Ravinia music director James Conlon, who recently extended his contract for four years, through the 2011 season, will continue his multiyear Mahler cycle, leading the Chicago Symphony Orchestra (in its 71st summer residency at Ravinia) in the composer's Symphonies Nos. 5 and 6.
Conlon also conducts Puccini's Madama Butterfly, starring Patricia Racette in the title role and tenor Frank Lopardo as Lieutenant Pinkerton, along with baritone Fred Burchinal and mezzo-soprano Ning Liang.
One of the featured works in Conlon's Breaking the Silence series, which focuses on European Jewish composers supressed during the Holocaust, is Zemlinsky's A Florentine Tragedy, which tells the story of a merchant's wife involved in a love affair with a prince. Conlon conducts the CSO in the one-act opera (with libretto based on a story by Oscar Wilde) with soprano Christine Brewer, tenor Anthony Dean Griffey and baritone James Johnson.
The Zemlinsky lineup also features the tone poem The Mermaid and the Lyric Symphony, as well as the Escher String Quartet performing the composer's Quartets Nos. 2, 3 and 4.
The guest soloist lineup for CSO concerts conducted by Conlon includes pianists Lang Lang, Tzimon Barto, Jean-Yves Thibaudet, Garrick Ohlsson, Olga Kern and Andr_ Watts; flutist James Galway; violinist Pinchas Zukerman and cellist Lynn Harrell.
Visiting orchestras include the Deutsche Kammerphilharmonie Bremen led by Paavo Järvi; the Orpheus Chamber Orchestra making its Ravinia debut with violinist Sarah Chang in Vivaldi and Golijov; and Jeanne Lamon leading Tafelmusik in Handel's complete Water Music.
Several works will receive Chicago debuts, including the Philip Glass/Leonard Cohen cycle Book of Longing and Jake Heggie's To Hell and Back with soprano Isabel Bayrakdarian and musical theater star Patti LuPone; Nicholas McGegan conducts the Philharmonia Baroque Orchestra. Marc-Andr_ Dalbavie's Music for Piano and Strings gets its American premiere, with former Ravinia music director Christoph Eschenbach leading the CSO and pianist Tzimon Barto.
The festival will also present a new concert staging of Frank Loesser's The Most Happy Fella, with George Hearn in the title role and Sylvia McNair as his leading lady; Erich Kunzel conducts the Ravinia Festival Orchestra.
For West Side Story, conductor John Mauceri, chancellor of the North Carolina School of the Arts and longtime music director at the Hollywood Bowl, will bring a cast and crew who have been coached by veterans of the original Broadway production, including Carole Lawrence and Chita Rivera. The new production will be directed by Gerald Freeman, who originally assisted Jerome Robbins for the world premiere.
Highlights of Ravinia's Ruth Page Festival of Dance include the return of the Mark Morris Dance Group with the Chicago premiere of Mozart Dances, which premiered in New York last summer at Lincoln Center's Mostly Mozart Festival and returns there this summer as well. Morris choreographed Mozart's Concertos Nos. 11 and 27 and Sonata in D Major for Two Pianos for this full-evening dance, featuring Chicago's Music of the Baroque conducted by Jane Glover with pianists Ursula Oppens and Amy Dissanayake.
Ravinia will commission three of Chicago's contemporary dance companies — Hubbard Street Dance Chicago, Luna Negra Dance Theater and Concert Dance Inc — to create new choreographed works for a performance entitled "Splash Dance." The Montreal troupe Rubberbandance, featuring dancers from contemporary and breakdance backgrounds, makes its Ravinia debut.
Vocal highlights of the Ravinia season include a rare solo concert appearance by Plšcido Domingo at the festival's gala fundraiser on August 4, a solo recital by mezzo Stephanie Blythe, and baritone Thomas Hampson singing Mahler's Lieder eines fahrenden Gesellen with Eschenbach conducting the CSO in the program that also includes Bruckner's Seventh Symphony.
Other highlights include the Ravinia debut of viola da gamba master Jordi Savall and his ensemble Hesprion XXI; guitarist Christopher Parkening and baritone Jubilant Sykes; the complete Bart‹k string auartets with the Juilliard Quartet; a recital by James Galway; and pianist Christopher Taylor performing Bach's Goldberg Variations on a dual-manual Steinway-Moor piano.