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Ravinia Fest 2014 runs gamut from enduring stars to first twinkles, with 3-pack of opera

Submitted by on Feb 27, 2014 – 5:33 pm
The Ravinia Festival draws music lovers of every stripe. (Courtesy Ravinia Festival)Report: Music director James Conlon leads concerts of two Mozart operas and Patricia Racette sings “Salome” in the series June 5-Sept. 14;  headliners include Itzhak Perlman, Kiri Te Kanawa, Chucho Valdés and Tony Bennett.
By Lawrence B. Johnson

Ravinia Festival music director James Conlon leads Mozart’s “The Marriage of Figaro” and “Don Giovanni,” soprano Patricia Racette stars in Strauss’ grisly “Salome” and Finnish conductor Susanna Mälkki makes her festival debut in the 2014 summer series announced Thursday. 

Finnish conductor Susanna Mälkki makes her festival debut. (Courtesy Ravinia Festival)Mälkki, who has made two head-turning appearances with the Chicago Symphony at Orchestra Hall in recent seasons, bows at Ravinia in a CSO concert spotlighting violinist Midori in the Tchaikovsky concerto.

Also notable in the CSO’s six-week residency:

  • Flutist James Galway plays the U.S. premiere of a new concerto by Bill Whelan, known best as the composer of music for “Riverdance,” with Miguel Harth-Bedoya conducting.
  • Violinist Joshua Bell headlines the festival’s benefit gala, performing Bruch’s Violin Concerto No. 1 with Conlon on the podium.
  • Pianist Denis Matsuev stars in a Tchaikovsky night, playing the Piano Concerto No. 1 in B-flat minor on a program that also promises the live boom of cannon in the “1812” Overture.
  • An all-Beethoven concert conducted by Conlon pairs Symphony No. 7 in A and Piano Concerto No. 4 in G with Jonathan Biss as soloist.
  • Jazz pianist Chucho Valdés performs Gershwin’s “Rhapsody in Blue” on a program of pops favorites from Johann Strauss, Jr.’s Overture to “Die Fledermaus” and “Thunder and Lightning Polka” to Mendelssohn’s “Hebrides” Overture.

Midori plays the Tchaikovsky Violin Concerto. (Courtesy Ravinia Festival)The festival’s far-flung classical lineup also brings violinist Itzhak Perlman together with Yitzchak Meir Helfgot, chief cantor of the Park East Synagogue, for a concert drawn from their CD titled “Eternal Echoes,” assisted by the Klezmer Conservatory Band and the Chicago Philharmonic.

Vocal music will be amply represented at Ravinia this summer.

In the two Mozart concert operas, Christopher Maltman will sing the role of Don Giovanni, and “The Marriage of Figaro” ensemble will include John Relyea, Lisette Oropesa, Stéphane Degout and Renée Rapier.

Soprano Kiri Te Kanawa, recently of the “Downton Abbey” television series, shares her 70th birthday celebration in a recital program that includes the world premiere of a work by Jake Heggie.

Opera baritone Nathan Gunn joins vocalist Mandy Patinkin for a concert drawn from the American songbook and well beyond. Baritone Matthias Goerne, a Ravinia favorite, returns with selections from Hanns Eisler’s “Hollywood Songbook” among others.

Guitarist Miloš Karadaglić (Courtesy Ravinia Festival)Two evenings feature the venturesome New York-based chamber orchestra The Knights – with soprano Dawn Upshaw in a program highlighted by her Grammy Award-winning interpretation of Maria Schneider’s “Winter Morning Walks,” and with cellist Yo-Yo Ma as soloist in Strauss’ “Don Quixote.”

Joseph Stephenson’s “The Devil’s Tale,” a sequel to Stravinsky’s “The Soldier’s Tale,” gets its world premiere on a double bill with the Stravinsky original, both works performed by Chicago Pro Musica and stage directed by Hershey Felder.

The fare is all Brahms when conductor Paavo Järvi leads the Deutsche Kammerphilharmonie in Symphony No. 3 in F and Symphony No. 4 in E minor.

Chamber music reigns at the Martin Theatre, where the Takács, Juilliard, Emerson and Orion string quartets perform and recitals are slated by pianists Garrick Ohlsson, Alain Lefèvre, Denis Matsuev and the duo of Misha and Cipa Dichter. Violinist Rachel Barton Pine will play three recitals, two of them encompassing Bach’s six solo sonatas and partitas. And Montenegrin classical guitar sensation Miloš Karadaglić will present a solo recital in addition to playing the Rodrigo “Concierto de Aranjuez” with the CSO.

Willie Nelson turns 80 in April. (Courtesy Ravinia Festival)Besides Chucho Valdés, the festival jazz ledger includes two other pianists, Chicagoan and Ravinia jazz director Ramsey Lewis, and Dan Tepfer, who offers his Bach-spin, “Goldberg Variations/Variations.” The legendary, the insuperable Tony Bennett, who turns 88 on Aug. 3, also pays the festival another visit.

The pop lineup ranges from the very veteran Willie Nelson, who turns 80 in April, James Taylor and Carrie Underwood to Rufus Wainwright and the Only Men Aloud choir.

New to the festival this year is the “BGH Big Deal” 10-punch pass, which offers a 20 percent discount on the 23 concerts in the BGH $10 Classics series, making reserved seats just $8 each.

For detailed information, visit the festival website at Ravinia.org. 

Ravinia Festival concert in the pavilion. (Courtesy Ravinia Festival)

 

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