Arts, Culture, and Humanities

Lyric Opera of Chicago

aka Lyric or Lyric Opera

Chicago, IL

Mission

Founded in 1954, Lyric Opera of Chicago's mission is to express and promote the life-changing, transformational, revelatory power of great opera. Lyric exists to provide a broad, deep, and relevant cultural service to Chicago and the nation, and to advance the development of the art form. Lyric is dedicated to producing and performing consistently thrilling, entertaining, and thought-provoking opera with a balanced repertoire of core classics, lesser-known masterpieces, and new works; to creating an innovative and wide-ranging program of community engagement and educational activities; and to developing exceptional emerging operatic talent.

Ruling Year

1957

General Director

Mr. Anthony Freud

Main Address

20 North Wacker Drive Suite 860 Lyric Opera of Chicago

Chicago, IL 60606 USA

Keywords

Chicago

EIN

36-6008929

 Number

4460767039

Cause Area (NTEE Code)

Opera (A6A)

Radio (A34)

Performing Arts Schools (A6E)

IRS Filing Requirement

This organization is required to file an IRS Form 990 or 990-EZ.

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Social Media

Programs + Results

What we aim to solve

For more than 65 years, Lyric has shared the transformative power of opera with audiences and communities across Chicago. Generation after generation, the arts have played a key role in the growth of our city, the development of our young people, the health of our communities, and the expression of our identity. Opera, the most collaborative of the arts, unites the power of the human voice with the universal languages of music, drama, art, and dance to inspire us, move us, challenge us, and unite us. Opera, like no other art form, and Lyric, as Chicago’s leader in the performing arts, connects Chicagoans of all ages and from every background to each other and to the creative spirit of our city.

Our programs

What are the organization's current programs, how do they measure success, and who do the programs serve?

SOURCE: Self-reported by organization

Mainstage opera productions

Lyric Unlimited education and community engagement programs

Where we work

Our Results

How does this organization measure their results? It's a hard question but an important one. These quantitative program results are self-reported by the organization, illustrating their committment to transparency, learning, and interest in helping the whole sector learn and grow.

SOURCE: Self-reported by organization

Average dollar price for performance tickets

TOTALS BY YEAR
Population(s) served

General/Unspecified

Related program

Mainstage opera productions

Type of Metric

Output - describing our activities and reach

Direction of Success

Holding steady

Context notes

Mainstage opera performance average dollar price

Number of mainstage productions offered

TOTALS BY YEAR
Population(s) served

General/Unspecified

Related program

Mainstage opera productions

Type of Metric

Output - describing our activities and reach

Direction of Success

Holding steady

Context notes

Each season, Lyric presents eight operas and one musical on it mainstage.

Charting Impact

Five powerful questions that require reflection about what really matters - results.

SOURCE: Self-reported by organization

What is the organization aiming to accomplish?

What are the organization's key strategies for making this happen?

What are the organization's capabilities for doing this?

How will they know if they are making progress?

What have they accomplished so far and what's next?

Lyric Opera of Chicago’s mission is to express and promote the life-changing, transformative, revelatory power of great opera. Through artistic excellence coupled with innovative, relevant programming, Lyric delivers ever-more exciting, thought-provoking, and inclusive audience and community experiences. Under the leadership of General Director, President & CEO Anthony Freud, Music Director Sir Andrew Davis, Music Director Designate Enrique Mazzola, and Special Projects Advisor Renée Fleming, Lyric is committed to leading the advancement of the art form and redefining what it means to experience great opera today. Each season, Lyric ignites transformation in our community by: • offering our core product of eight outstanding mainstage operas and one musical theater production each season, attracting some of the most accomplished artists in the world and leveraging the vast talent of Chicago to create art of the absolute highest caliber; • drawing on more than three decades of experience in Chicago Public Schools to provide vital, high-quality arts education to Chicago’s students through Lyric Unlimited education and community engagement programming; • building on longstanding relationships and establishing new partnerships within Chicago’s diverse neighborhoods to reach new audiences and create a platform for Chicagoans to share their voices; • fostering the development of exceptional emerging opera artists through residencies at the internationally renowned Patrick G. and Shirley W. Ryan Opera Center; and • maintaining a position of fiscal stability that will support our steadfast commitment to providing excellent and relevant art in Chicago.

Faced with a rapidly evolving social, political, and cultural climate, Lyric, like many performing arts organizations nationwide, has had to be creative and dynamic in navigating changing consumer and audience behavior in the 21st century. While Lyric still sells more than 23,000 subscription packages per season—one of the largest subscription bases in Chicago and across the field—subscription sales have dramatically decreased in the last 15 years. To address the changing audience landscape, Lyric has worked to right-size program offerings each season, ensuring the optimum number of performances to leverage evolving audience demand. At the same time, Lyric has created a wide range of new programming to maintain our relevance, increase and diversify our revenue streams, and broaden our civic footprint, resulting in a significant growth in operations. While these opportunities are strengthening relationships with new and existing Lyric audiences and communities across our city, ticket revenue and philanthropic revenue have not been commensurate with the rate of growth in expenditures. To that end, Lyric continues to identify, cultivate, and solicit unrestricted operating support each season to ensure that the core artistic, education, and training activities of our organization can continue at the highest level. Lyric Unlimited—Learning & Creative Engagement serves approximately 85,000 people each year through programs at the Lyric Opera House and across Chicago. Through arts education and community engagement programming, Lyric Unlimited has built valuable relationships with schools, neighborhood organizations, and local leaders representing communities across Chicago. Through Lyric Unlimited, the company can share the performing arts and the operatic art form in ways that are relevant to the people with whom we seek to collaborate. Through partnerships that form the backbone of Lyric Unlimited programs, we have gained essential insight into the needs and interests of new audiences and communities. At Lyric, it is vital that we engage communities on their terms, not ours, to ensure that Lyric programs provide purposeful and impactful service. The Patrick G. and Shirley W. Ryan Opera Center was established in 1974 as the professional artist-development program for Lyric Opera of Chicago. Since its inception, the Ryan Opera Center has been recognized as one of the premier programs of its kind in the world, offering the finest emerging singers and pianists unparalleled training and experience. The Ryan Opera Center Ensemble is made up of 12 singers and one pianist. These outstanding artists will perform and understudy dozens of roles in Lyric mainstage productions throughout the season.

With a strong record of fiscal stability, visionary leadership, and a commitment to excellence in artistic and community programming, Lyric is uniquely poised to provide an indispensable cultural service to the greater Chicago area. Each season, eight mainstage opera productions serve as the artistic core of the company, through which Lyric offers its patrons a world-class roster of singers, conductors, directors, designers, choreographers, and dancers in a wide-ranging repertoire. Lyric’s artistic strategy includes presenting a balance of classic and contemporary masterworks, world and company premieres that speak to opera’s relevance today, and programs that welcome new audiences to the art form and deepen the experience of returning opera lovers. For more than six decades, Lyric’s mainstage productions have made a profound impact on the artistic landscape of Chicago, reaching more than 150,000 people each season. Building upon decades of Lyric programs serving Chicago students, Lyric Unlimited—Learning & Creative Engagement serves as the company’s arts education and community engagement division. With more than one dozen programs that engage Chicagoans of all ages and representing every neighborhood and community, Lyric Unlimited plays an invaluable role in the artistic fabric of our city and ensures the arts are a part of everyday life for every Chicagoan. All programs are offered for free or deeply discounted rates to reduce barriers to participation. Lyric Unlimited programs take place in schools, community venues, and at the historic Lyric Opera House. Lyric Unlimited has helped Lyric share opera and the performing arts with diverse audiences across Chicago and fostered valuable relationships with schools, neighborhood organizations, and local civic, arts, and business leaders across Chicago. Lyric Unlimited earns the interest of communities for whom opera and opera companies have previously had little relevance, including communities who have often been marginalized by cultural and civic institutions. Relationship building, listening, and collaboration with individuals and organizations throughout the city guides Lyric to engage with communities on their terms, not ours. The Ryan Opera Center's mission is to foster the next generation of great opera artists at the highest level of performance and creativity. The cornerstone of its training program is the year-round instruction provided by its expert faculty. Faculty members have comprehensive expertise in their respective fields and include superb music, language, and drama coaches. A broad range of music is taught, encompassing styles from opera and art song to musical theater. Ensemble members are also given outstanding performance experience, highlighted by their participation in Lyric's mainstage season. This enables them to put into practice the lessons they have learned from the faculty while working with some of the world's leading singers, conductors, and directors.

Performances each season, including mainstage programming, are evaluated each year through ticket sales, critical reviews, and audience feedback. Lyric’s senior artistic staff and Board of Directors evaluate production results throughout the year as they determine the most artistically engaging and fiscally viable repertoire choices for future seasons. Each Lyric Unlimited community program or partnership is evaluated through program-specific assessment tools, which may include audience attendance, pre- and post-program surveys, staff/teaching artist observations, or independent third-party evaluations. Collection of feedback from partner organizations and program participants is facilitated throughout each community engagement program. This feedback is vital to the refinement and enhancement of ongoing programs, ensuring experiences meet community needs and are relevant to community experiences. A testament to the caliber and success of the Ryan Opera Center is its roster of distinguished alumni who perform regularly on the stages of leading international opera houses, including the Finnish National Opera, Florida Grand Opera, Minnesota Opera, the Metropolitan Opera, Oper Frankfurt, Opera Theatre of Saint Louis, Royal Opera House Covent Garden, San Francisco Opera, the Santa Fe Opera, Seattle Opera, Semperoper Dresden, Teatro alla Scala, and the Welsh National Opera, among many others. Lyric’s strong fiscal position, together with concerted fundraising efforts, is the foundation on which the company operates. Lyric’s six volunteer boards—the Board of Directors, Women’s Board, Guild Board, Chapters’ Executive Board, Ryan Opera Center Board, and Lyric Young Professionals Board—are among its greatest assets. Their dedicated leadership and financial commitment have prepared and positioned Lyric to address the modern challenges of producing grand opera and community engagement programs of the highest quality. The operating budget is balanced each year through draw-downs from our working capital reserve, which is managed by the Board of Directors Finance Committee. This long-standing strategy is the backbone of our financial plan and allows Lyric to take the calculated risks that have established it as one of the world’s leading opera companies both in artistic excellence, innovation, and fiscal stability.

For more than six decades, Lyric’s mainstage productions have made a profound impact on the artistic landscape of Chicago, reaching more than 150,000 people each season and sharing the transformative power of opera with audiences and communities across Chicago. Lyric, like nearly every performing arts organization nationwide, faces a rapidly evolving social, political, and cultural climate that impacts every aspect of our existence: our art form, our business model, our collaboration with artists, and our relationship with audiences. To face these challenges and ensure a bright future for Lyric and the art form we steward, we must be creative, dynamic, and self-reflective. Lyric recently undertook several strategic projects to facilitate this self-reflection and evolution. Many of these projects yielded such positive and meaningful results that the company integrated their processes as an ongoing component of Lyric’s day-to-day activity. Lyric made a significant investment in developing an expanded digital engagement strategy by leveraging existing audio, video, image, and narrative content, and selectively creating targeted new content. Deployment of this significantly enhanced strategy ensures that even during social distancing, our company, the operatic genre, and the performing arts remain a part of everyday life for students, families, and opera fans across Chicago and around the world. Enhanced email communications and social media posts showcase uplifting artistic and educational content related to popular Lyric performances and performers. Lyric has taken strategic steps to capitalize on our company’s diversification of performance genres offered: our mainstage grand opera and annual musical theatre production, the presentation of an annual chamber opera in a community venue, and the diverse programs presented within our historic Lyric Opera House. To ensure the company’s ongoing relevance to our audiences, our city, and the national and international opera community, Lyric has a responsibility to ensure that our artistic work, professional practices, and audience engagement efforts truly serve our community. In 2018, Lyric created the IDEA Initiative to develop, implement, and measure our organizational commitment to IDEA: Inclusivity, Diversity, Equity, and Accessibility. Lyric is working with its six volunteer boards, including the Board of Directors, to embed IDEA principles into their structures and practices. To ensure that IDEA permeates every part of the institution, Lyric created both an implementation team of departmental leaders and a cross-organizational IDEA Working Group of approximately 30 artists and administrative and artistic staff. This Working Group is tasked with driving actionable, measurable outcomes related to IDEA within Lyric’s everyday function. These groups have helped embed IDEA efforts in the functionality of the company, impacting projects and processes across the organization.

How We Listen

Seeking feedback from people served makes programs more responsive and effective. Here’s how this organization is listening.

Source: Self-reported by organization

the feedback loop
check_box We shared information about our current feedback practices.
How is the organization collecting feedback?
We regularly collect feedback through: electronic surveys (by email, tablet, etc.), paper surveys, focus groups or interviews (by phone or in person), community meetings/town halls, constituent (client or resident, etc.) advisory committees, suggestion box/email.
How is the organization using feedback?
We use feedback to: to identify and remedy poor client service experiences, to identify bright spots and enhance positive service experiences, to make fundamental changes to our programs and/or operations, to inform the development of new programs/projects, to identify where we are less inclusive or equitable across demographic groups, to strengthen relationships with the people we serve.
With whom is the organization sharing feedback?
We share feedback with: the people we serve, our staff, our board, our funders, our community partners.
What challenges does the organization face when collecting feedback?
It is difficult to: we don't have any major challenges to collecting feedback.

External Reviews

Financials

Lyric Opera of Chicago

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  • Address, phone, website and contact information
  • Forms 990 for 2017, 2016 and 2015
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Operations

The people, governance practices, and partners that make the organization tick.

Need more info?

FREE: Gain immediate access to the following:

  • Address, phone, website and contact information
  • Forms 990 for 2017, 2016 and 2015
  • A Pro report is also available for this organization.

See what's included

Board Leadership Practices

GuideStar worked with BoardSource, the national leader in nonprofit board leadership and governance, to create this section, which enables organizations and donors to transparently share information about essential board leadership practices.

SOURCE: Self-reported by organization

BOARD ORIENTATION & EDUCATION

Does the board conduct a formal orientation for new board members and require all board members to sign a written agreement regarding their roles, responsibilities, and expectations?

No

CEO OVERSIGHT

Has the board conducted a formal, written assessment of the chief executive within the past year?

No

ETHICS & TRANSPARENCY

Have the board and senior staff reviewed the conflict-of-interest policy and completed and signed disclosure statements in the past year?

Yes

BOARD COMPOSITION

Does the board ensure an inclusive board member recruitment process that results in diversity of thought and leadership?

Yes

BOARD PERFORMANCE

Has the board conducted a formal, written self-assessment of its performance within the past three years?

No