American opera to shine at COT with Mellon grant

Wed Aug 22, 2012 at 5:33 pm

By Lawrence A. Johnson

Philip Glass’s “The Fall of the House of Usher” will be the first of three American operas Chicago Opera Theater will present over the next three seasons.

American opera has been missing in action on local stages in recent seasons, but Chicago Opera Theater is coming to the rescue.

The Andrew W. Mellon Foundation has awarded a $500,000 grant to COT to support a three-year project of presenting American works. This will include the world premiere of a newly commissioned opera.

The first homegrown work, Philip Glass’s The Fall of the House of Usher, will be presented next February. The Mellon funds will also support two other productions of American operas in 2014 and 2015.

“I am thrilled to begin my tenure here at COT with this continued vote of confidence from The Mellon Foundation,” said new general director Andreas Mitisek in a statement released by the company. “We see this as a validation of Chicago Opera Theater’s adventuresome work, and the importance our company has on both the national stage and in Chicago’s vast cultural landscape.”

In addition to funding three American opera productions through 2015, $150,000 of the Mellon grant will be used to create a reserve fund for COT, a first in the company’s history, as part of Mitisek’s long-range plan to stabilize its finances.

“The creation of a cash reserve fund is an essential ingredient in putting COT on firm financial ground as we begin our next phase with Andreas at the helm,” said Gregory O’Leary, COT board president.

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