Chicago Opera Theater plans adventurous 2013 season of Glass, Piazzolla and Verdi

Tue Apr 03, 2012 at 11:39 pm

By Lawrence A. Johnson

Astor Piazzolla’s “Maria de Buenos Aires” will be presented in April 2013 by Chicago Opera Theater. Photo: Keith Ian Polakoff /Long Beach Opera

Philip Glass opera returns to Chicago after a long absence, along with Piazzolla’s only stage work and rarely performed Verdi in Chicago Opera Theater’s venturesome 2013 season. Also, for the first time in over a decade, COT’s three productions will be spread throughout the year in winter, spring and fall.

Chicago Opera Theater’s 2013 lineup, the first largely planned by incoming general director Andreas Mitisek, will open February 23 with the Chicago premiere of Philip Glass’s The Fall of the House of Usher. The new production of Glass’s 1987 setting of Edgar Allen Poe’s tale will mark the first local opera-house staging of any of the composer’s works since COT’s Akhnaten in 1999. (The Goodman Theatre presented Glass’s Galileo Galilei in 2002.) Ken Cazan, who helmed COT’s 2004 production of A Death in Venice, will direct this co-production with Mitisek’s other company, Long Beach Opera.

“My theme is the love of power and the power of love,” said Mitisek in a phone interview about the works chosen for his first COT season.

“The operas we do should not be just entertainment,” he added. “They should tell us something about ourselves, about who we are and what we do.” He notes that The Fall of the House of Usher combines “two iconic American figures,” Edgar Allen Poe and Phillip Glass with its theme of “how we choose to view reality.”

Astor Piazzolla’s “tango operita” Maria de Buenos Aires will follow, opening April 20. The provocative, politically charged staging, presented in Long Beach in January 2011, updates the tale to 1976-1983, the period of Argentina’s “Dirty War” when thousands disappeared. Mitisek conceived this production, and, as in Long Beach, will both conduct and direct.

“Piazzolla was a revolutionary in the truest sense,” says Mitisek. “He took the tango off the dance floor and gave it a new harmonic style and raw energy,” qualities manifest in what Mitisek promises will be a “thought-provoking” production.

COT’s season will close with Verdi’s Giovanna d’Arco (Joan of Arc). This early Verdi work, which opens September 14, will be the final installment in COT’s “People’s Opera” initiative in which audience members select an opera to be performed.

Casting is to be announced and all productions will take place at the Harris Theater in Millennium Park.

Beyond the season’s repertoire, Mitisek quickly followed through on his promise to spread out COT’s three productions, rather than cramming them into a short spring period after the Lyric Opera season is over.

“There’s always something going on in Chicago,” he said. “It is important to increase our presence throughout the year.” He also noted that on a practical basis doing two or three productions in the spring makes for a very tight rehearsal schedule.

The company’s 2012 season opens April 14 with Shostakovich’s Moscow, Cheryomushki, followed by Handel’s Teseo April 21 and Mozart’s The Magic Flute September 15.

Subscriptions are now on sale for Chicago Opera Theater’s 2013 season. Renewing subscribers can take advantage of early-bird pricing through July 31.  New subscribers receive 50% off in most sections and single tickets go on sale in January. Call 312-704-8414 or go to

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