Chicago Opera Theater presents the World Premiere of
The Life and Death(s) of Alan Turing
by composer Justine F. Chen and librettist David Simpatico
at the Harris Theater for two performances only:
March 23 & 25, 2023
February 8, 2023 (CHICAGO) Chicago Opera Theater (COT), Chicago’s foremost producer of contemporary and re-imagined opera, proudly continues its 2022/23 season and 50th Anniversary year with the World Premiere of composer Justine F. Chen and librettist David Simpatico’s The Life and Death(s) of Alan Turing at the Harris Theater for Music and Dance, 205 E Randolph St., for two performances only, Thursday, March 23, at 7:30pm & Saturday, March 25 at 3:00pm. The bold new English language opera is a semi-biographical and sci-fi infused retelling of the life and contested death of acclaimed British computer scientist Alan Turing who was instrumental in cracking enemy codes in WWII but died after being convicted and chemically castrated for being a homosexual. The 110-minute work will be performed with English surtitles. Tickets start at $50, with discounts available for groups, subscribers, and students, and may be purchased at chicagooperatheater.org.
Originally commissioned by American Lyric Theater to celebrate the centennial of Alan Turing’s birth in 2012, The Life and Death(s) of Alan Turing is more than a biography of the man many consider to be the founder of computer science and an LGBTQ icon. The opera explores key moments in Turing’s life, death, and legacy in a way that is neither linear nor constrained by the bounds of the physical world. The opera notably addresses the various theories surrounding Turing’s death. While originally ruled a suicide, Turing’s death by cyanide poisoning has been theorized as an accident brought on by improperly stored chemicals, a murder orchestrated by a humiliated British government, or not a death at all, but rather an uploading of a spirit and a legacy to the realm of computation. COT produced a highly acclaimed workshop performance of this opera in 2019 at DePaul’s Gannon Music Hall.
COT Elizabeth Morse and Genius Music Director Lidiya Yankovskaya conducts and Peter Rothstein directs the work. Its cast is led by international baritone Jonathan Michie who sang the role of Alan Turing in COT’s workshop performance of the opera in 2019. Tenor Joseph Leppek sings Turing’s childhood friend and first love Christopher Morcom, mezzo-soprano Taylor Raven sings Turing’s colleague and would-be fiancée Joan Clarke, and soprano Teresa Castillo sings Turing’s mother Sara Turing. Richard Ollarsaba, David Salsbery Fry, and Justin Berkowitz round out the cast, each playing multiple people in Turing’s orbit. The production also features a robust and unique Greek-style chorus representing everything from the voices in online chatrooms to the voices in Turing’s head.
“I’ve been a part of this opera’s development for nearly a decade,” said Yankovskaya. “It’s been so gratifying to see Justine’s unique voice and David’s dynamic storytelling evolve to bring this powerful work to its full potential. I can’t wait for audiences to finally experience this long-awaited premiere.”
COT’s world premiere of The Life and Death(s) of Alan Turing is made possible by Patricia A. Kenney & Gregory J. O’Leary and the National Endowment for the Arts, with additional support from The Aaron Copland Fund for Music, The Amphion Foundation and the Elizabeth F. Cheney Foundation. Commission Underwriting and Developmental Support for The Life and Death(s) of Alan Turing has been provided by Stephen M. Weiner & Don Cornuet and the American Composers Forum with funds provided by the Jerome Foundation. The Life and Death(s) of Alan Turing was developed under the auspices of the Composer Librettist Development Program at American Lyric Theater in New York City, which is made possible through lead funding from the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation, the National Endowment for the Arts, The Howard Gilman Foundation, The New York City Department of Cultural Affairs, and The Kurt Weill Foundation for Music.
About the Creators:
Always fascinated by the expressive possibilities of dramatic forms, Taiwanese-American composer Justine F. Chen draws inspiration from animation, film, theater, classical Indian dance and music, ballet, and contemporary dance. Recent projects include a new chamber opera, Seven Sisters, with librettist Stephanie Fleischmann; a choral work for The Crossing on data-mining (text by Jena Osman); a short film opera on modern-day heroes with Jacqueline Goldfinger; a song cycle with the haunting poetry of Ophelia Hu Kinney for soprano Jennifer Lien; and an opera with librettist Jacqueline Goldfinger inspired by the oldest ballad Twa Sisters. She has been commissioned and performed by WQXR, The Crossing, New York City Opera, New York City Ballet, The Juilliard School, JACK Quartet, American Composers Orchestra, New York Festival of Song, Washington Ballet, Long Leaf Opera, Chicago Opera Theater, Tapestry Opera, Banff Music Centre, Merola Opera, Bowdoin International Music Festival, and the Brooklyn Philharmonic.
David Simpatico is a playwright, librettist, and performance artist whose work has been presented at major theatres around the globe, including London’s Hammersmith Apollo, Lincoln Center, Williamstown Theatre Festival, and the New York Shakespeare Festival. Career highlights include the stage adaptation of High School Musical (Disney Theatricals;) the music drama, The Screams of Kitty Genovese (Will Todd, composer;) and the libretto for Pulitzer Prize-winner Aaron J. Kernis’ choral symphony, Garden of Light, commissioned by Michael Eisner and The Disney Company (NY Philharmonic, conducted by Kurt Masur). Currently adapting Robert Bloch’s That Hell-Bound Train as a jazz opera with composer Lisa DeSpain, Simpatico is also finishing Rose of Sharon, a concept album about the end of the world (Heather Christian, composer and co-lyricist.) Three new non-musical plays are currently being shopped around: X-Gay Bar, Wilde About Whitman, and Waiting for the Ball to Drop.
About American Lyric Theater:
American Lyric Theater (ALT) was founded by Artistic and General Director Lawrence Edelson in 2005 to build a new body of operatic repertoire for new audiences by nurturing composers and librettists, developing sustainable artistic collaborations, and contributing new works to the national canon. Many opera companies commission and perform new works; but ALT is the only company in the United States that offers extensive, full-time mentorship for emerging operatic writers. While the traditional company model focuses on producing a season, ALT’s programs focus on serving the needs of artists, developing new works, and collaborating with producing companies to help usher those works into the repertoire. Operas developed through the CLDP, and by CLDP alumni, have been presented by a wide variety of companies, including Tulsa Opera, Opera Saratoga, Fort Worth Opera, Urban Arias, Fargo Moorhead Opera, San Francisco Conservatory, New York City Opera VOX, and Beth Morrison Projects; and alumni of the CLDP have been commissioned by opera companies across the country. In 2012, ALT was the first company dedicated to artist mentorship rather than operatic production to be recognized by OPERA America as a Professional Company Member. For more information visit www.altnyc.org.
About Chicago Opera Theater:
Chicago Opera Theater (COT) is a company laser-focused on living its values: expanding the tradition of opera as a living art form, producing high-quality works new to Chicago audiences, identifying top-tier casts and creative talent at the beginning of grand operatic careers, 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 150 operas, including 78 Chicago premieres and 45 operas by American composers. COT is led by Magnus and Yankovskaya, who is one of only two women to hold the title of music director at a multimillion-dollar opera company in the United States. Chicago Opera Theater’s 2022/23 season will continue with COT’s fourth Vanguard Opera, The Cook-Off by Shawn Okpebholo & Mark Campbell at the Athenaeum Center for Thoughts and Culture, May 11, 2023.
For more information on Chicago Opera Theater productions or this position, visit cot.org.