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Beatrice and Benedict, Berlioz's lost opera and an abridged update of Much Ado About Nothing, has never been staged in Chicago before, underappreciated because of its lack of dramatic coherence--and also possibly because it's French, and therefore considered elegant but lightweight. In choosing to mount it as the first production of the reconstituted (though still financially beleaguered) Chicago Opera Theater, the artistic team of Carl Ratner and Lawrence Rapchak is staying true to the company's tradition of reviving neglected worthies. These collaborators are experienced at producing high quality on a shoestring budget, having done so with remarkable assurance for a number of seasons at Chamber Opera Chicago. As usual, COT has assembled a cast of fine singers (who'll sing in English, following Geoffrey Dunn's translation for the Oxford critical edition), including mezzosoprano Kristine Jepson, tenor Bruce Fowler, soprano Jennifer Kittinger, baritone Scott Gregory, and mezzo-soprano Bonita Hyman. Marc Verzatt directed and Bill Bartlett did the sets. Rapchak conducts. Friday, 8 PM, Sunday, 3 PM, Thursday and next Saturday, April 23, 8 PM, and next Sunday, April 24, 7 PM, Athenaeum Theater, 2936 N. Southport; 292-7578.

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