The University of Chicago News Office
May 15, 1996 Press Contact: Josh Schonwald
(773) 702-6421

John Eaton, Nicholas Rudall, Richard Stern and Barbara Schubert To Stage Two New Operas

Two innovative, vibrant operas created by four distinguished University of Chicago faculty members will be performed at Harold Washington Library in early June. Don Quixote is based on Cervantes’ well-known novel, and Golk is from the Pulitzer-Prize nominated novel of the same name by University of Chicago Professor of English Richard Stern.

University of Chicago Professor of Music John Eaton, the composer of the operas, calls his company a “pocket opera.” The Eaton Opera Company stages its shows with a handful of instrumentalists, a vocal quartet and creative lighting, not with the elaborate sets, full orchestra and dozens of cast members one might expect to see. Instead of being hidden away in the orchestra pit, the instrumentalists are on stage during the entire production–and they wear costumes, sing, move and speak, in addition to playing.

“In Golk there are professional singers, but in Don Quixote the orchestra does everything–they transcend their normal limits,” said conductor Schubert. “For example, the violinist has to sing and play at the same time in different pitches.”

Eaton’s first opera of this type was the critically acclaimed Peer Gynt, based on the play by Ibsen and originally performed in 1993 by the New York New Music Ensemble. “I wanted the instrumentalists to take part in the action, not simply play for singers they never see,” Eaton said.

The operas are composed by John Eaton, nationally recognized composer and University of Chicago Professor in Music; directed by Nicholas Rudall, Founding Director of Court Theatre and Associate Professor in Classical Languages & Literatures; and conducted by Barbara Schubert, University of Chicago Senior Lecturer of Music and Director of Student Performing Programs. The libretto is by Richard Stern, well-known novelist and University of Chicago Professor of English. The operas are being produced by Performing Arts Chicago.

The short operas will be performed together at 7:30 p.m. Thursday, June 6 through Saturday, June 8, in the auditorium of the Harold Washington Library on 400 S. State St. Tickets are $22 (half-price for students) and may be purchased by calling 663-1628.

Eaton, Schubert, Rudall and Stern will discuss Golk at noon Thursday, May 23, at the Chicago Humanities Institute in Regenstein Library, 1100 E. 57th St.. It is free and open to the public. For more information, call 702-8274.

John Eaton–University of Chicago Professor of Music, a 1990 MacArthur Fellow and the composer of 13 operas–has been called “the most interesting opera composer writing in America today” by critic Andrew Porter. His operas, which include The Cry of Clytaemnestra and Myskin, have been performed around the globe, in such places as Bolshoi Hall of the Moscow Conservatory and the San Francisco Opera.

His Eaton Opera Company evolved out of his desire to create a new kind of opera company, one that could fit all its costumes, props and instrumentalists in the back of a van and travel to city after city, school after school. “If we needed or wanted more accompaniment than those instrumentalists could provide, then we would use a full range of electronic music,” Eaton said. “I envision not only innovation but also a true democratization of opera.”

A pioneer in electronic music, Eaton is the co-inventor of the Eaton-Moog Multiple-Touch-Sensitive Keyboard, a synthesizer that is sensitive to the pressure and placement of the fingers and has been called the world’s most sensitive musical instrument next to the human voice. Nicholas Rudall, University of Chicago Associate Professor of Classics and Founding Director of Court Theatre, served as Artistic Director of Court Theatre from 1971 to 1994. His recent directing credits include The Importance of Being Earnest, Pygmalion for Chicago’s Theatre on the Air and Cloud Nine. He was nominated for a Joseph Jefferson award as Best Actor for his performance in The Paradise Hotel, a Jeff award for Best Supporting Actor in Juno and the Paycock and a Jeff citation for Best Actor in Butley. He will be featured as a physics professor in the forthcoming Andy Davis film Chain Reaction, with Morgan Freeman and Keanu Reeves. Richard Stern, University of Chicago Helen A. Regenstein Professor of English, is one of the foremost contemporary authors in America. His novel Golk was nominated for the Pulitzer Prize. Stern’s works include the novel A Father’s Words (1986) and the short story collection Noble Rot (1989), both critically acclaimed. He was awarded the Medal of Merit in 1985 by the American Academy and Institution for Arts and Letters. He has taught at the University since 1955. Barbara Schubert, Senior Lecturer in Music and Director of Student Performing Programs at the University of Chicago, conducts both the New Music Ensemble and the symphony orchestra at the University of Chicago. She was recently appointed president of the National Association of Conductors.
Last modified at 03:50 PM CST on Wednesday, June 14, 2000.

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