Brian Dickie is General Director of the Chicago Opera Theater (COT) and a champion of modern and early opera who has kept an acclaimed blog for five years, chronicling his work with the COT and the opera world at large.
I sent Brian questions about the COT’s history of presenting early opera, their process of choosing a work and directors, and what’s in store for the future.
The COT is renowned for its world-class opera productions. Has the company produced much early opera in the past?
The company has performed many early music works, most notably Monteverdi’s L’Orfeo (2000), L’incoronazione di Poppea (2004), and Il ritorno d’Ulisse in patria (2007), and Purcell’s Dido and Aeneas (2006), as well as multiple Handel operas.
This season you’ve chosen Francesco Cavalli’s Giasone. How did you come to decide on that particular work?
When I was at Glyndebourne we performed his Calisto and L’Ormindo. So I really wanted to perform a Cavalli work here at COT. I presented the idea to Christian Curnyn with whom I had following for a few years. I also presented the idea of working with director Justin Way.
It turns out Christian already knew Justin and was thrilled at the idea, sometimes you just get lucky and the stars are in alignment! Between the three of us we came up the idea of doing a trilogy of baroque operas with Medea as the central character. So Cavalli’s Giasone will be the first of the trilogy followed by Charpentier’s Médée in 2012 and finishing with Handel’s Teseo in 2013.
What was your process for choosing stage and music directors?
I feel it is very important to work with directors and conductors who are very good collaborators, after all opera is a collaborative process. I very much like to work with people again when they’ve got something to say about a particular work. Consequently at COT we have been lucky to have people such as Diane Paulus, Jane Glover, Raymond Leppard, Justin Way, Lillian Groag and more come back to work on multiple productions!
Is there more early opera in the COT’s future that we might look forward to?
Aside from the upcoming Charpentier and Handel, I’m interested in possibly presenting Rameau or perhaps more Cavalli or Purcell. There are multitudes of masterpieces in early music that should be seen again for the masterpieces that they are!