Civic Night at Lyric



By Judy Carmack Bross




“Civic Night at Lyric,” an initiative to gain younger and more diverse audiences developed by the Women’s Board of Lyric Opera of Chicago, recently welcomed 200 guests from 12 different corporate and community partners to a performance of “Champion,” an opera in jazz by Terence Blanchard, and a reception hosted by Music Director Enrique Mazzola, Women’s Board President Nancy Santi, and Civic Night Chair Suzanne Mulshine. Mazzola and Santi, as well as cast members, members of the Lyric Opera Orchestra and Chorus, and the Women’s Board, mingled with a variety of affinity groups in a reception in the Graham Room post opera which included photos and videos of the production.


Lyric Opera Music Director, Maestro Enrique Mazzola, sharing remarks with Civic Night Guests



Women’s Board Members Jenni Sorenson and Kimberly Taylor-Smith


Guests of community and corporate groups sharing a toast


Santi told us:


“I am very proud of our Women’s Board. What better role than to be ambassadors for this treasure of our city, and not only bringing newer audiences through Lyric’s doors, but to let people know this treasure belongs to all. 


Women’s Board President, Nancy Santi, and Civic Night at Lyric Event Chair, Suzanne Mulshine


‘Civic Night at Lyric’ is in its second year.   It stemmed from the Lyric’s commitment to welcoming newer and more diverse audiences, letting all in our city know, that opera is for all.  As part of Lyric’s IDEA (Inclusivity, Diversity, Equity and Access) Committee, I see first hand Lyric’s incredible efforts towards inclusivity and diversity, in not only audiences, but the range of stories they tell and the storytellers they engage to tell them”. 


Leroy Davis with Women’s Board Members Nancy Santi, Kimberly Taylor-Smith, Suzanne Mulshine, Eileen Murphy and Jenni Sorenson


Suzanne Mulshine delivering remarks with fellow Women’s Board members


Dr. Louise Bernard, members of Lyric Young Professionals, Roderick K. Hawkins, and Lyric General Director and CEO, Anthony Freud


Enrique Mazzola said, “It was a thrill to learn and to conduct this great American opera and such a pleasure for me to meet so many new and enthusiastic audience members after the performance.  I am grateful to our Women’s Board leaders for creating this opportunity.”


Martin Luther Clark, Roderick K. Hawkins, and Maestro Enrique Mazzola


 Elizabeth Hurley, Lyric’s Deputy Director General, told us:  


“The goal is to provide a networking opportunity around a shared experience and so that a younger and more diverse audience will get to know Lyric.”


Lyric Young Professionals enjoying the Civic Night reception


Dr. Louise Bernard, members of Lyric Young Professionals, and Roderick K. Hawkins


  Santi continued:


“Guests see that Lyric productions not only encompass the beautiful, timeless classics we all think of, but the recent contemporary operas of “Factotum”, “Fire Shut Up in My Bones’, and now “Champion”, are representative of our diverse Chicago community, with such bold themes and relevant stories.  Last year at this event, it was so heartwarming when one of the guests exclaimed to me: ‘I’ve walked past this beautiful building so many times, and never thought I would be in it.’ Another stated she never thought she’d see an opera where she could see herself in one of the characters, or the story.  


“This is an exciting time in opera. It was wonderful seeing everyone flowing into the gorgeous Graham Room and mingling right away with the stars and musicians.  We want it to be an annual event, possibly doing a similar event around each opera as a way to live out our mission of welcoming newer audiences.”


Star of Champion, Reginald Smith, Jr. enjoying photos with Civic Night guests


Corporate and Community Partners for Civic Night were Goldman Sachs, Illinois Tool Works, Kirkland and Ellis, Merrill Lynch, Polsky Center for Entrepreneurship and Innovation, Ryan Specialty, ITW David Speer Academy, The Chicago Public Education Fund, The Obama Foundation, Willkie Farr and Gallagher, Winston Strawn and the Lyric Young Professionals Group.


Stars of the evening’s performance of Champion, Whitney Morrison and Leroy Davis, with Nancy Santi and Suzanne Mulshine


Guests of Civic Night at Lyric


“We are so grateful to our amazing Women’s Board for developing this important project and for being its Ambassadors.” Hurley said.  “Diversity, equity and inclusion is in Lyric’s DNA and that means always engaging new audiences.”


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