Chicago Opera Theater’s all-20th-century 2014 season to offer three Chicago premieres

May 17, 2013

Duke Ellington’s only opera, “Queenie Pie,” will receive its Chicago debut next February at Chicago Opera Theater.

Chicago Opera Theater’s 2014 season promises to continue the edgy and inventive programming that has characterized its first two productions under new chief Andreas Mitisek with an all-20th-century lineup including three Chicago premieres.

The 2014 season, the first planned entirely by Mitisek, will open February 15 with the Chicago premiere of Duke Ellington’s Queenie Pie, the jazz legend’s only opera. The scenario is based on the true story of Madam C. J. Walker, the first female African-American self-made millionaire, who developed and sold a line of hair and beauty products.

Left uncompleted at Ellington’s death in 1974, Queenie Pie has been presented in various versions in recent decades. COT will utilize the edition assembled by the opera’s librettist Betty McGettigan for performances at the University of Texas at Austin in 2009. Jeff Lindberg will conduct the Chicago Jazz Philharmonic at the Harris Theater.

Next up is a double bill of two 1943 one-act works. COT will present Carl Orff’s fairy-tale opera Die Kluge, regarded by many as a subversive allegory about the Third Reich, and Viktor Ullmann’s more openly pointed anti-Hitler satire Der Kaiser von Atlantis, composed at Theresienstadt. These performances, running May 31-June 8, will take place at a new venue for COT, the Merle Reskin Theatre in the South Loop. Mitisek will conduct.

The season will close in September with a real curio, Macbeth by Ernest Bloch. Written in his 20s, the Swiss-American’s only opera is one of those works more talked about than actually performed. Macbeth was only staged once previously in the U.S., at Julliard in 1972, and this production, which will debut next month at Long Beach Opera, will mark the opera’s belated American professional debut. Mitisek will conduct Macbeth, which will be presented September 13-21 at the Harris Theater.

Below is an excerpt from Bloch’s Macbeth with soprano Inge Borkh.

Subscriptions for all three presentations start at $95 and will go on sale July 1.  Individual tickets go on sale January 6, 2014.  Call 312-704-8414 or go online to

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