Passing the Baton: Enrique Mazzola Talks Taking the Podium at Lyric Opera

David Zivan | September 12, 2019 | People

Enrique Mazzola will take the reins from Sir Andrew Davis as Lyric Opera's new music director. [Photo by Jean Baptist Millot]

Italian conductor Enrique Mazzola takes the podium as the new music director at Lyric Opera for the 2021/22 season—just the third in the storied company’s 65-year history. CS Editor-in-Chief David Zivan sits down with the master of music for an exclusive Q&A.

We should start off by saying congratulations!

I am really humbled. It’s such a high and stylish legacy I will take from Sir Andrew Davis in 2021—a big responsibility and a big privilege. These are the two words that I would use to explain my feelings.

It’s an exciting opportunity, isn’t it?

Very—and it’s sort of a new life. An artist’s life isn’t a normal life. It’s like I am opening a new door. I cross this door, and I start a new life, you know? This door is not only a change of country but a change of continent.

You have conducted here before. How do you like the orchestra and the house?

Well, in Chicago I found a fantastic group of musicians. Let’s not forget that it’s a group of human musicians, and this is very important. I underline this because artistic groups sometimes tend to forget the human side of being an artist. This orchestra has always worked in an excellent way, has always played in a fantastic way and is a wonderful human group. For a European, the size of the Civic Opera House is crazy—in a very nice way. I usually conduct in the Zurich Opera House, a small diamond a few kilometers outside the Alps. It’s fantastic, and it’s around 1,000 seats, just to give you an idea. So when I arrived in America and saw Houston, Chicago and, of course, the Met, I thought everything was so big—too big to make an opera. I am sure that I will get used to it.

Enrique Mazzola will take the reins from Sir Andrew Davis as Lyric Opera's new music director. [Photo by Jean Baptist Millot]

You want to communicate with the audience.

It has to be alive. What makes opera in Chicago attractive is that you have an opera house. A living opera house. It means that the most significant option for the audience is that they can go there, buy a ticket and see an opera live. We are in a historical period in which it’s so easy to purchase anything. But everything you buy or watch is something that if you watch it again, it will never change. It is crystallized, and I think it’s time to go back and understand that opera is a living thing.

Do you recall your first visit to Chicago?

It was September 2016. The second time I came was in January, and the difference was so big. When I arrived in September, I imagined the weather being more or less paradise.

Tags: culture opera

Photography by: Jean-Baptiste Millot