Second Nature

Imagine taking in live, classical opera together with the lions, tigers and bears. The Lyric Opera of Chicago is setting up shop at the zoo of all places this summer. 'Second Nature,' a new opera for youth from the acclaimed composer/librettist Matthew Aucoin will premiere this summer at Café Brauer at Lincoln Park Zoo.

Presented by Lyric Unlimited, these four world-premiere performances will take place on Wednesday, Aug. 19 at 10 a.m. and noon, and Thursday, Aug. 20 at 4 p.m. and 6 p.m. Free and open to the public, these performances are the perfect opportunity to introduce your children to the joys of lyrical opera.

How can we heal and protect the environment? Both the characters in the opera and the children in the audience are asked to ponder the state of our planet. Set in a fictional future when humans have retreated from nature because of the deteriorating environment, Second Nature tells the story of two kids 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.

Award-winning composer, pianist, poet and conductor Matthew Aucoin has been called "the next Leonard Bernstein" by The Wall Street Journal and "Opera's great 25-year-old hope" by The New York Times Magazine.

"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."

"Two facets of Lyric Unlimited's mission are to identify and nurture new operatic talent and to present opera that explores contemporary themes in unexpected venues. 'Second Nature' succeeds on both counts," said Cayenne Harris, director of Lyric Unlimited. "We are so pleased that families will be able to enjoy this work that celebrates the importance of nature and conservation in a setting as appropriate as Lincoln Park Zoo."

'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 premier artist-development program. This world-premiere opera is 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). 

'Second Nature' is recommended for children ages 7 to 12. Reservations are recommended. For more information or to reserve a free ticket, visit