Lyric Opera of Chicago General Director Steps Down

By Francisco Salazar

The Lyric Opera of Chicago has announced that Anthony Freud will retire as General Director at the end of the 2023-24 season, ending a 13-year tenure.

In a statement Freud said, “Having been a general director for 30 years leading opera companies on both sides of the Atlantic, with the last 13 wonderful years at Lyric, I have made the personal decision to retire in summer 2024. Working with Lyric has, for me, been the honor and thrill of a lifetime.”

Board chair Sylvia Neil added, “During Anthony’s tenure, Lyric has seen tremendous artistic growth and amazing firsts. Thanks to Anthony’s leadership and hard work, Lyric enhanced its national and international leadership in the field and stands out as an indispensable part of the cultural and civic fabric of Chicago. Anthony was Lyric’s first general director to have been appointed from outside the company, and the development of the company under his leadership has been remarkable. Our collective confidence in Lyric’s future is deeply rooted in Anthony’s significant accomplishments and the vibrancy he has created in his partnerships with Music Director Enrique Mazzola, Music Director Emeritus Sir Andrew Davis, and a strong executive team.”

As the General Director, Freud brought productions of both standard and rare repertoire and commissioned world premieres including “Bel Canto” and “Proximity.”

During the pandemic when opera house was dark, Freud oversaw several major improvements both backstage and front of house to the historic Lyric Opera House. He also created many new digital and outdoor programs, such as the co-production “Twilight: Gods in the Millennium Park” underground garage and the Midwest Emmy-winning film production of “Pagliacci.”

Additionally, Freud led the development of a new business model for the company, ensuring ongoing fitness for purpose in our rapidly changing times and spearheaded the integration of principles of inclusivity, diversity, equity, and access throughout the company’s operation.

But it wasn’t always smooth sailing with a labor strike from the Lyric Opera of Chicago Orchestra at the start of 2018-19 forcing the company to cancel a few performances.

The Orchestra’s union even mentioned that while the organization sought to lower orchestra wages, Freud’s had increased.

“In contrast, you know whose wages have most certainly not declined?  Anthony Freud’s,” the Union noted at the time. “He saw a compensation increase of 18 percent from 2014 to 2017 – a raise of 16 percent in 2016 alone, right after the Orchestra musicians agreed to a cost-neutral contract with cuts to health care.  And now he is leading the charge to gut the Orchestra.  His demanded salary cuts alone would cost each musician in the Orchestra $6,000; Freud, with his $800,000 annual salary, gets paid that much every three days.”

Freud will continue his “business as usual” work in his current role until his retirement in the summer of 2024. He, and his husband, Colin Ure, plan to return to live in the UK upon the completion of his tenure with Lyric Opera of Chicago.