Yankovskaya to leave COT; Chicago Ensemble’s long run comes to a close

Thu Oct 26, 2023 at 2:14 pm

By Lawrence A. Johnson

Lidiya Yankovskaya. Photo: Todd Rosenberg

Conductor Lidiya Yankovskaya will be departing Chicago Opera Theater after serving as music director for seven seasons, the company announced this week. Her final podium appearance will be leading performances of Shostakovich’s The Nose in December.

“I have had the opportunity to collaborate with Lidiya for almost ten years and she is—without a doubt—one of the most exciting conductors working today,” said COT general director Lawrence Edelson, in a released statement. “The passion she brings to the podium is contagious and her musical gifts are without question, so it should come as no surprise that she has become in great demand around the globe….We are excited to see her continue to enrich the operatic landscape, and are exploring opportunities to welcome her back as a guest conductor in future seasons.”

“It was a privilege to be part of steering Chicago Opera Theater through this pivotal time for both the company and the industry at large,” said Yankovskaya. “I am very proud that we have deepened COT’s commitment to opera as a living art form by introducing more than 25 works to Chicago audiences for the first time, including nearly a dozen world premieres, while continually reaching new artistic heights.”

The company opened its 50th anniversary season earlier this month with a one-night performance of David T. Little’s Soldier Songs. Following The Nose, COT will present Huang Ruo’s Book of Mountains and Seas in January. cot.org

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Gerald Rizzer launched The Chicago Ensemble in 1978.

The Chicago Ensemble is no more.

Artistic director and pianist Gerald Rizzer recently announced that he will be shuttering Chicago’s most adventurous chamber music series after 45 seasons.

Rizzer was diagnosed with macular degeneration a few years ago and, while his vision has not significantly worsened as yet, he said it has now become too difficult to read scores and coordinate with colleagues in live performance.

On the occasion of TCE’s 40th anniversary in 2017, Rizzer talked about the origins of Chicago’s longest-running chamber series. “The mixed ensemble idea was partly selfish, so I could play the repertory I wanted to play,” he said. “And I also thought that more variety would be more appealing for the audience.”

A gradual loss of vision is inevitable as there is no cure for the dry macular degeneration Rizzer suffers from. Still the musician remains optimistic and says he plans to continue performing and composing for as long as his condition allows. 

Rizzer’s first event will be a solo recital in early 2024—as soon, he says, as he can get enough solo repertoire prepared and memorized so he can perform them without scores.

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