CHICAGO, Illinois – Opera soprano Dr. Kirsten C. Kunkle (Mvskoke) continues to stay busy in the world of live theater by composing, writing and performing live music productions. The latest production she is involved with, “Chicago Currents” is set to premiere in late March.
This production is different from Kunkle’s past work, it is a staged production of art song. Similar to a recital, it’s staged with five different singers. It features original poetry and music compositions from Kunkle herself.
Although this type of musical theater is not a format Kunkle is as comfortable performing compared to opera, she still found the work compelling.
“It’s tricky because it’s not typical of what I do,” Kunkle said. “I tend to sing classical music and solo music so it’s been really interesting and exciting.”
The story of the production is inspired by the land and water Chicago is built on. The ensemble performing the show is comprised of five singers, a pianist and a violinist.
While Kunkle does not have heritage in any local Chicago-area tribes, part of her role involved ensuring the story was respectful to Indigenous people.
“Part of the goal of the project is to be kind of a musical land acknowledgement for the Ojibwe, Odawa and Potawatomi tribes,” Kunkle explained.
Kunkle has also kept busy by collaborating with composer Jerod Impichchaachaaha’ Tate (Chickasaw) on the Chickasaw opera “Shell Shaker”, a story performed entirely in the Chickasaw language. In addition to collaborating on other composers’ stories spoken in traditional Native language, Kunkle has taken up classes in the Mvskoke language as well. She continues to break barriers in the performing arts as she brings Indigenous culture to the forefront of the stage.
“Anything I think gets the languages out there for more people to hear, whether they’re Native or not, I think is important because it brings representation but it also keeps our language alive in a different way,” Kunkle said.
It is one way to hear a traditional language spoken in conversation, it is another to hear it sung in a live performance. It is also special due to Indigenous cultures’ scarcity in the performing arts.
“Chicago Currents” will be performed at the Edge Theater, located at 5451 N. Broadway, Chicago. The performance will run March 19-25. Tickets range from $28-$45 and can be purchased at chicagofringeopera.com.