Monday
Aug212017

Rewind: August 27, 2002

It’s a no-brainer to say that music is Ravinia’s passion. And yet, until 15 years ago the only musical Passion that had been heard at the festival was J.S. Bach’s Saint Matthew Passion—granted, it is the most popular setting of the narrative in classical music today. (Before James Levine led the Chicago Symphony Orchestra and Chorus in a pair of performances of Bach’s masterpiece in 1978 and 1980, Ravinia had presented back-to-back performances of Andrew Lloyd Webber’s Jesus Christ Superstar in 1971, but its loose interpretation of Biblical accounts makes its categorization as a Passion narrative questionable.)

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Tuesday
Aug152017

A Balance Paying Off: James Gaffigan finds an Island in Lucerne

The oft-quoted New Testament adage about prophets struggling for credibility in their own countries certainly seems to apply to American conductors. While some noted ones like James Levine and Marin Alsop have built their careers largely in the United States, others have had to make their marks in Europe before they could land a major post in their home country. Examples include David Zinman, who served as principal conductor of the Rotterdam Philharmonic prior to becoming music director of the Baltimore Symphony in 1985, and Alan Gilbert, who was principal conductor of the Royal Stockholm Philharmonic in advance of taking over as music director of the New York Philharmonic in 2009.

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Tuesday
Aug152017

Rewind: August 21, 1912


Before Ravinia emerged from the Great Depression in 1936 to begin hosting the incomparable performance residency of the Chicago Symphony Orchestra, it was for about a decade and a half known as the “summer opera capital of the world,” presenting many of the Metropolitan Opera’s foremost stars in selected scenes or acts of that venerable form of music theater. The performances were often so abridged so as to accommodate the schedule of the trains that were the primary means of travel to Ravinia (indeed, it was originally founded in 1904 as a general amusement park along the train line). However, not all operas are multi-hour, multi-act epics.

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Wednesday
Aug092017

Rhymed Conversation: Ira Gershwin brought effortless composure to songwriting 

In 1896, Morris Gershovitz and his wife, Rose, were living above a pawnshop on New York’s Lower East Side. In December of that year, the immigrant couple saw the birth of their first child, a son, whom they named Israel. In September of 1898, the Gershovitzes, now in Brooklyn, welcomed their second son, Jacob. Within a few weeks the family moved back to Manhattan, where they occupied a second-floor flat above a phonograph shop.

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Tuesday
Aug082017

Rewind: August 10, 2007


Though the terms
 “virtuoso” and “prodigy” are most often applied to classical musicians, mandolinist Chris Thile, fiddler Sara Watkins, and guitarist Sean Watkins easily fit the bill when they formed the band Nickel Creek in the late 1980s, before any of them were yet in their teens. The trio earned widespread attention with their third album, Nickel Creek, which was produced by Alison Krauss, herself considered a virtuoso of the fiddle.

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Tuesday
Aug082017

The Soul in his Shoes: Leslie Odom Jr. Keeps his Feet in Happening Rooms


Leslie Odom Jr. is not the kind of guy to let grass grow under his feet. Even if he wanted to, the grass wouldn’t stand a chance, given the actor/singer/dancer extraordinaire’s fancy footwork. Though now firmly fused into American consciousness for his Tony and Grammy Award–winning portrayal of Aaron Burr in the Broadway megahit Hamilton, Odom has long been demonstrating his astonishing versatility not just on stage but on television with his appearances on CSI: Miami, Grey’s Anatomy, Person of Interest, and Law & Order: Special Victims Unit, and particularly in the role of Sam Strickland in the 2013 musical series Smash. His many fans will shortly enjoy him on the big screen as well, in Kenneth Branagh’s soon-to-be-released film Murder on the Orient Express.

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Tuesday
Aug082017

Feeling Lucky Punk: Chris Carrabba is Happy to Wear his Emotive Music on his Sleeve


You can’t talk emo culture without certain bands immediately rolling off the tongue: Jawbreaker, Sunny Day Real Estate, Death Cab for Cutie, Alkaline Trio, Rites of Spring—and, of course, Dashboard Confessional, whose lead singer, Chris Carrabba, became the unofficial poster boy for the genre, characterized by emotional, hardcore punk and “confessional” lyrics. When Carrabba sang “I’m reading your note over again / There’s not a word that I comprehend /Except when you signed it / ‘I will love you always and forever,’ ” a generation of music fans felt his guitar-driven angst.

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Thursday
Aug032017

Blogger Reviews the Fine Dining Options at Ravinia

When you think of Ravinia in Highland Park, the first thing you probably think of is music. You may not, however, immediately think of food. But, you should. You really, really should. Ravinia Festival is the ideal Chicago-area dinner and show spot.

Chicago Foodie Sisters was recently invited to get a taste of what they have to offer at a food blogger dinner hosted for #Foodiechats at the Park View Restaurant on the grounds of Ravinia. It's one of several areas on the property where you can dine to enhance your evening. If you thought that a summer concert meant you were limited to overpriced nachos and hot dogs that you grab at a stand after waiting in an insanely long line, you couldn't be more wrong.

There are several dining options at Ravinia Festival that range from pre-ordered picnic boxes to quick, but quality take-away sandwiches and salads to leisurely indoor or al fresco dining of seafood, prime rib and more with wines from around the globe. It's the best place to enjoy live music if you're both a concertgoer and a foodie.

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Thursday
Aug032017

One orchestra to lead them all: The CSO takes on ‘LOTR’ trilogy

What could make 10 hours of elves, dwarves, hobbits, and orcs even better? A live symphony orchestra, of course.

The Chicago Symphony Orchestra will perform the soundtrack to all three films in the Oscar-winning The Lord of the Rings trilogy on consecutive evenings August 18–20 at Ravinia, with the movies projected on screens in the Pavilion and on the lawn. The CSO had performed the individual films at Ravinia in previous years, but seeing the entire trilogy over three evenings will be a new experience in the Midwest.

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Thursday
Aug032017

Sistema Ravinia Student Plays in National Take a Stand Festival Orchestra


A hundred young people between the ages of 12 and 17, representing the diversity and inclusivity that we long to see in classical music, performed together in a festival orchestra at the Los Angeles Philharmonic’s Walt Disney Hall on Saturday, July 22. The orchestra comprised students from El Sistema–inspired programs around the country who were selected by audition, including one of Ravinia’s own—13-year-old Michael Robinson! The French horn player’s only access to music education has been through the Sistema Ravinia program at Catalyst Circle Rock School on Chicago’s West Side.

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