Music Reviews

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(…)

Dodging snares, Lyric Stars soars

Dodging snares, Lyric Stars soars

By M.L. RANTALA Classical Music Critic It was clear and only just a little cool Saturday night as some 11,000 people settled into one of Chicago’s favorite parks for the annual “Stars of Lyric Opera at Millennium Park” concert. The actual audience was even larger than those who made their way to the lakefront, as(…)

More Mozart memories from Ravinia

More Mozart memories from Ravinia

By M.L. RANTALA Classical Music Critic Along with two performances of “Don Giovanni” (discussed in these pages last week), also on the Ravinia Festival program this year were two performances of “The Marriage of Figaro.” Mozart was well represented by a handsome group of singers this summer. There was a sturdy Figaro in bass-baritone John(…)

Going to hell at Ravinia

Going to hell at Ravinia

By M.L. RANTALA Classical Music Critic Mozart’s “Don Giovanni,” with its splendid libretto by Da Ponte, returned to Ravinia in two performances last week. Conductor James Conlon led the Chicago Symphony Orchestra and a pack of capable singers in this tale of the libertine Don Juan who, after both merry antics and terrible crimes, finally(…)

Reach to be relevant falls flat

Reach to be relevant falls flat

By M.L. RANTALA Classical Music Critic What can be done to make classical music events more relevant? This is a question which comes and goes, but never actually goes away. “The Legend of the Northern Lights,” which had its world premiere at the Grant Park Music Festival last weekend, may have something to contribute to(…)

Tears of a clown

Tears of a clown

By M.L. RANTALA Classical Music Critic Ruggero Leoncavallo’s “Pagliacci” is a cornerstone of operatic verismo, a compact powerhouse of human emotion and tragedy, clocking in at about 70 minutes. Because it’s short, it’s nearly always placed on a double-bill, but for their inaugural production, Chicago’s newest opera company, The Cobalt Opera, chose to let “Pagliacci”(…)

Mälkki and Midori at Ravinia

M.L. RANTALA Classical Music Critic Last month, Susanna Mälkki made her Ravinia debut conducting the Chicago Symphony Orchestra. She’s become one of the female conductors to watch since she left her position as principal cellist of the Gothenburg Symphony Orchestra to study conducting at the Sibelius Academy. She’s begun to make a name for herself(…)

Fun and frolic at the “Ball at the Savoy”

Fun and frolic at the “Ball at the Savoy”

By M.L. RANTALA Classical Music Critic Paul Abraham’s “Ball at the Savoy” (original German title: “Ball im Savoy”) is a frisky, frothy concoction jam-packed with soaring melodies, uproarious ditties, grand dance numbers and lots of wholesome fun. Chicago Folks Operetta’s American premiere is a splendid way to spend a summer evening; you’re likely to come(…)

A trip to South Shore, a journey through the Planets

A trip to South Shore, a journey through the Planets

By M.L. RANTALA Classical Music Critic Summer in Chicago is a time of free outdoor enjoyment. For classical music lovers, the main venues are Millennium Park and Ravinia. But the South Shore Cultural Center has already had some splendid offerings at no charge. Last week, the Grant Park Orchestra traveled to the South Shore Cultural(…)

Music on the Midway Plaisance

By M.L. RANTALA Classical Music Critic Today I catch up by reporting on two recent events for which there was insufficient space at the time I heard them to review them immediately. They each happened just off Hyde Park’s Midway Plaisance, but in two very different venues. First, I was tempted to visit the Performance(…)

Compelling composition in clerical garb

Compelling composition in clerical garb

By M.L. RANTALA Classical Music Critic Hans von Bülow, the 19th century German conductor, pianist and composer, famously declared that Verdi’s Requiem was an “opera in clerical garb.” The same might be said of Janacek’s Glagolitic Mass, although the Slavic nationalism of this towering work is equally present. The Grant Park Orchestra and Chorus, along(…)

South Shore Opera Company presents sizzling concert

South Shore Opera Company presents sizzling concert

By M.L. RANTALA Classical Music Critic It was a generous evening of music when the South Shore Opera Company of Chicago presented their free June concert in the spacious Paul Robeson Theater. This gleaming hall is one of the many gorgeous rooms in the South Shore Cultural Center where the SSOCC is an arts and(…)

Homage to Catalonia

Homage to Catalonia

Joan Plana speaks several European languages, but his native language, Catalan, is unknown to the average American. He makes himself understood not only in excellent English, but in the language of music. Plana was born and raised in the Lleida province of Catalonia, an autonomous community of Spain. Today this talented baroque violinist is based(…)

One promising beginning and one happy ending

One promising beginning and one happy ending

By M.L. RANTALA Classical Music Critic It was an inauspicious evening for the opening of an outdoor festival. It had rained that day, and it remained overcast and gloomy well past dark. Yet the first concert of the 80th season of the Grant Park Music Festival had a decent-sized and enthusiastic crowd – a testament(…)

Shining art from a dark era

By M.L. RANTALA Classical Music Critic The Chicago Symphony Orchestra recently completed its three-week festival entitled “Truth to Power.” The performances are of works written in the 1930s and 1940s and the uniting idea is that though this period of history was fraught with peril “yet in this dark era, Benjamin Britten, Sergei Prokofiev and Dmitri(…)

Review: “The Emperor of Atlantis” and “The Clever One”

Where: Merle Reskin Theatre (60 E. Balbo) When: through Jun. 8 Tickets: 312-704-8414 In 1943 two men living under the Nazis completed one-act works of musical theater. One of them died in Auschwitz, the other lived in comfort for almost another 40 years. Chicago Opera Theater is presenting these two pieces in four performances at(…)

Review: “Truth to Power”

By M.L. RANTALA Classical Music Critic Where: Symphony Center, 220 S. Michigan When: through Jun. 8 Tickets: 312-294-3000 The Chicago Symphony Orchestra is in the midst of its three week festival entitled “Truth to Power.” The performances are of works written in the 30s and 40s and the uniting idea is that though this period(…)