Chicago Opera Theater's Three Decembers | Bleader

Chicago Opera Theater's Three Decembers


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Matthew Worth (Charlie), Sara Jakubiak (Bea), and Frederica von Stade (Madeline)
  • Liz Lauren
  • Matthew Worth (Charlie), Sara Jakubiak (Bea), and Frederica von Stade (Madeline)
If there's not a scalpers' market for Chicago Opera Theater's remarkable Three Decembers, there should be: with a total of only four performances—one already history—it ought to be the hottest ticket in town.

Composer Jake Heggie wrote this 90-minute chamber opera for longtime Met favorite Frederica von Stade, and both of them are performing in it here—Heggie at the piano and von Stade as the central character, Madeline, an aging actress and mother. Based on a play by Terrance McNally (Some Christmas Letters) and transcending the stereotypes it mines, it's about married life, family life, gay life, life in the theater, and what it takes to keep those or any lives going in the face of deceit, disease, and death. Heggie's lush score, performed by an 11-piece, two-piano onstage orchestra, is complemented by that rarity—a witty, engrossing libretto, with real theatrical chops. It's the work of Gene Sheer, drawing on McNally. Von Stade completely becomes the flawed and magnificent diva mom; baritone Matthew Worth and soprano Sara Jakubiak are superb vocally and dramatically as her adult children, Charlie and Bea. Originally staged at the Houston Grand Opera in 2008, directed (there as well as here) by Leonard Foglia with drop-dead costumes by Cesar Galindo, it's been tweaked for this run: Heggie says this is the premiere of the final version of the score. In any case, it won't be back like this again: von Stade has announced her retirement. The remaining performances, all at the Harris Theater, are Wednesday and Friday at 7:30 PM and Sunday at 3 PM. Tickets are $30 to $120 at or 312-704-8414.

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