The Italian Opera Company
of Chicago
Opera, up close and personal!

The Singers   Music Director    Artistic Director 

The Italian Opera Company of Chicago is an ensemble comprised of professional singers, a pianist and a narrator. Founded in 2001 by Artistic Director John Rizzo, the group presents live opera concerts for numerous venues. As the name implies, the ensemble mainly performs works from the Italian repertoire, but also presents French and sometimes German numbers. A typical concert will not only include the best loved and most familiar arias and ensembles but will also feature solos, ensembles and even choruses, that are not heard outside of a full-length opera, but are nonetheless examples of the greatest music ever written.

The philosophy that guides this approach springs from the concept that it is the music of opera that is most important and that doing justice to this music is very entertaining, even for those people who just can't abide sitting through three or four hours of a full-length opera. As important as the music is, the Italian Opera Company does not neglect the drama. The company members interact with each other as if they were actually staging the opera, thus giving the audience another level of enjoyment.

Because the music of opera sounds best in the language for which it was composed, the Italian Opera Company always sings in an opera's original language. Perhaps the most commonly expressed objection to opera is, "I can't understand the language!" Here the Italian Opera Company provides a very simple solution to this problem - a narrator. Far from being a dry academic, Narrator/Artistic Director John Rizzo introduces each number in a way that explains what is happening in the piece, and often recounts humorous anecdotes and observations about the selection that both enlighten and amuse. Finally, the Company almost always performs in facilities that are much smaller than a regular opera house so that every audience member will know what the box-holders at La Scala and the Met experience - opera, up close and personal!

The Company presents two kinds of concerts:

  • One is a medley of popular numbers and great scenes from a variety of operas.
  • The other is a single opera with its highlights and specially arranged pieces.

An Italian Opera Company concert lasts about 1 1/2 hours - not too long, but long enough so that any audience will get their money's worth. Naturally, depending on the venue or function, concerts can be arranged to fit the host's specific needs.

The Performers

The Singers
The singers of the Italian Opera Company are chosen for their vocal technique, extent of repertoire, stage presence, musical interpretation and acting ability. The Company employs many different singers, as they are often engaged by opera houses
throughout the world, but they all meet the same strict requirements of artistry and professionalism.

Jessye Wright  

This extremely talented musician has sung with the Italian Opera since 2002. A frequent performer with both American and European professional opera companies, she is an outstanding Carmen and Amneris.
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Dominique Frigo

Dominique Frigo began singing with the Italian Opera in 2006. She has appeared in leading mezzo roles, including Azucena, in many professional opera companies.
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Rebecca Davis

A graduate-with-honors from Northwestern University, Rebecca Davis is a Bel Canto Foundation Grand Prize Winner and studied with Carlo Bergonzi in Busseto. She has sung Aida and Leonora (from Il trovatore) with the Italian Opera, and numerous other roles in American professional opera companies.

For more info:

Kimberly Beasely  

The fine musicianship of this
lyric soprano is a plus to her
supple tone and vocal
agility. Besides being a
professional singer, she also is an accomplished pianist. For more info:

Jeffrey Ray

Jeffrey Ray has been a regular with the Italian Opera since 2002. Trained by the Lyric Opera of Chicago, he has performed with numerous professional opera companies, including Deutsche Oper in Berlin.

Richard Gersten

Another Champion of the Bel Canto Foundation contest, Richard Gersten is one of the most sought-after tenors in the USA. He has been the tenor with the Italian Opera since 2002 performing leading roles including Radames, Don Jose and Manrico.


Pianist/Music Director, Stuart Leitch

Stuart Leitch has been the accompanist and Music Director of the Italian Opera Company since its founding in 2001. Trained at Oberlin, he has performed as a soloist and accompanist in New York and Chicago. He is also an outstanding rehearsal pianist who has worked with many professional opera companies including the Lyric Opera of Chicago. Mr. Leitch is an expert of the opera repertoire.

Narrator/Artistic Director, John Rizzo

John Rizzo is the founder and leader of the Italian Opera Company. He books the engagements, hires the musicians, directs the rehearsals and creates the programs. He holds a Masters Degree in Theater from the University of Illinois and has an impressive background as a professional violist and bass player. He is a lecturer and a widely published writer on opera and has been on the faculty of Oakton Community College since 1999. He is an authority on opera, as can be verified from his many articles that are posted on this site.

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