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Strike settled, Lyric Opera set to raise curtain
on Mozart’s ‘Idomeneo’ and Part 3 of ‘Ring’

Oct 15, 2018 – 4:20 pm

Report: After the brief, harrowing intermission of a strike by its orchestra, the Lyric Opera of Chicago is back in business. Members of the Chicago Federation of Musicians ratified a new contract Oct. 14, ending a five-day walkout and clearing the way for the Lyric to declare Oct. 18 as the deferred opening night of Mozart’s “Idomeneo.” The Lyric Opera House actually re-opens its doors Oct. 17 with a performance of Puccini’s “La bohème,” which launched the current season.

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Orozco-Estrada leads CSO through nature’s realm in pageant of Mahler’s Third Symphony

Oct 13, 2018 – 4:45 pm

Entrusted with Mahler’s work of great magnitude, Andres Orozco-Estrada. (Werner Kmetitsch)

Review: Chicago Symphony Orchestra conducted by Andrés Orozco-Estrada. At Orchestra Hall through Oct. 14.

 

By Kyle MacMillan

Gustav Mahler once called it “A Summer’s Midday Dream.” But while the sounds of birds chirping and animals flitting can be heard in the Symphony No. 3 in D minor, the work is much more than a mere evocation of an idyll. Indeed, the composer takes listeners on an extraordinary musical, philosophical and auto-biographical journey.

Orozco-Estrada leads orchestras in Houston, Frankfurt. (Kmetitsch)

Serving as guide Oct. 11 when the Chicago Symphony Orchestra presented the first in its latest set of performances featuring this landmark work was guest conductor Andrés Orozco-Estrada. The 40-year-old Colombia-born maestro took over as music director of the Houston Symphony and chief conductor of the Frankfurt Radio Symphony Orchestra in September 2014.

Chicago Symphony officials placed considerable confidence in this young, emerging conductor by entrusting a work of such magnitude to him, and he delivered a performance that captured the full richness, variety and scope of Mahler’s odyssey and gave voice to the distinctive character of each movement. Clear, purposeful and not oversold – this was a sweeping yet meticulously detailed interpretation. Read the full story »

Healthy and ambitious, Joffrey Ballet plans epic storytelling as core of 2018-19 season

Oct 10, 2018 – 8:36 pm
'Swan Lake' returns to the Joffrey in 2018-29 season (Cheryl Mann) featured image

Preview: Three grand narratives headline the Joffrey’s new season opening October 17 at the Auditorium Theatre: Remounts of Christopher Wheeldon’s ingenious ballet-within-a-ballet version of “Swan Lake” and his Chicago-oriented “Nutcracker,” plus the world premiere of Tolstoy’s “Anna Karenina” choreographed by fellow Russian Yuri Possokhov.

‘La bohème’ at Lyric Opera: Splendid voices, squandered in an unsentimental tool shed

Oct 7, 2018 – 3:31 pm
La Boheme Lyric Opera 2018

Review: Despite a superior musical performance by a fine international cast, and firmly idiomatic orchestral playing and choral work from the promising Venezuelan-Swiss conductor Domingo Hindoyan, in his Lyric debut, the new-to-Chicago “La bohème” by director Richard Jones is a major letdown, a misconceived case of too much here and too little there.★★★

New Mazzoli cycle sparkles amid vocal gems as Collaborative Arts honors the art of song

Oct 5, 2018 – 1:12 pm
Feature 1 Elliot Mandel

Review: The Collaborative Arts Institute of Chicago is on a mission. Now in its ninth season, the Institute has dedicated its considerable energy to the preservation of art song as a germane form for contemporary audiences. The Institute kicked off its 2018 Collaborative Works Festival on Sept. 5 with diverse repertoire that included the Midwest premiere of Missy Mazzoli’s new cycle “Songs from the Operas.” Next up, on Oct. 28, the Institute will observe the 100th anniversary of Armistice Day with Mahler’s “Des Knaben Wunderhorn.”

With CSO blazing, Riccardo Muti brings back Hindemith masterpiece ‘Mathis der Maler’

Oct 5, 2018 – 1:11 pm
Feature img Detail from portrait of Paul_Hindemith 1931 (Rudolf_Heinisch via wiki)

Review: After an absence of more than 20 years from the Chicago Symphony Orchestra repertoire, Muti and the CSO have brought back Hindemith’s magnum opus in a brilliant, deeply considered performance. French pianist David Fray was the cool, unconvincing soloist in Beethoven’s Third Piano Concerto.

Opulence of ‘Scheherazade,’ Mozart writ large: Who can resist sound of Muti’s Chicago band?

Sep 28, 2018 – 4:28 pm
Muti CSO

Review: Music director Riccardo Muti’s second week of concerts with the Chicago Symphony Orchestra was notably conservative – Mozart’s Overture to “Don Giovanni” and his Symphony No. 40 in G minor, together with Rimsky-Korsakov’s “Scheherazade” – but even curmudgeonly critics had to acknowledge the consistently high level of performance the maestro drew from his remarkable ensemble in a program Sept. 27 at a packed and enthusiastic Orchestra Hall.

‘Curve of Departure’ at Northlight Theatre: Nussbaum at 94, etching old age with mastery

Sep 23, 2018 – 5:24 pm
Mike Nussbaum400 Curve of Departure Northlight (Credit - Michael Brosilow)

Review: Actor Mike Nussbaum will turn 95 in December (no, that is not a typo), and he is now delivering such a towering performance in the Northlight Theatre production of Rachel Bonds’ play, “Curve of Departure,” that you might easily be persuaded he is simply a supremely talented actor impersonating an old man.★★★

Muti, CSO open with Shostakovich monument ‘Babi Yar’; composer’s widow attends concert

Sep 22, 2018 – 1:03 pm

Review: Music director Riccardo Muti and the Chicago Symphony Orchestra opened their 2018-19 season Sept. 21 with an eloquent and gripping performance of Shostakovich’s Symphony No. 13 (“Babi Yar”) on verses of Yevgeny Yevtushenko memorializing the massacre of Jews by German soldiers near Kiev in 1941. The composer’s widow, Irina Shostakovich, joined Muti on stage at Orchestra Hall for a post-performance conversation.

Theater 2018-19: In three philosophical plays, Shattered Globe probes issues intimate, epic

Aug 23, 2018 – 4:21 pm
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Fifth in a series of season previews: It’s easy to pick five shows for a season, says Shattered Globe Theater artistic director Sandy Shinner. But settling on just three plays, which is a full plate for this plucky little company: That, says Shinner, is tricky. The trio of plays in view at Shattered Globe this season bears a collective stamp of philosophical discourse in dramatic form.

Theater 2018-19: Redtwist celebrates 15th year by raising monument in tiny space: ‘King Lear’

Aug 22, 2018 – 3:45 pm
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Fourth in a series of season previews: Fifteen years into its venture of creating high-voltage drama in a really small space, Redtwist Theatre will roll out its first production ever by the Bard of Avon. And what else would you choose for a first leap into Shakespeare on a postage-stamp stage but “King Lear”?

Theater 2018-19: Court maps world premiere and last play in the Wilson cycle: ‘Radio Golf’

Aug 21, 2018 – 9:25 am
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Third in a series of season previews: Court Theatre will cap its 64th season – and artistic director Charles Newell’s 24th year at the helm — with the world premiere adaptation of Saul Bellow’s novel “The Adventures of Augie March,” and kick it off with August Wilson’s “Radio Golf,” the tenth and final installment in his chronicle of the African American experience.

Theater 2018-19: TimeLine cues four dramas, collaborates with feminist venture Firebrand

Aug 20, 2018 – 3:28 pm
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Second in a series of season previews: TimeLine Theatre launches its 22nd season from the company’s familiar, Janus-faced perspective on historical events: seeing human events of the past in the mirror of the continuing present. “We are, first and foremost, theater makers,” says artistic director PJ Powers. “But we use the lens of history to provide social context.” TimeLine opens its season with Barbara Lebow’s post-Holocaust drama “A Shayna Maidel.”

Theater 2018-19: Getting a real sense of home, Writers plans far-ranging season in new house

Aug 17, 2018 – 2:49 pm
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First in a series of season previews: Michael Halberstam, founding artistic director of the 27-year-old Writers Theatre, looks back on the company’s first two full seasons in its new Glencoe home as “a very exciting journey, and with this season we feel we’ve really found the right mix for both of our versatile spaces.”

‘Exit the King’ at American Players Theatre: Why would an absolute ruler accede to death?

Aug 16, 2018 – 11:46 am
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Review: Eugêne Ionesco’s play about dying, “Exit the King,” generally comes under the rubric of absurdist drama. But that tag doesn’t really fit the play. If a label is required, perhaps “figurative” – certainly, existential. An absorbing and quite affecting account at American Players Theatre rings with truth about that juncture in life where few arrive gladly: its end. ★★★★

‘As You Like It’ at American Players Theatre: Romp in the woods with the Bard, and a twist

Aug 14, 2018 – 11:33 am
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Review: It’s a trifecta for women, two in traditional roles and another in a first for me: Shakespeare’s “As You Like It” at American Players Theatre in Spring Green, Wis. Melisa Pereyra and Andrea San Miguel portray BFF Rosalind and Celia – and, in a stunning gender shift, Tracy Michelle Arnold appears as the cynical philosopher Jaques. ★★★★

Role Playing: Zachary Stevenson elevated his Buddy Holly from hiccups to the rockin’ truth

Aug 11, 2018 – 6:25 pm
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Interview: Zachary Stevenson slips into the persona of Buddy Holly like the early rocker’s doppelgänger in American Blues Theatre’s extended run of the musical “Buddy: The Buddy Holly Story,” by Alan Janes. Stevenson says he feels that identity – now. But back when he first landed the part, more than a decade and some 12 productions ago in Toronto, it was a different story.

‘Linda’ at Steep: When the craggy face of time turns its glare on one-time woman of the year

Aug 6, 2018 – 11:25 pm
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Review: Despite a rather heavy application of angst, the true face of poignancy emerges in Penelope Skinner’s “Linda,” a dramatic screed at Steep Theatre on women, beauty and the cumulative unkindness of years. Kendra Thulin reels through the title role, one moment a confident and successful marketer of beauty products, the next moment a has-been who watches the world, fashion and relevance all pass by, leaving her bereft in life’s seventh age, sans everything. ★★★

‘Pamplona’ at Goodman: Gray lion Hemingway contemplates life, mischance and le mot juste

Aug 5, 2018 – 7:51 pm
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Review: Ernest Hemingway was, in flesh and blood, a man’s man, the willful and danger-defiant sort we associate with the fantastical, celluloid John Wayne. He also shared a trait in common with many another towering artist: For all his exterior magnificence, he was troubled, depressive, vulnerable. It’s the compleat Hemingway, fierce and brilliant, tormented and alcoholic, that playwright Jim McGrath attempts to sketch and actor Stacy Keach embodies in “Pamplona,” now on display at Goodman Theatre. ★★

‘Heartbreak Hotel’ at Broadway Playhouse: Elvis at hello, stirred but hardly all shook up

Jul 19, 2018 – 3:42 pm
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Review: At age 19, an unknown Elvis Aaron Presley walked into Sam Phillips’ recording studio in Memphis and uttered the legendary words that really should be his epitaph. Asked who he sounded like, he replied: “I don’t sound like nobody.” Neither does Eddie Clendening, star of the Elvis bio musical “Heartbreak Hotel” at the Broadway Playhouse, sound like nobody (the double negative is au courant, so it’s cool). Time may have been when Clendening’s voice resembled Elvis’ – back when he played him as part of the “Million Dollar Quartet” at Goodman Theatre in 2008. I never saw that production. But here we are, a decade later.

CHICAGO WINE JOURNAL: Summer’s heat means refreshing rosés and light whites

Jul 18, 2018 – 5:20 pm
Bouisson 2

Tasting Report: The dog days are upon us. Time to lap up some cooling summer wines – whites and rosés to accompany a picnic or simply to enjoy, to sip for their own mellow rewards. If there is a place in the wine world that prides itself on rosé, it is Provence, where the cuisine and the warming sun of France’s Southern Rhône Valley create an ideal setting for these salmon-pale refreshers.

‘Support Group for Men’ at Goodman: 4 guys, make it 5, couple of cops and a ‘talking stick’

Jul 10, 2018 – 6:58 am
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Review: The first flourish of Ellen Fairey’s play “Support Group for Men,” now on display at Goodman Theatre, works twofold narrative magic: It creates a deceptively rich context, and it’s just plain deceptive. We think we’re in for a night with the boys as sitcom when the truth is we’re in for a theatrical ride as clever as it is gentle and poignant and authentic. ★★★★

‘The Roommate’ at Steppenwolf: Couple’s odd but the joke’s over when punchline goes dark

Jul 9, 2018 – 8:41 am
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Review: Surely the first thing that will come to mind for many viewers in the opening scene of Jen Silverman’s play “The Roommate” at Steppenwolf Theatre is “The Odd Couple” – recreated here for two middle-aged women. Sharon is a dowdy Iowa mom living alone who takes in worldly New Yorker Robyn, who’s looking to get away from it all for a while. But “The Odd Couple” it is not. Silverman’s drama is ultimately tragic, and desperately sad. ★★★

Conductor uncorks a Bolcom birthday toast, and pours dark, bracing Fifth of Tchaikovsky

Jul 7, 2018 – 3:56 pm
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Review: The rewards just keep coming at this summer’s Grant Park Music Festival. After a splendid opening stint of concerts, artistic director Carlos Kalmar gave place to conductor Dennis Russell Davies on July 6, and the result was yet another stellar program – this one offering an 80th birthday tribute to composer William Bolcom with his Fourth Symphony as well as a potently dramatic take on Tchaikovsky’s Fifth Symphony.

Summer roll: Conductor Carlos Kalmar leads Grant Park Orchestra in a festival of delights

Jun 29, 2018 – 1:18 pm
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Review: The Grant Park Festival Orchestra’s June 27 concert at Millennium Park, under the baton of music director Carlos Kalmar and featuring London Symphony principal flute Adam Walker, offered an exemplary instance of Kalmar’s wide-ranging command of musical periods and styles. In music requiring great ensemble finesse, understatement and transparency, Kalmar’s disciplined orchestra delivered on all counts.

In single soft flourish of Rossini ‘Stabat Mater,’ Muti effect tells in Chicago Symphony, Chorus

Jun 27, 2018 – 3:27 pm
Riccardo Muti and the Chicago Symphony Orchestra and Chorus undertake Rossini's "Stabat Mater" with soprano Krassimira Stoyanova, mezzo-soprano Ekaterina Gubanova, tenor Dmitry Korchak and bass-baritone Eric Owens. (© Todd Rosenberg)

Review: If there was a moment during the season-ending concert that summed up the singular achievement of the Chicago Symphony Orchestra and Chorus under the long-term influence of Riccardo Muti, it came near the end of Rossini’s “Stabat Mater,” a Catholic hymn to Mary that pulls the listeners into the mother’s grief at the foot of the cross and offers transcendence. The three-line prayer “Quando corpus morietur” (“When my body dies, let me live in Paradise, too”) is so very human and humble that the listener might not notice how treacherous it is to sing. The Chicago Symphony Chorus imbued it with a powerful emotion that filled the hall, yet with sound so soft it barely hung on a thread.

Muti, Chicago Symphony name Missy Mazzoli as Mead composer-in-residence for two years

Jun 26, 2018 – 11:53 am
Missy Mazzoli CSO composer in residence (Marylene Mey)

This Just In:: Music director Riccardo Muti has selected American composer Missy Mazzoli as the Chicago Symphony Orchestra’s new Mead Composer-in-Residence, beginning a two-year term on July 1 and continuing through June 30, 2020. Mazzoli, 37, is already the recipient of prestigious grants and awards, including a Fulbright Grant and the Best New Opera Award for 2017 from the Music Critics Association of North America, for “Breaking the Waves.”

Is that a great white whale I see? No, mate, it’s Verne’s Nautilus, limping into Lookingglass

Jun 22, 2018 – 4:56 pm
feature 1 Liz Lauren

Review: After Lookingglass Theatre’s roundly imaginative and engaging 2015 production of Melville’s “Moby-Dick,” one might have expected Jules Verne’s “20,000 Leagues Under the Seas” to fare no less well, indeed to fall right into the Lookingglass wheelhouse. Sorry, mates. The best thing to be said for this production, adapted by David Kersnar and Steve Pickering and directed by Kersnar, is that it finally gives us a proper translation of Verne’s original French title. It’s the saga of a road trip, as nefarious as it is long, under the seas. ★★

Like a constellation viewed above the skyline, Grant Park Chorus ascends in Chicago night

Jun 21, 2018 – 3:28 pm
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Review: A Grant Park Music Festival concert celebrating singers and song featured the world premiere setting of Native American songs and stories about a star cluster called “The Pleiades,” which is visible to the naked eye in colder months. Latvian composer Ēriks Ešenvalds wrote it to be performed during the Chorus America Conference, which brought hundreds of the nation’s choruses large and small to Chicago. It played nicely in the out-of-doors in preamble to starlight and fireworks on the night before the summer solstice.

‘Damascus’ at Strawdog: A frantic white kid and a Somali-born taxi driver, both desperate

Jun 20, 2018 – 4:32 pm
Feature 1 Clark Bender

Review: In your face is probably not the right way to describe the close-up experience of watching Bennett Fisher’s taut, harrowing new play “Damascus” in Strawdog Theatre’s cozy new home. Eye to unblinking eye would be more accurate. As Somali-born Hassan drives his van down the highway from the Minneapolis airport toward Chicago, with a mysterious young white man as his passenger, news of a terrorist attack back at the airport comes over the radio. We viewers gaze straight at the two men through the van’s windshield. The increasingly anxious travelers stare right back at us. ★★★★

‘Father Comes Home From Wars’ at Goodman: Adapting Homer (et al.) to epic of moral siege

Jun 18, 2018 – 8:07 pm
Feature 1 Liz Lauren

Review: Hero is strong young slave in the 1860s South who finds himself agonizing over an option: Accept his owner’s proposition to accompany him into the war against the Yankees, in exchange for his subsequent freedom, or remain behind as a slave for the rest of his life. That’s the setup of Suzan-Lori Parks’ epic and very human play “Father Comes Home From the Wars,” now on smart, provocative and impassioned display at Goodman Theatre under the direction of Niegel Smith. ★★★★

The stars align – Muti, Ma, CSO – as visitors from U.S. orchestras catch a cosmic concert

Jun 17, 2018 – 11:35 pm
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Review: You could say the 600 representatives of symphony orchestras from around the country who heard the Chicago Symphony Orchestra, with music director Riccardo Muti and cellist Yo-Yo Ma, were in the right place at the right time. If ever there was a musical nexus, this was one: the convergence of those particular performing forces and the work at hand, Shostakovich’s Cello Concerto No. 2, a sublime masterpiece captured at Orchestra Hall on June 14 in every dimension of its dark drama, searing introspection and virtuosic eloquence.