Music Reviews

Nails in the coffin

Nails in the coffin

By M.L. RANTALA Classical Music Critic What: “A Coffin in Egypt” Where: Harris Theater for Music and Dance, 205 E. Randolph St. When: Through May 3 Tickets: $35 – $125 Contact: chicagooperatheater.org. Frederica von Stade is a much admired and loved American mezzo-soprano. And rightly so: even as she approaches 70, her voice is captivating(…)

The past is never finished

By M.L. RANTALA Classical Music Critic Lyric Opera of Chicago concluded their opera offerings this season with the world premiere of a mariachi opera by José “Pepe” Martínez with libretto by Leonard Foglia. “El Pasado Nunca Se Termina” (“The Past is Never Finished”) is a fascinating, entertaining work that ties together the tumultuous revolution in(…)

All you need is love — of the baroque

By M.L. RANTALA Classical Music Critic It has become commonplace for those offering concerts to give them a title. Sometimes the title imparts clear and useful information. Sometimes it is vague and flowery. Sometimes it is witty. Sometimes it is obscure. Sometimes it is pointless. Baroque Band titles their concerts in a way which offers(…)

I left my heart in the Tower of London: “The Yeomen of the Guard” at Mandel Hall

By M.L. RANTALA Classical Music Critic Gilbert and Sullivan’s “The Yeomen of the Guard,” reckoned by both its creators as their best collaboration, was recently performed at Mandel Hall. Hyde Park’s own Gilbert and Sullivan Opera Company Inc. (GSOCI), which has been offering productions since 1960 by operetta’s most famous duo, is presenting “Yeoman,” with(…)

I left my heart in the Tower of London: “The Yeoman of the Guard” at Mandel Hall

I left my heart in the Tower of London: “The Yeoman of the Guard” at Mandel Hall

By M.L. RANTALA Classical Music Critic What:  “The Yeoman of the Guard” Where: Mandel Hall, 1131 E. 57th St. When: Through Sun., Mar. 15 Phone: 773-702-2787 Web: ticketsweb.uchicago.edu Gilbert and Sullivan’s “The Yeoman of the Guard,” reckoned by both its creators as their best collaboration, opened last night at Mandel Hall and continues with two(…)

“The Passenger” takes you on a remarkable journey

“The Passenger” takes you on a remarkable journey

By M.L. RANTALA Classical Music Critic What: “The Passenger” Where: Lyric Opera, 20 North Wacker Dr. When: through Mar. 15 Phone: 312-332-2244 Composer Miecyslaw Weinberg’s opera “The Passenger” has made its Midwest premiere at Lyric Opera of Chicago in a production which gives this long-ignored work its proper due. The opera is based on the(…)

Second cast is first rate in Lyric’s Tosca

Where: Lyric Opera, 20 N. Wacker Drive When: through March 14 Phone: 312-332-2244 By M.L. RANTALA Classical Music Critic Revolutionary intrigue and artistic temperament combine for tragedy in Puccini’s “Tosca,” now at Lyric Opera of Chicago. The second cast in the production directed by John Caird is led by Hue He (in the title role)(…)

“The Property,” though flawed, worth seeing

Where: North Shore Center for the Performing Arts, Skokie When: through March 5 Phone: 312-332-2244 By M.L. RANTALA Classical Music Critic As part of its effort to reach new audiences, Lyric Opera of Chicago — through its Lyric Unlimited initiative — presented the world premiere of a new, short klezmer opera at the Logan Center,(…)

Not your usual ghost story

Not your usual ghost story

By M.L. RANTALA Classical Music Critic Emile Zola strove in his writings to offer a bleeding slice of life. He surely succeeded in “ThérèseRaquin,” a story of lust and murder that one contemporary French critic decried as “putrid” and a “quagmire of slime and blood.” American composer Tobias Picker created an English language opera of(…)

Stunning voices in uneven “Tannhäuser”

Where: Lyric Opera, 20 N. Wacker Drive When: through March 6 Phone: 312-332-2244 By M.L. RANTALA Classical Music Critic Wagner’s “Tannhäuser” pits profane and sacred love against each other in battle for the title character’s soul. Lyric Opera of Chicago now offers the opera in a production new to Chicago, the first time it has(…)

A swift substitute saves the evening for University of Chicago Presents

By M.L. RANTALA Classical Music Critic One of the biggest problems a music presenter faces is what to do when an artist cancels at short notice. Amy Iwano, executive director of University of Chicago Presents, had just this problem when she learned only days before last Friday’s scheduled performance that violinist Isabelle Faust was ill(…)

Baroque Band gets beastly

By M.L. RANTALA Classical Music Critic Baroque Band started off the new year with three performances of a program entitled “Beastie Boyz” which highlighted works that had a few things to say about our relatives in the Animal Kingdom. Having missed the band’s Hyde Park performance, I caught them on a recent Wednesday night in(…)

Northern Harmony Quartet warms a winter night

Northern Harmony Quartet warms a winter night

By M.L. RANTALA Classical Music Critic Vittoria Aleotti (ca. 1573-1646) was one of five daughters of the successful Italian architect Giovanni Battista Aleotti, a resident of Ferrara. Vittoria’s musical talent was recognized early and she was first given private lessons with the accomplished musicians Alessandro Milleville and Ercole Pasquini. Later, at the tender age of(…)

Central Europe genius on display at CSO

By M.L. RANTALA Classical Music Critic Manfred Honeck is an Austrian native with deep roots in the central European music scene. His work has included stints in Vienna, Zurich, Leipzig and Stuttgart and he is now the music director of the Pittsburgh Symphony Orchestra. Honeck was the guest conductor of the Chicago Symphony Orchestra (CSO)(…)

Before she lost her head: “Anna Bolena” at Lyric

Before she lost her head: “Anna Bolena” at Lyric

Where: Lyric Opera, 20 N. Wacker Drive When: through Jan. 16, 2015 Phone: 312-332-2244 By M.L. RANTALA Classical Music Critic For only the second time in its 60-year history, Lyric Opera of Chicago is presenting Donizetti’s “Anna Bolena.” It’s a long work (this production clocks in at three-and-a-half hours), but one full of engrossing music(…)

Rising Russian pianist wows Chicago

By M.L. RANTALA Classical Music Critic University of Chicago Presents (UCP) scored big once again last month when they hosted the Chicago debut of Denis Kozhukhin. This pianist made his name by winning the 2010 Queen Elisabeth Competition in Brussels when he was only 23. Later this season he will perform with the Chicago Symphony(…)

A winning “Porgy and Bess”

A winning “Porgy and Bess”

By M.L. RANTALA Classical Music Critic Like so many great operas, “Porgy and Bess” was not initially a hit. Critics were underwhelmed when it premiered in the 1930s and when the Civil Rights Movement found its stride, many considered this folk opera to be deprecating to the African Americans who made up its characters. We’ve(…)

He ain’t my brother, he’s heavy

He ain’t my brother, he’s heavy

What: Verdi’s “Il Trovatore” Where: Lyric Opera, 20 N. Wacker Drive When: through Nov. 29 Phone: 312-322-2244 By M.L. RANTALA Classical Music Critic Sibling rivalry is as old as the family itself. Verdi’s “Il Trovatore” takes this destructive competition to tragic heights as it pits two brothers against each other in a civil war and(…)

A powerful combination of music and politics

A powerful combination of music and politics

By M.L. RANTALA Classical Music Critic Third Coast Percussion, a quartet of Northwestern graduates now in residence at the University of Notre Dame, offered an exciting and fascinating performance at the Logan Center as part of this season’s University of Chicago Presents concert series. Sean Connors, Robert Dillon, Peter Martin and David Skidmore created soundscapes(…)

A kind of rapture at St. Thomas

Earlier this month, on a pleasant early Sunday evening, Hyde Park’s St. Thomas the Apostle Church was the site for a concert of opera arias. The event served both as a fundraiser for the church’s musical programs and also a chance for the general public to experience the pleasing acoustical qualities of the church. Luciano(…)