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Best Operas In Chicago

Opera requires thought, passion and patience to perform as well as to understand and enjoy. So why wouldn't you want to be viscerally whisked away for a few hours to a place where people feel so deeply that they must sing instead of talk about love and death? Open your ears at any of these Chicago spots to embrace this historical art form.

'Carmen' Lyric Opera (Photo by Lynn Lane)

Lyric Opera Of Chicago
Civic Opera House
20 N. Upper Wacker Drive
Chicago, IL 60606
(312) 419-0033

Founded in 1954, Lyric is one of the grand dames of opera in the United States. Expect to hear the world's most distinguished singers and be dazzled by designers and directors working their sensory magic in classic and lesser known operatic repertoire. Lyric's 62nd season is overflowing with international artists such as Plácido Domingo, Quinn Kelsey, Renée Fleming, Christine Goerke, Sophie Koch, Eric Owens and Lawrence Brownlee performing in special performances and operas by Wagner, Mozart and Bizet. Lyric also presents new-to-Chicago productions, Lyric's American Musical Initiative staging pieces like My Fair Lady and South Pacific and innovative collaborations such as the Chicago premiere of Charlie Parker's Yardbird.

Chicago Opera Theater
70 E. Lake St.
Chicago, IL 60601
(312) 704-8420

Chicago Opera Theater makes the art form accessible to the public by staging affordable performances, new and less familiar works and presenting opera at unconventional venues. In its 43rd season, COT offers performances at the Music Box Theatre, the Studebaker Theater Chicago and the Harris Theater for Music and Dance. Get into opera via works by Stewart Copeland, drummer for The Police, Phillip Glass and "The Fairy Queen" based on Shakespeare's "A Midsummer Night's Dream" among others. "Chicago Opera Theater continues to bring audiences more of what is different by rethinking not only the operas we feature and how they are staged, but also where they are staged," says COT's  Andreas Mitisek, "and how the combination of all those elements can transform the entire opera experience."

Chamber Opera Chicago
1641 N. Halsted St.
Chicago, IL 60614
(312)  951-7944

Organizations like Chamber Opera Chicago know the importance of nourishing new opera fans, so the organizations makes opera affordable, staging shows in English and in more intimate settings. The non-profit opera company attracts expert conductors and musicians, award-winning designers and renowned international directors appealing to long time opera-goers and newbies.

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Light Opera Works
516 4th St.
Wilmette, IL 60091
(847) 920-5360

A show at the 35-plus-year-old Light Opera Works is a fine intro to opera because productions are presented in modern English translation with original vocals and orchestrations. Performances at the 1,000-seat Mainstage feature a full orchestra, and programs include American and European operettas like The Merry Widow, The Mikado and Die Fledermaus by artists such as Offenbach, Gilbert and Sullivan, Johann Strauss, Jr. and Oscar Straus. Light Opera Works also features classic American musicals (Kiss Me, Kate and Annie Get Your Gun), contemporary works like Ragtime and A Little Night Music and revues from Side by Side by Sondheim to Berlin to Broadway with Kurt Weill.

Main Street Opera
309 E. Rand Road, Suite 165
>Arlington Heights, IL
(224) 764-0789

Main Street Opera serves the vast suburban Chicago population that might not otherwise get to experience professional opera and operetta due to costs, distance or lack of tuxedoes and ball gowns. MSO, formed in 2010, is headquartered in the northwest suburbs and aims to bring the big voices and stories of opera to local neighborhoods. "We combine experienced performers and emerging talent and feel we successfully present a quality show in an intimate setting," explains founder Katherine Bergman. This season, see Menotti's "The Consul," a Pulitzer Prize-winning opera exploring the challenges of a refugee trying to create a better life for her family, an au courant theme if there ever was one.

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Jacky Runice has been a columnist with the Daily Herald Chicago since grunge music and flannel was the new black. Her fingers and gray matter have been busy as travel editor of Reunions Magazine; penning a column that was syndicated around the nation via Tribune Media Services. Her work can be found at

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