Enrique Mazzola said the first time he visited Chicago, it was love at first sight. Or as the Italian conductor would say, “Amore a prima vista.”
Mazzola was named music director designate of the Lyric Opera Thursday, and will take the position permanently in 2021. He will replace Sir Andrew Davis, who has held the position for 20 years. Mazzola called the transition from Davis a “beautiful, organized passage from one music director and the other.”
Mazzola said he admired Davis for his “energy, force, his clarity of his style of conducting.”
This isn’t the first time that Lyric audiences will hear Mazzola. He conducted Donizetti’s Lucia di Lammermoor here in 2016. Mazzola said that was an opportunity to start building his relationship with the musicians at Lyric and familiarize them which his conducting style, which he characterized as “dig[ging] in to the work.”
“I like to build the music from a lot of consequential details,” Mazzola added.
The position of music director can sometimes straddle two worlds — the artistic and administrative. Lyric musicians went on strike briefly in 2018, and labor disputes like that can place the music director in a difficult position of choosing sides. But Mazzola said he isn’t concerned about what position he’ll land in if those disputes arise.
Mazzola said he’s gained experience working in both worlds in his current position as artistic and music director at Orchestre National d’Île-de-France (ONDIF) in Paris.
During his time conducting in Chicago in 2016, Mazzola said he learned that the opera audience here is “very loyal, with big knowledge of music in general, of culture in general.”
He said he’s excited to learn more about Chicago, including all its neighborhoods and the city’s suburbs.
“To imagine an opera house of the 21st century is the opera house of the city, is the opera house of everybody,” Mazzola said.
The 2019 season of Lyric Opera of Chicago starts September 28 with The Barber of Seville. Mazzola will conduct Luisa Miller in October.
Carrie Shepherd is a news reporter for WBEZ. Follow her on Twitter at @cshepherd.