Students earn grant for coffeehouse opera

By Maroon Staff

The University of Chicago Arts Council awarded a $4,000 UChicago Arts Grant to the University of Chicago Cantata Collegium, an informal new forum for students that combines academic research with interdisciplinary performance arts. The Collegium will allocate the grant in its staging of an entirely student-produced version of J.S. Bach’s Coffee Cantata. The short opera pokes fun at an old man and his spoiled daughter driven apart by the evils of coffee.

“The Collegium is our solution to a growing need for collaboration and coordination between the University’s plethora of arts organizations and artists in residence,” said Stephan Raskauskas, the Collegium’s artistic director.

CThe Collegium, which was founded in June last year, will collaborate with the department of Music, the Lyric Opera of Chicago, and several other campus and Chicago arts organizations in researching and designing its English rendition of Cantata.

“It’s a really compelling story,” said fourth-year set designer Sara Schieffer. “We’ve tried to figure out how to put this in the historical context.”

Fourth-year Laura Burkhauser translated the opera’s original libretto from the German to English, and satiric artist William Hogarth inspired costumes and sets informed by 1730s prints and engravings.

The project’s yearlong creative efforts will culminate with two performances of Cantata in Fulton Recital Hall on May 8 and 10. The Collegium will also preview selections in conjunction with the Smart Museum of Art on May 1 as part of an educational outreach event for the museum’s “Adaptation” exhibit, which runs January 31 to May 4. The pre-performance symposium will exhibit period artwork, design sketches from the production, and short lectures and demonstrations of Baroque performance practice.

Every quarter, the Arts Council grants awards ranging between $1,500 and $10,000 to student-driven arts projects. The Council oversees the planning of the University’s new Reva and David Logan Center for Creative and Performing Arts, scheduled to open in 2011, and funds the student-run Festival of the Arts, which takes place each spring.

CORRECTION: The January 18 news brief “Students Earn Grant for Coffeehouse Opera” incorrectly stated that costumes and sets were designed by satiric artist William Hogarth. Hogarth’s work served as inspiration for the set and costume design. The brief also incorrectly reported that one of the performances of the opera will be May 4; the performance will occur on May 10.