Chicago Opera Theater to Showcase Unique Double Bill

By Nicolas Quiroga

Chicago Opera Theater (COT), will present two major performances this May.

First up will be “The Cook-Off,” by composer Shawn Okpebholo and librettist Mark Campbell on May 11, 2023. “The Cook-Off” will be the fourth world premiere that the company showcases as part of its Vanguard program, which is led by Elizabeth Morse and genius Music Director Lidiya Yankovskaya.

The opera will be conducted by Catherine O’Shaughnessy and stars mezzo-soprano Pauline Tan as Beryl Bennett, mezzo-soprano Veena Akama-Makia as Kendra, soprano Corrine Costell as Ivy, tenor Karlos Piñero-Mercado as Álvaro, and baritone Evan Bravos as Kenny Kincaid.

“With ‘The Cook-Off,’ we are thrilled to be celebrating the fifth anniversary of COT’s transformative Vanguard Initiative,” said Yankovskaya in an official press statement. “The skill, artistry, collaboration, and deep understanding of the theater that are necessary for the creation of a successful opera can be daunting. Through Vanguard, we have been able to give the most promising and innovative musical voices of today–composers like Shawn Okpebholo–the platform and support to make their mark on opera.”

That will be followed up by the double bille of “Another Sunrise” and “For a Look or a Touch,” by composer Jake Heggie and librettist Gene Scheer. These works will be showcased on May 27 and 28, both at the Athenaeum Center.

Starring in these operas will be soprano Caitlin Lynch, bass- baritone Ryan McKinny, and actor Curt Branom. Joseph Mechavich conducts the production by Erich Parce.