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Showing posts with label Chicago Opera Theater. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Chicago Opera Theater. 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
FREEDOM RIDE
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

CAST:
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: “THE SCARLET IBIS” at CHICAGO OPERA THEATER


CHICAGO OPERA THEATER PRESENTS 
“THE SCARLET IBIS” 
FEBRUARY 16, 21 AND 24 AT HISTORIC STUDEBAKER THEATER


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. Ahhhh...so 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 chicagooperatheater.org.


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 weekend...man, 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 chicagooperatheater.org.

Sunday, November 18, 2018

REVIEW: “Iolanta” at Chicago Opera Theater

ChiIL Live Shows On Our Radar:


CHICAGO OPERA THEATER PRESENTS 
TCHAIKOVSKY’S “IOLANTA” 
IN SEASON-OPENING PERFORMANCES 
AT HISTORIC STUDEBAKER THEATER


Review of Opera “Iolanta” at Chicago Opera Theater
By Catherine Hellmann, guest critic

Chicago is blessed with two professional opera companies. Who knew? We are all familiar with the heralded Lyric Opera, and those accolades are very well deserved. But there is also a scrappy little opera company that has been around since 1973, Chicago Opera Theater. The singing of their principal players is just as exquisite, and their company is less pretentious and, therefore, more accessible.  

With a short season of three shows, there are still two more lesser-known shows to be produced by COT in the spring: The Scarlet Ibis on February 16, 21, and 24, 2019, and Moby-Dick on April 25 and 28, 2019. Chicago Opera Theater prides itself on featuring operas that are outside the traditional canon; they are to be commended for that. All three shows in their repertoire this season are Chicago premieres. The company brings in “new contemporary operas for a 21st century audience,” according to their website. The opening show of Iolanta was impressive.

It was a performance of “firsts,” as described by General Director Doug Clayton in his welcoming remarks. Iolanta marked the podium debut of Maestro Lidiya Yankovskaya, the only woman with the title Music Director at a top 50 opera company in the United States. (Wow. That is actually really impressive for COT, but sad throughout the music world.) Maestro Yankovskaya gave the pre-show talk, and her passion for this piece was evident. The performance marked the company debut of international stage director Paul Curran. And finally, Iolanta was the last operatic work by Pyotr Tchaikovsky, with a libretto by his brother Modest, and was being brought to life in our beloved Windy City 126 years after its debut.

With a mostly Chicago-based cast,  Iolanta is sung in the original Russian and stars Katherine Weber in the title role as a blind princess who isn’t aware that she’s blind. (Hey, it’s opera, which historically is goofy as hell in terms of plot.) Weber’s voice is stunning, as is Mikhail Svetlov as her father, King Rene, who has kept her blindness as a big secret. Chicago tenor John Irvin is wonderful as Duke Vaudemont who falls in love with Iolanta. She is betrothed to someone else, but fortunately, that dog Duke Robert, sung by Christopher Magiera, conveniently falls in love with another girl. Also of particular note is bass-baritone Bill McMurray as the physician Ibn-Hakia who advises the skeptical king that the only way to cure his daughter’s blindness is revealing to her that she is unable to see.

Chicago Opera Theater currently performs at the Harris Theater for Music and Dance at Michigan and Randolph. Iolanta was performed at the Studebaker Theater at Michigan and Congress in the old Fine Arts Building, built in 1898 to host vaudeville shows! (My pal Mary and I were amazed to discover this charming venue, recently restored, in such a historic facility.) Originally built in 1885 by architect Solon S. Beman (who designed Pullmantown for George Pullman) to house the Studebaker Corporation’s Midwest buggy sales and repair facility, the Fine Arts Building is worth the trip for exploring. And you can catch a great, under-appreciated opera in a fabulous setting as well.

This was my first Chicago Opera Theater performance. I was entranced. It won’t be my last.

Catherine Hellmann is a teacher, writer, and theater junkie. She has tried to inspire urban and rural middle schoolers for over twenty years. A mother of three, she is thrilled to once again claim Chicago as home.  



Conductor Lidiya Yankovskaya Leads Chicago Premiere of Tchaikovsky’s Final Opera

Chicago Opera Theater (COT) will kick off the 2018/2019 season with “Iolanta,” a Chicago premiere of legendary composer P.I. Tchaikovsky’s final opera. Internationally renowned and award-winning conductor Lidiya Yankovskaya will make her conducting debut as Chicago Opera Theater’s Staley Music Director and set the tone for the season to come. Acclaimed stage director Paul Curran, known for his work at Santa Fe Opera, Lyric Opera Chicago and more, will shape the retelling of this joyous love-story, featuring an almost entirely Chicago-based cast including soprano Katherine Weber as Iolanta, and renowned Russian bass Mikhail Svetlov as Rene. The opening night and press performance takes place on Saturday, November 10 at 7:30 p.m. at the historic Studebaker Theater (410 S. Michigan Ave.) Additional performances will take place Thursday, November 15 at 7:30 p.m. and Sunday, November 18 at 3 p.m.  

“After 18 months of planning and preparation behind the scenes, I’m thrilled to finally be jumping into the COT orchestra pit,” said COT’s Staley Music Director Lidiya Yankovskaya. “I’m particularly gratified to have the opportunity to bring the sounds of my homeland to my new home, as this opera – Tchaikovsky’s last – has never before been staged in Chicago. ‘Iolanta’ is a very personal work, written by Tchaikovsky at the height of his compositional powers, alongside the person closest to him – his brother Modest. Perhaps because it examines the transformed worldviews of characters in dramatically different life stages, I find that the work resonates in a new way each time I conduct it.”

“Iolanta” tells the story of a princess, with Weber starring in the titular role, who has been blind since birth. She is unaware of her condition and her privileged social status thanks to the actions of her overprotective father, King Rene. When the well-meaning Duke Vaudemont falls in love with her, she learns of her blindness and true love offers her a chance at a cure. Iolanta must choose between the life built for her and one she’s never seen.

The opera is based on the Danish play “Kong René Datter” by Henrik Hertz, a romanticized take on the life of Yolande de Bar. The opera premiered on December 18, 1892 at the Mariinsky Theatre in Saint Petersburg, sharing a double bill with Tchaikovsky’s last ballet, “The Nutcracker.”

In addition to Weber and Svetlov, the cast includes John Irvin as Vaudemont, Christopher Magiera as Robert, Bill McMurray as Ibn-Hakia, Emma Ritter as Marta, Katherine Peterson as Brigitta, Annie Rosen as Laura, David Govertsen as Bertrand, and Kyle Knapp as Almeric.

Creative Team for Iolanta
Composer: P.I. Tchaikovsky
Librettist: Modest Tchaikovsky
Conductor: Lidiya Yankovskaya
Stage Director: Paul Curran
Lighting & Projection Designer: Driscoll Otto
Scenic Design: Alan Muraoka
Costume Design: Jenny Mannis

Performance Schedule
Saturday, November 10, 7:30 p.m.
Thursday, November 15, 7:30 p.m.
Sunday, November 18, 3 p.m.

Subscriptions to the 2018/2019 season of Chicago Opera Theater are on sale now for $95 - $435. Single show tickets for “Iolanta” are on sale now at chicagooperatheater.org for $45 - $145.

About Lidiya Yankovskaya
Russian-American conductor Lidiya Yankovskaya is a champion of Russian masterpieces, operatic rarities and contemporary works on the leading edge of classical music. This season, Yankovskaya conducts Heggie’s “Moby-Dick” at COT, Kamala Sankaram’s “Taking Up Serpents” at Washington National Opera, and Ricky Ian Gordon’s “Ellen West” at Opera Saratoga. She debuts with Mobile Symphony in “Carmina Burana,” leads Laura Schwendinger’s “Artemisia” at Trinity Wall Street, and returns to New York’s National Sawdust for its Hildegard Competition Concert.

As Music Director of Harvard’s Lowell House Opera, she conducted sold-out performances of repertoire rarely heard in Boston, including Tchaikovsky’s “Queen of Spades,” Britten’s “A Midsummer Night’s Dream,” and the U.S. Russian-language premiere of Rimsky-Korsakov’s “The Snow Maiden.” Her commitment to exploring the breadth of symphonic and operatic repertoire has also been demonstrated in performances of Rachmaninoff’s “Aleko” and the American premieres of Donizetti’s “Pia de’ Tolomei,” Rubinshteyn’s “The Demon,” and Rimsky-Korsakov’s “Kashchej The Immortal” and Symphony No. 1. Yankovskaya is founder of the Refugee Orchestra Project, which performs this season at the United Nations. She has served as Artistic Director of the Boston New Music Festival and Juventas New Music Ensemble, where she led operatic experiments with puppetry, circus acts, and robotic instruments, as well as premieres by more than two dozen composers. A recipient of a 2018 Solti Foundation Career Assistance Award, Yankovskaya is also an alumna of the Dallas Opera’s Hart Institute for Women Conductors and Marin Alsop’s Taki Concordia Fellowship. She has been featured in the League of American Orchestras Bruno Walter National Conductor Preview and Cabrillo Festival for Contemporary Music, and will assist Vladimir Jurowski via a London Philharmonic fellowship this spring. Other future engagements include performances in Arizona, Chicago, New York, and Minneapolis.

About Paul Curran
Award winning Scottish director, Paul Curran, was born in Glasgow, Scotland and studied dance in London and Helsinki. After a serious injury stopped his career, he retrained as a director at the National Institute of Dramatic Art in Sydney, graduating in 1992. His first job in opera was as assistant director to Baz Luhrmann, after which his own international career took off with productions at the Teatro San Carlo in Naples, Teatro Dell’Opera Rome and the Covent Garden Festival, then directing Borodin’s “Prince Igor” with Valery Gergiev and the Mariinsky Theatre at the Royal Albert Hall in London. Curran has directed productions in many of the world’s leading opera houses and concert halls including ROH Covent Garden, Metropolitan Opera, La Scala Milan, Teatro La Fenice, Kennedy Centre Washington DC and Berlin Philharmonic. In addition to opera, Curran has also directed several musicals including “My Fair Lady,” “Man of La Mancha,” “A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to the Forum” and “A Little Night Music.” A keen linguist, Curran speaks 9 languages and has also translated several plays by Moliere, Chekhov and Ostrovsky.

About Katherine Weber
Described as “a confident singing actress with a magnetic stage presence” by Opera News, Katherine Weber is a rising star in the Chicago opera scene. She debuted for both the DuPage Opera and Boulder Symphony during the 2017/2018 season as Violetta in “La Traviata” and is set to return to DuPage Opera this season as Rosalinda in “Die Fledermaus.” She was a featured soloist with the Winona Oratorio Chorus and Orchestra in performances of Beethoven’s “Mass in C,” Vivaldi’s “Gloria” and Mozart’s “Requiem.” She also covered Nedda in Virginia Opera’s performance of “Pagliacci.” She has been a regional finalist at the Metropolitan Opera National Council Auditions in 2015 and 2017.



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 66 Chicago premieres and 36 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 2017, 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 chicagooperatheater.org.

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:

CHICAGO PREMIERE OF FRANK MARTIN’S 
“THE LOVE POTION” (“LE VIN HERBÉ”) 
TO BE STAGED BY CHICAGO OPERA THEATER AT THE MUSIC BOX THEATRE SEPTEMBER 30 – OCTOBER 9, 2016


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 chicagooperatheater.org.

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 www.chicagooperatheater.org.

Saturday, February 23, 2013

ACT OUT OPENING TONIGHT: Philip Glass’ The Fall of the House of Usher 4 Shows Only



#3 – Suzan Hanson as Madeline and Ryan MacPherson as Roderick 
All photos by Keith Ian Polakoff, courtesy of Long Beach Opera.

 Chicago Opera Theater presents the Chicago Premiere of
THE FALL OF THE HOUSE OF USHER
By Philip Glass

The Chicago Opera Theater opens its 2013 season, the inaugural season of new general director Andreas Mitisek, with Philip Glass’ The Fall of the House of Usher, in four performances only February 27-March 1 This gothic tale of suspense, horror and the supernatural is based on a story by Edgar Allen Poe.  

ChiIL Live Shows will be there...will YOU?!   We've been promoting this production for months and it's finally here.   We'll be reviewing opening night, tonight, and can't wait.   We heard two numbers at a sneak peek at Facets Multimedia last weekend featuring the film, Koyaanisqatsi, with a score also by Philip Glass.   They had me at "goth-punk moving men"--four of my fav words all in one character description!

Andreas Mitisek Takes Audiences to the Edge of Madness in
His First Season as Chicago Opera Theater’s General Director

Philip Glass’ The Fall of the House of Usher, a gothic horror story which blurs the line between the real world and the supernatural, opens Chicago Opera Theater's 2013 Season, titled “Power of Love, Love of Power.”  This is Andreas Mitisek's inaugural season as General Director of Chicago Opera Theater since assuming the position in June 2012.  

Glass' haunting 1987 score for Edgar Allan Poe's macabre masterpiece, with lyrics by Arthur Yorinks, provides the perfect backdrop for this nightmarish journey to the edge of madness.  The Fall of the House of Usher, taking place at the Harris Theater for Music and Dance, 205 E. Randolph Drive, runs for four performances only: Saturday, February 23 at 7:30 p.m., Sunday, February 24 at 3 p.m., Wednesday, February 27 at 7:30 p.m. and Friday, March 1 at 7:30 p.m.  



#1 – Lee Gregory as William, Nicholas Shelton as the Servant, 
Ryan MacPherson as Roderick 



The Fall of the House of Usher is a co-production with Long Beach Opera (LBO), whose production opens January 27.  An opera in two acts, The Fall of the House of Usher takes the audience deep into the eerie realm of the House of Usher.  When William receives a letter from his long lost friend Roderick Usher, apparently suffering from illness and requesting William’s presence, he journeys to the sinister mansion where Roderick and his twin sister Madeline live as the last of the Usher bloodline.  At first William tries to aid his friend by reminding Roderick of his passion for art, music and literature, but William soon becomes swallowed up in a world where the border separating real and supernatural is blurred, and paranoia then takes control.  Taken from one of Edgar Allan Poe’s most popular tales, this unsettling story explores the line between truth and imagination, all set against Glass' haunting and suspenseful music.  COT has also performed Glass’ opera Akhnaten in 2000.

“Our 2013 Season emphasizes the tension between the power of love and the love of power,” explains Mitisek, who conducts both the COT and LBO performances.  “The Fall of the House of Usher is about internal and external collapsing worlds.  Glass’ music suspends reality and time, hypnotizing us on this journey to the edge of sanity.  It’s a 90-minute psychological roller coaster ride.”

Ken Cazan returns to COT to direct Usher after directing the acclaimed Death in Venice (2004), Bluebeard’s Castle (2007), Erwartung (2007) and Shining Brow (1997).  He is the Resident Stage Director for the Thornton School of Music at the University of Southern California.  One of America’s most sought-after directors, he has directed more than 100 productions for more than 40 opera companies, including the Santa Fe Opera, Central City Opera, Atlanta Opera, and Seattle Opera, among others.  Of Usher, Cazan says, “Things are rarely what they seem in Gothic horror tales.  What on the surface feels like a tragic and spooky story (which it is), instinctively, upon the first hearing and reading of Glass’ opera, felt like something very different to me.  William feels an unusual sense of passion for Roderick, whom he hasn’t seen since childhood.  William very forcefully speaks of taking Roderick away, of saving him.  And what of Madeleine, Roderick’s ailing ‘identical’ twin sister?  In the opera, William hears her without seeing her.  Does she really exist?”

TICKETS
The Fall of the House of Usher runs for four performances February 23, 24, 27, and March 1 at the Harris Theater for Music and Dance in Millennium Park.  Individual tickets to are on saleJanuary 21 and range from $45  $125.  Tickets may be purchased through Chicago Opera Theater at www.chicagooperatheater.org, by phone at 312-704-8414, or through the Harris Theater at www.harristheaterhicago.org and 312-334-7777.  COT offers half-off tickets to students in sections A, B, C and D. 

Subscriptions to all three operas in Chicago Opera Theater’s 2013 season are available through March 1 and prices range from $95  $356. Subscriptions include The Fall of the House of Usher, Astor Piazzolla’s María de Buenos Aires (April 20, 24, 26 and 28) and Giuseppe Verdi’s Joan of Arc (Giovanna d'Arco)(September 21, 25, 27 and 29).  New subscribers received 50% off in sections A, B and C. 





#2 – Lee Gregory as William, Ryan MacPherson as Roderick, 
Suzan Hanson as Madeline


CAST
COT DEBUT: Suzan Hanson (Madeline Usher) is a multi-faceted artist who combines work in opera and music-theater.  Her recent performances of Poulenc’s La Voix Humane was described as “fresh and forceful…[with] blazing dramatic fervor…” by The San Francisco Chronicle.  Hanson has performed with companies such as Arena di Verona, Arizona Opera, Carnegie Hall, Edinburgh, Long Beach Opera, Maggio Musicale (Florence), New Israeli Opera, Pittsburgh Opera Theater, and San Francisco Opera.  Often sought for new works, Hanson has originated many roles, including Hanako in Sound of a Voice.  She is a regular with LBO and has sung Pat Nixon in Nixon in China, Medea in Meda by Cherubini and Margarita inAinadamar by O. Golijov.  Hanson originated the role of Madeline in The Fall of the House of Usher in the World Premiere production by American Repertory Theater.

COT DEBUT: Lee Gregory (William) hails from Houston, Texas.  His recent performances include Silvio in I Pagliacci with Arizona Opera Company, Richard Nixon in Nixon in China with Eugene Opera, Schaunard in La bohème with Michigan Opera Theatre, and the title role in Il barbiere di Siviglia with Opera Theatre of the Rockies.  He reprises the role of William in COT’s production, having sung it with Nashville Opera.

COT DEBUT: Jonathan Mack (Physician) has performed over fifty roles during his eighteen seasons with the Los Angeles Opera, including Ferrando in Mozart’s Cosi fan tutte, Kudrjas in Janacek’s Katya Kabanova, Quint in Britten’s Turn of the Screw, and Orpheus in Offenbach’s Orpheus in the Underworld.  He has also worked with Netherlands Opera, Kentucky Opera, Vancouver Opera and Opera Columbus.

COT DEBUT: Ryan MacPherson (Roderick Usher) sings this season with Virginia Opera as Alfred in Die Fledermaus and returns to the Buxton Festival as Horace in Gounod’s La colombeand Kornélis in Saint-Saëns’ La princesse jeune.  He has performed with Dayton Opera, Utah Opera, Portland Opera and Nashville Opera, among others.  With New York City Opera he created the role of Iff, the Water Genie, in Wuorinen’s Haroun and the Sea of Stories.

COT DEBUT: Nick Shelton (Servant) has garnered unanimous accolades for his dark, piercing voice, refined musicianship, and commanding stage presence.  Recent season highlights include Jose Tripaldi in Golijov's Ainadamar with Long Beach Opera, of which Gazettes.com raved “that is some terrific voice!” and called him “a name to remember.”

CREATIVE TEAM
COT DEBUT: Set designer Alan E. Muraoka has been working in the entertainment industry as a production designer and art director for film and television, as well as a theatrical set designer for over 25 years.  He has been honored with two Emmy® Award nominations and three Art Directors’ Guild Award nominations.  His design credits include Dirty Girl andBaadAsssss!  He has collaborated with Mitisek at Long Beach Opera, designing Ricky Ian Gordon’s Orpheus and Euridice, staged in an Olympic swimming pool, and an opera adaptation ofThe Diary of Anne Frank staged in an underground parking garage. 

Costume designer Jacqueline Saint Anne is an Emmy Award-winning costume designer and former President of the Costume Designers Guild.  Saint Anne returns to COT with The Fall of the House of Usher, having debuted with Owen Wingrave in 2010.  This also marks Saint Anne’s second production with Long Beach Opera, where she debuted with The Cunning Little Vixen in 2009.  With Ken Cazan, she has designed for the Thornton Opera at USC: Don Giovanni, Gianni Schicchi, Three Decembers, The Rape of Lucretia and Summer and Smoke, among others.

COT DEBUT: Lighting designer David Martin Jacques’ collaborations with director Cazan include The Fall of the House of Usher with Long Beach Opera, West Side Story with the Vancouver Opera Company, and A Little Night Music, Gianni Schicchi, Oklahoma! and Seven Deadly Sins with Central City Opera.  Jacques also serves as Professor of Theatre and Head of Stage Design at California State University Long Beach.

Mitisek’s work as director, designer and conductor for site-specific productions in parking garages, swimming pools, night clubs and warehouses has become a successful hallmark of his work with Long Beach Opera, and he anticipates incorporating such innovative projects into the COT repertoire.  In addition to being named “LA Tastemaker” by LA Times Magazine in 2009and highlighted as one of “2012 People” by LA Weekly, in 2012 Mitisek was named by Opera News as one of the 25 people that will be a major force in the field of opera in the coming decade.  Recent LBO credits as director, designer and conductor include Golijov’s Ainadamar, Piazzolla’s Maria de Buenos Aires (which will be the second production of COT’s 2013 season), Lang’s Difficulty of Crossing a Field, Cherubini’s Medea and Glass’ Akhnaten. 

ABOUT PHILIP GLASS
Through his operas, his symphonies, his compositions for his own ensemble, and his wide-ranging collaborations with artists ranging from Twyla Tharp to Allen Ginsberg, Woody Allen to David Bowie, Philip Glass has had an extraordinary and unprecedented impact upon the musical and intellectual life of his times.  His operas – Einstein on the Beach, Satyagraha,Akhnaten and The Voyage, among many others – play throughout the world’s leading houses.  Glass has written music for experimental theater and for Academy Award-winning motion pictures such as “The Hours” and Martin Scorsese’s “Kundun.”  He was born in 1937, grew up in Baltimore, and studied at the University of Chicago, the Juilliard School and in Aspen with Darius Milhaud.

ABOUT CHICAGO OPERA THEATER
Founded in 1974 by Alan Stone, 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.  Chicago Opera Theater presents first-class productions of operatic repertoire, ranging from the great works of the 17th, 18th and 20th centuries to intimate and innovative contemporary productions by top-tier, internationally renowned conductors, directors and designers.

PROGRAM INFO
Philip Glass
THE FALL OF THE HOUSE OF USHER
February 23, 24, 27, and March 1 at the Harris Theater for Music & Dance

Book by Arthur Yorinks and Philip Glass
Based on the Story by Edgar Allan Poe
Lyrics by Arthur Yorinks 

Conductor:                                            ANDREAS MITISEK
Director:                                               KEN CAZAN
Set Designer:                                       ALAN E. MURAOKA
Costume Designer:                               JACQUELINE SAINT ANNE
Lighting Designer:                                DAVID JACQUES

Sung in English with English supertitles.

Role                                                     Cast (Alphabetical)                                          
Madeline Usher (Soprano)                     SUZAN HANSON 
William (Baritone)                                 LEE GREGORY 
Physician (Tenor)                                 JONATHAN MACK
Roderick Usher (Tenor)                        RYAN MACPHERSON
Servant (Bass-Baritone)                                    NICHOLAS SHELTON 

GOTH-PUNK MOVING MEN:  Joshua Banks, Curtis Bannister, Nathan Gardner, Jamal Howard, Matt Messina, Jordan Phelps, Will Snyder.

The Fall of the House of Usher is generously supported by Orli & Bill Staley and The Andrew W. Mellon Foundation.

For more information on the Chicago Opera Theater and its programs please visit www.chicagooperatheater.org.


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