So here we go with chapter 4 of my COT saga. This was to be COT’s last season in the lovely old dilapidated Athenaeum Theater. We would be in the shiny new Harris Theater in February 2004. And what a great last season it was!
I had worked with Maurice Sendak at Glyndebourne in the '80s. He designed a much loved production by Frank Corsaro of The Love for Three Oranges for Glyndebourne in 1982, and we followed this with the completed version of Oliver Knussen's Where the Wild Things Are as well as the first performances of Higglety Pigglety Pop! And then there followed the Ravel double bill of L'heure espagnole and L'enfant et les sortilèges, all directed by Corsaro. So I was delighted that we were able to mount Brundibar, in a new English version/translation by Tony Kushner. We paired it with Martinů's Comedy on the Bridge for which Tony also provided a new English libretto.
Robin Leggate, Adam Benkendorf, Elizabeth Reiter and Kara Shay Thomson (Miss Jessel) COT 2003
We continued our examination of Benhjamin Britten with a very beautiful production of The Turn of the Screw, teaming up again Diane Paulus and Jane Glover as director and conductor. This was a notable production of which we were pretty proud. There were distinguished performances all round - from Arianna Zukerman, Kara Shay Thomson, and Robin Leggate as a stunning Quint. He went on to sing Aschenbach for us the following year. The very gifted Miles was Adam Benkendorf, who also made his mark in the Martinů. And the sixteen year old Elizabeth Reiter knocked us out cold as Flora - a prodigious performance from a teenager. Liz went on from school to the Manhattan School of Music and then on to Curtis. She is now in the company in Frankfurt - but returned to COT last month as Pamina.
The third production of the season was Handel's Agrippina, the first of Handel's Italian operas to be undertaken by COT. I secured Emmanuelle Haïm to conduct - actually the very first new production that Emmanuelle had done anywhere. She was at the beginning of what is now a major career and brought dazzling and stylish playing to the Athenaeum's small pit. What energy she she brought to the company - I think a revelation for everyone.
Monica Colonna (Agrippina) and Jane Archibald (Poppea) in Agrippina 2003
Agrippina marked the debut of the Canadian soprano Jane Archibald, whom I had plucked from practically nowhere to sing the role of Poppea. Jane went on to sing Susanna with us in 2005, was a Neue Stimmen prizewinner that year, had a spell as an Adler Fellow in San Francisco, and is now a regular at the Vienna State Opera and is much in demand around Europe. I recently saw her in The Tales of Hoffmann in Paris, where she has also had a major success as Zerbinetta.
I figured that by the end of that 2003 season we had made the case that COT was well on the way to qualifying as a worthy contributor to opera in Chicago, and would be in a fine state to grace the new Harris Theater the following year. Read about that first season downtown next week!
Photos:© Liz Lauren