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Voices Carry From Canada to Ukraine

This week Ravinia’s Steans Music Institute (RSMI) welcomed 14 of the world’s most talented professional musicians to its summer conservatory program for singers. They’ve come from Australia, Canada, Germany, Norway, Poland, South Africa, South Korea, Ukraine, the United Kingdom and, of course, the United States. They will participate in a free, public master class with James Conlon at 2 p.m. on Friday, Aug. 1, in Bennett Gordon Hall. View a full list of concerts and master classes to be given by the RSMI class of 2014.


Real Million-Dollar Quartet: CSO, Conlon, Bell and Women's Board

Ravinia congratulates its Women’s Board on a terrifically successful gala benefit, held Saturday, July 26. More than 700 guests attended the formal cocktail party, dinner and concert, grossing more than $1 million for the not-for-profit festival and its REACH*TEACH*PLAY education programs. The Chicago Symphony Orchestra was conducted by Residency Music Director James Conlon and joined by violinist Joshua Bell, both of whom attended the post-concert dinner. REACH*TEACH*PLAY serves about 75,000 people throughout Chicagoland each year, bringing music to underserved schools and communities.


Naked Singer? Cue The Television Crews!

Before working at Ravinia, I spent slightly more than 13 years in the public relations department at San Francisco Opera. During all that time, the various general directors under which I worked unceasingly complained about the lack of TV coverage the company’s productions received. For every opera that was produced there, a media alert would be sent to all of the local television stations, desperately trying to interest them in coming to the dress rehearsal to publicize the opening. But it was mostly to no avail; even in an arts-crazed town like San Francisco, opera was deemed too esoteric an activity to be of interest to the general public.

But during the summer of 1993, SFO mounted a production of Richard Strauss’s Salome with opera star Maria Ewing in the title role, one of her most celebrated portrayals. Part of the attention she attracted stemmed from the fact that not only did she do her own dancing for the famous “Dance of the Seven Veils” (many opera divas leave that duty to a dancing double), but she also followed Oscar Wilde’s original stage directions that Salome should conclude the dance stark naked. Even singers who did their own dancing in other productions wore at least a body stocking for modesty.

In advance of the dress rehearsal, I struggled to find a way to imply without explicitly stating that Ms. Ewing would be baring her all—after all, we were a major international opera house and didn’t want to sound sensationalistic or exploitative. So I used phrases like, “SFO ‘Unveils’ New Salome Production.”

I must have succeeded: no fewer than five TV news crews showed up.

It should be noted that since Ravinia’s Salome on August 2 is a concert performance, Metropolitan Opera star Patricia Racette (who is undertaking the title role for the first time in her career) will remain fully clothed. As will the Chicago Symphony Orchestra.


Conlon Takes Podium with Eisler's and Korngold's Chamber Works

James Conlon, music director of the CSO residency at Ravinia, settles in for the season with a program focusing on works by Hanns Eisler and Erich Korngold, two composers who found success after fleeing Nazi persecution, on July 22. The Martin Theatre concert with soloists from the CSO features the Ravinia premieres of Eisler’s Fourteen Ways of Describing Rain, accompanied by the silent film Regen (Rain), and Korngold’s String Sextet in D Major. The program also includes Wagner’sSiegfried Idyll.


American Idol Phillip Phillips Joins Food Network in Concert at Ravinia

Phillip Phillips, the winner of American Idol season 11, has been added to the roster of music talent for Food Network in Concert at Ravinia on Sept. 20. Having recently released his sophomore album, Behind the Light,Phillips joins headliner John Mayer, DJ Alexandra Richards, Twin Forks(with Dashboard Confessional’s Chris Carrabba), jazz musician Raul Midón, indie rock band California Wives, and guitarist/singer Zane Carneyand others for the daylong festival of food and music, featuring some of the best music and culinary talent. Ticket prices for admission to the event include: Lawn Only ($99), Lawn plus Greatest Hits venue-wide tasting event ($199), Pavilion 2 plus Greatest Hits ($249), and Pavilion 1 (premium seating) plus Greatest Hits ($299). Attendees will also have the opportunity to experience exclusive lunch and dinner events hosted by Food Network stars Sunny Anderson, Anne Burrell, Jose Garces, Alex Guarnaschelli,Jeff Mauro, Marc Murphy and Geoffrey Zakarian. These special add-on experiences will feature some of the best BBQ, craft beers, cocktails, wines, sandwiches, desserts and more. Prices vary from $85 and $125 per culinary event, and can be purchased with new tickets or added to previously purchased ones.