Articles by Daniel Hautzinger
Review: How do you translate the film magic of Disney to the musical theater? In the case of “Aladdin” – which has launched a North American tour at the Cadillac Palace with future stops in Minneapolis, Seattle, San Francisco and points further – you cram the stage with sets, people, smoke, glitter, explosions, magic tricks, gold, jokes and outsized personalities, and let nostalgia do the rest. Sometimes it dazzles, sometimes it falls flat, but mostly “Aladdin” is great fun, a magic carpet ride. ★★★★
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.★★★
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.
Review: Often forgotten but integral, the double bass is the foundation of the orchestra. Without its supportive heft, the majestic edifice of the orchestra would crumble, and the driving harmonic motion it provides would be lost. So it was satisfying and just to see this taken-for-granted but vital instrument move to the front of Orchestra Hall’s stage on Dec. 19 in the hands of Alexander Hanna, the Chicago Symphony Orchestra’s principal bass.
Review: Millennium Park’s Jay Pritzker Pavilion, where the Grant Park Orchestra and Chorus performed Haydn’s Harmoniemesse and John Adams’s Harmonielehre on Aug. 8, is one of the most striking structures in a city full of awesome architecture. The Frank Gehry-designed outdoor stage calls to mind a bullet hole in sheet metal, dynamic silver panels exploding outward in spontaneous, sweeping waves.
Review: Since becoming music director of the Ravinia Festival in 2005, James Conlon seems to have learned that a roaring Metra train, whose tracks pass near the Ravinia pavilion, can compete even with the great Chicago Symphony Orchestra. So on July 22, Conlon, now in his last season as leader of the orchestra’s summer residency, simply waited patiently at the podium with an amused smirk while, mid-Mahler, a train clattered into a station and eventually rumbled past.
Review: In “Porgy and Bess,” the 1959 film version of Gershwin’s musical, the singing voice of Sidney Poitier’s Porgy was dubbed in by Robert McFerrin, a Metropolitan Opera star and Bobby’s father. At the start of the Chicago Symphony’s Ravinia Festival residency, it was the younger McFerrin’s turn to take a serious run through an opera he literally grew up with.
Review: Composers have long been fascinated by folk music. From Josquin des Prez’s late 15th-century “Missa L’homme armé,” based on a popular French tune, to Donnacha Dennehy’s Irish music-inspired “Grá agus bás” from 2007, folk songs have often made their mark on classical music, either through direct transcription or simple inspiration. On July 5 at Ravinia’s Martin Theatre, the iconoclastic chamber orchestra the Knights, joined by the likewise singular soprano Dawn Upshaw, gamboled through some of the vibrant repertoire that has emerged from composers’ attraction to folk music.
Preview: The season programming of a major orchestra may offer a preponderance of German, Russian, and French music, but at this year’s Grant Park Music Festival, Americans make a greater showing. Now in its 81st season, the free Festival in downtown Millennium Park embodies the exploratory spirit of composers who have sought to create an intrinsically American music.