Haymarket Opera Company debuts with Handel this weekend

Wed Sep 07, 2011 at 4:56 pm

By Lawrence A. Johnson

Detail of "Polyphemus Surprising Acis and Galatea," by Auguste Ottin, 1866.

The Lyric Opera of Chicago’s annual Stars of Lyric Opera concert in Millennium Park is the headline event this Saturday night. The Lyric’s newly married creative consultant Renée  Fleming joins a lineup of Lyric singers including James Morris, Matthew Polenzani, Anna Christy and Susanna Phillips. The evening will concentrate on French opera excerpts and also honor the victims of 9/11 on the tenth anniversary of the terror attacks. Emmanuel Villaume conducts the Lyric Opera Orchestra; the free concert begins 7:30 p.m. at the Pritzker Pavilion and will also be simulcast on WFMT.

Though less glitzy, a more intimate event takes place this weekend that could prove even more significant to the local music scene over the long haul. The Haymarket Opera Company, Chicago’s first period-instrument opera ensemble, will make its debut with a fully staged production of Handel’s Aci, Galatea e Polifemo. There will be two performances Friday and Saturday night at the Mayne Stage in Rogers Park.

“We hope to establish Chicago as a leading city for period opera,” says Craig Trompeter, the company’s general director. “Very few companies do period staging with costumes and stylized movement.”

Craig Trompeter

A regular presence on Chicago’s early music scene as cellist and viola de gambist, Trompeter decided to make his dream of doing historically informed 17th- and 18th-century opera a reality after talking with close friends last fall. “I’ve been an opera lover since I was ten years old,” says Trompeter.  “I have been producing operas in my head for thirty years!”

The name he chose for the company has a twofold inspiration—the obvious one being the Haymarket Theater in London where Handel produced his Italian operas. But there’s also the local Chicago connection of the violent Haymarket union riot in 1886. Trompeter incorporated the company, held a kick-off soirée, obtained his not-for-profit status in record time, and started raising money.

Members of the Haymarket Opera Company  include some high-profile veterans of Chicago’s early and Baroque music scene, including concertmaster Jeri-Lou Zike leading the 16-player orchestra and soprano Ellen Hargis. who will be stage director for this opening production. “We are so lucky to have Ellen in Chicago,” says Trompeter. “She is incredibly knowledgeable about Baroque gesture and stage aesthetics and knows how to communicate with actors and audiences.” Angela Young Smucker and Josefien Stoppelenburg will star as Galatea and Aci, with Benjamin LeClair as Polifemo.

With a modest budget of $38,000, this inaugural season will feature just two productions: this weekend’s Handel and Marc-Antoine Charpentier’s La Déscente d’Orphée aux Enfers in February, “a beautiful work” Trompeter says. Watch for more Handel on tap from Haymarket Opera Company in the fall of 2012.

The Haymarket Opera Company presents Handel’s Aci, Galatea e Polifemo 7:30 p.m. Friday and Saturday at the Mayne Stage, 1328 W. Morse in Rogers Park. Call 773-381-4554.

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2 Responses to “Haymarket Opera Company debuts with Handel this weekend”

  1. Posted Sep 08, 2011 at 8:41 pm by Kirin Nielsen

    Congratulations and a million best wishes to the Haymarket Opera Company! And special congratulations to Craig Trompeter and his colleagues in making a noble dream come to life.

  2. Posted Sep 18, 2011 at 10:19 pm by Roland Buck

    Please, please, please also perform Antoine Charpentier’s La Déscente d’Orphée aux Enfers in a second, more central location to make it more accessible to more people.

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