Chicago Opera Theater Reveals its 2018/2019 Season and Vanguard Initiative

Iolanta starring Katherine Weber  (photo by Joe Mazza)

Chicago Opera Theater announced its 2018/2019 season on Wednesday, February 28 with an evening of performances at the Pritzker Pavilion Stage in Millennium Park, featuring excerpts from the operas selected for the year.  The evening was hosted by General Director, Douglas Clayton and Music Director, Lidiya Yankovskaya.


“Iolanta” (November 10, 15, 18, 2018; Studebaker Theater, 410 S. Michigan)

“Iolanta” is the last opera written by Pyotr Tchaikovsky and his brother, Modest Tchaikovsky.  “We are seeking to bring pieces (of opera) in the canon that have never been performed in Chicago,” said Yankovskaya.  Chicago soprano, Katherine Weber, in the title role, is a blind woman who has been completely sheltered by her father and does not realize that she is disabled.  She does realize that there is life beyond what she knows and this opera has been described as a “lush and beautifully crafted coming-of-age fairytale about love in all its forms.”  Weber performed Iolanta’s Arioso.

“The Scarlet Ibis” (February 16, 21, 24, 2019; Studebaker Theater, 410 S. Michigan)

“The Scarlet Ibis” tells the story of Doodle, a young boy born physically disabled and his relationship with his Brother in North Carolina against the backdrop of World War I.  Adapted from the 1960 short story by James Hurst, this is the first major production of the work.  It will feature Chicago mezzo-soprano Annie Rosen as Brother and countertenor Jordan Rutter as Doodle.  Rosen and countertenor Carl Alexander performed two pieces from the opera at the reveal:  Doodle Bird Aria and Scene 11 [Doodle/Brother Duet, incl. Peacock Aria].


“Moby Dick” (April 25, 28, 2019; Harris Theater, 205 E. Randolph)

“Moby Dick” is a large scale grand opera co-produced by COT, Utah Opera, Pittsburgh Opera, San Jose Opera and Gran Teatre del Liceu and features a cast of 40 men.  It tells Herman Melville’s American fable about Captain Ahab, the crew of the Pequod and the white whale.   Chicago heldentenor Tom Studebaker will star as Captain Ahab.  Studenbaker performed a piece from “Billy Budd,” another Melville novel.  2019 will mark the 200th anniversary of Melville’s birth and the COT anticipates incorporating the opera with other artistic celebrations of the writer.


In addition to the announcement of the upcoming season, COT further announced the new Vanguard Initiative, their three-pronged approach to the development of new opera.  First, COT will mentor emerging opera composers by identifying accomplished artists ready to hone the specific skillset required to compose quality opera and invite them into the company for a period of two years.  The first emerging opera composer in residence will be Chicago composer Stacy Garrop, whose work has been commissioned and performed by Kronos Quartet and Carnegie Hall, Boston Choral Ensemble, Fifth House Ensemble, Grant Park Music Festival, among others.  Second, COT will invest in new pieces at various stages of the creative process, including commissions, both internally and through partnerships with other leading developers of new work.  Finally, The Living Opera Series will present new operas by living composers for the Chicago community, which will include dialogues with the creators themselves and smaller-style events throughout the year.  The first project under the Vanguard Initiative will be an orchestral workshop of “The Life and Death(s) of Alan Turing” by Justine Chen, libretto by David Simpatico in the spring of 2019.


Perhaps the most exciting reveal of the evening is COT’s commitment to diversity.  It is no coincidence that the first composer in residence and the composer of the first work being developed under the Vanguard Initiative are both women.  Two of the three operas announced for next season are directed by women.  Yankovskaya is the only female music director in the top 50 opera companies.  Two of the three operas deal with stories of disabled characters.  The Chicago Opera Theater is celebrating its 46th year in 2018/2019 and its commitment to the exploration of underrepresented voices should ensure that it will be around for another 46 years.


Subscriptions to Chicago Opera Theater’s 2018/2019 Season are now on sale.  Subscriptions are priced from $95-$435 and can be purchased by called 312-704-8414 or via 

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