CHICAGO — Chicago Opera Theater (COT), Chicago’s foremost producer of contemporary and re-imagined opera, continues its 2021-2022 season with the Chicago premiere of the seasonal treat, Becoming Santa Claus, in three performances only, December 11, 17 & 19, at the Studebaker Theater, 410 S. Michigan Avenue, in the Fine Arts Building. Debuted by the Dallas Opera to much acclaim in 2015, the English language opera by American composer Mark Adamo receives a brand-new production by Chicago Opera Theater in what is sure to be a jolly good time for opera goers of all ages.
“Chicago Opera Theater is thrilled to present the holiday gem Becoming Santa Claus to Chicago audiences.” Says COT’s Edlis Neeson General Director Ashley Magnus “brimming with holiday cheer and beautiful music, it’s a great opera for the whole family- perfect for kids, opera newcomers, and afficionados alike.”
In Mark Adamo’s acclaimed holiday opera, Becoming Santa Claus, a bratty elf Prince learns the meaning of family, love, and the true spirit of gift-giving. The 90-minute work performed without intermission is sung in English, with English supertitles.
“We continue to fulfill our mission to ensure Chicago has a chance to hear the world’s most influential living composers,” said Music Director Lidiya Yankovskaya. “A bombastic orchestra, colorful orchestrations, energetic choreography, and a children’s bell choir will combine to bring audiences this magical story.”
Conducted by Chicago Opera Theater Staley Music Director Lidiya Yankovskaya, Becoming Santa Claus will be directed and choreographed by Kyle Lang in his COT debut. Also making his COT debut is American tenor Martin Bakari, starring in the title role of Prince Claus, the young prince poised to become Santa Claus. He is joined by a talented cast made up of mezzo-soprano Nina Yoshida Nelsen, COT regular mezzo-soprano Leah Dexter, tenor Justin Berkowitz, soprano Amy Owens, bass Matt Boehler, and bass-baritone David Salsbery Fry. The creative team mounting this new production includes scenic designer Steven C. Kemp, lighting & projection designer Driscoll Otto, and costume designer Brenda Winstead.
On Friday, November 19 at 6:00 p.m., cast members from COT’s Becoming Santa Claus will give a sneak peek performance during the City of Chicago’s Christmas Tree Lighting Ceremony in Millennium Park. For more information about the ceremony, visit www.chicago.gov
On Wednesday, December 8 at 7:30 p.m., Chicago Opera Theater partners with the Beverly Arts Center, 2407 W 111th St. in Chicago, on Close-Up with Becoming Santa Claus, a free event diving deeper into the piece with composer Mark Adamo and featuring performance excerpts by the cast, hosted by the Beverly Arts Center.
Performance schedule and ticket pricing
Becoming Santa Claus will be performed at the Studebaker Theater, 410 S. Michigan Avenue, Saturday, December 11, at 7:30 p.m.; Friday, December 17, at 7:30 p.m.; and Sunday, December 19 at 3:00 p.m. Tickets start at $45 and are on sale now at chicagooperatheater.org/season/santa
Save money by ordering a two-opera subscription package that includes tickets for Becoming Santa Claus as well as tickets for the world premiere of Quamino’s Map presented later in the season. Subscribers also gain access to half-off tickets for COT’s Vanguard Program performance of The Beekeeper. To order a subscription, visit chicagooperatheater.org/
Creative Team Bios
American composer-librettist Mark Adamo first attracted national attention with his uniquely celebrated début opera, Little Women, after the Alcott novel, which is still one of the most performed American operas. His latest opera, Becoming Santa Claus, was released on DVD/Blu-Ray in September 2017; it was commissioned and introduced by Dallas Opera in December 2015. The DVD release followed a new production in Boulder, Colorado, which Adamo directed, of a chamber version of The Gospel of Mary Magdalene, his third full-length opera. In 2012 Fort Worth Opera opened its first production of his second opera, Lysistrata. Since 2007 he has served as the principal teacher of American Lyric Theatre’s Composer-Librettist Development Program in New York, in which he coaches teams of composers and librettists in developing their work for the stage. His music is published exclusively by G. Schirmer, Inc.
Russian-American conductor Lidiya Yankovskaya is a fiercely committed advocate for Russian masterpieces, operatic rarities, and contemporary works on the leading edge of classical music. She has conducted more than 40 world premieres, including 16 operas, and her strength as a visionary collaborator has guided new perspectives on staged and symphonic repertoire from Carmen and Queen of Spades to Price and Prokofiev. Her daring performances before and amid the pandemic earned recognition from the Chicago Tribune, which praised her as “the very model of how to survive adversity, and also how to thrive in it,” while naming her 2020 Chicagoan of the Year. As Music Director of Chicago Opera Theater, Lidiya is one of only two women to hold that title at a multimillion-dollar opera company in the United States. Under her leadership, COT has established the Vanguard Initiative, a three-pronged investment in new opera that includes a two-year residency for emerging opera composers. Lidiya’s experiences as a refugee inspired her to found the Refugee Orchestra Project, which proclaims the cultural and societal relevance of refugees through music, and has brought that message to hundreds of thousands of listeners around the world.
Kyle Lang’s directing credits include Carmen (San Diego Opera), L’elisir d’amore (Virginia Opera), Die Fledermaus (Utah Opera), Lucia di Lammermoor (Virginia Opera), The Pirates of Penzance (Intermountain Opera Bozeman), Mame (Seagle Music Colony), As One (San Diego Opera), The Pirates of Penzance (Associate – San Diego Opera), The Bear (Wexford Festival Opera), La bohème (Virginia Opera), Die Zauberflöte (Seagle Music Colony). His choreographic credits include Ariadne auf Naxos (Santa Fe Opera), My Fair Lady (Teatro San Carlo), Die Fledermaus (Utah Opera), Vanessa (Wexford Festival Opera), Turandot (Virginia Opera), The Merry Widow (Boston Lyric Opera), The Merry Widow (Utah Opera), La Traviata (Fort Worth Opera), Jenůfa (Des Moines Metro Opera).
COT is dedicated to the health and well-being of its audiences, artists, crews, and staff. All audience members must show proof of complete COVID-19 vaccination, or a recent negative COVID-19 test. Masks must be worn during the performance, and audience capacity will be limited. For full and up to date COVID-19 precaution information, visit chicagooperatheater.org/covid.
About Chicago Opera Theater
Chicago Opera Theater is a company laser-focused on living its values: expanding the tradition of opera as a living art form, producing high-quality works new to Chicago audiences, identifying top-tier casts and creative talent at the beginning of grand operatic careers, and following through on commitments to equity and access – behind the scenes, on the stage, and in the audience. Since its founding in 1973, COT has grown from a grassroots community-based company to a national leader in an increasingly vibrant, diverse, and forward-looking art form. COT has staged over 150 operas, including 77 Chicago premieres and 44 operas by American composers. COT is led by Stefan Edlis and Gael Neeson General Director Ashley Magnus and Music Director Lidiya Yankovskaya, who is one of only two women to hold that title at a multimillion-dollar opera company in the United States. In addition to its mainstage season, COT is devoted to the development and production of new opera in the United States through its three-pronged Vanguard Initiative, launched in 2018. The Vanguard Initiative trains emerging opera composers, invests time and talent in new opera at various stages of the creative process, and opens up opportunities for Chicago audiences to become part of the development of new work, in dialogue with the creators themselves.
The 2021-22 season continues in March with COT’s fourth Vanguard composer commissioned opera The Beekeeper composed by Wang Lu to a libretto by Kelley Rourke and finishes in April with the world premiere of Quamino’s Map composed by Errollyn Wallen to a libretto by Deborah Brevoort. For more information about Chicago Opera Theater, please visit www.chicagooperatheater.org