Idomeneo makes awkward deal with Greek god

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Matthew Polenzani and cast of Mozart's Idomeneo at Lyric Opera of Chicago. (Kyle Flubacker photo)
Matthew Polenzani and cast of Mozart’s Idomeneo at Lyric Opera of Chicago. (Kyle Flubacker photo)

If you have ever been caught in a storm while sailing or found yourself on a rough boat ride in Lake Michigan you can understand why Idomeneo is ready to bargain with Neptune in return for a safe harbor after being tempest tossed while returning from the Trojan War.

Neptune, willing to make a deal with Idomeneo says he will assure his safe arrival at shore but in return the hero must sacrifice the first person he sees.

Like many mythological Greek gods of yore Neptune seems to really enjoy some irony. As it turns out the first person Idomeneo spots is his very own son Idamante. Ah! The stuff great opera is made of.

This Lyric Opera of Chicago’s revival of Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart’s Idomeneo with a stellar cast of singers and awesome orchestra led by Music Director Sir Andrew Davis, is indeed lyrical.Read More

Lyric Opera back in business

Michael Fabiano (Rodolfo) and Maria Agresta (Mimi) meet when she comes to his garret in La boheme. (Todd Rosenberg photo)
Michael Fabiano (Rodolfo) and Maria Agresta (Mimi) meet when she comes to his garret in La boheme. (Todd Rosenberg photo)

Opera lovers expecting to see the second performance of Puccini’s “La boheme” and the opening of Mozart’s “Idomeneo” last week found that they had to reschedule because the Chicago Federation of Musicians Local #10-208 (CFM) went out on strike last Tuesday. The notes of contention were salary and number of performances.

But after a short week of back and forth negotiations, CFM and the Lyric Opera of Chicago have reached a contract agreement that goes through the 2020-2021 season.

As a result of the compromise, the Lyric Orchestra receives a 5.6 percent weekly salary increase over three years, the orchestra will be reduced by four instead of five musicians beginning next season, the main portion of the opera season will be 22 weeks, instead of 24 and Wagner’s “Ring Cycle will include five additional weeks.

Lyric has added gwo performances of La Boheme in January 2019 to make up for the canceled performances. They are Jan. 29 at 2 p.m. and Jan. 31 at 7 p.m.

Ticket holders to cancelled performances can exchange them this week. New tickets to the added performance go on sale to the public Oct. 19.
But tickets for Puccini’s “La Boheme” Wednesday performance and the opening of Mozart’s “Idomeneo”  Thursday are now on sale as are other operas. For tickets and more information call (312)827-5600 and visit Lyric Opera.

Jodie Jacobs

 

 

Extraordinary ‘La bohème’

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Michael Fabiano (Rodolfo) and Maria Agresta (Mimi) meet when she comes to his garret. (Todd Rosenberg photo)
Michael Fabiano (Rodolfo) and Maria Agresta (Mimi) meet when she comes to his garret. (Todd Rosenberg photo)

Giacomo Puccini’s “La bohème”opened the Lyric Opera of Chicago’s 64th season Oct. 6. And what an opening it was.

Not only is the set more creatively stylized from the one opera goers have seen at the Chicago Opera House for more than 40 years, Puccini’s lyrical music and the drama in Luigi Illica and Giuseppe Giacosa’s libretto were also given more depth by English director Richard Jones and Venezuelan-Swiss conductor Domingo Hindoyan then in earlier Lyric productions.

Based on Henri Murger’s  “Scènes de la vie de bohème,”the playful interactions of poet Rodolfo (American tenor Michael Fabiano) and his friends, painter Marcello (American baritone Zachary Nelson), musician Schaunard (Puerto Rican baritone Ricardo José Rivera) and philosopher Colline (Romanian bass Adrian  Sampetrean), are emphasized as are Marcello’s  temperament and Rodolfo’s multi-faceted character.

But what really made the opening a “happening” was Fabiano’s soaring delivery of each aria from “Che gelida manina” to “La più divina delle poesia,” to  “Ebenne no, non lo so.”

Thank you, Lyric, for introducing this amazing tenor and his powerfully rich voice to Chicago audiences. Fabiano has already wowed audiences with his Rodolfo at London’s Royal Opera House in 2017 and at the Met earlier in 2018.

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Around Town in October

October has enough food, music, art and fall events to fill several calendars. Here are just a few of the events to tack up on the board.

The photography exhibit is in Polk Park across from the entrance to Navy Pier. (Jodie Jacobs photo)
The photography exhibit is in Polk Park across from the entrance to Navy Pier. (Jodie Jacobs photo)

Two art shows

“Fields of Battle, Lands of Peace: The Doughboys1917-1918” is at Navy Pier beginning Oct. 5 and continuing through Nov. 18, 2018 in Polk Bros Park (across from the Pier’s entrance). A free exhibit, the works are by photo journalist Michael St. Maur Sheil.

Taken over eight years, the compilation tells stories of battleground transformations, peace and remembrance. It works well with Navy Pier’s history. Originally called the “Municipal Pier” it was later renamed Navy Pier in honor of naval veterans who served in World War I. (It became a training center for the U.S.Navy in 1941before returning to public use for an education institution and then an entertainment destination).

An opening commemorative event is at the Pier Oct. 5 at 5:15 p.m. followed by the Navy Band Great Lakes Wind Ensemble that plays at 6 p.m. in the Crystal Gardens. For more information call (800) 595-PIER (7437 and visit Navy Pier. Navy Pier is at 600 E. Grand Ave., Chicago.

 

The Chicago Creative Coalition (C3) is holding its 20th Annual Gallery Walk Oct. 18 2018 at four River North galleries. Basically a semi- private tour, the Gallery Walk requires registration. C3 members $15, general admission $20, students $5. Visit Gallery Walk Registration.

Music on Halsted All-Inn event
Music on Halsted All-Inn event

Two Festivals

All-Inn fest, a three-day indoor music festival will be at Halsted Street bars from aliveOne to The Store from Oct. 11 through Oct. 13, 2018. Admission is free with a wristband gotten from aliveOne, Tonic Room or The Store. Bar and band hop beginning at 8 p.m. For more information visit Lincoln Park Chamber All Inn.

Randolph Street Market goes indoors with Octoberfest Oct. 27-28 from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. An indoor venue featuring more than 125 vendors, the Market is at 1341 Randolph St. The Octoberfest celebration will have pumpkins but also antiques and clothing. For more information visit Randolph Street Octoberfest.

 

A pumpkin guards the path at the Chicago Botanic Garden (J Jacobs photo)
A pumpkin guards the path at the Chicago Botanic Garden (J Jacobs photo)

Two spooky-ish fall color destinations

Visitors to the Morton Arboretum can combine leaf looks with the scarecrows, cider and scary adventures of the season at the Morton Arboretum during the Fall corol festival. Also, look for the Glass Pumpkin Patch and Jack o Lantern Hikes dates.The Morton Arboretum is at 4100 Hwy 53. Lisle, IL  For more information go to Morton Arb.

Pumpkins at the Chicago Botanic Garden will be lining the walkways Oct. 24-28, 2018 from 6:30-10:30 p.m. during the annual Night of 1000 Jack o Lanterns. Take photos for some ideas of how to carve your pumpkin next year. The Chicago Botanic Garden is at 1000 Lake Cook Rd. Glencoe. The event has timed tickets. For tickets and other info visit Chicago Botanic.

Enjoy October!

Jodie Jacobs

 

 

 

 

 

Stories of Chicago in Music

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Baiocchi performance (Reno Lovison photo)
Baiocchi performance (Reno Lovison photo)

Created as part of the Bach+Beethoven Experience, “Chicago Stories: Book 2” challenges local composers to write a musical suite that utilizes baroque instruments to tell a story about Chicago.

One of the hallmarks of Bach+Beethoven Experience is to create a casual relaxed atmosphere to enjoy music of vintage instruments. There is nothing stuffy about this experience and I venture to say it can be enjoyed by virtually anyone regardless of musical tastes or preferred musical genre.

The premiere performance was presented Sept. 29, 2018 in the Sky Room at the Loyola Park Field House in Rogers Park overlooking Lake Michigan.

The first suite, “Stories of the Bloomingdale Trail” by Ronnie Kuller, was created to evoke memories of the trail’s past as part of an industrial corridor and rail line that contrasted with the present sounds of the walkers, runners, and bicyclists who enjoy the narrow elevated green space. The trail cuts a nearly three-mile path parallel to North Avenue from Ashland on the east to roughly Central Park on the west.Read More

Dance and music, art and spoken expression fill Millennium Park

 

Little Kids Rock Band will perform at YAS Fest
Little Kids Rock Band will perform at YAS Fest

An unusual free festival marks the end of summer in and around Millennium Park Sept. 22, 2018. It’s the YAS Fest, an all-day music, dance, art and theater event that showcases the arts talents of Chicago’s young people in the final weeks of “The Year of Creative Youth.”

“The Year of Creative Youth provides an incredible opportunity to support the creativity and growth of artistic children across Chicago,” said Mayor Emanuel. “This festival is our city’s largest showcase of youth artists, featuring the creative works of hundreds of young people from arts organizations in neighborhoods across the city. We celebrate their talents and the mentors who inspire them.”

YAS Fest has several performances and participatory events taking place from 11 a.m. through 4 p.m. with some events extending to 7 p.m., held throughout the  Millennium Park area from the Pritzker Pavilion, Chase Promenades and Cloud Gate Plaza to the Chicago Cultural Center across Michigan Avenue and the Art Institute of Chicago’s Modern Wing across from the park at Monroe and Michigan.

There are even kinetic sculptures a block west of Michigan Avenue on Wabash between Washington and Randolph Streets.

“When young people believe in themselves and are encouraged to bring their ideas forward, we know they’ll create the kind of society that uplifts us all,” said Vicky Dinges, Senior Vice President of Corporate Responsibility at Allstate.

Ensemble Espanol performs at YAS Fest in Millennium Park September 22 (Photos from City of Chicago)
Ensemble Espanol performs at YAS Fest in Millennium Park September 22 (Photos from City of Chicago)

“That’s why Allstate is focused on empowering our next generation of leaders by investing in programs like the arts that help young people build critical social and emotional skills. We care about the future of Chicago and our youth and are proud to recognize them as problem solvers, change agents and artists,” said Dinges whose company is a prime sponsor of the festival.

For a complete list of performances, workshops and programs and where and when they happen visit City of Chicago Festival Info.

Jodie Jacobs

 

CSO Ravinia summer ends with superb Bernstein and Mahler

 

Marin Alsop conducted the CSO's Bernstein and Mahler program in the Pavilion at Ravinia Festival August 19. (Patrick Gipson/Ravinia photo)
Marin Alsop conducted the CSO’s Bernstein and Mahler program in the Pavilion at Ravinia Festival August 19. (Patrick Gipson/Ravinia photo)

The summer night was a glorious mid 70’s temperature with dappled sunlight filtering through the trees at Ravinia Festival. Picnickers spread their repasts across the grass behind the Pavilion and out across what patrons call The Lawn.

The music emanating from the Pavilion was an inspired duo of Leonard Bernstein’s Symphony No. 1 (“Jeremiah”) that opened the program, followed by Mahler’s  Symphony No. 1. The Bernstein work was part of Ravinia’s tribute to the legendary composer/conductor on the anniversary of his 100th birthday.

Brilliantly played by the CSO and conducted by Marin Alsop, the works were well paired for their religious themes. Both first symphonies contained passages whose roots went back to Jewish ceremonial and folk music and both symphonies contained passages of protest.

Pingree music lovers Joe and Trish like to listen to Ravinia programs while picnicking on the grounds. (JJacobs photo)
Pingree music lovers Joe and Trish like to listen to Ravinia programs while picnicking on the grounds. (JJacobs photo)

But where Bernstein’s piece ended with “Lamentation” sung by mezzo-soprano J’nai Bridges, the Mahler concluded with a triumphal coda set against nature sounds originally heard in the introduction that left picnickers happily lingering a few minutes longer.

“Wasn’t that beautiful” said Trish who had come with husband Joe from Pingree Grove west of Elgin. “We enjoy just being out here,” she had said earlier after they set up under trees bordering the Lawn.

Talking about the high quality of the program and the low lawn price, Joe pointed out, “It’s a deal.”

Wayne, IL residents Cindy and Jim, L, enjoy picnicking at a CSO concert at Ravinia Festival with Kildeer friends Steve and Valerie. (JJacobs photo)
Wayne, IL residents Cindy and Jim, L, enjoy picnicking at a CSO concert at Ravinia Festival with Kildeer friends Steve and Valerie. (JJacobs photo)

Also coming in from Chicago’s western suburbs were Cindy and Jim from Wayne with Valerie and Steve from Kildeer whom they met at Ravinia a few years ago. “We love it here” said Valerie.

“We try to come anytime the CSO is playing,” said Cindy who added that she and Jim have been coming to Ravinia since 1982.

By the way, Sunday, Aug. 19 was the last Chicago Symphony Orchestra concert at Ravinia for the 2018 season. For Ravinia’s program during the remaining season visit Ravinia.  The Ravinia Festival is between Sheridan Road and Green Bay Road just north of Lake Cook Road at 200 Ravinia Park Rd., Highland Park.

Jodie Jacobs

Two concerts preview coming theater season

Jay Pritzker Pavilion is a concert venue in Millennium Park designed by Fran Gehry.
Jay Pritzker Pavilion is a concert venue in Millennium Park designed by Frank Gehry.

Hear the voices from the Broadway and opera stages at two free concerts in Chicago’s Jay Pritzker Paviion at Millennium Park

First, and this comes quickly on the calendar, is the Broadway In Chicago Summer Concert, Aug. 13 at 6:15 p.m. So grab a blanket for the grass or get there early for a seat to hear songs from the following shows on the Broadway tour:

“The Book of Mormon,” “Hello Dolly,” “A Bronx Tale: The Musical,” “ Ronald Dahl’s Charlie and the Chocolate Factory,” “Heartbreak Hotel,” “Dear Evan Hansen,”  “Anastasia,” “ Miss Saigon,” “Fiddler on the Roof,” “Cats,” “ Falsettos” and “Come From Away.”

Hosted by ABC 7 Chicago entertainment reporter Janet Davies Pre=Broadway “Tootsie” star Santino Fontana, the concert is sponsored by Channel 7 and presented by the City of Chicago department of cultural Affairs and Special Events.

The Jay Pritzker Pavilion is at 201 E. Randolph St., Chicago but it’s a can’t miss venue because of its billowing steel ribbons topping The Pavilion was designed for Millennium Park by award-winning architect Frank Gehry. For more information visit Broadway In Chicago.Read More

Elvis is back

Heartbreak Hotel playing now at Broadway PLayhouse at Water Tower Place (Photos by Brett Beiner)
Heartbreak Hotel playing now at Broadway PLayhouse at Water Tower Place (Photos by Brett Beiner)

HIGHLY RECOMMENDED

Chicago audiences may remember how in “Million Dollar Quartet,” a musical about an historic moment in recording history, Elvis Presley was unhappy with his agent and RCA Victor. He wanted to be back in the understanding arms of Sun Records’ Sam Phillips.

We don’t see everything that led up to that notable time, an unexpected jam session of Elvis, Jerry Lee Lewis, Johnny Cash and Carl Perkins in December 1956, but we do learn about some of the problems he faced in “Heartbreak Hotel,” the prequel to that million dollar jukebox musical.

No question it’s hard to recapture the magic of seeing amazingly talented pianists play Jerry Lee and wonderful vocalists echo “I Walk the Line,” ”Blue Suede Shoes,” and “Don’t Be Cruel.”

But written and directed by Floyd Mutrux who co-wrote “Million Dollar Quartet” with Colin Escott and had co-directed the show in Chicago with Eric Schaeffer, his “Heartbreak Hotel” has enough talent on stage and background videos as scenery to keep audiences enthralled.Read More

Massive Leonard Bernstein ‘Mass’ comes to Ravinia

Ravinia Festival (Jodie Jacobs photo)
Ravinia Festival (Jodie Jacobs photo)

Several orchestral works by Leonard Bernstein, the composer popularly known in musical theater circles for “West Side Story” can be heard at Ravinia Festival in Highland Park as part of a world-wide celebration of the 100 birthday of this musical genius (Aug. 25-1918-Oct. 14, 1990).

On the Ravinia schedule is “Mass,”commissioned by Jacqueline Kennedy for the 1971 opening of the Kennedy Center. The work will now be making its CSO and Ravinia debut with a star-studded cast, July 28, 2018.

When the Lyric Opera of Chicago celebrated Bernstein’s birthday with his one-act opera, “Trouble in Tahiti” plus other vocal works, March 10 this year, Lyric Dramaturg Roger Pines said during a phone interview, “I think it will be revelatory.”

The same will undoubtedly be true of “Mass.”

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