Chicago's finest

This weekend, some of Chicago’s premiere chamber ensembles & companies start their fall seasons.  Groups like Bella Voce, Bach & Beethoven Ensemble (BBE), and Chicago Fringe Opera showcase our city’s deep roster of skilled singers in a way that only conductors and directors who are intimate with the local talent can.

Alexandra Olsavsky, who plays the pastoral heroine in BBE’s mounting of the first Scottish opera, the Gentle Shepherd, is one third of the superior Artemisia trio and appeared in Haymarket Opera Company’s Actéon.  For those of us who are in the professional choral circuit, seeing Alexandra in the soprano section signals that you are among an elite group of musicians.  Few in this saturated market have her invaluable combination ofgleaming tone, mastery of pitch, and naturalness in phrasing.

BBE’s Gentle Shepherd, Saturday at Old Town School of Folk Music (SOLD OUT) and Sunday at Theater Wit in Lakeview, boasts a cast that, with Ms. Olsavsky, could readily form a formidable chamber group including mezzo-soprano Lindsey Adams, countertenor Thomas Aláan, and Barihunk™ Carl Frank.

Diana Stoic headlines Chicago Fringe Opera’s  Season Opening Gala with her presentation of Thomas Pasatieri’s Shakespearian monodrama The Bride of the Moor with pianist Michael McElvain.  Diana stole the show as Blonde in Candid Concert Opera’s Abduction from the Seraglio a few seasons ago and then retreated for a few years to concentrate on her family.  Chicago’s chamber opera scene is fortunate that she has returned to the stage with her undeniable charm and rich lyric coloratura instrument.  Stoic was the most recent interview guest on Matthan Black’s Doing the Work podcast – a veritable guide to who’s who in the Chicago opera community.  Pasatieri’s Bride of the Moor is a setting of Desdemona texts and will be coupled with other contemporary takes on Shakespeare from Lee Hoiby and Thomas Adès presented by mezzo-soprano Ashley Armstrong, soprano Jessie Lyons, and Mr. McElvain this Sunday at Pianoforte.

The choral recommendation for this weekend is Bella Voce’s season opener and first in a series of collaborations with Opus 327, NFP at St. Luke’s in Evanston. Andrew Lewis leads this preeminentChicago ensemble with soloists from the choir,  Ars Antingua period band,  and the Skinner Opus 327 organ played by Dr. Christine Kraemer in Henry Purcell’s “Hail, bright Cecilia!”  - an ode to harmony, the patron saint of music, and the organ itself.  Maestro Lewis has an affinity for Bristish choral tradition and the Baroque – so this promises to be one of their best concerts of the year.

Don’t forget that readers of Vocal Arts Chicago are invited to see Shanghai Peking Opera’s adaptation of Hamlet, the Revenge of Prince Zi Dan, with access to $20 tickets by using the promotional code ZiDan20 at the Harris Theater website.