Music Reviews

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(…)

“The Medium” is the message

“The Medium” is the message

Where: Collaboraction Pentagon Theater, 1579 N. Milwaukee Ave. When: through Nov. 2 Phone: 847-430-4341 By M.L. RANTALA Classical Music Critic Just in time for Halloween, Third Eye Theatre Ensemble is now offering an engaging production of Gian Carlo Menotti’s short, two-act opera “The Medium.” This haunting work, running just over an hour, premiered in 1946,(…)

South Shore Opera’s “La Traviata” stumbles

By M.L. RANTALA Classical Music Critic The beautiful and gleaming Paul Robeson Theater at the South Shore Cultural Center was the locus of a worthy but frustratingly awkward attempt Saturday night at staging a truncated version of Verdi’s “La Traviata.” An audience of just under 150 took in a performance that was part concert, part(…)

Daring Danes Deliver

Daring Danes Deliver

By M.L. RANTALA Classical Music Critic University of Chicago presents kicked off its 2014-15 season with a remarkable performance at Mandel Hall by the Danish String Quartet. Violinists Frederik Øland and Rune Tonsgaard Sørensen, violist Asbjørn Nørgaard and cellist Fredrik Schøyen Sjölin were thrilling in performances of works by Haydn, Schubert and Thomas Agerfeldt Olesen.(…)

Strauss’s “Capriccio” shines

Strauss’s “Capriccio” shines

RECOMMENDED Where: Lyric Opera, 20 N. Wacker Drive When: through Oct. 28 Phone: 312-332-2244 By M.L. RANTALA Classical Music Critic Lyric Opera of Chicago is now offering a lavish and lovely production of the final opera by Richard Strauss. “Capriccio,” which is centered around a debate on the relative importance of words or music in(…)

Guest girds Baroque Band

Guest girds Baroque Band

By M.L. RANTALA Classical Music Critic Baroque Band opened its 2014–15 season in Hyde Park with yet another one of the special guests which have made their concerts so rewarding over their first seven years. Catalan countertenor Xavier Sabata was the main attraction, singing excerpts from two operas based on Italian poet Ludovico Ariosto’s 16th(…)

Mad, bad and dangerous to know

Mad, bad and dangerous to know

What: Mozart’s “Don Giovanni” Where: Lyric Opera, 20 N. Wacker Drive When: through Oct. 29 Phone: 312-332-2244 By M.L. RANTALA Classical Music Critic Don Giovanni” has returned to Lyric Opera of Chicago in a stunning new production featuring a Don Juan who is mad, bad and dangerous to know. Opening night Saturday offered a revelatory(…)

Sounds of autumn: A 2014 music preview

By M.L. RANTALA Classical Music Critic Just as the weather has become cool, the Chicago music scene is heating up. This fall preview will highlight some of the classical music and opera events taking place through the end of the year. We’ll start with a look at Hyde Park, then consider the greater South Side,(…)

Something different this way comes

Something different this way comes

By M.L. RANTALA What: “Macbeth” by Ernest Bloch Where: Harris Theater When: Through Sep. 21 Phone: 312-704-8414 Web: ChicagoOperaTheater.org Chicago Opera Theater’s advertising tag line is “More of the different,” which aptly captures what this company does. Their latest offering is the Chicago premiere of an opera more than a century old but which has(…)