Best Effort to Keep Opera a Living Art

Critics' Picks

Chicago Opera Vanguard

chicagovanguard.org

“We’re fringe theater that happens to be opera,” says artistic director Eric Reda. And that hybrid status allows the troupe Reda founded in 2007 to attract audiences used to thinking of opera as elitist and expensive. While Lyric Opera and Chicago Opera Theater focus on large-scale stagings of the classics, COV is dedicated almost exclusively to low-budget, informal presentations of contemporary and experimental material. For a fraction of the price of a ticket to, say, Lyric’s upcoming Carmen, COV offers visually innovative shows featuring first-rate singing and musical direction by exciting young artists. Since its first full production in 2008—a concert rendition of Reda’s opera-oratorio Reagan’s Children, at Martyrs’ Pub in North Center—the itinerant company has presented local premieres of cutting-edge work by Andy Vores (a chamber opera version of Sartre’s No Exit), Mark-Anthony Turnage (Greek, a punk-operatic spin on the Oedipus story), and Ricky Ian Gordon (Orpheus and Euridice: A Theatrical Song Cycle), as well as an offbeat, multimedia staging of Schubert’s 1827 song cycle, Winterreise. Next season opens November 19 at Storefront Theater (66 E. Washington, 312-742-8497) with the American stage premiere of Boojum!, Australian composer Martin Wesley-Smith’s surreal journey through the mind of Lewis Carroll.