Chicago Opera Theater News – EVEREST/ALEKO Preview

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Saturday, November 16, 7:30 PM
Sunday, November 17, 3:00 PM


Harris Theater
205 East Randolph

What does ice and snow sound like?

What does a mountain sound like?

 How do you make gasping for thin mountain peak air into music?

Composer Joby Talbot asked and answered these questions in his score for Everest, one of the operas paired for performance next weekend by Chicago Opera Theater (COT).

This teaser, among many others, emerges from the well-appointed, darkly lit Driehaus Museum hall. The voices shed the brightest lights on what is in store—tenor Andrew Bidlack performing an aria from Everest, later followed by Aleksey Bogdanov and Michelle Johnson singing songs from Rachmaninoff’s Aleko.

It’s a small sumptuous hall. The singers are close to all who came. The powerful voices cut through the shadows with bright colors. It’s exhilarating!

Better, an in-depth interview of tenor Andrew Bidlack by COT conductor Lidiya Yankovskaya, that seems geared for relative newcomers to opera and diehards alike, stretches a peep hole into the opera world into a Grand Canyon sized marvel.

Chicago Opera Theater Pairs Old and New Works in One Program

We learn from Yankovskaya that these two operas pair well for several reasons. First, this double bill brings together old and new—a cornerstone of the COT mission. Second, they share themes of exploring what drives people to leave their environment.

And lastly, both give COT a chance to use the talents of the 140 professional/serious amateur mixed members of the Apollo Chorus.

We also learn of the immense effort that Bidlack, like so many professional opera singers, invests in perfecting his roles. For Aleko, this has included untold hours learning not only Russian, but the Cyrillic alphabet keyboard. He translates the libretto word for word. He listens to every recording he can find on Youtube and beyond. He describes memorizing the words as preface (paraphrasing) – to letting your body tell you what to do.

Bidlack, who has worked on Everest since its fledgling work-in-progress launch in San Francisco six versions ago, shares his high regard also for Everest’s libretto by Gene Scheer, whom COT regulars came to admire last season, for his imaginative re-working of Moby Dick. Bidlack quotes the lead character –

     “…there is a kind of bliss when I push like this…this is where I want to be..”

Bidlack’s character becomes one of 10% who predictably will never return from Mount Everest’s peak. This is where this story seems to most resonate for Bidlack. He will be singing also this mountaineer’s last conversation with his then 7-month pregnant wife. Bidlack shares that when he first sang this part, he was the father of a newborn girl. He sums it up, “…there’s a lot of emotional material here…that’s what we do in opera.”


By this writer’s lights, COT’s in-depth pre-performance previews are on the short list of valuable hours available to Chicago’s cultural enthusiasts—opera newbies and sophisticates alike. Better yet, we get glimpses of upcoming COT performances, that have yet to disappoint.

For more information and tickets please visit the Chicago Opera Theater website.

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