An arts institution needs a face, and in Enrique Mazzola, with his shaved cranium, red-framed glasses, and missionary zeal, the Lyric Opera of Chicago has acquired a figurehead who combines the necessary cachet and talent. Already a favorite with local audiences from guest appearances and pandemic activities, he now begins his official reign as music director—only the third in the company’s nearly seven-decade history—with back-to-back productions of Verdi’s Macbeth and Donizetti’s L’Elisir d’Amore.
“But I’m not in Chicago only to present Italian repertoire,” Mazzola says on Zoom from Glyndebourne, his accented English eager and idiomatic. “Lyric Opera has to speak to all of Chicago’s communities.” That includes, along with the legacy audience, lots of new recruits. “And we must speak in the languages of our community,” he continues, ticking off English and Spanish. “No one owns opera,” he insists. “Opera belongs to everybody.”