Now celebrating its 10th Anniversary, South Shore Opera Company (SSOCC) has been serving the South Shore community and Greater Chicago since 2009. SSOCC is committed to building community through music and presenting the works of rarely-performed composers whose contributions to music deserve recognition in the history of classical music and the arts. The company is now Arts Partner in Residence at the South Shore Cultural Center, a Chicago landmark, performing in its historic Paul Robeson Theatre, presenting performances of the highest caliber by the brightest and best professional classical singers in Chicago and providing free music education programs to students in Chicago Public Schools.
The South Shore Opera Company was the dream of Founder Dr. Marvin Lynn, to make opera accessible to audiences of all ages on the South Side of Chicago and to provide greater professional opportunities for diverse artists. The company was created in 2008 in partnership with the Advisory Council of the South Shore Cultural Center as an arts partner with the Chicago Park District. Dr. Lynn served as Executive Director, with Elizabeth Norman as the first Artistic Director, and Cornelius Johnson the first Music Director. Cornelius Johnson served as Artistic Director from to 2010 to 2018.
The South Shore Opera Company provides two free performances annually for the community, fulfilling the goal of making opera and music theater accessible to underserved audiences. Our diverse productions have aﬀorded opportunities for emerging young professionals to share their talent with large audiences, working with seasoned professionals and acclimating them to the demands of career as a classical vocalist.
The Company regularly performs standard and contemporary opera works from the opera canon in their original languages, by beloved composers such as Mozart, Bellini, Donizetti, Verdi, Puccini, Gounod, Bizet, Strauss, Wagner, Gershwin, Weill, Previn and more. Importantly, the Company honors the great Black composers annually in February, including 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, among others.
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 for our historic production of William Grant Still’s Troubled Island, with libretto by Langston Hughes, which the first grand opera composed by an African American and produced by a major opera company for the American stage. Our production was named the #1 Best Chicago Classical Music/Opera Moment of 2013 by the late Andrew Patner, musical critic of the Chicago Sun-Times.
South Shore Opera Company has produced exceptional contemporary operas by living black composers including Nkeiru Okoye’s Harriet Tubman: When I Crossed that Line to Freedom and Steven M. Allen’s The Poet, based on the life of Paul Laurence Dunbar. Importantly, the Company has also supported artists creating new works-in-progress, such as Jonathan Stinson’s The March: A Civil Rights Opera Project, with librettist Alan Marshall, and The Violet Hour: The Life of Leontyne Price, by Joelle Lamarre.
The South Shore Opera Company has grown in depth and assurance of productions and in organizational strength, collaborating with major dance, choral, orchestras, guest conductors, stage directors, and collaborative pianists. Performances are supported with chamber orchestras and ensembles consisting of professional musicians from the Chicago Sinfonietta, Chicago Philharmonic, and Chicago’s 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, Associate Conductor – The Florida Orchestra.
South Opera Company has collaborated with the Chicago Community Chorus, South Chicago Dance Theatre, Ensemble Español Spanish Dance Theater, Iona Ballet Company, Deeply Rooted Dance Theater, and The Chicago High School for the Arts (ChiArts®).
The Company has been 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.