An award-winning operatic love letter to global front line healthcare workers

Winner of the National Opera Association Production Award and 3rd place winner of The 2022 American Prize for Opera Production.

Created by librettist Christine Steyer, composer David Shenton and director Carl Ratner, the 60-minute opera looks in on a series of Zoom calls by six medics struggling with the unfolding pandemic.

Calling in from Chicago, Seoul, Rio de Janeiro, Lombardy, New York City, and a Syrian refugee camp near Beirut, the colleagues provide each other a lifeline and ultimately discover that kindness and compassion can be as powerful a tool as a vaccine and ventilator.

This work is in gratitude to global healthcare workers on the front lines of the pandemic and to the journalists who covered their stories: Local Chicago news, PBS’s Frontline, Amanpour and Company, the Atlantic and journalist Ed Yong, who contributed substantially to both platforms and won the Pulitzer Prize for his brilliant journalism.

Watch the Premiere Performance

The Bellissima Opera Cast

Gwendolyn Browncontralto: Chicago health care worker “Sandra Jazmond Walker”
Jeong Eun Joosoprano: Seoul health care worker “Jane Kim”
Christine Steyersoprano: Rio de Janeiro health care worker “Rolanda Couto”
Emanuel-Cristian Caramantenor: Lombardy health care worker “Paulo Zaninelli”
Russell Hokebaritone: New York health care worker “Mario Suffice”
Carl Ratnerbaritone: Lebanon health care worker “Gordon Cole”
David ShentonpianoCarl RatnerdirectorMark Wadevideo assembly

Watch the Trailer

Sextet—”Our Snapshot of This Moment” —Bellissima Opera cast, April 2021


Looking to program the perfect one-hour opera?

  • A relevant work on healthcare workers confronting the first year of the COVID pandemic
  • Grabs the audience from start to finish
  • Inspired by 200 news articles from around the world
  • A one-act opera in three scenes
  • In English
  • Scored for 6 singers and piano
  • 3 roles are gender flexible
  • Each singer has memorable aria
  • Optional 4-part chorus
  • Subtitles and supertitles available

To peruse the score or purchase the Shenton & Steyer Opera Songbook, contact [email protected].

For licensing, contact [email protected]. 773-509-9360.


Collegiate performances:

APRIL–MAY, 2021, The Collegiate premiere was given by the Western Michigan University Opera Program.

WMU cast: Bethany Moses, Helen Delphia, Joshua Vreeland, Arlo Echavarría-Duque, Lindsay Nichols, and Kaleb Nuesse.

NOVEMBER, 2022, On Call: COVID-19 was adapted for live performance at OperaFest XV, with the cast of Roosevelt University’s Chicago College of Performing Arts.

CCPA Cast: Anastasia Antropova, Adam Lehman, Laura Strickland, Cole Dziedzic, Charles Butler, Emily Thompson and director Cathy Dunn. Not pictured, Music Director Shannon McGinnis.

Praise for “On Call”

I have thoroughly enjoyed every minute with tears in my eyes, as it hit so close to home and felt very personal, something that I lived and still do. The music was phenomenal. 
–Dr. Iryna A., family physician

Congratulations on your opera! It was amazing, powerful, touching, and brilliant. I loved how you actually set it in Zoom, and I thought the dramatic arc was fantastic. Plus, you all sounded wonderful. Bringing together all those stories from around the world and raising our awareness of the wider issues in the world was really brilliant. Thank you for doing it.
–Dr. Eugenia Cheng

Today I tuned into the WMU On Call performance. It was lovely to hear, at last, how David set the libretto and how brilliantly the young musicians brought the score to life. Please extend my regards to Carl and the young artists involved.
–Hannah Edgar (music critic for Chicago Tribune)

I have deep respect and reverence for the great art you all have created. A most poignant and passionate effort in a technically relevant and innovative format. Thank you for this powerful snapshot during a life changing time. Gratitude to you all!
–Charles Torpe

Newcomers to opera will be delighted by the English subtitles and deep emotions conveyed through the talented performers. The gift of this performance is the accessibility, validation of our shared experience during the global health pandemic and cathartic adventure On Call is able to move us through. The style and technique of this opera will be our archive for future understanding and healing. Many thanks.
–Marcia E. F.

I am speechless and humbled by your stunning deep work! I was totally absorbed so that I wouldn’t miss a note or thought or facial expression! I am a nurse tho retired so the message invaded me deeply. I have a daughter who is a practicing nurse and a son who is a practicing doctor and would like to send this to them. What is the best way to accomplish my support of your amazing mission?
–Mary Rose Lambke

What an amazingly important piece of music and writing you have created!  Heartfelt, creative and beautifully informative about what has been going on.  Your piece was especially moving to me…your voice,  words and action kept me wanting to hear more.
–Diane Piette

Such incredible talent and ability to capture the essence of our unified experience. I appreciate how the opera validates and gives voice to healthcare workers around the world. We enjoyed this immensely – Brava!

This opera is and will remain a moment in history. The talent and arrangement of the ZOOM opera production was spectacular – thank you and bravo!
–Peter Storms

A wonderful work and performance. Thank you so much for this timely and moving opera.
–Helen Tintes