Around Town: After Thanksgiving

Once the food and fuss of Thanksgiving has been set aside in the fridge and dishwasher there should be more to holiday fun than trying brave the crowds in stores on Friday and shop on line on Monday.  There is a wonderful ballet and opera that opens, an art show full of gift ideas and a zoo that becomes magical on the weekends.

Shop the art at the One of a Kind Show. (OOAK photo)
Shop the art at the One of a Kind Show. (OOAK photo)

One of a Kind Show

Find gifts  at the One of a Kind Show at the Mart. Artists bring their sculptures, paintings, jewelry, ceramics, furniture and fashions. And vendors bring gourmet foods. The show is fun and it’s hard to leave without finding something for others or oneself.

The show runs Dec.6 through 9 at Merchandise Mart, on the north side of the Chicago River bordered by Kinzie, Wells and Orleans Streets. For tickets, hours and other information visit One of a Kind Show.

Enjoy Brookfield Zoo at Night during Holiday Magic (CZS photo)
Enjoy Brookfield Zoo at Night during Holiday Magic (CZS photo)

Brookfield Zoo Holiday Magic

Visit Brookfield Zoo when more than a million colorful lights edgbe buildings, form larger-than-life animal shapes and line the paths – thanks to Comed and Meijer. Holiday Magic is on Saturdays and Sundays of December weekends and also Wednesday through Monday of Dec. 26-31.

Tip: look for the Talking Tree and the special entertainment scheduled each weekend. Park and enter at the North Gate, 8400 31st St. (1st Avenue at 31st Street), Brookfield. For admission, hours and a complete schedule of Holiday Magic activities and entertainment call (708) 688-8000 and visit CZS Holiday Magic.

Alberto Velazauez in The Nutcracker. (Photo by Cheryl Mann)
Alberto Velazauez in The Nutcracker. (Photo by Cheryl Mann)

Two December First show openings

Joffrey Ballet’s “The Nutcracker” and the Lyric Opera of Chicago’s “Cinderella” open Dec. 1, 2018.  “The Nutcracker” runs through Dec. 30,2018 at the Auditorium Theatre of Roosevelt University on Congress Blvd. at Michigan Avenue. This is the re-imagined staging by choreographer/director Christopher Wheeldon that takes place at the 1893 World’s Fair. The music is Peter Ilyich Tchaikovsky’s famed ballet. For tickets and more information visit Joffrey Nutcracker.

“Cinderella,” Jules Massenet” magical “Cendrillon” comes to life with funny, wicked, charming characters and delightful arias at the Lyric Opera House at six performances from Dec. 1, 2018 to Jan. 20, 2019.  For tickets and information visit Lyric Opera Cendrillon.

Jodie Jacobs

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’

HIGHLY RECOMMENDED

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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A peek at the next theater season

 

Ford Oriental Theatre in the foreground and Cadillac Palace Theatre in the background are two Broadway in Chicago venues. (Broadway in Chicago photo)
Ford Oriental Theatre in the foreground and Cadillac Palace Theatre in the background are two Broadway in Chicago venues. (Broadway in Chicago photo)

Chicago is blessed with a terrific pool of actors, directors, choreographers and theater technicians and a community of theater-goers who really appreciate a good production. But it is still amazing that the Greater Chicago area has 250 theater companies. They share venues throughout the city and suburbs. Thus, there are lots of choices of where to go and what to see. (BTW, some of them like to spell theater as theatre. That’s OK.)

Because there are so many companies it is arguably hard to keep track of what everyone is doing so we’ll look at the 2018-2019 season by area starting with downtown from the Broadway Playhouse to Lookingglass Theatre and more.

First off, the expensive ticket shows seen in New York are brought to the Cadillac Palace, CIBC, Ford Oriental, Broadway Playhouse and sometimes  Auditorium, by Broadway in Chicago. Here is what to expect so far at those venues during the 2018-2019 season.

Broadway Playhouse

Located at 175 E. Chestnut St.at Water Tower Place, it has “Heartbreak Hotel” now extended through Oct. 28, 2018.

Cadillac Palace Theatre

The theatre, 151 W. Randolph St. has the pre-Broadway world premier of “Tootsie” beginning Sept. 11 followed by “Miss Saigon” on Nov. 13 and “Fiddler On The Roof” Dec. 18. Then “Kinky Boots” opens on Jan 22, 2019 followed by “Dear Evan Hansen” on Feb. 12, “Come From Away” opens on July 30 and “The Band’s Visit opens next fall on Sept. 10.

CIBC Theatre

At18 W. Monroe, the theatre still has “Hamilton” which is expected to go through Jan. 20, 2019.

Ford Oriental Theatre

Located at 24 W. Randolph St., the theatre has ” Charlie and the Chocolate Factory” coming Oct. 2, followed by “Hello, Dolly” Oct. 23, then “The Book of Mormon” Nov. 20 and “The Play That Goes Wrong,” Dec. 4. Starting off 2019 is “The Lightning Thief: Percy Jackson Musical” opening Jan. 8, followed by “A Bronx Tale” Mar. 12, “Anastasia” Mar. 26, then “Falsettos” May 28 and “Cats” on July 16.

For tickets and other information visit Broadway in Chicago and call (800) 775-2000.

 

 

The Yard is at Chicago Shakespeare Theater on Navy Pier
The Yard is at Chicago Shakespeare Theater on Navy Pier

Chicago Shakespeare Theater

Situated on Navy Piere at 800 E. Grand Ave. (On Navy Pier), CST currently has “Peter Pan: A Musical Adventure” through Aug. 19.

Coming this fall are “Big Mouth” Sept 12, “Nell Gwynn” opening Sept. 20, Circolombia’s “Acelere” on Oct. 23, “Fight Night,” also on Oct. 23, “Q Brothers Christmas Carol” on Nov. 20 and “A Midsummer Night’s Dream” on Dec. 6.

The season continues with “Us/Them” opening Jan. 22, 2019, “L’Apres Midi D’un Foehn” on Jan. 23, then “Short Shakespeare Macbeth” opens Feb. 16 and “An Inspector Call’s opens Feb. 19, “Two Pints” starts Mar. 6, “Hamlet” opens Apr. 17 and “Bedknobs and Broomsticks” on May 30.

For tickets and more information visit Chicago Shakes and call (312) 595-5600.

 

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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

Warm our blustery April weather with glorious music

When February weather sticks around for early April then warm up with good music. Go to the Lyric to hear some of the Ryan Opera Center members who sang this season. Or let Rogers and Hammerstein’s lyrical Broadway hits bring back memories. Or turn to Haydn and Beethoven to forget that Mother Nature’s Ap[ril Fool’s day joke has continued through the weekend.

Rising Stars in Concert

Singers with the Lyric Opera of Chicago’s Ryan Opera Center Ensemble perform works by Tchaikovsky, Bernstein, Puccini and other masters, April 7, 2018 at 7:30 p.m. The program is backed by a pianist and members of the Lyric Opera Orchestra conducted by Edwin Outwater. For tickets and more information visit Lyric Opera. The Lyric Opera of Chicago is at 20 N. Wacker Drive.

The Sound of Their Music: 75 Years of Rogers and Hammerstein on Stage

Hosted by Daryl Nitz and Laura Freeman with music direction by Andrew Blendermann, the program is at the Skokie Theatre April 7 and April 8 at 7:30 p.m. It features artists Ken Baker, Cynthia Clarey, Sophie Grimm, and Tom Olickal performing songs from eight shows. Tickets are $35. For tickets and other information visit Skokie Theatre.   Skokie Theatre is at 7924 Lincoln Ave., Skokie.

MASTERWORKS 4: Haydn and Beethoven

The Lake Forest Symphony with Conductor Vladimir Kulenovic are doing Haydn’s Symphony No. 4, Haydn’s Cello Concerto No. 1 featuring Cellist Jay Campbell and Beethoven’s Symphony No. 2 April 7 at 8 p.m. and April 8 at 2 p.m. The Saturday concert is at the Cressey center for the Arts at Lake forest Academy. 1500 West Kennedy Road
Lake Forest. Sunday’s concert is at the James Lumber Center of the college of Lake County19351 W. Washington St., Grayslake. For tickets and other information visit Lake Forest Symphony.

 

Current technology and outstanding voices produce a memorable ‘Faust’

HIGHLY RECOMMENDED

The first clue that the Lyric’s 2018 production of Charles Gounod’s ‘Faust’ will have an unusual rendering comes immediately in the opening scene during the opera’s lyrical introductory music.

While Faust, portrayed as an aged artist and sculptor, is lying on a bed in his studio, a video, possibly of his anxious dreams about the world outside, is projected on a large drape at the other side of the room.

He wakes and while singing of his frustration of a loveless life (Rien! En vain j’interroge ) climbs his scaffolding to a surreal, sculptured figure holding a scientific styled telescopic  instrument.

When his attempts to drink a poison there are interrupted by a choir he descends to a table with wood blocks and calls for help from the devil.

Benjamin Bernheim as Faust in his studio. Photos by Cory Weaver
Benjamin Bernheim as Faust in his studio. Photos by Cory Weaver

It is Faust’s own carving of the devil’s agent, Méphistophélès, shown as a projection on a drape near him, that is another important clue to this production’s tone.

It presents the possibility that Méphistophélès and the demons that will be surrounding him during the opera are the creation of Faust’s own tormented self. The demons definitely look like carved figures.

Faust’s carving of Méphistophélès comes to life behind the drape near him and they sing the fine duet (Me voici). After tempting Faust with a projection of the beautiful, young Marguerite, the suicidal artist is willing to sell his soul to the devil to become young and experience love.

And so, Act I sets the atmosphere created by the opera’s production designer, California sculptor /film maker John Frame, set and costume designer Vita Tzykun, video designer David Adam Moore and lighting designer Duane Schuler.

Christian Van Horn as Méphistophélès and his demons in Faust at Lyric Opera.
Christian Van Horn as Méphistophélès and his demons in Faust at Lyric Opera.

Under the superb direction of Kevin Newbury, the production team’s magic and the remarkable voices and fine acting of the entire cast all come together for a magnificent “Faust.”

Making his American debut, French tenor Benjamin Bernheim brings wonderfully rich nuances to the arias of Faust, including a beautiful rendition of (Salut, demeure chaste et pure) in Act III.

Ryan Opera Center alumnus Christian Van Horn’s fine bass-baritone is perfect for Méphistophélès. He has the flashy, jazzy demeanor of a ringmaster conducting the action.

It was evident by enthusiastic applause for Bernheim and Van Horn at the end of the first act, that audiences knew they were in for an operatic treat.

Annie Rosen (Siebel) L, listens as Edward Parks (Valentin) asks that he watches over Marguarite.
Annie Rosen (Siebel) L, listens as Edward Parks (Valentin) asks that he watches over Marguarite.

A highlight of Act II is baritone Edward Parks singing (O sainte médaille … Avant de quitter ces lieux) as Valentin, Marguarite’s brother. He tells the young boy, Siébel who adores Marguarite, to watch over her. There were more than a few “bravos”for Parks.

Although there seemed to be no worthy reason to make the character of Marguerite handicapped and give her a crutch, soprano Ailyn Pérez impressively takes hold of the role of a young, guileless, religious girl who is seduced, becomes pregnant and then abandoned.

She moves from sparkling in the famed Jewel Song (Ah! je ris de me voir si belle en ce miroir) to sadness in the aria  (Il ne revient pas) after abandoned by Faust and then to emotional strength in the love duet she sings with him (Oui, c’est toi que j’aime) when she is in prison.

Ailyn Pérezas Marguarite in Faust.
Ailyn Pérezas Marguarite in Faust.

The excellent cast also includes two mezzo sopranos, Jill Grove as Marguerite’s nosy neighbor Marthe and Annie Rose as Siébel.

As always, the Lyric’s chorus and orchestra sound grand but kudos must also go to Conductor Emmanuel Villaume who beautifully interprets Gounod’s music. Villaume is often called upon to conduct French operas.

Sung in French with English subtitles (often called projected translations), the libretto is by Jules Barbier and Michel Carré. It is based on “Faust et Marguerite” by Carré that was somewhat based on Johann Wolfgang von Goethe’s “Faust, Part One.”

The character of Faust has become so popular that similar to Scrooge as a name for someone who is a miser, Faustian has been coined to mean a bargain with the devil or a greedy or promoting action made without thought or care about the consequences.

The Lyric production takes advantage of current technology to project death symbols, the devilishly persuasive magic of a Méphistophélès type of person and the yearnings of someone who knowingly opts for the Faustian path. It does overuse skeletons by having them move too much instead of occasionally shadowing the action.

However,  Lyric’s 2018 “Faust” amazingly couples surrealistic art with the story’s surreal aspects while it keeps its centuries-old German flavor. Of course, outstanding voices and Gounod’s lyrical music truly put this production on the must-see list.

 

DETAILS: ‘Faust’ is at the Lyric Opera House, 20 N. Wacker Drive, Chicago, now through March 21, 2018 (Ana María Martínez assumes the role of Marguarite on Mar. 21). For tickets and other information visit Lyric Opera/Faust.

Jodie Jacobs

For more shows, visit TheatreInChicago.

 

 

 

Cosi features delightful comic romps and beautiful solos

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Wolfang Amadeus Mozart’s title, “Così fan tuttie (Thus do all women) and Lorenzo Da Ponte’s libretto will likely elicit more than a few negative shakes of the head while watching Lyric’s current production.

The title and libretto cast women in general as overly emotional, flighty and needy. However, the opera’s subtitle, “The School for Lovers,” gives a bit more insight into the story line or moral that love can be fickle.

The characters going to “school” on love are Ferrando and Guglielmo who agree to a bet with their friend, the cynical Don Alfonso, that when tested, their fiancées Fiordiligi and Dorabella will not stay faithful for 24 hours.

Cosi fan tutti is at Lyric Opera now through March 16, 2018. Cory Weaver photo
Cosi fan tutti is at Lyric Opera
now through March 16, 2018. Cory Weaver photo

The test proposed by Alfonso is that the two men pretend to go off to war but actually return as two Albanian sailors who then woo each other’s fiancée. If the plot sounds a bit like a Shakespearean comedy, know that at one time there was a proposal to set the music to a libretto that matched the Bard’s “Love Labours Lost.”

But no matter how much the libretto is out of sync with more enlightened views of women, Mozart’s music for Così, expertly conducted by James Gaffigan to bring out all its nuances and playfulness, is a delightful combination of a joyful romp and beautiful solos and duets.

American tenor Andrew Stenson as Ferrando and Canadian baritone Joshua Hopkins as Guglielmo are wonderfully nutty in this revival directed by Bruno Ravella (Original Director Jon Cox).

Puerto Rican-born soprano Ana Maria Martinez as Fiordiligi and French mezzo-soprano Marianne Crebassa as Dorabella are the stand-out voices in this production.

It’s possible the Lyric stage’s depth was not friendly for the male leads or to Italian baritone Allessandro Corbelli who could barely be heard as Don Alfonso. But the female vocalists, including Russian lyric soprano Elena Tsallagova (maid Despina) were always excellent even when blending with the others.

The second act takes on a different tone with the passionate “Fra gli amplessi” (“In the embraces”) duet of Fiordiligi and Ferrando that reveals real rather than the type of put-on emotions  displayed as a farce in Act I. And then there is Dorabella and Guglielmo’s lovely “Il core vi dono” (I give you a heart) duet where a medallion she was given with her lover’s picture in Act I is now exchanged for a heart locket.

Robert Perdzioa’s set design of a fancy, Mediterranean resort works quite well with Mozart’s plot as does Perdziols’s costume design for this Così’s placement in 1914.

The problem I have with the opera is not the Lyric production but the libretto and its unsatisfying ending which I won’t reveal here.

“Così fan tuttie” is at the Lyric Opera of Chicago, 20 N. Wacker Drive, now through March 16, 2018. Running time; 3 hours, 25 minutes with 1 intermission. For tickets and other information call 312.827.5600 and visit Lyric Opera Cosi.

Jodie Jacobs

For more shows visit TheatreinChicago

 

 

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.