Four Chicago shows to see before they close

With so many shows in Chicago it is easy to miss one you really meant to see. So here is a reminder of really fine productions that end this month of January, 2018.

‘Turandot,’  Puccini’s glorious fantasy musical portrayal of a cold-hearted princess in ancient China is at the Lyric Opera for just two more performances: Jan. 21 and Jan. 28. For tickets and more information visit Lyric Turandot and Lyric Opera.

 Amber Wagner, Stefano La Colla and Maria Agresta in Turandot. Todd Rosenberg photo.

Amber Wagner, Stefano La Colla and Maria Agresta in Turandot. © Todd Rosenberg Photography

‘Wicked,’ that musical story about the two witches of OZ, closes at the Oriental Theatre, Jan. 21. For more information and tickets visit Broadway in Chicago Wicked.

‘BLKS,’ a play that tells about a day in the life of four young black women in New York City is at Steppenwolf just through Jan. 21. For more information and tickets visit Steppenwolf.

‘Beautiful: The Carole King Musical’ has its final performance at the Cadillac Palace Theatre  Jan. 28. For more information and tickets visit Broadway in Chicago Beautiful.

For more shows, visit TheatreinChicago.

 

 

‘Pearl Fishers’ soars at Lyric

HIGHLY RECOMMENDED

No question that opera goers and even many members of the general public are familiar with the music of Georges Bizet’s “Carmen.” Arguably less known is his earlier work, “Les pêcheurs de perles” (The Pearl Fishers).

Now appearing at the Lyric Opera of Chicago, the opera is particularly known for “Au fond du temple saint,” my favorite duet for tenor and baritone. Its gorgeous, lyrical strains are delightfully repeated at the end of the opera.

Marina Rebeka and Mariusz Kwiecien in The Pearl Fishers at Lyric Opera. Todd Rosenberg photo
Marina Rebeka and Mariusz Kwiecien in ‘The Pearl Fishers’ at Lyric Opera. Todd Rosenberg photo

But, featuring Evanston born tenor Matthew Polenzai as Nadir, Polish baritone Mariusz Kwiecien as his friend, Zurga, and Latvian soprano Marina Rebeka as Leïla, the priestess both men love, what the Lyric production really accomplishes is to remind music lovers that the entire opera contains one beautiful aria after an other.

There is Polenzai’s bravissimo rendering of “Je crois entendre encore” and Rebeka’s passionate “Comme autrefois dans la nuit somber,” then her duet with Nadir, “Léïla! Léïla!…Dieu puissant, le voilà!”.

The production’s charmingly bold sets and costumes, both designed by British fashion artist Zandra Rhodes, reflect the joyous, sunlit culture of an exotic Ceylon (now Sri Lanka).

Directed by Andrew Sinclair, the Lyric production was first staged at the San Diego Opera in 2004.

Comparatively short at two hours, 25 minutes including a 30 minute intermission, it is sung in French aided by English subtitles using a libretto by Michel Carré  and Eugene Cormon.

This opera, like many of the genre’s plots, whirls around forbidden love and its consequences. The story pits two friends against each other as they grapple with the consequences of loving the priestess who is supposed to protect Ceylon fishermen from the island’s treacherous waters. If she breaks her vow she could die and so would the man she loved.

When it happens and is witnessed by the high priest of Brahma sung by Italian bass, Andrea Silvesrtrelli, he decrees the lovers’ death.

The orchestra led by Andrew Davis and the chorus under Michael Black were both superb. The only problem I had with the production were the dance scenes. They may be true to the culture but they detract from rather than add to the opera.

DETAILS: ‘The Pearl Fishers’ is at the Lyric Opera House, 20 N. Wacker Dr., Chicago, through Dec. 10, 2017. Running time: 2 hours, 25 minutes with one intermission.  For tickets and more information visit Lyric Opera.

The production, seen on Nov. 22, 2017, was dedicated to Siberian baritone Dmitri Hvorostovsky whose death by brain cancer was announced in London that morning.

Jodie Jacobs

For more shows visit TheatreinChicago.

Gods and mortals suffer in Die Walkure at Lyric Opera

Recommended

The movement towards the impending doom of the gods that began with the stealing of a ring in ‘Das Rheingold,’ creeps forward in ‘Die Walküre,’ the second opera of Wagner’s famed four-part Ring cycle.

Brandon Jovanovich and Elisabet Strid in Lyric Opera's Die Walkure. Photos b Cory Weaver.
Brandon Jovanovich and Elisabet Strid in Lyric Opera’s Die Walkure. Photos by Cory Weaver.

For those attendees at Lyric’s ‘Walküre’ production who are not familiar with the story, a guilt-ridden Wotan, king of the gods, brings people up to date.

Sung by the fine base-baritone, Eric Owens, Wotan admits to succumbing to the greed, lust and love that trapped him in decisions he detests now, such as allowing his bastard mortal son, Siegmund (Brandon Jovanovich) to die in battle as demanded by his wife, Fricka, ((Tanja Ariane Baumgartner).

How audiences feel about the second part of the story as it unfolds, depends on how they relate to its characters.

If they care that Fricka, goddess of marriage vows, feels dishonored by husband Wotan’s actions and those of Siegmund who rescued his twin sister, Sieglinde (Elisabet Strid) from a forced marriage to Hunding (Ain Anger), they may feel she is justified in her demands.

Christine Goerke, Brandon Jovanovich and Elisabet Strid in Die Walkure.
Christine Goerke, Brandon Jovanovich and Elisabet Strid in Die Walkure.

If they love warrior-maiden Brünnhilde, Wotan’s favorite Valkyrie daughter endearingly played and beautifully sung by Christine Goerke, they will dislike Fricka and wish Wotan could stand up to his wife.

The set, designed by Robert Innes Hopkins (originally designed by the late Johan Engels) is excellently evocative of spring in Act I where Siegmund and Sieglinde fall in love and realize they are brother and sister. In Act II, its darkness equates with the power struggles between foes and the gods. Act III offers the overly bloody hero’s hall of the Valkyrie maidens.

Brünnhilde’s and other Valkyrie’s transportation are delightfully manipulated and a fun part of the opera.

However, the death minions carrying black wreaths move in a silly fashion that distracted from the serious scene when Brünnhilde at first tries to dissuade Siegmund  from fighting and begs that he come with her to Valhalla as a hero.

Eric Owens looks down at the Valkyrie maidens.
Eric Owens looks down at the Valkyrie maidens.

Sir Andrew Davis, conducting the Lyric Orchestra, did justice to Wagner’s heroic score.

Directed by David Pountney, this is a new production with interesting costumes by Marie-Jeanne Lecca reminiscent of early last century.

DETAILS: ‘Die Walküre’ is at the Lyric Opera of Chicago, 20 N. Wacker Dr., Chicago, through Nov. 30, 2017. Running time is about five hours that include two 30 minute intermissions.  For tickets and other information visit call (312) 827-5600 and visit Lyric.

Jodie Jacobs

For more shows visit TheatreinChicago.

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Festivals and shows plus happenings around town

 

So that in the coming weeks you don’t have to say “oops, I forgot” or “oh, I wish I had known,” here are some fun and interesting choices of what to do now through Nov. 5, 2017.

1000 jack-o'-lanterns light up Chicago Botanic Garden paths.
1000 jack-o’-lanterns light up Chicago Botanic Garden paths.

 

Short Story Theatre

Short story theatres are trending now in the Chicago area. (See StorySlam). Highwood, a tiny city between Highland Park and Lake Forest known for its restaurants, also hosts short story telling.

Its next time is Oct. 26 when the theme is Survival. Stories are likely to be about lost wives, geese, road trips or angels.

So come to Miramar Bistro at 301 Waukegan Ave. east of the North Line train tracks at 7:30 p.m. Or come earlier and eat there first. Just tell them when making a reservation that you are staying for the Short Story Theatre. Show tickets are $10 at the door, cash or check. Phone 847-433-1078.

 

Boo at the Chicago Botanic Garden

Hand-carved pumpkins line the paths Oct. 26-29 for Night of 10000 Jack-O-Lanterns. Tickets are date and time specific so get yours before you go to avoid disappointment. Times are from 6:30 to 10:30 p.m.

The Chicago Botanic Garden is at 1000 Lake Cook Rd., Glencoe, east of Edens Expressway. For tickets and other information call (847) 835-5440 or visit CBGHalloween.

 

Broadway in Chicago

At the Cadillac Palace Theatre, ‘Les Miserables, Cameron Mackintosh’s new production that is garnering rave reviews, closes Oct. 29. For tickets visit BroadwayinChicago.

Then, School of Rock’ an exuberant show with new songs by Andrew Lloyd Webber opens Nov. 1. For tickets and other information visit Broadway Rock.

Rigoletto (Quinn Kelsey) center and couriers in )Lyric Opera production of Verdi's Rigoletto. (Todd Rosenberg photo)
Rigoletto (Quinn Kelsey) center and couriers in Lyric Opera production of Verdi’s Rigoletto. (Todd Rosenberg photo)

 

Verdi and Wagner

If you enjoy opera at its best know that Lyric Opera of Chicago has  openings, closings and reviews similar to many downtown shows. Verdi’s ‘Rigoletto’ that also received rave reviews, has only three performances left: Oct. 26, Oct. 30 and Nov. 3. Wagner’s next Ring cycle opera, ‘Die Walküre,’ opens Nov. 1. For tickets and other information visit Lyric Opera.

 

Sip and Stroll Festival

Visit more than restaurants and other businesses in Lincoln Square for the semi-annual Ravenswood Wine Stroll. Nov. 2 from 6:30 to 9:30 p.m. Tickets are $45 and are for one of five different routes: three in Lincoln Square and two in Ravenswood. For tickets and route information see Lincoln Square Wine Stroll.

 

Really old and last century modern

Winnetka Community House’s famed Antiques + Modernism show  runs Nov. 3-5 with an evening, first peek party Nov. 2. Because it’s a 60-year-old nationally known event, dealers bring their fine antiques and excellent mid-last-century modernism jewelry and furniture. For ticket and other information visit Winnetka Show.

SOFA shows off really fine pieces for the home and office. Jodie Jacobs photo
SOFA shows off really fine pieces for the home and office.
Jodie Jacobs photo

 

Where high-end art and superior design mix

Known as SOFA for bringing together Sculpture Objects Fine Art plus Design, the annual Chicago event is back at Navy Pier Nov. 2-5. Go upstairs to the Festival Hall to see what the international galleries say are trending now in the art world. For tickets and other information visit SOFA.

Jodie Jacobs

This Weekend: Petty and posters and rock paper scissors

 

From a French poster by a famed artist and fantasy sculptures amidst nature’s forms to a commemorative sing-along for rocker Tom Petty, here are some things to do and places to go the weekend of Oct. 20-22, 2017.

Artist Kevin Box origami sculpture: "Rock Paper Scissors at Morton arboretum.
Artist Kevin Box origami sculpture: “Rock Paper Scissors” at Morton Arboretum.

Great art deals at TAC

Art lovers have a chance to pick up excellent fine or decorative art works including a Yaacov Agam at a price below what they typically bring in a gallery at the Upscale Art Resale. Held by The Art Center in north suburban Highland Park, the annual event is a win-win for collectors and TAC.

Paintings, antiques, jewelry, sculptures and other items are donated by designers, the community and TAC’s patrons.

The best chance to snag a treasure is Oct. 20 at the 6 p.m. early party preview which is $150. But the 7 p.m. regular party at $75 in advance and $90 at the door, is also excellent and have  an additional incentives including a 20 % discount on prices from 7 to 7:30 p.m.

“It’s a wonderful party with fun bites, cocktails and desserts, “ said Jacqueline Chilow, event chairperson.

The art resale opens to the public free of charge from Oct. 21 through Oct. 31. Hours are Mon.-Sat. 9 a.m. to 5 p.m., Sun. Oct. 22 noon to 4 p.m. and Thurs., Oct. 26, 9 a.m. to 8 p.m.

The Art Center is at| 1957 Sheridan Road | Highland Park. For benefit tickets and more information  call (847) 432-1888 and visit TAC.

 

Sing “Free Fallin”

Gather in the Lyric Opera of Chicago’s Grand Foyer Saturday to pay homage to late rocker Tom Petty. A musician who inspired more than a generation, Petty died Oct. 2, 2017.

Participants will receive the lyrics and be divided by voice category so they can join with Toronto Canada’s Choir! Choir! Choir!  to sing “Free Fallin.” No singing experience needed. Reservations needed. Tickets are $25.

The Lyric Opera House is at 20 N. Wacker Dr., Chicago. For reservations and tickets visit Lyric concert.

 

Rock Paper Scissors and more

Oct. 22 is the last day to see Origami in the Garden, the Morton Arboretum’s fantasy-like metal sculptures. See what looks like birds, elephants and a delightful Rock Paper scissors sculpture.

Morton Arboretum is at 4100 IL Hwy 53, Lisle. For garden admission and other information call 630) 968-0074 and visit MortonARB.

 

 

Lyric stage appropriate for this fair lady

If you sometimes think you “Could have danced all night” or become exasperated when others take credit and say “You Did It” to each other for something brilliant that you worked hard to achieve, you can relive those experiences and appreciate how Eliza Doolittle felt in ‘My Fair Lady.’

'My Fair Lady' starring Lisa O'Hare Richard E. Grant opens April 28, 2017 at the Lyric Opera of Chicago.
‘My Fair Lady’ starring Lisa O’Hare and Richard E. Grant opens April 28, 2017 at the Lyric Opera of Chicago.

An Alan Jay Lerner and Frederick Loewe hit musical based on George Bernard Shaw’s ‘Pygmalion,’  ‘My Fair Lady’ will be Lyric’s fifth Broadway show to come at the end of its regular opera season.

Opening April 28 and running through May 21, 2017, the Lyric’s offering stars TV, film and stage veteran Richard E. Grant as Henry Higgins and opera, Broadway and TV regular Lisa O’Hare as Eliza Doolittle.

Directed by Olivier Fredj and conducted by David Chase, the show is the American premiere of Robert Carsen’s  production for Paris’ Théâtre du Châtelet but with a new cast.

Lyric goers know that fair ladies, transformations, thwarted dreams, unusual relationships and not perfect happily-ever-afters are typical opera fare, so presenting such issues in a hit musical by American composers at the Civic Opera House should be expected.

Indeed, the Lyric opera stage is a natural setting for shows by American musical composers, according to Diva Renée Fleming, Lyric’s creative consultant since 2010.

“After 100 years in this country, the American musical has achieved “classic” status, and opera companies with extraordinary artistic resources are uniquely positioned to present productions at the highest level as part of the standard repertory. We needn’t wait for Broadway touring companies to present works that are tailor-made for the Chicago community,” Fleming said when Lyric launched the series.

Details: ‘My Fair Lady’ is at the Lyric’s Civic Opera House, 20 N. Wacker Drive, Chicago, April 28 through May 21, 2017. For tickets and other information call (312) 827-5600 or visit My Fair Lady.

 

Around Town: Now and Coming

There is always so much going on in Chicago it is easy to miss something you will want to see or find that the tickets you wanted are gone. So check out the following events and opportunities.

Tchaikovsky opera 'Eugene Onegin' opens at the Lyric Opera of Chicago. Lyric photo
Tchaikovsky opera ‘Eugene Onegin’ opens at the Lyric Opera of Chicago. Lyric photo

Lyric Opera

If you love the music of Pyotr Ilyich Tchaikovsky, you will love his beautiful, dramatic “Eugene Onegin” opera. The Lyric Opera of Chicago completes its 2016-2017 series with the musically lush opera starting Feb. 26 and going through Mar. 20, 2017.

Based on a Alexander Pushkin’s poetic novel about ill-fated romantic attractions, the Lyric production stars soprano Ana Maria Martinez as Tatiana Larina and baritone Mariusz Kwiecień as Eugene Onegin. The Lyric production is at the Civic Opera House, 20 N. Wacker Drive, Chicago. For tickets and other information visit Lyric Opera.

 

Rolling Stones

Tickets are available for the Chicago stop of “Exhibitionism,” the first major touring exhibit of Rolling Stones memorabilia. Opened first in London and currently in NYC, the show will take over Navy Pier’s Festival Hall April 15 –July 30, 2017. Time dated tickets range from StonesExhibitionism.com.  $25- $35 for adults to $20-$22 for juniors. Special tickets are $80 for two visits, any time, fast-track entry.m Group tickets are available from  Broadway In Chicago Group Sales at (312) 977-1710. Navy Pier is at 600 E. Grand Ave. Chicago.

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Opening night crowd appreciates Bellini’s challenging bel canto ‘Norma’

 

RECOMMENDED

A love triangle, betrayal, an ominous war, a necessary death – all centered on a strong woman, is perfect opera fare.

Sondra Radvanovsky (Norma) and Elizabeth DeShong (Adalgisa) in Norma at the Lyric Opera of chicago
Sondra Radvanovsky (Norma) and Elizabeth DeShong (Adalgisa) in ‘Norma’ at the Lyric Opera of Chicago

The brilliant 19th century composer Vincenzo Bellini found such a plot in “Norma, ou L’infanticide” a play by Alexandre Soumet.

Don’t worry, in the opera Norma threatens her betraying lover with infanticide but doesn’t kill their children. What Bellini did was to turn the story into what has become the iconic bel canto opera.

Now, the Lyric Opera of Chicago which has only done “Norma” three previous times beginning with Maria Callas in 1954, is doing a new-to-Chicago, co-production starring opera’s current Norma favorite, Sondra Radvanovsky.

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The magic is in the music and singing at Lyric’s ‘The Magic Flute’

SOMEWHAT RECOMMENDED

There are two ways to consider Lyric’s ‘Magic Flute’ production. On one hand it will likely appeal to youngsters though they will have to sit for three hours and 20 minutes (intermission comes about an hour and 15 minutes into the opera).

Kathryn Lewek as Queen of the Night and Andrew Staples as Prince Tamino in the Lyric Opera of chicago's 'The Magic Flute.' Lyric photo
Kathryn Lewek as Queen of the Night and Andrew Staples as Prince Tamino in the Lyric Opera of Chicago’s ‘The Magic Flute.’ Todd Rosenberg photo

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‘Les Troyens’ defines grand opera

HIGHLY RECOMMENDED

If lucky enough to still snag a ticket to the Lyric Opera’s ‘Les Troyens’ (The Trojans), Hector Berlioz’ grand opera tribute to Virgil’s Aeneid, don’t worry about its length.

Lucas Meacham and Christine Goerke in Les Troyens. Todd Rosenberg photography
Lucas Meachem and Christine Goerke in ‘Les Troyens.’ Todd Rosenberg photography

Berlioz’s music, grandly interpreted by Lyric Music Director Sir Andrew Davis, sweeps through the Lyric’s hall like a waterfall that fascinates and pulsates with danger.

Add to that, the incredible vocals by Christine Goerke as Trojan Princess Cassandra, Susan Graham as Carthage Queen Dido, Brandon Jovanovich as Trojan hero Aeneas (Énée) and Lucas Meachem as Cassandra’s lover, Chorebus, and the opera has transcended from a good experience to become a once-in-a-lifetime event.

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