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McCarthy-era gay purge, seen through prism of a love story, ignites opera ‘Fellow Travelers’

Mar 22, 2018 – 1:23 pm
3/15/18 10:08:45 AM -- Chicago, IL, USA

Lyric Unlimited presents 
Fellow Travelers

© Todd Rosenberg Photography 2018

Review: Tenor Jonas Hacker stars as a young man experiencing the loss of innocence during the “lavender scare” of 1950s Washington, D.C. A homosexual purge in the federal government was an element of the McCarthy Era’s notorious anti-communist activities. Although “Fellow Travelers” is specific with regard to the Fifties event, its themes are universal – about one’s own irrefutable personal imperative, and the magnificence of love in bloom, as well as the soul-bruising compromises that befall at certain times of life. The opera is presented by Lyric Opera of Chicago at the Athenaeum Theatre. ★★★★

Mozart & Haydn tumble through the orchestra in bubbly romp with Muti, Chicago Symphony

Mar 21, 2018 – 5:28 am
Mozart Haydn feature image sub

Review: As Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart’s irrepressibly grand 234-year-old “Linz” Symphony swept through the Chicago Symphony from stand to stand, at Orchestra Hall, one might have taken the music for yet another example of the brilliant young composer being inspired by Franz Joseph Haydn, his esteemed elder. But as music director Riccardo Muti and the CSO deftly demonstrated, the 24-year difference in their ages does not imply a one-way flow of influence from elder to younger. The influence worked both ways.

Directorship extended, Muti returns to CSO with Mozart, fresh commitment, higher goals

Mar 14, 2018 – 9:36 pm
Riccardo Muti in rehearsal, New York Carnegie Hall Feb. 2018 (Todd Rosenberg)

Interview: Italian maestro Riccardo Muti is back in town and eager for another dive into Mozart with the Chicago Symphony Orchestra in Chicago and Wheaton March 15-17. The program, which features Mozart, fits right into the CSO music director’s primary artistic goals. Musing on the significance of a two-year extension that prolongs his responsibility to the orchestra through August 2022, Muti made it clear the job is about more than conducting alone. He pronounced himself ready to take on the work of keeping the 127-year-old orchestra whole, fit, and facing its future.

In Bernstein centennial tribute, Lyric Opera catches the biting edge of ‘Trouble in Tahiti’

Mar 12, 2018 – 11:53 am
3/10/18 7:37:25 PM -- Chicago, IL, USA

Lyric Opera Chicago
Kate Baldwin
Susan Graham
Nathan Gunn
Ryan Opera Center members 
Diana Newman, 
Josh Lovell, and
Emmett O’Hanlon

The Lyric Opera Orchestra conducted by David Chase

© Todd Rosenberg Photography 2018

Review: Leonard Bernstein’s “Trouble in Tahiti” may have been prophetic when it first soared into living rooms via black-and-white TV in 1952, but it can hardly have felt convenient. Married couples of the time – the ones creating the babies of the postwar suburban baby boom – might have felt awkwardly alarmed by the troubles of Dinah and Sam, brought to life by mezzo-soprano Susan Graham and baritone Nathan Gunn, two of opera’s finest singing actors at the height of their powers, in a wry comedy of cold clarity but also generosity of spirit.

In belated return to CSO, violinist Kavakos probes dark power of Shostakovich concerto

Mar 11, 2018 – 1:29 pm
Leonidas KavakosPhoto: Marco Borggreve

Review: It had been seven seasons since violinist Leonidas Kavakos last appeared with the Chicago Symphony Orchestra, and his spectacular return, as soloist in Shostakovich’s Violin Concerto No. 1 in concerts March 9-11, came as the capstone to a double pleasure extending over two weeks. The Greek violinist, who runs a chamber music festival in his native Athens, had joined with pianist Emanuel Ax and cellist Yo-Yo Ma in a memorable traversal of Brahms’ three piano trios Feb. 25 at Orchestra Hall.

‘Faust’ at Lyric Opera: The vibe is American, accent clearly French, and a stylish devil rules

Mar 8, 2018 – 11:12 pm
feature Christian Van Horn_Benjamin Bernheim_FAUST_37A0501_c.Cory Weaver

Review: The new “Faust” at the Lyric has a strong visual aesthetic and modern psychological insight, conceived by the visionary California artist John Frame and brought to the stage by a young production team led by director Kevin Newbury and set-costume designer Vita Tzykun. The impressive cast under the baton of French conductor Emmanuel Villaume stars tenor Benjamin Bernheim – in his American debut – as the doomed Faust and bass-baritone Christian Van Horn as Hell’s provocative emissary, bent on his destruction. And although the conductor and the impressive star tenor are French, this “Faust” has a bracing American vibe and cinematic feel. ★★★★

In recital ranging from opera aria to art song, tenor Beczała shows why he’s a Lyric favorite

Feb 28, 2018 – 12:03 pm
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Review: An opportunity to savor the artistry of tenor Piotr Beczała through the intimacy of a song recital paid off in a vibrant vocal display Feb. 25 at the Lyric Opera of Chicago. Lyric audiences have previously relished Beczała’s appearances in the title role of Gounod’s “Faust” and as Edgardo in Donizetti’s “Lucia di Lammermoor” – the latter a performance in which his ravishing vocalism rivaled that of such legendary predecessors in the role as Alfredo Kraus, Placido Domingo and Luciano Pavarotti.

Brahms’ three trios for violin, cello and piano, played in perfect completeness by three stars

Feb 26, 2018 – 4:27 pm

Review: Even if it wasn’t literally a once in a lifetime experience, it was rare enough, and it surely was special: the opportunity to hear all three of Brahms’ piano trios performed in a single concert. Violinist Leonidas Kavakos, cellist Yo-Yo Ma and pianist Emanuel Ax converged on the Brahms trios before an overflow audience at Orchestra Hall that spilled onto stage seating. The event in the Symphony Center Presents series delivered all that one might have wished for, and then some.

Mozart’s ‘Cosi fan tutte’ at the Lyric Opera: Amorous faith as farce, staged in high style

Feb 20, 2018 – 11:05 pm
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Review: It’s essentially chamber music, Mozart’s splendorous opera “Cosi fan tutte,” and it is a stellar sextet of singers that Lyric Opera of Chicago has assembled in a setting that is itself a picture of elegant intimacy. Despite its gender-specific title, “Cosi fan tutte” – or Women Are Like That – is a double-edged satire of the wobbly ways of love. Never mind that the course of true love never did run smooth; this delicious slice of musical mirth contrived by Mozart and librettist Lorenzo Da Ponte declares that affection is inherently mutable: It is the very oiseau rebelle that Carmen celebrates in Bizet’s opera. ★★★★★

‘Elizabeth Cree’ at Chicago Opera Theater: Bloody mayhem and totally tonally winning

Feb 13, 2018 – 2:27 pm
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Review: Through the 20th and 21st centuries, composers and librettists have pushed opera in exciting and unexpected directions, proving again the flexibility and richness of this enduring art form. A fresh example is Kevin Puts’ “Elizabeth Cree,” which offers something almost never seen before – a bloody, fast-action operatic thriller with a juicy plot twist. Presented in the ideally sized, 691-seat Studebaker Theater in the Fine Arts Building, “Elizabeth Cree” is one of the most successful offerings from Chicago Opera Theater in recent years. ★★★★

CSO’s concerts at Carnegie Hall were grand, but splendor also was writ small – in encores

Feb 11, 2018 – 10:38 pm

Review: If the two ambitious programs delivered at New York’s Carnegie Hall on Feb. 9 and 10 by the Chicago Symphony Orchestra under the baton of Riccardo Muti roundly summarized the nearly eight seasons of Muti’s directorship, the essence of it – and maybe the key – was articulated in the encores.

Bellini’s ‘I puritani’ at the Lyric Opera: Love, vengeance, madness borne aloft on high C’s

Feb 8, 2018 – 10:52 pm
Albina Shagimuratova_I PURITANI_feature 2 (Andrew CIoffi)

Review: No one doubted that Russian soprano Albina Shagimuratova would be back at the Lyric Opera of Chicago after doing such a superb job of going mad the first time around. In 2016 she portrayed the innocent Scottish lass Lucia, of Lammermoor, forced into an arranged marriage despite her betrothal to someone else. She emerged from the wedding chamber armed with psychotic coloratura, compliments of Donizetti, and a knife dripping in blood. Now she’s back as the Puritan maiden Elvira, who is mentally shattered by her fiancé’s abrupt departure on her wedding day. Cue the coloratura. ★★★

Chicago Symphony opens an East Coast tour with bravura Brahms at the Kennedy Center

Feb 8, 2018 – 4:13 pm
Kennedy Center

Review: With his familiar wave to a raucous audience signaling that Elvis was leaving the building, conductor Riccardo Muti ended the Chicago Symphony Orchestra’s concert at the Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts in Washington, D.C., on Feb. 7 – without an encore, a rarity on CSO tour concerts. But on this night there was nothing left to say musically. Surely all possible expectations of a well-filled house had been satisfied by a poetic and finely contoured performance of Brahms’ Second Symphony.

Part 3 of Wagner’s ‘Ring,’ and other treasures that glitter in the Lyric Opera’s 2018-19 season

Feb 6, 2018 – 10:13 pm
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Report: The Lyric Opera of Chicago’s 2018-19 season, announced Feb. 6, has a golden ring to it. While pushing on to the third installment of its four-year journey through Wagner’s “Ring” cycle with “Siegfried,” and returning to the treasury of Handel with its first ever staging of “Ariodante,” the Lyric will lay out three super-size Italian nuggets as sure-fire box office draws: Puccini’s “La bohème” and two Verdi favorites, “La traviata” and “Il trovatore.”

CSO premieres Higdon’s Low Brass Concerto, spotlighting veteran foursome of the orchestra

Feb 2, 2018 – 4:11 pm

Review: On the one hand, Jennifer Higdon’s solidly crafted Low Brass Concerto, which received its world premiere Feb. 1 by the Chicago Symphony Orchestra under Riccardo Muti, enjoyed artful framing by three brilliant pieces from by a wide range of top-flight composers from the past. On the other hand, well, see above. The premiere featured four veteran members of the CSO brass section.

Muti extends CSO directorship for two years, and orchestra announces plans for 2018-19

Jan 30, 2018 – 10:06 am
4/15/11 10:06:38 PM -- Chicago Symphony Orchestra, Riccardo Muti Music Director.  Maestro Muti, Aleksandrs AntonenkoOtello)
Krassimira Stoyanova (Desdemona) and the Orchestra and Chorus take final bows following Verdi's Otello at Carnegie Hall in New York, NY
 © Todd Rosenberg Photography 2011

Report: Music director Riccardo Muti has extended his tenure as music director of the Chicago Symphony Orchestra through August 2022, two years beyond his current contract, the orchestra announced Jan. 30. Muti, 75, who began his directorship in 2010, will maintain his present level of commitment to the CSO — 10 weeks of subscription concerts and community engagement plus three to four weeks of touring. The announcement of Muti’s extension coincided with release of the Chicago Symphony’s 2018-19 season.

Minnesota Orchestra is fleet, crisp, complete in ear-opening visit to Chicago with Vänskä

Jan 30, 2018 – 6:23 am
Osmo Vanska feature image (Kaapo Kamu)

Review: The Finnish conductor Osmo Vänskä has been the go-to guy for the Chicago Symphony Orchestra on more than one urgent occasion in recent history, valiantly saving the day on not much more than pure adrenalin. But when he visited Chicago with his own Minnesota Orchestra, the maestro and his thoroughly prepared band projected a more serene mindset entirely.

From ‘Great’ Schubert to revelatory Mahler, Honeck scores again with Chicago Symphony

Jan 26, 2018 – 5:00 pm
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Review: For the second time this season, conductor Manfred Honeck has ascended the podium of the Chicago Symphony Orchestra to shed new light on a major work that is oh so familiar. Back in November, it was Schubert’s “Great C major” Symphony. This go-round, it’s Mahler’s Fifth Symphony that Honeck explores as if wired into the composer’s creative mind.

Venezuelan conductor Rafael Payare, in heady debut with CSO, lights up Bernstein, Bartók

Jan 19, 2018 – 5:24 pm
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Review: Mark the name of 37-year-old Venezuelan conductor Rafael Payare, who made his subscription debut with the Chicago Symphony Orchestra on Jan. 18. My guess is that few in the audience had heard of him, that no one who was there will forget him, and that he will soon be back.

Catering to opera-goers hungry before show, Lyric’s restaurant, bistro take it up an octave

Jan 19, 2018 – 4:59 pm
Lyric opera's Pedersen Room (lyricopera.org)

Around Town: Lyric’s onsite restaurants are fiercely dedicated to the principle that Yes, you absolutely will make curtain, and Yes, you can come back to your table at intermission for coffee, dessert, and the rest of the wine.

Ailyn Pérez replaces Erin Wall as Marguerite for Lyric Opera’s new production of ‘Faust’

Jan 18, 2018 – 12:11 pm

This Just In: The following is a news release written by an arts organization and submitted to Chicago On the Aisle.
Canadian-American soprano Erin Wall has withdrawn from “Faust” at Lyric Opera of Chicago to undergo chemotherapy, Anthony Freud, …

Chicago native Janai Brugger joins ‘Turandot,’ another bright spot in Lyric Opera production

Jan 15, 2018 – 4:34 pm
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Second Look: It was soprano Janai Brugger’s scheduled mid-run insertion as Liù, in Puccini’s “Turandot,” that drew me back for a second look at the Lyric Opera of Chicago production. But while Brugger’s performance rewarded my reprise, the experience also underscored some important truths about this last of Puccini’s operas – and about the real merit of the Lyric’s success with it.

Sinfonietta unfurls evocative musical tapestry of a Langston Hughes African-American epic

Jan 14, 2018 – 3:14 pm

Preview: Chicago Sinfonietta’s annual Martin Luther King Jr. tribute concert is consistently the orchestra’s best-attended event of the year, says music director Mei-Ann Chen. But this year’s MLK affair – Jan. 15 at Orchestra Hall — will also be Sinfonietta’s most ambitious enterprise: composer Laura Karpman’s musically multicultural setting of Langston Hughes’ epic poem about the African-American experience, “Ask Your Mama.”

Muti to lead CSO in Kennedy Center, Carnegie concerts, kicking off East Coast tour Feb. 7-17

Jan 11, 2018 – 4:34 pm
Top of story

This Just In: The following is a news release written by an arts organization and submitted to Chicago On the Aisle.
Music Director Riccardo Muti and the Chicago Symphony Orchestra will make a five-city, eight-concert East …

Grant Park Festival will celebrate youth, honor composer Bolcom at 80 and roll out premiere

Jan 9, 2018 – 3:51 pm

Report: A large-scaled world premiere for chorus and orchestra, a celebration of composer William Bolcom’s 80th birthday and a parade of stellar young soloists highlight plans for the Grant Park Music Festival’s 2018 summer, announced June 9. Centerpiece of the 10-week series of free concerts, June 13-Aug. 18 at Millennium Park’s Jay Pritzker Pavilion and other venues throughout the city, will be the premiere of an as yet untitled work for orchestra and chorus by Latvian composer Ēriks Ešenvalds.

Russian-born pianist Igor Levit, 30, receives Gilmore prize in novel undeclared competition 

Jan 7, 2018 – 9:50 pm
Igor Levit

This Just In: The following is a news release written by an arts organization and submitted to Chicago On the Aisle.
NEW YORK — Pianist Igor Levit has been named the recipient of the 2018 Gilmore …

Auditorium Theatre to launch Tuesday tours spotlighting building’s history, architecture

Jan 7, 2018 – 8:59 pm

This Just In: The following is a news release written by an arts organization and submitted to Chicago On the Aisle.
The Auditorium Theatre announces new evening tours on Tuesdays at 5:30 p.m., beginning Jan. 16, when visitors will have the …

Lyric Unlimited presents Lawrence Brownlee in Chicago premiere of ‘Cycles of My Being’

Jan 7, 2018 – 2:07 pm
Tenor Lawrence Brownlee

This Just In: The following is a news release written by an arts organization and submitted to Chicago On the Aisle.
Lyric Unlimited, a division of Lyric Opera of Chicago, is excited to present Cycles of My Being, …

One, two, (maybe) three: Muti again waltzes Vienna through beloved New Year’s concert

Dec 30, 2017 – 1:49 pm

Preview: When Riccardo Muti conducts the Vienna Philharmonic’s New Year’s Day concert for the fifth time in his career, it will be 11:15 a.m. in the city of Mozart, Beethoven and Johann Strauss Jr., but only 4:15 a.m. in Chicago. Worry not, there are multiple ways to enjoy this event, which epitomizes the close friendship that the Chicago Symphony Orchestra’s music director has had with the esteemed Vienna Philharmonic, dating back some 47 years.

Chamber operas tell Christmas and Hanukkah tales, with magic to capture hearts of children

Dec 20, 2017 – 3:36 pm
Hannukah feature 3

Review: A joyful musical double bill by Chamber Opera Chicago was on view at the Royal George Theatre on Dec. 19 for the conclusion of a two-performance run. The traditional holiday staging of Gian Carlo Menotti’s Christmas tale “Amahl and the Night Visitors” was paired with Victoria Bond’s modern-day Hanukkah tale, “The Miracle of Light.” ★★★