Lyric Opera of Chicago Announces First Woman Board Chair

By Francisco Salazar

Anthony Freud, Lyric Opera of Chicago’s general director, president & CEO, has announced the election of Sylvia Neil as chair of Lyric’s Board of Directors making her the first woman to serve as board chair in the company’s history.

Neil was elected unanimously during Lyric’s Annual Meeting of members and the Board of Directors’ Annual Meeting in early September after holding the position of board chair-elect for the last year.

In her acceptance speech, Neil said, “I am honored to be the first woman chair of Lyric, and am humbled and inspired by Carol Fox and Ardis Krainik, the extraordinary groundbreaking women general directors of our past. These are the folks that light my path forward.”

Neil will succeed David Ormesher, who establishes a new plan of succession for Lyric board chairs by stepping into the role of chair of the Executive Committee, effective immediately.

Neil joined the Lyric Board of Directors in May of 2011 and has served as a member of Lyric’s Executive Committee, Lyric Unlimited Committee, IDEA Steering Committee, Nominating and Governance Committee, and chair of the Development Committee over the course of her Lyric tenure. She has sponsored Lyric productions including “Elektra,” “Madama Butterfly,” and “The Marriage of Figaro.” After the cancellation of the company’s anticipated Ring Cycle, she and her husband organized and sponsored The Heroes’ Fund to help mitigate the financial losses suffered due to the COVID-19 outbreak.

Outside of her work for the Lyric Opera of Chicago, Neil has a career in civil liberties advocacy and academia. She is a guest lecturer in law at the University of Chicago Law School and founder and chair of the Project on Gender, Culture, Religion and Law at Brandeis University. She has had leadership roles in many cultural, civil rights, and academic institutions and currently serves as vice-chair of the Art Institute of Chicago.

She also sits on boards of the Chicago Symphony Orchestra, Chicago High School for the Arts, Chicago Public Media, and Brandeis University.