Lyric Opera’s annual freebie in the park, which features most of the leads from its first two or three productions of the coming season, is one of the best bargains in town. The roster includes Lyric veterans as well as newcomers, and this year about half of the numbers are perennial favorites. Bass baritone Samuel Ramey, who’s such a fixture his craggy visage should be carved into the Lyric proscenium, returns to sing “Kagda Zhe” from Prokofiev’s War and Peace, a piece from Verdi’s The Sicilian Vespers, a trio from Gounod’s Faust, and a duet from Mussorgsky’s Boris Godunov. Other marquee names include Jean-Philippe Lafont, Vincenzo La Scola, Johan Botha, and Dolora Zajick, but it’s a trio of debutants I’m most curious about: Polish baritone Mariusz Kwiecien, who’ll appear in the season opener Pagliacci, apprenticed with the Metropolitan Opera and is said to have a robust voice well suited for Italian roles; he’ll sing a choice selection, Escamillo’s boastful Toreador Song from Carmen. Bulgarian soprano Svetla Vassileva, also in Pagliacci, is noted for the psychological insight she brings to a role; Lyric maestro emeritus Bruno Bartoletti has wisely given her an aria from Puccini’s La rondine as a showcase. Soprano Sondra Radvanovsky, born in Berwyn, is touted as a big-voiced coloratura and a new hope for some of the toughest Verdi roles (although she’ll be singing the title role in Carlisle Floyd’s Susannah at the Lyric this fall). Her showstopper here is bound to be the Letter Scene from Tchaikovsky’s Eugene Onegin; she’s also Marguerite in the Faust trio. The program is set up in halves, one all Russian, with Andrew Davis conducting, the other a Franco-Italian potpourri with Bartoletti in charge. Members of the Lyric’s orchestra and chorus will be on hand, as will the cream of the crop from its Center for American Artists–including the dazzling Chinese-born Guang Yang, probably a mezzo-soprano for the ages. Sunday, September 8, 7:30 PM, Petrillo Music Shell, Grant Park, Columbus and Jackson; 312-332-2244.

Art accompanying story in printed newspaper (not available in this archive): photos/J. Henry Fair, Lisa Kohler.