April 14, 2022 (Chicago) — In anticipation of 2023 marking the 50th year of Chicago Opera Theater (COT) producing vital art in the Chicago community, the company proudly announces its 2022/23 season under the direction of COT Stefan Edlis and Gael Neeson General Director Ashley Magnus and Elizabeth Morse and Genius Music Director Lidiya Yankovskaya; names two emerging composers in its groundbreaking Vanguard Initiative program; and recognizes recent and generous philanthropic contributions. A grand 50th Anniversary season and celebration will be officially launched in Fall 2023; more details to come!
The 2022/23 season begins with the long-awaited Chicago premiere of King Roger, a Polish language opera composed by Karol Szymanowski. COT pays homage to Chicago's robust Polish community with the staging of the first Polish language opera in the company's history. Following will be Benjamin Britten's charming Albert Herring. Performed twice before by the company in 1979 and 1989, COT reflects on its first 50 years by reviving this beloved gem, with veteran Chicago conductor Dame Jane Glover wielding the baton. The 2022/23 season closes in bold fashion with the World Premiere of Taiwanese American composer Justine F. Chen's The Life and Death(s) of Alan Turing. This innovative work, commissioned by American Lyric Theater and with text by David Simpatico, proudly embodies COT's commitment to developing the operatic canon for the next 50 years and beyond.
2023 will also mark the five-year anniversary of Vanguard Initiative, Chicago Opera Theater's industry unique new-opera development program lead by COT Elizabeth Morse and Genius Music Director Lidiya Yankovskaya. At the heart of the Initiative is the Emerging Opera Composer Residency: A two-year development program for emerging opera composers with added mentorship from Jake Heggie. In their second year, the composers have an opportunity to compose a full one act chamber opera written with an experienced, working opera librettist and guided by a highly qualified dramaturg. COT's fourth Vanguard Initiative opera, The Cook-Off by Vanguard Emerging Composer Shawn Okpebholo and COT veteran librettist Mark Campbell, will be presented during spring 2023.
COT is proud to announce the fifth and sixth Vanguard Emerging Composers: Gillian Rae Perry will begin the first year of the program in the fall of 2022 and Carlos Carillo will begin in 2023.
In addition to the regular season productions and the Vanguard premiere, COT will partner with Music of Remembrance for a performance featuring two operas that remember WWII and the Holocaust. Written by one of the most important duos in contemporary American opera, composer Jake Heggie and librettist Gene Scheer, the production begins with a world premiere and closes with Heggie and Scheer's stirring monodrama Another Sunrise.
"With our 50th anniversary on the horizon — we are so proud to continue COT's legacy of expanding the tradition of opera in Chicago, and championing new voices and work nationally." says COT Edlis Neeson General Director Ashley Magnus. "During the two-year celebration, audiences will be treated to multiple world premieres, Chicago premieres of major operatic works, and opportunities to revisit COT's rich history. Chicago Opera Theater owes this major milestone to the support of our community, and our many loyal and generous donors who have ensured this organization is able to produce new and rarely presented opera for decades to come."
"We are proud to kick-off COT's 50th Anniversary with a season that represents all that places COT at the forefront of opera," adds COT Elizabeth Morse and Genius Music Director Lidiya Yankovskaya. "King Roger showcases our commitment to our community, bringing a Polish-language opera to Chicago and allowing us to partner with many other organizations across the city. Albert Herring marks the return of conductor Jane Glover, who will lead a cast of rising stars at the Athenaeum (where COT had its origins). Finally, The Life and Death(s) of Alan Turing demonstrates our devotion to developing contemporary work for this new golden age of opera. Turing was COT's first new opera workshop, at the very start of my tenure, and I'm thrilled we are now able to mount its world premiere."
Notably, both Magnus and Yankovskaya have renewed their contracts with Chicago Opera Theater through 2024.
King Roger Chicago Premiere
November 18, 2022 @ 7:30pm, Nov. 20, 2022 @ 3pm
Harris Theater for Music and Dance, 205 E. Randolph St.
Launching the season is a Polish language opera composed by Karol Szymanowski to a libretto by the composer and his cousin, Jarosław Iwaszkiewicz. Conceived of while the composer was visiting the cosmopolitan port city of Odessa, Ukraine, King Roger is a magical and mystical study on the intersection of personal belief and public responsibility in places where multiple religions co-exist. When Queen Roxana begs King Roger to pardon a shepherd convicted of spreading heresy, everything changes. Roxana vanishes into the pagan abyss, leaving the powerful King to battle his inner turmoil. COT will partner with the Lira Ensemble - the nation's only professional performing arts company specializing in Polish music, song, and dance - and Chicago's premiere volunteer choir, the Apollo Chorus, for this production.
Conducted by COT's own Lidiya Yankovskaya and directed by Dylan Evans, the cast includes two internationally acclaimed Polish singers, Iwona Sobotka and Mariusz Godlewski as Roxana and the titular Roger II. The cast also includes Alissa Anderson as Deaconess and David Cangelosi as Edrisi. The 90-minute opera will be sung in Polish with English surtitles.
January 26, 2023 @ 7:30pm, January 28 & 29, 2023 @ 3pm
Athenaeum Center for Thought and Culture, 2936 N. Southport Avenue, Chicago
A beloved opera from COT's past, Albert Herring, composed by Benjamin Britten to a libretto by Eric Crozier, gets a fresh staging lead by Chicago favorite, conductor Dame Jane Glover. In the town of Loxford, England, none of the young ladies live up to Lady Billows' inscrutable moral standards to be crowned May Queen. The grocer's son, Albert Herring, however, fits the bill. After being thoroughly mocked by his friends for receiving the honor, Albert takes his first steps into independence by embarking on a night of debauchery.
Directed by Stephen Sposito, the cast includes Miles Mykkanen as Albert Herring, Whitney Morrison as Lady Billows, Justin Berkowitz as Mr. Upfold the Mayor, Bill McMurray as Mr. Gedge the vicar, Teresa Castillo as Miss Wordsworth, Sam Wiser as Superintendent Budd, Boya Wei as Cis, Alissa Anderson as Florence Pike, and Leah Dexter as Mrs. Herring. This comical coming of age story is 150 minutes and is sung in English with English surtitles.
The Life and Death(s) of Alan Turing World Premiere
March 23, 2023 @ 7:30pm, March 25 & 26, 2023 @ 3pm
Harris Theater for Music and Dance
Composer Justine F. Chen and librettist David Simpatico's musical retelling of the tragic life (and death(s)) of acclaimed British computer scientist Alan Turing will receive its world premiere as the final opera in COT's 2022/2023 season. Despite his heroic and innovative feats protecting the British from Nazi U-boats, Turing was chemically castrated after being found guilty of gross indecency for a homosexual relationship. Turing's death by poisoning two years later was ruled a suicide, but other theories abound. The Life and Death(s) of Alan Turing was commissioned by New York-based American Lyric Theater, Lawrence Edelson, Artistic and General Director, and was developed through the Composer Librettist Development Program, which is made possible through lead funding from the Mellon Foundation, the National Endowment for the Arts, The Howard Gilman Foundation, The New York City Department of Cultural Affairs, and The Kurt Weill Foundation for Music. Additional commission underwriting and developmental support for The Life and Death(s) of Alan Turing has been provided by Stephen M. Weiner & Don Cornuet, and the American Composers Forum with funds provided by the Jerome Foundation. Visit www.altnyc.org for more information.
Directed by Peter Rothstein and conducted by COT's own Lidiya Yankovskaya, the cast includes Jonathan Michie as Alan Turing, Joseph Leppek as Christopher Morcom, Teresa Castillo as Sara Turing David Salsbery Fry as Don/Bailey/Bobby/Prosecutor, and Justin Berkowitz as Steve Todd/Arnold Murray. The opera is 110 minutes long and will be sung in English with English surtitles.
The Cook-Off: COT's fourth Vanguard Initiative production
Spring 2023, Location and Date TBA
COT's fourth Vanguard Initiative Emerging Composer is Shawn Okpebholo. His opera, The Cook-Off, developed with librettist Mark Campbell, will be composed and workshopped throughout the 2022/2023 season with a final concert production in Spring 2023 featuring the singers of Chicago Opera Theater's Young Artist apprenticeship program.
The Cook-Off is a comic opera in one act that takes place during the highly charged atmosphere of a televised cooking competition. As three contestants vie for the top prize, some truths are revealed about this country's relationship between food and history.
Music of Remembrance: A special post-mainstage series add-on
May 27, 2023 @7:30 PM, May 28, 2023 @ 3 PM
Athenaeum Center for Thought and Culture
Music of Remembrance, an organization dedicated to remembering the Holocaust through music, in partnership with COT, premieres a compelling new one-act opera by Jake Heggie and Gene Scheer. Based on a true story discovered and reported by Howard Reich for the Chicago Tribune, an ailing Vietnam war veteran learns that he is the heir to a priceless art collection stolen by the Nazis.
Starring bass-baritone Ryan McKinny, it will be paired with Heggie and Scheer's Another Sunrise, an earlier MOR commission. The intense monodrama, starring soprano Caitlin Lynch, is an intimate portrait of an Auschwitz survivor's struggle to find words capable of describing unimaginable situations to people who weren't there. Together, the two operas are profound tributes to the restorative power of memory.
Ticketing and Subscriptions for Chicago Opera Theater's 2022-23 Season
Subscriptions go on sale at 12 noon on April 14, 2022. Enjoy all three mainstage operas and Special Subscriber Perks: free and unlimited exchanges for any performance of the same production, the best seats assigned well before single tickets go on sale, and discounted single tickets with no fees.
Early bird subscription sales run through June 15 and offer first choice of seating, and up to $84 in saving on a subscription package. Single tickets go on sale August 1. Subscriptions and single tickets can be purchased at chicagooperatheater.org .
In recognition of 50 years of elevating Chicago's artistic traditions, the Elizabeth Morse Charitable Trust and the Elizabeth Morse Genius Charitable Trust have granted Chicago Opera Theater a joint $2.25 million grant to underwrite the position of music director, currently held by Lidiya Yankovskaya, as the Elizabeth Morse and Genius Music Director.
Since its inception in 2018, the Vanguard Emerging Opera Composer Residency has been supported by a generous grant from the Mellon Foundation, which has recently renewed its three-year $590,000 grant, providing valuable support for this groundbreaking program through 2025.
About the Vanguard Initiative
COT is devoted to the development of new opera in the United States through its Vanguard Initiative. The Vanguard Initiative trains emerging opera composers, invests time and talent in new opera at various stages of the creative process, and opens up opportunities for Chicago audiences to become part of the development of new work. Reaching its fifth year in 2023, the Vanguard Initiative was Founded in 2018 by COT Elizabeth Morse and Genius Music Director Lidiya Yankovskaya.
At the heart of the program is COT's Vanguard Emerging Opera Composer residency, a fully immersive two-year development program that places an emphasis on building skills and connections for emerging opera composers. The program aims to bridge the gap between general compositional skills and the dramatic storytelling, vocal writing, practical considerations, and real-world experience that help inform an operatic composer's work. The program identifies skilled composers who have not yet had sufficient opportunities for writing opera and provides them with a two-year comprehensive course of study and full immersion in the company, culminating with a commission together with a major librettist.
About Chicago Opera Theater
Chicago Opera Theater (COT) is a company laser-focused on living its values: expanding the tradition of opera as a living art form, producing high-quality works new to Chicago audiences, identifying top-tier casts and creative talent at the beginning of grand operatic careers, and following through on commitments to equity and access — behind the scenes, on the stage, and in the audience. Since its founding in 1973, COT has grown from a grassroots community-based company to a national leader in an increasingly vibrant, diverse, and forward-looking art form. COT has staged over 150 operas, including 78 Chicago premieres and 45 operas by American composers. COT is led by Stefan Edlis and Gael Neeson General Director Ashley Magnus and Elizabeth Morse and Genius Music Director Lidiya Yankovskaya, who is one of only two women to hold the title of music director at a multimillion-dollar opera company in the United States.
Chicago Opera Theater closes out its 2021-22 season with the World Premiere of Quamino's Map, April 23, 29, and May 1 at the Studebaker Theater in the Fine Arts Building, 410 S Michigan Ave. Quamino's Map sheds light on the post-Revolutionary War years when London was the unlikely refuge for thousands of Black Americans who fought for their liberty on the side of the British. Composed by acclaimed British composer Errollyn Wallen to a libretto by American playwright Deborah Brevoort, the opera is conducted by Jeri Lynne Johnson with stage direction by Kimille Howard and dramaturgy by Cori Ellison. It is 90 minutes long and sung in English with English surtitles.
For more information on Chicago Opera Theater productions, visit chicagooperatheater.org/