Chicago Opera Theater’s “The Love Potion” Review – Music That Moves

You can’t live with him and you can’t live without him…

Perhaps this most modern of aphorisms has cultural roots in the long told Celtic tale about the pains of passions—the story of Tristan and Isolde.   Who knew? This same Wagnerian story of these doomed lovers was also captured in an oratorio by Swiss-born composer Frank Martin.

Chicago Opera Theater, yet again, gives us music from little known repertoire, bringing it to us with imaginative flourishes.  

Chicago Opera Theater Trademark Minimalism

Chicago Opera Theater’s relatively minimalist staging allows us to hear the music as the main attraction – here from an eight-piece orchestra under the baton of Emanuele Andrizzi with a dozen singers.   It is music of passion that pains—at times memorably building and building with repetition like the perseverating lovers who can’t stop their longings for each other.   In this staging in the relatively intimate Music Box Theater, we can often look to the violins or cellos when they are sweeping us into another phase of musical reverie or storm.

Director Andres Mitisek has costumed his singers in neutral apparel such as a puppeteer in the background might wear.   He gives them long poles to wield—sometimes as waves on a roiling ocean, or as spears, a wedding procession canopy, and more. This morphing kaleidoscope is paired with a video projection backdrop on the large Music Box Theater screen.

The effect of these minimalist touches in costumes and staging is to allow the music to move the story—and it does.

Cast Largely from COT Young Artists Program

With the exception of Bernard Holcomb singing the part of Tristan, the entire cast is either current or former students of Chicago Opera Theater’s Young Artists Program at Roosevelt University’s Chicago College of Performing Arts. Beautiful voices all—soprano Brittany Loewen’s role of Branghien, the maid who mistakenly gives the love potion at the wrong time, was especially delightful.

The Chicago Opera Theater season continues with another classic re-imagining- “The Fairy Queen” by Purcell re-telling Shakespeare’s A Midsummer Night’s Dream. For tickets or information call 312 704 8414 or visit


Photos:   Liz Lauren

Amy Munice

About the Author:

Amy Munice is Editor-in-Chief and Co-Publisher of Picture This Post. She covers books, dance, film, theater, music, museums and travel. Prior to founding Picture This Post, Amy was a freelance writer and global PR specialist for decades—writing and ghostwriting thousands of articles and promotional communications on a wide range of technical and not-so-technical topics.

Amy hopes the magazine’s click-a-picture-to-read-a-vivid-account format will nourish those ever hunting for under-discovered cultural treasures. She especially loves writing articles about travel finds, showcasing works by cultural warriors of a progressive bent, and shining a light on bold, creative strokes by fledgling artists in all genres.


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