Chicago Opera Theater (COT) presents “Il Pigmalione & Rita,” a double-bill that spans the life and career of one of opera’s premier bel canto composers, Gaetano Donizetti. The two works will be woven together to create a cohesive theatrical production featuring the talents of Javier Abreu(Pigmalione/Beppe), Angela Mortellaro (Galatea/Rita) and Keith Phares (Gasparo). Donizetti’s first work and one of his last are presented together as an exploration of love, fantasy and the blurry lines between them. The double bill is conducted by Francesco Milioto, directed by Amy Hutchison with movement by physical theater expert Adrian Danzig. The opening night and main press performance will take place on Saturday, April 14 at 7:30 p.m. at the historic Studebaker Theater (410 S. Michigan). Additional performances will take place on Friday, April 20 at 7:30 p.m. and Sunday, April 22 at 3 p.m.
“For our third and final production of the 2017/2018 season, COT brings two contrasting and complimentary Donizetti works to Chicago for the first time,” remarked General Director Douglas R. Clayton. “The two works have been theatrically combined to flow seamlessly together and highlight the progression of Donizetti’s musical artistry and his thoughts on themes of love and romance throughout his compositional career.”
“Il Pigmalione” tells the classic story from Ovid’s “Metamorphoses” that would go on to inspire George Bernard Shaw and the musical duo of Lerner and Loewe. Devoted artist Pigmalione, shuttered in his studio, toils away to create his vision of ideal beauty: Galatea. Smitten with his own work, his prayers for true love are answered when she’s brought to life. Puerto Rican tenor Javier Abreu sings an extensive solo performance as Pigmalione until he is joined by soprano Angela Mortellaro when she comes to life as Galatea.
During the intermission, Abreu and Mortellaro’s characters age and develop through a theatrical entre’acte, where Galatea becomes the titular “Rita” of the second opera, a self-reliant café owner on the Italian coast, and Pigmalione is revealed to be the sensitive artistic side of Beppe, Rita’s overworked husband, channeling a bumbling Roberto Benigni. In the second comedic opera, a love triangle plunges Rita and Beppe into chaos when her first husband, Gasparo (sung by baritone Keith Phares), returns to town after having been presumed dead for years. In Gasparo’s return, Beppe sees an opportunity to escape his exhausting situation, and so the two men face off to determine who has to stay and who gets to leave. Meanwhile Rita herself ponders if her life and her business are better off with either of the two men at all.
“My vision for this production was to compose a theatrical Italian love letter that pays tribute to bel canto, and Donizetti’s illustrious contributions to the art form,” said Director Amy Hutchison. “Set in 1940’s Italy, the production highlights the beauty of Donizetti’s music, promising a lighthearted evening of romance and comedy.”
The cast stars Javier Abreu as Pigmalione/Beppe, Angela Mortellaro as Galatea/Rita, Keith Phares as Gasparo, Sean Garrat, Alexander Knapp as well as Chicago Opera Theater Young Artists Patrick Shelton, Lani Stait, Samuel Weiser and Alexandra Martinez-Turano as Supernumeraries.
Saturday, April 14 at 7:30 p.m.
Friday, April 20 at 7:30 p.m.
Sunday, April 22 at 3 p.m.
Tickets for “Il Pigmalione & Rita” ($45 - $145) can be purchased by calling 312.704.8414 or by visiting chicagooperatheater.org.
Chicago Opera Theater will also host its Annual Gala and End of the Season Celebration Sunday, April 22 at 5:30pm at the Blackstone Hotel (636 S. Michigan), immediately following the final performance of “Il Pigmalione & Rita.” Guests will enjoy a cocktail reception in the Art Hall, dinner in the Crystal Ballroom, performances by COT Young Artists, singers from the 2018/2019 season, and an appearance by premiere physical comedy performer Adrian Danzig. The gala will feature Emmy Award-winning TV and radio personality Paul Lisnek as Master of Ceremonies. Chicago Opera Theater will be honoring Immediate Past President Henry Fogel for his decades of service and accomplishments in the Chicago music community and extraordinary leadership with Chicago Opera Theater, the Chicago Symphony Orchestra and the League of American Orchestras. Gala dinner tickets are available now at chicagooperatheater.org.
The double bill of “Il Pigmalione” and “Rita” is the final production of Chicago Opera Theater’s 2017-2018 season. For details on COT’s 2018-2019 season visit chicagooperatheater.org.
Creative Team for “Il Pigmalione & Rita”
Music: Gaetano Donizetti
Conductor: Francesca Milioto
Director: Amy Hutchison
Physical Theatre Advisor: Adrian Danzig
Performance dates: Saturday, April 14 (7:30 p.m.); Friday, April 20 (7:30 p.m.); Sunday, April 22, 2018 (3 p.m.)
Location: Studebaker Theater (410 S. Michigan)
About Gaetano Donizetti
Gaetano Maria Donizetti was an Italian composer, known for his contributions to the bel canto style of opera during the early-mid 1800s. His influence, and that of contemporaries like Rossini and Bellini, can be seen through the history of music and opera.
Donizetti was born in Bergamo, Italy, and tutored under composer Simon Mayr. Mayr offered Donizetti a full scholarship at his school, training the young composer before placing him at the Bologna Academy. It was there that his first one-act opera, “Il Pigmalione,” was written when Donizetti was nineteen. He would go on to write nearly 70 operas, the majority of which were produced and presented in Naples. He was a resident composer at the Teatro di San Carlo before moving to Paris with the promise of greater prestige. He passed away from illness in April 1848.
About Francesco Milioto
Francesco Milioto is forging a unique career as a versatile interpreter of both the orchestral and operatic repertoire. Milioto is excited to conduct his sixth production with Chicago Opera Theater, leading a pair of rarely performed Donizetti one acts. He is fresh off of a successful debut with the Arizona Opera where he conducted “The Barber of Seville,” and also returned to the Illinois Philharmonic. This season marked his fifth at Lyric Opera of Chicago as a cover conductor where he worked on productions of “Rigoletto” and “The Pearl Fishers.” Next season will see his debut at Lyric Opera of Chicago, conducting a performance of “Cendrillon.”
About Amy Hutchison
Amy Hutchison has championed American opera throughout her career. She has served on the directing staffs of Lyric Opera of Chicago and Houston Grand Opera and on the faculty of The Bienen School of Music at Northwestern University from 2013-2017.
For Chicago Fringe Opera, Hutchison recently helmed a compelling production of “As One” by Laura Kaminsky, Mark Cambpell and Kimberly Reed. In 2016, she directed the Chicago premiere of Missy Mazzoli’s “Song from the Uproar: The Lives and Deaths of Isabelle Eberhardt.” Hutchison frequently collaborates with South Shore Opera Company, where her work includes Jonathan Stinson’s “The March: A Civil Rights Opera Project,” Samuel Coleridge-Taylor’s “Dream Lovers and African Romances” and William Grant Still’s epic masterwork “Troubled Island,” named the number one classical music event of 2013 by the Chicago Sun-Times.
Beyond Chicago, Hutchison’s work includes William Bolcom’s “A View from the Bridge” (Teatro dell'Opera di Roma, Washington National Opera and Portland Opera); the Maurice Sendak production of “Hänsel und Gretel” (Opernhaus Zürich, Canada, San Diego, Indianapolis and televised for PBS: “Live from the Lincoln Center”); and as Associate Director on the international production of “Porgy and Bess” (Milan’s Teatro alla Scala, L’Opéra National de Paris, Teatro La Fenice, and more).
About Adrian Danzig
Adrian Danzig is the Founder and Creative Director of 500 Clown. Adrian regularly performs the shows in the 500 Clown touring repertoire: “500 Clown Macbeth,” “500 Clown Frankenstein,” “500 Clown Christmas,” and “500 Clown Trapped”. He has led workshops in physical theater all around the country and internationally for the past 10 years. He has performed in shows at The Goodman, The Second City, Steppenwolf Studio, Berkeley Rep, Brooklyn Academy of Music, The Public Theater, The Court Theatre and with Shakespeare & Company and Lookingglass. He has performed his solo works at The Kitchen, P.S. 122, The Ontological Hysteric Theater and Soho Rep. He was an early Neo-futurist (1990) and a founding member of Redmoon Theater, Hubinspoke Theater and is the founding Producing Artistic Director of 500 Clown. He graduated from NYC’s High School of Performing Arts, received his BA from Oberlin College in Government and his MFA from the School of The Art Institute of Chicago in Performance. He has studied clown with Ctibor Turba, Philippe Gaulier, Ronlin Foreman, Dominique Jando, Els Comediants, David Shiner, Avner the Eccentric and was a clown with Big Apple Circus Clown Care for 7 years. He is very slowly writing a book on physical theater with support from the Raven Foundation.
About Chicago Opera Theater
Chicago Opera Theater (COT) is a nationally recognized opera company based in Chicago, now in its 45th season. COT expands the tradition of opera as a living art form, with an emphasis on Chicago premieres, including new contemporary operas for a 21st century audience.
In addition to its programmed mainstage season, COT is devoted to the development and production of new opera in the United States through the Vanguard Initiative, launched in the Spring of 2018. The Vanguard Initiative mentors emerging opera composers, invests time and talent in new opera at various stages of the creative process and presents the Living Opera Series to showcase new and developing work.
Since its founding in 1973 by Alan Stone, COT has staged more than 125 operas, including 66 Chicago premieres and 36 operas by American composers.
COT is led by Stefan Edlis and Gael Neeson General Director Douglas R. Clayton and Orli and Bill Staley Music Director Lidiya Yankovskaya. As of fall 2017, Maestro Yankovskaya is the only woman with the title Music Director at any of the top 50 opera companies in the United States. COT currently performs at the Studebaker Theater (Michigan & Congress) and the Harris Theater for Music & Dance (Michigan & Randolph).
For more information on the Chicago Opera Theater and its programs please visit chicagooperatheater.org.
our most recent top picks
Blue Man Group ★★★