Showing posts with label COT. Show all posts
Showing posts with label COT. Show all posts

Thursday, February 6, 2020

Chicago Opera Theater Presents Freedom Ride With Chicago Sinfonietta at Studebaker Theater Through February 16, 2020

ChiIL Live Shows on our radar
World Premiere
Commissioned by Chicago Opera Theater

Music & Libretto by Dan Shore
Conducted by Lidiya Yankovskaya
Directed by Tazewell Thompson

I'm elated to spend Valentines Day reviewing the world premiere of Dan Shore’s Freedom Ride, based on the Civil Rights Movement in New Orleans, at the Studebaker Theater. Developed at Xavier University in collaboration with activists who lived the history, Freedom Ride explores themes with searing social relevance, via a score that draws from Louisiana’s rich musical traditions. A diverse cast of Chicago-based artists and internationally acclaimed talent join the Chicago Sinfonietta to bring this powerful work to life.

When the Congress of Racial Equality comes to New Orleans in the sweltering summer of 1961, Sylvie Davenport is torn. Handed a pamphlet and asked to board a Greyhound bus, Sylvie is forced to choose between her academic future and the future of the nation in a story that highlights how far we’ve come and how far we still have left to go.

Tazewell Thompson (Blue, Jubilee) directs this world premiere new work, developed at Xavier University with the activists who lived the history. Staley Music Director Lidiya Yankovskaya conducts the critically acclaimed Chicago Sinfonietta.

Saturday, February 8, 2020 | 7:30 PM
Friday, February 14, 2020 | 7:30 PM
Sunday, February 16, 2020 | 3:00 PM

Conductor Lidiya Yankovskaya
Director Tazewell Thompson
Scenic Design Donald Eastman
Costume Design Harry Nadal
Projection Design Rasean Davonte Johnson
Lighting Designer Robert Wierzel
Assistant Conductor Kedrick Armstrong
Chorus Master Adrian Dunn

Sylvie Davenport Dara Rahming
Leonie Baker Whitney Morrison
Georgia Davenport Zoie Reams
Russell Davenport Tyrone Chambers
Rev. Mitchell Cornelius Johnson
Clayton Thomas Robert Sims
Ruby Kim Jones
Mae, Chorus Samantha Schmid*
Gloria, Chorus, Georgia (Cover) Leah Dexter
Frances, Chorus Morgan Middleton*
Marc, Chorus Blake Friedman
Tommie, Chorus, Clayton (Cover) Vince Wallace
Chorus, Leonie Baker (Cover) Joelle Lamarre
Chorus, Russell (Cover) Cameo Humes
Reverend Mitchell (Cover) Curtis Bannister
Chorus, Mae (Cover) Kristina Bachrach
Chorus, Marc (Cover) William Ottow*
Chorus, Tommie (Cover) Keanon Kyles
Chorus, Gloria (Cover), Francis (Cover) Beena David

COT is thrilled to partner with Chicago Sinfonietta for Freedom Ride.

Since 1987, Chicago Sinfonietta has been a defiantly different kind of orchestra. The orchestra was founded by Maestro Paul Freeman to address the disconnect between the utter lack of diversity in orchestras and the vibrant, nuanced, communities for which they play. For nearly 30 years, we have made it our mission to represent the city of Chicago, reflecting that vibrancy on stage and in our programming, making classical music accessible for anyone.

In everything we do, we are inspired by our founder Paul Freeman (1936-2015). From humble roots in Richmond, Virginia, he grew to become a passionate musician and ultimately a brilliant conductor equally respected for his knowledge of music as he was for his natural leadership and charming sense of humor. He was the first African American conductor on the podium of more than 50 orchestras worldwide and conducted more than 100 orchestras in 28 countries over the course of his career. He served as chief conductor of the Czech National Symphony Orchestra in Prague (1996-2007) and the music director of the Victoria Symphony in Canada (1979-1989). He made more than 200 recordings in his career (on par with mega maestros such as von Karajan and Bernstein) and highlighted prominent, but under-recorded, diverse composers at every turn.

And, so it goes. The accomplishments of Paul Freeman are startling in their magnitude.

The orchestra’s 29 years have been highlighted by six European tours, two Kennedy Center performances, two Millennium Park concerts attended by over 19,000 people, and 15 recordings. For nearly 30 years, diversity, inclusion and bold and dynamic programming has been at the center of what we do. Rarely performed music by composers of color are a Sinfonietta staple and often include almost entirely lost compositions that are carefully pieced together and preserved through recording and/or the production of sheet music. Unusual instruments and musical styles like the bagpipes, steel drums, sitar, Indian Ghazal music, hip hop, and yes, even cell phones have served as centerpieces for Sinfonietta programs – some of the most daring musical collaborations any orchestra is putting on stage.

In 2011, Maestro Mei-Ann Chen began her tenure with the orchestra (as only the second Music Director in the Sinfonietta’s history). In her first season, the Sinfonietta was named by ASCAP as the recipient of the 2011-12 Award for Adventurous Programming and in 2013 was dubbed, “The city’s hippest orchestra” by the Chicago Tribune. From a battle of the bands with Mucca Pazza to collaborations with Young Chicago Authors, FootworKINGZ, and bass virtuoso, Victor Wooten the Sinfonietta has embraced the daring programming that has always been part of its history. In turn, audience response over the last five seasons has been unprecedented.

The legacy passed to Maestro Chen and all of us at the Sinfonietta goes far beyond what you see on stage. Maestro Freeman was, throughout his lifetime, a fierce advocate for early career, diverse musicians. Many of the musicians you see on stage (including our Concert Master since 1993, Paul Zafer) are the direct beneficiaries of this vision and personal investment that Maestro Freeman made in so many people. In 2008, this practice was formalized to create our Project Inclusion Fellowship Program. In the 9 seasons since this program began, Project Inclusion has served 45 fellows – more than all other similar fellowship programs in the country combined according to a 2016 League of American Orchestras study.

Freedom Ride is a part of Chicago Theatre Week!
Theatre week tickets are currently SOLD OUT, but check back for updates.

Special thanks to our sponsors for Freedom Ride:

Season Sponsors | Julie & Roger Baskes
Production Sponsor | Virginia Tobiason
Robert Sims Sponsors | Enriqueta & Ronald Bauer

This program is partially supported by a grant from the Illinois Arts Council Agency.

This project is supported in part by the National Endowment for the Arts.
The More & Genius Operating Reserve Fund provided partial support for this project.

Sunday, February 24, 2019

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, September 7, 2016

Live Opera at Music Box Theatre 9/30-10/9 Via Chicago Opera Theater

Chi, IL LIVE Shows On Our Radar:


COT Brings Live Opera Performance to Historic Cinema with Martin’s Mystical Adaptation of Tristan and Isolde Story

For the first time ever, Chicago’s iconic Music Box Theatre will host a classical live performance when Chicago Opera Theater (COT) debuts the Chicago premiere of Frank Martin’s 1942 “The Love Potion” (“Le Vin Herbe”) on September 30. Martin’s adaptation of the medieval legend of Tristan and Isolde chronicles the relationship of the two lovers who meet by deception, fall in love by magic and pursue their love in defiance of heavenly and earthly powers. “The Love Potion” will be performed at the Music Box Theatre (3733 N Southport). The press performance will be Friday, September 30 at 7:30 p.m.

Subsequent performances will be Oct. 1 and 9 at 3 p.m.  Due to a recently scheduled Chicago Cubs playoff game, there will be no performance on Oct. 7.

The oratorio begins with Tristan retrieving the reluctant Isolde so that she can be married to his uncle, King Mark. Isolde's mother has brewed a love potion meant to enchant King Mark into falling in love with her daughter. Tristan and Isolde mistakenly drink the potion when their maid confuses it for wine and they fall irrevocably in love. King Mark discovers Tristan and Isolde's love and declares vengeance. The lovers are able to escape the King and flee to the forest where they are quickly discovered propelling the story towards its climatic tragic end.  

The libretto, originally by medievalist Joseph Bédier, was translated into English for this production by Hugh MacDonald.  “The Love Potion” will be conducted by Emanuele Andrizzi and directed and production designed by Chicago Opera Theater’s Stefan Edlis and Gael Neeson General Director Andreas Mitisek

“Opera audiences are familiar with the story of Tristan and Isolde, thanks to Richard Wagner’s often-produced classic, but Martin’s take on this timeless tale is equally moving and musically hypnotic,” said Mitisek.  “One of our goals at Chicago Opera Theater is to bring our work to new audiences, and producing this work at the Music Box Theatre is in keeping with our mission.  It is an exceptional acoustic space and we are proud to bring this rarely seen work to Chicago audiences in a venue that serves it so well musically and aesthetically.”

Reviewing a 2013 production at the Berlin Staatsoper, A. J. Goldman of Opera News called Martin “distinctive and unjustly neglected” and called the piece “a work of startling economy and emotion” and that the composer had “succeeded in concocting a harmonically dense potion that, for all its dissonances, also goes down easy.” Bernard Holland, reviewing an earlier staging for the New York Times, called it “absolutely gripping… filled with dignity, mystery and a simplicity born of true sophistication… It ought to return so that more people can see and hear it.”  Jeremy Eichler, reviewing a 2014 Boston Lyric Opera production, called the piece “Mesmerizing… The score’s dissonant but ravishing musical language is a heady and highly personalized cocktail, indebted to Debussy yet at once updated and archaicized, its lulling waves giving voice to the characters’ strong emotions while at the same time keeping them at a precisely measured distance.”

Portraying the star-crossed lovers will be Lani Stait (Isolde) and Bernard Holcomb (Tristan).  Other principals include Brittany Loewen (Branghien), Kira Dills-Desurra (Isolde with White Hands), Cassidy Smith (Isolde’s Mother), Jonathan Weyant (Kaherdin), Nicholas Davis (King Mark) and Zacharias Niedzwiecki (Duke Hoël).  The ensemble includes Alexandra Martinez, Quinn Middleman, Patrick Dean Shelton and Samuel Weiser. The performers are members of COT's Young Artists program, which is composed of students in the Professional Diploma in Opera Program at Roosevelt University's Chicago College of Performing Arts in conjunction with Chicago Opera Theater, headed by Scott Gilmore, The Director of Musical Studies at CCPA. 

Performance Schedule
Friday, September 30, 7:30 p.m.
Friday, October 1, 3 p.m.
Sunday, October 9, 3 p.m.

Subscriptions for the 2016/17 season are now on sale. Single tickets will go on sale on August 10, 2016. Tickets will range in price from $50 - $75 and can be purchased by calling 312.704.8414 or via

The season continues on November 5 at the Studebaker Theater with three performances of “The Fairy Queen.” Composed in 1692 by Henry Purcell, “The Fairy Queen,” takes its inspiration from the mystical masques of Shakespeare’s “A Midsummer Night’s Dream,” creating the perfect world to explore relationships. On February 18, 2017, COT will present the co-world premiere with Long Beach Opera of “The Invention of Morel”. “Morel” is composed by Stewart Copeland and is based on “La invención de Morel” by Adolfo Bioy Casares. It is COT’s first-ever commissioned opera. The season will close with the Chicago premiere of Philip Glass’ 2013 “The Perfect American,” a fictionalized biography of Walt Disney’s life told through the musical lens of Philip Glass, melding delusions of the American Dream, immortality, and an empire.

Creative Team
Stage Director and Production Design: Andreas Mitisek
Conductor: Emanuele Andrizzi
Orchestra: Chicago Philharmonic

Emanuele Andrizzi – Conductor
Andrizzi conducted “A Coffin in Egypt” at Chicago Opera Theater in 2015.  Educated in the rich musical tradition of the Rome's Conservatory as a conductor, composer, and pianist, Andrizzi has become a versatile musician with vast experience in the symphonic and operatic repertoires and a passion for the many areas of the musical arts. As a conductor, he has collaborated with various symphonic and operatic companies. In the past several years, he has conducted at the Lyric Opera of Chicago, San Diego Opera, Orchestradella Città di Ravenna, Chicago Philharmonic, Salt Creek Ballet, and New Philharmonic, among others. He has also collaborated with important music festivals, including the Millennium Park and the Ravinia Festivals.  In the next few months, Mr. Andrizzi is going to debut with several important operatic companies, among which the Opera Theater of St. Louis, where he will conduct a production of Puccini’s “La Bohème.”

An active teacher and performer, Andrizzi has worked since August 2013 as the Conductor and Head of the Orchestra Program at the prestigious Chicago College of Performing Arts at Roosevelt University. He often collaborates with young artist programs, including the Ryan Opera Center, the Lyric Opera of Chicago’s Young Artist Program. In addition, he has been invited to guest conduct in various university music programs, such as the Bienen School of Music at Northwestern University where he recently conducted Mozart’s “Le Nozze di Figaro,” after his earlier success in conducting “Così Fan Tutte.” He was the conductor of the Illinois All-State Orchestra in 2016 and is a recipient of the Honorable Mention award at the International Competition for Conductors of Contemporary Music “4X4 Prize” and a winner of the “P. Barrasso” International Competition for Chamber Music.

Andreas Mitisek – Stefan Edlis and Gael Neeson General Director 
A native of Austria, Mitisek has been the General Director of COT since June of 2012. He has also been Artistic and General Director of Long Beach Opera (LBO) since 2003. Mitisek has been named “Chicagoan of the Year for Classical Music” by the Chicago Tribune in 2014 and was selected as one of the “25 people that will be a major force in the field of opera in the coming decade” by Opera News.

He recently directed and designed COT’s “gripping” (Chicago Tribune) “Macbeth” by Ernest Bloch in 2014. His other COT directing credits include ”La Voix Humaine” by Francis Poulenc, “Gianni Schicchi” by Giacomo Puccini, “Lucio Silla” by Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart,“Therese Raquin” by Tobias Picker, “Maria de Buenos Aires” by Astor Piazzolla and “The Emperor of Atlantis & The Clever One” by Viktor Ullmann and Carl Orff. Ricky Ian Gordon’s “Orpheus and Euridice,” at the Welles Park Pool in 2013, was critically and publicly acclaimed. Mitisek is on the board of directors for Opera America, the national service organization for U.S.  opera companies.

About Chicago Opera Theater
Chicago Opera Theater is an innovative, nationally recognized opera company that inspires a diverse community through immersive and thought-provoking opera experiences. COT, established in 1974 by Alan Stone, is a founding resident company of the Harris Theater for Music and Dance in Millennium Park. General Director Andreas Mitisek is known for his adventurous repertory, visionary leadership, fundraising skills and innovative audience-building initiatives.

Chicago Opera Theater has carved a significant place for itself in the operatic life of Chicago and has reached an audience of hundreds of thousands through its main stage performances, community engagement, education programs in Chicago Public Schools, as well as its renowned Young Artist Program.

Experience MORE OF THE DIFFERENT with Chicago Opera Theater!

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

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