Top Story »

Feb 22, 2017 – 11:03 am

Review: For a play as benign as Young Jean Lee’s curiously titled “Straight White Men,” this glimpse into the man cave of three grown brothers and their father at Steppenwolf Theatre surely will engender the debate for which it ultimately begs. ★★

Read the full story »
Latest Arts News
Classical + Opera
Theater + Stage
Streaming + Disc
Chicago Wine Journal

In season of grandeur and magic, Lyric Opera scores with simple charm of ‘Don Quichotte’

Nov 22, 2016 – 6:30 pm
ferruccio-furlanetto-in-massenet-don-quichotte-chicago-lyric-andrew-cioffi

Review: Ambitious out of the gate, the 2016-17 Lyric Opera of Chicago season gave us Part I of Wagner’s “Ring” cycle, with Rhinemaidens, giants and a dragon. In December the company will offer Mozart’s “The Magic Flute,” with trials of fire and water, a feathered bird-catcher and another dragon. In between we have seen high-flying coloratura (“Lucia di Lammermoor”) and a new high-tech stage toy in Berlioz’ “Les Troyens.” Time now for some simple old-school tradition? Whyever not? The Lyric’s presentation of Massenet’s “Don Quichotte” is pure operatic comfort food. ★★★★

Pianist ignites a Prokofiev concerto with CSO, and veteran maestro shows mastery in debut

Nov 20, 2016 – 8:21 pm
A

Review: The technical demands Prokofiev placed on the soloist in his Second Piano Concerto are formidable. But chops alone will not suffice. The fiery Second also demands the fierce temperament displayed by Russian pianist Denis Kozhukhin in his electrifying performance Nov. 18 with the Chicago Symphony Orchestra and conductor Emmanuel Krivine, who also led a charming and expansive account of Dvořák’s Eighth Symphony.

‘Betrayal’ at Raven: In a threesome of friends, lovers, fidelity emerges as a relative concept

Nov 17, 2016 – 4:22 pm
feature-1

Review: Harold Pinter’s play “Betrayal” begins at the end – beyond the end, actually. And from there, this gritty slant on the eternal triangle works its way backward through the embers, the blaze and the multifarious deceptions of an affair. The affair is a tangled, bruising mess; the telling of it, at Raven Theatre, is a thing of raw-boned beauty. ★★★★

‘Les Troyens’ at Lyric Opera: An epic romance told in vibrant music (against a bleak setting)

Nov 15, 2016 – 3:29 pm

Review: Berlioz’s grandiose opera “Les Troyens” is a tale of two cities. The ambitious new production mounted by the Lyric Opera of Chicago, the company’s first presentation of this prodigiously demanding work, is an epic venture with two outcomes. Musically, it is resplendent, a huge success by a stellar cast under the leadership of Andrew Davis; conceptually, which is really to say visually, this “Troyens” – The Trojans — struggles to bear its own leaden weight. ★★★

Chicago Symphony Chorus glories in Brahms’ ‘German Requiem’ under van Zweden’s baton

Nov 13, 2016 – 11:10 pm
11/10/16 9:17:10 PM 

Mozart Masonic Funeral Music
Wagner Prelude and Liebestod from Tristan and Isolde
Brahms A German Requiem

PERFORMERS

Chicago Symphony Orchestra
Jaap van Zweden conductor
Christiane Karg soprano
Michael Nagy baritone
Chicago Symphony Chorus 
Duain Wolfe chorus director

© Alex Garcia Photography 2016

Review: Brahms’ “German Requiem” is a gentle monument, expressive in equal parts of humility, reassurance and peace. Such were the components of a radiant performance by the Chicago Symphony Orchestra and Chorus, with soprano Christiane Karg and baritone Michael Nagy, conducted by Jaap van Zweden on Nov. 11 at Orchestra Hall.

James Levine, a musical soul for all ages, appears before the CSO and it’s all poetry

Nov 8, 2016 – 12:42 pm

Review: Celebrating his splendid Indian summer, James Levine rolled up a long ramp to a custom-designed maestro’s podium at Orchestra Hall, took a hi-hello spin, and settled into a love-fest with the Chicago Symphony, starting with some absolutely irresistible Mozart. It is impossible to overstate the importance to American culture of this brilliant musician who, despite physical infirmity, is capable of unforgettable concerts when conditions are right.

‘East Texas Hot Links’ at Writers: A small café, some laughs, some fear; and then some blood

Nov 7, 2016 – 5:51 pm
feature-2

Review: Eugene Lee’s lyrical tragedy “East Texas Hotlinks” is an exquisite song of betrayal, an ironic ballad of the enemy within. And it is pitch perfect in a fluent, wryly comedic and quite astonishing production directed by Ron OJ Parson at Writers Theatre. The grace and truth of August Wilson’s poetic style permeate the characters as well as the language of Lee’s 1991 play, a reflection of this playwright-actor’s long association with the Wilson canon. ★★★★★

Purcell’s ‘Fairy Queen’ updated, crossed over and turned into crazy fun by Chicago Opera

Nov 7, 2016 – 10:27 am
cot-fairy-queen-feature-image-liz-lauren

Review: Who is that with the pink head, leathery strawberry feet and an oversized gut, whimpering and bellowing and moaning? Why, it’s Puck, the sleazy Las Vegas club owner in Chicago Opera Theater’s “The Fairy Queen.” COT’s take on Purcell is a reworking of Shakespeare by artistic director Andreas Mitisek and the performance troupe Culture Clash. It’s contemporary, ridiculous and fun.★★★

CHICAGO WINE JOURNAL:  Globe-trotting maestro natural ambassador for Vino Nobile

Nov 6, 2016 – 10:54 am
enrique-mazzola

Mulling Wine: Italian conductor Enrique Mazzola is the unlikely international ambassador for the 70-plus producers of Vino Nobile di Montepulciano in Tuscany. It’s a natural role, the maestro says, because — like any ambassador — he’s always taking his advocacy on the road.

This is going to sound mad, but for Lyric star scary-difficult role of Donizetti’s Lucia is easy

Nov 4, 2016 – 2:40 pm
shagimuratova-feature-image-pavel-vaan-leonid-semenyuk

Report: One of the great dramatic coloraturas of our day will go mad for the last time at Lyric Opera of Chicago on Nov. 6. But it’s impossible to believe that Russian singer Albina Shagimuratova won’t be back. The bond she forged with Lyric Opera general director Anthony Freud a decade ago is strong. Shagimuratova is at the top of her game now. But when she first sang for Anthony Freud, she was in her mid-twenties, fresh from the Moscow State Conservatory. She didn’t know the first thing about building a career.

In high-flying ‘Grounded,’ female fighter pilot gets a painfully close-up view of war’s horror

Nov 1, 2016 – 11:02 pm
feature-1

Review: It’s like nothing else, the F-16 fighter pilot declares: alone in the blue, just you and this amazing airplane. You unload your rockets, bombs, whatever, and before they even go boom, you’ve peeled back into that boundless sky and headed toward base – to join the guys, your fellow aces, down a few beers and swap stories. For the remarkable woman in George Brant’s monodrama “Grounded,” that’s how it’s always been. Until now. ★★★

Chicago Philharmonic summons dark spirits with high-spirited ‘Haunted Hearts’ concert

Nov 1, 2016 – 6:55 am
psycho-music-feature-image

Review: The Chicago Philharmonic’s “Haunted Hearts” Halloween weekend concert was a clever, idiosyncratic program with both frightful and delightful works, ranging from horror masterpieces like Bernard Herrmann’s score to “Psycho” to the standout piece, C. P. E. Bach’s Fifth Symphony. Four “haunted” pieces formed the middle of the concert, all sharing some relation to film.

‘Red Velvet’ at Raven: When black actor dares to play Othello, guardians of the theater revolt

Oct 31, 2016 – 4:38 pm
sub-feature

Review: Lolita Chakrabarti’s eloquent play “Red Velvet,” currently offered in a keen-edged production at Raven Theatre, is a full-body immersion in the cold, foul waters of racial bigotry. Named for the seductive stuff that covers seats and railings in many a theater, the drama concerns the historical 19th-century African-American actor Ira Aldridge, a major figure on stages across Europe for three decades beginning in the 1830s. ★★★★

Young maestro walks into house Reiner built, confronts CSO and a daunting Strauss legacy

Oct 30, 2016 – 12:19 pm

Review: It must be with a certain prideful reluctance that the musicians of the Chicago Symphony Orchestra face each new generation of conductors eager to take their own shot with one of the most famous works in its recorded legacy  – Richard Strauss’ “Also sprach Zarathustra.” The 38-year-old Colombian conductor Andrés Orozco-Estrada did not score a clear success despite a lot of bounce and body language in every single beat.

Second City and Lyric Opera send up Wagner with ‘Longer, Louder’ (funnier) take on ‘Ring’

Oct 28, 2016 – 2:58 pm
A

Review: The setting is Transylvania. Oh, wait a minute. I mean Schaumburg, and Bayreuth. I was confusing “Longer, Louder Wagner!,” the wild and crazy Second City-Lyric Opera of Chicago send-up of Wagner’s “Ring” operas, with the Mel Brooks-Gene Wilder film “Young Frankenstein.” Silly me. And yet…he is alive! ★★★

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

Oct 24, 2016 – 11:20 pm
sub-feature

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.

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

Oct 22, 2016 – 3:19 pm
feature-1

Review: The 33-year-old German conductor David Afkham made a doubly impressive debut with the Chicago Symphony Orchestra on Oct. 20, leading a finely feathered and emotionally searing account of Shostakovich’s Tenth Symphony and showing no less mastery in his collaboration with Emanuel Ax in Beethoven’s Piano Concerto No. 1 in C major.

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

Oct 21, 2016 – 3:51 pm
Hamilton
REGIONAL/NATIONAL TOURSMUSICAL
PRIVATEBANK THEATRE
18 WEST MONROE, CHICAGO, 60603
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
MUSIC: LIN-MANUEL MIRANDA
BOOK: LIN-MANUEL MIRANDA
LYRICS: LIN-MANUEL MIRANDA

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
sub-feature

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
feature-1

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
A

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
OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

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
sub-feature

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
sub-feature

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
feature-1

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
ear-taxi-feature-image

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  

Featuring 

Eric Owens
Wotan

Samuel Youn
Alberich

Stefan Margita
Loge

Tanja Ariane Baumgartner
Fricka

© 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
A

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.