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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: The following is taken from a news release by an arts organization, submitted to and edited by Chicago On the Aisle.
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Music director Riccardo Muti has selected American composer Missy Mazzoli as the …

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.

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.

Grant Park Fest’s all-summer concert party begins with a selfie of bad-news Belshazzar

Jun 17, 2018 – 12:36 pm
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Review: Summer’s obviously just over the horizon: The musicians, chorus, maestro and devotees of the Grant Park Music Festival are already partying like the equinox has happened. As the centerpiece of the festival’s 84th summer opener, June 13-16, William Walton’s grand and colorful oratorio “Belshazzar’s Feast” felt like a reflection of the block-party atmosphere at Millennium Park.

‘L’Orontea’ at Haymarket Opera: Love’s perils keep Queen’s court at play in Baroque comedy

Jun 4, 2018 – 5:26 pm
Feature 1 Topher Alexander

Review: There’s a very old charm in the number 7, and it applies with a capital C to the final production of Haymarket Opera Company’s seventh season – a thoroughly charming romp through Antonio Cesti’s “L’Orontea.” This 17th-century concoction of romance, light-hearted comedy (with one leg in farce) and good tunes is just the ticket for some pre-summer fun. ★★★★

In a personal take on musical style, Salonen transfigures Schoenberg, Bartók and the CSO

May 28, 2018 – 5:49 pm
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Review: It was like two weeks with another orchestra, Esa-Pekka Salonen’s consecutive programs with the Chicago Symphony Orchestra punctuated by his leadership of the 20th anniversary concert of MusicNOW. It was a heady, exciting stretch in which the Chicago Symphony sounded like a different band. CSO music directdor Riccardo Muti’s ideal of this orchestra as the Vienna Philharmonic West was nowhere in sight from the get-go of a May 25 concert with Mitsuko Uchida as soloist in Bartók’s Piano Concerto No. 3.

Salonen leads Chicago Symphony on Mahler’s Ninth Symphony voyage of life, transcendence

May 20, 2018 – 9:02 pm
Conductor Esa-Pekka Salonen with soloist Yo-Yo Ma.Adams, Salonen, Stravinsky

Review: Somewhere along the mountainous range of peak moments in the Chicago Symphony Orchestra’s recent seasons stands the performance of Mahler’s Ninth Symphony led by Esa-Pekka Salonen on May 17 at Orchestra Hall. It was memorable in a degree commensurate with the monumentality of the work itself, and the Ninth Symphony vies only with the song-symphony “Das Lied von der Erde” as Mahler’s absolute masterwork.

Spaces at the Art Institute frame MusicNOW as contemporary venture observes 20th year

May 13, 2018 – 10:16 am
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Review: The MusicNOW endeavor of the Chicago Symphony Orchestra is in the middle of a roaring spring expansion under the cultivating flair of composers-in-residence Samuel Adams and Elizabeth Ogonek. The latest MusicNOW shoot was an experiment within three different spaces at the rambling Art Institute of Chicago, including Chagall’s America Windows room. And that was preamble to the MusicNOW grand finale, featuring two world premieres, on May 21 at Orchestra Hall.

Schumann’s shadowed Violin Concerto finally gets CSO debut, and Saint-Saëns raises roof

May 12, 2018 – 10:32 pm
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Review: The history of Schumann’s Violin Concerto in D minor is effectively brief and considerably checkered. It was composed in 1853, then put away – by devoted friends of Schumann who considered their action to be judicious – and not resuscitated for another eight decades. The work’s few advocates today include violinist Isabelle Faust, who was the soloist for the Chicago Symphony Orchestra’s very first performance of the concerto on May 11.

With winning twin bill of Donizetti unknowns, Chicago Opera Theater reaffirms place in sun

May 2, 2018 – 8:49 am
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Review: Many opera enthusiasts, many friends of Chicago Opera Theater, must have emerged from the company’s recent double bill of Donizetti one-acters, early and late, at the Studebaker Theatre thinking what I was thinking: Who knew? Gaetano Donizetti (1797-1848), a prodigious composer of bel canto operas, is remembered today essentially for a handful of works: “Lucia di Lammermoor,” “La favorita,” “The Daughter of the Regiment,” and “Don Pasquale.”But who ever heard of his late one-act comedy “Rita,” written two years before “Don Pasquale,” or his student melodrama “Il Pigmalione,” the work of an obviously gifted lad of 19?

John Williams, baton (or light saber) in hand, leads CSO and fans on tour of his film music

Apr 28, 2018 – 8:12 am
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Review: John Williams, the 86-year-old film-music ruler of galaxies across the observable universe, brought his matchless light to the Chicago Symphony Orchestra and a roaring audience at Orchestra Hall on April 26. He raised his light saber-like baton – or was it the other way around? – and meticulously, joyfully lit up the place.

Star countertenor puts spin on taking a break: Orliński balances singing with breakdancing

Apr 22, 2018 – 8:54 am
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Interview: I first encountered the amazing 27-year-old Polish countertenor Jakub Józef Orliński on a Youtube video. After listening to him sing Vivaldi and Cavalli and Pergolesi in a hearty falsetto with great energy and musicality, I came upon another, equally captivating Orliński video. He was breakdancing. But it will be his phenomenal voice on display with Music of the Baroque on April 22 and 23 at the Harris Theater.

Temptation is to say concert was awesome: Muti and CSO send critic deep into thesaurus

Apr 21, 2018 – 3:04 pm
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Review: The concerts one enjoys most can be the hardest to write about – to distill into verbal language the auditory and emotional experience that makes a program of Debussy and Tchaikovsky, to cite the example at hand, especially vivid or remarkable. I mean, one really should try to be a little more specific than “awesome.” The Chicago Symphony Orchestra, conducted by Riccardo Muti and spotlighting principal harp Sarah Bullen, defied description.

Pianist Emanuel Ax offers mosaics of Mozart and Beethoven, contrasts of Liszt and Bach

Apr 9, 2018 – 1:14 pm
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Review: Bookends of sorts embraced pianist Emanuel Ax’s imposing and indeed exhilarating recital April 8 at Orchestra Hall. That frame was made of Mozart and Beethoven, and its intriguing historical decoration consisted in how those composers shaped (or reshaped) two piano sonatas.

CSO awards apprentice conductor Yashima third-year extension in Solti training program

Apr 3, 2018 – 9:00 pm
9/20/15 10:35:26 PM -- The Sir Georg Solti Conducting Apprentice Competition Winner Erina Yashima

. © Todd Rosenberg Photography 2015

This Just In: The following is a news release written by an arts organization, submitted to and edited by Chicago On the Aisle.
Music Director Riccardo Muti and the Chicago Symphony Orchestra Association have announced a …

Lauren Decker, singer in Lyric training center, gains semi-finals of 2018 Met Opera Auditions

Apr 3, 2018 – 5:23 pm
Lauren Decker

This Just In: The following is a news release written by an arts organization, submitted to and edited by Chicago On the Aisle.
Contralto Lauren Decker, a member of the Lyric Opera of Chicago’s Ryan Center …

Stoyanova and Rachvelishvili lead CSO cast for 2019 concerts of Verdi’s ‘Aida’ with Muti

Apr 3, 2018 – 2:41 pm
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This Just In: The following is a news release written by an arts organization, submitted to and edited by Chicago On the Aisle.
Soprano Krassimira Stoyanova will sing the role of Aida and mezzo-soprano Anita Rachvelishvili …

CSO violist Max Raimi steps out as composer; Muti leads orchestra, chorus in Schubert Mass

Mar 25, 2018 – 1:50 pm
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Review: A world premiere by Chicago Symphony violist-composer Max Raimi, who set to music the poetry of a 94-year-old Pulitzer Prize winning poet in the city’s midst, was part of a special showcase honoring the orchestra’s own: The Chicago Symphony Chorus, celebrating its 60th anniversary this season, sang a Schubert magnum opus not heard in Orchestra Hall since 1975.

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
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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
CELEBRATING 100 YEARS OF BERNSTEIN
Featuring
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
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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. ★★★★★