Psychological ambiguity has always been a feature of the unusual music of Peter Maxwell Davies, who today arguably stands as Britain’s greatest living composer. With his famous Eight Songs for a Mad King, Maxwell Davies left his audiences wondering whether the king was mad or a madman was imagining himself to be king. With the Chicago premiere of his chamber opera The Lighthouse, set in turn-of-the-century northern Scotland, a similar ambiguity develops: is the lighthouse haunted in fact, or only in the fertile imaginations of three isolated lighthouse keepers? The piece never answers definitively, but the score is so effective and overwhelming in its buildup that it’s easy to identify with the terrified keepers. Whether it’s a true ghost story or a psychology lesson about human isolation, it’s a thrilling evening of musical theater. With the artistic supervision of Chicago Opera Theater’s Alan Stone and direction by William Woodman, the Goodman’s former artistic director, here is that wonderful rarity in opera where drama and music should be equally well-served. Saturday, 8 PM, Sunday 3 PM, next Friday, March 30, 8 PM, and next Sunday, April 1, 3 PM, Athenaeum Theatre, 2936 N. Southport; 663-0048.

Art accompanying story in printed newspaper (not available in this archive): photo/Sherwood Fohrman.