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9/22/16 10:18:32 PM -- The Chicago Symphony Orchestra, Maestro Riccardo Muti Conductor
Bruckner Symphony No. 7
© Todd Rosenberg Photography 2016

Riccardo Muti, CSO and Bruckner: The sequel delivers a radiant view of Seventh Symphony

Sep 25, 2016 – 1:49 pm

Review: Picking up right where they left off at the end of last season, with glorious Bruckner, the Chicago Symphony Orchestra and music director Riccardo Muti opened their 2016-17 series Sept. 22 by illuminating the sonorous towers and spiritual depths of the Seventh Symphony. And after a drawn-out period in flux, the CSO finally has a settled on its quartet of solo winds.

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Haymarket moves from Baroque to Classical with Joseph Haydn’s ‘Desert Island’ treasure

Sep 19, 2016 – 6:59 pm


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Review: Haymarket Opera Company’s “L’isola disabitata” by Joseph Haydn, at the Athenaeum Theatre Sept. 17-18
By Marta Tonegutti

A sense of joyous buoyancy is the hallmark of productions at the Haymarket Opera Company, now embarking on its sixth season, and that spirit draws an increasingly enraptured audience. Lovingly honed historical details – use of period instruments, keen attention to stage gestures and movements – go hand in hand with imaginative concepts for richly colorful sets and costumes inspired by, but not tied to, historical sources.

joseph-haydn-ludwig-guttenbrunn-painted-c-1791-2All of which applies to Haymarket’s production of Haydn’s opera “L’isola disabitata” (The Desert Island), with a libretto by Metastasio, first performed in 1779 at the court theater of the Hungarian Prince Esterhazy. Thus Haymarket departs from its customary Baroque repertoire and breaks into the early Classical period, requiring a slightly larger orchestra including Classical flute, oboes, bassoon, natural horn, and fortepiano, together with strings.

From the distinctive overture forward, Haydn shows himself a master of orchestral colors and textures. The skillful writing and subtle handling of instruments and voices were well conveyed by artistic director Craig Trompeter and the Haymarket players. It was particularly admirable how the orchestra maintained a light touch in their many accompanied recitatives, which constitute a large portion of the score, in contrast to the sparser – or secco – recitatives for continuo instruments that were more customary for many operas of this period, including Mozart’s. Haydn’s use of full orchestral writing throughout, instead of the alternation between continuo and orchestra, makes for a more “modern” overall effect, but a less attentive conductor could have added too much weight to the instrumental parts, to the detriment of the voices. Read the full story »

‘True West’ at Shattered Globe: Rival brothers, far apart in one place, at each other’s throats

Sep 17, 2016 – 2:22 pm
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Review: Austin and Lee are Jungian poster boys, brothers who seem to hold nothing in common, the one a buttoned-up intellectual writer and the other a beer-gulping ruffian and petty thief. But deep down, each pines for the life the other leads. They are the conjoined, complex antiheroes of Sam Shepard’s iconic 1980 play “True West,” and they are madly, marvelously superimposed in a startling production by Shattered Globe Theatre. ★★★★

‘Scarcity’ at Redtwist: A down and out drama that’s a couple of beers short of a six pack

Sep 13, 2016 – 3:25 pm
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Review: The two kids are very bright, their jobless father is a contented drunk and their outwardly flinty mother coddles him. They, along with a couple of low-trajectory friends and a visionary young teacher new to the community, are the denizens of Lucy Thurber’s “Scarcity,” now in its Chicago premiere at Redtwist Theatre. ★★

Lyric Opera singers sparkle in summer finale, casting auspicious light on coming season

Sep 12, 2016 – 10:54 pm
9/9/16 9:12:31 PM -- The 2016 Stars of Lyric Concert and Cast party at Millennium Park in Chicago, IL, USA © Todd Rosenberg Photography 2016

Review: A concert exhibition of “Stars of the Lyric Opera,” which brought down the curtain on this summer’s Grant Park Music Festival on Sept. 9, offered a promising augury of the Lyric’s impending season, which opens Oct. 1 with Wagner’s “Das Rheingold” – herald of the company’s planned “Ring” cycle.

‘Bakersfield Mist’ at TimeLine: Drizzled paint points to Pollock, but is this $3 find for real?

Sep 11, 2016 – 9:18 pm
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Review: Maude is middle-aged, recently fired from her job as a bar tender and living alone in a dumpy trailer decorated with other people’s discarded junk. But one such piece of refuse is a painting that could be an original Jackson Pollock. That’s the starting point of Stephen Sachs’ play “Bakersfield Mist,” a two-hander at TimeLine Theatre starring a pair of Chicago’s best actors, who between them cannot bring this half-baked drama to much purpose. ★★

Strawdog Theatre, ousted from its old home, opens with play about another loss: memory

Aug 26, 2016 – 5:26 pm
Strawdog_Distance_feature image Janice O'Neill

Season Preview: The following is adapted from a news release submitted by an arts organization to Chicago On the Aisle.
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STRAWDOG THEATRE COMPANY PRESENTS THE WORLD PREMIERE OF JERRE DYE’S “DISTANCE” AUGUST 25 – OCTOBER 1

‘Wastwater’ at Steep: The human condition, warts and all, with an emphasis on the warts

Aug 25, 2016 – 10:25 pm
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Review: If the mirror held to up to our human lot by Simon Stephens’ play “Wastwater” fairly reflects what’s framed there, we’re not a very pretty collection. We may have our favorable features, but for the most part the image that emerges in “Wastwater,” about to wind up its run at Steep Theatre, is one of frailty, desperation and meanness. ★★★

Goodman Theatre announces weeklong Leonard Bernstein Celebration during revival of ‘Wonderful Town’

Aug 25, 2016 – 6:39 pm
Lauren Molina (Eileen) rehearses some dance steps with the cast of 'Wonderful Town.' (Liz Lauren)

Report: As rehearsals of the 1953 musical “Wonderful Town” get underway at the Goodman under the direction of Mary Zimmerman, the Theatre announced free events surrounding Leonard Bernstein’s legendary show, which kicks off the 2016-17 season. Several film screenings are planned, and a class for the general public on conga line and swing dancing.

At the Goodman Theatre, Leonard Bernstein’s musical ‘Wonderful Town’ starts busy season

Aug 24, 2016 – 3:04 pm
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2016-17 SEASON PREVIEW: The following is adapted from a news release submitted by an arts organization to Chicago On the Aisle.
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Lauren Molina and Bri Sudia star as two sisters leaving Ohio in 1935 to conquer New York City in Bernstein’s “Wonderful Town.” Here’s the Goodman Theatre’s complete line-up…

Redtwist 2016-17: ‘Death of a Salesman,’ new works on theme ‘Home is where the HURT is’

Aug 23, 2016 – 6:11 pm
Redtwist Theater 2016-17 Home is where the HURT is logo

2016-17 SEASON PREVIEW: The following is a news release written by an arts organization, submitted to Chicago On the Aisle.
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Redtwist Theatre is pleased to announce its 13th Season!
“Turtle,” a world premiere by Jake Jeppson, and Arthur Miller’s “Death of a Salesman” are in the mix.

‘The Scottsboro Boys’ at Raven: Wit, pathos and a vaudeville of justice for nine black kids

Aug 22, 2016 – 7:47 pm
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Review: With any luck, Raven Theatre will elect to have yet a third go, and soon, at Mark Stein’s remarkable play-with-music “Direct From Death Row: The Scottsboro Boys (An Evening of Vaudeville and Sorrow).” This brilliant and heartbreaking show, way out of the box and very funny, based on one of the most deplorable episodes in American social history, is must see theater. ★★★★★

Freshening Chicago early-music scene, native son leads vocal quintet His Majestie’s Clerkes

Aug 12, 2016 – 12:53 pm
A painting of St. John of Kenty by Tadeusz Żukotyński, above the altar at St. John Cantius Church

Preview: Resounding at sunset in the shadow of Chicago’s Magnificent Mile, a new all-male vocal ensemble called His Majestie’s Clerkes is making its debut at St. John’s Cantius as part of Chicago’s rapidly expanding early music scene.

In unvarnished look at ‘Merchant of Venice,’ there is little room for the quality of mercy

Aug 11, 2016 – 12:32 pm
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Review: In a tradition dating back to Shakespeare’s own time, “The Merchant of Venice,” which frames bitter hatred between Christians and Jews in a metropolis of a distant era, has been labeled as comedy. I doubt that anyone who sees the brutally frank Shakespeare’s Globe production now running at Chicago Shakespeare Theater will come away laughing. ★★★★★

Sticking with true hand of Mozart, Kalmar leads ethereal Mass with Grant Park forces

Aug 6, 2016 – 4:58 pm
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Review: Conductor Carlos Kalmar took the purist’s path to Mozart’s unfinished Mass in C minor in a performance Aug. 5 with the Grant Park Festival Orchestra and Chorus. But even with the work in its original abbreviated form, the experience was long on the rewards of style, precision and expressive sensibility.

‘War Paint’ at Goodman: Arden and Rubinstein clash in musical battle for cosmetic queenship

Aug 4, 2016 – 9:37 pm
War Paint 
Goodman Theater

The Goodman Theatre production of the new musical War Paint, which stars two-time Tony Award winners Patti LuPone ( Evita, Gypsy) and Christine Ebersole ( 42nd Street, Grey Gardens) as Helena Rubinstein and Elizabeth Arden, respectively, begins previews June 28 prior to an official opening July 18 at the Chicago venue.

The Tony-winning actresses are joined by John Dossett as Tommy Lewis, Arden’s husband and chief marketing officer, and Douglas Sills as the ambitious Harry Fleming, Madame Rubinstein’s clubby confidante and faithful ally.

Also in the company are Mary Ernster, Leslie Donna Flesner, David Girolmo, Joanna Glushak, Chris Hoch, Mary Claire King, Steffanie Leigh, Erik Liberman, Barbara Marineau, Stephanie Jae Park and Angel Reda.

Due to ticket demand, the production announced June 28 that the musical has been extended for a second and final time through August 21 in the Albert Theatre.

War Paint is a world-premiere musical by librettist Doug Wright, composer Scott Frankel, lyricist Michael Korie, choreographer Christopher Gattelli and director Michael Greif. The musical is inspired by the book War Paint, by Lindy Woodhead, and the documentary film The Powder & the Glory, by Ann Carol Grossman and Arnie Reisman.

The War Paint creative team includes David Korins (set design), Catherine Zuber (costume design), Kenneth Posner (lighting design) and Brian Ronan (sound design), Bruce Coughlin (orchestrations) and Lawrence Yurman (music director).

Review: To put – what is the phrase? – the best face on it, the new musical “War Paint,” now in its world premiere run at the Goodman Theatre, is a guilty pleasure, a gossip magazine yarn set to music and legitimized chiefly by the stellar performances of Patti LuPone and Christine Ebersole. ★★★

Montana Aisle: Where earth meets cosmos, new Tippet Rise center melds music with art

Aug 2, 2016 – 12:10 am
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Report: On the high rolling hills in south central Montana, on a vast spread of land within hailing distance of Yellowstone, an artistic convergence has come to pass in the most improbable of forms: Beethoven has met his second self.

With a sharp-edged slice through ‘Company,’ Writers reaffirms the promise of its new home

Jul 31, 2016 – 11:26 am
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Review: It has been only a half-season inauguration, this first series of plays in Writers Theatre’s splendid new building, but the finale, a sly and penetrating account of Stephen Sondheim’s musical “Company,” exemplifies how the main stage offers visitors an intimate, indeed an ideal, theatrical experience. ★★★★

‘Firebird,’ transfigured as ballet with puppets, made image of rebirth in S. African production

Jul 27, 2016 – 11:17 pm
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Review: The original story behind Stravinsky’s ballet music for “The Firebird” is one of transcendence: evil vanquished and good souls restored to life. So it isn’t such a great stretch to the re-imagined ballet, as a danced parable with giant puppets, presented by Janni Younge Productions at the Ravinia Festival. It tells tell twin tales of personal self-discovery and South Africa’s continuing struggle for social reclamation two decades after the end of apartheid.

James Levine returns to Ravinia and the CSO, and a tempest gives place to maestro’s Mahler

Jul 24, 2016 – 3:06 pm
James Levine at Ravinia 2016 feature image (Russell Jenkins)

Review: Even Mother Nature fell silent to listen when conductor James Levine made his much anticipated, storm-framed return to the Ravinia Festival on July 23. Levine led the Chicago Symphony Orchestra in a transcendent performance of Mahler’s Symphony No. 2 in C minor (“Resurrection”), the very work with which he had made his emergency debut at Ravinia 45 years ago.

Legacy of African American music lights up Grant Park fare accented by jazz, spirituals

Jul 23, 2016 – 4:58 pm
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Review: From the pages of African American history, lines of musical heritage intertwined in a concert as appealing as it was fresh and diverse when the Grant Park Festival Orchestra was joined by jazz violinist Regina Carter and the vocal trio TreDiva at the Pritzker Pavilion in Millennium Park.

In Ravinia debut, Russian conductor Petrenko leads CSO in a night of romantic storytelling

Jul 21, 2016 – 5:52 pm
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Review: It was a night of narratives – not told in words, but hardly less vividly conveyed as the emotional storylines of a Ravinia Festival concert July 20 by the Chicago Symphony Orchestra conducted by Vasily Petrenko with pianist Jean-Yves Thibaudet.

Back on Grant Park podium, Christoph König revisits Bruckner with ‘Romantic’ Symphony

Jul 14, 2016 – 11:36 am
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Interview: Anton Bruckner’s Symphony No. 4 (“Romantic”) was the Austrian composer’s break-out work, the one that critics and audiences in late 19th-century Vienna finally took to their hearts. It has remained Bruckner’s most popular symphony, and conductor Christoph König can give you a thousand reasons why. The German maestro will preside over the splendorous Fourth in free concerts July 15 and 16 at Pritzker Pavilion in Millennium Park.

Role Playing: Adam Bitterman, unlikely florist in ‘Seedbed,’ dug deep to create a rare bloom

Jul 13, 2016 – 11:59 pm
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Interview: Adam Bitterman’s earthy and lusty and sometimes unnerving performance as the improbable florist Mick, a middle-aged guy enamored of an 18-year-old girl in Bryan Delaney’s “The Seedbed” at Redtwist Theatre, defies you to take your eyes off him. But the veteran actor had his doubts about even taking on the prodigious part, and this elusive character who finds himself caught up in a family’s sordid conflict.

Jazz trumpeter Wynton Marsalis reaches back to his classical prime to write a violin concerto

Jul 12, 2016 – 11:45 am
WM-closed-lips feature image (Frank Stewart)

Preview: For renowned jazz trumpeter and composer Wynton Marsalis, working in the classical realm does not mean crossing over to some foreign stylistic territory, but rather returning to familiar musical ground. His Concerto in D (for Violin and Orchestra) receives its American premiere July 12 at the Ravinia Festival performed by violinist Nicola Benedetti and the Chicago Symphony Orchestra conducted by Cristian Măcelaru.

Emerson String Quartet to explore late Haydn with one-night immersion at Ravinia Festival

Jul 4, 2016 – 6:51 am
Emerson String Quartet feature image

Preview: Philip Setzer, founding violinist with the celebrated Emerson String Quartet, calls the sort of program his foursome will play at the Ravina Festival on July 5 a form of biography: a body of works from the hand of a single composer. In this case, it’s the six quartets of Haydn’s Op. 76, which took the Austrian master – and the form – to a new place.

Slow start to a musical adventure is challenge at Grant Park concert, then the good times roll

Jun 30, 2016 – 4:26 pm
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Review: The Grant Park Music Festival likes to break from the routine in programming and presentation. Sometimes it does so in dramatic ways, and sometimes the departures are more subtle, as they were during a concert June 29 in Millennium Park’s sprawling Pritzker Pavilion. This evening began at a crawl — until Finnish pianist Juho Pohjonen brought vitality, and elegance, to a Chopin piano concerto.

CHICAGO WINE JOURNAL: Older California reds emerge from cellar in vigorous prime

Jun 29, 2016 – 5:34 pm
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Mulling Wine: Rummaging around in my wine cellar, I came upon a few cases I’d put back years ago and simply forgot about. These were various reds from Napa and Sonoma, the heartland of California wine production, and they collectively offered something bordering on revelation: the profound character and age-worthiness of wines we tend to value for their immediate pleasures.

Bruckner 9 was prelude of promise: Muti, CSO to open next season with Seventh Symphony

Jun 27, 2016 – 6:22 pm
6/23/16 9:02:36 PM --   The Chicago Symphony Orchestra
Maestro Riccardo Muti, Conductor

Bruckner Symphony No. 9
Bruckner Te Deum

Chicago Symphony Orchestra

Riccardo Muti conductor
Erin Wall soprano
Okka von der Damerau mezzo-soprano
Steve Davislim tenor
Eric Owens bass

Chicago Symphony Chorus
Duain Wolfe chorus director

   © Todd Rosenberg Photography 2016

Review: When Riccardo Muti and the Chicago Symphony Orchestra open their 2016-17 season at Orchestra Hall in September, it’s going to feel very much like picking up where the current season ended, with one of the splendorous symphonies by the 19th-century Austrian composer Anton Bruckner. To have just heard the Ninth is to look forward to next season’s opener, Bruckner’s Seventh Symphony, with electric anticipation.

‘The Seedbed’ at Redtwist: Guy walks into bar, sees this beautiful young girl; guy’s, like, older

Jun 24, 2016 – 2:11 pm
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Review: Maggie and Mitch are so in love. She’s 18 and he could be, oh, three times her age. What’s wrong with this picture? That would depend on which of four perspectives you subscribe to in Redtwist Theatre’s excruciating take on Irish playwright Bryan Delaney’s “The Seedbed.” ★★★★

CHICAGO WINE JOURNAL: Had me at hello; rest of Far Niente tasting turned heads, too

Jun 22, 2016 – 11:59 am
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Tasting Report: When your palate is switched on by the greeting wine handed to you at the door of a tasting event, chances are this is going to be an affair to remember. My taste buds got just such a jump start when I chose, well, “red” from the proffered tray, and it turned out to be EnRoute’s lovely 2013 Pinot Noir “Les Pommiers.” EnRoute is a Sonoma venture of the high-profile Napa producer Far Niente, whose diverse labels were spotlighted in this tasting.

‘The SpongeBob Musical’ is deep-sea delight for kids, with a whale of a payoff for parents

Jun 21, 2016 – 5:44 pm
The Sponge Bob Musical
Oriental Theatre

Character	Original Chicago Cast
SpongeBob SquarePants	Ethan Slater
Patrick Star	Danny Skinner
Squidward Tentacles	Gavin Lee
Sandy Cheeks

The design team includes scenic and costume design by David Zinn, lighting design by Kevin Adams, projection design by Peter Nigrini and sound design by Walter Trarbach. - 

FEATURING ORIGINAL SONGS BY
YOLANDA ADAMS • STEVEN TYLER AND
JOE PERRY OF AEROSMITH • SARA BAREILLES
JONATHAN COULTON • DIRTY PROJECTORS
ALEX EBERT OF EDWARD SHARPE & THE MAGNETIC ZEROS
THE FLAMING LIPS • JOHN LEGEND • LADY ANTEBELLUM
CYNDI LAUPER • PANIC! AT THE DISCO
PLAIN WHITE T’S • THEY MIGHT BE GIANTS • T.I.
AND A SONG BY DAVID BOWIE
WITH ADDITIONAL LYRICS BY JONATHAN COULTON
CO-CONCEIVER
& DIRECTOR
TINA LANDAU
 
BOOK
KYLE
JARROW
 
MUSIC
SUPERVISION
TOM KITT
 
CHOREOGRAPHER
CHRISTOPHER
GATTELLI

Review: Ah, to be 10 years old again, and to take in “The SpongeBob Musical” in all its innocent, fanciful charm, its splendorous undersea-world colors, its goofy but (mostly) good-hearted characters. If you’re 10, the “pre-Broadway world premiere” of “SpongeBob” will for sure get five stars, or maybe starfish, like this: Starfish, Starfish, Starfish, Starfish, Starfish. In real stars: ★★★★