Home » Archive by Category

Articles in Classical + Opera

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
CSO180507_141 feature image

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
Feature 1

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
Husbands

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
Feature 1

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
sub feature

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
sub feature

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
sub feature

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
Stoyanova

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
055 featuredimage_mazraimi (Todd Rosenberg)

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
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
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
Feature 1

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
A

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
sub feature

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
Feature 2

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
A

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
Feature 1

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
A

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
Feature 1

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.