Wednesday, April 16, 2014

Visual History

With our gala a little over a week away, everyone in the COT office is busy getting ready for the celebration. We're making calls, editing the program, rehearsing the entertainment, putting together presentations, and only occasionally getting distracted by the idea of a vacation in the U.S. Virgin Islands (one of our auction items!). 

One of the more exciting things we're doing in preparation for the gala is going through the archives. We're digitizing old production photos, playbills, and past event photos. It's a pretty big job- we have over 7000 35mm slides alone! 

In the digging through drawers and scanning in stacks of programs, we've come across some really phenomenal stuff. It's fascinating to go through the 40 years of archives. There's something to get excited about whether you're a history buff, a theater enthusiast, a typography nerd, or just love crazy costumes.  

Program from The Marriage of Figaro (1977) / Don Pascale, our first show at the Athenaeum (1978) / Our founder Alan Stone at one of our Bal Masques / Another Bal Masque/ Our very first program! Cosi Fan Tutte (1974) / Where the Wild Things Are (1991) / A program from our 10th Anniversary Season (1984) / Viaggio (2004) / Bal Masque. These costumes were seriously the best.

For more amazing photos, make sure you're following our Facebook page!  We're posting a few times a day this month with archival photos.

 Do you have your tickets yet for our 2014 Gala? It's not too late!

Thursday, April 10, 2014

40th Anniversary Gala

Chicago Opera Theater has enjoyed an incredible 4 decades of bringing new and rare opera to the Windy City, and we want you to celebrate with us!

 We love to celebrate every year with our COT Family, but this year is a little different because we are turning the big 4-0!

You're invited to join us Thursday, April 24th at Chicago’s City Winery for an unforgettable evening! From the moment the evening begins, you’ll be enchanted by the City Winery’s beautiful rustic interior and exposed wooden beams, or step out to the outside balcony where your glass of chardonnay catches the evening sun. Chat with old friends and make new ones as you enjoy a wonderful gourmet dinner before you sit back and let us delight you with a stunning live performance by rising opera stars! Our repertoire this year is a tribute to the past 40 years- a new generation of opera singers will be performing songs from COT productions from 1974 to today (we have 119 productions to choose from!). 

From our 2013 Gala!

As the night goes on, you can try your luck and enter the raffle to win a gorgeous Tiffany diamond-cluster ring, or participate in the live auction and win a week stay in a private villa in the U.S. Virgin Islands or a role in our upcoming production of Macbeth.
Join us for a festive night where we remember the past, enjoy the present, and toast to the future of Chicago Opera Theater!

Visit our website here to order your tickets online!

Have questions or want to order your gala tickets over the phone? Call Cornelius Bouknight at 312.704.8420 x214 or by email at

Missed our last post about History Month?

Wednesday, April 2, 2014

History Month

From now until our 40th Anniversary Gala, we're focusing on our story. Forty years is quite the anniversary, and we're really excited to have been a part of the wonderful eclectic experimental mix that is Chicago opera for the past four decades.

How We Began:

Our first show! Cosi fan tutte, 1974.
Our little opera company was founded in 1974; Nixon was resigning, "Band On The Run" was a number one hit, the Post-It Note was invented, and Chicago Opera Theater began our first season with Mozart's Così fan tutte (which we have staged three more times since). Two years later, Artistic Director Alan Stone made the risky decision to stage an American opera by Virgil Thompson and Gertrude Stein. The Mother of Us All sold out and Chicago Opera Theater has since been proud to bring new and rare works to the Windy City.

What We've Become:

Our Pool opera! Orpheus & Euridice, 2013
We've held fast to the idea of Opera Less Ordinary; having produced more than 35 Chicago premieres and over 24 American operas. Under the guidance of General Director Brian Dickie from 2000 to 2012, we became a nationally recognized opera company and established COT as an advocate for 17th, 18th, and 20th century works. In 2012, Andreas Mitisek became our General Director and brought with him a renewed passion for new and rare works, presented beautifully not only on stages but in swimming pools, parking garages, and warehouses.

How We're Celebrating:

Our most recent show! Queenie Pie, 2014

Our 2014 season is called "Illusions/Delusions",
and we're describing it as "a diverse and provocative journey into how we all create our own realities". So far, we've been excited to bring to Chicago Duke Ellington's jazz opera Queenie Pie, and are looking ahead to our Double Bill show Viktor Ullmann/ Carl Orff's The Emperor of Atlantis/ The Clever One, and our fall show (and a Chicago premiere) Ernest Bloch's Macbeth.

Our Gala is Thursday, 24 April at City Winery, and we couldn't think of a better way to celebrate forty years of fantastic opera than with gourmet food, wine tastings, and lively entertainment.

And Finally:

It is impossible to look back without remembering the wonderful patrons and supporters we've had since the beginning. Without you, the ones who fill our theaters and bring along a hunger for the new and innovative, who invite your friends to shows and support us with donations, these past forty years would not have been possible. So, we thank you, friends, and as we remember our history, we look ahead to our exciting future.

Tuesday, October 15, 2013

The Myth Behind the FREE Opera in a Pool!

"Is that why we are taught myths, so that later on when we need them, we can tell our own stories through them?" -Ricky Ian Gordon

The legend of love and loss that is Orpheus and Euridice has played muse to artists for centuries. American composer Ricky Ian Gordon found solace in this tale, which led him to create Orpheus & Euridice. For Gordon, this journey evokes the question, "Why myths?" Escape with the myth that helped Gordon tell his own story.
Orpheus and Eurydice. 
Painting from 1806
by C. G. Kratzenstein-Stub, 
Ny Carlsberg Glyptotek, Copenhagen.
Orpheus, the son of Apollo and the muse Calliope, was a musician and poet whose lyrical melodies could tame wild animals, cause trees and rocks to dance, and divert rivers from their course. Orpheus loved Euridice passionately, and on their wedding day he played joyful songs as she danced through the meadow.
But one fateful day, a satyr pursued Euridice. Fleeing, she fell into a nest of vipers, was bit on the heel, and quickly died. When Orpheus discovered his beloved, he was so overcome with grief that he played a song so mournful that all the nymphs and gods wept. With their advice, Orpheus journeyed to the Underworld to rescue her.
He charmed the heart of Hades with his music and was allowed to return with her to Earth as long as he didn’t look back along the way. As he neared Earth he was anxious to reassure himself Euridice was still behind him, but when he turned back, she vanished into the Underworld. His pleas to the Ferryman on the River Styx to return him back to the Underworld went unheeded, and he was left to mourn the loss of his love a second time.
Upon his return, Orpheus, unable to recover from his grief, paid no attention to the Thracian women. This angered them and they threw their spears, tore him in pieces, and tossed his head and his lyre into the Hebrus River. Jupiter threw his lute into the stars while Orpheus’s soul entered the Underworld where he was finally reunited with his love, Euridice.

Friday, February 1, 2013

Previously in California...

Hello, Chicago Opera Theater Fans!

This is Terry Harper, your new Director of Production for COT. I am writing you today to tell you about my most recent trip to Long Beach California to watch the last couple of dress rehearsals of our co-production of The Fall of the House of Usher, with Long Beach Opera.

There is always time to pose for a publicity shot! 

First I would like to tell you why opera companies enter into co-productions. These agreements allow each company to be able to present a new production for a fraction of the cost of going it alone. The Usher agreement is between two companies, so both of those companies share the costs of building the scenery, building the costumes, and building the props. After it's all said and done, each company gets the opportunity to showcase the piece as a brand new production at half the cost. I have been a part of co-productions in the past that have had as many as 10 different companies involved. In this case, each company gets a multi-million dollar production for one tenth the price.

A slight addition to this agreement with Long Beach Opera and one of the advantages of having a General Director that leads both companies is that we have cast the same principle singers in both productions. A couple weeks after the show closes in California, all of the same singers will come to Chicago to perform in our production here. This allows for much less hotel nights to pay for, much less perdium, and much less rehearsal time. After all, as many of you know, TIME IS MONEY!

Taking a moment after Tech Rehearsal
One of the other cool things that will save us money is that we are using the same Lighting Designer here in Chicago, an old and dear friend of mine, David Jacques. David has planned his design so that we will hang the exact same lighting plot, and use the exact same lighting cues. We will basically load the same computer show file into our lighting computer at the Harris Theater. This will greatly reduce VERY EXPENSIVE light time that we would normally have to do if we were starting from scratch. Less time in the theater means MONEY SAVED! I have often compared time in the theater to .... THE MOST EXPENSIVE REHEARSAL HALL IN THE WORLD!

Now, back to the whole reason I am writing this blog... The reason was worth the money to send me to Long Beach to see this process, is to save EVEN MORE MONEY! I was able to watch the rehearsals in Long Beach and see any possible problems that it may cause in our theater in Chicago. I have brought back valuable information and pictures/vide to our Stage Manager, our Wardrobe Supervisor, our Wig/makeup Supervisor, and any information that our front of house staff needs to be prepared for. Any information that can save us money in Chicago will be very helpful. In closing, I would like to say that the production looks great, and I can't wait to get it our stage at the Harris and make it our own.

I am excited to see you at the Opera and share this production with you!

Terry Harper
Director of Production
Chicago Opera Theater

Wednesday, November 21, 2012

Thanks for Giving!

Can you believe that Thanksgiving is tomorrow?!?! We can’t either.

This time of year gives us all an opportunity to take a moment and think about all the things we are thankful for. At COT we are thankful for so much! We are so honored to have an amazing staff, an outstandingly supportive board, and such wonderfully talented artists of all sorts who contribute to our art form both on and off the stage. But most importantly we are thankful for those people who, like you, who support COT by giving a donation and buying a ticket or subscription. It is because of your support in our mission that we are able to do what we do.When you give to COT you become part of a community that is committed to bringing innovative, inspiring, and rarely seen opera as well as dynamic arts education and artist training to Chicago.

Your gifts and support continue to both humble and inspire the COT staff. The generous contributions that you make account for over half of what it takes for COT to keep bringing Chicago engaging and adventurous opera. That is why our hearts are full of gratitude this Thanksgiving, because without your belief in and active participation with COT, we could not accomplish half of what we do.

It takes a lot of people to make COT what it is. Consider, for example, a single costume like Emily Hindrichs’ (our recent Queen of the Night). That beautiful piece began merely as an idea in the mind of costume designer Gregory Gale. Using Gregory’s renderings, COT’s former Director of Production Kurt Howard coordinates with Costume Design Assistant Janice Pytel to source the necessary fabrics and various other components from vendors all across the country, which were then skillfully assembled by two different costume shops – Steppenwolf’s costume shop in Chicago and Jeff Fender Studios in New York City. Once the gown is made it needs to be fitted by drapers, kept maintained by COT’s Wardrobe Supervisor Jay Sangster, regularly dry cleaned by Cinderella Cleaners in the Loop, and after the production closes, carefully stored with the rest of the costumes in COT’s warehouse. THIS is the scope of the kind of impact your gift makes for all the passionate members of the COT team.

Giving a donation does not only go to our productions but it helps us make an impact in the community that we all share. For example, it costs COT approximately $300 for one child to participate in our Opera for All programs. This may not seem like much until you consider that this year your generosity will allow over five hundred children to benefit from our program at one of seven Chicagoland elementary schools. Our gratitude is boundless.

Our Board President, Greg O’Leary, gives to COT not just because he is our Board President , but because he sees that “COT brings world class opera and enhances Chicago’s Performing Arts Landscape.” When we spoke to him, on what he would want to say to our loyal patrons this holiday he wanted all of you to know that your impact is apparent on both a large and small scale:

“Thanks to all of our donors, subscribers and single ticket buyers. You are all helping to bring innovative opera to Chicago and without you that would not happen. You are making an impact in making Chicago a place to enjoy. 
Thank you.”  

So this Thanksgiving, enjoy the time you have with all of your friends and family and please know that COT is thankful for your sincere investment in our mission and belief in opera that is less ordinary. 

Want to become part of the community that supports COT's mission? 
Click Here for details!

Tuesday, November 20, 2012

“Deep Into Darkness Peering”
Our first event for our 2013 season and a first for one of our staff members!

Hey all! This is Jane, Artistic Coordinator at COT. Before, during, and after the season I look after all of
our artists (hotels, flights, schedules, etc), but in the off-season I'm putting together outreach events.

“Deep into Darkness  Peering” was not only the first event for the 2013 COT season, but it was also my first event. Not like my first event that I’ve ever attended at COT, BUT the first event that I coordinated and made happen (with the help and support of the COT team).

There were many things I dreamed would happen – for example, hundreds of people waiting in line outside, or people crying for joy at the sheer beauty of the performances.  BUT, mostly I just wanted this event to go well.  When we started planning this event, the goal was to make it a quality event that was “worthy” to have at least 20 people attend.  And for those 20 people to leave the event feeling as if they had spent their time and money well and were entertained.  When the Chicagoist listed our event as one of the top three things to do that weekend I needed to deliver. So even though I dreamed of grandeur, I really just wanted people to show up.

And they did! I’m happy to report that our first event was a success! The side room at Uncommon Ground, where the event was held, definitely felt full. And judging by the looks on everyone’s face, they were entertained and happy to be there.  It was cool to see how many people were checking-in and tweeting about the event on their phones (including some of the performers)!  We had board members, friends of staff, staff, and walk-ins at our “Deep in the Darkness Peering…” night of Edgar Allan Poe and Philip Glass.  It was great to have our trio of former and current Young Artists work with our General Director Andreas, and watching the two actors from Lifeline Theatre perform was a treat – they got a big laugh when one of them donned a jester’s cap to play Fortunato in The Cask of Amontillado.  The fantastic menu of food and drink at Uncommon Ground rounded off the evening perfectly.  The atmosphere was warm, relaxed and engaging, which left me feeling that my hard work had paid off.

I am looking forward to the other events that are coming up for COT and excited to coordinate more.  So watch out Chicago, COT’s coming to your neighborhood soon!