We have now arrived at 2010 in my weekly selected (and selective) memories of my time in Chicago. We had just received an award of $500,000 from the Andrew Mellon Foundation to support a three year program which included a three opera cycle of works featuring Medea at various stages in her "career" - and also 20th and 21st century operas to be given their first performances in Chicago. It was an endorsement of our recent achievements and an indispensable support to enable us to provide a degree of serious curatorship of the operatic repertoire.
The Medea cycle, featuring operas by Cavalli, Marc-Antoine Charpentier, and Handel turned out to be a winner in every respect. They were surprise hits with the public as well as being serious and important contributions to the knowledge and understanding of a neglected area of the repertoire.
Franco Fagioli (Giasone) and Sasha Cooke (Medea) in Cavalli's Giasone COT 2010
Giasone was the first professional production of a Cavalli opera in Chicago. And hugely popular it turned out to be. A brilliant production by Justin Way who had given us Entführung on 2006 and Orlando in 2008, and outstanding conducting from a newcomer, Christian Curnyn, when combined with e wonderfully talented cast, gave the work the best possible lift off. The Shakespearian blend of serious scenes with comic interludes enchanted the audience who were confronted with a series of wonderful musical and theatrical surprises. It was a great experience for us all.
Julius Ahn (Demo) and Tyler Nelson (Delfa) - Giasone COT 2010
The postponed production of Rossini's Mosé in Egitto originally scheduled for 2009 was at last produced. And again it was something of a delight to have a success with one of the rarely performed serious operas of Rossini. Of course it is very much about the singing - and we had found a remarkable tenor in Taylor Stayton (he has gone on to great things) and a fearless soprano in Siân Davies.
And there were fine contributions from Andrea Concetti (Mosé) and Kathryn Leemhuis (Amaltea). Leonardo Vordone was the genuine Italian maestro in the pit!
I had been to the premiere of Jake Heggie's Three Decembers in Houston in the spring of 2008. It was a wonderful vehicle for the remarkable Frederica von Stade whom I had known since her first audition for me in New York Town Hall in 1970, and who then appeared at Glyndebourne as Cherubino and later as Penelope in Il ritorno d'Ulisse in patria. She was on the verge of retiring after a remarkable 40 year career and I leaped at the chance to bring her to COT in the Leonard Foglia production from HGO. So our beloved "Flicka" made her final Chicago operatic bow with COT and a few weeks later made a last appearance in Chicagoland in a concert performance of Cosi fan tutte in Ravinia.
Frederica von Stade in Three Decembers - COT 2010
Jake Heggie was with us for the production and played the piano in the small orchestra. And we provided Flicka with two adorable "children" - our Owen Wingrave Matthew Worth, and an exceptional soprano Sara Jakubiak whom I had heard when she was a graduate student at Yale.
Matthew Worth and Sara Jakubiak - Three Decembers Chicago 2010
So in spite of considerable financial deprivations, mercifully alleviated to an extent by the Mellon grant, we pulled off a pretty good season in 2010. My corner cutting philosophy requires that one can only do it if it is both invisible and inaudible. We managed to develop further our "creative minimalism" technique - because we had to. The staff and all the creative people we assembled were amazingly resourceful under these trying circumstances. So we lived to fight another day!
A note for the immediate future. I will not get the record of 2011 up on the blog next Wednesday. It will be delayed until Friday given the copious demands of the Christmas season. I hope to keep the blog going however notwithstanding the abundant consumption of turkey and Christmas putting, Stilton and mince pies......but that is not until next week.