The idea of opera being performed in unexpected and intimate venues is not an original one, but is an idea that is beginning to catch fire as was made evident by recent articles in the New Yorker and the Huffington Post, and by the work of local fledgling organizations like Floating Opera and the newly minted Opera Ouvert. This weekend, you can witness two productions in this vein. /kor/ Productions's Marriage of Figaro begins a two week run, starting this Friday at Berger Park Mansion and then moving to a Lakeview coffeeshop next week. Chicago Fringe Opera offers its fourth production in its chosen lane: a 20th or 21st century work by an American or British composer performed in English. This time they have chosen Phillip Glass's In the Penal Colony. The previews have already garnered praise, and the artistic team features some of the best Chicago has to offer: Conductor Cathy O'Shaughnessy of Windy City Opera and the aforementioned Floating Opera Company, stage director George Cederquist, and singers Matthan Ring Black and Zachary Vanderburg who contribute to many performances around town featured on this website.
Intimacy is nothing new for a capella ensembles like Schola Antiqua and Men's Constellation Ensemble. Michael Alan Anderson, Schola Antiqua's artistic director, returns to Chicago to lead the ensemble in a program devoted to one of the giants of the English Renaissance, William Byrd. They will perform Saturday in what was recently dubbed the "most beautiful church in America." On Friday, you have another chance to catch one of the newer and good-looking a capella groups - Constellation Men's Ensemble. Their programs tend to veer towards esoteric, stylistically expansive, and irreverent.
BUT on Friday, those pretty young stars of the Constellation are competing with Eugenia Cheng's Liederstube. If you are a tourist, if you are a singer yourself, if you really love performance but can't stand or don't understand the expected protocol of audience behavior - the Liederstube is for you. Anytime Dr. Cheng opens her private studio for a Liederstube salon event is a wonderful time. This particular 'stube features internationally acclaimed baritone Corey Crider as Eugenia's special guest. One normally has to pay a steep ticket price to hear this man sing, but if you attend, you will get to hang out with him, drink wine with him, and marvel at his glorious voice for free!