Music Reviews

Verdi’s “Otello” hits all the right notes

Verdi’s “Otello” hits all the right notes

Where: Lyric Opera, 20 N. Wacker Drive When: through Nov. 2 Phone: 1-312-332-2244 By M.L. Rantala Classical Music Critic Verdi’s “Otello” never fails to offer rich opportunities for artists who are both splendid singers and actors. Opening night at Lyric Opera of Chicago proved this to be true yet again, with a splendid cast and(…)

High concept production fails to catch on fire

Where: Harris Theater in Millenium Park When: through Sept. 29 Phone: 312-704-8414 By M.L. RANTALA Classical Music Critic Opera’s bread and butter has always been the historical drama. Giuseppe Verdi, whose 200th birthday is now being celebrated throughout Chicago, certainly had an output that contains some notable historical operas — “Don Carlos” and “Attila” coming(…)

Review: “Fantasie Négre” at the South Shore Cultural Center

By M.L. Rantala Classical Music Critic The Chicago Music Association was created in March of 1919 to provide a performance venue for classically trained Black musicians who had traditionally been denied access to major concert halls and opera houses throughout the U.S. In July of the same year, musicians from Washington, D.C., met with members(…)

Review: Grant Park festival draws to a memorable close

By M.L. RANTALA Classical Music Critic Another season of the Grant Park Music Festival has come to a close, and it could not have happened on a more pleasant evening, as thousands filled the Pritzker Pavilion, the Great Lawn and other parts of Millennium Park. GPMF artistic director and principal conductor Carlos Kalmar kicked off(…)

Review: An evening of unworldly music

By M.L. RANTALA Classical Music Critic Schubert’s stirring Mass in E-flat Major was the major work on the Grant Park Music Festival’s program Saturday night. Artistic director and principal conductor Carlos Kalmar presided over a large force: full orchestra, big chorus and five soloists. The results were splendid. Kalmar found all the majesty and glory(…)

“Aida” shines at Ravinia

By M.L. RANTALA Classical Music Critic The stars twinkled above Ravinia Park on Saturday. The pavilion stage was also full of stars, as James Conlon led the Chicago Symphony Orchestra and a marvelous collection of soloists in a concert performance of Verdi’s “Aida.” Soprano Latonia Moore made her Ravinia debut, singing the title role with(…)

Review: Cool night, hot music

By M.L. RANTALA Classical Music Critic As a teenager, Jean Sibelius longed to be a great violinist. After aborting legal studies, he entered the Helsinki Music School (later renamed the Sibelius Academy) where he realized he would never be a violin virtuoso. He turned to composing, becoming not only his country’s most renowned and beloved(…)

Grant Park Orchestra triumphs in Millenium Park

By M.L. RANTALA Classical Music Critic Last Wednesday, just as the heat wave began to lose steam, it was a perfect night for an outdoor concert. The Pritzker Pavilion at Millennium Park had gentle breezes which wafted the attractive scent of the foliage nearby. It was the perfect accompaniment to the music of the Grant(…)

Review: Keep on smiling

Where: 773 Theatre, 1225 W. Belmont Ave. When: through July 14 Contact: chicagofolksoperetta.org By M.L. RANTALA Classical Music Critic Chicago Folks Operetta has launched their 2013 season with the first Chicago production in some 25 years of Franz Lehár’s “The Land of Smiles” (“Das Land des Lächelns”). While Lehár is renowned for “The Merry Widow,”(…)

Review: Chicago Ensemble closes season with flair

By M.L. RANTALA Classical Music Critic The Chicago Ensemble’s 36th Hyde Park season came to a close on the Sunday of Alumni Weekend with a pleasant afternoon concert at International House, 1414 E. 59th St., replete with champagne and many smiling faces. The concert opened with the Trio-sonata in C Major by J.J. Quantz, performed(…)

Review: A river runs through it

By M.L. RANTALA Classical Music Critic June 14, 1933, was a barrier-breaking day: the Chicago Symphony Orchestra, led by Frederick Stock, premiered Symphony in E Minor by Florence Price. It was the first time a substantial work by a Black woman was performed by a major symphony orchestra. Price’s music was, sadly, never performed again(…)

Review: Murky Maria in a tango tangle

By M.L. RANTALA Classical Music Critic The general director of Chicago Opera Theater (COT), Andreas Mitisek, isn’t shy about his role in the recent production of “Maria de Buenos Aires.” He’s credited in the program as “conductor, director, concept, video concept and production designer.” You’d think with a single mind behind so many of the(…)

Magyars make marvelous music

By M.L. RANTALA Classical Music Critic This season’s Classic Concert Series of the University of Chicago Presents came to a close a week ago Friday night in Mandel Hall, 1131 E. 57th St., with a spirited performance by the Keller String Quartet: András Keller and Zsófia Környei, violins; Zoltán Gál, viola; and Judit Szabó, cello.(…)

Verdi’s Rigoletto

Verdi’s Rigoletto has an enduring place in the operatic canon because its music is divine and its story is unforgettable. Lyric Opera’s latest Rigoletto recently closed, but not without making a big impression. The greatest revelation in this current production is the lovely voice of soprano Albina Shagimuratova, whose Gilda is all that anyone could(…)

Puccini’s “La Bohème”

Puccini’s “La Bohème” is one of the world’s most popular operas and Lyric Opera of Chicago currently has a splendid production that treats doomed love with great tenderness. The star power of Anna Netrebko as Mimi has filled seats, but she also fills hearts with her stunning vocal ability, combined with deft and convincing acting.(…)

Lots to desire in “Streetcar”

By M.L. Rantala Classical Music Critic Renee Fleming has been Lyric Opera’s creative consultant since 2010, but in spite of this until last week she hadn’t appeared in an opera at Lyric during her tenure. She made up for this by headlining a special, four-performances-only, just-for-subscribers production of “A Streetcar Named Desire.” The operatic treatment(…)

Salonen charms in cohoots with Yo-Yo Ma

By M.L. RANTALA Classical Music Critic Finnish conductor Esa-Pekka Salonen, principal conductor and artistic advisor of London’s Philharmonia Orchestra, returned once again recently to wintry Chicago to lead the CSO and to collaborate with one of the world’s most admired cellists. Saturday night, March 2, at Symphony Center, Salonen opened a well-proportioned concert with a(…)

The House of Usher, minus the fall

The House of Usher, minus the fall

By M.L. RANTALA Classical Music Critic The Fall of the House of Usher” is Edgar Allan Poe’s greatest prose work, a gloomy, murky story of a mysterious man, his even more mysterious sister and the creepy house that has been their family home for generations. Although only a short story, there is more than enough(…)

Review Splendid performance showcases the new Mandel Hall

By M.L. RANTALA Classical Music Critic Mandel Hall has a spruced up new look: new carpet, paint, stenciling, seats, acoustical clouds and sprinkler system. The space has the same elegant feel as before, now accentuated with a new brightness and shine. It’s a splendid improvement on an already splendid performance space. It was in this(…)

Celebrating Dr. King, President Obama and Black Liberation

By M.L. RANTALA Classical Music Critics Inauguration Sunday found Music in the Loft hosting a sold-out recital that honored the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., commemorated the second inauguration of Barack Obama and celebrated the notable successes of African Americans in fighting oppression. The program of all American music was created and performed by(…)