Chicago Opera Theater expands the tradition of opera as a living art form

by engaging lovers of music and storytelling through innovative experiences predominantly of new and rarely performed works.

COT opens the doors to opera through accessible performances and a welcoming environment.
COT enriches the lives of children and youth through participatory arts programming.
COT is a platform for the next generation of artists in the opera field to grow and launch professional careers.
COT connects emotionally and intellectually with a broad and diverse Chicago audience through collaboration with our community.


Douglas Clayton
Stefan Edlis and Gael Neeson General Director

Douglas ClaytonCOT is led by Stefan Edlis and Gael Neeson General Director Douglas Clayton, who recently served as the company’s Executive Director and joined COT in June 2015. Clayton previously worked with former Artistic Director Andreas Mitisek as the Managing Director of Long Beach Opera, spent nearly a decade at the performing arts service organization LA STAGE Alliance in Los Angeles, and is a stage director himself. He studied arts and business at the University of Southern California, the University of California, Los Angeles, and Florida State University, including completing an Executive MBA in July 2016.

Clayton collaborated on programming the 2017-2018 season, and assumed full General Director responsibility in September 2017. In collaboration with the staff, search committee, and Board of Directors, Clayton led the hiring of Music Director Lidiya Yankovskaya.

“Doug is a seasoned leader in the nonprofit arts world,” said Fogel. “He brings an excellent strategic capability, an understanding of how to support artists in their work, and a commitment to engagement with the people of Chicago. He is dedicated to COT’s success and looks forward to bringing high-quality, innovative opera productions to the city in the years ahead.”

Lidiya Yankovskaya
Orli and Bill Staley Music Director

Lidiya YankovskayaHailed as “superb,” “expert,” and “coax[ing] every possible expressive note from the instrumentalists,” Russian-born conductor Lidiya Yankovskaya’s engagements this season include Wolftrap Opera, Flagstaff Symphony, Beth Morrison Projects, American Lyric Theater, Opera Saratoga, Stamford Symphony, and as chorus master with Boston Symphony Orchestra & Boston Pops. She is also a part of The Dallas Opera’s Hart Institute for Women Conductors and Marin Alsop’s Taki Concordia Fellowship. Additionally, Lidiya serves as Artistic Director with Juventas New Music Ensemble & Boston New Music Festival, Music Director with Commonwealth Lyric Theater, conductor with Boston Youth Symphony Orchestra, Artistic Director & Founder of Refugee Orchestra Project, and previously as Music Director with Harvard’s Lowell House Opera. At Harvard, she conducted sold-out performances of repertoire rarely heard in Boston, including Tchaikovsky’s Queen of Spades, Britten’s Midsummer Night’s Dream, and Rimsky-Korsakov’s Snow Maiden.  Under her artistic leadership, Juventas New Music has produced annual operatic premieres and performances that cross disciplinary boundaries, including musical collaborations with robots, puppeteers, visual artists, circus performers, and more. Lidiya has also been a champion of lesser known repertory and Russian operatic works, most recently conducting Rachmaninoff’s Aleko, Grétry’s Zémire et Azor, and Rubinshteyn’s The Demon.

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“I am thrilled with the appointment of Lidiya Yankovskaya as the new music director of Chicago Opera Theater. She is a remarkable talent, with significant experience in working with opera companies and with voices. Everyone we talked to who has worked with her, without exception, was enthusiastic in their praise of both her musical abilities and her qualities as a colleague.”

– Henry Fogel, COT Immediate Past Board President

“Lidiya represents the future of opera.  She is as skilled with operas of the past as she is with works of living composers.  She often collaborates with other arts and community groups to create productions highly relevant to her audiences.  Lidiya is sure to be a charismatic ambassador of opera in today’s world.”

– Susan Irion, COT Board President


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