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Haymarket Opera closes out its spring season with early Handel oratorio ‘La Resurrezione’

Jun 21, 2024 – 6:31 pm
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Review: Rarities, albeit not exactly operatic, have filled Haymarket Opera Company’s spring season – in March the first performance in 300 years of Maria Margherita Grimani’s 1715 melodrama “The Beheading of John the Baptist” (or “La decollazione di San Giovanni Battista”) and on June 14 an oratorio from Handel’s youthful Italian sojourn, “La Resurrezione.” The latter brought two unusual moves by Haymarket, the importation of someone other than founding artist director Craig Trompeter to conduct and a visiting star turn by Chicago violin virtuoso Rachel Barton Pine as concertmaster and spotlighted soloist.

Andrew Davis, conductor and scholar, led
opera and life with an imperishable twinkle

Apr 25, 2024 – 10:33 am
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Remembrance: The last time I interviewed conductor Andrew Davis, in 2021, he was as I shall always think of him: soft-spoken, thoughtful, articulate, self-effacing, an undemonstrative intellectual with a wry spirit and a mischievous twinkle in his eyes that lit up his whole being. Of the many testimonials and tributes I’ve read about Davis since his death from leukemia on April 20 at age 80, the one I think he would have liked best was the succinct observation of Jeff Alexander, president of the Chicago Symphony Orchestra, that the British-born conductor possessed “good wit.”

CSO and Chorus offer Mendelssohn’s ‘Elijah’: Polished sound, but scant fury, signifying little

Apr 16, 2024 – 4:11 pm
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Review: Under the baton of James Conlon, the Chicago Symphony Orchestra and Chorus presented “Elijah” in performances April 11-13, of which I heard the last. Like the oratorio on its surface, which is to say in its entirety, what I heard was altogether above reproach. The only question was why it was undertaken at all.

Baroque bounty: Haymarket revives oratorio, Bella Voce turns spotlight on its band Sinfonia

Mar 29, 2024 – 11:35 am
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Commentary: If you know where to look, and you don’t have to look far, you’ll find Baroque music so well served in Chicago that our musical locus can sometimes feel like Venice, Leipzig or London in the early 1700s. On recent consecutive nights, the ever-enchanting Haymarket Opera offered what was apparently the first performance in 300 years of Maria Margherita Grimani’s 1715 melodrama “The Beheading of John the Baptist” (or “La decollazione di San Giovanni Battista”), and the splendid vocal ensemble Bella Voce showcased its instrumental component Sinfonia in its first stand-alone concert. The adjacent events, March 22-23, conjured an aura of subtle riches.

In a who-knew debut, Czech conductor leads electric Beethoven with Chicago Symphony

Mar 3, 2024 – 8:44 pm
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Review: Conductors making a debut with the Chicago Symphony are usually preceded by reputation. Which makes an exception of the Czech visitor Petr Popelka, who despite his recent rapid ascent in Europe is a virtual unknown in the U.S. That should change quickly. Popelka’s appearance with the CSO on March 1-2 was a stunning discovery. After hearing his brilliant turn through Beethoven’s Seventh Symphony – twice – I can only assume the CSO will bring this well-schooled and artistically assured conductor back to Orchestra Hall asap.

When Yo-Yo Ma joins CSO for a concert, crowd goes wild; and then the scene gets really mad

May 3, 2023 – 2:49 pm
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Review: All that was lacking was the Guinness and step-dancers to turn the Chicago Symphony Orchestra’s special concert with cellist Yo-Ya Ma into what the Irish call a hooley. it was a party, for sure, the May 1 event benefiting the musicians’ pension fund, and dancing in the aisles threatened to break out at any moment. There was a lot of whooping, and it began the moment the lionized cellist strode onto the stage at the concert’s outset to play the Elgar concerto. But that ovation paled in comparison with the near delirium that erupted in the packed house at the conclusion of Ma’s elegant performance led by Carlos Miguel Prieto.

Asia tour scratched, Muti and CSO turn their light on Beethoven to start bonus run at home

Jan 17, 2022 – 11:49 am
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Review: In the original plan for this season, the Chicago Symphony Orchestra and music director Riccardo Muti were supposed to be touring Asia about now. But somewhere in the muddle of Covid and politics, that trek was canceled. So the band and its director ended up with three extra weeks at Orchestra Hall. To begin this unexpected residency, Muti and company served up a sensational Beethoven concert Jan. 13.

‘Queen of Spades’ at Lyric Opera of Chicago: Tchaikovsky’s grand drama draws dicey hand

Feb 24, 2020 – 5:56 pm
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Review: “The Queen of Spades” (or as the Russians say, “Pikovaya dama”) is without question a great opera, among Tchaikovsky’s best works of any kind, with enthralling tragedy and voluptuous, soaring music. He even wrote that he considered “The Queen of Spades” to be the culmination of his life’s work. Yet gloriously conducted though it was at Lyric Opera, and sung brilliantly by tenor Brandon Jovanovich as an obsessive gambler in a tailspin and soprano Sondra Radvanovsky as the blossoming noblewoman who falls for him, the production is willfully shocking and ultimately confusing.★★★

In jewel-box setting, Chicago Opera Theater polishes rare Tchaikovsky treasure ‘Iolanta’

Nov 16, 2018 – 5:35 pm
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Review: It’s not often that you can pull a forgotten gem out of the trunk, showcase it in a tasteful setting, and reveal it for the magnificently neglected thing that it is. Chicago Opera Theater has succeeded in doing us that favor with Tchaikovsky’s dreamy, naturalistic 1892 opera “Iolanta” – the composer’s last – performed by able forces at the Studebaker, a lovingly refurbished 740-seat jewel-box on Michigan Avenue that also dates from that same last decade of the 19th century. ★★★

Lyric Opera, striking orchestra reach accord, ending walkout; musicians ratify agreement

Oct 13, 2018 – 7:36 pm
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Update: Lyric Opera of Chicago and the Chicago Federation of Musicians Local #10-208 (CFM) have reached a multi-year labor agreement extending through the 2020/21 season. On Oct. 14, the Chicago Federation of Musicians voted to ratify the tentative agreement reached one day earlier. No further details or comments were available. The musicians went on strike Oct. 9 in response to cuts in compensation and work weeks sought by management.

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.