Chicago Opera Theater Shines as Harris Music Scholars in Residence

Parker welcomed the Chicago Opera Theater to campus on Wednesday for the 6th Annual Joan W. Harris Visiting Music Scholar in Residence lecture and performance. COT is a resident company at the Harris Theater that has served as Chicago’s premier producer of rare and contemporary opera for nearly 50 years. Through their Opera for All program, COT serves more than 400 students in Chicago Public Schools every school year.

All those in attendance, both on campus and online, listened raptly as Associate Director of Community Programming Veronica Chamberlain led two fellow COT staff members, Stefan Edlis and Gael Neeson General Director Ashley Magnus and Vanguard Composer Gillian Rae Perry, through a discussion that covered a wide range of opera topics. First, the three explained some basic concepts of opera as an art form before going into specifics on their responsibilities at COT.

Next, they described the work of bringing their newest opera, The Life and Death(s) of Alan Turing, from concept to the world premiere on March 23. To help explain this process, the COT staff showed the audience two videos from librettist David Simpatico and composer Justine Chen, who talked about their inspiration for creating this opera and others, some challenges that come with the creation process and the elements of Alan Turing’s life that led them to feel so connected to this piece.

Finally, the audience got to hear two songs from the upcoming performance featuring Brian Hupp as Alan Turing, Karlos Pinero-Mercardo as Christopher, Corinne Costell as Sara and Jennifer Allor accompanying on piano. These performers not only dazzled the audience with their mastery of their craft but also gave firsthand information about bringing a brand-new show to the stage. From the benefits of personal creative freedom to the potential downsides of not having a soundscape to refer back to, their comments provided the audience with a much greater understanding of the extremely daunting journey of preparing an opera for a world premiere.

After this lecture, everyone from COT was more than willing to stick around for a very enlightening question-and-answer session with those in attendance.

Parker is grateful to the COT for their extremely informative presentation and performances and to the Harris family for establishing this program, which allows Parker to provide experiences that offer the community the chance to find inspiration, learn, appreciate and understand the transformative power of music.

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Francis W. Parker School educates students to think and act with empathy, courage and clarity as responsible citizens and leaders in a diverse democratic society and global community.