Top Story »

Comic flair: Carmen's pals Frasquita (Rachel Blaustein) and Mercédès (Leah Dexter) know their friend.

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

Sep 19, 2021 – 7:52 am

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. ★★★

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

Classical + Opera »

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

Sep 3, 2021 – 2:38 pm

Davóne Tines performing his  recital-Mass: Rich, liquid singing.  (Patrick Gipson, Ravinia Festival)

Review: In a voice that might be described as bass-baritone-plus, Davóne Tines presented his potent Recital No. 1: Mass at Ravinia.
By Lawrence B. Johnson

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 Aug. 31 with pianist Adam Nielsen at the Ravinia Festival was unlike any other in memory.

To say this 55-minute mélange of ritual Latin and interpolated song is no Ordinary Mass would be twice true. While all the episodes of the Ordinary – Kyrie, Gloria, Credo, Sanctus, Benedictus, Agnus Dei – are included in the presentation Tines calls Recital No. 1: Mass, the standard sequence is scrambled and the texts foreshortened. The Credo, the longest and most elaborate of the conventional sections, is reduced to that single word (or two in English: I believe). Read the full story »

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.

Miró String Quartet will convene in one place to stream live trek through Beethoven cycle

Jul 16, 2020 – 4:51 pm
Feature 1

Preview: Recall, if you can, four musicians sitting in the same space playing a complex and compelling work, recreating art that peers into who we are as a human collective. With every such experience now deconstructed to a Zoom pastiche, it seems quite remarkable and wonderful indeed to contemplate the Miró Quartet’s forthcoming cycle of the Beethoven string quartets, performed not just live but together, within the same physical boundaries.

Chicago Symphony musicians greet summer with a festival of free streamed performances

Jun 20, 2020 – 5:11 pm
new feature

Preview: “Sumer is icumen in, loudly sing, cuckoo.” The summer solstice, marking the longest day of the year and the first day of summer, came June 20, a little early this year. And to celebrate the occasion, musicians of the Chicago Symphony Orchestra have organized a Virtual Day of Music – streamed performances over a span of eight and a half hours June 21.

Lyric Opera cancels its entire autumn season; January opening brings newly honored ‘Blue’

Jun 17, 2020 – 6:59 pm
sub feature

Report: Confronted by the pandemic’s stark outlook, Lyric Opera of Chicago has announced cancellation of all productions through December, the entire autumn portion of it 2020-21 season. For now, the company plans to resume operation in January with the new opera “Blue,” a riveting tragedy about a black policeman’s family facing violence and heartbreak by Tony Award-winning composer Jeanine Tesori and playwright Tazewell Thompson. “Blue” was named Opera of the Year on June 17 by the Music Critics Association of North America.

Muti’s curated CSO series from the archives celebrates principal players and Fritz Reiner

May 26, 2020 – 4:42 pm
Feature 1

Interview: While Chicago Symphony Orchestramusic director Riccardo Muti has been sidelined at this home in Ravenna, Italy, the time on his hands has allowed him to plow more deeply into treasured masterworks and explore the archive of Chicago Symphony concert recordings to curate an ongoing series of concerts broadcast by WFMT (98.7 FM) and streamed at wfmt.com. In a long-distance chat with Chicago On the Aisle, Muti talked about his programming choices and looked ahead to his post-virus return to Orchestra Hall.

Lyric Opera postpones remainder of season; CSO and WFMT create new broadcast series

Apr 3, 2020 – 8:38 am
Feature 1

Report: Lyric Opera of Chicago announced April 2 that it will defer its spring musical, “42nd Street,” along with all other spring projects until coming seasons. Meanwhile, the Chicago Symphony Orchestra unveiled collaboration with WFMT to broadcast and stream a series of Tuesday programs from the orchestra’s concert archives and CDs, curated by music director Riccardo Muti.

‘Kill Move Paradise’ from TimeLine (to you): Streaming from the stage, way outside the box

Apr 2, 2020 – 11:03 am
Feature 1

Report: Like other theaters across metro Chicago, TimeLine suddenly had to suspend a play in mid-run as the coronavirus crisis descended. But in a fortuitous twist of events, the company can offer the remainder of that run to theater-hungry Chicagoans via streaming.

The new (virus) vibe: Chicago musicians play together while apart for a worldwide audience

Mar 28, 2020 – 7:56 pm
Third Coast Percussion Philip Glass reat img

Antidotes: If the COVID-19 virus temporarily froze operations at the nation’s classical music capitals including Chicago, there are definitely signs the industry is getting its groove back. Available for streaming is a concert performed live from the University of Chicago, with no audience in the hall, by Chicago’s outstanding Third Coast Percussion. The Chicago Symphony’s prestigious Civic Orchestra training ensemble marks its 100th anniversary with some Tchaikovsky, digitally assembled from dozens of individual recordings made on smartphones and Zoom audio recorders. Two familiar faces at Lyric Opera of Chicago, Ryan McKinny and Isabel Leonard, offer an alluring cell phone duet from Mozart’s “Don Giovanni.” And – wait for it – we have a priceless slice of Beethoven whimsy for you at our story’s end.

Shelter from the storm: SF Symphony offers landmark video series ‘Keeping Score’ – free

Mar 19, 2020 – 4:11 pm
Michael TIlson Thomas at Charles Ives' grave during filming of the Keeping Score Ives episode

Virus Antidotes: The San Francisco Symphony has announced plans to release its “Keeping Score” profiles a great composers and their pivotal works, narrated by conductor Michael Tilson Thomas, for unlimited free streaming on the orchestra’s YouTube channel. Through nine one-hour documentaries, Tilson Thomas and the San Francisco Symphony trace the lives of eight influential composers: Tchaikovsky, Beethoven, Copland, Stravinsky, Berlioz, Ives, Shostakovich – and Mahler, to whose life and work two segments are devoted. Each episode includes a one-hour concert program by the San Francisco Symphony.