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One of the world’s most talented and celebrated mezzo-sopranos sang a world premiere in Hyde Park last Friday night and only a tiny audience was there to hear it. Susan Graham was the headliner for the University of Chicago Presents concert at Mandel Hall where the main work was a stirring n…

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Lyric Opera of Chicago has moved from a very dimly lit and hard to fathom production of Verdi’s “Macbeth” as its opening opera of the season to a brightly lit, colorful, and utterly charming rendition of Donizetti’s “L’elisir d’amore” (“The Elixir of Love”). With a new-to-Chicago production …

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Chicago Opera Theater opened its season with a bang, offering an unusual take on a popular opera. Bizet’s “Carmen” is a staple of the repertoire and normally a concert version wouldn’t be the most exciting way to experience it. But the two performances offered by COT were something very unus…

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Riccardo Muti ascended the conductor’s podium on the Symphony Center stage last week for the first time since February 2020. The audience reacted with thunderous applause, mixed with cheers and welcoming whistles. Folks who had presented proof of vaccination outside the building and came rea…

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Something wicked this way comes: a new production of “Macbeth” to open Lyric Opera of Chicago’s 2021–22 season. Verdi’s opera based on Shakespeare’s tragedy is well-cast, features a splendid first outing in the pit by Enrique Mazzola in his role as Lyric’s third music director, and underline…

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When the coronavirus pandemic caused concert halls to go black, music organizations scrambled to keep musicians working and music flowing by creating video concerts accessible via the Internet. What began as a kind of experiment developed, in many cases, into a genuinely new way to present c…

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As summer melts away and autumn looms on the horizon, music lovers know that a new season of performances is not far away. One marker of this is Lyric Opera of Chicago’s annual concert at Millennium Park. For years this has been one of the major events of the waning summer as well as an anno…

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Sometimes a perfectly ordinary event becomes extraordinary. Stravinsky premieres a ballet and writers report a riot. A concert of music by Sibelius inspires many Finns to seek independence. Beethoven provides part of the soundtrack to reunification of Germany in the 20th century.

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There’s nothing like a lazy evening in a local park surrounded by music. Thanks to the “Night Out in the Parks” program of the Grant Park Music Festival, that’s just what we had in Hyde Park last Thursday when the Project Inclusion String Quartet performed in Nichols Park.

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This past Saturday, Hyde Park Records was the site of a pop-up shop hosted by El Da Sensei, half of the New Jersey–based underground hip-hop duo the Artifacts. The sun was blazing and the temperature was perfect for a temporary store set up for passers-by. 

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If music is a large contributor to your enjoyment, then no matter what kind of music rests most pleasantly on your ears you know that a live performance has a special kind of power. To be there as the music unfolds has a unique attraction and appeal. Throughout the pandemic, as I listened to…

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The Old Testament Book of Ecclesiastes tells us that there is nothing new under the sun. That observation came to mind last week listening to the music of Heinrich Biber, where I thought that many of the musical gestures used by this Baroque composer to create little musical portraits of ani…

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Music organizations often plan events years in advance, booking guest conductors and soloists, as well as any necessary freelancers, and ensuring the availability of scores and other materials. The selection of works for an individual concert may be painstaking, and sometimes special rehears…

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The Grant Park Music Festival is back and this year they have captioned their event “The Season of Renewal.” Being back at the Pritzker Pavilion after last year’s silence did indeed feel like a homecoming. Last Saturday night, Millennium Park was full of happy folks meandering about, taking …

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Chicago’s International Music Foundation is best known as the umbrella group that presents the well-known and widely admired Dame Myra Hess Memorial Concert series. Yet the IMF also supports many other music-making endeavors, including Make Music Chicago and the Rush Hour concert series.

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One of the inevitable developments of the coronavirus pandemic was the video performance. When audiences could no longer congregate in a single place to both view and hear an event, organizations quickly regrouped and looked to video delivered via the internet as a way to continue to produce…

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As Chicago emerges from pandemic restrictions, music fans of all stripes can begin to purchase tickets for live events they can attend in person. For classical music lovers, the Chicago Symphony Orchestra is one of the leaders, having already recommenced performances with live audiences last month.

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After more than a year without live audiences, the Chicago Symphony Orchestra’s final concerts of this season are back in Orchestra Hall. Last week saw four performances of their penultimate season concert. As in the first outing since the pandemic struck, audience capacity was very low in o…

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It’s not just Lollapalooza that’s back. Live audiences at concerts, both indoors and out, are now underway in Chicago’s classical music scene. Of the very largest organizations, the Chicago Symphony Orchestra was first off the block, having resumed live audience concerts last week. (See my a…

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As with many other human gatherings, it was better to do it on Zoom than not to do it at all. But Marsha Melsheimer was quick to confess that her freewheeling family music sessions are better in person. Now that “class” can be held outdoors, things are looking up for Marsha’s Music. 

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The story of the star-crossed lovers Tristan and Isolde is an ancient one. It has been told many times, with significant variations in the main narrative and its details, for about a thousand years. One of the most famous versions is the opera by Richard Wagner, but that is only a single bra…

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Sir Andrew Davis has conducted some 700 performances at Lyric Opera of Chicago. This represents 61 operas by 21 different composers. He first conducted at Lyric in 1987 when he led performances of Mozart’s “The Marriage of Figaro”. He became music director in the year 2000, upon the retireme…

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The Chicago Symphony Orchestra continues to produce fascinating videos available on demand. A moving performance of the Quartet for the End of Time is reviewed below, but first the CSO has even more exciting news. Live concert performances with an audience are returning to Symphony Center be…

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Richard Wagner’s Ring operas are big propositions: they feature large casts, big choruses, huge orchestras, spectacular settings, and take about 17 hours in total to perform. This makes full Ring cycles costly propositions.

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COVID-19 has become part of the story of our lives and now also of our entertainment. Chicago Opera Theater has mounted a production of “La Hija de Rappaccini” (“Rappaccini’s Daughter”), the 1991 opera by Mexican composer Daniel Catán. American author Nathaniel Hawthorne is the grandfather o…

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Millions of eyes this past weekend were trained on St. George’s Chapel in Windsor, England, the place where Prince Philip, consort to the Queen of over 70 years, had his funeral. I tuned in for the music, which even under strict pandemic regulations — resulting in a choir made of only four v…

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Lyric Opera of Chicago released its latest free video on Sunday afternoon, a splendid collection of excerpts from Verdi’s “Attila” featuring four soloists, members of the Lyric Opera Chorus, and two pianists.

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Johann Sebastian Bach’s Goldberg Variations represents one of the great masterworks in all of classical music. It was written for harpsichord, but is often performed and recorded on piano. Mahan Esfahani, an Iranian-American harpsichordist, recently played the Goldberg Variations in a perfor…

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History is littered with posthumous success stories. Vincent van Gogh became a commercial and critical success only after his death. Most of Chaucer’s “The Canterbury Tales” were published after his death, so he too did not live to see the enduring success of his pathbreaking work.

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Lyric Opera of Chicago has released a free video celebrating the Ryan Center, the program at Lyric that offers intense training for singers at the beginning of their operatic careers and now also includes training for collaborative pianists as well. 

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Chicago Opera Theater has now streamed the second new opera written as part of its Vanguard Emerging Opera Composer Residency, a commissioning and mentoring program for composers. The first opera was “The Transformation of Jane Doe” by composer Stacy Garrop and librettist Jerre Dye, a haunti…

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A decade ago, Regina Harris Baiocchi formed 6 Degrees Composers, a collective of women composers who would regularly collaborate to present concerts of their own music. The composers themselves were often among the performers, but nestled in among them were also many of Chicago’s most vibran…

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Haymarket Opera continues its tenth season with an all-Handel lineup. October’s “Acis and Galatea” showed that they could offer up serious opera and create a compelling production while imposing physical distancing on cast members. Lightning has struck twice, as Haymarket’s “Apollo e Dafne” …

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Chicago Opera Theater’s latest offering shows that the company continues to pioneer new ways to offer opera productions when in-person audiences are not permitted. Composer Kamala Sankaram’s “Taking Up Serpents” is a fascinating short opera centered on a small family: father, mother, and dau…

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Maurice Ravel’s “Boléro” is one of the world’s most recognizable pieces of classical music. It received big boosts into popular culture when it was featured in the 1979 film “10,” starring Dudley Moore, Julie Andrews, and Bo Derek, and when Torvill and Dean won the 1984 Olympic gold medal in…

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While Hyde Parkers continue to struggle with regular postal service failures, Lyric Opera of Chicago got its message through loud and clear on Sunday. They offered a free streaming 75-minute concert performed by current members of the Ryan Opera Center and hosted by  Lyric’s music director d…

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We are approaching the one-year mark since the coronavirus pandemic stopped live performances with large audiences in their tracks. Organizations developed new ways of providing concerts or concert-like performances, the most notable development being online streaming. But that was only a pa…