My weekly review of the years 2000 to 2012 continues.......
We were off to great start in the Harris in 2004. The trick was to continue the good work thereafter. And I think we did pretty well in year two. We had three star directors of differing generations - Andrei Serban, Lillian Groag, and Diane Paulus. Jane Glover returned to conduct both the Handel and the Mozart, and Alexander Platt took on Britten's Midsummer Night's Dream, continuing the excellent work that he had accomplished with Death in Venice the previous season.
I had wanted to maintain Handel's place in our repertoire so we gave Handel's Resurrezione a rare outing, with Lillian Groag, whose 2003 production of Agrippina had been a huge success, directing, and Jane Glover in the pit with our early music players. With Nathalie Paulin and Sarah Coburn in the cast we had some wonderful singing. The piece is a sacred oratorio in theory, but that it is a theatre piece there is no doubt, and Lillian's ingenious production proved its validity.
Toby Cole (Oberon) and Danielle de Niese (Tytania) COT 2005
There was however no doubt that we were on safer operatic territory in producing Le nozze di Figaro and Britten's Midsummer Night's Dream. Remarkably this was the first professional production in Chicago of Britten's immensely popular and successful Dream. And a huge success it turned out to be with the great Romanian director Andrei Serban directing, and a fine cast led by Danielle de Niese (Tytania) and Kevin Burdette (Bottom). This is one of Britten's finest achievements and I was delighted that we brought it to Chicago for the first time at last, 45 years after its first performances in Aldeburgh in 1961.
Our Figaro of course was the second opera in our da Ponte cycle which we had started with Cosi in 2002. The same creative team of Paulus and Glover were there, and Robert Brill followed up his Poppea designs with no less brilliant work on the Figaro. Casting Figaro is always a pleasure for an opera company management. And we had available some pretty stunning young stars in Jane Archibald, Krisztina Szabo, Christian van Horn, Sandra Piques Eddy and Alexander Tall. You can get a flavour of the look and personality of the production by looking at the gallery on my photo site. Meanwhile a first reminder for those that saw it is below.
Christian van Horn (Figaro) Krisztina Szabo (Countess) and Jane Archibald (Susanna) COT 2005
So we really had consolidated our position in tthe Chicago opera firmament. Daniel Barenboim, then still at the Chicago Symphony Orchestra, came to a performance and immediately hired Jane Glover to conduct Mozart at the Berlin Staatsoper, and he was publicly fullsome in his praise of what he had seen and heard.
So we continued to plan with confidence - the following year was to see another remarkably late first performance in Chicago of a 20th century classic. But more about that next Wednesday!