continues to be a joy to work with our magnificent orchestra and chorus on such a wide range of repertoire, and to join forces with so many brilliant singers and directors in bringing great opera to the Lyric stage.”

Davis is chief conductor of the Melbourne Symphony Orchestra and conductor laureate of the Toronto Symphony Orchestra where he was previously principal conductor. He is also conductor laureate of the BBC Symphony Orchestra, conductor emeritus of the Royal Liverpool Philharmonic and former music director of Glyndebourne Festival Opera.

Mazzola is widely recognized as one of today’s foremost interpreters of bel canto opera and a leading specialist in French repertoire and early Verdi. In recognition of his significant contribution to musical life in France, Mazzola was made a Chevalier de l’ordre des Arts et des Lettres by the French government in October 2018.

Following the performances of “Luisa Miller” at Lyric in October, Mazzola’s 2019-20 season includes a return to the Zurich Opera House for a new production of Donizetti’s “Don Pasquale,” dates with the Vienna Symphony Orchestra for concerts at the Musikverein and Bregenz Festival, the Deusche Oper Berlin, Orchestre Symphonique de Québec, Glyndebourne Festival Opera (Donizetti’s “L’elisir d’amore”) and symphonic concerts in Germany. Future plans include his return to the London Philharmonic, both in London and on tour in Europe.

Beyond his conducting career, or in parallel with it, Mazzola also serves as the first international brand ambassador of Tuscany’s Consorzio del Vino Nobile di Montepulciano, promoting the culture of Vino Nobile and the surrounding Montepulciano wine region in Italy and abroad.

It’s an area he knows well, having served as artistic director of Cantiere Internazionale d’Arte in Montepulciano from 1999 to 2003. As Mazzola told Chicago Wine Journal in 2016, “The life of an ambassador is never being at home. That’s basically true of a conductor, as well.” The conductor has promoted Vino Nobile whenever the opportunity arises, offering insights into the region, its history, and its wine production..

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