Top Story »

Bernard Haitink 550

James Conlon, remembering Bernard Haitink, leads CSO concert of solemnity and brilliance

Oct 24, 2021 – 6:29 pm

Review: In a concert that turned out to be a memorial to the eminent conductor Bernard Haitink (1929-2021), who was long and closely associated with the Chicago Symphony Orchestra, James Conlon led Shostakovich’s somber Chamber Symphony, an arrangement of his Eighth String Quartet. The effect was wrenchingly beautiful, the experience cathartic, a fitting remembrance of Haitink, who had led his CSO colleagues at Orchestra Hall, at Ravinia, and throughout Europe and Asia on tour.

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

Classical + Opera »

Chicago Symphony, out of the pandemic gate, shines with the season’s first guest conductor

Oct 16, 2021 – 9:45 am

Danish conductor Nikolaj Szeps-Znaider has appeared every few years with the Chicago Symphony Orchestra since 2000. (CSO photos by Todd Rosenberg)

Review: Chicago Symphony Orchestra conducted by Nikolaj Szeps-Znaider; John Sharp, cello. Repeats at 8 p.m. Oct. 16, 3 p.m. Oct. 17 at Orchestra Hall. 
By Lawrence B. Johnson

It was almost startling, like cold water in the face. For the first time this season, which is to say for the first time since the pandemic shut down the Chicago Symphony Orchestra those endless months ago, the band was playing – four weeks into its revival season – under a conductor other than music director Riccardo Muti. I was actually conscious of making the mental adjustment. Muti is a galvanizing presence, and his reopening three weeks had seen the CSO make an instant leap back to its wonted virtuosic form.

Now here was a fresh face on the podium: the Danish violinist-turned-conductor Nikolaj Szeps-Znaider. But by the end of this 85-minute concert sans intermission, I would gladly have returned to hear the program centerpiece, Schumann’s Symphony No. 2 in C major, a second time. Read the full story »

Verdi opera, Beethoven 9th top Muti’s agenda as CSO unveils plan for season’s second half

Oct 13, 2021 – 4:31 pm
Details at last! The Chicago Symphony Orchestra reveals the remaining details of the 2021-22 spring season. (Todd Rosenberg photo)

Review: The Chicago Symphony Orchestra’s audience is likely to find the deferred announcement of the CSO’s winter-spring portion of the 2021-22 season has been worth the wait. The newly revealed line-up is replete with favorite artists and major events — foremost, no doubt, music director Riccardo Muti leading four performances of Beethoven’s Ninth Symphony and, at season’s end, Verdi’s full-length opera “Un ballo in maschera.”

Lang Lang ignites Bach in a pianistic blaze: ‘Goldberg’ Variations for the here and now

Oct 9, 2021 – 6:03 pm
LL 2020 © OLAF HEINE Deutsche Grammophon feature crop 550

Review: It was a prodigious event, pianist Lang Lang’s 93-minute non-stop excursion through Bach’s “Goldberg” Variations before a packed on Oct. 8 at Orchestra Hall. In a blazing display of virtuosity, the celebrated pianist powered through every technical obstacle on a winding course laden with them. All that said, this staggering exhibition had little to do with Bach as a composer of the early 18th century. What unfolded here was a rigorously considered perspective on Bach as viewed through the filter of Liszt.

Lyric spirits meet at last: Riccardo Muti leads CSO in poetic turn through music by Mazzoli

Oct 8, 2021 – 6:32 pm
Missy Mazzoli CSO composer debut 2021-10-07 Todd Rosenberg

Review: Of all the composers-in-residence appointed by the Chicago Symphony Orchestra during music director Riccardo Muti’s tenure, Mazzoli is the one whose interests are most in sync with his. She has several successful operas and lyric works under her belt already. Muti led Mazzoli’s intense yet dreamlike “These Worlds in Us” on Oct. 8 at Orchestra Hall. Her tenure as CSO composer in residence, disrupted by Covid, had ended June 30.

Kavakos, CSO collaborate on radiant Brahms, Muti leads high-powered Beethoven Seventh

Oct 2, 2021 – 5:49 pm
CSO20210930_0838 feature image 550x230

Review: Conductor Riccardo Muti’s brilliant take on Beethoven’s Seventh Symphony capped an Oct. 1 concert by the Chicago Symphony at Orchestra Hall that commenced on formidable and indeed glorious terms with Brahms’ Violin Concerto, featuring Leonidas Kavakos as soloist.

Long silence ends: Chicago Symphony, Muti make ‘Heroic’ return to roaring Orchestra Hall

Sep 24, 2021 – 9:17 pm
CSO20210923_0236 Music lovers surround the Orchestra Hall stage for Muti's return (Todd Rosenberg)

Review: It was at once bizarre and exhilarating to be back at Orchestra Hall with a masked throng seated elbow-to-elbow. Yet the Chicago Symphony Orchestra’s glistening, soaring, pin-perfect performance of Beethoven’s Symphony No. 3 in E-flat (“Eroica”) with music director Riccardo Muti on Sept. 23 lent the occasion a marvelous normalcy. This is what had been absent from life for more than a year and a half. This familiar musical brilliance and wordless eloquence. This profound spirituality.

Lyric Opera, sporting houseful of new seats, reopens with bloody (but beautiful) ‘Macbeth’

Sep 21, 2021 – 9:16 pm
Feature 4 8 - LOC Macbeth - Sondra Radvanovsky as Lady Macbeth and Craig Colclough as Macbeth - photo Ken Howard - MACB_0325

Review: In his operatic retelling of Shakespeare’s “Macbeth,” Verdi went straight to heart of the tale’s dark and brilliant confusion, its chiaroscuro, and it resonates with bleak authenticity in Lyric Opera of Chicago’s return to the stage. The potent new production of “Macbeth,” devised by David McVicar, was led by Enrique Mazzola in his first flourish as Lyric’s music director. ★★★★★

Mezzo-sopranos square off, one as Carmen; the other (in russet beard) is, yup, Don José

Sep 19, 2021 – 7:52 am
Comic flair: Carmen's pals Frasquita (Rachel Blaustein) and Mercédès (Leah Dexter) know their friend.

Review: The gypsy femme-fatale Carmen of Georges Bizet’s opera is more than figuratively a force of nature: She’s an authentic creature of the natural world where life, as the English philosopher Thomas Hobbes observed, is “nasty, brutish and short.” The truth of that hard reality came to mind as I watched Chicago Opera Theater’s concert distillation of “Carmen,” a novel experience that might be described as weird, intriguing and notably short. ★★★

Singing a Mass that’s far from the Ordinary, new star shows his range in more than voice

Sep 3, 2021 – 2:38 pm
davone-tines 550x230

Review: It was a musical setting of the Mass like no other, sung by a single vocalist like no other. And as a musical, indeed quite theatrical, experience, Davóne Tines’ mesmerizing performance of his Recital No. 1: Mass, on Aug. 31 with pianist Adam Nielsen at the Ravinia Festival, was unlike any other in memory.

Coalition of key Chicago theaters to require mask plus vaccination proof or negative test

Aug 17, 2021 – 8:44 pm
wear a mask

Report: A coalition of more than 65 performing arts venues and producers across Chicagoland has announced Covid-19 vaccination and mask requirements for audiences through the end of 2021. The unified Covid protection protocol, which takes effect Sept. 1 for indoor productions, requiries audience members to provide proof of vaccination or negative test certification upon entry and to wear masks.

Tilson Thomas cancels Chicago Symphony concerts in October after urgent operation

Aug 7, 2021 – 2:35 pm
Conductor-Michael-Tilson-Thomas-will-lead-the-Chicago-Symphony-Orchestra-in-Mahlers-Ninth-Symphony.-Stephan-Cohen.

Report: Conductor Michael Tilson Thomas has canceled his scheduled two-week October residency with the Chicago Symphony Orchestra after emergency surgery to remove a brain tumor. The 76-year-old conductor and music director laureate of the San Francisco Symphony Orchestra was to lead CSO concerts at Orchestra Hall Oct. 21-23 and Oct. 28-30. A statement from Tilson Thomas’ national press agent said: “After a series of tests, Michael Tilson Thomas was diagnosed with a brain tumor that required an immediate operation. The operation at the UCSF Medical Center was successful.”

As CSO’s music director turns 80, Lightfoot proclaims ‘Riccardo Muti Day In Chicago’

Jul 27, 2021 – 4:16 pm
Riccardo Muti

Report: Chicago Mayor Lori Lightfoot has issued a proclamation recognizing July 28, 2021, as “Riccardo Muti Day” in the city of Chicago, in honor of “an extraordinary man” on the occasion of his 80th birthday. “I could not be more proud to join his family, friends, colleagues, and fans in commemorating this occasion,” stated Mayor Lightfoot, while noting Muti’s multiple Grammy Awards with the CSO and his work to bring music to all Chicagoans including seniors, veterans, students and incarcerated youths.

Meteoric conductor, in her Grant Park debut, another happy surprise in a summer of them

Jul 25, 2021 – 7:27 pm
GPMF_7.23.21_Eun Sun Kim by_ElliotMandel-69 550

Review: Can something that’s free qualify as a bargain? In the case of the Grant Park Music Festival, which is free all summer to the legion of picnickers who flood the sprawling green beyond Pritzker Pavilion, those serenades sometimes exceed the pedestrian notion of bargain. Sometimes the occasion is more like an opportunity beyond price. Witness conductor Eun Sun Kim’s thrilling, indeed mind-altering and game-changing account of Dvořák’s “New World” Symphony with the Grant Park Festival Orchestra on July 23.

Chicago Symphony lays out autumn concerts, but defers spring announcement to October 

Jul 16, 2021 – 9:29 pm
LangLang 2020 © OLAF HEINE DG 260x230 crop

Report: Brick by reconstructive brick, the Chicago Symphony Orchestra’s emergence from its long pandemic null into new and full vigor is taking form. A newly released second wave of concert dates, extending into the first weekend of 2022, provides healthy signs of a recognizable season, not only for the orchestras but also for the chamber music, recitals and jazz performances that keep the stage lights burning at Symphony Center.

After a jubilant July Fourth salute to America, Grant Park Music Festival gallops into summer

Jul 6, 2021 – 4:27 pm
2021.0703 Feature img Veteran flagwaver GPMF IndepDaySalute c Norman Timonera

Review: To judge by the exhilaration that swept through Millennium Park on July 2, when the 2021 Grant Park Music Festival officially opened, the beloved “William Tell” Overture of Rossini, which is up this week, should carry an extra special zing. The Grant Park Music Festival is back: the music, the collective great times, Chicago and life itself. The Lone Ranger rides again, indeed.

Beethoven shares stage with spirit of Brubeck: Chamber music rules supreme on North Shore

Jun 17, 2021 – 2:49 pm
Yoffe and Gluzman NSCMF

Review: The North Shore Chamber Music Festival has always flown a little under the radar. The summer event, held June 9-12, might not have the big profile or multi-week seasons of larger counterparts like the Ravinia Festival, but it delivers the same kind of high-quality music-making and is beloved by fans who fill its seats each year. The two star-caliber founders, violinist Vadim Gluzman and his wife, pianist Angela Yoffe, headed a world-class cast in this year’s 10th-anniversary edition.

CSO details Muti’s return in autumn concerts amid sketchy first look at the 2021-22 season

Jun 16, 2021 – 12:06 pm
Muti conducts the CSO Todd Rosenberg 550 230 feature img

Report: The Chicago Symphony Orchestra, at full strength and with music director Riccardo Muti back on the podium, returns to Orchestra Hall on Sept. 23 to launch its 2021-22 season, an embrace of normalcy announced by the orchestra just days after the completion of a pandemic-constrained “season” reduced to just three weeks. Residual effects of the pandemic still resonated in the CSO’s limited new-season announcement, which offered complete details only for Muti’s opening three-week residency.

De Waart leads dramatic Mozart-Wagner mix capping CSO’s brief pandemic survival season

Jun 12, 2021 – 2:17 pm
CSO Overture Feature Image

Review: An almost gemütlich take on Mozart’s 40th Symphony crowned the Chicago Symphony’s matinee concert on June 11 at Orchestra Hall, the final program in a three-week CSO mini-season that refused to let the pandemic sweep away all. If it was not the full Chicago Symphony on stage, the masked, socially distanced contingent was at least a healthy representation, and its sound under conductor Edo de Waart was recognizably vigorous, lustrous and poised.

(Sort of) filling stage, but flooding the heart, CSO unfurls a reminder of its grand banners

Jun 5, 2021 – 9:09 pm
UCLS

Review: The second concert program of the Chicago Symphony Orchestra’s three-week, toe-in-the-water post-pandemic “season” almost took one back to that halcyon time before elbow-bumps replaced hand-shakes.  The concert’s final flourish felt and sounded like the once-and-future CSO: a rousing, conspicuously virtuosic performance of Zoltán Kodály’s “Dances of Galánta” that even gave the impression of a stage filled with musicians.

CSO brasses blow away the pandemic silence as concert restores music to Orchestra Hall

May 28, 2021 – 6:27 pm
UCLS

Review: It was like music’s great beating heart could not ultimately be stilled, this ferocious burst of timpani and bass drum followed by a stentorian peal of brasses. When had the proclamation of Copland’s “Fanfare for the Common Man” ever carried a more exhilarating message? The Chicago Symphony Orchestra, music itself, had returned to Orchestra Hall.

Mapping its return to the opera stage, Lyric sketches a wider, more inclusive landscape

May 24, 2021 – 11:58 am
Macbeth rendering (John MacFarlane) feature image

Preview: As Lyric Opera of Chicago moves toward that moment opera buffs in Chicagoland have long awaited, the post-pandemic opening of a new season Sept. 17, the company’s music director-designate, Enrique Mazzola, gives the impression of an artist well ahead of the curve. Speaking about Lyric’s new production of Verdi’s early “Macbeth,” which will bring live opera back to Chicago, the Spanish-born Italian conductor sounds like he’s already there.

As Lyric Opera bids farewell to Andrew Davis, the maestro puts down his baton for a trowel

May 15, 2021 – 4:07 pm
SAD Headshot from stage, feature image c. Dario Acosta 0505

Interview: Under the pandemic’s abiding if perhaps fading shadow, Lyric Opera of Chicago has fashioned a virtual salute to its exiting music director, Andrew Davis. With some very fine singers as well as the Lyric chorus, Davis led an ambitious video in his honor that debuts May 16. In a chat with Chicago On the Aisle, the maestro reflected on his two decades at the company’s artistic helm.

Sound the trumpets (and trombones and all): Chicago Symphony’s tuning up for its return

May 5, 2021 – 5:40 pm
Sound the trumpets feature image 550

Report: Some 14 months after giving its last performance at Orchestra Hall, so long banished from its home and audience by the pandemic, the Chicago Symphony begins and ends its 2020-21 season with a three-weekend flurry of concerts under three different conductors starting May 27 with a showcase for the orchestra’s vaunted brass section.

Songs on heat and passion of ‘Sun and Love’ billed for Lyric’s Ryan singers, new maestro

Feb 20, 2021 – 8:54 am
Feature 1

Preview: Conductor Enrique Mazzola, Lyric Opera of Chicago’s new music director-designate, presides at the piano over a selection of rare love songs by famous Italian composers, sung by the young professionals in training at Lyric’s Ryan Opera Center. Titled “Sole e Amore” – Sun and Love – the free program streams at 6 p.m. Feb. 21.

In his one-man reading of ‘A Christmas Carol,’ Halberstam lets Dickens spark the imagination

Dec 30, 2020 – 12:47 pm
Feature 1

Interview: If actors are vessels for the characters they portray, Michael Halberstam has made of himself a grand repository of the diverse populace – living, deceased, earthly and unearthly – immortalized in Charles Dickens’ “A Christmas Carol.” Halberstam, artistic director of Writers Theatre, reads the story all alone in a streamed performance that runs through Jan. 3. He says his account strives to put Dickens’ language at the fulcrum of a charged drama that invokes Spirits, plain folk and a covetous old sinner who has cut himself off from the world.

Larry Yando, Goodman’s beloved Scrooge, created stage in his mind for streaming ‘Carol’

Dec 29, 2020 – 7:47 am
Feature 1

Interview: At this season of the year when the want of Goodman Theatre’s perennial staging of “A Christmas Carol” is keenly felt, we can still rejoice in the abundance of actor Larry Yando’s gifts as that squeezing, wrenching, grasping, scraping, clutching, covetous old sinner Scrooge. Constrained by the pandemic, Goodman isolated Yando in an audio booth – with the rest of a large cast similarly separated – for a free streamed production of Dickens’ treasured tale that continues through New Year’s Eve. Yando says it was a joy to be back at it.

Lyric drops curtain on entire 2020-21 season, projects return to opera house next September

Oct 23, 2020 – 3:31 pm
Feature 1

Report: Lyric Opera of Chicago’s lamentable, if not terribly surprising, announcement that it has canceled the entire remainder of its 2020-21 season comes with a poignant promise of renewed life much as we once knew it: detailed and quite enticing plans for 2021-22, a full season projected to start in the customary month of September.

Hear ye, hear ye! Recorded live at Orchestra Hall, CSO musicians soon to be in ‘Sessions’

Sep 19, 2020 – 2:18 pm
CSO Wagner Brahms Schumann

Report: The Chicago Symphony Orchestra will begin a measured return to live performance Oct. 1 when small groups of musicians commence a series of weekly online chamber concerts from Orchestra Hall under the banner CSO Sessions. The new digital series of on-demand, high-definition video recordings of chamber music – and later chamber orchestra – concerts will feature performances by CSO musicians filmed in Orchestra Hall at Symphony Center.

Voices of love: Grand dame Renée Fleming, shooting star J’Nai Bridges in Lyric songfest

Sep 13, 2020 – 12:46 pm
Renee Fleming to perfom via streaming for Lyric Opera special event 2020

Preview: The celebrated soprano Renée Fleming and mezzo-soprano J’Nai Bridges, an emerging star, have collaborated with a diverse cast of singers to create “For the Love of Lyric,” a concert pre-recorded in part on the Lyric stage. The songfest will be offered free online starting at 6 p.m. Sept. 13. Fleming and Bridges offer two views of a singer’s life in our pandemic world.

Ron Parson, steeped in Wilson’s stagecraft, brings theater perspective to seminar series

Sep 10, 2020 – 2:35 pm
August Wilson, Ron OJ Parson 550 feature image (Court Theatre)

Preview: Stage director and Court Theatre resident artist Ron OJ Parson has helmed 31 productions of August Wilson’s Pittsburgh plays at theaters around the country. He brings his deep experience with the plays to the final installment in a series of online seminars collectively titled “The World of August Wilson and The Black Creative Voice,” led by University of Chicago professor Kenneth Moore and running through Sept. 29.

CSO cancels all events through year’s end, erasing orchestra concerts and other series

Jul 17, 2020 – 4:44 pm
CSO Orchestra Hall 550 (Todd Rosenberg, CSO.org)

Report: The Chicago Symphony Orchestra has canceled its entire autumn slate of concerts and related events through the end of 2020, joining Lyric Opera of Chicago and major performing arts organizations around the country in acknowledging the threat of COVID-19.