The cover of the program for Empower Credit: Elijah Huff

I can’t say I love everything I’ve heard about the premise of the new musical that’ll premiere at Lyric Opera this week: it sounds like a journalist is the major villain in the piece.

But I’m eager to see it.

Empower, with a cast that includes the 31 Chicago high school students who helped create it and two professional opera singers—soprano Angela Brown (who’s sung the title role in Aida at the Met) and baritone Will Liverman (Dizzy Gillespie in Lyric’s 2017 Yardbird)—is the result of a collaboration between Lyric Opera and the Chicago Urban League. The kids have been working on it in weekly after-school meetings since October, their ideas and stories fueling some impressive creative talent:  Empower has a libretto by playwright Ike Holter and a score by composer Damien Sneed.

According to a Lyric press release, “Empower will chronicle a group of students who band together to change their south side neighborhood while fighting against the negative media representation from an overzealous reporter obsessed with corruption.”

The point being that the south side is more than, and different from, the picture most people have of it from what they hear or read in the media. 

Directed by Jess McLeod, with music supervisor Kedrick Armstrong, it also features a Senn High School choir. 

The run is one night only, Thursday, May 31, on the grand Lyric Opera stage; tickets are $10 to $20, and are available for advance purchase (at or walk-up.  Part of the proceeds will help fund a second year of the program with another set of youngsters.