Thursday, February 28, 2019

Handel’s Masterpiece ARIODANTE Now Playing at Lyric Opera of Chicago Select Dates Through March 17, 2019

ChiIL Live Shows on our radar

Now Playing at Lyric Opera of Chicago
Six performances March 2 - 17
by George Frideric Handel
Sung in Italian with projected English translations

**This production includes mature themes**

Provocative Baroque drama about abuse and complicity
in a bold, updated staging 

New coproduction and Lyric premiere of Handel’s masterpiece

The Lyric Opera of Chicago premiere of George Frideric Handel’s Baroque masterpiece Ariodante opens Saturday, March 2 at 7:30pm in a provocative new coproduction. There are six performances March 2 through March 17 at the Lyric Opera House, 20 N. Wacker Dr., Chicago. Tickets start at $39, and are available now at or at 312-827-5600. 


Sometimes opera takes you to completely unexpected, dramatically powerful places.

That’s certainly the case with the Lyric premiere of Handel’s Ariodante, on multiple levels. Some of its thrilling arias might be familiar from concerts or recordings, but the full Baroque masterpiece is terra incognita for many (even though it was wildly popular when Handel, the German expat living in London, was composing multiple Italian operas). Still, there is inviting familiarity in the bouncing beat and virtuoso vocal writing in this new-to-Lyric opera.

The original plot of Ariodante is full of Shakespearean twists, disguises, mistaken identities, wrenching misunderstandings, and eventual reconciliation (not unlike Much Ado About Nothing). Ginevra and Ariodante love each other and are about to be wed with the blessing of her father, the King of Scotland. Polinesso covets Ginevra and uses her lady-in-waiting, Dalinda (who loves Polinesso), to trick Ariodante into believing Ginevra is unfaithful and provoke his apparent suicide. Ariodante’s brother Lurcanio, meanwhile, loves and is shunned by Dalinda, and blames Ginevra for his sibling’s seeming demise. Eventually Ariodante turns up alive, Polinesso is vanquished, and the “right” couples are united. 

Richard Jones’s production moves the story from medieval times to an isolated, religiously fundamentalist Scottish island in the 1970s. Polinesso is an outsider from the mainland who penetrates this closed community in preacher’s clothes, wreaking terrible havoc on several relationships and the fabric of the village itself through acts of abuse and manipulation. Rather than ending with the reconciliation and redemption traditional in 18th-century opera, this production of Ariodante takes an intriguing detour that will resonate with contemporary audiences.

Puppets representing Ginevra and Ariodante pantomime scenes that reflect the community’s expectations and misperceptions of the central couple in this production, replacing ballet sequences used to close each act in the original opera.

Baroque opera “is radical theater,” says Anthony Freud. “Ariodante deals with abuse and complicity.” Lyric’s general director calls this production of Ariodante “a clear, immediate, powerful telling of the story that will defy preconceptions about Handel’s Baroque formality. Our production reflects many contemporary issues. Handel’s masterpiece may be over 280 years old, but is startling in its topicality and intensity.”

The creative team drew inspiration for this production of Ariodante from the dark indie film Breaking the Waves, and also the plays of Strindberg and Ibsen. There are similarities to Carlisle Floyd’s Susannah, in which an innocent young woman in Appalachia is seduced by an itinerant preacher. There are also traces of Benjamin Britten’s Peter Grimes in the community turning against one of its own. 

Lyric’s splendid cast inhabits the complex characters while singing the daunting score to great effect. Mezzo-soprano Alice Coote takes on the title role, with soprano Brenda Rae (Lyric debut) as Ariodante’s betrothed, Ginevra. Soprano Heidi Stober portrays the vulnerable Dalinda, manipulated by the evil Polinesso, played by countertenor Iestyn Davies. Bass-baritone Kyle Ketelsen is the King of Scotland. Tenor Eric Ferring portrays Lurcanio.  and tenor Josh Lovell portrays Odoardo (the latter two are Ryan Opera Center artists). 

Acclaimed Baroque specialist Harry Bicket conducts, and Benjamin Davis (Lyric debut) is revival director. The production is designed by ULTZ (Lyric debut), with lighting by Mimi Jordan Sherin. Michael Black is chorus master, Lucy Burge is choreographer, Finn Caldwell is puppetry director and designer, and Nick Barnes is puppetry designer (the latter three are Lyric debuts).  

Don't miss your chance to experience this critically-acclaimed premiere — view the trailer here and find out for yourself why critics are praising its "tight, compelling story and rich, well-developed characters" (Chicago Sun-Times).

In a small town rife with rumors, who can you trust? The highly anticipated U.S. premiere co-production of Handel's Ariodante opened Saturday night and critics are raving. With only five more performances, Ariodante must close March 17. See what people are saying about this Lyric premiere:

"Vocally, visually and dramatically arresting"
"Clarity and rhythmic verve from the Lyric Opera Orchestra and Chorus"
"An opera penned nearly three centuries ago can resonate profoundly with modern times, when staged as tellingly as this"
"★ ★ ★ ★" (out of four) 
–Chicago Tribune

"Unexpected and intriguing"
"The casting for this production could hardly have been better"
"Many vocal high points"
"★ ★ ★ ½" (out of four)
–Chicago Sun-Times

"Dazzling vocal pyrotechnics"
"A daunting tour de force"
–Stage and Cinema

What happens when someone your town trusts is actually the villain? For Ginevra and her beloved Ariodante, things may never be the same. Lyric is proud to produce the company premiere of this important Baroque masterpiece from the composer of Messiah which marries stunning vocalism and riveting drama. 

Making its U.S. debut, this critically-acclaimed Lyric coproduction from Director Richard Jones updates the story to 1970s Scotland, where a close-knit, fundamentalist community provides the thought-provoking backdrop. The Toronto Globe and Mail says, "The decisions Jones has made to update and deepen the resonances of the opera work beautifully both to preserve the integrity of the original and add to it touches and textures that only a modern audience can appreciate…If you needed one example to demonstrate why modern staging and perfectly realized music from the past need each other, this was it." 

Don't miss this highly anticipated Lyric premiere that critics are calling "dramatically complex... deliciously interesting" – (The Toronto Star). 

Handel’s Baroque masterpiece is currently playing Lyric, and there are so many reasons you can’t miss it. Here are just a few: 

1. It’s a Lyric premiere. Believe it or not, this rare gem by the composer of the beloved Messiah has never been performed on Lyric’s stage.

2. The cast is truly world-class. Our dream team of opera superstars have voices ideally suited to bring Ariodante to life.

3. It's the U.S. premiere of a production that earned rave reviews. TheToronto Star called it "deliciously interesting" and the National Post praised its "inspired and meticulous staging."

4. Handel’s music is exhilarating. You will fall in love with a score that exudes both passion and elegance.

5. It's not just great music, it's great theater. This story of true love plagued by obstacles in a small town is just as universal today as it was when the opera first premiered.

Save your seats today for Ariodante, on stage March 2-17, and experience this delightful and innovative production for yourself.


Chi, IL Live Shows on our radar




Here at ChiIL Live Shows we grew up with Chicago's punk and industrial music scene in the ‘80s and ‘90s. The story of Wax Trax! is not only an award winning doc with kickass music, but a vital piece of counter culture history that's left a lasting impact on generations. Don't miss this. 

Record Store Day and Vans, the original action sports brand rooted in art, music and street culture, are teaming up to release a special edition soundtrack for the award-winning music documentary Industrial Accident: The Story of Wax Trax! Records on Record Store Day, April 13, 2019.

The album, which features previously unreleased songs by Wax Trax! artists, (see track listing below) will be available at independent record stores across the United States and Canada. To coincide with the album launch, Vans will kick off a multi-city Wax Trax! experience featuring screenings of the film, live Q&A, and a performance by Ministry of a Wax Trax! era, early 90's set. 

On April 13, House of Vans Chicago located at 113 N. Elizabeth St., Chicago, IL will kick-off the first of six stops. Tickets to the Vans and Wax Trax! Events will be available through independent record stores on April 13. Partner record stores and ticket information to be announced soon.

“The story of Wax Trax! is a perfect example of the incredible importance and influence that independent record stores have not only on the music scene by selling records, but also on our culture by helping people find a home where they can express themselves through music,” said Carrie Colliton, co-founder of Record Store Day. “There’s no better day than Record Store Day to release this album with Vans, an iconic brand in the world of indie record stores.”

Wax Trax! was an influential Chicago record store and label that helped give rise to punk and industrial music of the ‘80s and ‘90s. It also served as a lifeline for people outside of the mainstream by fostering and encouraging a safe place for artists and outsiders. The soundtrack includes artists closely aligned with the label and music scene including Ministry, My Life With The Thrill Kill Kult, The Young Gods, Pankow, KMFDM, Revolting Cocks, FRONT 242, Mussolini Headkick, Laibach and Chris Connelly.

Watch the trailer for Industrial Accident: The Story of Wax Trax! Records HERE

“Wax Trax! is a story of artistic freedom, creativity and social acceptance of sub-culture through music,” said Brooke Burt, Senior Manager for Lifestyle Brand Marketing for Vans. “We are proud to partner with Record Store Day to release an album and celebrate a story that pays homage to the ongoing influence of independent record stores and pushes the boundaries of music genres.”

In addition to featuring music from the soundtrack, the film delivers insightful interviews with family members, former employees and musicians who worked with or were heavily influenced by Wax Trax!, including Al Jourgensen, Dave Grohl, Trent Reznor, Paul Barker, Ian MacKaye, Steve Albini, Jello Biafra and others.

As an added dimension of collaboration between Vans and Record Store Day, House of Vans Chicago will host the RSD 2019 List Launch on February 28, 2019 at noon CST.

The announcement scheduled will showcase the highly anticipated limited-edition release titles coming to record stores and will be followed by a panel discussion with artists from the Wax Trax! Soundtrack moderated by Nik Carter host of SiriusXM’s Feedback on the Volume Channel 106.

Listeners can tune-in to a special Record Store Day list launch special on SiriusXM’s Volume channel on February 28 at 7 PM ET.

Panelists include:

Paul Barker - Former Ministry bass player from 1986-2003, member of Revolting Cocks, Lard and Pigface, as well as many other bands

Chris Connelly - Former Ministry keyboard player from 1987-1991, member of KMFDM, Revolting Cocks and Pigface, as well as many other bands

Julia Nash - Director of Industrial Accident: The Story of Wax Trax! Records, and daughter of late Wax Trax! Co-founder Jim Nash

Rick Wojcik - Owner of Dusty Groove in Chicago. Rick spent much of his teenage years, (and his teenage dollars), at the Wax Trax! store, and that has a strong influence on his own Chicago record store, Dusty Groove.

Carrie Colliton – Co-founder/organizer of Record Store Day.

TRACK LISTING FOR Industrial Accident: The Story of Wax Trax! Records SOUNDTRACK:

1: MY LIFE WITH THE THRILL KILL KULT - “A Daisy Chain 4 Satan” (Acid and Flowers Mix)
2: REVOLTING COCKS - “Animal Nation”
3: THE YOUNG GODS - “Envoyé!”
4: PANKOW - “Me and My Ding-Dong”
5: MINISTRY - “Tonight We Murder (Original Version)”
6: KMFDM - “Vogue (Apart Version)”
7: FRONT 242 - “Headhunter (Live NYC)”
8: MUSSOLINI HEADKICK - “Your God is Dead”
9: LAIBACH - “Leben-Tod”
10: FINI TRIBE - “I Want More” **CD Only**
11: Mystery Track - Previously Unreleased **CD + Deluxe Only**
12: Mystery Track - Previously Unreleased **CD + Deluxe Only**
13: Mystery Track - Previously Unreleased **CD Only**
14: CHRIS CONNELLY - “Shipwreck”

For more information about Record Store Day, please visit

About Record Store Day
Record Store Day, the organization, is managed by the Department of Record Stores and is organized in partnership with the Alliance of Independent Media Stores (AIMS), the Coalition of Independent Music Stores (CIMS) and promotes independent record stores year-round with events, special releases and other fun things.

 Record Store Day, the global celebration of the culture of the record store, takes place annually in April. Record Store Day 2019 is April 13.

 Record Store Day Sponsors:
ADA, Caroline, Crosley Turntables, D’Addario, Dogfish Head Brewery, Furnace Record Pressing, Glowtronics, InGrooves, Music Business Association, MVD Entertainment, The Orchard, Redeye Distribution, Sony Music, ThinkIndie, Traffic Distribution, URP Distribution, Vans, Vinyl Styl, WEA

About Vans
Vans®, a VF Corporation (NYSE: VFC) brand, is the original action sports footwear, apparel and accessories brand. Vans® authentic collections are sold in 84 countries through a network of subsidiaries, distributors and international offices. Vans®has over 2,000 retail locations globally including owned, concession and partnership doors. The Vans® brand promotes creative self-expression in youth culture across action sports, art, music and street culture and delivers progressive platforms such as the Vans Park Series, Vans Triple Crown of Surfing®, Vans Pool Party, Vans Custom Culture, and Vans’ cultural hub and international music venue, House of Vans.

Vans Presents: Industrial Accident: The Story of Wax Trax! Records Experience Events

4/13: Chicago

4/15: Brooklyn

4/17: Toronto

4/19: Austin

4/22: San Francisco

4/23: Los Angeles

Vans, “Off The Wall” Since ’66

Tuesday, February 26, 2019

OPENING: Chicago Premiere of HOW TO LIVE ON EARTH Via Chimera Ensemble March 8-24, 2019

ChiIL Live Shows on our radar
MJ Kaufman
Directed by Gwendolyn Wiegold

“[A] beguiling subject, a piece of science fiction that isn’t so fictional after all.” –The New York Times

Chimera Ensemble is proud to present the Chicago Premiere of How to Live on Earth, written by award-winning playwright MJ Kaufman, and directed by Gwendolyn Wiegold.

How to Live on Earth tells the stories of Omar, Eleanor, Aggie, and Bill, applicants to become the first colonists of the planet Mars. The mission, should they be chosen to embark on it, would be one-way, with no possible return to Earth. As the applicants compete for the few spots available, they are forced to reckon with the cost of their dream, especially for the lovers and family they would be leaving behind. 

At a time when environmental and political catastrophe looms large, and our technological capabilities grow stronger and stronger, How to Live on Earth asks us what it really means to go and what it means to stay.

The production will go up March 8-24 in The Pentagon Theater at Collaboraction Studios in The Flat Iron Arts Building, 1579 N. Milwaukee Ave., Chicago IL 60622. There will be one preview performance on Friday, March 8 at 7:30 pm. Opening night, followed by a reception, will be Saturday, March 9 at 7:30 pm.

How to Live on Earth Cast
Top row: Katlynn Yost, Graham Carlson, Brian Sheridan.
Middle row should be l-r: Siddartha Rajan, Jermaine Robinson, Hannah Larson
Bottom row should be l-r: Bob Webb, Stacey Lind, Arif Yampolsky


MJ Kaufman (Playwright) MJ Kaufman is a playwright and devised theater artist. Their work has been produced and developed by The Public Theater, New York Theatre Workshop, the New Museum, WP Theater, Clubbed Thumb, New Georges, Page73, Colt Coeur, Yale School of Drama, Lark Play Development Center, InterAct Theater, Huntington Theater, and performed in Russian in Moscow. MJ’s awards include the 2013 ASCAP Cole Porter Prize in Playwriting, the 2013 Global Age Project Prize, and the 2010 Jane Chambers Prize in Feminist Theatre. MJ is a resident playwright at New Dramatists and currently a staff writer on Netflix’s The Chilling Adventures of Sabrina. Originally from Portland, Oregon, MJ attended Wesleyan University and received their MFA in playwriting from Yale School of Drama. MJ also recently founded a fellowship for trans theater artists.

Gwendolyn Wiegold (Director) is a Chicago-based director and producer. She has had the pleasure of working with Chicago companies including Court Theatre, Chicago Children’s Theatre, and Chimera Ensemble, where she also serves as Managing Director, and has assistant directed productions with directors including Seret Scott, Sean Graney, Scott Westerman, and Charlie Newell. She originally hails from New York City and has her BA in Theatre and Performance Studies from the University of Chicago, where her directing credits include As You Like It, Cowboy Mouth, and The Seagull. Most recently, Gwendolyn’s directing was seen in The 9th Annual Chicago One-Minute Play Festival. She is a recipient of the Francis X. Kinahan Memorial Prize.

How to Live on Earth by MJ Kaufman
Directed by Gwendolyn Wiegold

March 8-24 at The Pentagon Theater at Collaboraction Studios, 1579 N. Milwaukee Ave., Chicago IL 60622. Thursdays-Saturdays at 7:30pm, Sundays at 3pm.

Pay-What-You-Can Preview: Friday, March 8 at 7:30 pm
Press Opening: Saturday, March 9 at 7:30 pm. Reception to follow.
Ticket Pricing: $23 general admission, $15 senior, $15 student/industry with valid ID (discounts subject to availability)

For additional information and to purchase tickets, visit

To create a quality innovative theatrical platform. To give back to Chicago organizations that advocate for the betterment of our community. To provide accessibility for all people. Above all, we seek out the good; we question our fears and judgments so that others may question theirs.

Access is an important part of our mission at Chimera Ensemble. Through discussions within the Ensemble and with Chimera’s amazing collaborators in the Chicago community, we attempt to create an environment in which performers, directors, designers, playwrights, and audience members feel welcome to work with us and experience our productions. Season Two marks a new chapter in our mission of access, as every performance will feature Open Captioning, rather than the norm of this programming only being offered for one performance during a production's run. By providing Open Captioning for every performance, Chimera hopes to create not only a more cohesive and inclusive theatrical process that better reflects the varied ways in which individuals experience the world, but also a model for other theater companies to follow. How to Live on Earth will also feature one Audio Described performance proceeded by a Touch Tour, date TBD. 

Part of Chimera Ensemble’s mission as a theatrical platform is to give back to the community, so for each show we produce we partner with a local organization whose work matches the themes of the production. We collect money and raise awareness for our partner organization. For How to Live on Earth, Chimera is partnering with Chicago-based Project Exploration. Project Exploration creates transformational learning opportunities for youth underrepresented in the sciences—particularly students of color and girls—by equipping them with the skills, practices, and mindset needed for a lifelong pursuit of learning.

Visit for more information. 

Monday, February 25, 2019

REVIEW: LA TRAVIATA Now Playing at Lyric Opera Chicago Through March 22, 2019

by Giuseppe Verdi
Sung in Italian with projected English translations

Approximate Running Time: 2 hours, 50 minutes with 2 intermissions

Review of Opera “La Traviata” at Lyric
By Catherine Hellmann, guest critic

Even though it was her first opera, my daughter Emily’s head was happily bobbing along with the music in Act I, recognizing the famous aria “Sempre Libera” by the lovely courtesan, Violetta Valery. (New Zealand folk band Flight of the Conchords would refer to her in their song,”The Most Beautiful Girl in the Room,” as a “High-Class Prostitute.” “Courtesan” sounds almost respectable.) I reassured Skeptical Em that she would love the opera, find the music familiar, and be impressed with the costumes especially. Yes, on all counts!

Except My Big Girl also had her own take on some plot points: “Honey, your dress costs more than a peasant’s salary for a year. Didn’t they realize this would spell trouble?” “Oh, yeah, they’re having fun now...wait a few years until the Revolution…”

As the show opens in 1860 Paris, Violetta is hosting a soiree after recovering from a serious illness (can you say “foreshadowing”?). Violetta, feeling faint, is  the Hostest with the Mostest, and encourages her friends to go ahead and celebrate without her in the next room. (And none of her guests/moochers inquire how she is feeling? Girlfriend needs new friends.)

Her pal, Gastone de Letorieres, (not to be confused with the sexist hunter from “Beauty and the Beast,” one of Em’s favorites) introduces Belle (I mean Violetta) to his friend and her admirer, Alfredo Germont. Alfredo has been vigilant about visiting Violetta every day throughout her illness. They fall in love through song; by Act II, they are living together in the country! But they are broke...Violetta is slyly selling her possessions for their expenses. (“They say our love won’t pay the rent…” Couldn’t resist...It’s not often one can get a Sonny and Cher reference in when describing Verdi!)    

Alfredo’s father arrives and wants to break up the relationship, fearing that Violetta’s past life as a ‘ho (he sings it much better in Italian!) will threaten his daughter’s marriage prospects. He is pleasantly surprised to discover Violetta’s true love for his son. But Violetta selflessly breaks things off with the love of her life by leaving him a farewell note. Alfredo misunderstands and humiliates Violetta at a party. Sigh…at least the elder Germont sees the truth and calls his son out for insulting Violetta and being a dick.

By Act III, a month later, Violetta is dying of that romantic heroine disease, Tuberculosis, also called Consumption. Alfredo learns of her sacrifice, and he arrives in time for his beloved to die in his arms. Of course. Curtain.

The music for “La Traviata” is gorgeous. The singers were marvelous, especially Russian soprano Albina Shagimuratova as our doomed goddess/hooker-with-a-heart-of-gold, and Italian tenor Giorgio Berrugi as Alfredo. Zeljko Lucic was also impressive as the father whose opinion of Violetta changes dramatically.

Whether you have seen this standard repertoire piece numerous times, like myself, or are a first-timer like Emily, you will love this gorgeous classic playing at our marvelous Lyric Opera House!

Catherine Hellmann inspires middle schoolers by day and attends as much theater as possible by night. If she could have a Super Power, it would be to never need sleep...she is getting close to this goal. 

VERDI’S MUSIC IS INCOMPARABLE, WITH ONE HEARTSTOPPINGLY BEAUTIFUL MELODY AFTER ANOTHER, in this exquisitely romantic story. Within the social whirl of sophisticated Paris, the courtesan Violetta lives purely for pleasure but longs for true love. She finds the right man in Alfredo, but their happiness is cut short: at his father’s insistence, Violetta leaves Alfredo for the sake of his family. Her spirit broken, her health shattered, Violetta now lives only with the hope that Alfredo will return to her. La traviata gives us one of opera’s most glorious heroines, a woman of boundless humanity and emotional depth.



Coproduction of Lyric Opera of Chicago, Houston Grand Opera, and Canadian Opera Company.

Follow along on social media #LyricTraviata


Violetta is the ultimate party girl, and her risqué lifestyle might cost her the love of her life. Only 7 performances remain of the critically acclaimed La traviata; here are 7 reasons La traviata is a can't-miss live theater experience:  

1. The costumes are stunning. From elaborate parties to country estates, Violetta and the rest of the cast are dressed to impress by costume designer Cait O’Connor.

2. Albina Shagimuratova shines as Violetta. The Chicago Tribune is calling her "a superb singing thrilling to hear as her acting was compelling to behold." 

3. Verdi's music is unforgettable. Opera experts and newcomers alike will recognize songs like "Sempre libera." Listen to some of our favorites!

4. Calling all culture vultures. A story as timeless as this never gets old; La traviata has inspired pop culture favorites like Pretty Woman and Moulin Rouge. 

5. Paris is beautiful this time of year. Get swept up in the social whirl of sophisticated Paris with Violetta as she discovers love, loss, and redemption.

6. Prices to fit every budget. Tickets start at just $49 you don't have to break the bank to have a special night out!

7. Critics love it. Find out for yourself why Broadway World is calling it "the best of all things opera."

La traviata must close March 22 — don't miss your chance to experience this  breathtaking production. Save your seats today online or over the phone at 312.827.5600.

Sunday, February 24, 2019



Operatic Adaptation of James Hurst’s 1960 Short Story Premieres in Chicago Having Received Rave Reviews at 2015 Prototype Festival

Guest Review
By Catherine Hellmann

Oh, how I love this city! On my way to the Studebaker Studio in the Fine Arts Building the other night, a sweet violinist on the street helped steer me in the right direction on Michigan Avenue. “What show are you seeing? The symphony?” No, Chicago Opera Theater. She was in the orchestra at the Auditorium for the Joffrey Ballet and said it is an amazing show. much culture in our world-class town. We are so spoiled.

The Chicago premiere of the contemporary opera The Scarlet Ibis was composed by Stefan Weisman with a libretto by David Cote. According to their press release: “Chicago Opera Theater presents the first full production of this operatic adaptation of James Hurst’s 1960 short story (apart from its festival debut), featuring the artistry of stage director Elizabeth Margolius and conductor David Hanlon. The opera stars Annie Rosen (who also performed in COT’s season-opening production of “Iolanta”) as Brother and Jordan Rutter as Doodle.”

Annie Rosen, mezzo-soprano, is amazing in the trouser role of Brother. Big Brother is the one who gives baby William his new nickname of “Doodle,” short for “Doodle Bug,” since the baby moves backwards. The opera opens with the mom in childbirth; Quinn Middleman sings her shrieks as the contractions continue on. William is a difficult birth, a tiny baby, and handicapped. However, he is born with a caul, “which is cut from Jesus’ nightgown,” according to his superstitious aunt. (A sheer curtain falls from the ceiling during the childbirth scene, representing the caul, which is a clever bit of staging.) It is believed that the caul will give him special abilities. Auntie is sung by a true contralto, Sharmay Musacchio, who hits the lowest notes I have ever heard from a woman. There is a great line where she insists the baby will be a boy because the mom is “carrying low, low, looooww,” with her voice hitting descending notes, playing a musical joke, resonating in that deep register.   

Because he is a sickly child, William is not expected to live. In a heartbreaking scene, his father, played by Bill McMurray, mourns his newborn as he constructs a small coffin. McMurray is so affecting in the role that his grief really moved me.  

But Wiliam not only survives, he thrives, under the guidance of his big brother. Doodle initially seems cognitively impaired. Until the day he gives Brother a huge smile; then big brother joyfully realizes “he’s all there.” Doodle is sung by countertenor Jordan Rutter. His voice is so high, I assumed the singer must be another woman in a pants role. Then I squinted at my program and saw the head shot showed a man with a beard. Wow. Having the two extremes of vocal ranges is unusual. The composer explains in the program that he wanted Doodle’s voice to sound “otherworldly” and “the female voices would be set lower than Doodle’s to allow his lines to soar above them all.”

The relationship between the brothers is so love-hate and typical. Doodle adores Brother. There are times when Brother is so big-brother mean to little Doodle, like calling him a “crippled runt,”  that I wanted Doddle to thump her with his cane!

But Doodle has too pure a heart. And he is too good for this world.

My Best Pal Mary had her reservations about the show based on the premise, but she fell in love with this unique production, as did I.

We later ran into the singer who played Auntie on Michigan Avenue. (great place to find musicians, apparently) “Weren’t you the aunt in the opera?” I called out. “Yes, I was,” replied Ms. Musacchio. She was gracious enough to stop and chat a couple minutes. I told her that she had that incredible low voice. She thanked me and said audiences don’t get to hear contraltos very often...or countertenors, either.

“Oh, a countertenor is like a unicorn!” I gushed. She laughed and agreed. They are just so rare.

Ms. Musacchio said she is from California but likes Chicago. She also said the entire cast is very tight, and it is “like a family” with Chicago Opera Theater. She had never experienced that kind of a closeness before.

What can I say? We live in a world-class city with fabulous arts and friendly folks. I can't imagine being anywhere else.  

Catherine Hellmann usually wins at “Three Truths and a Lie” because she really did walk 60 miles in three days (Avon Breast Cancer Walk), met Senator-Elect Barack Obama in the park, and sang twice at Carnegie Hall. She is a teacher by day and theater junkie by night. Her favorite job ever was leading tours at Wrigley Field

Chicago Opera Theater (COT) continues its 2018/2019 season with the Chicago premiere of the contemporary opera “The Scarlet Ibis.” Composed by Stefan Weisman with libretto by David Cote, “The Scarlet Ibis” was declared an “outstanding new chamber opera” by David Allen of The New York Times upon its debut at the 2015 Prototype Festival. Chicago Opera Theater presents the first full production of this operatic adaptation of James Hurst’s 1960 short story (apart from its festival debut), featuring the artistry of stage director Elizabeth Margolius and conductor David Hanlon. The opera stars Annie Rosen (who also performed in COT’s season-opening production of “Iolanta”) as Brother and Jordan Rutter as Doodle. 

The opening night and press performance takes place Saturday, February 16 at 7:30 p.m. at the Studebaker Theater (410 S. Michigan Ave.) Additional performances will take place Thursday, February 21 at 7:30 p.m. and Sunday, February 24 at 3 p.m.  

That same week, COT will present a week-long workshop culminating in the first full concert performance of “The Life and Death(s) of Alan Turing” by composer Justine F. Chen and librettist David Simpatico as part of Chicago Opera Theater’s Vanguard Initiative to promote the creation of new opera.

“COT’s mission to support the creation of new operatic work is exemplified in our February programming, with the first production of ‘The Scarlet Ibis’ since its debut at the 2015 Prototype Festival, and the first concert performance of ‘The Life and Death(s) of Alan Turing’ as part of our Vanguard Initiative,” said Stefan Edlis and Gael Neeson General Director Douglas R. Clayton. “COT is proud to provide an opportunity for Chicago to see such new and exquisite operas for the first time.”

Based on James Hurst’s classic American short story, “The Scarlet Ibis” is a moving tale about brotherhood, nature and family, set in North Carolina against the backdrop of World War I. It tells the story of a young boy named Doodle and his relationship with his brother, exploring the ways people ‘other’ those who are different and questioning what it means to be ‘normal.’ The piece was commissioned and developed through the HERE Artist Residency Program (HARP) and Dream Music Puppetry Program and co-produced by Beth Morrison Projects, premiering at the Prototype Festival in January 2015 in New York City.

“It’s thrilling to see ‘The Scarlet Ibis’ picked up for a second production following its premiere at our Prototype Festival,” said co-producer Beth Morrison. “Chicago Opera Theater is a forward thinking opera company, truly embodying what a 21st century opera company should be.”

Composer Stefan Weisman spoke to the development process of the opera stating, “One element of creating this opera that felt really unique was that the two leads are a countertenor and mezzo-soprano, both high voices for male characters. And they are played by two different genders. We are playing around with traditional notions of gender and power—the weaker of the two is the male singer, and the stronger is the female singer.”

Librettist David Cote continued, “The story is very much in the tradition of Flannery O’Connor, Tennessee Williams, even William Faulkner. The language is lush and flowery, the emotions run high and the ending is both beautiful and tragic. I’m not a Southerner, I grew up in small-town New Hampshire, but I drew on memories of living near a lake and playing in the woods to create the sense of nature and wonder in the opera.”

In addition to Rosen and Rutter, “The Scarlet Ibis” cast includes Quinn Middleman as Mother, Sharmay Musacchio as Aunt Nicey, Bill McMurray as Father and dancer Ginny Ngo.

Creative Team for The Scarlet Ibis

Composer: Stefan Weisman

Librettist: David Cote

Conductor: David Hanlon

Stage Director: Elizabeth Margolius

Lighting Design: Charlie Cooper

Scenic Design: Jack Magaw

Costume Design: Brenda Winstead

About Stefan Weisman

Stefan Weisman’s music has been described as "personal, moody and skillfully wrought" (The New York Times). His compositions include chamber, orchestral, theater, dance and choral pieces, and he has specialized in vocal works that explore edgy and compelling topics. His operas include “Darkling” (American Opera Projects), “Fade” (Second Movement), and “The Scarlet Ibis” (produced by HERE and Beth Morrison Projects and premiered in the 2015 PROTOTYPE opera festival). He is a graduate of Bard College (BA), Yale University (MA), and Princeton University (PhD). Presently, he is on the faculty of the Bard High School Early College in Queens, New York. 

About David Cote

David Cote is a playwright, librettist and arts journalist based in New York City. His operas include “Three Way” with composer Robert Paterson (Nashville Opera and BAM); “The Scarlet Ibis” (Prototype Festival) and “Fade” with Stefan Weisman. Other works include his plays “Otherland” and “Fear of Art;” song cycle with Paterson, “In Real Life;” choral works with Paterson, “Did You Hear?” and “Snow Day.” Cote was born and adopted in New Hampshire and is a proud alum of Bard College. His fellowships include The MacDowell Colony, and he is a member of the New York Drama Critics Circle, ASCAP and the Dramatists Guild.

About David Hanlon

David Hanlon is a composer, conductor and pianist praised by Maestro Patrick Summers as “one of the major compositional voices of the young generation.” He has often written work for Houston Grand Opera, including his chamber opera “Past the Checkpoints” about undocumented immigrants, the chamber vocal piece “The Ninth November I Was Hiding,” about his grandfather's arrest during Kristallnacht and “Power,” based on a text by a high-schooler about bullying. Hanlon was recently commissioned by the Opera For All Voices consortium to write a new chamber opera with librettist Stephanie Fleischmann, and recently conducted the premiere of his and Fleischmann's chamber opera “After the Storm” at Houston Grand Opera.

About Elizabeth Margolius

Elizabeth Margolius is a Chicago-based Joseph Jefferson Award-nominated stage and movement director with a primary focus in developing and directing new and rarely produced music theater, operetta and opera. Margolius’ Chicago and regional stage and movement directorial credits include “Miss Holmes” for Peninsula Players, “Machinal” for Greenhouse Theater, “The Bridges of Madison County” for Peninsula Players, “The Boy Who Grew Too Fast” for SUNY/Albany Opera Program and “Uncle Philip’s Coat” for Greenhouse Theater. Margolius has been a guest director, master artist and guest/adjunct lecturer at numerous colleges, universities and festivals including the University of Nebraska, DePaul University and SUNY Albany.

About Chicago Opera Theater

Chicago Opera Theater (COT) is a nationally recognized opera company based in Chicago, now in its 45th season. COT expands the tradition of opera as a living art form, with an emphasis on Chicago premieres, including new contemporary operas for a 21st century audience.

In addition to its programmed mainstage season, COT is devoted to the development and production of new opera in the United States through the Vanguard Initiative, launched in the Spring of 2018. The Vanguard Initiative mentors emerging opera composers, invests time and talent in new opera at various stages of the creative process and presents the Living Opera Series to showcase new and developing work.

Since its founding in 1973 by Alan Stone, COT has staged more than 125 operas, including over 65 Chicago premieres and more than 35 operas by American composers.

COT is led by Stefan Edlis and Gael Neeson General Director Douglas R. Clayton and Orli and Bill Staley Music Director Lidiya Yankovskaya. As of fall 2018, Maestro Yankovskaya is the only woman with the title Music Director at any of the top 50 opera companies in the United States. COT currently performs at the Studebaker Theater (Michigan & Congress) and the Harris Theater for Music & Dance (Michigan & Randolph).

For more information on the Chicago Opera Theater and its programs please visit

REVIEW: Opera in Progress “The Life and Death(s) of Alan Turing” at Chicago Opera Theater

“The Life and Death(s) of Alan Turing” 
Opera in Progress 
at Chicago Opera Theater 

*Do note, The Life and Death(s) of Alan Turing is the result of a week-long workshop through COT's Vanguard Initiative. This opera is still in progress, so it will not be reviewed as a complete work.**

Guest Review
By Catherine Hellmann

One Monday morning in Englewood, my student Juwan remarked, ”I watched that movie, Moonlight, this, that had gay shit in it!” I responded, ”How did you not know that?” It’s one of my favorite student quotes of all time.

During the modern work-in-progress opera The Life and Death(s) of Alan Turing at Chicago Opera Theater, my forever-tolerant-up-for-seeing-any-show- boyfriend, Chris, gestured that he wanted my pen and notepad. He scrawled: “Man, this opera has gay shit in it!”

“Behave,” I scribbled back….and wondered how did he not know that? Didn’t he see The Imitation Game, which was another piece inspired by the real-life Turing’s life and work?  

Since discovering Chicago Opera Theater this past fall at “Iolanta,” I have become a huge fan. They are not only a woman-run opera company, which is already just super-cool, but their unconventional, risk-taking  season has been extraordinary. (I also had the privilege of seeing and reviewing The Scarlet Ibis, which was also fantastic.) As their General Director, Ashley Magnus, asserted,”Opera is a living art form.” The single performance was the first full concert premiere after a week-long workshop. The Life and Death(s) of Alan Turing by composer Justine F. Chen and librettist David Simpatico “is part of Chicago Opera Theater’s Vanguard Initiative to promote the creation of new opera,” according to their press release.

It is a very powerful piece. The opera begins with British 41-year-old Alan committing suicide by cyanide poisoning. Turing was a brilliant mathematician who helped crack Nazi codes during World War II. Although he was hailed as a hero immediately after the war, he was disgraced when authorities discovered he was gay. (The word “homosexual!” was sung-whispered sotto voce by the chorus, which was very powerful). The British government gave Turing the choice of either jail time or chemical castration. He chose chemical castration. How demeaning for someone so accomplished to be devalued in the country he served because of his sexuality. Injustice does make great theater.

The score, conducted by Lidiya Yankovskaya, and libretto are wonderful. (I feared the music would be that atonal stuff to sound “edgy,” but the orchestration was lovely.) I was especially impressed by the talented choir, the Bienen Contemporary Early Vocal Ensemble from Northwestern University, directed by Donald Nally. They were lined up on either side of the auditorium, creating a magical surround-sound. At one point, they created “rainfall” by simply tapping their podiums with their fingers; the effect was distinctive. How exciting for these young singers to be a part of this thrilling new work!

The soloists, particularly baritone Jonathan Michie as Turing and tenor Jonas Hacker as Alan’s friend Christopher, were exceptional. Diana Newman capably sang the role of Alan’s misunderstanding mother. In Act I, oblivious to her son’s inclinations, she gives him a fish knife as a present. (Is that an English thing? I can’t imagine giving my son a fish knife…) She reassures him that he will “get the mate on his wedding night.” Alan proceeds to clean his fingernails with the lone knife.

The second act opens with Turing in bed with a fling, Arnold Murray, who betrays him. Arnold sneers that he “likes girls,” and is “not a bloody pervert.” He robs Alan of all the cash in his wallet. When Alan calls in the burglary, he is the one found guilty of being a criminal on 12 counts of Gross Indecency. The unsympathetic police officer insists “it’s indecency of the grossest sort.” This was 1952. Incredible how recent that was.

One can’t help but wish that Turing had lived in a different era that was more tolerant (okay, not perfect, but one certainly improved from the cop’s attitude in the early 50’s).

Although this opera is not yet considered a “finished piece,” as Magnus declared, it is marvelous as-is. I hope there is another performance soon and that The Life and Death(s) of Alan Turing becomes a part of the American opera canon. I also look forward to further collaboration between Justine F. Chen and David Simpatico. Make note of their names.

Catherine Hellmann has taught middle schoolers for twenty years, which means she fears nothing. If she could attend theater every single day, she would...and she tries...

The Life and Death(s) of Alan Turing

February 15, 2019 @ 7:30pm
DePaul University School of Music - 
Gannon Concert Hall
2330 N Halsted St, Chicago

110 minutes; One Intermission

Performed & Discussed in English

"This opera celebrates the power of memory, creativity, and the potential within us all to live fully and truly.” 

Chicago Opera Theater joins American Lyric Theater  to bring this new opera to life as part of the Vanguard Initiative. After a week of workshops, COT presents a full concert performance of Justine F. Chen and David Simpatico’s intense and beautiful new work.

Featuring the Bienen School of Music Contemporary and Early Vocal Ensemble of Northwestern University, tenor Jonas Hacker (Lyric Opera’s Fellow Travelers), and baritone Jonathan Michie in the title role, don’t miss your chance to see this one-of-a-kind concert.

As part of Chicago Opera Theater’s Vanguard Initiative to promote the creation of new opera, COT joins American Lyric Theater to present a full concert performance of “The Life and Death(s) of Alan Turing” by composer Justine F. Chen and librettist David Simpatico. The opera delves deep into the mind of the groundbreaking coder often credited to be the father of modern computer science. Turing’s work during World War II designing a machine to break the code utilized by the Nazi’s Enigma Machine is estimated to have saved millions of lives. A homosexual, he was charged with gross indecency in the 1950’s and is believed to have committed suicide because of his persecution. Featuring the Bienen Contemporary and Early Vocal Ensemble of Northwestern University, baritone Jonathan Michie in the title role, tenor Jonas Hacker (Lyric Opera’s “Fellow Travelers”) and conducting by COT’s Orli and Bill Staley Music Director Lidiya Yankovskaya, the performance will take place at 7:30 p.m. on February 15, 2019 at the DePaul School of Music’s Gannon Concert Hall (2330 N Halsted St.).

In addition to Michie and Hacker, the cast includes Diana Newman as Sara Turing, Vince Wallace as Fred Clayton/Judge, Elise Quagliata as Joan Clark, Arnold Geis as Steve Todd/Arnold Murray and David Salsbery Fry as Don Bailey/Bobby/Prosecutor.

About Justine Chen

Composer and violinist Justine F. Chen has been the recipient of many prestigious awards and commissions, including New York City Opera, New York City Ballet, The Juilliard School, American Composers Orchestra and New York Festival of Song. Justine has won grants from BMI, ASCAP, the Frances Goelet Charitable Lead Trust, Opera America and the American Composers Forum through their Jerome Fund for New Music. In 2010, she joined American Lyric Theater’s Composer Librettist Development Program as a resident artist. She earned her DMA, MM, and BM from Juilliard in violin and composition, and specializes in contemporary music performance.

About David Simpatico

David Simpatico’s work has been presented at major theatres around the globe, including London’s Hammersmith Apollo, Williamstown Theatre Festival and the New York Shakespeare Festival. Highlights include the stage adaptations of Disney’s “High School Musical” 1 and 2; “Whida Peru,” with a score by Josh Schmidt; and “The Screams of Kitty Genovese,” a rock-opera with a score by Will Todd. David also wrote the libretto for Pulitzer Prize-winner Aaron J. Kernis’ millennium symphony, “Garden Of Light.” David Simpatico joined American Lyric Theater’s Composer Librettist Development Program as a resident artist in 2010. David attended at Northwestern University and received his Masters of Creative Writing at Southern New Hampshire University.

About Chicago Opera Theater

Chicago Opera Theater (COT) is a nationally recognized opera company based in Chicago, now in its 45th season. COT expands the tradition of opera as a living art form, with an emphasis on Chicago premieres, including new contemporary operas for a 21st century audience.

In addition to its programmed mainstage season, COT is devoted to the development and production of new opera in the United States through the Vanguard Initiative, launched in the Spring of 2018. The Vanguard Initiative mentors emerging opera composers, invests time and talent in new opera at various stages of the creative process and presents the Living Opera Series to showcase new and developing work.

Since its founding in 1973 by Alan Stone, COT has staged more than 125 operas, including over 65 Chicago premieres and more than 35 operas by American composers.

COT is led by Stefan Edlis and Gael Neeson General Director Douglas R. Clayton and Orli and Bill Staley Music Director Lidiya Yankovskaya. As of fall 2018, Maestro Yankovskaya is the only woman with the title Music Director at any of the top 50 opera companies in the United States. COT currently performs at the Studebaker Theater (Michigan & Congress) and the Harris Theater for Music & Dance (Michigan & Randolph).

For more information on the Chicago Opera Theater and its programs please visit

Wednesday, February 20, 2019

OPENING: World Premiere of Remember the Alamo With Neo-Futurist Flair March 4 to April 27, 2019

ChiIL Live Shows on our radar

World premiere of 
Remember the Alamo 
recreates the Battle of the Alamo with a live audience 
and Neo-Futurist flair
March 4 to April 27, 2019 

Production opens exactly 183 years after the famous 1836 battle

I'll be ChiILin' with Chi, IL's Neofuturists for the press opening, Monday, March 4th, so check back soon for my full review. Think theatre is "to die for"? You may just get that chance. In this new production created by Neo-Futurist Ensemble Member Nick Hart and directed by Artistic Director Kurt Chiang, the cast takes over The Neo-Futurist Theater, refuses to leave and obstructs all production in the theater until the audience and actors recreate the Battle of the Alamo in its entirety—through the inevitable "death" of the audience. 

My +1 for this show has visited the Alamo and done the tour, not once but twice, so I'm eager to get her take on the show. She sent me postcards both times saying "where's the basement", referencing the iconic Pee Wee's Big Adventure movie Alamo Tour scene. That's about the extent of my Alamo knowledge, so I'm dying to learn more. Bring it, Neofuturists! History's so much more memorable as on stage storytelling. 

Continuing their 30th Anniversary Season, The Neo-Futurists present the world premiere main stage production Remember the Alamo at The Neo-Futurist Theater from March 4 to April 27, 2019 (previews begin February 28), 183 years after the famous 1836 battle.

Mixing personal stories and historical fact, Hart and the cast breach complex questions around race, Latinx identities, and the border wall. Remember the Alamo is inspired by the grand American tradition of historical reenactment with the meta-theatrical style, honest narratives and personal takes that have defined The Neo-Futurists for 30 years.

Tickets for the world premiere Remember the Alamo at The Neo-Futurist Theater (5153 N. Ashland Avenue) are on sale now and range from $10-$25. For more information or to purchase tickets, visit

Remember the Alamo is the 2017-18 commission from The Neo-Futurists’ new works residency program, Neo-Lab, which launched with a grant from the National Endowment for the Arts. Over the past three decades, The Neo-Futurists have created more than 10,500 plays within their flagship late-night event (now known as The Infinite Wrench) and more than 65 full-length mainstage productions incorporating their signature non-illusory, interactive style of performance.

February 28–April 27, 2019
Tickets: $10-$25; all Thursdays & previews are “pay what you can”
Schedule: Thursdays, Fridays and Saturdays at 7:30 p.m.
Previews: February 28–March 2
Regular run: March 7–April 27

Brenda Arellano is a performer and devisor based out of Oakland, CA. She was an ensemble member of The Neo-Futurists in Chicago, as well as with The San Francisco Neo-Futurists.  She is an alumnus of Barrel of Monkeys, and has performed with Chicago Children’s Theater, The House Theater, Teatro Vista, and the monthly live lit event, Paper Machete. Recent credits in the Bay Area include Berkeley Repertory Theater’s Ground Floor Summer Lab (2016 and 2018), as well as performing as a hospital clown for Medical Clown Project.

Hal Baum is a writer/performer born and raised in the city of Chicago. He previously performed with The Neo-Futurists in The Arrow Drops Anchor and The Arrow Cleans House.

Nancy Casas is a company member with Barrel of Monkeys, teaching in Chicago Public Schools and performing in That's Weird, Grandma. This is her first production with The Neo-Futurists.

Mitchell Chapman is a regular technician for The Neo-Futurists. Recent credits include Tedium/Other Sensations (Asst. Production Manager), Empty Threats (Stage Manager), and regular runs in the long-running show, The Infinite Wrench.

Kurt Chiang is Artistic Director & Ensemble Member with The Neo-Futurists. As a Neo-Futurist, he has written over 300 two-minute plays since joining the company in 2008 and is the creator of the Prime Time show Analog (2013), and the recurring live-reading-and-editing show The Arrow, in collaboration with Lily Mooney. Previous credits at The Neo-Futurists: Saturn Returns (writer/performer), The Neo-Futurists: Body (co-editor), Haymaker (director), BEER! The Musical (performer), Burning Bluebeard (choreographer & installation artist), and The Fool (Returns To His Chair) (writer/performer). He is a Company Member of Barrel of Monkeys and has performed in That's Weird, Grandma. Kurt is a 2017 3Arts Make a Wave grantee.

Nick Hart graduated from Columbia College Chicago with a BA in theatre in 2010. He has been an ensemble member with The Neo-Futurists since 2014, where he has written and performed more than 150 short plays and is currently a writer and performer in their signature late-night production The Infinite Wrench. Hart is also a proud member of Barrel of Monkeys and has regularly performed in their show That’s Weird, Grandma since 2011. Remember the Alamo is his first world premiere mainstage production at The Neo-Futurist Theater this spring.

Steven Edward Mosqueda is a Los Angeles native but considers Chicago home since 1990. He is a Neo-Futurist alum and a founding member of The Drinking & Writing Theater, exploring the connection between creativity and alcohol since 2002.

Celebrating its 30th Anniversary this season, The Neo-Futurist Theater is a collective of writer-director-performers who create theater that is a fusion of sport, poetry and living newspaper. The company has created more than 10,500 plays to date within its flagship late-night event (now known as The Infinite Wrench) and more than 65 full-length mainstage productions incorporating its signature non-illusory, interactive style of performance. From humble beginnings launching the first late-night theater production in Chicago, The Neo-Futurist Theater created what became the city’s longest-running show and has grown to become one of the most highly regarded experimental theater companies in the United States, with sister companies in San Francisco and New York. For more information, visit

The Neo-Futurist Theater is partially supported by grants from Alphawood Foundation Chicago, Arts Work Fund, The Chicago Community Foundation, Gaylord and Dorothy Donnelley Foundation, The Illinois Arts Council Agency, The MacArthur Fund for Arts and Culture at The Richard H. Driehaus Foundation, and The National Endowment for the Arts.

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