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Barbara Haffner


Cellist Barbara Haffner is leaving after 31 years with the Lyric Opera Orchestra, many of those as Assistant Principal Cello.  Her impressive career spans from an early ten-week tour of South America with the Robert Shaw Chorale to the Dallas Symphony, the Philadelphia Orchestra under Eugene Ormandy, Principal Cellist with Music of the Baroque in Chicago, free-lancing for ten years during the then-flourishing Chicago jingles market, and then becoming a member of the Lyric orchestra.

In 1977, Barbara moved to Chicago.  Her future opera orchestra career was still on the horizon.

Growing up  in California, her first five years were spent with an uncle and grandmother with whom she listened to The Met radio broadcasts every Saturday afternoon; at the time she had no interest in opera.  

But as a young adult, she was invited to Philadelphia Opera’s Die Walküre, where she was moved to tears, as she continues to be on a regular basis, even when performing.  “Tears stream down my face,” she said. “Nothing affects me like opera.  Playing opera has been my bliss in the Joseph Campbell sense.”*

Her favorite experiences at Lyric include sitting Principal Cello for Hansel and Gretelwith conductor Mark Elder (now Sir Mark Elder) and playing Peter Grimes.  And she loves Strauss’s Capriccio.  “The drawing room scene is more than I can bear.”

In retirement Barbara plans to continue the playing she currently does in Chicago outside of Lyric, including Music of the Baroque and Chicago Philharmonic.  Her Las Vegas home will be traded for a home in Santa Fe, NM, where she already spends a lot of time. She’ll pursue her passion for movies, plays, and opera, as she did recently in two trips to New York.  A fan of Clive Owen, she saw him in M. Butterfly.  Loving the music of Thomas Ades, she attended his American premiere of Exterminating Angel at the Met. And she returned to attend Parsifal, profoundly moved by the singing of baritone Peter Mattei.
"People who get opera jobs have no idea what they’re getting into with the 4 – 5 hour productions," says Barbara.  But she notes how fortuitous it is “getting to play Turandot, one of my very favorite operas,” in her final season. Fortuitous, and only 2 ½ hours long.

* Writer and mythologist Joseph Campbell famously said "If you follow your bliss, you put yourself on a kind of track that has been there all the while, waiting for you, and the life that you ought to be living is the one you are living."

Barbara Haffner: About Us
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