The South Shore Opera Company
South Shore Opera Company, founded in 2008, unrivaled, in its artistic performances, has been serving the South Shore community and presenting the music of unsung Black composers Samuel Coleridge Taylor, William Grant Still, and Chevalier Saint-Georges as well as Mozart, Verdi, and Puccini since 2009.
The company was formed by Dr. Marvin Lynn in partnership with the Advisory Council of the South Shore Cultural Center as an arts partner with the Center and the Chicago Park District. Thanks to that partnership, the company is now Arts Partner in Residence at the South Shore Cultural Center, one of Chicago’s landmarks. The company artistic main goals: make opera and musical theater accessible to our community while providing greater opportunities for professional diverse artists to grow.
The South Shore Opera Company provides two free performances annually for the community fulfilling the goal of making opera and musical theater accessible to an underserved audience. Each season South Shore Opera Company audiences have enjoyed the best and brightest of Chicago’s operatic talent in scenes from classic operas, musical theater, and the rarely performed works of Black composers. The diverse productions have afforded opportunities for emerging young professionals to share their talent with large audiences, acclimating them to the demands of a vocal classical career. Each season South Shore Opera Company audiences have enjoyed the best and brightest of Chicago’s operatic talent in scenes from classic operas, musical theater, and art songs of Black composers.
The Company highlights were featured by the Chicago Tribune, Chicago Magazine, Harry Porterfield’s Someone You Should Know, Channel 7, and Chicago Cultural Center’s Day at the Opera, Ravinia Festival, Dr. King Interfaith Breakfast, and the Chicago Community Trust 98th Anniversary.
The South Shore Opera Company has grown in depth and assurance of productions, in organizational strength collaborating with major dance, choral, orchestras, guest conductors, stage managers, and accompanists. Having relied on piano accompanying in the past, performances are now supported with orchestra ensembles and conductors (consisting of musicians from the Chicago Sinfonietta, Chicago Philharmonic, and Chicago universities). Guest conductors have included, Francesco Milioto, conductor of the New Millennium Orchestra and Music Director of the Skokie Valley Symphony Orchestra; Emanuele Andrizzi, cover conductor at the Lyric Opera; Reneé Baker conductor of the Chicago Modern Orchestra Project; and Daniel Black, Assistant Conductor – Fort Worth Symphony Orchestra; Leslie B. Dunner, former conductor of the Joffery Ballet and now guest music director of South Shore Opera Company of Chicago.
South Opera Company has also worked with the Chicago Community Chorus, Ensemble Espanol Spanish Dance Theater, Iona Ballet Company, and Deeply Rooted Dance Theater. South Shore Opera Company repertoire have included scenes from; Handel’s Giulio Cesare, Verdi’s Falstaff, Rigoletto, La Traviata, and Aida, Strauss’ Die Fledermaus, Bizet’s Carmen, Puccini’s LaBohéme, Tosca, and Turnadot, Mozart’s Marriage of Figaro, Magic Flute and Don Giovanni, Rossini’s The Barber of Seville, Mascagni’s Cavalleria Rusticana, Donizetti’s L’elisir d’amore, Flotow’s Martha, Donizetti’s Don Pasquale, Bizet’s Les pêcheurs de perles,and Gershwin’s Porgy and Bess.
The Company honor Black composers annually in February, which have included the works of, Margaret Bonds, Langston Hughes, Harry T. Burleigh, Roland Hayes, Hale Smith, George Cooper, Lena McLin, John W. Work, Jr., Leslie Adams, Moses Hogan, Hall Johnson, Roland Carter, and Robert Owens. The South Shore Opera Company 2013 season marked the 5th Anniversary and was dedicated to unsung forgotten Black classical composers. June performances featured the music of Samuel Coleridge-Taylor (1875-1912) an Afro-British composer’s one-act opera Dream Lovers and Seven African Romances – libretto and poems written by Paul Laurence Dunbar (1872-1906). The collaboration of two nineteenth century artists of African ancestry. The 2013 season concluded to acclaimed reviews with William Grant Still’s Troubled Island, first grand opera composed by an African American and produced by a major opera company for the American stage. South Shore Opera Company was named Chicago’s Best Classical Music/Opera Moments of 2013 by the late Andrew Patner, musical critic of the Chicago Sun-Times.
We are a Board of eight members, of which five are volunteer work staff committed to building community through music and presenting the works of unsung composers whose contributions to music deserve recognition in the history of classical music and the arts.
The South Shore Cultural Center
The South Shore Cultural Center was originally designed as a private club, the South Shore Country Club, by the architectural firm of Marshall and Fox. The architects renowned for their hotel and apartment building designs throughout the Chicago land area, Marshall and Fox are best known for their design of the Drake and Blackstone Hotels. They constructed the original South Shore Club House in 1906 in the Italian Resort Style, resembling a summer palace. Of the original structure, the only remaining portion is the ballroom (now Paul Robeson Theatre) on the south end of the existing building. In 1916, after expansion in membership and social importance in Chicago, the old clubhouse was moved to the south section of the grounds and became the golf club house (no longer in existence). Marshall and Fox were hired again to design a new clubhouse.
For decades, the South Shore Country Club was a playground for Chicago’s rich. In the 1960’s the club was abandoned and fell into disrepair. Over the next few years, community activists pushed to have the club restored and in 1974, the Chicago Park District purchased the club for $10 million. The site became listed on the National Registrar of Historic Places in 1975. In 1984, the Chicago Park District rehabilitated the club house using interior color schemes developed by the original architects, Marshall and Fox.
Today, the South Shore Cultural Center is one of the Chicago Park District’s most significant historical sites. The center sits on 64.50 acres of land and is bounded by Lake Shore Drive on the west, 71st Street on the south and Lake Michigan on the north and east. The grounds include a nine-hole golf course, beach, nature sanctuary, butterfly garden and open space for picnics and walks. The horse stable is currently used by the Chicago Police Department. In 2004 the Cultural center was recognized as a Chicago Landmark.
The Center is a common space for banquets, weddings, receptions, community and private business meetings, art exhibits and other cultural activities. President Barack Obama and First Lady Michelle Obama selected this historic venue for their wedding reception more than a decade ago. In addition to special events, the Center offers a variety of cultural programs and classes for all ages in dance, music, art, health, culinary arts, after school, fitness and more. The Center is also home to programs offered by Washburne Culinary Institute, and Parrot Cage Restaurant, a 50-seat dining experience featuring international cuisine