American Chamber Opera's Madame Butterfly Credit: Clint Funk Photography

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Chicago’s famous storefront-theater scene has an opera counterpart—a cluster of scrappy little companies mounting shoestring productions that showcase the city’s abundant local talent in whatever space they can find. American Chamber Opera does classic opera repertoire in snappy English translations with live accompaniment (usually string ensemble and piano) at the University of Chicago’s International House and at the historic Chicago Temple in the Loop. Their 2013 schedule included a winter production of Madame Butterfly set in Kenya, which hit that magic spot where ragged turns transcendent—in part thanks to an unforgettable performance by Joelle Lamarre in the title role. Next up: Carmen, set in contemporary Chicago, in November.