Chicago Opera Theater

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For other references to opera in Chicago, see List of Opera Houses in Chicago.
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The Chicago Opera Theater (COT) is an opera company that was founded as the Chicago Opera Studio in 1974 by Alan Stone[1] [2]


Chicago Opera Theater engages curious audiences through adventurous opera experiences of new and rarely performed works.

We create the future of opera through innovative theatrical productions of new and rarely performed works.

We inspire people to explore fundamental human experiences through arts.

We build new audiences through intimate performances and by taking opera into the community.

We bridge wide and diverse audiences by offering affordable performances.

We collaborate with the Chicago community and Long Beach Opera to advance artistic value.

We educate future opera lovers through imaginative arts programming in Chicago public schools.


Chicago Opera Theater (COT) is now in its 42nd season and has been a founding resident company at the Harris Theater for Music and Dance in Millennium Park since 2002. In its 42-year history, including the 2015/16 Season, COT staged a total of 132 operas, 63 Chicago premieres and 28 American operas. The company was founded in 1974 by Alan Stone, and evolved to be an innovative, nationally recognized opera company under the guidance of General Director Brian Dickie, who led the company from 2000 to 2012. Andreas Mitisek became COT’s new General Director in June 2012. He is known for his adventurous repertory, visionary leadership, fundraising skills, and innovative audience-building initiatives.

The unique leadership styles of Stone, Dickie, and Mitisek have built the company’s national reputation for breaking new ground and creating the future of opera. COT’s earliest productions were small-scale stagings of Mozart and Rossini operas meant to provide performance opportunities for up-and-coming Chicago-area singers. A watershed moment came in 1976 when COT staged its first American opera, Virgil Thomson’s The Mother of Us All. The move was seen as a gamble on the part of Artistic Director Alan Stone, who saw a need to bring more American operas to Chicago audiences. The production sold out, establishing Alan Stone’s gamble as an incisive decision. Brian Dickie continued this vision, bringing COT to the leading edge of American opera companies, establishing COT as an advocate for 17th, 18th, and 20th century works, and attracting collaborators from around the nation and the world. Andreas Mitisek is revitalizing COT’s commitment to new and rare works, infusing COT productions with OPERA (Outside the box; Provocative; Engaging; Relevant; Adventurous Experiences). Mitisek is dedicated to attracting new audiences to COT by collaborating with other arts organizations and by exploring unorthodox performance venues such as swimming pools, parking garages, and warehouses.

With Andreas Mitisek’s combination of administrative talent and artistic vision for 2016 and beyond, COT will continue building the future of opera by engaging broad and diverse audiences through intimate performances, artistic collaborations, and education and outreach. Programs such as Opera for All (OFA) and the Young Artists Program (YAP) are building the next generation of opera fans and opera artists. OFA is an elementary education and outreach program running successfully since 2000 that gives Chicago Public School students in disadvantaged neighborhoods the opportunity to write, produce, and perform their own original operas. It is the only program of its kind in the Chicago area. Also running successfully since 2000, the Young Artists Program (YAP) provides performance opportunities and training for promising young opera artists. COT now stages three productions each year and attracts singers from around the country and the world.


Opera for All[edit]

Opera for All (OFA) brings Teaching Artists into Chicago Public Elementary Schools to educate students about classical music, singing, and opera. Opera for All allows kids to understand the art by participating in it, both in production and in performance. Each year, students in Opera for All participate in a 35 session program with the end goal of creating their very own unique opera. COT's team of teaching artists pair up and work with each classroom to create the script, lyrics, music, set and costume design, and choreography of the opera. In the spring, students in the OFA program perform their opera for their parents and peers.

COT for Teens[edit]

In collaboration with the City of Chicago’s After School Matters program, COT now offers two Chicago Opera Theater for Teens programs. COT for Teens is in its third year at Solorio Academy High School with Teaching Artists Caryn Ott Hillman & Chris Richard throughout the school year and Emily Cox and Chungers Kim during the summer term. Our newest teen program begins this summer at Perspective Charter Schools with Dylan Bandy and Matt Piet.

Since 2006, students from many different backgrounds come together for this 10 week musical after school program in the fall and spring semester and a 6 or 7 week intensive program during the summer. Through an audition process, 30 students receive a stipend to study vocal technique, drama, opera and musical theater staging and production, and learn about college and career opportunities each semester. The Chicago Opera Theater for Teens are often seen performing around the city of Chicago.

Young Artists Program[edit]

The Chicago Opera Theater Young Artists Program is a performance-based training program for young singers. The participants have the opportunity to work with the innovative artistic teams which are the hallmark of Chicago Opera Theater under General Director Andreas Mitisek. The intention is to provide an artistic benchmark for young artists as they commence their careers, recognizing performance experience in fresh stagings of both standard and new repertoire as an essential training element.

Members of Young Artists Program are engaged for an intensive program during which each performs in the Season as a soloist or member of the ensemble. Young Artists are regularly engaged to cover principal roles. A covering artist is coached on his or her respective role with music staff, and will have the opportunity to perform portions of the role for an invited audience.

Young Artists receive individual coaching from COT Director of Musical Studies Scott Gilmore, and take part in master classes with coaches, conductors and teachers. Featured guests have included James Maddalena, Craig Rutenberg, Jane Glover, Samuel Ramey, Nancy Gustafson, Timothy Noble, Suzanne Mentzer, and Robin Leggate. Career development seminars have been offered in audition techniques and in the non-performance aspects of a career in singing.

Members of the Young Artist Program perform with the company's Education and Outreach program in a wide range of events for adults and children, and several Young Artists participate in the Recital Series of the Chicago Department of Cultural Affairs, presented at the Chicago Cultural Center.


In addition to some of the standard works, the company presents many rarely seen operas which are not in the mainstream.[3] A full list of COT's past repertoire is here.

Some past productions of rarely staged works include:

External links[edit]



  1. ^ Marsh, Robert C., "The Fox Years", p. 167: "In April 1974 Alan Stone, who had learned from missteps with the offerings of this Pilot Knob company the previous year, was back on the operatic scene, this time in the five-hundred-seat auditorium of Jones Commercial High School (which remained his company's mainstage location through 1976) with a workshop group he called Chicago Opera Studio and a production of Così fan tutte that had excellent young singers and genuine charm. Six performances cost $8,000 to produce."
  2. ^ Marsh, Robert C., "Author's Preface": "It should be said that Chicago has always had a number of smaller opera groups, some ethnically oriented, some essentially opera workshops to give vocal students performance experience. The Chicago Opera Theater began in 1974 as an organization of this type but was transformed into an important professional production group."
  3. ^ COT's website list of past productions Retrieved 6 February 2013