Chicago Opera Theater Announces Two Premieres and More for 2024-25 Season

Kicking off the season is the North American premiere of Ferdinando Paër's Leonora.

By: Apr. 30, 2024
Chicago Opera Theater Announces Two Premieres and More for 2024-25 Season
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Chicago Opera Theater has announced its 2024/25 Season, the first programmed by Edlis Neeson General Director Lawrence Edelson who was appointed in 2023.

The season builds on COT's commitment to produce important works never seen in Chicago before, alongside contemporary American operas by some of the country's most exciting living composers and librettists. Casts feature beloved Chicago singers alongside nationally and internationally acclaimed artists, many of whom will be making their Chicago debuts.

Kicking off the season is the North American premiere of Ferdinando Paër's Leonora, a classical Italian opera based on the same libretto that inspired Beethoven's later opera, Fidelio, which will run concurrently with Lyric Opera of Chicago's production of Fidelio, providing the rare opportunity to see both works side by side. Conducted by Dame Jane Glover, the cast includes the Chicago debut of tenor Edgardo Rocha, and the local directorial debut of Lawrence Edelson. Next, COT will celebrate the centennial of the death of influential Italian composer Giacomo Puccini with Bohème and Beyond - The Legacy of Puccini, a concert featuring arias and scenes from operas by Puccini as well as scenes from operas and musicals by composers who were inspired by his work. In the Spring, COT will present the concert premiere of the sixth full-length opera produced through its industry-leading Vanguard Initiative, Remedios Varios Para las Aflicciones del Cuerpo y el Espíritu (Various Remedies for the Afflictions of the Body and Spirit) by current Vanguard Composer Carlos R. Carrillo and librettist Stephanie Fleischmann. Closing the season is the world premiere of She Who Dared, the first opera professionally produced in the United States written by two Black female artists, member of the  Blacknificent Seven, composer Jasmine Arielle Barnes and librettist Deborah D.E.E.P. Mouton. This compelling, richly melodic new opera shines a spotlight on the women who challenged segregation before and alongside Rosa Parks. Director Timothy Douglas and conductor Michael Ellis Ingram both make their COT debuts leading this production.

This season we take audiences on a journey through a wide range of musical and theatrical storytelling,” said Edelson. “We open this Fall with a rarely performed, virtuosic Italian opera that not only influenced Beethoven, but that also tells a story about persecution, freedom and the power of love that is as powerful and relevant today as it was when it first premiered in 1804. Our December celebration of Puccini's legacy will feature a passion-filled program that includes Italian, German, Czech and Spanish opera alongside musical theater favorites. During the Spring, we get a taste of the future as we showcase work developed through our Vanguard Initiative, and we close the season with a world premiere by two of the most exciting artists writing for the opera stage today. Of course, there is no opera without great singers, and we are thrilled to welcome an incredible array of acclaimed local and International Artists to COT to bring all of these works to life!”

Subscriptions for COT's 2024/25 Season go on sale May 1 and single tickets, which range in price from $50-$150, will go on sale July 15. In addition to up to 20% off single ticket prices, those who subscribe before July 15 will receive free tickets to Bohème and Beyond - The Legacy of Puccini. Visit for more information on tickets and subscription options.

2024/25 Season

Leonora – North American Premiere

Oct.1 @ 7:30 PM, Oct. 4 @ 7:30 PM, & Oct. 6 @ 3:00 PM, 2024

Studebaker Theater at the Fine Arts Building, 410 S Michigan Ave.

The season will open in October with the North American premiere of Leonora by Ferdinando Paër with a libretto by Giuseppe Maria Foppa and Giacomo Cinti. Premiered in 1804, Leonora is one of four operas inspired by the 1798 libretto Léonore, ou L'amour conjugal by Jean Nicolas Bouilly. Based on a true story that took place in France in the 18th century, the plot revolves around Léonore who, disguised as a man named Fidélio, does everything she can to rescue her wrongfully imprisoned husband. Ludwig van Beethoven also adapted the story, likely influenced by Paër's work, in his opera Fidelio. Chicago audiences will have the extremely rare opportunity to see Paër and Beethoven's operas side by side, as Chicago Opera Theater's three performances of Leonora have been scheduled to complement the fall run of Fidelio at Lyric Opera of Chicago. COT and Lyric Opera will jointly present an evening with the artistic teams of both productions to explore the relationship between the two operas.

Chicago Opera Theater's production of Leonora will be the first fully staged production in the world to use the new critical edition of the score, recently prepared by Bärenreiter. Dame Jane Glover returns to COT to conduct the new production, which will be directed by Lawrence Edelson in his directorial debut with the company. Internationally acclaimed Uruguayan tenor Edgardo Rocha makes his COT debut as Florestano. Also making their COT debuts are Chicago-based singers soprano Vanessa Becerra as Leonora, tenor Ian Koziara as Don Pizzarro, and tenor Kameron Alston as Don Fernando, alongside soprano Keely Futterer as Marcellina, and baritone Joo Won Kang as Rocco. Chicago-based bass baritone Alex Soare returns to the COT stage as Giachino.

Bohème and Beyond - The Legacy of Puccini

December 7, 2024 @ 3:00 PM

DePaul University's Gannon Concert Hall, 2330 N Halsted St.

As companies around the globe celebrate the centennial of composer Giacomo Puccini's death in 2024, COT will present a unique concert that highlights how Puccini's work impacted the evolution of opera and musical theater. This concert will feature beloved arias and ensembles from Puccini's operas alongside a variety of scenes from operas and musicals by composers who were influenced by the great Italian composer, ranging from opera composers Franz Lehár, Leoš Janacek, Erich Wolfgang Korngold, Gian Carlo Menotti, and Daniel Catán, to musical theater composers Richard Rodgers, Stephen Sondheim, Andrew Lloyd Webber, and Jonathan Larson.  Featured artists will be announced this summer.

Remedios Varios Para las Aflicciones del Cuerpo y el Espíritu – Concert Premiere

April 5, 2025 @ 7:30 PM

Athenaeum Center for Thought and Culture, 2936 N Southport Ave.

The Spring brings a searing magic-realist fable to life in COT's sixth full-length opera developed and commissioned as part of its industry-leading Vanguard Initiative, Remedios Varios Para las Aflicciones del Cuerpo y el Espíritu (Various Remedies for the Afflictions of the Body and Spirit) by Vanguard composer Carlos R. Carrillo and librettist Stephanie Fleischmann. The performance will be enhanced with a festive gala event celebrating COT's longstanding commitment to fostering the next generation of operatic artists.

Set in a world devoid of color and inspired by the imagery of surrealist painter Remedios Varo, a lone tree holds within its rings the memory and possibility of music, poetry, and art. An herbalist struggles to heal a community afflicted by a siege of maladies, and a homesick boarding-school student dreams of escape. An ancient medicinal, written in Spanish (one of countless forbidden languages), just may hold the key — to transcendence, or complete obliteration. This searing new opera looks at a culture rapidly strip-mining itself of its riches and embraces the realm of the imagination as fertile ground for regeneration.  The concert premiere, which will be conducted by Eli Chen, is the culmination of composer Carlos R. Carrillo's residency with COT.

She Who Dared – World Premiere

June 3 @ 7:30 PM, June 6 @ 7:30 PM, & June 8 @ 3:00 PM, 2025

Studebaker Theater at the Fine Arts Building, 410 S Michigan Ave.

The season closes with the world premiere of She Who Dared, by Jasmine Arielle Barnes and Deborah D.E.E.P. Mouton. Commissioned by NYC based American Lyric Theater (ALT), this world premiere production builds on the collaborative relationship between COT and ALT that fostered the critically acclaimed world premiere of The Life and Death(s) of Alan Turing in March of 2023.  She Who Dared is, remarkably, the first opera to be professionally produced in the United States that has been written by two Black female artists. Everyone has heard of Rosa Parks, but she wasn't the first to refuse to move. She Who Dared recenters the spotlight on the courageous women who helped desegregate the Montgomery bus system in the 1950's leading to the momentous court case of Browder v. Gayle. The highly melodic score liberally references musical idioms of the time, including soul, gospel, and protest music. While often riotous and sometimes hilarious, She Who Dared demonstrates how everyday people have the power to challenge the systems around them and affect tangible change – if only they dare.

She Who Dared will feature COT debuts from sopranos Jasmine Habersham, Jacqueline Echols, and recent Ryan Opera Center graduate Lindsey Reynolds, and mezzo sopranos Chrystal E. Willams, Jazmine Olwalia, and Cierra Byrd alongside COT favorite, Chicago-based mezzo soprano Leah Dexter. Conductor Michael Ellis Ingram and director Timothy Douglas make their COT debuts at the helm of the world premiere production.

Leading up to the premiere of She Who Dared, COT is partnering with the Kehrein Center for the Arts in the Austin neighborhood on Chicago's West Side, for a series of events including a free concert on February 22, 2025 that celebrates the legacy of Black opera, at the intersection of Black History Month and Women's History Month. In addition, Barnes and Mouton will be working with COT's Director of Education and Community Engagement, Veronica Chamberlain, to develop a supplement to COT's Opera for All curriculum, providing students in over 20 classrooms in the Chicagoland area the opportunity to experience first-hand the power of bringing stories to life through opera that are personally relevant to their history.

About Chicago Opera Theater

Chicago Opera Theater is a company laser-focused on living its values of expanding the tradition of opera as a living art form and supporting artists who are defining the future of opera; deepening appreciation for the breadth and depth of operatic storytelling by producing important works from throughout history that are new to Chicago audiences; increasing access to opera for audiences of all ages; and following through on commitments to equity and access – behind the scenes, on the stage, and in the audience.  Since its founding in 1973, COT has grown from a grassroots community-based company to a national leader in an increasingly vibrant, diverse, and forward-looking art form. COT has staged over 160 operas, including over 90 Chicago premieres and 50 operas by American composers. COT is led by Edlis Neeson General Director Lawrence Edelson who was appointed in 2023.

The Vanguard Initiative, founded in 2018, is COT's fully comprehensive program for composers ready to delve into the world of opera. This immersive two-year residency includes participation in all COT productions, sessions with top industry leaders, extensive study of repertoire and vocal writing, and direct insight into administrative and other behind-the-scenes processes, culminating with the development of a full-length opera commissioned by the company. The program is guided and overseen by former COT Music Director Lidiya Yankovskaya, with Composer Advisors Jake Heggie, Kamala Sankaram, and Gene Scheer. The program is made possible with leadership support from the Mellon Foundation. The 2024/25 Vanguard Composers are Carlos R. Carrillo (second year) and Aaron Israel Levin (first year).

Chicago Opera Theater's current 2023/24 season concludes with the world premiere tour of Before It All Goes Dark by composer Jake Heggie and librettist Gene Scheer. Based on a story originally reported by former Chicago Tribune classical music reporter Howard Reich of a suburban Chicago man who late in life discovers he is the heir to a trove of priceless art that was stolen by Nazis in WWII, the opera stars bass baritone Ryan McKinny and mezzo soprano Megan Marino. Produced by the organization Music of Remembrance, Before it All Goes Dark is performed Saturday, May 25 and Sunday, May 26 at the Studebaker Theater.

For more information on Chicago Opera Theater productions, visit


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