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Riccardo Muti leads the Chicago Symphony Orchestra in Beethoven’s Eroica Symphony in their first concert together since February 2020 to open the CSO’s 131st season, Sept. 23, 2021. (Clay Baker / Chicago Symphony Orchestra)

It was a great spirit-raising moment of rebirth, celebration and pure musical enchantment Thursday night as the Chicago Symphony Orchestra along with an ebullient Maestro Riccardo Muti and a large, exuberant audience were all reunited in Orchestra Hall for the first time in 19 months. 

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(Photo credit: Kyle Dunleavy)

Should you need any additional proof of the adage that “absence makes the heart grow fonder,” the recent one-night-only performance by the Joffrey Ballet at the Ravinia Festival provided all the evidence required.

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The annual event that puts the spotlight on Chicago dance companies is free and open to the public this year with a concert at the Jay Pritzker Pavilion in Millennium Park.

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Willie Nelson performs at Ravinia on Saturday, Aug. 14, 2021. (Credit: Kyle Dunleavy)

The crowd roared and jumped to its feet the minute the 88-year-old country music legend walked onto the stage on Saturday night — and his ability to instantly connect to his audience is unwavering, with his guitar playing still seemingly effortless.

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Sheléa performs at “Unboxing Bernstein: A Live Revue” at the Ravinia Festival on Saturday, Aug. 7, 2021. (Courtesy of the Ravinia Festival)

“Unboxing Bernstein: A Live Revue” served as a stirring reminder of Leonard Bernstein’s genius for mixing and matching musical genres. 

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Rachel Barton Pine performs with the Chicago Symphony Orchestra on Friday, July 16, 2021. (Courtesy of the Ravinia Festival)

It was quite a weekend at the Ravinia Festival. On Friday evening virtuoso violinist Rachel Barton Pine filled in for the indisposed Midori with just a few hours of advance notice, and aced Prokofiev’s fiendishly difficult “Violin Concerto No. 1.”

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Music director Carlos Kalmar leads the Grant Park Orchestra in 2019. (Courtesy of the Grant Park Music Festival)

From Grant Park to Ravinia, music and dance are returning in a big way this summer. Theater critic Hedy Weiss is returning, too, to talk about some recent live shows.

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Zell Music Director Riccardo Muti on the podium during the CSO’s May 9, 2019 program of works by Mozart and Stravinsky. (Photo credit: Todd Rosenberg)

In addition to the series of Maestro Riccardo Muti’s concerts, the fall season will mark the arrival of violinist Hilary Hahn, visits by many guest conductors and artists, plus a vast and varied lineup under the Symphony Center Presents banner. Here’s what else to expect.

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A promotional image for three upcoming Chicago Opera Theater productions, from left: “Carmen,” “Becoming Santa Claus” and “Quamino’s Map.” (Courtesy of Chicago Opera Theater)

Since its founding in 1973, Chicago Opera Theater has been making audacious choices in its programming and presentation. And in many ways the company displayed its formidable ingenuity and determination throughout the pandemic. Here’s a peek at its all-live season.

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Zell Music Director Riccardo Muti on the podium during the CSO’s May 9, 2019 program of works by Mozart and Stravinsky. (Photo credit: Todd Rosenberg)

Beginning in September, Maestro Riccardo Muti will lead the orchestra he has not seen since February 2020 in a three-week residency marking the official opening of the 2021-22 season in Orchestra Hall and the return of (hopefully full) live audiences.

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Musicians of the Chicago Symphony Orchestra onstage in Orchestra Hall, June 10, 2021 (Credit Anne Ryan)

“Overture,” the final entry in the Chicago Symphony Orchestra’s springtime series of three different programs was performed live in Orchestra Hall on Thursday.  Remaining performances are Saturday at 7:30 p.m. and Sunday at 3 p.m. 

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Erina Yashima, former CSO Solti Conducting Apprentice, joins the CSO for the opening performance of the program entitled "Strum," June 3, 2021. (Credit Anne Ryan)

It was a magical evening at Symphony Center Thursday as a meticulously spaced and masked audience gathered for “Strum,” the aptly titled second of three different programs of springtime concerts from the Chicago Symphony Orchestra.

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A socially distanced, reduced-capacity audience listens to the sounds of the CSO brass at the concert that signaled the return of Chicago Symphony Orchestra concerts, May 27, 2021. (Credit Anne Ryan)

The Chicago Symphony Orchestra walked onstage to perform their first concert before a live audience in more than 14 months, Thursday evening.

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“Florencia En El Amazonas” (Credit: Lynn Lane / Houston Grand Opera)

After 15 months of dark theaters and livestreamed performances, two of Chicago’s most famous performing arts companies announce they are returning to the stage for live performances — this time under one roof.

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Hershey Felder, left, and J. Anthony Crane in “Nicholas, Anna & Sergei.” (Courtesy of Hershey Felder Presents)

In “Nicholas, Anna & Sergei,” Hershey Felder fully captures the “history, pride and melancholy of the Russians” with the fervor Sergei Rachmaninoff carried with him to the end. And he plays the composer’s sweeping music to magnificent effect.

The play by Adam Rapp will be streamed live through May 16

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Mary Beth Fisher (Bella) and John Drea (Christopher) in ’The Sound Inside’ by Adam Rapp, directed by Robert Falls at Goodman Theatre (May 13 – 16, 2021) (credit Cody Nieset)

Adam Rapp’s “The Sound Inside” depicts the brief but harrowing relationship between Bella (Mary Beth Fisher), a lonely, middle-aged Yale professor and author who teaches a course in creative writing, and her intense, gifted, profoundly alienated freshman student, Christopher (John Drea).