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CLASSICAL | A "moving painting" at Chicago Opera Theater
In spring 2009 patrons of Chicago Opera Theater, voting early and often and paying a dollar each time for the privilege, chose an obscure Shostakovich comedy, Moscow, Cheryomushki, for COT's 2011 season. A year later, COT decided it would be prudent to postpone the Shostakovich (it's now scheduled for next April) and substitute something less costly. Hence "He/She," the pair of song cycles about obsessive love on tap this weekend. They are Robert Schumann's mid-19th-century Frauenliebe und Leben ("A Woman's Love and Life") and Leos Janacek's early-20th-century The Diary of One Who Disappeared. Poems set to music, they require no more than three soloists, a few off-stage voices, and a piano.
Ever on guard against the dreary, though, COT has recruited Gerard McBurney, the wiz behind the Chicago Symphony Orchestra's Beyond the Score series, as creative adviser for this production. Working with artist Hillary Leben and a trove of photographs, he's cooked up a digital-projection experiment—a sort of "moving painting" that unfolds as the music plays. When the CSO tried something similar with a Rachmaninoff piece, McBurney says, it "caused a huge ruckus with the orchestra, who hate that kind of thing." But it had the opposite effect on COT general director Brian Dickie, who was in the audience and so moved that he immediately began talking collaboration.
Mezzo-soprano Jennifer Johnson Cano is Schumann's self-abrogating wife; tenor Joseph Kaiser is Janacek's tormented farm boy. They'll sing in German and Czech, and the English supertitles will be part of the picture show. COT will perform the program at 7:30 PM on Sat 5/7 and at 3 PM on Sun 5/8 at the Harris Theater, 205 E. Randolph; tickets are $25 to $75.—Deanna Isaacs