Chicago Opera Theater (COT) presents “Il Pigmalione” & “Rita,” a double bill that spans the life and career of opera’s premier bel canto composer, Gaetano Donizetti. The two works weave together a stunningly theatrical production featuring the talents of Javier Abreu (Pigmalione/Beppe), Angela Mortellato (Galetea/Rita), Keith Phares (Gaspar) and the physical theatre expert Adrian Danzig. Donizetti’s first work and one of his last, both of which he never lived to see performed, are presented together as an exploration of love, fantasy, and the blurry lines between them. The double bill is conducted by Franceso Milioto and directed by Amy Hutchison. The opening night and main press performance will take place on Saturday, April 14 at 7:30 p.m. at the historic Studebaker Theater (410 S. Michigan). Additional performances will take place on Friday, April 20 at 7:30 p.m. and Sunday, April 22 at 3 p.m.
“Il Pigmalione” embodies the classic story from Ovid’s metamorphosis that would go on to inspire Shaw, Lerner and Lowe. Devoted artist Pigmalione, shuttered in his studio, toils away to create his vision of ideal beauty: Galatea. Smitten with his own work, his prayers for true love are answered when she’s brought to life. Javier Abreu sings an extensive solo performance as Pigmalione until he is joined by Angela Mortellaro singing Galatea. Abreu and Mortellaro transition seamlessly through intermission into Beppe and Rita, where they are joined by Keith Phares singing Gaspar.
“Rita,” one of Donizetti’s final operas, is a comic love story of a different sort. A love triangle plunges the lives of Rita, a tyrannical café owner, and Peppe, her timid husband, into chaos when her first husband, Gaspar, returns to retrieve the presumed dead Rita’s death certificate to allow himself to remarry. Peppe sees an opportunity to escape Rita’s’ constant slaps, and so the two men agree to a game. The question isn’t who gets to marry her—it’s who gets to leave.