Free Mini-Opera Shows via Qr Codes for Music Lovers on Chicago’s Sidewalks

For those who love entertainment in every form, good news from downtown Hyde Park. Starting April 16th, the Silver Room becomes an opera house, where passersby will be able to catch a high-energy “hip-hopera” outside its storefront at 1506 E 53rd St.

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Of course, the coronavirus pandemic means that, for now, we all have to adapt to the present circonstances. In 2020, live music events have been on hold for most of the year, but music enthusiasts found a way to bring at least some of the things we love ack to normal. A Chicago entertainment company, AudioBliss, brought live events back to the city by launching the Lakeshore Drive-in, in the parking lot of the Adler Planetarium.

The event offered attendees the chance to go to a drive-up show featuring live music.

2021 did bring some good news for art enthusiasts, with events such as “Immersive Van Gogh” attracting hundreds of thousands of visitors. 

In an interview with iHeartRadio, Perry Farrell, the festival’s co-founder, sounded hopeful about a 2021 edition of Lollapalooza, although the specifics would have to be adapted to the pandemic conditions.

Five minutes and a smartphone is all you need to enjoy the experience

The new opera experience to be added to our downtown walks is going to be as

“if Hans Zimmer composed something for Kendrick Lamar,” according to K.F. Jacques, the M.C. and operatic baritone who composed the work, quoted by the Tribune.

The Silver Room’s storefront at 1506 E 53rd St. won’t be the only place to undergo such a transformation. The same day, a QR code will spring up near Promontory Point field house, a short walk away. On April 30, other QR codes will be displayed in Lincoln Square, Wicker Park, and Uptown, and again on May 14 in Edgewater, Bronzeville, with more to be added as organizers obtain permissions from store managers to display them in front-windows.  

With a smartphone to scan the code and five minutes at your disposal, you will be able to see and hear, free of charge,  a brief, brand-new work by a local composer. 

The mini-operas are part of A City of Works, a project by Chicago Fringe Opera (CFO). The concept has been developed over the last year by the indie company who got involved 10 composers and librettists to film site-inspired works in relation to neighborhood businesses and the Chicago Parks District. The relaxation in public health guidelines and the improving weather have allowed the project to come to fruition.

Safe on the street or safer at home, the choice is yours

Listening to the mini-operas is as safe as possible, according to the artistic team and participating composers. The QR codes posted in the businesses’ front windows will face toward the sidewalk, so people could scan them without needing to enter the shops. For those who prefer to remain safely at home, the videos will be accessible on CFO’s website as soon as they become available.

Although the QR-codes sound very straightforward and easy to use, making them available has not been so simple. All save one of the mini-operas were recorded in two different sessions: one for audio (recorded at Lincoln Park Presbyterian, with the composers on site or via Zoom) and one for video (filmed in the respective neighborhood, with artists miming along). To make the project as safe as possible for everyone involved, the CFO creative team has had multiple functions: CFO artistic director George Cederquist filmed the music videos, and music director Catherine O’Shaughnessy was also the audio engineer.

“Right now I don’t have a lot of conducting work, for obvious reasons, so I’ve taken it as a challenge to learn about audio recording,” O’Shaughnessy says. “Now, it’s a skill CFO has on its roster. The more we can keep things in house and just build our strengths, the more we’ve been able to do.” 

The project did not start from scratch, since CFO tapped Jacques (also behind 2019′s Rosina Project ) to compose and perform a “micro-opera” for Decameron Opera Coalition , a commissioning initiative inspired by the Black Death — era text of the same name

Cederquist and resident designer Brad Caleb Lee produced a visually stunning video of Jacques’s 10-minute contribution. To listen to the micro-opera “Corsair,” one has to pay, but music enthusiasts can have a taste, featuring Jacques’s vocals over meaty synths, for free via  The Silver Room.


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