Elgin singer to star in new opera honoring health care workers premiering April 17

  • Working In Concert's "On Call: COVID-19" cast includes, top row, from left, Emanuel-Cristian Caraman, Gwendolyn Brown and Russell Hoke; and bottom row, Jeong Eun Joo, Carl Ratner and Christine Steyer.

    Working In Concert's "On Call: COVID-19" cast includes, top row, from left, Emanuel-Cristian Caraman, Gwendolyn Brown and Russell Hoke; and bottom row, Jeong Eun Joo, Carl Ratner and Christine Steyer. Courtesy of Bellissima Opera

  • Working In Concert's "On Call: COVID-19" cast includes, top row, from left, Emanuel-Cristian Caraman, Gwendolyn Brown and Russell Hoke; and bottom row, Jeong Eun Joo, Carl Ratner and Christine Steyer.

    Working In Concert's "On Call: COVID-19" cast includes, top row, from left, Emanuel-Cristian Caraman, Gwendolyn Brown and Russell Hoke; and bottom row, Jeong Eun Joo, Carl Ratner and Christine Steyer. Courtesy of Bellissima Opera

 
Submitted by Christine Steyer
Updated 4/9/2021 3:16 PM

Chicago-based Working In Concert premieres the world's first full-length virtual opera, "On Call: COVID-19," streaming on April 17-18.

Created by librettist Christine Steyer of Oak Park, Ill., composer David Shenton of Queens, N.Y, and director Carl Ratner of Kalamazoo, Mich., "On Call" is drawn from 200 articles about global health care workers facing the COVID-19 pandemic.

 

It was produced and commissioned by Working in Concert's Bellissima Opera Initiative. The opera premiere features the Bellissima Opera Cast, seven professionals drawn from around the country.

"On Call" provided a meaningful project for opera singers who have been hard-pressed to find work during the pandemic. Each singer safety recorded their parts at home and the segments were then assembled to create the look of a live Zoom meeting.

The opera's three scenes look in on a series of "Zoom" calls by six characters: medics from Chicago, Seoul, Rio de Janeiro, Lombardy, New York City, and a Syrian refugee camp near Beirut as they each struggle with the pandemic unfolding in their unique geographical location.

During these calls, they provide a lifeline to each other, and ultimately discover kindness and compassion can be as powerful as a tool as a vaccine and a ventilator. Each cast member has chosen their own character's name to honor either a health care worker or someone who has died from COVID-19.

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The cast includes: contralto Gwendolyn Brown, Nashville, Tenn.; tenor Emanuel-Cristian Caraman, South Bend, Ind.; baritone Russell Hoke, Elgin, Ill.; soprano Jeong Eun Joo, Chicago; baritone Carl Ratner, Kalamazoo, Mich.; pianist David Shenton, Queens, N.Y.; and soprano Christine Steyer, Oak Park, Ill.

The show will stream at 7 p.m. (CDT) Saturday, April 17, and 2:30 p.m. Sunday, April 18, followed by an artist meet-and-greet. Twenty percent of donations for the meet-and-greet given to the Greater Chicago Food Depository.

Detailed show information and ticketing for the livestream is posted at WorkingInConcert.org/CovidOpera.

Audience members are invited to join the post-opera artist meet-and-greet by making an additional donation.

This opera is 60-minutes, in English with English subtitles. Student tickets for $5 are available. Discounted ticket information available. Subject matter appropriate for ages 8 or older.

Librettist and soprano Christine Steyer says, "No one is left untouched by the daily images of health care workers risking their lives in service as events of the pandemic unfold. Composer David Shenton and I were in the midst of creating operas for Bellissima Opera's 'Tales of Transcendence Series' -- celebrating those transcending the human divide -- when we turned our focus to those self-sacrificing workers to create 'On Call'."

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