Chicago Opera Theater's one hour opera festival | Critic's Choice | Chicago Reader

Chicago Opera Theater's one hour opera festival 

Sign up for our newsletters Subscribe

Chicago Opera Theater's One Hour Opera Festival

Chicago Opera Theater's new trio of well-sung one-acts emphasizes its variety with a promenade format--requiring the audience to move between three different spaces--and it's well worth the walk. Bon Appetit!, Lee Hoiby's short spoof of TV chef Julia Child, turns the Athenaeum Theatre's cramped second-floor studio into a TV soundstage, where our bubbly heroine guzzles wine as she warbles a recipe for chocolate cake. The Face on the Barroom Floor, Henry Mollicone and John S. Bowman's melodrama about a deadly love triangle in the Old West, is performed in a party room decorated like the story's real-life Rocky Mountain setting--the Teller House Saloon in Central City, Colorado. These two diversions, both accompanied by solo piano, are an ear-pleasing warm-up for the main-stage event: the local premiere of The Emperor of Atlantis, written by inmates of the Nazi concentration camp at Theresienstadt. Staged by Rhoda Levine with a dignified but intense simplicity, this poignant and powerful piece by composer Viktor Ullmann and librettist Petr Kien is an allegory: Death, protesting the scale of slaughter in modern warfare, goes on strike, leaving crazy Kaiser Uberall in a real fix. Not "about" the Holocaust in any literal sense, Emperor is a grim yet strangely exhilarating meditation on death as relief from a living hell, all the more moving for its eerie lack of anger or violence. The music, written in a pungently lyrical vein that recalls Stravinsky, Weill, and Hanns Eisler--composers whose ranks Ullmann might have joined had he not died in the gas chambers of Auschwitz--is superbly performed under Lawrence Rapchak's dynamic direction, with a full orchestra that makes the most of the score's crisp, transparent instrumental textures. The strong cast sticks around for a complementary postshow concert of songs by Ullmann, Kodaly, Mendelssohn, Mahler, and others. Saturday, 6:30 and 8 PM, Athenaeum Theatre, 2936 N. Southport; 773-292-7578. Bon Appetit! and The Face on the Barroom Floor will be repeated Sunday at 3 PM. Albert Williams

Art accompanying story in printed newspaper (not available in this archive): The Emperor of Atlantis.

Support Independent Chicago Journalism: Join the Reader Revolution

We speak Chicago to Chicagoans, but we couldn’t do it without your help. Every dollar you give helps us continue to explore and report on the diverse happenings of our city. Our reporters scour Chicago in search of what’s new, what’s now, and what’s next. Stay connected to our city’s pulse by joining the Reader Revolution.

Are you in?

  Reader Revolutionary $35/month →  
  Rabble Rouser $25/month →  
  Reader Radical $15/month →  
  Reader Rebel  $5/month  → 

Not ready to commit? Send us what you can!

 One-time donation  → 

Comments

Subscribe to this thread:

Add a comment

Popular Stories