See Bolero interpretation more than once

Anais Bueno and ensemble in Yoshihisa Arai’s ‘Boléro.’ (Photo courtesy of The Joffrey Ballet.)
Anais Bueno and ensemble in Yoshihisa Arai’s ‘Boléro.’ (Photo courtesy of The Joffrey Ballet.)

4 stars

Don’t even try to shoo Maurice Ravel’s famed “Boléro” out of your head after hearing and seeing it interpreted by The Joffrey Ballet’s Studio Series.

Streaming now through Mar. 2, 2021, the haunting beat returns over and over so instead of worrying about it, just go back to the YouTube channel  to hear it again and re-watch how choreographer Yoshihisa Arai has fit dance moves to the compulsive rhythm.

The program, backed beautifully by the London Symphony Orchestra, is an exciting Joffrey world premiere featuring Anais Bueno and ensemble.

Costumes by Temur Suluashvili reflect Yoshihisa’s light and shadows theme. Masks are worn and fit the costuming and mood.

It is performed in the Gerald Arpino Black Box Theater at Joffrey tower. Running time is 16 minutes. To watch visit Boléro | Joffrey Ballet.

Jodie Jacobs

Around Town: Bolero at Joffrey and Secretaries at Goodman

Goodman Theatre (Photo courtesy of Goodman Theatre)
Goodman Theatre (Photo courtesy of Goodman Theatre)

Chicago Theater and Arts used to list all the shows downtown and neighborhood venues for the coming season. Now, for the 2020-21 season we’re typing in virtual events and shows that are streaming.

Here’s a couple that may be missed if not immediately clicked.

  • “Boléro” presented by The Joffrey Studio Series, streams Feb. 26 at 7 p.m. CT. However, it just extended the streaming through March 2, 2021.

A world premiere with choreography by Yoshihisa Arai, costumes by Temur Suluashvili, Maurice Ravel’s iconic score will be interpreted in the Gerald Arpino Black Box Theater at Joffrey tower. Running time is 16 minutes. To watch visit Boléro | Joffrey Ballet.

  •  “The Secretaries,” a virtual Goodman Theatre reading, premieres Feb. 27 at 7 p.m. CT.

Written by Omer Abbas Salem and directed by Audrey Francis, the story revolves around four women in Aryan drag who want to be the Fuhrer’s personal secretary in 1944.

Running time is 1 hour, 50 minutes with one 10 minute intermission. Registration is needed for this free event. For more information, visit GoodmanTheatre.org/TheSecretaries.

Related: Chicago Theatre Week

Jodie Jacobs

 

Around Town: See Federal Art Project and Outsider art works

"The Dead Tree" Image courtesy of the Illinois State Museum)
“The Dead Tree” Image courtesy of the Illinois State Museum)

With Chicago museums allowed to open with Covid protocols in place, there are new exhibits to see at places off the beaten path.

Among them are the Ukrainian Institute of Modern Art and the intuit Center for Intuitive Outsider Art..

“Work People Art,” pieces done under the Works Progress Administration’s Great Depression era Federal Art Project, open at the Ukrainian Institute Feb. 20 and continue through May 16, 2021.

“Nearly 90 years later, these works speak to contemporary American struggles with a Covid-19 pandemic, its accompanying political and economic repercussions, and an era of social upheaval,” says an exhibit statement.

The exhibition is a road show organized by Doug Stapleton, associate curator of art at the Illinois State Museum.

The Ukrainian Institute of Modern Art is at 2320 W. Chicago Ave. For more information visit UIMA and  WorkPeopleArtOpening.

 

Widener - Harvest (Photo courtesy of Intuit)
Widener – Harvest (Photo courtesy of Intuit)

The following weekend, Intuit opens Feb. 26 with a George Widener exhibition that continues through May 9, 2021.

Called “In Focus: George Widener,” it features works from the Victor F. Keen collection.

“George Widener is an exceptional living artist who blurs the boundary between outsider and contemporary art with his works that focus on numbers, dates, cities and codes,” says Intuit President/CEO Debra Kerr.

Intuit is at 756 N. Milwaukee Ave.  For more information visit art.org.

Jodie Jacobs

 

Lyric Opera brings sun and love in virtual concert

Lyric Opera of Chicago (Lyric photo)
Lyric Opera of Chicago (Lyric photo)

If tired of everything Covid and weather related from staying in but wearing a mask and social distancing when going out to weariness of snow tunnels and sloshy streets, look for the free online concert gifted by Lyric Opera of Chicago and Music Director Designate Enrique Mazzola. They think it’s nice to find some sun and love where not expected.

The result is “Sole e Amore” (Sun and Love), a virtual concert of works by familiar Italian composers that will be on U-Tube and Lyric’s Facebook at 6 p.m. Feb. 21, 2021.

Sung by Lyric’s 2020/21 Ryan Opera center Ensemble, Mazzola chose intimate songs—arie da camera, that are not operatic arias, but instead offer new ways to enjoy the genre’s popular composers.

As an example “Un bel dì vedremo” from Puccini’s Madama Butterfly is generally recognizable but not the song, “Terra e mare.”

The concert also includes relatively unknown works by Rossini, Donizetti, Bellini, Verdi, Catalani, Mascagni, Leoncavallo, and Respighi.

“This concert is a very beautiful step into the romantic Italian world of singing, passion, and love,” says Mazzola.

For more information visit Lyric Opera of Chicago and Sole e Amore.

Jodie Jacobs

Get Gogh-ing to Chicago’s Immersive Van Gogh experience

 

Immersive Van Gogh in Chicago (Michael Brosilow photo)
Immersive Van Gogh in Chicago (Michael Brosilow photo)

4 stars

 

It’s sure to feel like spring is reawakening with glorious sunflowers when you visit the Immersive Van Gogh Exhibit, now showing through September 6.

This visually spectacular digital art exhibition invites audiences to “step inside” the iconic works of post-Impressionist artist Vincent van Gogh. It evokes his highly emotional and chaotic inner consciousness through art, light, music and movement.

With more than 50 projectors illuminating over 14,000 square-feet, visitors are   surrounded by Van Gogh’s brushstrokes and colors, including animated details from Self Portrait with Felt Hat (1888), The Bedroom in Arles (1889), Irises (1889) and The Starry Night 1889).

Immersive Van Gogh is a glorious experience that will envelop the visual and audio senses. Classical music, Edith Piaf’s “No Regrets” and other French songs stimulate the mind.

Stand in one of the circles on the main floor, then step up to the balcony to get a higher perspective.

Immersive Van Gogh in Chicago (Michael Brosilow photo)
Immersive Van Gogh in Chicago (Michael Brosilow photo)

The 1-hour Van Gogh exhibit has been designed in accordance with the latest health and safety protocols. Capacity is limited and masks are required at all times. Digitally projected social distancing circles on the gallery floors ensure appropriate spacing.

Ticket prices start at $39.99 for adults ($24.99 for children 16 or younger) with untimed and flexible ticket options available.

Immersive Van Gogh is at the Lighthouse Art Space, 108 Germania Place, Chicago. For more information, visit vangoghchicago.com or call 844-307-4644.

Mira Temkin

 

Chicago Theatre Week adapts to the pandemic

 

Chicagoland's more than 200 theater venues include Lookingglass Theatre in the historic Water Works (top left) and the Lyric Opera House, bottom left plus Goodman Theatre in a remodeled former movie theater building and the Yard at Chicago Shakespeare on Navy Pier, bottom right. (J Jacobs photo)
Chicagoland’s more than 200 theater venues include Lookingglass Theatre in the historic Water Works (top left) and the Lyric Opera House, bottom left plus Goodman Theatre in a remodeled former movie theater building and the Yard at Chicago Shakespeare on Navy Pier, bottom right. (J Jacobs photo)

Instead of trying to snag tickets to hot shows at bargain prices during Chicago Theatre Week, the annual event happens online in 2021 from Feb. 25 to March 7.

Coordinated by the League of Chicago Theatres with Choose Chicago the event will switch to digital content and theatre support.

Along with enabling theater-lovers to see shows without changing out of sweats and pjs, it will be a good chance to discover different theatre companies and use money saved to keep Chicago’s vibrant theatre scene alive for another year.

While nothing can truly replace in-person performances, theatres across Chicagoland have been finding new ways to produce their art,” said Deb Clapp, League of Chicago Theatres executive director.

He added, This year, we invite the community to engage with their favorite companies—or discover new ones—during Theatre Week. Until we can welcome audiences back into our theatres, we invite you to learn about, engage with, and support Chicago theatres during Chicago Theatre Week 2021.”

For more information visit  Chicago Theatre Week | Choose Chicago on Feb. 25, 2021.

Jodie Jacobs

More winter or early spring depends on your groundhog

Woodstock Willie predicts spring (photo courtesy of Real Woodstock)
Woodstock Willie predicts spring (photo courtesy of Real Woodstock)

If you believe what furry little burrowing animals predict on Groundhog Day, Feb. 2, regarding an early spring or six more weeks of winter, it  might depend on where you live.

Punxsutawney Phil’s  prediction, held every Groundhog Day in Western Pennsylvania since 1887, is for more winter.

Phil reportedly saw his shadow at 7:25 Eastern Time according to the The Punxsutawney Groundhog Club during a virtual 2021 event instead of at a jammed Gobbler’s Knob.

But in the Midwestern town of  Woodstock IL, Woodstock Willie who at first was reluctant to leave his abode, noted at 7:07 a.m. Central Time, he definitely didn’t see his shadow so he predicted an early spring to a happy crowd of attendees.

Following the prediction, everyone was invited to Toast to World Peace” over at the Public House of Woodstock’s patio.

“This has been a doozy of a year so we are excited to bring some hope to the world by still hosting the prognostication in Woodstock,” said Danielle Gulli, president of Real Woodstock and the Woodstock Area Chamber of commerce and Industry.

No matter what the groundhog’s weather prediction was in Pennsylvania back in 1992, “Groundhog Day,” written by Harold Ramis and Danny Rubin, was mostly filmed in Woodstock.

The movie  become a fan favorite when released by Columbia Pictures in 1993 and started bringing visitors to the picturesque town following a small, groundhog celebration in 1995.

BTW the prediction didn’t matter but the movie’s snowstorm ignored by Bill Murray as a TV weatherman, did. See the trailer.

Related: Groundhog Day is back in Woodstock.

Jodie Jacobs

Behind the scenes look at inauguration fanfare

 

American composer/arranger James Stephenson (Photo courtesy of Stephenson)
American composer/arranger James Stephenson (Photo courtesy of Stephenson)

 

Normally, the works of fifty-one year old American composer/arranger James Stephenson, Lake Forest, IL, are played by such orchestras as the Boston Pops, Chicago Symphony Orchestra, the LA Philharmonic and the National Symphony.

However, on Jan. 20, 2021 in front of 40 million people watching the Biden-Harris inauguration (Nielsen ratings), his “Fanfare for Democracy” led off the three fanfares played by “The President’s Own” United States Marine Band.

Directed by  Col. Jason K. Fettig, “The President’s Own” United States Marine Band plays for inauguration ceremonies, state dinners and other White House functions. (Note: Thomas Jefferson is credited with the nickname “The President’s Own.”)

How Stephenson’s fanfare, and indeed, the theme of the US Marine Band’s music prelude to the swearing-in ceremony came to be, offers some insight into the tension surrounding the 59th quadrennial presidential election and inauguration.

“The week after the Nov.3 election had been a week of turmoil. So, on Saturday when we finally heard that Biden was confirmed, my wife (Sally) and I went for a walk with the dog. It was warm, 70 degrees, and people were out. People were feeling relieved that the democratic process had been gone through. It was energizing,” Stephenson recalled.

“I started hearing music in my head. Then, while we were having drinks and a meal with friends I couldn’t focus on that. I kept hearing the music. I went home and wrote it in five hours. It felt good. I had done my duty. It was my response,” he said.

“What I had remembered was the image of Biden and wife Jill standing on a stage in Delaware while fireworks went off in celebration of the moment. I wanted to capture that feeling,” said Stephenson.

Because the composer had previously worked with Col. Fettig, including writing a symphony that Fettig commissioned and that won the prestigious Sousa/Ostwald Competition, the idea of sending the fanfare to the U. S. Marine Band was foremost on Stephenson’s mind.

As a result, a musical fanfare program was developed.

“He said I can move some things around. Your fanfare has given me some ideas. This can be composers’ responses to American democracy,” said Stephenson.

When asked about Stephenson’s contribution to the inauguration, Col. Fettig said, “Jim and I have had a very fruitful and long-standing creative collaboration, and his music really speaks to me as an interpreter of new music. I find myself returning time and again to his music; he is such a versatile and virtuosic composer, and he has the rare ability to write for absolutely any occasion and ensemble, and hit just the right mark.”

Fettig added, “When I first heard Jim’s new fanfare inspired by the symbol of Democracy inherent in the Presidential Inauguration, it was a foregone conclusion in my mind that we would perform it live for the occasion. Jim’s music is always deeply moving, and this brief fanfare immediately and brilliantly captures the indomitable spirit of the nation for the listener.

“I was thrilled to have the opportunity to give it a featured place in the special soundtrack we crafted for this historic moment. The reception for his piece and all of the music that Marine Band performed on Wednesday has been incredible, and far beyond anything I could have imagined,” he said.

Two other composers’ fanfares completed that part of the Marine Band’s program: “Fanfare for Tomorrow.” by Altadena, CA composer Peter Boyer and “Fanfare Politeria” by Southern Illinois University-Edwardsville composition professor Kimberly K Archer.

They only had 12 days to compose and send their fanfares due to the uncertainty of how and where the inauguration ceremony would take place.

Stephenson explained: “The Colonel didn’t know if the band would be playing because of what happened on Jan 6 and whether Biden would be inside or what would still take place. He did find out Sunday that the Marine Band would be playing.”

A weekend after the inauguration, Stephenson has had time to take in how everything came together.

“At the moment, I wasn’t really allowed time for reflection or celebration because both my wife and I were running around the house checking various stations on various TVs to find the one that didn’t have talking-heads constantly overcoming the music. So it ended up with me in one room and her in another trying to take in what we saw on the station we each independently found,” said Stephenson.

“Now, that I’ve found more time to go back and take it in, I’m especially excited at hearing my name spoken and announcing the world premiere in the same space of where so much history and pageantry has occurred. That was pretty cool, and I’m going to go ahead and allow myself to be a bit proud of that,” he said.

“I also think a shout-out is deserved for the Colonel, of course, but also for the members of the band. They awake at 1:30 a.m. to be there, and go through so much ritual and sitting/waiting. Then, to perform so well in such cold weather, is no small feat. They are a true testament to professionalism and talent.”

(Ed note: James Stephenson’s current project is writing a new ballet for the San Francisco Ballet called “Wooden Dimes.” A period ballet piece, it is set to premier in March on film instead of live because of the pandemic.)

Jodie Jacobs

 

 

Chicago museums opening now and next two months

Some Chicago museums are opening to members beginning Jan. 23 and then to the public in the coming days. The museums’ reopening comes on the heels of IL Gov. J. B. Pritzker’s announcement this week that the city has moved to tier 2  mitigation.

(Pritzker is expected to announce today, Jan. 23, that the city has also reached tier 1 thus restaurants and bars will be be allowed to re-start indoor seating at 25 percent capacity.)

The Shedd Aquarium and Field Museum on the city’s Lake Shore Drive Museum Campus are among the current open museums. The Art Institute of Chicago plans to reopen in February.

Shedd penguins (J Jacobs photo)
Shedd penguins (J Jacobs photo)

Shedd Aquarium

Visitors can start purchasing tickets to the Shedd Aquarium at noon, Jan. 23, 2021. The Shedd, 1200 S. Lake Shore Drive, is home to the penguins seen by thousands of viewers across the world on UTube.

Members can visit on the early access days of Jan. 27-29. To join the Shedd  visit  become a Shedd Aquarium member and visit free for a year and support its aquatic life.

The public can visit beginning Jan. 30. To obtain tickets visit Shedd aquarium/purchase. visit To get tickets.

Field Hall dinosaur (J Jacobs photo)
Field Hall dinosaur (J Jacobs photo)

Field Museum

The Field Museum, 1400 S. Lake Shore Drive, opened to members Jan. 21 and is opening to the public today, Jan. 23. To buy tickets visit Calendar/FieldMuseum/ticketing. Members should sign in at Verify your membership.

Illinois residents can visit for free on January 25 and 28. Tickets for Free Days are only available onsite and cannot be reserved in advance.

For hours, safety protocols  and exhibits visit Know Before You Go.

Chagall Windows at the Art Institute of Chicago (J Jacobs phto)
Chagall Windows at the Art Institute of Chicago (J Jacobs phto)

Art Institute of Chicago

A world-renown art museum, the Art Institute of Chicago at 111 N. Michigan Ave., will reopen Feb. 11. It will start with a limited schedule Thursday through Monday, from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. and open to members only the first hour.

More museums have indicated they will open in March. For more museum information and future openings visit Choose Chicago/museum reopening, the city’s tourism site.

Jodie Jacobs