First and last pairing: Donizetti’s “IL PIGMALIONE & RITA” in Chicago

April 14, 20 & 22 Staging Provides Chicagoans Unique Opportunity to Experience Gaetano Donizetti’s First Opera Paired With One of His Last

Chicago Opera Theater (COT) presents “Il Pigmalione & Rita,” a double-bill that spans the life and career of one of opera’s premier bel canto composers, Gaetano Donizetti. The two works will be woven together to create a cohesive theatrical production featuring the talents of Javier Abreu (Pigmalione/Beppe), Angela Mortellaro (Galatea/Rita) and Keith Phares (Gasparo). Donizetti’s first work and one of his last are presented together as an exploration of love, fantasy and the blurry lines between them. The double bill is conducted by Francesco Milioto, directed by Amy Hutchison with movement by physical theater expert Adrian Danzig. 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. 

For our third and final production of the 2017/2018 season, COT brings two contrasting and complimentary Donizetti works to Chicago for the first time,” remarked General Director Douglas R. Clayton. “The two works have been theatrically combined to flow seamlessly together and highlight the progression of Donizetti’s musical artistry and his thoughts on themes of love and romance throughout his compositional career.”

“Il Pigmalione” tells the classic story from Ovid’s “Metamorphoses” that would go on to inspire George Bernard Shaw and the musical duo of Lerner and Loewe. 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. Puerto Rican tenor Javier Abreu sings an extensive solo performance as Pigmalione until he is joined by soprano Angela Mortellaro when she comes to life as Galatea. 

During the intermission, Abreu and Mortellaro’s characters age and develop through a theatrical entre’acte, where Galatea becomes the titular “Rita” of the second opera, a self-reliant café owner on the Italian coast, and Pigmalione is revealed to be the sensitive artistic side of Beppe, Rita’s overworked husband, channeling a bumbling Roberto Benigni.  In the second comedic opera, a love triangle plunges Rita and Beppe into chaos when her first husband, Gasparo (sung by baritone Keith Phares), returns to town after having been presumed dead for years. In Gasparo’s return, Beppe sees an opportunity to escape his exhausting situation, and so the two men face off to determine who has to stay and who gets to leave.  Meanwhile Rita herself ponders if her life and her business are better off with either of the two men at all.

My vision for this production was to compose a theatrical Italian love letter that pays tribute to bel canto, and Donizetti’s illustrious contributions to the art form,” said Director Amy Hutchison. “Set in 1940’s Italy, the production highlights the beauty of Donizetti’s music, promising a lighthearted evening of romance and comedy.

The cast stars Javier Abreu as Pigmalione/Beppe, Angela Mortellaro as Galatea/Rita, Keith Phares as Gasparo, Sean Garrat, Alexander Knapp as well as Chicago Opera Theater Young Artists Patrick Shelton, Lani Stait, Samuel Weiser and Alexandra Martinez-Turano as Supernumeraries.

Performance Schedule

Saturday, April 14 at 7:30 p.m.

Friday, April 20 at 7:30 p.m.

Sunday, April 22 at 3 p.m.

Tickets for “Il Pigmalione & Rita” ($45 – $145) can be purchased by calling 312.704.8414 or by visiting

The double bill of “Il Pigmalione” and “Rita” is the final production of Chicago Opera Theater’s 2017-2018 season. For details on COT’s 2018-2019 season visit


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