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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…

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The latest offering by University of Chicago Presents, which was available over the weekend, was a charming and intriguing look at Haydn’s String Quartet in G minor, Op. 20 No. 3. This is one of the so-called “Sun” Quartets, not because the work was seen by the composer as sunny or evoking a…

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One of the unexpected advantages of the COVID-19 pandemic is that concerts you might never have attended have suddenly become available to you in new ways. Many events around the country and around the world have been made available for free via various streaming methods. One of the biggest …

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As a college student arriving from New York City, Joel Smirnoff came to Hyde Park seeking “a refuge from a musically saturated childhood.” Feeling a need to broaden his horizons, the violin prodigy chose history as a major. 

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One of the hallmarks of Beethoven is that he created no one great masterpiece. His compositional career is littered with masterpieces.

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A year full of uncertainty developed into an inspirational push for 20-year-old singer and Hyde Park native Mikayla Gilles, who released her debut single, "Away," on December 4. Writing and recording the four-minute-long alternative R&B track provided catharsis for Gilles during a time o…

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The happiest memories of Christmas frequently involve children. Sometimes it is the joy they bring others, sometimes it is the vicarious pleasure we take in their joy. The Hyde Park Youth Symphony (HPYS) has done something that offered a little bit of both in a pair of Zoom streaming events.

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Lyric Opera of Chicago’s latest virtual concert celebrated singers and composers from Puerto Rico, Cuba, Mexico, Spain, Guatemala, Argentina and the US. Lyric’s Ryan Opera Center, which sponsored the concert, assembled an array of fine singers, most of whom are members or alums of the Ryan C…

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These are difficult times for opera presenters. Chicago Opera Theater (COT) had hoped to provide a streamed version of the complete opera “Kashchej the Immortal” by Rimsky-Korsakov this weekend, but tighter coronavirus restrictions made that impossible. The organization was able to pivot and…

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Since having to cancel all fall concerts with audiences, University of Chicago Presents has turned to local artists and streaming to bring music to their subscribers. Last Friday, they introduced a new series, "Sounds/Sites," which allows artists to perform in locations not always available …

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The Dame Myra Hess Memorial concerts mounted by the International Music Foundation (IMF) have been a staple of the Chicago cultural landscape since 1977, and the coronavirus pandemic has not changed that. But it has changed the method of presentation, with the effect that considerably more p…

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Haymarket Opera Company, now celebrating its tenth anniversary, has entered the pandemic-inspired streaming age with a luscious production of Handel’s “Acis and Galatea”. This 90-minute work is perfect for a small company because the cast is small — three principals, one additional soloist, …

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Music organizations large and small, both across the world and in Chicago, have developed ways of reaching audiences without having them in physical proximity to those making the sound. In the beginning this predominantly meant streaming events: concerts, very small operas, and the like.

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The University of Chicago Presents offered a streamed concert Friday night featuring a Hyde Park favorite, the Pacifica Quartet. Early in their career, they were resident performing artists for 17 years at the University of Chicago, offering numerous concerts, and they developed a substantia…

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It’s not news that small businesses are struggling in the time of COVID-19. Sadly, this applies to small arts groups as well. Yet Third Eye Theatre Ensemble, a very small and rather young Chicago opera company, has persevered, and this weekend offered a low-budget, high-impact streaming even…

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The Chicago Symphony Orchestra’s new, paid and online series "CSO Sessions" continues to offer high-quality performance combined with expert audio and visual presentation, making it the next best thing to being there.

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Last week, the Chicago Symphony Orchestra began its series of weekly paid concerts online with a one hour performance. Part of the “CSO Sessions,” the main portion of the concert featured five CSO principals, while a middle section featured two other members of the orchestra. 

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The final Rush Hour concert of the season, which streamed online last week, was a fitting and splendid way to end the summer season for the International Music Foundation. The Kontras Quartet — made up of Eleanor Bartsch and Francois Henkins, violins; Ben Weber, viola; and Jean Hatmaker, cel…

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Both Lyric Opera of Chicago and the Chicago Symphony Orchestra have announced further details about the upcoming season and their responses to pandemic conditions that will not allow live performances before large audiences for some time to come.

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Chicago Opera Theater opened its 2020–2021 season, where every performance will be streamed online, with a concert version last week, of the new opera “The Transformation of Jane Doe.”

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Hyde Park Jazz Festival artistic and executive director Kate Dumbleton has spent years bringing international jazz stars and local heroes to a growing neighborhood audience. The COVID-19 pandemic made her completely reverse course and discourage mass numbers from gathering while still presen…

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Lyric Opera of Chicago formally kicked off its 2020–21 season Sunday night with a free online gala concert. Lyric had originally planned a cabaret-type event but when coronavirus restrictions made large events impossible, it pivoted and created a virtual concert instead.