2024–2025 Season of Change for Chicago Opera Theater

By Keegan Morris |

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Portrait of Jasmine Arielle Barnes

Jasmine Arielle Barnes, the composer of the season-capping world premiere opera She Who Dared

Chicago Opera Theater has announced its 2024-2025 season.

The COT season is the first programmed by 2023-appointed general director Lawrence Edelson. It also is the first following the departure of Lidiya Yankovskaya, who will step down as music director after the 2023-24 season. She will maintain her creative association with the company as director of the Vanguard Initiative, the company’s opera composer training program.

Four titles make up the season, which is bookended by two operas and also features one concert and one concert-staged opera premiere.

Opening the season in October is the North American premiere of Leonora by Italian Classical-era composer Fernando Paër. The title may not be familiar, but it’s an adaptation of the same story that later inspired Beethoven’s Fidelio. Dame Jane Glover of Chicago-area Music of the Baroque conducts the performances, which run in the Studebaker Theater at the same time as Lyric Opera’s presentation of the Beethoven title. Vanessa Becerra stars in the title role alongside tenors Ian Koziara and Kameron Alston.

In December, the company presents a concert exploring the music and influence of Giacomo Puccini, tracing the eminent verismo composer’s presence in works by Korngold, Menotti, Sondheim, and more. The concerts will be held at DePaul University’s Gannon Concert Hall.

COT Vanguard Composer Carlos R. Carrillo wrote the season’s third title: Remedios Varios Para las Aflicción del Cuerpo y el Espíritu (Various Remedies for the Afflictions of the Body and Spirit). Inspired by the paintings of Spanish surrealist Remedios Varo and with a libretto by Stephanie Fleischmann, the opera will receive its concert premiere under the baton of conductor Eli Chen at the Athenaeum Center for Thought and Culture in April 2025. The piece was commissioned by the company as the product of Carrillo’s COT residency, the sixth title company’s composer-in-residence program.

A world premiere closes the season: She Who Dared by composer Jasmine Arielle Barnes, a member of the Blacknificent Seven composers collective, and librettist Debora D.E.E.P. Mouton. COT bills the title as the first professionally produced US opera written by two Black female artists, and the work casts its lens on lesser-known Black women civil rights activists in the 20th century. Conductor Michael Ellis Ingram leads the June 2025 performances at the Studebaker Theater. The cast will include sopranos Jasmine Habersham, Lindsey Reynolds, and more.

For more information, visit chicagooperatheater.org.

This article has been updated to include Stephanie Fleischmann's role as the librettist of Remedios Varios and reflect that Jasmine Arielle Barnes is part of the Blacknificent Seven.