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Evening of scholarly clowning opens 30th year for early-music masters the Newberry Consort

Oct 24, 2016 – 11:20 pm

Review: For the perennially devoted followers of the Newberry Consort, which this season celebrates its 30th anniversary of presenting concerts of music from the Middle Ages to the Baroque, the concert experience is a beguiling paradox: entertainment that’s very old and yet at the same time quite new.

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Young German conductor shows his mastery, doubles down in Chicago Symphony debut

Oct 22, 2016 – 3:19 pm


Conductor David Afkham was doubly effective, in Beethoven and Shostakovich.Review: Chicago Symphony Orchestra conducted by David Afkham; Emanuel Ax, piano. At Orchestra Hall through Oct. 22.
By Lawrence B. Johnson

Ordinarily, I might have begun here by saying conductor David Afkham made his debut with the Chicago Symphony Orchestra on Oct. 20 leading a finely feathered and emotionally searing account of Shostakovich’s Tenth Symphony, and that would have been essentially true.

But in actuality, the 33-year-old German maestro made his first, and no less disarming, impression as “accompanist” to Emanuel Ax in Beethoven’s Piano Concerto No. 1 in C major. There was nothing at all secondary or incidental, however, about Afkham’s leadership of the concerto; it was the furthest thing from an accompaniment. Read the full story »

‘Hamilton,’ energized by spirit of America’s founding, opens Chicago run in stylish blaze

Oct 21, 2016 – 3:51 pm
From bastard orphan to Washington's right hand man, rebel to war hero, loving husband caught in the country's first sex scandal to Treasury head who made an untrusting world believe in the American economy, an exploration of a political mastermind and scrappy young immigrant who forever changed America: Alexander Hamilton.

Starring: Karen Olivo, Mandy Gonzalez, Joshua Henry, Jonathan Kirkland, Miguel Cervantes, Alexander Gemignani

Review: “Hey yo, I’m just like my country, I’m young, scrappy and hungry and I’m not throwing away my shot” is the clarion call of young friends in Lin-Manuel Miranda’s Tony Award-winning musical “Hamilton,” a contemporary re-imagining of our own history. The Broadway show’s first regional clone has opened at Chicago’s PrivateBank Theatre, where it will be for many months, probably years. ★★★★★

Dover Quartet, tackling Mozart and Beethoven, looks ready for heights of great predecessors

Oct 20, 2016 – 11:51 am

Review: When the members of the Dover Quartet were students at the Curtis Institute of Music in Philadelphia, they were mentored by former members of the now-disbanded Guarneri, Vermeer and Cleveland quartets. It is not surprising, then, that the eight-year-old foursome hopes to follow in the footsteps of those distinguished groups, and if its superb concert Oct. 18 at Northwestern University’s Pick-Staiger Concert Hall was any indication, the ensemble is well on its way to accomplishing that goal.

Forty years and 52 discs in a treasure box: Emerson Quartet’s prodigious history, redux

Oct 19, 2016 – 2:48 pm

Review: In observance of the Emerson String Quartet’s 40th anniversary, Deutsche Grammophon has issued a 52-CD retrospective of the quartet’s entire output on the label. It’s an astounding tour – indeed a tour de force – that confirms again and again the virtuosity, elegance, potency and range of a foursome that seems to embrace the entire quartet canon with the same singular breathtaking ease and penetrating insight.

CSO and Muti turn spotlight on principal cello, and flash a thrilla on docket for European tour

Oct 17, 2016 – 5:05 pm

Review: The Chicago Symphony Orchestra’s current series of concerts with music director Riccardo Muti spotlights one of its own — principal cellist John Sharp in an elegant and lyrical turn through the Schumann concerto. But the program also previews the CSO’s January tour of Europe, and the performance Oct. 14 no doubt anticipated the coming response abroad: The crowd went wild.

Amid tragic power of Lyric Opera’s ‘Lucia,’ Shagimuratova touches the soul of bel canto

Oct 17, 2016 – 12:08 pm

Review: For Donizetti’s bel canto masterpiece “Lucia di Lammermoor,” the Lyric Opera of Chicago has chosen well to wrap the dazzling young Russian soprano Albina Shagimuratova in the vintage production of British director Graham Vick. Despite its age, there’s something very modern about Lucia’s murderous disintegration in Vick’s not-to-miss installment at the Lyric. The role of the innocent and doomed Scottish lass Lucia features one of the greatest mad scenes in all of opera. ★★★★

Apollo’s Fire, in belated Chicago debut, brings heat, refined style to evening of Baroque fare

Oct 16, 2016 – 10:03 am

Review: Even though Apollo’s Fire is based just across the Great Lakes in Cleveland and has attained international attention during its nearly 25-year-history, it had never performed in Chicago. That odd omission came to end Oct. 14 in the University of Chicago’s Mandel Hall when the 16-member period-instrument ensemble opened the UChicago Presents’s 2016-17 with plenty of sparks if not a full-fledged blaze.

‘The Last Wife’ at TimeLine: She is Henry’s sixth queen, playing perilous game of survival

Oct 15, 2016 – 9:29 am

Review: If you’d care to see what absolute power wielded by a single individual looks like, and what a scary thing that is, look no further than Steve Pickering’s iron-fisted incarnation of Henry VIII in the U.S. premiere of Kate Hennig’s “The Last Wife” at TimeLine Theatre. And in the same frame, so to speak, behold the precarious life of the title character, Katherine Parr, a brilliant woman (played to her full measure by AnJi White) who matches the king in wit, imagination and perhaps even ambition. ★★★★★

‘Bobbie Clearly’ at Steep: A troubled youth, murder and the shattering toll on a small town

Oct 10, 2016 – 9:23 am

Review: Having nurtured Alex Lubischer’s ambitious and imaginative tragi-comedy “Bobbie Clearly” through workshops, Steep Theatre now offers the result-to-date in a world premiere. It’s a dark tale – about a small-town youth who murders a little girl, goes to prison, then returns to make amends – laced with witty dialogue and charged circumstance. It’s also burdened by moments still awaiting the spark of life. ★★

CSO trombonist proves master of the mystical in premiere of Vine suite ‘Five Hallucinations’

Oct 8, 2016 – 6:10 pm

Review: The Chicago Symphony Orchestra was back in the new music business this week, as the remarkable virtuoso trombonist Michael Mulcahy, a member of the CSO’s brass battalion, performed the world premiere of a freely associative five-movement extravaganza for trombone and orchestra by Australian composer Carl Vine.

‘Man in the Ring’ at Court: Landing 1-2 punch to pound out portrait of a fractured champion

Oct 7, 2016 – 9:55 am

Review: The title of Michael Cristofer’s play “Man in the Ring,” now in its gripping world premiere run at Court Theatre, is double edged. Outwardly, the play is about the meteoric rise and brutal fall of boxer Emile Griffith, among the most dominant champions in pugilistic history. But it’s also, in the most essential way, about the loss of innocence and purity and the unfettered joy of being alive. ★★★★★

Ear Taxi festival roars onto Chicago’s music scene, bringing six-day blitz of fresh sounds

Oct 6, 2016 – 5:25 pm

Review: An extraordinary six-day event celebrating the “now” side of classical music, Ear Taxi: Chicago Festival of New Music, opened Oct. 5, turning the spotlight on Chicago as a hotbed of musical creativity. The binge brings together 88 composers and more than 300 musicians and features a mind-blowing 54 world premieres.

‘Das Rheingold’ at Lyric Opera: A new ‘Ring’ venture begins with sly winks, great singing

Oct 4, 2016 – 11:19 pm
9/28/16 2:03:18 PM - Lyric Opera Chicago's dress rehearsal of Das Rheingold by Richard Wagner  


Eric Owens

Samuel Youn

Stefan Margita

Tanja Ariane Baumgartner

© Todd Rosenberg Photography 2016

Review: If the Lyric Opera of Chicago’s enchanting production of “Das Rheingold” proves to be, like the opera itself, an augury of things to come, we’re in for a magical ride across the company’s four-year project to re-create Wagner’s epic tetralogy “The Ring of the Nibelung.” ★★★★

DiDonato, Muti conjure Martucci song cycle, then the CSO delivers a Beethoven thriller

Sep 30, 2016 – 8:16 pm

Review: Chicago Symphony Orchestra music director Riccardo Muti has long and eagerly shared his love for some 19th-century Italian composers who are otherwise slipping into history. For Giuseppe Martucci’s formidable song cycle “La canzone dei ricordi” (Song of Remembrance), Muti brought in another persuasive advocate, the mezzo-soprano Joyce DiDonato. An electrifying Beethoven Seventh Symphony lit up the concert’s second half.

As Lyric prepares to launch its ‘Ring’ cycle, maestro pledges characters as gold standard

Sep 29, 2016 – 10:40 pm

Review: Andrew Davis, music director of the Lyric Opera of Chicago and conductor of the company’s new four-year “Ring” cycle, which gets underway Oct. 1 with “Das Rheingold,” speaks with resolute pride about the focus of this prodigious enterprise. “We all wanted very much to make sure the characters were the most important thing,” says the maestro.

To young lives at risk, Muti and 2 opera stars bring close encounter with voice in full glory

Sep 28, 2016 – 4:10 pm

Report: Mezzo-soprano Joyce DiDonato was about to make her Chicago Symphony Orchestra debut with music director Riccardo Muti in a rare Italian work, and bass-baritone Eric Owens, over at the Lyric Opera, was readying the role of Wotan, king of the gods in Wagner’s “Ring” cycle, for the first time in his career. Yet these three internationally celebrated artists made time to perform for youths within the Illinois Department of Juvenile Justice, where boys in conflict with the law, most in their mid to late teens, are held for an intensive period of education and intervention designed to set them on a safer course.

English kings in bloody struggles for power: Part 2 of Chicago Shakespeare’s history saga

Sep 27, 2016 – 3:50 pm

Review: Chicago Shakespeare Theater’s outsized and smartly honed two-part miniseries “Tug of War,” focusing on the endless cycle of royal usurpation and bloodshed in the Bard’s history plays, comes to its conclusion with a sequence that illuminates the brief reign and unsurprising death of horseless Richard III at Bosworth Field. For my part, I shall not ask with the great songstress Peggy Lee, “Is that all there is?” My question is: When will we be able see it again? ★★★★

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

Sep 25, 2016 – 1:49 pm
9/22/16 10:18:32 PM -- The Chicago Symphony Orchestra, Maestro Riccardo Muti Conductor
Bruckner Symphony No. 7
© Todd Rosenberg Photography 2016

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.

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

Sep 19, 2016 – 6:59 pm
Haymarket Opera presents Haydn's L’isola disabitata at the Atheneum Theatre, dress rehearsal, Thursday, September 15, 2016.

Review: A sense of joyous buoyancy is the hallmark of productions at the Haymarket Opera Company, where lovingly honed details go hand in hand with imaginative concepts for historical sources. The latest is Haydn’s charming chamber opera “L’isola disabitata” (The Desert Island), first performed at the court theater of the Hungarian Prince Esterhazy. Thus Haymarket departs from its customary Baroque repertoire and races toward the modern sounds of 1779.

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

Sep 17, 2016 – 2:22 pm

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

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

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.

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

Aug 25, 2016 – 10:25 pm

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
Leonard Bernstein feature image

2016-17 SEASON PREVIEW: The following is adapted from a news release submitted by an arts organization to Chicago On the Aisle.

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.
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
sub feature

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
Feature 3

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. ★★★★★