Esteemed composer and conductor Matthew Aucoin.

Lyric Unlimited Initiative Unveiling  World Premiere Work for Young Audiences

This summer Lyric Opera audience development initiative Lyric Unlimited will present the world premiere of Second Nature, a new opera for youth from the acclaimed composer/librettist Matthew Aucoin, at Café Brauer at Lincoln Park Zoo (2021 N. Stockton Dr., Chicago). Four world-premiere performances of the new work will take place on Wednesday, August 19 at 10 a.m. and 12 p.m. , and Thursday, August 20 at 4 p.m. and 6 p.m.

Recommended for children ages 7 to 12 and set in a fictional future when humans have retreated from nature because of a deteriorating environment, Second Nature tells the story of two inquisitive and courageous youths who decide to leave the safety of their artificial habitat and work to heal the planet. Each performance will also include an interactive, informational talk about conservation work at Lincoln Park Zoo.

Called “the next Leonard Bernstein” by The Wall Street Journal and “Opera’s great 25-year-old hope” by The New York Times Magazine, Matthew Aucoin is an award-winning composer, pianist, poet, and conductor. His opera, Crossing, just received its world premiere at the American Repertory Theater in Boston, and he is working on a new opera for the Metropolitan Opera/Lincoln Center Theatre’s commissioning program. He recently completed his tenure as the Solti Conducting Fellow at the Chicago Symphony Orchestra and has served as an assistant conductor at the Metropolitan Opera and Rome Opera.

“Lyric is thrilled to be presenting the latest new work from Matthew Aucoin, one of opera’s rising young stars,” said Anthony Freud, Lyric’s general director. “Our creative consultant Renée Fleming flagged Matthew as a composer to watch several years ago, and we are delighted to be one of the first companies to have commissioned and now to premiere a work by this outstandingly talented composer and librettist.”

Second Nature stars Sylvia Szadovszki  (debut), James Onstad (debut), David Govertsen, Julie Miller,and Leah Dexter. Govertsen and Miller are alumni of The Patrick G. and Shirley W. Ryan Opera Center at Lyric, the company’s artist-development program. The world-premiere opera will be directed by Matthew Ozawa, with sets by William Boles  (who was set designer for Lyric Unlimited’s world-premiere klezmer opera, The Property), and costumes by Sally Dolembo (debut).  

After the performances at Lincoln Park Zoo, Second Nature will also be presented at schools and community venues around Chicago throughout the fall as part of Lyric Unlimited’s ongoing Opera in the Neighborhoods program.

Lyric Unlimited is a long-term, evolving initiative that encompasses company activities that are not part of Lyric’s mainstage opera season. It touts a mission to provide a relevant cultural service to communities throughout the Chicago area and to advance the development of opera by exploring how opera as an art form can resonate more powerfully with people of multiple backgrounds, ethnicities, and interests. It also leads the development of innovative partnerships with a wide range of cultural, community, and educational organizations to create a breadth of programming through which Chicagoans of all ages can connect with Lyric. For more information about Lyric Unlimited program offerings, visit