Creating on stage what we want to see
in our community and in our world

In 2019, Bellissima Opera founder and director Christine Steyer joined with Claudia Hommel’s many cabaret projects to form the performing arts alliance Working In Concert (WIC). Together we educate, advocate for, and mobilize a global network of singers who use the art of song to empower lives and build community.

Our goal is to reflect the great diversity of Chicago’s population in the artists we work with, the audiences we entertain, the themes we embrace. As a key pillar of Working In Concert’s vocal arts initiatives, Bellissima Opera produces concerts on unique themes, often showcasing newer American songs. Each year we celebrate International Women’s Day to feature women composers, writers and performers. Bellissima also creates and presents new operas from the award-winning Tales of Transcendence Series. 

Since 2008, our outreach program, Opera In the Classroom, has brought music to more than 24,000 students from kindergarten through high school.

Christine Steyer, soprano, has distinguished herself as an artist of great versatility. The 2020 recipient of The American Prize for outstanding contributions to the arts, and winner of the Johnny Mercer Award, Steyer has received acclaim for her portrayals of the title role in Madama Butterfly and Violetta in La Traviata. Since 2000, she has sung in 40 productions at Lyric Opera of Chicago.

Steyer is an avid recitalist specializing in contemporary works by women lyricists and composers. Prior to the pandemic, she sang at the Schubert Festival at Unity Temple sharing the stage with Lawrence Brownlee, members of the Chicago Symphony and Lyric Opera of Chicago Orchestras, and was featured on WFMT’s program Music Notes: Music of Healing and Peace.

In 2019 Steyer sang in France with Chicago Paris Cabaret Connexion at the Montpellier Opera House, Paris’ Salle Olympe de Gouges and the Lapin Agile. She and French composer, Jean-Claude Orfali, are writing a book of original cabaret songs to release in 2023.

In April 2021, Steyer premiered the role of the Rio de Janeiro Health Care Worker in the opera On Call: COVID-19 and in 2022, premiered the role of Flanna in the opera Future Perfect–a tale of curiosity. Additionally, Steyer served as librettist for these two operas (composed by David Shenton) which are part of Bellissima Opera’s Award-Winning Tales of Transcendence

Steyer is President of Working In Concert and Artistic Director of its Bellissima Opera initiative, an organization founded by Steyer in 2008. She has personally brought Bellissima’s In the Classroom to more than 24,000 youths in under-served areas throughout the Chicago area. She teaches voice privately in Oak Park, is a member of the voice faculty at Concordia University in River Forest, and music instructor for Ascension Catholic School in Oak Park, sharing her deep love of music with a new generation of young people.

Carl Ratner began his career assisting directors at the world’s major opera houses, including Covent Garden in London, the Metropolitan Opera in New York, the Munich Opera, the Spoleto Festival in Italy, and Lyric Opera of Chicago, among others. He served as Artistic Director of Chicago Opera Theater from 1994-1999, and of Chamber Opera Chicago from 1985-1993. 

An accomplished baritone, he has portrayed the title roles in Verdi’s Falstaff, Puccini’s Gianni Schicchi, and Britten’s Noye’s Fludde, as well as Papageno in The Magic Flute and John Proctor in The Crucible and the leading baritone roles in Madama Butterfly and Turandot. A frequent soloist in oratorio and recital, he has performed Handel’s Messiah, Orff’s Carmina Burana, and many other concert works. He has sung in 14 languages and has performed in 7 countries, 10 states, and the District of Columbia.

He created the role of Oxóssi in the world premiere of Future Perfect and directed and created the role of the Lebanon Health Care Worker in the world premiere of On Call: COVID-10 for Bellissima Opera. He recently directed Verdi’s La Traviata and performed the role of the Doctor for South Bend Lyric Opera. 

He studied at Oberlin, Northeastern Illinois University, Northwestern, Juilliard, and the Saint Petersburg Conservatory in Russia through a Fulbright grant. He retired from his position as Co-chair of Voice and Director of Opera at Western Michigan University in 2023.

He joined the board of Working In Concert and was appointed Associate Artistic Director in 2023. I am delighted to join the team at Bellissima Opera. I am no stranger to the company, having participated in their Madama Butterfly, On Call: COVID-19, and Future Perfect productions. I look forward to continuing their traditions toward developing new works, celebrating achievements of women and underrepresented groups, and engaging new audiences.”

Oak Park, Illinois, based Bellissima Opera was formed in 2006 to preserve and promote the tradition of the classically trained vocal artist and to expand public appreciation of both opera and classical music by presenting innovative concert events with professional musicians. It expanded to create an outreach program and to commission new works for voice. 

Pictured here are the founders: Franco Martorana, Christine Steyer and Paul Geiger.

In 2008, Bellissima collaborated with New York Times Bestseller Caroline Myss and Sounds True© to produce a CD of sacred music. In 2009, Bellissima expanded to create its Bellissima Opera Outreach program and to commission new works for voice.