Chicago Symphony Begins Summer Season at Ravinia Festival

Classic Arts News   Chicago Symphony Begins Summer Season at Ravinia Festival
The Chicago Symphony begins its 2007 summer season in earnest this evening, with a concert at its longtime summer home, the Ravinia Festival in Highland Park, just north of the city. Violinist Pinchas Zukerman joins Ravinia music director James Conlon and the CSO for a program of Mozart's Violin Concerto No. 5 and Mahler's Fifth Symphony.

Conlon, who recently extended his contract as music director for four years, through the 2011 season, continues his multiyear Mahler cycle at Ravinia on August 1, leading the CSO in the composer's Symphony No. 6.

A highlight of the Ravinia season comes on August 11, when Conlon and the CSO give a concert performance of 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.

"Breaking the Silence," Conlon's series exploring the music of composers suppressed by the Nazi regime, focuses this year on Alexander Zemlinsky. The series begins tomorrow evening, as Conlon and the CSO perform the composer's Lyric Symphony, with soprano Christine Brewer and baritone Bo Skovhus. (The first half of the concert is devoted to Beethoven's Triple Concerto, featuring the Beaux Arts Trio as soloists.)

Next Wednesday, July 11, brings Zemlinsky's A Florentine Tragedy, which tells the tale 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 Brewer, tenor Anthony Dean Griffey and baritone James Johnson. (Also on the program is Tchaikovsky's Piano Concerto No. 1 with soloist Misha Dichter.) And on August 12 Conlon and the CSO play Zemlinsky's tone poem Die Seejungfrau ("The Mermaid") on a double-bill with Jean-Yves Thibaudet in Chopin's Piano Concerto No. 2.

Former Ravinia music director Christoph Eschenbach returns to the festival for four concerts in late July. On the 25th, he conducts the CSO in Bruckner's Symphony No. 7 and Mahler's Lieder eines fahrenden Gesellen with baritone Thomas Hampson. The next evening the maestro will be at the piano for a recital by tenor Nikolai Schukoff offering songs by Schumann, Haydn, Sibelius, Faur_ and Liszt. On July 27th, pianist Tzimon Barto joins Eschenbach and the CSO for the Chicago premiere of Marc-Andr_ Dalbavie's Music for Piano and Strings and the Second Piano Concerto of Saint-SaêŠns; the program also includes three orchestral works by Ravel. For the final concert of Eschenbach's residency, he, the CSO and Schukoff perform a program of music by two Strausses, Johann Jr. and Richard.

Other guest soloists joining the CSO at Ravinia this summer include pianists Lang Lang, Garrick Ohlsson, Olga Kern and Andr_ Watts, flutist James Galway and cellist Lynn Harrell.

The Chicago Symphony is by no means the only classical act at Ravinia this summer. Indeed, the festival has already presented, among others, the Philharmonia Baroque Orchestra in Jake Heggie's To Hell and Back, violinist Sarah Chang playing Vivaldi and Golijov with the Orpheus Chamber Orchestra, the Philip Glass Ensemble in the composer's new Book of Longing, and the Juilliard, Emerson and Mendelssohn String Quartets.

Other classical visitors to Ravinia in 2007 include the Deutsche Kammerphilharmonie Bremen conducted by Paavo Järvi, violinist Jeanne Lamon leading Toronto's Tafelmusik in Handel's complete Water Music, viola da gamba master Jordi Savall and his ensemble Hesprion XXI, and tenor Plšcido Domingo in a rare solo concert appearance at the festival's gala fundraiser on August 4. There will be recitals by soprano Deborah Voigt, mezzo Stephanie Blythe, pianists Jeffrey Kahane, Vladimir Feltsman and Jeffrey Siegel, flutists James and Jeanne Galway, cellist Gary Hoffman, and guitarist Christopher Parkening with baritone Jubilant Sykes. On September 6, Christopher Taylor will play Bach's Goldberg Variations on a dual-manual Steinway-Moor piano.

Highlights of Ravinia's Ruth Page Festival of Dance include the return of the Mark Morris Dance Group with the Chicago premiere (August 24-26) 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 has also commissioned 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 September 5 performance entitled "Splash Dance."

In addition, the festival will present on July 20 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.

Information on and tickets for Ravinia Festival events are available at

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