Chicago Opera Theater, Chicago’s other opera company, has another terrific production up (Beatrice et Benedict by Berlioz), audiences and critics love it–and yet they continue to struggle to fill the house. How can this be?
I find it hard to believe that this fine city can’t support a second opera company. COT focuses on modern and rarely produced productions from all eras of music; their offering is eclectic and always worth seeing. If you have any interest in music or performance, these productions are well worth seeing. And at only three productions per season (versus Lyric’s eight production a year), it’s not a tremendous investment of time or money.
COT’s 2007 season has been terrific. Each of the three productions have been well played, beautifully sung, extremely well acted (not always a given in opera), and I’ve been wowed time and again by the creative staging and light direction across the board. This year, everything seemed to be clicking for COT: Great productions, star talent (both rising and established, like Samuel Ramey in the recent production of Duke Bluebeard), and great critical reviews. And yet, I read on COT General Director Brian Dickie’s blog that “COT remains in a perilous state.” How can that be?!
Come on folks. All you in the Chicago area who love theater and music. You’ve already seen Wicked twice. Give COT a try. Their current production of B&B, running this Thursday and Saturday, is as great a way as any to get introduced to COT (or opera for that matter.) Here’s a musical adaptation of the Shakespeare play (a romantic comedy!), updated to the 1940s, sung in French with projected English supertitles, the music is ABSOLUTELY BEAUTIFUL, the staging is clever, the acting is strong, and lead Sandra Eddy has a captivating, rich voice. That old cliché “It’s a real crowd pleaser” definitely applies here.
Think of it as classical musical theater, if you must. If you’re at all curious, I strongly urge you to give this production a try. You’ll never have a better entrée into opera.