A modern classic. A world premiere from a Pulitzer Prize-winning duo. And a pair of rarely heard bel canto operas. They will all be part of the 2017-2018 season of Chicago Opera Theater (COT), announced Tuesday by Andreas Mitisek (who recently stepped down as the company’s artistic director, but will continue to collaborate with it), and Douglas Clayton, its executive director. All the productions will be staged at the beautifully restored Studebaker Theater in the Fine Arts Building at 410 S. Michigan where Stewart Copeland’s opera, “The Invention of Morel,” looked so beautiful earlier this season.
In prepared remarks, Clayton said: “As we embark on our on our 44th season at COT, we looked to curate a season that combines new and rarely-performed works that surprise and challenge – from a thrilling, mysterious world-premiere to a double-bill that spans the career of a great composer.”
“This upcoming season is created in collaboration between Doug and myself, selecting productions that both celebrate and expand the boundaries of the opera experience,” said Mitisek, “I look forward to returning to COT as guest director for ‘The Consul’ to kick off another groundbreaking season here at COT under my successor’s leadership.”
Here is a closer look at the season:
“The Consul” (Nov. 4, 10 and 12, 2017): Co-produced by Long Beach Opera, this 1950 opera with music and libretto by Gian Carlo Menotti will star soprano Patricia Racette (previously seen in COT’s “La Voix Humaine”), with Kristof Van Grysperre conducting and Andreas Mitisek directing. Making her role debut as Magda in this new interpretation of a widely known but now very timely work, Racette plays a woman in danger who is desperately seeking a visa to flee to safety. As the walls close in around her, she must plead for an audience with the consul before it’s too late.
“Elizabeth Cree” (Feb. 10, 16 and 18, 2018): A world premiere co-production with Opera Philadelphia and Hackney Empire, this opera, based on Peter Ackyoyd’s novel, “The Trial of Elizabeth Cree,” has been composed by Kevin Puts, with a libretto by Mark Campbell. David Schweizer will direct, with the conductor to be announced. Fact and fiction blur in “Elizabeth Cree,” a suspenseful tale set against the gas-lit backdrop of Victorian London. On trial for her husband’s murder, Elizabeth weaves the story of her days in an English music hall and the grisly slayings surrounding it.
“Il Pigmalione” & “Rita” (April 14, 20 and 22, 2018): Composer: Gaetano Donizetti’s “Il Pigmalione,” (with librettist unknown) and “Rita” (with libretto by Gustave Vaëz), will be conducted by Francesco Milioto and directed by Amy Hutchison. This double bill features Donizetti’s first work paired with one of his last, spanning the life and career of opera’s premiere bel canto composer. Presented together “as an exploration of love, fantasy, and the blurry lines between them,” the operas will be framed in the world of quintessential Italian cinema. (Donizetti never lived to see either work performed.)