Hello, I’m Carl Ratner and I am the Director of Opera at Western Michigan University and the former Artistic Director of Chicago Opera Theater and Chamber Opera Chicago. I am currently involved in three productions of two different operas with music by David Shenton and libretto by Christine Steyer.
I am directing both the Professional and Academic premieres of the opera On Call: COVID-19. On Call is both of and for this time in which we live. It consists of three Zoom calls among six health care workers around the world. The piece is written so that it can be prepared, rehearsed, and presented entirely online. It is also flexible in terms of gender, so that it can accommodate different or even non-traditional groups of singers. So the piece is ideal for production by College Opera Workshops as well as by companies with limited budgets or who want to continue to present during this pandemic in a way that is completely safe.
David Shenton’s music is singable, accessible and eclectic, but at the same time it is also sophisticated, with many different musical and social resonances that give it depth. Each aria of On Call is haunting and deeply moving. Christine Steyer’s librettos are so touching and manage to be both contemporary and universal at the same time. Every word seems natural and heartfelt, never jarring. She manages to explore difficult issues of our time but they are presented through the communal emotional responses that they evoke.
I am performing as a singer in another work by the same team, Future Perfect. This fantasy of self-discovery and self-actualization was developed through interactions with hundreds of youths in the greater Chicago area. Again, the piece is as universal as The Magic Flute, while at the same time reflecting the concerns of young people trying to make sense of their place in the modern world.
The collaboration between David and Christine is wonderful to observe. The way they work together absolutely fuses the music and the text in a way that seems like the inevitable expression of the emotions being depicted. And going forward I know that they both will be very accommodating to the needs of the organizations that will program their works. I certainly recommend that you consider programming these extraordinary works!