Artistic and Music Director Kirk Muspratt and DuPage Opera Theatre (DOT) will present Verdi’s “Otello,” at 8 pm Friday, Jan. 25; 2 pm Sunday, Jan. 27; 8 pm Thursday, Jan. 31; and 8 pm Saturday, Feb. 2; at the McAninch Arts Center at College of DuPage, 425 Fawell Blvd., Glen Ellyn. The opera will be sung in Italian with English supertitles; New Philharmonic Orchestra will provide accompaniment from the pit.
This is the first time in its 30-year history that DOT will stage “Otello,” a production typically mounted by national opera companies.
“We are showcasing DuPage Opera’s growth and new vision with this production,” said Muspratt. “Otello is one of Verdi’s greatest late period pieces, a true masterpiece. It is also is a very challenging production. Opera enthusiasts will be thrilled that we are bringing this to the suburbs.”
Giuseppe Verdi’s “Otello,” adapted from Shakespeare’s “Othello,” first premiered in 1887 at Milan’s La Scala and is often cited as the greatest Italian opera of the 19th century. Set in Cyprus after a victorious battle against the Turks, the story centers on Otello, the conquering general and Moor of Venice, and his beautiful wife, Desdemona. Otello’s officer, Iago, becomes filled with resentment when Otello promotes another officer, Cassio, over him. Iago thus plots and manipulates events, twisting Otello into a jealous rage that destroys his marriage and eventually his life.
Stage director Michael Ehrman of Evanston joins Muspratt in the production of “Otello.” A seasoned director on faculty at the Chicago College of Performing Arts, Ehrman has been hailed by critics for his insightful productions staged in opera houses throughout North America including Houston Grand Opera, Greater Miami Opera, Boston Lyric Opera and Chicago Opera Theater, among others.
This is Ehrmann’s first time directing a production of “Otello.” He has trimmed some of the chorus music to create a very intimate version of the opera, keeping it as close as possible to Shakespeare’s original play.
“By reducing some of the chorus, we’ve crafted a very personal, very powerful version of Otello,” said Ehrman. “We’re really tightening the drama so that the audience becomes utterly absorbed in the characters and their stories.”
Ehrman said bringing a big production like “Otello” into a distinctive theater like the McAninch Arts Center (MAC) is a bold choice, but one that will pay off for the audience.
“Typically, Otello is done in very large houses. Doing it in a more intimate setting like the MAC provides a wonderfully fresh experience for the audience,” said Ehrman. “We’re allowing the audience to truly capture the emotion because they are so close to the actors. We want them to really believe Otello’s rage, to the point of being scared of him.”
The cast is led by tenor Kevin Courtemanche of San Francisco, Calif., as Otello, who most recently starred as the Brigadier General in San Francisco Opera’s world premiere of “Philip Glass.” Courtemanche has performed with groups such as Long Beach Opera, Berkeley Opera, Mission City Opera, Cinnabar Theater and many others. The San Francisco Chronicle said of his recent performance with Berkeley Opera: “The evening's vocal standout was tenor Kevin Courtemanche… (he) boasted ringing high notes, agile phrasing and an arresting command of vocal color.”
Joining him is soprano Christia Starnes of Bloomington, Ind., as Desdemona, making her Chicago debut. Selected for Nashville Opera’s Young Artist program, Starnes most recently appeared in Nashville Opera’s “Hansel and Gretel,” Belmont University Opera Theater’s “Die Fledermaus,” and Indiana University Opera Theater’s “Madama Butterfly.”
Baritone Scott Skiba of Cleveland, Ohio, returns to DOT’s stage as Iago, where he last performed as Marcello in “La Boheme.” Skiba has starred in more than 30 operas during his six-year career, having performed with notable groups such as Indianapolis Opera, Bloomington Music Works, Oberlin Opera Theater, Louisiana Lyric Opera and Pittsburgh Opera.
Ludovico will be sung by bass baritone Aaron Stegemoller of Evergreen Park, Ill., whose recent engagements include “Don Giovanni” with American Opera Group, Opera Cleveland’s “La Traviata” and Gilbert and Sullivan’s “The Mikado” with Chicago’s Light Opera Works.
Chicago native Bill Chamberlain, tenor, takes on the role of Cassio. Tenor Stephen Cannon of Woodridge, Ill., makes his DuPage Opera Theatre debut as Roderigo. Cannon has performed with Columbus Light Opera, L’Opera Piccola, Chicago Symphony Chorus, Grant Park Chorus and Lyric Opera of Chicago.
The elaborate sets for DOT’s “Otello” are coming from Syracuse Opera; costumes are being designed by Chicago’s Allison R. Greaves.
Tickets to “Otello” are $43 for adults, $41 for senior citizens, and $33 for students and patrons under 17. To purchase, call 630-942-4000 or visit atthemac.org
About DuPage Opera Theatre
Since 1977, DuPage Opera Theatre (DOT) has given opera a voice in the western suburbs of Chicago. The professional ensemble is led by Artistic and Music Director Kirk Muspratt, named a Chicagoan of the Year in the arts in 2006. Under Muspratt’s direction, DOT provides innovative operatic programming for its patrons while engaging newcomers to opera through education and outreach. DuPage Opera Theatre is a professional resident company at the McAninch Arts Center in Glen Ellyn and performs a full season annually.
About the McAninch Arts Center
The McAninch Arts Center at College of DuPage (MAC) is a state-of-the-art facility bringing professional theater, music, dance, comedy, opera and visual art to the residents of Northern Illinois. Housing three distinctive performance spaces and an art gallery, the facility’s unique design allows patrons to experience all the arts under one roof.
Since its opening in 1986, more than one million people have attended performances, gallery exhibits or events at the facility. The MAC scheduled more than 250 performances during 2006-2007 alone, bringing in more than 65,000 patrons from the Chicago region and beyond.
In addition to presenting touring artists, the MAC houses five resident professional companies, including New Philharmonic Orchestra, DuPage Opera Theatre, Arts Center Jazz Ensemble, Buffalo Theatre Ensemble and New Classic Singers. The MAC also maintains a robust community outreach program with initiatives such as its Schoolstage program, which connects performers and students for an interactive, educational arts experience.
Because of its efforts to increase community access to the arts, the MAC has earned the Illinois Arts Council’s Partners in Excellence designation, which recognizes 40 of the most significant cultural institutions throughout the state.
The MAC is conveniently situated 30 miles west of Chicago in central DuPage County, near I-88 and I-355, and offers free parking and discounted rates for groups and outings.
The mission of the McAninch Arts Center is to foster enlightened educational and performance opportunities, which encourage artistic expression, establish a lasting relationship between people and art, and enrich the cultural vitality of the community.