Music Reviews

American songs and an American opera

American songs and an American opera

By M.L. RANTALA Classical Music Critic Every now and again I make a point to hear music outside of Chicago. Two Fridays ago I didn’t travel that far, but as I rarely get to Naperville, I was delighted to visit the Bethany Lutheran Church to hear NYC-based baritone Kenneth Overton. The recital put Overton’s rich(…)

Review: A Marvelous and Moving “Don Quichotte”

Review: A Marvelous and Moving “Don Quichotte”

By M.L. RANTALA Classical Music Critic What: “Don Quichotte” Where: Lyric Opera, 20 N. Wacker Dr. When: Through Dec. 7 Tickets: Lyricopera.org For the first time in nearly a quarter century, Lyric Opera of Chicago has brought “Don Quichotte” to the Civic Opera House. This new-to-Chicago production, which premiered at the San Diego Opera, is(…)

Supermoon over Troy: “Les Troyens” at last comes to Lyric

Supermoon over Troy: “Les Troyens” at last comes to Lyric

By M.L. RANTALA Classical Music Critic What: “Les Troyens” Where: Lyric Opera, 20 N. Wacker Dr. When: Through Dec. 3 Tickets: Lyricopera.org The rarely performed “Les Troyens” has come to Lyric Opera of Chicago for the very first time. It is Hector Berlioz’s operatic retelling of parts of the “Aeneid” — a sprawling work never(…)

A magnificent opera about a magnificent woman

A magnificent opera about a magnificent woman

By M.L. RANTALA Classical Music Critic During his final appearance at the White House press correspondents’ dinner, Barack Obama joked that if his remarks went over well he could, in years to come, deliver them to Goldman Sachs and “earn some serious Tubmans.” When the new Harriet Tubman 20-dollar-bill enters circulation it’s likely that Obama’s(…)

Review: Nothing to laugh at in “The Fairy Queen”

By M.L. RANTALA Classical Music Critic What: “The Fairy Queen” Where: The Studebaker Theater (410 S. Michigan Ave.) When: Through Nov. 13 Contact: chicagooperatheater.org Chicago Opera Theater re-introduced the Studebaker Theater, newly renovated, to Chicago audiences Saturday night with the opening of “The Fairy Queen” by Purcell, making this production the first time in 40(…)

A scorching “Lucia” at Lyric and sizzling sound from Apollo’s Fire in Hyde Park

By M.L. RANTALA Classical Music Critic What: “Lucia di Lammermoor” Where: Lyric Opera, 20 N. Wacker Dr. When: Through Nov. 6 Tickets: Lyricopera.org Lyric Opera of Chicago unveiled its second production of the season Saturday night to an audience stunned by its musical brilliance and dramatic force. This rendering of Donizetti’s “Lucia di Lammermoor” is(…)

Mining Rheingold for laughs

What: “Das Rheingold” Where: Lyric Opera, 20 N. Wacker Dr. When: Through Oct. 22 Tickets: Lyricopera.org By M.L. RANTALA Classical Music Critic Richard Wagner’s “Der Ring des Nibelungen” is one of opera’s monumental achievements and it requires considerable forces to mount the composer’s four operas with some three dozen characters, about 15 total hours in(…)

A marvelous “Love Potion” by Chicago Opera Theater

A marvelous “Love Potion” by Chicago Opera Theater

By M.L. RANTALA Classical Music Critic What: “The Love Potion” Where: Music Box Theatre (3733 N. Southport) When: Through Oct. 9 Contact: chicagooperatheater.org Like a fine chocolate or a carefully calibrated watch, the Swiss are known for deliciousness and fine-tuning. Swiss composer brought these traits together in his delectable and sophisticatedly complex cantata “Le Vin(…)

Fruits of Friuli strut their stuff at the Pianoforte Foundation

By M.L. RANTALA Classical Music Critic The Pianoforte Foundation, 1335 S. Michigan Ave., was the venue for an Italian violin-piano duo concert Friday night. Violinist Laura Bortolotto and pianist Matteo Andri spent their summer in a concert tour of South America and the previous evening they had performed a concert at the Italian embassy in(…)

Review: Lyric stars shine at free pre-season concert at Millennium Park

By M.L. RANTALA Classical Music Critic Lyric Opera of Chicago hosted its annual “Stars of Lyric Opera at Millennium Park” concert Friday night to a happy and appreciative audience, in spite of the threat of rain. The Lyric Opera Orchestra and Chorus, along with a wide range of soloists, all directed by Lyric Opera music(…)

A splendid celebration at Fantasie Nègre III

By M.L. RANTALA Classical Music Critic The Chicago Music Association (CMA) was founded in 1919 to promote performance opportunities for classically trained Black musicians. Later that year it became the first branch of the newly formed National Association of Negro Musicians (NANM). CMA and NANM have championed Black performers, composers and music scholars with concerts,(…)

Fall Preview 2016: There’s music in the autumn air

By M.L. RANTALA Classical Music Critic As summer winds down it’s time to look ahead to the fall season. Chicago has one of the most vibrant classical music and opera scenes in the country, so this preview can only touch on a sample of what’s available in the coming months. This preview will start with(…)

Summer ends at the GPMF with “The Damnation of Faust”

By M.L. RANTALA Classical Music Critic One of the signposts announcing that the end of the summer is near is the closing of the Grant Park Music Festival. This year’s final concerts of the season were two performances last week of “The Damnation of Faust,” dramatic legend in four parts, Op. 24, by Hector Berlioz.(…)

Hot fun in the city: the Grant Park Music Festival

Hot fun in the city: the Grant Park Music Festival

By M.L. RANTALA Classical Music Critic It was hot and humid last Wednesday night when the Grant Park Orchestra, led by artistic director Carlos Kalmar, performed at the Pritzker Pavilion with guest cellist Christian Poltera. Yet the weather didn’t deter concert-goers, with the Great Lawn full of picnics and the Seating Bowl nearly full. The(…)

Review: Exciting debut with Chicago Symphony  Orchestra at Ravinia

Review: Exciting debut with Chicago Symphony Orchestra at Ravinia

By M.L. RANTALA Classical Music Critic Spanish conductor Gustavo Gimeno lead the Chicago Symphony Orchestra (CSO) in a gleaming and exciting debut at Ravinia, conducting two popular works last Tuesday night in the Ravinia Pavilion. Gimeno displayed both muscle and nuance in a marvelous performance of Dvorak’s 9th Symphony, “From the New World.” From the outset(…)

Hey ding a ding a ding: Shakespeare on the South Side

Hey ding a ding a ding: Shakespeare on the South Side

By M.L. RANTALA Classical Music Critic William Shakespeare died in 1616 and cultural institutions the world over are celebrating Shakespeare 400, a commemoration of the 400th anniversary of his death. Chicago Shakespeare in the Parks, sponsored by the Chicago Park District, is just one small part of this massive celebration. One of their events took(…)

Review: Johnson’s Harlem Symphony and Menotti’s “The Consul”

Review: Johnson’s Harlem Symphony and Menotti’s “The Consul”

By M.L. RANTALA Classical Music Critic Marin Alsop was the guest conductor at the Grant Park Music Festival last week and her two weekend concerts broke many of the rules for a classical music event. The first half featured full orchestra joined by a jazz combo. The second half opened with just three artists: a(…)

Review: Two one-act operas highlight a pair of marvelous singers

By M.L. RANTALA Classical Music Critic The summer event of South Shore Opera Company of Chicago (SSOCC) was an utterly splendid afternoon, with one-act operas by Kurt Weill and Gian Carlo Menotti. Both works centered around a single female character and both were cast with wonderful lead singer-actors. “The Seven Deadly Sins” is Weill’s rumination(…)

Review: Muti leads CSO in booming, beautiful season closer

Review: Muti leads CSO in booming, beautiful season closer

By M.L. RANTALA Classical Music Critic The 125th season of the Chicago Symphony Orchestra concluded last month with an all-Bruckner program lead by music director Riccardo Muti. Before the performance on the penultimate Thursday of June (the first of three performances of the same program) Muti told the audience that the concert was dedicated to(…)

A fond farewell to a fabulous ensemble

By M.L. Rantala Classical Music Critic The first Friday of this month saw Hyde Park swarming with visitors, folks streaming into the neighborhood for alumni weekend at the University of Chicago or looking forward to the Annual 57th Street Art Fair. But the place to be that night was Augustana Lutheran Church, where Baroque Band(…)