Get Approved to Foster PAWS Pet and Win Free Billy Corgan Tickets

Billy Corgan is taking a break from recording two new Smashing Pumpkins albums, due out in 2015, to perform at Ravinia, in his hometown of Highland Park, for the first time on Aug. 30, and anyone who gets approved to foster a pet through PAWS between now and Aug. 27 will receive a free pair of Pavilion tickets to Corgan’s performance. Fostering a pet usually requires just a few weeks of love and care for a sick or abused animal until it is ready to find a permanent place to live. Applications can be filled out online. PAWS will also have a booth set up at Ravinia’s main gate on the day of Corgan’s concert. Guests are encouraged to register here to find out more about PAWS and how they can help.

$10 BGH Classics Series Heats Up With 17 Concerts Over Next Two Weeks

Don’t miss a note of the Ravinia’s acclaimed $10 BGH Classics series with the “BGH Big Ticket” punch pass, which is good for a reserved seat to 10 different concerts for only $8 each. Most of the programs on this series are yet to come, including 17 concerts over 14 days, Aug. 18–31. Some highlights include Singers from Ravinia’s Steans Music Institute (RSMI)exploring music theater on Aug. 18; pianist Javier Perianes performing works by Chopin and Debussy on Aug. 20The Lincoln Trio celebrating the R. Strauss sesquicentennial on Aug. 21Anthony de Mare’s “Sondheim Reimagined” program on Aug. 27; classical saxophonist Ashu on Aug. 28; and Dan Tepfer’s Goldberg Variations/VariationsAug. 30.

Aug. 31 Ravinia Debut by Bob Weir & Ratdog / Dwight Yoakam Canceled

Ravinia’s Aug. 31 concert by Bob Weir & RatDogDwight Yoakam and The Devil Makes Three has been canceled. Here is the official statement from the tour management company: “Circumstances have necessitated that all scheduled tour dates for Bob Weir & RatDog are being canceled, starting Thursday, Aug. 14, in Boston through Sept. 14 in Nashville.” No further information is available. The 6 p.m. Aug. 31 piano recital by Andrew von Oeyen will go on as scheduled in Bennett Gordon Hall.

Ticket holders need take no action. Refunds will be made automatically to the original method of payment. Customers will be notified by e-mail when refunds have been made. Any customers wishing to donate the cost of their tickets to the not-for-profit Ravinia Festival or who would like to purchase tickets to another concert may do so by calling the Ravinia Box Office at 847-266-5100. Upcoming concerts include an ’80s night with the Thompson Twins’ Tom Bailey, Howard Jones and more, Aug. 27; Jeff Beck and ZZ TopAug. 28Michael McDonald and TotoAug. 29; Smashing Pumpkins’ Billy CorganAug. 30; The Moody Blues, Sept. 4 and 5Poi Dog PonderingSept. 12; and Five for FightingSept. 14.

Carrie Underwood Hosts CMA Awards

Carrie Underwood is already the queen of country music, but she’s quickly becoming a darling of TV. Her live broadcast of The Sound of Music made international headlines, she has proven an awards-show favorite on such specials as The Grammys, and she’s the big reason to tune in to such TV specials as this week’s CMA Music Festival, billed as “country’s night to rock.”

It’s just been announced that Underwood and Brad Paisley will team up for the seventh time to host the 48th Annual Country Music Awards this fall. Because of their TV chemistry, word is out that Underwood will join Paisley on his forthcoming album as well. In the meantime the superstar returns to Ravinia on Sept. 6 and Sept. 7

Last Chance to Win Cash for Your School by Attending Ravinia's CSO Concerts for Free

The 2014 Chicago Symphony Orchestra residency is winding down. That means there are only a handful of opportunities left to give your high school a chance to win cash for its music program. All high-school students are admitted free to the lawn for CSO concerts, but those students should sign in at the box office before entering the park to earn a point for their school. The school with the most points at the end of the season will win $5,000, awarded by the Ravinia Associates Board.

For the first time in years, Highland Park High School is pressing its hometown advantage—here are the standings—but students can turn the tides by attending Don Giovanni on Aug. 14 and Aug. 16 or The Marriage of Figaro on Aug. 15 and Aug. 17.

Chicago Tribune Explores Latest Teaming of Dame Kiri Te Kanawa and Jake Heggie

One of the great living singers of all time, Dame Kiri Te Kanawa, and one of the hottest classical composers working today, Jake Heggie, have been friends since the latter’s college years. The Chicago Tribune takes a look at some of the great art born of that relationship in a just-published interview. In the latest collaboration Heggie celebrates Kiri’s 70th birthday with a new song cycle commissioned by Ravinia and based on the poetry of Emily Dickinson. That world premiere, with Heggie accompanying the soprano, is part of a program featuring music by Richard Strauss and Mozart on Aug. 12 in the Martin Theatre.

Scientific Chef Bowman Transforms Ravinia With A Middle-Earth Menu

Celebrated Chicago chef Thomas Bowman, of iNG, Baume and Brix and the recent WhiskeyTangoFoxtrot (WTF) event, returns to Ravinia as guest chef. Known for his attention to detail and scientific balancing of sweet and savory, Bowman will transform Ravinia into a Middle-earth feast fit for any hobbit or wizard when Ravinia presents the final installment of the Lord of the Rings series with the Chicago Symphony Orchestra performing the live score along with the film Return of the King on Aug. 7 and Aug. 8. For dining reservations, call 847-432-7550.

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.

Kiri Te Kanawa Program Released

When Kiri Te Kanawa celebrates her 70th birthday with a Martin Theatre recital on Aug. 12, she will sing the world premiere of Newer Every Day, a set of five songs based on the poetry of Emily Dickinson, composed by Jake Heggie, who will accompany her on piano. Heggie is best known as the composer of one of the most successful operas of recent times, Dead Man Walking. The rest of the program has now been released and includes nine pieces by R. Strauss and works by Mozart, the composers most associated with the singer. The singer, who recently appeared on Downton Abbey, will also sings works by Mozart, Granados, Obradors and Guastavino, accompanied by Kevin Murphy, director of the Program for Singers at Ravinia's Steans Music Institute (RSMI). Kiri herself will give a free master class for RSMI singers in Bennett Grodon Hall at 2:00 p.m. on Aug. 10 in preparation for their Aug. 11 "Richard Strauss and Friends" concert.

Too Hot For Chicago

Richard Strauss’s sensational opera Salome, which had its world premiere in 1906, first came to Chicago in 1910, with soprano Mary Garden in the title role. The legendary singer would have a number of close ties with Chicago, but her Salome created a scandal seldom associated with the world of opera.

The Oscar Wilde play upon which the opera was based had originally been banned in England under a law that forbade stage depictions of Biblical subjects, but in actuality it was most likely because of the specific events depicted. To see a teenage princess dance with and ultimately kiss the mouth of the severed head of John the Baptist shocked many at the beginning of the 20th century, and the opera similarly met opposition—disapproval by the Catholic Church, for instance, kept Mahler from conducting it during his tenure as music director of the Vienna State Opera.

Read More

Get Return of the King Tickets For a Chance to Win Unique Solid-Gold Ring

Anyone who purchases a Pavilion or lawn ticket to either the Aug. 7 or Aug. 8 performance of the Chicago Symphony Orchestra playing the score to The Lord of the Rings—The Return of the King while the film is shown will be automatically entered to win this summer’s most precious prize. It’s a one-of-a-kind, 18-karat gold ring inscribed with a special message in Tolkien’s “Black Speech.” The winner will be chosen by random drawing and need not be present to win.

That Darned Tritone

Notions of which intervals in music are considered pleasing have certainly changed drastically ever since the first polyphony (more than one musical line at a time) emerged in Western music around 900 C.E. Medieval theorists had some very specific notions as to which combinations of sounds should be allowed and which should be avoided. And none was avoided more than the interval known as a tritone, so named because it comprises three whole steps—in the key of C Major (the white keys of the piano), it occurs between F and B. Theorists considered the interval to be unstable and dissonant, and for that reason it was avoided not only in harmony, but even in melodic lines for nearly a thousand years.

When music students first enter conservatory-type schools, they are traditionally required to take a course in “sight-singing,” a thorn in the side of many of music student, unless they possess “perfect pitch,” which is quite rare even among accomplished musicians. In order to identify and sing various intervals, many students learn them as part of a well-known melody. For instance, an ascending perfect fourth is the first two notes of “Here Comes the Bride”; an ascending major sixth is outlined by the first two notes of the iconic musical tag for “N-B-C.” And of course, different students might choose different melodies, depending on what they are most familiar with.

But the tritone? That’s a much harder one to find. And so virtually all music students learn an ascending tritone as being the first two notes of the song “Maria” from West Side Story

Was Bernstein, who composed that immortal score, purposely doing something that had once been “forbidden” to make some sort of a point? Dennis Polkow, who has written an article for Ravinia magazine on the musical, points out that it also occurs right at the beginning of the piece between the second and third notes of the little three-note signal that is played by the orchestra as well as whistled by the gang members. Perhaps it is meant to convey the “dissonance” between the warring factions of the Sharks and the Jets.

Or maybe it’s just Bernstein being his iconoclastic self, using whatever means he had at his disposal to achieve whatever effect he was aiming for. But one thing is certain: Most music students will never hear “Maria” the same way again.

Gorgeous George

Recently I was re-watching a classic Marilyn Monroe film, Gentlemen Prefer Blondes, a delightful musical romp in gloriously garish Technicolor. This time I was struck by something during the iconic song, “Diamonds Are a Girl’s Best Friend,” the production number famously parodied by Madonna in her music video “Material Girl.” What made it new to me this time was having recently learned that one of the anonymous chorus boys in the original number in the film would later go on to win an Academy Award as Best Supporting Actor for his portrayal of Bernardo in the blockbuster classic musical film version of West Side Story. His name: George Chakiris (pictured above on the far right).

Read More

Say It Isn't So, Steven!

Not that long ago I read reports that producer/director Steven Spielberg has expressed interest in doing an “updated” remake of West Side Story. Yes, that’s correct—we are talking about remaking one of the most beloved and honored movies of all time. West Side Story received 11 Academy Award nominations and won 10 Oscars, the most of any film before it with the exception of Ben Hur. I have no idea how serious Spielberg is—the reports say merely that he has “expressed interest,” which, considering his Hollywood clout, is enough to make movie studios fall all over themselves trying to accommodate him. In this case, Fox Films, which owns the rights, has already agreed to give permission.

Read More

Commercials and Classics Don't Mix!

For the second issue of Ravinia magazine, we decided to commission local journalist Wynne Delacoma to write a piece about the phenomenon of woman conductors, prompted by this summer’s Ravinia debut of conductor Susanna Mälkki. Understandably, Mälkki, as well as Marin Alsop, the Baltimore Symphony music director who has conducted at Ravinia for four seasons, prefer not to make an issue of it, rightfully contending that their actual conducting should speak for itself. But the infrequency with which today’s audiences experience woman on symphonic podiums makes it a subject worth exploring, and Wynne has written an insightful piece on it.

Read More

Madonna Mia, Ci Sono Molte Donne!

There’s a frequently repeated joke about the novice opera-goer who comes out of a performance and comments, “Wow, that Don Giovanni was a regular Don Juan!” The joke being, of course, that Don Giovanni IS Don Juan, translated into Italian.

But Don Juan gave his name to more than an opera and a legend; it also became a psychological diagnosis, the so-called “Don Juan complex.” Quite some time ago, TV talk-show host Sally Jessye Raphael devoted one of her shows to “Don Juans,” which she defined as “men who think they are God’s gift to women.” To qualify for participation on her panel, the men had to have slept with—or claim to have slept with—at least 200 women. One of her four guest subjects actually boasted of having had sexual relations with over 1,500 women, a claim that brought a gasp of astonishment from the studio audience.

What they probably didn’t realize is that Mozart’s Don Giovanni would have sneered at that paltry figure. In the first act, Giovanni’s henchman Leporello is explaining the reality of the situation to the scorned and furious Donna Elvira in the so-called “Catalogue aria,” in which he enumerates his master’s conquests: “In Italy, 640; in Germany, 231; 100 in France; in Turkey, 91; but in Spain, 1,003 and counting.” Mind you, the large number of Spanish conquests is not a moral judgment against Spanish women, but merely reflects the fact that Giovanni lived in Spain and, of course, did better on his home turf.

This brings his total to a whopping 2,065. And had Donna Anna not screamed for help in the first scene, it would have been 2,066. All of which makes Sally Jessye’s guests look like rank amateurs. Fortunately for them, at the end of the taping, they were allowed to simply leave the studio rather than being dragged into Hell by a living stone statue, a far more dramatically effective ending. You can see and hear baritone Christopher Maltman pay the ultimate price for his lecherous ways—all to the accompaniment of the glorious Chicago Symphony Orchestra—on August 14 and 16 in Ravinia’s Martin Theatre.