“I broke into Ravinia before I played it,” chuckles O.A.R. saxophonist Jerry DePizzo. “A friend of mine lives in Highland Park, and every year, he would tell me that we had to play Ravinia. I would always tell him that we play downtown, and Ravinia was in the suburbs. (Laughs.) But, anyway, I was staying at his house a few years back and we ended up jumping the fence to see it…
Though shortening daylight puts the end of summer clearly within sight, it also signals that anticipation for the next Ravinia season is beginning to grow ever larger. As the festival marks the 80th anniversary of the Chicago Symphony Orchestra’s annual residency—the centerpiece of each season—in 2016 Ravinia also celebrates the 45th anniversary of the debut of the conductor who would become the residency’s steward for 20 years: James Levine. In addition to the long-awaited return of this longtime, former music director, Ravinia also welcomes six new faces to the podium,
“It is no revelation,” Goldstein reminds us, “to say that these Mozart concertos are miniature operas. So in the concert we are telling a dramatic story about an infinite array of characters; we are going to have the maid, we are to have the Count, we are going to have the gardener—all these characters coming to life. And it is nicer to speak to them close!”
Frederica von Stade has enjoyed a unique, lengthy, wide-ranging career that has brought her fame and, one hopes, fortune. She has always been a favorite with international aficionados who appreciate style, quality, sensitivity, and versatility. Even admirers who do not happen to know her personally flash her nickname, “Flicka.”
She is, of course, an extraordinary opera star, first and foremost. That occupation, however, has never been a full-time obsession.
Confessions of a Former Music Snob
I saw a TV show featuring the top 10 country videos at the time and was struck by “Here in the Real World” by Alan Jackson. Unlike other country artists, he didn’t make a great display of being a caricature of a boisterous, s**t-kicking redneck bumpkin. In the context of many other country artists, he stood out as practically aristocratic, a true country gentleman, even if he wrote songs with titles like “Blue Blooded Woman (and a Redneck Man).” There was a genuine sincerity to everything he sang that was irresistible.
“I had the ominous feeling that this would be the last time dad would perform in Chicago,” Nancy Sinatra wrote later on. “And I believe he had the same feeling.”
And best of all, the series offers music lovers the chance to hear “an impressive lineup, by any standard,” (Chicago Tribune) of world-stage stars at a fraction of the ticket price commanded elsewhere.
The list of renowned musicians with whom Browne has collaborated in some form could fill a whole page. His early brushes with Nico, Buckley, Frey, and Crosby were just the beginning; in the years to come, he toured with such icons as Linda Ronstadt and Joni Mitchell, and he made music with everyone from Warren Zevon to Bonnie Raitt to Bruce Springsteen. So it’s hard not to wonder, from such an embarrassment of riches, do any of those collaborations stand out for him as favorites?
The story is told quite viscerally through music: a ship dripping dread appears suddenly in the darkness, ahead of a storm that portends death. Such was the setting of the final weekend of the Chicago Symphony Orchestra’s 2015 summer residency at Ravinia. Ah, yes, The Flying Dutchman. Or, wait, was it Star Trek?
I fear that for many Baby Boomers, our unfortunate introduction to Cuban music while growing up was seeing Desi Arnaz singing "Babalu" on the classic I Love Lucy sitcom.