|
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.”

|
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.

|
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.

|
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.

|
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.

|
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. 

|
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.

|
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.

|
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.

|
Stefan Goncalvez (Photo by Matt de la Peña)

This world premiere, feverishly choreographed by Nicolas Blanc and performed by 15 of the company’s emotionally fiery dancers, is a work of such beauty and dynamic intensity that it can and should easily endure as part of the standard ballet rep for years to come.

|
Audience members enter Symphony Center on opening night of Verdi’s “Aida” on June 21, 2019. (Credit: Todd Rosenberg)

The Chicago Symphony Orchestra Association has just announced that beginning May 27, and running through June 13, the CSO will perform its first concerts for a live audience since March 2020.

|
Megan Pachecano is Beatriz and Daniel Montenegro is Giovani in the Chicago Opera Theater production of Daniel Catan’s “La hira de Rappaccini” (“Rappaccini’s Daughter”). (Photo: Justin Barbin)

With most traditional theater spaces off-limits and Zoom an increasingly annoying way to have to watch anything, two Chicago opera companies have demonstrated in radically different ways that “all the world is a stage” — or can be turned into one.

|
CMPI fellow Zachary Allen participates in a coaching session with CSO Zell Music Director Riccardo Muti on March 31, 2021. (Credit: Todd Rosenberg)

This is not a review. It is primarily a note of appreciation to the Chicago Symphony Orchestra’s music director, who has not been able to conduct his beloved orchestra for a year but has helped guide the superb CSOtv series. This week, he also pursued one of his greatest passions via Zoom.

|
From left: Ariana Burks, Shantel Cribbs and Melanie Loren in “Chicago Sings Rock & Roll Broadway” from Porchlight Music Theatre. (Courtesy of Porchlight Music Theatre)

True to its title, this lavish production traces the evolution of Broadway scores from the 1960s until now, and explores the many ways in which pop music (as well as modern life) has expanded and altered the sound of musical theater.

|
(Courtesy of Marco Badiani and The Florentine)

How do you tell the story of a musical genius whose operas are among the most beloved works in the Italian opera canon? If you are Hershey Felder, you create something unabashedly in the grand opera style that also manages to be hugely accessible for audiences still distanced from live performance by COVID-19.

|
William DeMeritt in “The Catastrophist.” (Photo courtesy of Marin Theatre Company and Round House Theatre)

Lauren Gunderson’s new 75-minute play about her husband, acclaimed virologist Nathan Daniel Wolfe, is a riveting one-man meditation about life and death and the nature of viruses. It’s now being streamed by Northlight Theatre.