Chicago Opera Theater presents Chicago Premiere of grand Polish language opera
in two performances only at the
Harris Theater for Music and Dance, November 18 & 20
Massive 120-person choir comprised of Lira Ensemble,
Apollo Chorus of Chicago and Uniting Voices Chicago
Plus, esteemed Chicago arts administrator Henry Fogel named Interim General Director through the end of 2022
CHICAGO (October 13, 2022) — Chicago Opera Theater (COT), Chicago’s foremost producer of contemporary and re-imagined opera, kicks off its 2022/23 season with the Chicago Premiere of the grand King Roger, by composer Karol Szymanowski and his cousin, librettist Jarosław Iwaszkiewicz, the first Polish language opera presented in the company’s history. King Roger, or Król Roger in Polish, will be presented in a semi-staged production featuring a massive chorus of 120 singers and a 72 piece orchestra at the Harris Theater for Music and Dance 205 E Randolph St, in two performances only; Friday, November 18 at 7:30 PM and Sunday, November 20, at 3:00 PM. Single tickets are now on sale and range in price from $25 – $165 with discounts available for groups, students, and subscribers. The production is 90 minutes and is presented in Polish with English subtitles. To buy tickets, visit chicagooperatheater.org.
Mirroring a mystical and epic storyline, the music of King Roger is lush, sweepingly Romantic, and calls for massive forces. The colossal chorus for this production will be made up of a trifecta of Chicago singing organizations. For the first time, COT will partner with Chicago’s premiere Polish music and dance organization- the Lira Ensemble whose singers will be represented in the chorus. Apollo Chorus, one of Chicago’s top volunteer choral societies, returns to the COT stage joining the chorus of King Roger and a chorus of children comes from Uniting Voices Chicago– the organization formerly known as Chicago Children’s Choir.
Under the baton of Chicago Opera Theater Elizabeth Morse and Genius Music Director Lidiya Yankovskaya, the cast features two of Poland’s best interpreters of Szymanowski’s music making their COT debuts: tenor Mariusz Godlewski as the titular King Roger II and soprano Iwona Sobotka as his wife Queen Roxana. Tenor Tyrone Chambers II, who Chicago audiences may recognize from past COT productions including Quamino’s Map last spring, plays the Shepherd. Rounding out the cast are Paul Chwe MinChul An as Archiereios, David Cangelosi as Edrisi, and Alissa Anderson as Deaconess.
Demonstrating Chicago Opera Theater’s commitment to developing locally grown talent, the semi-staged production will be directed by Chicago’s very own Dylan Evans. Evans began his career as a COT assistant stage director in 2013 and has gone on to direct across the country. Costumes for the production will feature masks by contemporary artist and professional pumpkin carver Edward Cabral.
Conceived while the composer was visiting the cosmopolitan port city of Odessa, Ukraine, King Roger is a magical study on the intersection of personal belief and public responsibility in places where multiple religions co-exist. When a shepherd arrives spreading beliefs that go against the official doctrine of the crown, Queen Roxana begs her husband to forgive him. Torn between societal expectations and the provocative ideas of the new stranger, King Roger must decide his path forward. In a story that reflected political realities at the time it was penned that still echo in current day global affairs, the themes revolve around a leader’s role and responsibility, the importance of being open to new ideas, and the push and pull between tradition and personal choice.
“King Roger is a masterpiece that should have been heard in Chicago many years ago,” said Yankovskaya. “Musically, it was far ahead of its time, and its lyrical writing supports dramatic themes that are more relevant than ever. Mariusz Godlewski and Iwona Sobotka – both experts in this repertoire – will be joining more than 120 singers and as many instrumentalists as we can fit in the Harris pit.”
“Chicago Opera Theater has always sought to work more closely with and for the greater Chicago community, and with our production of King Roger, we hope to accomplish this by connecting with Chicago’s vital Polish community, and by partnering with a number of Chicago’s fantastic musical organizations such as Lira Ensemble, Apollo Chorus, and Uniting Voices Chicago,” added Stefan Edlis and Gael Neeson General Director Ashley Magnus.
In addition to the two performances of King Roger, COT will host a “Close Up” event at the Polish Museum of America on Saturday, November 5 from 7:00 PM – 8:30 PM with members of the cast and production team of the opera. This free event will introduce audiences to the opera with performance excerpts, cast and crew talk backs and audience Q & A.
In other season-launching news, Chicago Opera Theater welcomes its immediate former Board President and esteemed Chicago arts consultant Henry Fogel to step in as interim General Director beginning this week through the end of 2022, while Magnus is on family leave. Fogel’s impressive history of serving arts organizations in Chicago and across the country, includes serving as the President and CEO of the League of American Orchestras and President of Chicago Symphony Orchestra. He is currently Dean Emeritus of the Chicago College of the Performing Arts at Roosevelt University.
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 Stefan Edlis and Gael Neeson General Director Ashley Magnus and Elizabeth Morse and Genius Music Director Lidiya 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 continues with Albert Herring by Benjamin Britten conducted by Dame Jane Glover at the Athenaeum January 26, 28 & 29, 2023, the world premiere of The Life and Death(s) of Alan Turing by Justine F. Chen & David Simpatico at the Harris Theater March 23 & 25 2023, COT’s fourth Vanguard Opera The Cook-Off by Shawn Okpebholo & Mark Campbell on May 11, 2023, and a collaboration with Music of Remembrance featuring a world premiere by Jake Heggie & Gene Scheer alongside the duo’s monodrama Another Sunrise May 27 & 28, 2023 at the Athenaeum.
For more information on Chicago Opera Theater productions, visit cot.org.