Mozart’s ‘Lucio Silla’ premieres in Chicago


Fall is not the only thing that kicked off last week. Chicago Opera Theater started its season with Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart’s “Lucio Silla” at the Harris Theater, 205 E. Randolph St. The show, a Chicago premiere, opened Sept. 26 and will run through Oct. 4. 

The opera is Mozart’s eighth and was written when the composer was just 16. Andreas Mitisek, general director of COT, said because the opera is rarely performed, he wanted to start the season with a modern take and showcase some of Mozart’s less known work.

“Costuming is out of today’s fashion,” Mitisek said. “We are updating everything to [the way] Mozart would have done it.”

Mitisek explained that when “Lucio Silla” premiered in 1772, the singers were dressed in the fashion of the day. Now, the Chicago Opera Theater is retelling the popular story mirroring today’s culture, he said.

“It’s political, love, murder and conspiracy—it’s like watching ‘House of Cards,’” Mitisek said. He added that he chose to do the show because it is relatable and has a universal story.

Mitisek, originally from Austria, said COT focuses on operas that are theatrically and musically interesting, and ones that engage the audience. He said the theater chooses to produce lesser-known operas with more developed stories, rather than the “big war horses” of common operas.

“We are more interested in telling stories that have relevance and make us think,” he said.

The theater hosted a community performance preview on Sept. 23 before its official opening on Sept. 26 to draw in the Chicago community. Lillian Murphy, an administrative assistant at the Kellogg School of Management at Northwestern University, attended the community show, thanks to her friend who got advance tickets.

“I had not been to a COT performance in a long time,” Murphy said. “Now that I am seeing this I am wondering why, because this is really well done.”

Murphy, a soprano soloist, said she was somewhat nervous about seeing an opera that is not produced often but was impressed with the characters’ engagement and how they kept the pace of the show moving. The music was also Mozart’s signature style, she said.

“It’s definitely Mozart,” she said. “[They are] fabulous young singers.”

Heather McDougall, a project manager for WFMT radio network in Chicago and another attendee at the community performance, said the most meaningful take- away from the opera is how great is it to see the company take a risk, especially with its opener.

“It’s not part of a mainstream repertoire, and that always represents a risk,” McDougall said.

She applauded the company for taking that step, and said that it is nice to see something new. She hopes the audience will respond the same way, she said.

“It’s really good to see that ambition [and] courage coming out,” she said. “[It’s] encouraging to see them going out on a limb like that.”

Mitisek said to expect the unexpected from the opera, and added that it is a good way to ring in the new season. He said those who have never been to an opera should attend “Lucio Silla.”

“It really pulls you in with the story,” he said. “It’s universal.”

The opera runs through Oct. 4. Tickets range from $35–$125 and can be purchased at or by calling the box office at (312)704-8414.